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February 29, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:27 PM

THE LEFT--THE LAST FOLKS WITH FAITH IN THE CIA'S CAPABILITIES:

A Legacy of Lies: President Bush misled the nation about the threat Iraq posed. But he wasn't the first to do so. (Seth Ackerman, January/February 2004, Mother Jones)

"It turns out we were all wrong and that is most disturbing," Kay declared.

But who exactly got it wrong? Intelligence agencies obviously exaggerated Iraq's WMD potential, and it's well known that they were egged on by their political masters in the Bush administration. But that's not the whole story. In fact, Bush's manipulation of Iraq intelligence was built on a foundation established during the late 1990's, when Bill Clinton was in the White House.

Faced with the need to justify an economically devastating and internationally unpopular embargo of Iraq, the Clinton administration engaged in a pattern of stretching and distorting weapons data to bolster their claim that Saddam Hussein was still hiding an illicit arsenal. The Clinton White House never used that "intelligence" to push for an invasion of Iraq, as Bush so effectively did. But in its desperate quest to salvage a crumbling Iraq policy, the Clinton White House laid the groundwork for the deceptions of their successors.


And George Bush, Sr.? And Tony Blair? And John Major? And Margaret Thatcher? And so on and so forth?

Yet we conveniently ignored Muammar Qaddafi's more advanced nuclear program?

Isn't the more likely explanation that our intelligence just isn't very good and that we have no idea what weapons our enemies have, only that they are our enemies and need to be dealt with one way or another...


Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:20 PM

EARLY SURRENDER:

Democrats Scale Back Ambitions for House (CARL HULSE, 2/29/04, NY Times)

Strategists, independent analysts and House members of both parties say that after a decade out of power, Democrats are unlikely to reclaim control of the House in November. [...]

One major reason Democrats are pessimistic about taking back the House can be found in Texas. In redrawing the boundaries of Congressional districts last year in favor of Republicans, the Texas Legislature built a fire wall against potential losses elsewhere in the country. The formerly Democratic-dominated House delegation from Texas is now evenly divided, with 16 members of each party, and Republicans say they hope to end up with a minimum of 20 seats. That number, they say, would better reflect the state's political bent.

The new lines have already persuaded one Texas Democrat to switch parties and created one district where Democrats are not even fielding a candidate. "We've already picked up two seats and we haven't even had an election," observed Tom DeLay of Texas, the House majority leader, who was a main architect of the redistricting.

It is not just Texas that is vexing House Democrats in their quest for the majority. The party does not appear to be putting enough House districts in play to pick up the 12 seats now separating Democrats from the speaker's chair. Some top candidates are trailing their Republican opponents in financial resources. And the House Republican campaign organization is raising more money than its Democratic counterpart.

"I don't believe you can win back the House without candidates or money," said Representative Thomas M. Reynolds of New York, chairman of the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee. By his count, he said, 21 of the 40 Republicans he rates as most open to challenge do not yet have Democratic candidates running against them.


Indeed, given that the House will remain Republican for at least the rest of this decade and that the Senate will more likely approach 60-40 GOP before it will be Democrat-controlled again, anyone care to explain how John Kerry can put together an Electoral College majority?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:09 PM

HATEY:

Aristide resigns, flees Haiti (IAN JAMES, February 29, 2004, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

President Jean-Bertrand Aristide resigned and fled the country Sunday, bowing to pressure from a bloody rebellion at home and governments abroad. Gunfire rang out through the capital and black smoke billowed from the city center.

Supreme Court Justice Boniface Alexandre declared three hours later he was taking charge of the country under the constitution. He urged calm after more than three weeks of violence.


Here's an apt proving ground for the French and the U.N. to show they're capable of handling a crisis without us.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:29 AM

60-40 VISION:

California election foreshadows November (George Will, February 29, 2004, Townhall)

Chaos theory suggests that the beating of a butterfly's wings in Brazil can set in motion effects that include, in time, a tornado in Topeka. Imagine a possible butterfly effect from Californians' votes on Tuesday.
Reverberations might help President Bush become competitive for the state's 55 electoral votes, forcing his opponent to at least spend significant time and money here.

Disregard the Democrats' presidential primary. Begin with the Republican primary to pick an opponent for Sen. Barbara Boxer, a San Francisco liberal seeking a third term.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, succumbing to the vice of gratitude, endorsed Bill Jones, the former secretary of state who did Schwarzenegger (and himself) the favor of not running for governor during the recall of Gov. Gray
Davis. Jones, a right-to-life conservative, has decent name identification -- he has run statewide three times -- yet looks like a probable loser in this socially liberal state.

But suppose Republican voters -- a recent poll showed half of them undecided -- create the year's most mesmerizing Senate race by nominating Rosario Marin. She is the 45-year-old former U.S. Treasurer and mayor of Huntington Park, a 95 percent Latino town of 60,000 in southeast Los Angeles County, where Democrats have a 5-to-1 registration advantage.

Today, when biography serves as political philosophy, Marin's suits this nation within the nation.


Anyone seen any polling? When the Governor made his endorsement she wasn't doing to well.


February 28, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:48 PM

SANCTIONS=BA'ATHISM:

Hussein's Regime Skimmed Billions From Aid Program (SUSAN SACHS, 2/29/04, NY Times)

Iraq's sanctions-busting has long been an open secret. Two years ago, the General Accounting Office estimated that oil smuggling had generated nearly $900 million a year for Iraq. Oil companies had complained that Iraq was squeezing them for illegal surcharges, and Mr. Hussein's lavish spending on palaces and monuments provided more evidence of his access to unrestricted cash.

But the dimensions of the corruption have only lately become clear, from the newly available documents and from disclosures by government officials who say they were too fearful to speak out before. They show the magnitude and organization of the payoff system, the complicity of the companies involved and the way Mr. Hussein bestowed contracts and gifts on those who praised him.

Yet his policy of awarding contracts to gain political support often meant that Iraq received shoddy, even useless, goods in return.

Perhaps the best measure of the corruption comes from a review of the $8.7 billion in outstanding oil-for-food contracts by the provisional Iraqi government with United Nations help. It found that 70 percent of the suppliers had inflated their prices and agreed to pay a 10 percent kickback, in cash or by transfer to accounts in Jordanian, Lebanese and Syrian banks.

At that rate, Iraq would have collected as much as $2.3 billion of the $32.6 billion worth of contracts it signed since mid-2000, when the kickback system began. And some companies were willing to pay even more than the standard 10 percent, according to Trade and Oil Ministry employees.

Iraq's suppliers included Russian factories, Arab trade brokers, European manufacturers and state-owned companies from China and the Middle East. Iraq generally refused to buy directly from American companies, which in any case needed special licenses to trade legally with Iraq.

In one instance, the Coalition Provisional Authority, the American-led administrators in Iraq, found that Syria was prepared to kick back nearly 15 percent on its $57.5 million contract to sell wheat to Iraq. Syria has agreed to increase the amount of wheat to compensate for the inflated price, said an occupation official involved in the talks.

Iraq also created a variety of other, less lucrative, methods of extorting money from its oil customers. It raised more than $228 million from illegal surcharges it imposed on companies that shipped Iraqi crude oil by sea after September 2000, according to an accounting prepared by the Iraqi Oil Ministry late last year. An additional $540 million was collected in under-the-table surcharges on oil shipped across Iraq's land borders, the documents show. [...]

When Dr. Khidr Abbas became Iraq's interim minister of health six months ago, he discovered some of the effects of Mr. Hussein's political manipulation of the oil-for-food program.

After a review of the ministry's spending, he said, he canceled $250 million worth of contracts with companies he believes were fronts for the former government or got contracts only because they were from countries friendly to Mr. Hussein.

They were paid millions of dollars, said Dr. Abbas, for drugs they did not deliver, medical equipment that did not work and maintenance agreements that were never honored. Iraq, he added, was left with defective ultrasound machines from Algeria, overpriced dental chairs from China and a warehouse filled with hundreds of wheelchairs that the old government did not bother to distribute.

"There is an octopus of companies run by Arabs connected with the old regime or personalities like Uday," he said, referring to one of Mr. Hussein's sons who was killed by American troops last July. "Some paid up to 30 percent kickbacks."

Other Iraqi officials said the ministries were forced to order goods from companies and countries according to political expediency instead of quality.

"There would be an order that out of $2 billion for the Trade Ministry and Health Ministry, $1 million would have be given to Russian companies and $500 million to Egyptians," said Nidhal R. Mardood, a 30-year veteran employee of the Iraqi Ministry of Trade, where he is now the director-general for finance.

"It depended on what was going on in New York at the U.N. and which country was on the Security Council," he added. "They apportioned the amounts according to politics."

One result, for Iraqis, was a mishmash of equipment: fire trucks from Russia, earth-moving machines from Jordan, station wagons from India, trucks from Belarus and garbage trucks from China.

"We got the best of the worst," Mr. Mardood said.

Yasmine Gailani, a medical technician who worked at a lab specializing in blood disorders, said the political manipulation resulted in deliveries of drugs that varied in quality and dosage every six months.

At one point, she said, the lab was instructed to only buy its equipment from Russian companies, adding, "So we would have to find what we called a Russian `cover' in order to buy from the manufacturer we wanted."

Her husband, Kemal Gailani, is minister of finance in the interim Iraqi government. Last fall, he said, he confronted a United Nations official over the quality of goods that Iraqis received in their monthly rations during the sanctions.

"We were looking at the contracts already approved and the U.N. lady said, `Do you mind if we continue with these?' " he recalled. "She was talking as if it was a gift or a favor, with our money of course. I said, `Is it the same contracts to Egypt and China? Is it the same cooking oil we used to use in our drive shafts, the same matches that burned our houses down, the same soap that didn't clean?' She was shocked."

Dr. Abbas, a surgeon who left his practice in London to return home to Iraq, said he was preparing lawsuits against some of the drug and medical supply companies he said were allowed to cheat Iraqis. He would also like to stop dealing with any company that paid kickbacks, but he said he realized that might not be practical.

But he would like to give them a message.

"I would say to them, it was very cruel to aid a dictator and his regime when all of you knew what the money was and where it was going," he said. "Instead of letting his resources dry up, you let the dictatorship last longer."


So, when the Left says sanctions were working, do they really mean they were working to enrich our enemies at the expense of the Iraqi people?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:27 PM

THE INCIDENTAL SECRETARY GENERAL:

It wasn't Kofi we were bugging, Clare, it was Tariq: In the run-up to last year's Iraq war, there was one conversation that everyone wanted to hear: that between Kofi Annan and the Iraqi deputy prime minister. (Con Coughlin, 29/02/2004, Sunday Telegraph)

As Mr Blair was quick to stress in the immediate aftermath of Ms Short's UN allegations, all of Britain's intelligence and security organisations are required to work within the law - both domestic and international - and while their main priority is to protect the security of the realm, no one in the intelligence community would undertake to spy on the UN secretary-general without the specific authorisation of their political masters.

In the majority of cases, targets are selected on the basis that they are considered to constitute a threat to the interests of the United Kingdom. But even though the energies of MI6, MI5 and GCHQ are primarily directed against what they call "the bad guys", there are occasions where, often inadvertently, they find themselves monitoring those who are regarded as friends and allies.

For example, in the build-up to last year's war, GCHQ would have been failing in its duty had it not monitored Tariq Aziz, Iraq's then deputy prime minister, who was Saddam's trusted confidant in international affairs and was in almost daily contact with UN officials in New York as part of his desperate attempt to avert war. If Mr Aziz were then to have had a discussion with Kofi Annan, a transcript of that conversation would have been made available to British officials, even though the main target of the espionage exercise was Mr Aziz, not Mr Annan.

The subtleties of how British intelligence works in reality are, unfortunately, lost on the likes of Ms Short who, although she had limited access to intelligence reports, was never senior - or trusted - enough in the Cabinet to have an understanding of the context in which certain operations were being conducted.

The same can be said for Katharine Gun, the junior GCHQ employee whose prosecution under the Official Secrets Act was dropped last week after she admitted leaking an email about an American request asking Britain to spy on the six countries that would decide the fate of the second UN security council resolution. As a low-grade translator of Mandarin, Mrs Gun was hardly in a position to know how the British authorities dealt with the request, or even if they acted upon it.

Ms Short was similarly out of the loop about the precise nature of Britain's espionage in the build-up to the war. Although she is correct when she says that her department had access to intelligence reports on Iraq to help her plan for humanitarian relief after the war, her access was strictly limited, and the material she was given was provided on a strict "need-to-know" basis. Even when she held Cabinet rank, she was regarded with some suspicion by the intelligence service both because of her previous outspoken support for the IRA and the obvious sympathy she displayed for the anti-war movement. For this reason, she would not have had access to the high-grade intelligence reports that were being circulated to the Prime Minister and his inner circle.

If - as is perfectly feasible - transcripts of Mr Annan's conversations had found their way to Whitehall as a result of British attempts to spy on Tariq Aziz, Ms Short would have been presented with only the bare facts of what Mr Annan had said, not how the information had been obtained.


The Left wants both to criticize the failure and the attempt to gather good intelligence.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:45 PM

THE ONLY WORTHWHILE FLATLANDERS:

Fortunate Sons: For the supergroup The Flatlanders, three albums in three decades ain’t so bad (MIKAEL WOOD, Feb 26, 2004, Dallas Observer)

When the laid-back cosmic cowpokes of Lubbock's Flatlanders reunited in 1998 to cut "South Wind of Summer" for Robert Redford's The Horse Whisperer soundtrack, there weren't any perks to speak of: Beyond a 1973 debut album originally released exclusively on eight-track tape (and reissued on CD by Rounder in 1990 to pre-alt-country collectors), the Flatlanders, in the words of that CD's title, had become More a Legend Than a Band, an early precursor to the cowpunk liberalism that would produce such late-'80s/early-'90s bands-not-legends as Uncle Tupelo and the Jayhawks. What's more, each of the three Flatlanders--dry Joe Ely, wry Butch Hancock and presumably high Jimmie Dale Gilmore--followed up that '73 debut with a successful solo career of his own. So slotting them alongside successors like Gillian Welch and Steve Earle on Whisperer, Redford wasn't offering the Flatlanders anything more than a historical bump (and perhaps the chance to meet Kristin Scott Thomas in the flesh). When I met up with the guys last month in a New York City hotel suite, it's clear even that's more than they needed.

"A lot of times a band becomes a business or something," Ely says in his hardscrabble music-vet drawl. "We've always tried to keep the music thing not as part of any business, but just as part of the thing that moves us, whatever that thing is that keeps us going physically and spiritually. And that's what we try to keep fresh. We made an agreement: If business or anything like that ever comes in the way of our friendship, then we'll immediately drop that."

Gilmore and Hancock agree: As far as they're concerned, just because the world didn't hear from the Flatlanders for more than a quarter of a century doesn't mean the Flatlanders didn't exist. The opportunity to get together and record a song simply meant a chance to hang out on someone else's dime. "We've been part of each other's lives throughout," Gilmore says. "Sometimes we were overtly working together, but I feel like we've always been collaborators. The whole time we weren't playing music together we still were best friends."

That approach helps explain the easy warmth and effortless charm of Wheels of Fortune, the Flatlanders' new album and the follow-up to 2002's Now Again, which attracted attention precisely because it was the first most of the world had heard from the group for 29 years. Like Again, Wheels is a set of gently off-kilter country-rock songs about old love, new loneliness and beautiful women, though this one also boasts a song about a guy named Shorty, whom lots of women would like to strangle.


Any non-Texan know why Joe Ely wears his fingernails long?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:51 PM

ON FIRST LOOKING INTO CHAPMAN'S HOMER:

Imagining John Lennon's Utopia (Byron Matthews)

John Lennon, a famously prolific songwriter, today is most remembered for his 1971 utopian anthem, "Imagine". The song appeared as the title track on Lennon's second post-Beatles album, and it represents the pop icon's deepest musical foray into the realm of political and economic philosophy. Just how strongly Lennon is identified with the song is suggested by the title chosen for his 1988 film portrait, Imagine: John Lennon. Then there was the 2000 release Gimme Some Truth – The Making of John Lennon's "Imagine", which included scenes from an earlier film by Lennon and wife Yoko Ono, entitled – you guessed it – Imagine. The unpopular War in Viet Nam made the song an immediate hit, and it remains the best-loved number in the pacifist hymnal more than thirty years later. It's a good bet that more candles and Bic lighters have been waved in the air to "Imagine" than to all else combined, "Kumbaya" included. In the plaintive voice of the since tragically murdered Lennon, "Imagine" can carry an emotional punch, especially when experienced as the reverent keening of a solemn nighttime gathering of believers in the dream. In the midst of so much hopeful sincerity, even an inveterate cynic could find himself fumbling for his Bic somewhere in the second verse. But what, exactly, was Lennon asking us to imagine? The answer leaves no doubt that Lennon should have stuck to singing about yellow submarines.

A sort of musical What Is To Be Done?, "Imagine" is Lennon's prescription for dragging ourselves out of the bloody trenches of war, at long last to "live as one" in the Brotherhood of Man. The secret is to get rid of the three things that have been putting us at each other's throats: religion, countries, and possessions. (How Lennon missed using "A Modest Proposal" as a prankish subtitle remains a mystery to this day.) A website devoted to John Lennon and "Imagine" once asked readers what they thought the song was about. Not exactly a stumper, the answers were about what you'd predict, only with worse spelling. But someone posted this Socratic bucket of cold water: "Are these lyrics not the promise made by communism?" Hmm. Maybe it's time for a dry-eyed look at Lennon's program. Do history and everyday experience suggest that abolishing religion, nations, and private property is the road to a world of peace and plenty? Or did Lennon actually write a prescription for political oppression and economic failure, for a society opposite in every important respect from the enticing vision he intended to promote?


As it happens, I was in college when he was shot and at the campus pub. I turned to another conservative and we high-fived. (Yes, I know, this was terribly insensitive.) We barely made it out alive....


Posted by Peter Burnet at 4:08 PM

SERVING THE DEVIL IN THE NAME OF TRUTH:

EUGENICS: IN THE NAME OF SCIENCE (Jacinta Lodge/ExBerliner/March, 2004) (click “In This Issue”, then “Feature”)

The green leafy suburb of Dahlem is known to most of us primarily as the home of the Freie Universität and numerous embassies. What many dońt realise is that a number of these noble facades hide a darker and more gruesome past than the elegant mortar work suggests. In particular, the frontage of Ihnestr. 22 once presented to the world the face of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Genetics and Eugenics, an institute which played a central role in much of the Third Reich's racial politics.

Established under the directorship of Eugen Fischer, this institute was opened in 1927 during the 5th International Congress on Hereditary Science in Berlin. A few years prior, Fischer co-wrote Human Heredity and Race Hygiene, a book welcomed by the National Socialist Party that was soon to become the basis of the Nazi racial hygiene program. Following Hitler's assumption of power in 1933, Fischer made it clear: "The institute is completely and wholly prepared to assume the tasks of the current government."[...]

So it was in this hey day of eugenics that the KWI for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics was established and to which, in 1942, Baron Otmar von Verschuer moved, replacing Fischer as director. One of Verschueŕs primary research interests was in determining the genetic factors of disease. To this end, he worked with a large number of families, especially those of twins. His originally reputable research became more and more corrupted as he fell into the investigation of racial genetic differences, especially in terms of the "Jewish question," and it wasńt long before he was using human material gathered by one of his former research assistants and sent to him.

This former assistant was none other than Josef Mengele, the "Death Angel of Auschwitz." [...]

The KWI for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics remained throughout the war until February 1945, when most were evacuated. In April the institute building was confiscated by Russian forces, and the remaining scientists who had continued in the director's residence lost this building as well to the American troops in July. Soon the Kaiser Wilhelm Society officially ceased to exist, but a new society was built out of the ashes of the old – the Max Planck Society. By the time that this was founded in 1948, the KWI for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics was considered so politically compromised that it was not included, and the Society passed the building onto the Freie Universität. In 1988, pressure from the political science students studying there led to the erection of a memorial tablet on the front of the building. The final lines read: "Scientists have to be responsible for the content and consequences of their scientific work."

Note how the Institute closed finally because it was politically, not morally compromised.

The Pope prayed at Yad Vashem and Auschwitz and most Christian faiths have tried very hard to confront complicity in the Holocaust directly. It has changed them all. Yet to this day scientists defiantly deny any culpability by dismissing it all as either "bad" science, and therefore nothing to do with them, or a hangover from the pre-enlightenment era. Morally, scientific materialism is a cowardly, teflon-like creed that boasts endlessly about all the wonderful things it has wrought while blaming all other faiths for its murderous catastrophes.



Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:57 PM

DUH?:

Drinking With Osama: Every day, lately, we hear stories about the increasing travails of traveling internationally: the fingerprint scanning, the no-fly lists, the "shoes off." But Peter Bellone's travel misadventures may leave all the others in the waiting room. (Peter Bellone, 1/15/04, MetroActive)

In college, I enrolled in some literature classes where we discussed the significance of this, the subtext of that. To me, most of it seemed a stretch--exercises in job justification. Standing before my baggage now, contents unpacked and laid out in neat rows, I believed my professors were on to something. Most of the items on display were things I had acquired over the past three months, and each one had an innocent explanation.

I wanted to get up early and be productive, so I bought a windup alarm clock. It was cheap; it worked. Maybe that's why the bad guys in the movies wired them to bundles of dynamite.

Why get up early if you weren't going to talk to people? And nothing endeared people like trying to learn their language, hence the Teach Yourself Pashto book.

And all the folks I met were Muslim, so I bought a Koran, another step toward understanding. That also explained why all the names in my address book were Muslim ones. Did they expect me to meet Buddhists?

The posters and the political pamphlet--the one with Arabic writing heading a picture of the burning Twin Towers--these were items to show the family back home, and I thought they looked cool.

And speaking of being away from home, I wasn't about to traverse dangerous lands without a good-luck charm--therefore I brought along a glass jar of Iwo Jima sand I got in the Marines. Unfortunately, at the end of my trip it slipped out and shattered, which explained the seven Ziplocked dime-sized baggies of black, volcanic sand.

And of course, there was the cylinder, with its 30 mm live round. But hey, what could be cooler than that?

After a pause, the embassy guy had only two things to say. "You got some weird s[tuff] in your bag. I'm leaving now. Is there anything else you would like to tell me?"

Beware of the subtext and the alternate story our actions always tell, whether we choose to listen or not. This time I listened.

"The press card is a fake," I admitted. "I couldn't get into Afghanistan without one, so my friend and I made one on his computer."

The look on the embassy guy's face stayed with me the whole night, as I lay there in the airport detention center. I couldn't have slept anyway. They never killed the lights, and the floor was packed with men using their suit coats for blankets, mainly Chinese and Russians who'd been caught trying to sneak into the country. Instead of being locked up, it seemed like I had just missed a good party. Too bad the only thing being served now was a tall glass of regret.

It was unbelievable. I had set off as a freelance journalist, and now I was in danger of being taken as another John Walker Lindh.


Which part is supposed to be unbelievable, that he was this stupid or that they assumed no one could be this stupid?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:51 PM

SHUT THE CIA, OPEN INTELLIGENCE:

Open Source Intelligence (RICHARD S. FRIEDMAN, Summer 1998, Parameters)

Ninety percent of intelligence comes from open sources. The other ten percent, the clandestine work, is just the more dramatic. The real intelligence hero is Sherlock Holmes, not James Bond.
--Lieutenant General Sam Wilson, USA Ret. former Director, Defense Intelligence Agency

Former Ambassador to Algeria L. Craig Johnstone (presently State Department Director of Resources, Plans and Policy) recently told a Washington conference that during his assignment in Algeria, he bought and installed a satellite dish enabling him to watch CNN so he could have access to global news. He recalled:

The first week I had it running was the week of the Arab League summit in Algiers and, for whatever reason, the Department was interested in finding out whether Yasser Arafat would attend the summit. No one knew, and the day of the summit Washington was getting more frantic. We in the Embassy were banned from the summit site so there was no way we could find out whether or not Yasser Arafat would show. Finally, at about noon I was home for lunch and watching CNN when the office of the Secretary of State called. The staffer on the other end asked if there was anything at all he could tell the Secretary about Arafat's participation. And just then, on CNN I saw a live picture of Yasser Arafat arriving at the conference. "He is definitely at the conference," I reported. The staffer was ecstatic and went off to tell the Secretary. The next day I received a congratulatory phone call from the NEA bureau for pulling the rabbit out of the hat. How did you find out, they asked? The secret was mine. But I knew then and there that the business of diplomacy had changed, and that the role of embassies, how we do business in the world, also had to change.


Ambassador Johnstone's story provides an example of the value of information from open sources. Allen W. Dulles, when he was Director of Central Intelligence, acknowledged to a congressional committee, "more than 80 percent of intelligence is obtained from open sources." Whether the amount of intelligence coming from open sources is 90 percent, 80 percent, or some other figure, experienced intelligence professionals agree that most information processed into finished intelligence may be available from open sources. This essay explores the significance of a trend toward increased recognition of the role of open source information and discusses what this may mean for intelligence consumers at every level. [...]

Enthusiastic proponents of open source intelligence argue that the information revolution is transforming the bulk of any nation's intelligence requirements and reducing the need to rely upon traditional human and technical means and methods. But Robin W. Winks, distinguished Yale University historian who served in the Office of Strategic Services during World War II and in its successor, the Central Intelligence Agency, concluded, "Research and analysis are at the core of intelligence . . . . [Most] `facts' are without meaning; someone must analyze even the most easily obtained data."

The emerging debate between investing in technology and developing competent analysts concerns itself basically with the value and role of open source intelligence. To understand some of the forces that are shaping the debate, we need to weigh the relative benefits of primary and secondary sources, two discrete subsidiary classes of open source material. Primary sources, generally taken to include print and electronic media, have always provided information of value to the intelligence community in current intelligence, indications, and warning as well as background information used by analysts in their work. What the so-called information revolution has done is to increase the ability of users to gain access and to manipulate the information, and although most intelligence managers do not believe that the number of primary sources has expanded greatly, the number of secondary sources has increased exponentially. To compound the analyst's problem, the objectivity and reliability of many secondary sources are often questionable. We will need more experience before we can accept expansion of secondary sources as a benefit to the management of national security.

The largest general open source collection in the world is the Library of Congress. To replace the original library, which was destroyed during the War of 1812, Congress in 1815 purchased the private library of former President Thomas Jefferson, greatly increasing the collection's size and scope. The Library of Congress now includes works in more than 450 languages and comprises more than 28 million books, periodicals, and pamphlets as well as manuscripts, maps, newspapers, music scores, microfilms, motion pictures, photographs, recordings, prints, and drawings. The library's services also include research and reference facilities, which coordinate with or amplify local and regional library resources.

There are also several thousand databases available from commercial organizations; LEXIS/NEXIS, Dialog, Reuters, and The New York Times come to mind. Any discussion of contemporary open sources must now include the Internet and the World Wide Web (WWW). The World Wide Web (developed in 1989) is a collection of files, called Web sites or Web pages, identified by uniform resource locators (URLs). Computer programs called browsers retrieve these files.

The term "Internet" describes the interconnection of computer networks, particularly the global interconnection of government, education, and business computer networks, available to the public. In early 1996, the Internet connected more than 25 million computers in more than 180 countries. The Internet provides an immense quantity and variety of open source information and must be increasingly looked upon as a source for intelligence purposes.

The Internet and the World Wide Web exemplify technology that is not yet mature. One hallmark of immature technology is an underlying anarchy and a potential for disinformation. In October 1938, when radio broadcasting was emerging as a reliable source of information, producer-director Orson Welles, in his weekly radio show Mercury Theater, presented a dramatization of an 1898 H. G. Wells story, War of the Worlds. The broadcast, which purported to be an account of an invasion of earth from outer space, created a panic in which thousands of individuals took to the streets, convinced that Martians had really invaded Earth. Orson Welles later admitted that he had never expected the radio audience to take the story so literally, and that he had learned a lesson in the effectiveness and reach of the new medium in which content was struggling to catch up to technology.

Recent examples with the Internet and its spin-offs suggest that e-mail abuses, careless gossip reported as fact, and the repeated information anarchy of cyberspace have become progressively chaotic. This does not mean that the Internet and the Web cannot be considered seriously for intelligence work, but it does mean that intelligence officers must exercise a vigilant and disciplined approach to any data or information they acquire from on-line sources.


Part of the brilliance of Admiral Poindexter's idea for an intelligence market is that you could then take this mass of information and have a narrower group of folks place their bets on what's most likely to come of it all. It wouldn't render perfect answers, but it couldn't possibly do worse than our intelligence services historically have.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:21 AM

60-40 VISION FILES:

Hull's stormy divorce records unsealed (FRANK MAIN, February 28, 2004, Chicago Sun-Times)

The wife of Democratic Senate candidate M. Blair Hull accused him in 1998 of threatening to kill her, calling her vile names and punching her in the leg -- accusations Hull skirted on Friday.

"I did not respond at that time, and I am not going to respond now," Hull said.

Brenda Sexton divorced the multimillionaire securities trader, who was arrested on a battery charge for punching her in the shin. The case was later dropped.


The shin? Is he a dwarf?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:56 AM

UNREASONABLE DOUBT:

U.S. Denies Iran Report of Bin Laden's Capture (Reuters, Feb 28, 2004)

The U.S. Department of Defense denied reports by Iran's official IRNA news agency on Saturday that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has been captured.

IRNA quoted a story on Iran's state radio Pashtun service which reported "a very reliable source" as saying bin Laden had been captured in a tribal area of Pakistan.

A senior U.S. defense official denied the report, telling Reuters it was "another piece of stray voltage that's passing around out there."

And Pakistan's Foreign Minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri told a news conference he was aware of the Iranian report, but added: "We cannot confirm it at all."

Washington says bin Laden masterminded the September 11, 2001, suicide hijack attacks in the United States, which killed nearly 3,000 people.


"Washington says"? Didn't he take credit for it?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:26 AM

ANGLOSPHERIC, NOT EU-NICK:

A New Deal for Europe (Michael Howard to the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in Berlin, February 12, 2004, The Guardian)

Britain and Germany are two great nations with their own histories and their own perspectives.

Germany has wanted to achieve closer and in some cases irreversible integration thanks to her specific experiences in two world wars. Konrad Adenauer, whom we honour in this foundation, understood that the European process could be of great service to Germany. As a result, he made this country strong in Europe, valued as a trading partner and trusted as an ally. I understand why his European policy, which helped to establish Germany's place in the community of nations, is admired in Germany today.

We in Britain came through the war with our national institutions strong. When we seek to preserve those institutions, we are defending a constitutional settlement that has survived great stresses and strains and which continues to work well and be understood by people in Britain.

Britain has always been a global trading nation. We have historic connections with our Commonwealth partners and with the United States. Look, for example, at where our international telephone calls go at Christmas and New Year: to North America, to the Caribbean, to the Indian subcontinent, to Australia and New Zealand.

This is not just a sentimental point. It is also a hard commercial truth. More of our trade is with non-EU members than is the case for any other member state. We have more overseas investments in non-European markets than any other member state. We are unique in the EU in having a global financial centre.

But Britain and Germany are not the only countries that approach European integration from a perspective shaped by their history. Every European country does. I do not always agree with your Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer. Nor, I suspect, do you. But he was recently quoted in one of our newspapers as saying: 'All the countries ... have different traditions, different political disputes at home, complicated parliaments, complicated majorities ... Language and history matter in Europe and we have to understand these different histories and difficulties'. He makes an important point.

The Eastern European accession countries have thrown off the yoke of Soviet domination. They, along with other new member states, have rediscovered their own national identities and the freedom to determine their own destiny. As a result they may well be wary of giving up too much of that hard-won independence.

Different histories, different institutions and different traditions.

To undermine these institutions and ways of life, whether they have developed uninterrupted over hundreds of years or only recently re-emerged, and which are seen as legitimate by their people, would be an act of folly. Most people in the nations of Europe do not feel the same affinity or identity with EU bodies that they do with their own national institutions. People who identify themselves as Europeans rather than as citizens of their own country still remain a very small minority in every member state of the European Union.

Most people simply do not feel European in the same sense that they might feel American or German - or British.

There is no European public opinion; no European national identity. In the absence of a European demos, we are left with unadorned kratos: the power of a system that commands respect through force of law, not public affection.


It is in in fact the perfect expression of modern Europe, an attempt to unify around a void.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:54 AM

ARE YOU EKSPERYANSED?:

Rebels Nearing Haitian Capital, Deepening Panic (LYDIA POLGREEN and CHRISTOPHER MARQUIS, 2/28/04, NY Times)

Among the possibilities the Pentagon is considering, Defense Department officials and military officers said, is to send a force of 2,200 Marines from Camp Lejeune, N.C., aboard Navy ships from Norfolk, Va., to take up positions off Haiti. But they said such a deployment, similar to what was done to stabilize Liberia last year, could take several days to organize.

In the gathering chaos in Port-au-Prince, no one could say for sure if that would be soon enough.

Truckloads of armed men, many in ski masks, patrolled the city on Friday, vowing to kill anyone who challenged Mr. Aristide's presidency. Looters pillaged warehouses at the port, and at least four people were killed in violence sweeping through the city. The bloodshed was set off by rumors that rebel soldiers would soon march in to remove Mr. Aristide by force.

Insurgents have already seized several large cities, and some moved Friday into Les Cayes, the nation's fourth largest town, The Associated Press reported. Rebel troops also took control of Mirebalais, an important crossroads town 25 miles northeast of the capital, The A.P. reported.

A rebel leader, Guy Philippe, told reporters that his plan was not to attack the capital immediately but rather to put it under siege. "We want to block Port-au-Prince totally," The A.P. quoted him as saying. "Port-au-Prince now, it would be very hard to take it. It would be a lot of fight, a lot of death."

With shouts of "Viv Titid!" — Titid is a Creole diminutive of Aristide — armed troops loyal to the president and his party, Lavalas, vowed to stop the rebel advance, brandishing M-16 rifles and semiautomatic handguns at barricades of flaming tires.

The port was a mad scene of looting, with thousands of people streaming into a narrow entrance that had been pried open. Just outside the gate lay the body a man killed earlier in the day, dressed in a pink shirt and black pants, a stream of blood congealing next to his head.


Like most men, or at least those in Nick Hornby novels, we believe that all of life should have a soundtrack. In this case, try Revolution, by Boukman Eksperyans. The band, which originally supported Aristide and even played his Inauguration, is now calling for him to step down.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:39 AM

3.6 BILLION FILMGOERS CAN'T BE WRONG:

Hurray for Bollywood (PANKAJ MISHRA, 2/28/04, NY Times)

[I]ndia makes around 800 films each year, more than any country in the world. Bollywood produces up to 200 films in Hindi and Urdu alone.

Little of what comes out of this $1.3 billion-a-year industry is of much quality, and few films make a profit. Yet India, where approximately 12 million people go to the movies every day, remains culturally a world unto itself, immune to the films emerging from Hollywood, which have captured only 6 percent of the largest domestic movie market in the world.

Moreover, Bollywood's films reach up to 3.6 billion people around the world — a billion more than the audience for Hollywood. Egyptians, South Africans and Fijians joined Indians in electing Amitabh Bachchan — a name unknown to most people in Europe and America — as the "actor of the millennium" in a BBC online poll.

Mr. Bachchan gained his reputation by repeatedly playing the role of the poor, resentful young man who makes it in the big city — often through crime and violence. But Bollywood films do more than sell garish dreams of a better life to the poor. To people struggling for emotional and material security within their increasingly modern and fragmented societies, they offer the consolations of tradition, especially of family values. Mr. Bachchan's angry young man usually dies in the arms of his mother or father, having realized the folly of his ways.


If you're looking for a rental for tonight, Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India is an especially enjoyable introduction to Indian film.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:21 AM

ANYBODY EDIT UPI?:

Democracy and Bush's riddle (Vanessa Yeo, 2/28/2004, UPI)

About the American push for global democracy, the recently imploded Soviet Union and Japan come as examples of nations accepting an alien ideology -- albeit perhaps unwillingly.

Despite the 13 years since its collapse in 1990, Russia (ex-Soviet Union) today is nowhere near the supposed glory it envisaged it would reach, when it began experimenting with glasnost and perestroika.

And the zombie nature of the country hasn't helped either. With scores of principalities pulling at opposite ends, the aftermath of its collapse to this day has been a chaotic mix of mob rule, secessionist warfare and constant talk of coup. And, what was really worse in 1994, was talk of a return to communism, as the only form of ideology suitable for the body politic of the nation.

If democracy is of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," the closest mirror image of that serene state in Russia, existed ironically during the era of Stalin and Khrushchev.

And now coming to Japan, the great wonder story of resilience whose capitulation during World War II was ordered not by invading U.S. troops, but by the emperor.


We beg you to pause for a moment and take time to appreciate what you've just witnessed--never in human history has a single human being packed so much willful ignorance into two sentences as Ms Yeo does into those last two. To reach these conclusions all she had to ignore was: the reasonably normal evolution towards liberalism and industrialization of tsarist Russia; the nature of totalitarianism in the USSR, the gulag, and the 20 million murdered by Stalin; two atomic bombs, with their accompanying death toll; and the imperfect but improving condition of Putin's Russia.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:56 AM

WEDGIE DEFENSE:

Revolution by Fiat (Charles Krauthammer, February 27, 2004, Washington Post)

Wedge? Marriage has been around for, oh, 5,000 years. In every society, in every place, in every time it has been defined as an opposite-sex union. Then four robed eminences in Boston decree otherwise. With the stroke of a pen, they radically redefine the most ancient of all social institutions. And then those not quite prepared to accept this undebated, unlegislated, unvoted, unnegotiated revolution are the ones accused of creating a political wedge! [...]

I welcome the debate on the constitutional amendment because it will shift the locus of this issue from unelected judges to where it belongs: the House and the Senate and the 50 state legislatures. In the end, however, I would probably vote against the amendment because for me the sanctity of the Constitution trumps everything, even marriage. Moreover, I would be loath to see some future democratic consensus in favor of gay marriage (were that to come to pass) blocked by such an amendment.

Nonetheless, that does not render the abusive, ad hominem charges made by the marriage revolutionaries -- that it is their opponents who are divisive and partisan -- any less hypocritical. Gay activists and their judges have every right to revolution. They have every right to make their case. But they deserve to be excoriated when, having thrown their cultural Molotov cocktail and finding that the majority of Americans have the temerity to resist, they cry: Culture war!


One of the more absurd mantras of those trying to destroy marriage is that the amendment is unusual because it seeks to restrict a human right. Instead, like almost the entire Constitution, it seeks to apportion power and define the limits of government action.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 AM

COMMON CAUSE (via Buttercup):

Feminism in The 21st Century (Phyllis Chesler and Donna M. Hughes, February 22, 2004, Washington Post)

In the past, when faced with choosing allies, feminists made compromises. To gain the support of the liberal left, feminists acquiesced in the exploitation of women in the pornography trade -- in the name of free speech. The issue of abortion has prevented most feminists from considering working with conservative or faith-based groups. Feminists are right to support reproductive rights and sexual autonomy for women, but they should stop demonizing the conservative and faith-based groups that could be better allies on some issues than the liberal left has been.

In the past feminists interpreted freedom of religion to mean freedom from religion. Too often they have viewed organized religion only as a dangerous form of patriarchy, when it can also be a system of law and ethics that benefits women. Too often feminists base their views of religious groups on outdated stereotypes. Groups that were hostile to feminism 40 years ago now take women's freedom and equality as a given. For example, faith-based groups have become international leaders in the fight against sex trafficking.

Human rights work is not the province of any one ideology. Saving lives and defending freedom are more important than loyalty to an outdated and too-limited feminist sisterhood. Surely after 40 years feminists are mature enough to form coalitions with those with whom they agree on some issues and disagree on others.

Twenty-first-century feminists need to become a force for literate, civil democracies. They must oppose dictatorships and totalitarian movements that crush the liberty and rights of people, especially women and girls. They would be wise to abandon multicultural relativism and instead uphold a universal standard of human rights. They should demand that all girls have the opportunity to reach their full potential instead of living and dying in the gulags of the sex trade.

Twenty-first-century feminists need to reassess the global threats to women and men, rethink their vision, rekindle their passion and work in solidarity with pro-democracy forces around the world to liberate humanity from all forms of tyranny and slavery.


What a delightful irony, that feminists are forced to recognize that George W. Bush is the single most important force for the rights of women on the planet.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 AM

AND THE LIVIN' IS EASY (via Michael Herdegen):

The Greatest Century That Ever Was: 25 Miraculous Trends of the Past 100 Years (Stephen Moore and Julian L. Simon, 12/15/99, Cato Institute)

There has been more material progress in the United States in the 20th century than there was in the entire world in all the previous centuries combined. Almost every indicator of health, wealth, safety, nutrition, affordability and availability of consumer goods and services, environmental quality, and social conditions indicates rapid improvement over the past century. The gains have been most pronounced for women and minorities.

Among the most heartening trends discussed in this study are the following: life expectancy has increased by 30 years; infant mortality rates have fallen 10-fold; the number of cases of (and the death rate from) the major killer diseases—such as tuberculosis, polio, typhoid, whooping cough, and pneumonia—has fallen to fewer than 50 per 100,000; air quality has improved by about 30 percent in major cities since 1977; agricultural productivity has risen 5- to 10-fold; real per capita gross domestic product has risen from $4,800 to $31,500; and real wages have nearly quadrupled from $3.45 an hour to $12.50.

During the course of this century, the affordability and availability of consumer goods have greatly increased. Even most poor Americans have a cornucopia of choices that a century ago the Rockefellers and the Vanderbilts could not have purchased. Today more than 98 percent of American homes have a telephone, electricity, and a flush toilet. More than 70 percent of Americans own a car, a VCR, a microwave, air conditioning, cable TV, and a washer and dryer. At the turn of the century, almost no homes had those modern conveniences. And although Americans feel that they are more squeezed for time than ever, most adults have twice as much leisure time as their counterparts did 100 years ago.

By any conceivable measure, the 20th century has truly been the greatest century of human progress in history.


And, though you'd never know it if you listen to Democrats and the media, we are accordingly a rather happy people, though less happy than we used to be when we had less of material value and more of spiritual.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 AM

IMPERFECT, BUT UNPRECEDENTED:

Combating AIDS: The Bush administration's global AIDS initiative has its faults, but it's a start. (Mother Jones, January/February 2004)

On Tuesday, the Bush administration announced details of its much-anticipated global strategy on HIV-AIDS, including approval for the first $350 million in grants to religious groups and humanitarian organizations to fight the disease. The money is the first installment of $15 billion worth of aid to be distributed to fifteen African and Caribbean nations over the next five years.

The plan, which Bush first announced in his 2003 State of the Union address, got a mixed reception from AIDS activists, who say it's short on specifics and has been too long in coming. But they also recognize that the $15 billion plan, whatever its imperfections, is by far the largest pledge ever proposed by any nation to combat the AIDS epidemic. [...]

Kate Carr, executive director of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, commented “The money's now available, the teams are in place and the dollars are going to flow.” Marsha Martin of AIDS Action praised Bush for "unprecedented leadership.”


The compassion in Mr. Bush's conservatism seems to confuse the heck out of the Left (and Right).


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:58 AM

60-40 NATION:

Gay marriage a big voter issue according to poll (WILL LESTER, February 27, 2004, AP)

Gay marriage is a more powerful social issue for voters than either abortion or gun control, a new poll suggests.

Four in 10 voters say they would not vote for a candidate who disagrees with them on gay marriage, even if they agree with the candidate on most other issues, according to a poll released Friday by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. [...]

Gay marriage is a crucial issue mostly for those who are opponents - especially conservatives, evangelicals and those 65 and over.

People opposed gay marriage by more than a 2-1 margin in the poll, but when asked if they consider a constitutional amendment a top priority, they placed it 21st in a list of 22 possible choices.

Almost half, 45 percent, said they strongly oppose allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally.


Seems kind of unlikely evangelicals are going to be staying home in November.


Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:33 AM

MOCK ON, MOCK ON, ‘TIS ALL IN VAIN:

From go-go to ga-ga (Margaret Wente, The Globe and Mail, 28/02/04)

My girlfriends and I often wonder if we're going gaga. Although our minds are razor-sharp, we've noticed that we suffer from increasingly alarming lapses. The other day I left behind the $500 I had just extracted from the cash machine. I zipped in and out of there with such efficiency that I didn't even miss my money until the day after, when I reached into my pleasantly fat wallet and found nothing but a wad of old grocery-store receipts.

It's comforting to blame these mental slips on overtasking. We lead busy, busy lives, and our brains are buzzing with big ideas and too much to do. We've got lots of weighty matters on our minds — global warming, government corruption, whether Calphalon cookware is better than All-Clad, and how soon Barbara might leave Conrad now that he might go down the tubes. No wonder we occasionally find ourselves in the middle of the Staples store and can't remember why we're there.

But secretly, I know that overtasking's not to blame for this depressing deterioration of our faculties. Turning 50 is to blame. That's when the laws of entropy kick in with a vengeance. Around the time you find that first stout hair sprouting from your chin, you begin to lose your glasses when they're sitting on your own head. After you turn 50, it is dangerous to think about more than one thing at a time. If you do, you will drive right past your own street on the way home from work, the one where you've lived for 15 years.


Permit me a short, self-regarding moment. The other day I left the courthouse so excited about my brilliant victory in a bitter motion that I forgot my boots, but not my coat beside them. I was going to retrieve them yesterday, but I forgot. Beneficent science assures me and my Boomer colleagues excitedly that there is no reason we can’t break all-time longevity records and be productive members of society well into our seniorities. I sure hope I’ll be able to find the office.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:08 AM

THE AIR FORCE ONE-CHASER:

John Edwards: The Lawsuit Industry Puts Its Best Face Forward: A look at John Edwards's legal career provides a window into the flaws of the legal system that made this mill worker's son a multimillionaire. (Stuart Taylor Jr., 2/25/04, Atlantic Monthly)

Edwards's autobiography, Four Trials, shows the tort system at its best, serving the indispensable functions of compensating injured victims and deterring dangerous conduct. But that's not all the book shows. And a preliminary look at Edwards's legal career provides a window into the faux-populist pretenses and other flaws of the system that made this millworker's son into a multimillionaire.

One of the book's four trials grew out of a heartbreaking accident in which a 4-year-old boy was orphaned when a tractor-trailer killed both of his parents. The truck driver, who had jackknifed across the double yellow line into the path of the parents' car after skidding to avoid rear-ending another car, pleaded guilty to reckless driving. Edwards, hired by the orphaned boy's grandmother, sued the driver's employer, a large textile company, and won a jury award of $2.5 million in compensatory damages plus $4 million in punitive damages. Assuming that Edwards (whose book never mentions his fees) took the standard contingent fee of about 33 percent— or more than $2 million—the award would cover the cost of the boy's upbringing and leave him a millionaire three or four times over.

The compensatory award's generosity seems appropriate, in light of the boy's incalculable emotional loss and the need to deter unsafe driving. But why the $4 million in punitive damages? It was not to punish the driver, Edwards explains: The grandmother thought he "seemed like a decent man, and she believed his remorse was genuine." Rather, Edwards persuaded the jury to punish the employer for paying its drivers according to "how many miles [they] covered," and thus to send a message to the trucking industry to sin no more. Paying drivers by the mile, Edwards argued, encourages them to be reckless and stay behind the wheel too long.

But nowhere in the book's 27-page discussion of this case does Edwards claim that this driver was violating the speed limit, or working more than the 12-hour shift allowed by law, or tired. Nowhere does he suggest that paying drivers by the mile was unusual in the trucking industry. Nowhere does he cite evidence that the driver decided to drive recklessly that day —after 27 years on the job—because he was paid by the mile. Nor does the book cite evidence that drivers paid by the mile are generally more reckless than those paid by the hour—who are, after all, often in a hurry to get home.

I happened to read this chapter while riding in the back of a metered taxicab on Interstate 95. The cabbie was paid by the mile, as are most cabbies. Does this make them reckless? Not that I've heard. Like truck drivers, they know that reckless driving can get them ticketed, arrested, smashed up, or even killed. And if we, as a society, want truckers to drive more slowly—which would increase the cost to consumers of moving cargo—the way to do it is to adopt and enforce lower speed limits.


Was it even "reckless" driving if he lost control while trying to avoid another accident?


Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:33 AM

THE OPPRESSED MR. BLIX

Blix: I was a target too (Ewan MacAskill, The Guardian, 28/02/04)

The United Nations spying row widened yesterday when its former weapons inspector, Hans Blix, told the Guardian he suspected both his UN office and his home in New York were bugged in the run-up to the Iraq war.

In an exclusive interview, Mr Blix said he expected to be bugged by the Iraqis, but to be spied upon by the US was a different matter. He described such behaviour as "disgusting", adding: "It feels like an intrusion into your integrity in a situation when you are actually on the same side."

He said he went to extraordinary lengths to protect his office and home, having a UN counter-surveillance team sweep both for bugs.

"If you had something sensitive to talk about you would go out into the restaurant or out into the streets," he said.

Mr Blix's darkest fears were reinforced when he was shown a set of photographs by a senior member of the Bush administration which he insists could only have been obtained through underhand means.

His accusations came after the former cabinet minster, Clare Short, claimed that US-British intelligence bugged the office of the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan.

Speaking from his home in Stockholm, Mr Blix said that what galled him most was the possibility of being bugged by a country, the US, that he had assumed was on the same side. He said that surveillance was only to be expected between enemies or in cases where serious criminal activity is being monitored.

"But here it is between people who cooperate and it is an unpleasant feeling," he said.

Mr Blix, a Swedish diplomat who was head of the UN arms inspectors for Iraq between 2000 and 2003, said he had no conclusive evidence that the US bugged him. But his suspicions were raised when he had repeated trouble with his phone connections at his New York home.


This may baffle Americans, but a Canadian understands perfectly. Of course we can assume you are engaged in dirty tricks, condemn you loudly to your enemies, thwart your security interests, accuse you of being warmongers, call your leader a moronic cowboy and blame you for all the world's ills. We're your friends. We're really on your side. Honest.

Note how the international order works. Bugging by the US is "disgusting", but no less than one would expect from the savage Iraqis, who, of course, stood as full equals to the US. Can anyone seriously believe the French or Russians would ever stoop so low?


February 27, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:51 PM

MORE REPUBLICAN SMEAR TACTICS:

Kerry rated most liberal member of Senate (Richard E. Cohen, February 27, 2004, National Journal)

The results of the [National Journal's congressional vote ratings] show that Kerry was the most liberal senator in 2003, with a composite liberal score of 96.5. But Edwards wasn't far behind: He had a 2003 composite liberal score of 94.5, making him the fourth-most-liberal senator. [...]

Last year, Kerry, Edwards, and other congressional Democrats who were seeking the presidency, including Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri, missed many votes. To qualify for a score in National Journal's vote ratings, members must participate in at least half of the votes in an issue category. Of the 62 Senate votes used to compute the 2003 ratings, Kerry was absent for 37 votes and Edwards missed 22.

As a result, in the 2003 vote ratings, Kerry received a rating only in the economic policy category, earning a perfect liberal score. Edwards received ratings in the categories of economic and social issues, also putting up perfect liberal scores.

A separate analysis showed that of the votes that Kerry cast in the two categories in which he did not receive scores in 2003 -- social policy and foreign policy -- he consistently took the liberal view within the Senate. Edwards did not receive a score in the foreign-policy category; he sided with the liberals on five votes in that area, and with the conservatives on one vote. On foreign policy, Kerry and Edwards -- both of whom supported the 2002 resolution authorizing the use of military force against Iraq -- last year joined most Senate Democrats in voting that half of the U.S. reconstruction aid to Iraq be provided as loans, a provision that ultimately was dropped.

To be sure, Kerry's ranking as the No. 1 Senate liberal in 2003 -- and his earning of similar honors three times during his first term, from 1985 to 1990 -- will probably have opposition researchers licking their chops. As shown in the accompanying chart, Kerry had a perfect liberal rating on social issues during 10 of the 18 years in which he received a score, meaning that he did not side with conservatives on a single vote in those years. That included his 1996 vote, with 13 other Senate Democrats, against the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited federal recognition of states' same-sex marriage laws.


If you want to run for president from Congress you have to place yourself at one of the extreme margins of American politics or else your opponents in the party primary will clobber you with your heretical votes. Of course, once you get the nomination and your opponent is from the other party, he'll use those same votes to destroy you.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:04 PM

NOT A FACTUAL ASSESSMENT?:

An Impenetrable Lie: a review of Alger Hiss's Looking-Glass Wars by G. Edward White (MAX FRANKEL, February 29, 2004, NYT Times Book Review)

If you are too young to care much about Alger Hiss, move on. Turn away also if you recall the case and still believe Hiss never fed secrets to Soviet agents. But if you accept Hiss's guilt, as most historians now do, you will profit from G. Edward White's supplementary speculations about why, after prison, that serene and charming man sacrificed his marriage, exploited a son's love and abused the trust of fervent supporters to wage a 42-year struggle for a vindication that could never be honestly gained.

White is a legal scholar at the University of Virginia, but in ''Alger Hiss's Looking-Glass Wars'' he is not just parsing legal evidence. Inspired by a chance family connection to Hiss, he felt a need to ruminate on two enduring mysteries: why Hiss persisted in his lying and why he managed to fool so many Americans for so long. White's answers, in a useful supplement to the vast Hiss literature, are plausible but beyond proof.

We will need novelists to recreate the angry idealism of the Depression years that led so many Americans to feel a kinship with Communists. A decade later, in the alarming first years of the cold war, even inoffensive ''fellow travelers'' came to be viciously hunted as traitors, and so the successful prosecution of Hiss greatly fanned the hysteria. In the ensuing partisan wars, believing Hiss guilty or innocent was likely to depend more on a cultural choice than a factual assessment.


Amazing--they still can't accept that the fact is that he was guilty.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 PM

THAT'S QUITE A RECORD OF SUCCESS:

Tomorrow the World: a review of An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror by David Frum and Richard Perle (Thomas Powers, NY Review of Books)

"Hard-line" is a word defined by thirty years of examples. At various times hard-liners, Perle often among them, pushed for more and better nuclear weapons, ridiculed the notion of "arms control," argued for victory in Vietnam, were ready to spread the war into Laos, Cambodia, and even North Vietnam itself, supported Israel's invasion of Lebanon, wanted to kick the Sandinistas out of Nicaragua, argued that an all-out arms race would spend the Soviet Union into bankruptcy, pushed for American recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, backed the scrapping of the anti-ballistic missile treaty, supported a clear commitment to defend Taiwan, and expressed contempt for the United Nations. To be hard-line involves the willingness to use force, realism about using money and power to get one's way, impatience with feel-good idealism, all-out backing for friends, and contempt for efforts to placate enemies. "Hard-liners" share an Old Testament view of the world, promise an eye for an eye, know what they want, and never forget an injury.

But perhaps most important of all, hard-liners are comfortable with the fact of overwhelming American military and economic power, and argue that it ought to be used without apology to chastise enemies, support friends, and get what America wants.


With the exception of the Lebanon invasion--and attacking N. Vietnam, which tragically wasn't even attempted--didn't every single one of those policies work ?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:12 PM

FALL AND RISE:

U.S. pitches Sharon plan to Europe, Arabs (Aluf Benn, 2/27/04, Ha'aretz)

The U.S. administration is trying to persuade European and Arab states as well as the Palestinian Authority to support Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan.

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice has been telling European officials in recent days that Sharon is serious about his plan and that they should encourage Arab and Palestinian officials to respond in kind.

According to American sources, Rice said small steps could lead to larger processes and just as the fall of the Berlin Wall was the result of a chain of events, the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza could lead to a "Middle East parallel" of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Rice is a Sovietologist, and often uses images and analogies from the Cold War era.


Not years, but months...


MORE:
Israel's Sharon Is Up to Something in Gaza. But What?: What's up with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's recent announcement that Israel intends to withdraw from its settlements in Gaza? (Jonathan Rauch, 2/25/04, The Atlantic Monthly)

No one knows what Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is up to with his recent announcement that Israel intends to withdraw from most of its settlements in Gaza, but everyone knows it is momentous. Less than a year ago, notes David Makovsky, a senior fellow with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Sharon insisted that he considered settlements in Gaza to be as important as Tel Aviv. Now Sharon is proposing to walk away, and to abandon a few, as yet unspecified, settlements in the West Bank as well.

"It's of historic significance that the architect of the settlement movement has declared his willingness to oversee the dismantlement of that enterprise in Gaza," Makovsky says. "That creates a new baseline."

At the Brookings Institution, senior fellow and former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin S. Indyk remarks that no previous prime minister was willing to abandon even a single settlement outside the context of a final agreement with the Palestinians. "It's a revolution," Indyk says.

But what kind of revolution? That depends on what Sharon is up to. [...]

By getting out of Gaza, Sharon can firm up his lines and redeploy his resources. Abandoning some vulnerable West Bank settlements serves the same purpose. So does erecting the security barrier, which makes Israeli targets harder to bomb. Moreover, the barrier sits east of the Green Line, which, from Sharon's point of view, means that Israel retains land with which to bargain in negotiations with an eventual Palestinian partner.

More-defensible boundaries cannot exclude bombers entirely. Nor can they stop mortar shells and rockets. The Israeli army would continue to strike into Palestinian territory in both retaliation and pre-emption. But the frequency and difficulty of such incursions might be reduced. Israel might be less vulnerable, less stretched—and thus better able to hunker down.
For how long? "For a long time," Shain says. "Is that a fun kind of existence? No. Can it be a durable condition? Yes. Can it minimize a lot of the terror? Yes. Does it get to the point where exhaustion [of Palestinian militants] will eventually take place? Yes."


A Palestinian state has been an inevitability since Oslo. The American tilt towards Israel an irreversible reality since 9-11. What other resolution was there then going to be?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 PM

ALL DOWNHILL:

Kerry: He's Peaking, Already (ALEXANDER COCKBURN and JEFFREY ST. CLAIR, 2/22/04, CounterPunch)

By all rights John Kerry should have been at the top of his form, the night he won the Wisconsin primary. Even though the six biggest states, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Florida, New York and California have yet to vote, he's been hailed as the Democratic nominee, with hit teams already on the rampage, hunting down prospective Nader supporters, rounding up all known and prospective third party defectors from the Democratic standard, forcing them to kneel and kiss the Democratic Party platform under pain of death, while playing a tape of DNC chair Terry McAuliffe screaching "convert or die!"

Kerry has emerged from the bruising kiss of imputed scandal and, unless Ms Alex Polier or other women inconveniently crop up again, Teresa Heinz won't have to wield the carving knife she has threatened to deploy to her husband's private parts if his path to the White House is derailed by sexual scandal. Polier not withstanding, never has a candidate had to put up with less in the way of the baptism of sewage that is a vital part of the primary process. Dean and Clark drew all the fire. John Edwards, who could slice up Kerry in a minute, has adamantly refused to unleash his forensic artillery.

So did Kerry have the jaunty mien of triumph, that night in Madison? Not that we could see. His long face, albeit abbreviated by corrective surgery, remained lugubrious and he stumbled his way tiredly through Bob Shrum's phrases. The one thing all Democrats this year want is a winner. He doesn't feel like a winner to us.

Right now some polls show Kerry a few points ahead of Bush. Other polls show Kerry peaked on February 15 and has started to slip behind Bush. The states that voted for Gore in 2000, according to a Zogby poll, are softer on Kerry while Bush states remain strong for their man. As yet Karl Rove has yet to launch the Shock and Awe barrage that will explode over Kerry's head some time in the late summer, after the Democrats have got their boost in Boston.


Is anybody in America excited by a Kerry candidacy?

MORE:
Primary Colors (Elizabeth Drew, March 11, 2004, NY Review of Books)

Now that John Kerry seems the likely Democratic candidate, it's worth considering how the Democrats chose him, so that we can sort out the myths about the major candidates and the factors that have shaped the outcome thus far. The realities are unsettling. Not only have most of the candidates, abetted by the press and television, misrepresented themselves and their records, but much about the process of choosing the next nominee of the Democratic Party has gone seriously wrong, largely owing to mismanagement on the part of the Democratic National Committee and the treatment of the candidates by the press.

The idea behind bunching up the primaries within a few months, the brainchild of Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, was that the Democrats should select a candidate as quickly as possible, giving the nominee more time to raise the enormous amounts of money needed to respond to the heavily funded Republican advertising campaigns that have already begun. But what if the primary voters haven't had enough time to learn about the candidate they select? What if there could have been a better decision? Even with more time the Democrats have in the past made some weak and even preposterous choices of nominees, as they did with Michael Dukakis in 1988. The nominee could possibly govern us for the next four or eight years. In view of what's at stake, why should it be so important to complete the process so early—why not take two or three more months?

Under the new, compressed calendar, the nomination battle whooshes from state to state without giving the voters much time to reflect on the candidates and to take account of what has happened in the most recent contest, or contests. Larry Sabato, a professor of politics at the University of Virginia, has found that Kerry's Iowa victory gave him an additional twenty to thirty percentage points virtually overnight in New Hampshire and several other states. The pollster John Zogby has said, "This year's front-loaded primary schedule appears to have worked well in favor of the front-runner—as it apparently was intended to." [...]

The foreshortened primary system isn't McAuliffe's only blunder. Placing the Democratic Convention in Boston—vulnerable to attack by the Republicans as unrepresentative of the country, the home of lefties and supporters of gay marriage—was another feckless act. (The traffic getting to the recently constructed Fleet Financial Center will be frightful.) It could well be a replay of the raucous 1984 "San Francisco Democrats" Convention, of which the Republicans made a mockery.

Still another McAuliffe blunder was to force the candidates—ten of them at the time—to engage in nearly weekly "debates" last autumn. The results were terrible for the party—ten squabbling candidates in a largely meaningless, time-and-energy-consuming blur. While debates can tell us some important things about the candidates, not least their temperaments as well as the quality of their language, they put pressure on each candidate to put on some sort of act, to show in an impossibly brief time a superior, distinctive personality and command of the issues; the debates therefore gave a strong impression of being fake. And the debates tend to be judged by the press according to showbiz standards: Who can produce the best (usually rehearsed) one-liner; who attacked whom the hardest; who is the most entertaining; who made a gaffe that can be the subject of more stories? Such abilities have little to do with governing.

In fact, according to those who know him, Rove can hardly believe his good fortune in being handed an opposition so blunder-prone.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 PM

"MECHANICAL PLACEBOS":

For Exercise in New York Futility, Push Button (MICHAEL LUO, 2/27/04, NY Times)

For years, at thousands of New York City intersections, well-worn push buttons have offered harried walkers a rare promise of control over their pedestrian lives. The signs mounted above explained their purpose:

To Cross Street
Push Button
Wait for Walk Signal
Dept. of Transportation

Millions of dutiful city residents and tourists have pushed them over the years, thinking it would help speed them in their journeys. Many trusting souls might have believed they actually worked. Others, more cynical, might have suspected they were broken but pushed anyway, out of habit, or in the off chance they might bring a walk sign more quickly.

As it turns out, the cynics were right.

The city deactivated most of the pedestrian buttons long ago with the emergence of computer-controlled traffic signals, even as an unwitting public continued to push on, according to city Department of Transportation officials. More than 2,500 of the 3,250 walk buttons that still exist function essentially as mechanical placebos, city figures show.


Yeah, but you just might be at one of the rare 750.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:30 PM

ZUMWALT'S PROBLEM:

Setting Straight Kerry’s War Record (THOMAS LIPSCOMB, 2/27/04, NY Sun)

No one denies Mr. Kerry’s four bemedaled months in “Swiftboats” or his seven-months’ service as an electrical officer on board the USS Gridley, during its cruises back and forth to California, or even his months as an admiral’s aide in Brooklyn, before he was able get out of the Navy six months early to run for office.

Taking a look at Mr. Kerry’s much-promoted Vietnam service, his military record was, indeed, remarkable in many ways. Last week, the former assistant secretary of defense and Fletcher School of Diplomacy professor,W. Scott Thompson, recalled a conversation with the late Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr. that clearly had a slightly different take on Mr. Kerry’s recollection of their discussions:

“[T]he fabled and distinguished chief of naval operations,Admiral Elmo Zumwalt,told me — 30 years ago when he was still CNO —that during his own command of U.S. naval forces in Vietnam,just prior to his anointment as CNO, young Kerry had created great problems for him and the other top brass,by killing so many non-combatant civilians and going after other non-military targets.‘We had virtually to straitjacket him to keep him under control,’ the admiral said. ‘Bud’ Zumwalt got it right when he assessed Kerry as having large ambitions — but promised that his career in Vietnam would haunt him if he were ever on the national stage.” And this statement was made despite the fact Zumwalt had personally pinned a Silver Star on Mr. Kerry.

Mr. Kerry was assigned to Swiftboat 44 on December 1, 1968. Within 24 hours, he had his first Purple Heart. Mr. Kerry accumulated three Purple Hearts in four months with not even a day of duty lost from wounds, according to his training officer. It’s a pity one cannot read his Purple Heart medical treatment reports which have been withheld from the public. The only person preventing their release is Mr. Kerry.

By his own admission during those four months, Mr. Kerry continually kept ramming his Swiftboat onto an enemy-held shore on assorted occasions alone and with a few men, killing civilians and even a wounded enemy soldier. One can begin to appreciate Zumwalt’s problem with Mr. Kerry as commander of an unarmored craft dependent upon speed of maneuver to keep it and its crew from being shot to pieces.

Mr. Kerry now refers to those civilian deaths as “accidents of war.”


No wonder he doesn't want his partisans to raise Vietnam service as an issue.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:12 PM

WE WANT A PERP WALK:

Microsoft to drop questionable provision: Raided Japanese unit promises to remove PC licensing deal stipulation (The Japan Times, Feb. 28, 2004)

Microsoft Corp. will remove a patent-related provision in licensing contracts with personal computer makers, the U.S. software giant's Japanese unit said Friday.

The Japan unit was raided Thursday by the Fair Trade Commission on suspicion of violating the Antimonopoly Law.

The Japanese antitrust watchdog investigated Microsoft's headquarters in Tokyo regarding the controversial provision the U.S. firm inserts into contracts with original equipment manufacturers -- mostly PC and device makers that sell their products loaded with Microsoft's Windows operating system.

"Microsoft has decided that, given its focus on improving customer satisfaction, it would delete the provision in its entirety from the next round of OEM contracts, which will take effect later this year," Microsoft said in a statement released after the raid.


It'd be interesting to see if Bill Gates could run a company without resorting to criminality.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:47 PM

THE INEVITABLE TRAGEDY:

Catholic Priests Abused 10,600 Children-Study (Deborah Zabarenko, 2/27/04, Reuters)

More than 10,600 children said they were molested by priests since 1950 in an epidemic of child sexual abuse involving at least 4 percent of U.S. Roman Catholic clergy, two studies reported on Friday.

About 4% of the clergy involved after a conscious effort by the Church to recruit gay men to the priesthood, seems about right. You can't set the fox to watch the hens.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:38 PM

DANGLING CHAD:

The Making of an African Petrostate (SOMINI SENGUPTA, 2/18/04, NY Times)

Oil is bringing big changes to Chad, some cultural, like the one Mr. Elie worries about, others practical, like the way the World Bank will be overseeing how Chad manages its new wealth. Chad, among the poorest countries in the world, is now Africa's newest petrostate.

Its $3.7 billion underground pipeline, stretching 670 miles, began ferrying crude oil through neighboring Cameroon to the Atlantic coast last year. The pipeline is the largest single private investment in Africa.

Because the pipeline stands to transform this landlocked country, for better or worse, Chad is under a special glare — from the oil industry, global lending institutions and development groups.

The investment has come with strings attached: the oil revenues are to be transparent, and the government is to use the wealth to better the miserable lives of its nine million citizens. A citizens' committee is to review all spending to see that it conforms to the law.

If the rules work as intended, they could set a new model for how oil business is done in Africa. But if the usual corruption sets in, if democratic reforms are postponed, it will be just one more case of the spectacular misery that has befallen Africa's oil states, like Sudan, where oil greased the engines of war, or neighboring Nigeria, where living standards plummeted since oil production began 40 years ago. [...]

This year, Chad will see its first share of oil royalties, about $100 million, an amount that will enlarge the government treasury by about 40 percent, virtually overnight. While this allotment will be closely watched, another $100 million from taxes and customs duties is entirely at the government's discretion.

Certainly, there is no dearth of need. Electricity and water are beyond the reach of a majority of people here, and the average Chadian can expect to die before his 45th birthday. The per capita income barely exceeds $220 a year. Chad ranks 165th of 173 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index.

Critics say it is foolhardy to expect a leadership dominated by one ethnic group (the president's) and with a record of repression and mismanagement to do anything but use its new wealth to crush opponents.

They point to worrisome signs: the banning of an antipipeline protest, the temporary closure of an irreverent radio station, the execution of criminals after what critics believe to be incomplete trials.

The most recent sign of trouble was a suggestion by supporters of Mr. Deby, a military ruler twice elected president, to amend the Constitution to allow him to run for a third term. "For those who lead us, the law is just a piece of paper," said Dobian Assingar, head of the Chadian League of Human Rights and a member of the oversight committee.

The government, for its part, points out that no country has ever opened its revenues to such scrutiny. "I can only say: `Wait. Wait until the revenues are spent,' " said Tom Erdimi, the state's liaison to the project.

No matter how the money is spent this year, Chad is certain to have more in its future. ExxonMobil has already found more oil, and a Canadian company, Encana, is busy exploring north of here.


Another secure oil source...


Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:30 PM

DESPOTS ARE FAIR GAME:

This war is not yet over: The consequences of Iraq could still break Blair and Bush, and change forever the way our world is ordered (Jonathan Freedland, February 11, 2004, The Guardian)

[T]he specific cost in human lives of the Iraq war is not the sole reason why this will remain the central question of current politics. There are wider reverberations. For this war was unique, the first truly pre-emptive attack lacking even the pretence of provocation. At least earlier, hotly controversial military adventures, whether over Suez or in Vietnam, had an initial, immediate prompt to action. But in 2002 there was no nationalisation of the canal, no threat by the north to topple the south. There was merely an ongoing stand-off with the United Nations, one that had been running for years and that, admittedly under the threat of military action, was beginning to unblock. Hans Blix and his men were making progress; they were not threatened or harassed. There was no provocation.

The Bush administration makes no secret that it sees the Iraq war as the prototype for future conflicts; indeed, it has enshrined the idea in its official national security strategy document. Pre-emption remains the Bush doctrine. Witness Donald Rumsfeld's revealing remarks in Munich last week. Asked whether America is bound by any international system, legal framework or code of conduct, the US defence secretary replied: "I honestly believe that every country ought to do what it wants to do ... It either is proud of itself afterwards, or it is less proud of itself." Translation: the US can do what it likes - including making war on countries that have made no attack on it.

Such pre-emptive wars are only possible with intelligence.


The provocation was Saddam Hussein himself. At a minimal cost in men and material he was removed and a pair of substantially more liberal states will soon be recognized in place of of his brutal totalitarian regime. Does anything about that make you less proud of America? Would you be more proud if he were still oppressing his people?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:16 PM

THE ENDLESS DEBT TO THE POLES:

SNP’s Swinney accuses Blair of xenophobia (Alan Crawford, 2/22/04, Sunday Herald)

In Edinburgh tomorrow evening author and journalist Neal Ascherson will tell an audience of influential guests at the Royal Society of Edinburgh that Polish immigrants are the solution to Scotland’s woes.

He told the Sunday Herald: “By God, what Scotland really wants is Poles. Poland is a highly educated place, and what we really need is Polish entrepreneurs. All these brilliant, hungry kids who know how to use money. As soon as they’ve got a few dollars together they settle down and start a small business. It’s that extraordinary kind of energy I think we might just get from a fine inflow of Poles.”

Ascherson echoed Swinney’s sentiments, criticising “stupid gesture politics because of the Daily Mail”, adding that “the idea of Poles coming in as sort of hairy, cheap labour and taking jobs away from honest working men is a complete misconception”.

Tory former whip Michael Brown, in The Independent, also argued last week that he would “have no hesitation, as a Tory, in espousing the most liberal attitude towards immigration from Poland”.

He wrote that, on his experiences in the 1980s representing Scunthorpe, which has many Polish emigrés, “it was the Poles who provided dynamism and enterprise”, being “natural workers, entrepreneurs and businessmen”.

“Indeed, the fewer Poles there are in Poland and the more of them in Britain, the better for our economy,” he added.


The world can never have enough Poles.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:06 PM

NO TEA AND SYMPATHY?:

The Anxiety of His Influence: Naomi Wolf recalls a night from 20 years ago. She once wrote about it differently. (MEGHAN COX GURDON, February 27, 2004, Wall Street Journal)

In 1997, Ms. Wolf recounted the incident in her book "Promiscuities," albeit veiling the identity of the amorous professor. In the book she makes clear that students knew that "Dr. Johnson" occasionally would "elect" girls with the right aura. One Saturday night, by pre-arrangement, the professor came over to her apartment with her manuscript and a bottle. In thrilled expectation, she had put out flowers, lit candles and taken particular care to dress attractively. And over the course of the evening she got room-spinningly drunk--a detail that does not appear in the New York magazine piece.

It's not surprising that in "Promiscuities" she confesses to feelings of complicity in the brief hanky-panky that ensued. Yet in the New York magazine exposé, there is no acknowledgment of her inner excitement or her romantic preparations--there's just the frightened panting of a tender fawn chased by a big bad predator.

There's so much ugliness in this story, and in the publicizing of it, that it's difficult to know where to start. For one thing, Ms. Wolf's tale illustrates two impossibly contradictory strains in the feminist culture that she herself promotes. Women must be sexually shameless--meaning shame-free--and society should encourage female erotic exploration. Men, however, must observe a phenomenal degree of purity--in language, eye-movement, intentions and most definitely in the placing of heavy, boneless hands on women's thighs.

This reverse-Talibanism may make sense in the steamy atmosphere of a women's studies class, but it withers into absurdity in the fresh air of real life.


One doubts he'll resort to it, but this does offer Mr. Bloom the Marion Barry defense: "The [young lady in question] set me up."


Posted by David Cohen at 5:01 PM

HAITIAN IF YOU DO, HAITIAN IF YOU DON'T

If we go, let's stay until job is done(Joseph L. Galloway, Miami Herald, 2/25/04)

Three times in the last century, the United States has gone into Haiti with arms and money to calm the political situation, pacify the population, get rid of one homicidal dictator or another, and build some schools, clinics, roads and bridges.

The question now is whether we will have to do it again as we read about another uprising against another autocratic leader, born of the despair of the most grinding poverty in the Western Hemisphere.

• The first and longest U.S. occupation of Haiti began in 1915, when President Woodrow Wilson ordered in a brigade of U.S. Marines, 2,000 good men and true, and they took and pacified the entire country with a loss of only three Marines killed and 18 wounded. They stayed and ran Haiti until 1934. They built more than a thousand miles of highway with 210 bridges.

• In 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent in the Marines again, this time to rebuild a shattered economy so communists couldn't get a toehold in the hemisphere. This the communists did the next year in nearby Cuba. This American incursion also helped prop up the dictatorship of the quite bloody-minded Francois ''Papa Doc'' Duvalier.

• In 1994, President Clinton sent the Marines in yet again, this time with the U.S. Army and U.N. peacekeepers from half a dozen armies. It was to oust the latest military cabal, that of Gen. Raoul Cedras and his cronies, and to reinstall the overthrown elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a former priest who turned out to have a dictatorial streak of his own.

The American soldiers who came briefly on this last incursion found themselves marching across the only things that still worked in modern Haiti: bridges carrying little brass plates that said: "Built in 1927 (or 1930, or 1931, or 1933) by the U.S. Marine Corps."

Now the Haitians are rising up in rebellion again, seizing a clutch of towns and cities. They're killing and burning and looting in hopes of overthrowing Aristide, in part because they believe that he stole an election but mostly because he has failed to give his people a shred of hope for a better future.

Foundations on Sand An Analysis of the First United States Occupation of Haiti 1915 - 1934 (Peter L. Bunce, USMC Command and Staff College, June 5, 1995)
Thesis: The first United States Occupation of Haiti, after a slow start, made a great variety of capital improvements for Haiti, made changes in the Haitian political system, and refinanced the Haitian economy, none of which had much lasting impact on the Haiti people once the occupation was terminated.

Background: The United States occupied Haiti originally to restore public order in 1915. It's self-imposed mandate quickly expanded to reestablishing Haitian credit in the international credit system, establishing good government and public order, and promoting investment in Haitian agriculture and industry. After a slow start, marred by a brutal revolt in 1918-20, the United States Occupation of Haiti was reorganized and began to address many of the perceived shortcomings of Haitian society. Its international and internal debt was refinanced, substantial public works projects completed, a comprehensive hospital system established, a national constabulary (the Gendarmerie [later Garde] d'Haiti) officered and trained by Marines, and several peaceful transitions of national authority were accomplished under American tutelage. After new civil unrest in 1929, the United States came to an agreement to end the Occupation before its Treaty-mandated termination in 1936. Once the Americans departed in 1934, Haiti reverted to its former state of various groups competing for national power to enrich themselves. Almost all changes the American Occupation attempted to accomplish failed in Haiti because they did not take into consideration the Haitian political and social culture.

Recommendation: Before the United States intervenes in foreign countries, particularly in those where nation-building improvements are to be attempted, the political and social cultures of those countries must be taken into consideration.

Our Foreign Policy: A Democratic View. (Franklyn D. Roosevelt, Foreign Affairs, Vol. VI, 1928)
In Haiti a worse situation faced us. That Republic was in chronic trouble, and it as it is close to Cuba the bad influence was felt across the water. Presidents were murdered, governments fled, several time a year. We landed our marines and sailors only when the unfortunate Chief Magistrate of the moment was dragged out of the French Legation, cut into six pieces and thrown to the mob. Here again we cleaned house, restored order, built public works and put governmental operation on a sound and honest basis. We are still there. It is true, however, that in Santo Domingo and especially in Haiti we seem to have paid too little attention to making the citizens of these states more capable of reassuming the control of their own governments. But we have done a fine piece of material work, and the world ought to thank us.
Clinton and Coercive Diplomacy: A Study of Haiti (Sarah Bermeo, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, 1/18/01, rev'd 4/24/01)
Clinton's actions in Haiti show both how coercive diplomacy can fail when there is not a credible commitment to use force to achieve outcomes, as well as how it can succeed when the commitment to back up diplomacy with force is present. Up until September 1994 Clinton was not prepared to use force if sanctions did not work. Because of this, Cedras and his followers lived with the sanctions, prospering off black market trade and bribes, without fear of retribution. During that time poverty in Haiti, already an impoverished country, increased significantly and resentment festered in the population as corruption, looting, killing and raping terrorized the people. The task of ruling the people of Haiti was no doubt more difficult when Aristide returned in 1994 than it would have been had he returned earlier. The implication for the United States of allowing the conflict to drag on was evident in the increased number of forces needed once the intervention finally occurred. The rapid success of coercive diplomacy in 1994, once it was backed up by the credible use of force, signifies that the United States could likely have ended the conflict sooner if it had been ready to act decisively. For the same cost, or less, Clinton could have had a sizable foreign policy victory instead of a blundering outcome.

The Haiti case also provides insight into the importance of leadership in international diplomacy. Clinton focused his energy during the Haitian crisis on Haiti and on the international community while neglecting to cultivate support among the American people and Congress. This ultimately showed in the low level of support for an armed intervention in September 1994. This lack of support, in turn, could have been read by Cedras as evidence that an invasion was not imminent. Kohut and Toth note that in the Persian Gulf Crisis, in which Americans ultimately favored intervention, the initial response of the American public to the use of force was overwhelmingly negative.42 However, as they note, President Bush invested considerable effort in explaining to Congress and the American people from the beginning what the national interest was in the conflict and that force might be necessary to achieve American objectives. When an intervention was ultimately necessary, Bush could count on Congress and the American people to rally behind him. However, this situation didn't just exist; Bush helped to create it. The contrasting lack of support for Clinton's initiative in Haiti is a strong argument in favor of spending time cultivating public opinion.

U.S. Marines arrive in Haiti Opposition gets more time to consider peace plan (CNN.com, 2/24/04)
A team of 50 Marines arrived in the Haitian capital Monday to help protect the U.S. Embassy and its staff against possible rebel attack. . . .

Monday's political wrangling came a day after heavily armed rebels seeking to oust Aristide entered the key port of Cap Haitien, Haiti's second-largest city, where they seized the international airport, torched the police station, released prisoners, broke into an arms depot and looted warehouses.

An undetermined number of people were killed, witnesses said. The Associated Press reported that violence and looting continued Monday as rebels went from house to house to root out Aristide supporters. . . .

It was unclear how many of Haiti's 4,000 police remained available. Many in the ill-equipped, poorly trained force have abandoned their posts.

The nation has no army. Aristide disbanded it a decade ago, and the rebels are led by former army members.

Boucher said an international police force could be sent to Haiti "and help the Haitian police establish themselves."

Mr. Gallowy (and OJ) suggest that we should only go in to Haiti if we are willing to stay the course. Haiti is an object lesson teaching that some things are simply not within our control.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:56 PM

I DIDN'T ALWAYS SIDE WITH OUR ENEMIES, YOU KNOW:

John Kerry: Stuck in a Vietnam-era time warp (Byron York, 2/26/04, The Hill)

Consider this scene from a remarkable profile of Kerry published in the Boston Globe in October 1996, when Kerry was in a tough re-election battle.

Kerry told reporter Charles Sennott the oft-repeated story of the February 1969 firefight in which Kerry attacked the Viet Cong who ambushed his Swift boat.

Kerry won the Silver Star, as well as a Purple Heart, for his efforts.

But the story wasn’t about the firefight itself. It was also Kerry’s reaction to it.

The future senator was so “focused on his future ambitions,” Sennott reported, that he bought a Super-8 movie camera, returned to the scene, and re-enacted the skirmish on film.

It was that film, transferred to videotape, that Kerry played for Sennott.

“I’ll show you where they shot from. See? That’s the hole covered up with reeds,” Kerry said as he ran the tape in slow motion.

Kerry told Sennott that his decision to re-enact the fight on film was no big deal — “just something I did, no great meaning to it.” But it’s clear that the old movie is a huge deal.

“Through hours of watching the films in the den of his newly renovated Beacon Hill mansion, it becomes apparent that these are memories and footage he returns to often,” Sennott wrote.

“Kerry jumps repeatedly from the couch to adjust the Sony large-screen TV in his home entertainment center, making sure the picture is clear, the color correct. He fast forwards, rewinds and freeze-frames the footage. His running commentary — vivid, sometimes touching, sometimes self-serving — never misses a beat.”

In John Kerry’s home entertainment center, it’s always 1969. It’s sometimes that way in his campaign, too.


Hard to blame a guy who's subsequent career is so marred by moral cowardice for returning constantly to his period of physical courage.


Posted by David Cohen at 10:04 AM

IF HE WERE ANY DUMBER, WOULD THE BAATHISTS JUST FALL DOWN DEAD?

Iraqi Cleric Yields on Elections Shiite Leader Agrees To Delay of Six Months (Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, 2/27/04)

Iraq's most influential religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, declared Thursday that he would sanction a six-month delay in the nationwide elections that he had demanded be held this summer, giving the U.S. civil administration crucial leeway in its plan to formally end its occupation and transfer power to an Iraqi government by June 30.
Even for a Bush partisan like me, it's hard to tell exactly how smart/lucky/competent the administration is. Nine months after invading Iraq, it has maneuvered itself into a position where the Iraqis are urging it to leave faster and have elections sooner. Compared to the occupations of Germany and Japan (not quite over, yet), this is astonishing success. Maybe you can accomplish anything if you're just willing to be criticized for it.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:52 AM

WE OWE THEM AN ARMY:

WHO MADE A MESS OF HAITI?: The last thing Haitians need is any more 'help' from Washington. (Brendan O'Neill, 2/25/04, sp!ked)

Washington has been the key player in Haitian politics for the past hundred years. Haiti had been an independent state since 1804, following slave revolts and a War of Independence against France. In 1915, US President Woodrow Wilson, under the pretext of protecting Haiti from a potential German occupation, sent 330 marines and sailors to the Caribbean state; they stayed until 1934, as part of America's mission to 'teach Latin Americans to elect good men'. During this 19-year occupation, American forces took over the collection of custom duties, set up military courts, distributed food and medicine, censored the press, and enforced a new constitution that allowed American businessmen to own land in Haiti. They also created and trained the Haitian army, which was to dominate Haiti for decades to come.

Throughout the Cold War, US administrations were content to see that army terrorise Haitians and suppress opposition under the Duvaliers. In 1957, Francois 'Papa Doc' Duvalier was elected president, and soon set about rooting out and imprisoning or executing those who opposed his administration; he ensured his power through his private militia the tontons macoutes (Creole for 'Uncle Bogeyman') and amended the Haitian constitution in 1964 so that he could be elected president for life. Duvalier's son Jean Claude, known as 'Baby Doc', succeeded Duvalier in 1971. For all of today's professed concern in Washington for democracy in Haiti, both Papa and Baby Doc were propped up by millions of dollars in American aid.

The Duvalier regime collapsed in 1986. Four years later, in 1990, Aristide was elected in a landslide victory, but was subsequently overthrown by a military coup. After four years in exile in Washington, Aristide was returned to power by the US military under President Bill Clinton in 1994, in Operation Uphold Democracy. Clinton said America's aim in invading Haiti and restoring Aristide was to rid Haiti of 'the most violent regime in our hemisphere' - conveniently overlooking the fact that American intervention created that regime and trained the Haitian army. [...]

Inside Haiti, the collapse of state structures means that Aristide has few forces with which to protect himself from the rebels. During the 1994 invasion, US forces did much to disband the military government in Haiti; upon his return to power in 1994, Aristide sought to protect himself from further coups by fully disbanding the military, which had been the core part of the Haitian state since America's occupation of 1915-1934. Aristide set up a new police force to serve his government.

Now some of the former Haitian commanders are returning to challenge Aristide, whose police force is falling apart. Following the Clinton-backed disbandment of the military forces that had dominated Haiti under American guidance for over 60 years, Haiti has been left as a vacuum.


Unless, as in post-war Germany, Japan, Iraq, etc., we're prepared to stay and act as their replacement, the one prop of society we can't afford to do away with when we intervene is the military and security services. Even brutal order is preferable to disorder.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:04 AM

THE STAKES:

Bush's reelection campaign (Michael Barone, Feb. 27, 2004, Jewish World Review)

Bush aides have been saying that he was going to present a vision of an ownership society, to differentiate between his programs that provide choice and accountability and the Democrats' programs, which, in their view, do not. But Bush did not take the opportunity to make this case in his State of the Union address. Nor did he talk about the ownership society in a February 19 speech as aides said he would; he made the by now familiar case for his tax cuts instead. But on Monday night he came out for the ownership society loud and clear. It's worth quoting several lines to show what he is talking about.

"My administration understands the importance of ownership in our society. We've set a great goal: We want every worker in America to become a saver and an owner. And we have an agenda to meet this goal. We will help more people of every background to own their own homes and build their own savings. We will encourage more people to own their own small businesses. We'll help more people to own their own health care plans. We want younger workers to own and manage their own retirement under Social Security so that one day every worker can have the security of a personal account. When people have solid assets to call their own, they gain independence and security and dignity and more control over their future. I believe in property so much, I want everyone in America to have some."

This vision is in line with changes that have been coursing through the private sector. Defined benefit pension plans (in which a big company promises you a fixed pension) have been replaced by defined contribution pension plans (in which you invest tax-free money as you wish). Section 401(k) plans and other retirement plans have enabled people, over the course of a lifetime, to accumulate wealth to the point that the average American in the peak wealth years (ages 55 to 65) has a solid six-figure net worth. In 1992, less than a quarter of voters owned stocks and other financial assets. In 2002, some 60 percent of voters had financial assets: The electorate now has an investor majority. Bush's proposals are designed to enable more Americans to accumulate more wealth more rapidly and to gain control over healthcare decisions as well.

The Democratic candidates have a different vision. They want to expand government provision of healthcare, and they oppose personal retirement accounts in Social Security (though Bill Clinton flirted with the idea). They want America to move somewhat closer to the western European-style welfare states. They want to reduce choice and accountability in education. Here is how Bush characterized their positions:

"Our opponents are against the personal retirement accounts; against putting patients in charge of Medicare; against tax relief. They seem to be against every idea that gives Americans more authority and more choices and more control over their own lives.

"We'll hear them make a lot of promises over the next eight months. And listen closely, because there is a theme: Every promise will increase the power of the politicians and bureaucrats over your income, over your retirement, over your health care and over your life. It's the same old Washington mindset. They'll give the orders, and you'll pay the bills."

He who frames the issues tends to determine the outcome of the election. This is the way Bush intends to frame the issues. If his opponents will run against "the special interests" (Kerry) or "the privileged and the powerful" (John Edwards), Bush will run against "the politicians and the bureaucrats" and "the Washington mindset." The power of his framing of the issues was recognized by David Kusnet, Bill Clinton's chief speechwriter from 1992 to 1994, in a piece for the New Republic's weblog. "This should have been his State of the Union speech," Kusnet wrote. "Where his State of the Union speech had been partisan and pedestrian, devoid of what his father called 'the vision thing,' his new stump speech is both presidential and political; it makes the case for the Bush presidency–and against John Kerry and John Edwards–in forward-thinking, rather than defensive, terms." Kusnet makes the obvious and fair point that Bush was framing issues his way, in a way Democrats might consider unfair and misleading. But it is a message he seems to have honed more carefully than most of us thought and he is capable of repeating it, as he did his 2000 campaign themes, relentlessly.


It's is not given to every generation to have a clear vision and an real opportunity to cure the defects of the manner in which society is arranged, but our generation enjoys just such a vision and opportunity.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 AM

THE BISMARCKIAN:

The Real Churchill (Adam Young, February 27, 2004, Mises.org)

Churchill made a name for himself as an opponent of socialism both before and after the First World War, except during the war when he was a staunch promoter of war socialism, declaring in a speech: "Our whole nation must be organized, must be socialized if you like the word." Of course, such rank hypocrisy was by now Churchill's stock-in-trade, and not surprisingly, during the 1945 election, Churchill described his partners in the national unity government, the Labour Party, as totalitarians, when it was Churchill himself who had accepted the infamous Beveridge Report that laid the foundations for the post-war welfare state and Keynesian (mis)management of the economy.

As Mises wrote in 1950, "It is noteworthy to remember that British socialism was not an achievement of Mr. Attlee's Labor Government, but of the war cabinet of Mr. Winston Churchill."

Churchill was converted to the Bismarckian model of social insurance following a visit to Germany. As Churchill told his constituents: "My heart was filled with admiration of the patient genius which had added these social bulwarks to the many glories of the German race." He set out, in his
words, to "thrust a big slice of Bismarckianism over the whole underside of our industrial system." In 1908, Churchill announced in a speech in Dundee: "I am on the side of those who think that a greater collective sentiment should be introduced into the State and the municipalities. I should like to see the State undertaking new functions." Churchill even said: "I go farther; I should like to see the State embark on various novel and adventurous experiments."

Churchill claimed that "the cause of the Liberal Party is the cause of the left-out millions," and attacked the Conservatives as "the Party of the rich against the poor, the classes and their dependents against the masses, of the lucky, the wealthy, the happy, and the strong, against the left-out and the shut-out millions of the weak and poor." Churchill berated the Conservatives for lacking even a "single plan of social reform or reconstruction," while boasting that his "New Liberalism" offered "a wide, comprehensive, interdependent scheme of social organisation," incorporating "a massive series of legislative proposals and administrative acts."

Churchill had fallen under the spell of the Fabian Society, and its leaders Beatrice and Sidney Webb, who more than any other group, are responsible for the decline of British society. Here he was introduced to William, later Lord Beveridge, who Churchill brought into the Board of Trade as his advisor on social questions. Besides pushing for a variety of social insurance schemes, Churchill created the system of national labor exchanges, stating the need to "spread . . . a sort of Germanized network of state intervention and regulation" over the British labor market. Churchill even entertained a more ambitious goal for the Board of Trade. He proposed a plan whereby the Board of Trade would act as the economic "intelligence department" of the Government, forecasting trade and employment in Britain so that the Government could spend money in the most deserving areas. Controlling this pork would be a Committee of National Organisation to plan the economy.

Churchill was well aware of the electoral potential of organized labor, so naturally Churchill became a champion of the labor unions. He was a leading supporter of the Trades Disputes Act of 1906 which reversed the judicial decisions which had held unions responsible for property damage and injuries committed by their agents on the unions behalf, in effect granting unions a
privileged position exempting them from the ordinary law of the land. It is ironic that the immense power of the British labor unions that made Britain the "Sick Man of Europe" for two generations and became the foil of Margaret Thatcher, originated with the enthusiastic help of her hero, Winston Churchill.

We can only conclude by Churchill's actions that personal freedom was the furthest thing from his mind.


It is Churchill's paternalism--along with the failure to settle the USSR's hash--that prevents him from being a legitimate conservative hero, though his greatness is undeniable.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 AM

60-40 NATION:

Brother Driscoll has an amusing comparison of how the two sides are faring in the culture war.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 AM

BRANDED?:

Brown rips into Bush administration official (KEN THOMAS, 2/25/04, Associated Press)

U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown verbally attacked a top Bush administration official during a briefing on the Haiti crisis Wednesday, calling the President's policy on the beleaguered nation "racist" and his representatives "a bunch of white men."

Her outburst was directed at Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega during a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill. Noriega, a Mexican-American, is the State Department's top official for Latin America. [...]

Brown sat directly across the table from Noriega and yelled into a microphone. Her comments sent a hush over the hourlong meeting, which was attended by about 30 people, including several members of Congress and Bush administration officials.

Noriega later told Brown: "As a Mexican-American, I deeply resent being called a racist and branded a white man," according to three participants.

Brown then told him "you all look alike to me," the participants said.


The GOP would do well to exploit the mutual hatred of blacks and Latinos. That exchange should be a campaign ad.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:41 AM

ONE-UPMANSHIP:

What’s the big deal, Naomi? (Sam Schulman, 2/28/04, The Spectator)

I was 27, a postgraduate student at Yale in my last term, and then, as now, a man. Unlike Naomi Wolf, I needed nothing from Prof. Bloom. I was destined for a first teaching job at Boston University. I even had an official appointment at Yale (in Yale’s exquisitely calibrated taxonomy of humiliation) as Part-Time Acting Assistant Instructor of English.

One day, walking along Temple Street, I saw Harold ambling towards me. Taken aback, I acted on instinct — and resorted to flattery. I had heard him give a wonderful lecture at a conference on Gnostic religion a week earlier. The audience was composed primarily of scholars, but there were a few disconcerting figures in the audience who looked as if they were Magus figures escaped from the pages of an Iris Murdoch novel.

I told him that I thought his lecture was beautiful. He stopped, and regarded me with his soft, yearning eyes. ‘My dear,’ he said, ‘what a lovely thing to tell an old and tired man.’ He was 47. ‘Here — let me kiss you.’ And he stepped forward, put his arms around me, pulled me to his then ample bosom, and kissed me on the mouth.

His lips, I remember, were full. They were rather chapped with the dryness of American houses in winter, even though spring had arrived. His kiss was decisive, tender, historic — a flag planted upon new territory.

What did it mean? My personal beauty was then at its peak. My locks were golden and curly. My figure was slender — it had not been bowed and thickened with the effort of pushing too many children in strollers in too many cities. I must have been hard to resist.

And what of Professor Bloom? He was a man of vast passion. A bottle of wine was enough to make him frisky. He enjoyed my beauty, yes, but then he enjoyed everything. I remember a moment in a seminar when, about to teach Tennyson’s poem ‘Mariana’, he gazed at the reproduction of Millais’s picture with its back view of the discontented heroine. ‘I knew Mariana was supposed to be attractive,’ Harold mused, ‘but I had no conception that she was so deliciously broad in the beam.’



February 26, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:46 PM

GENTLEMEN'S AGREEMENT:

New Film May Harm Gibson's Career (SHARON WAXMAN, 2/26/04, NY Times)

Mel Gibson's provocative new film, "The Passion of the Christ," is making some of Hollywood's most prominent executives uncomfortable in ways that may damage Mr. Gibson's career.

Hollywood is a close-knit world, and friendships and social contact are critical in the making of deals and the casting of movies. Many of Hollywood's most prominent figures are also Jewish. So with a furor arising around the film, along with Mr. Gibson's reluctance to distance himself from his father, who calls the Holocaust mostly fiction, it is no surprise that Hollywood — Jewish and non-Jewish — has been talking about little else, at least when it's not talking about the Oscars.

Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen, the principals of DreamWorks, have privately expressed anger over the film, said an executive close to the two men.

The chairmen of two other major studios said they would avoid working with Mr. Gibson because of "The Passion of the Christ" and the star's remarks surrounding its release.

Neither of the chairmen would speak for attribution, but as one explained: "It doesn't matter what I say. It'll matter what I do. I will do something. I won't hire him. I won't support anything he's part of. Personally that's all I can do."


Looks like the critics were right about the film stirring religious hatred.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:43 PM

FOLLOW THE MONEY (via Mike Daley):

Bush Leads in Providing Fund - Raising Info (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 2/26/04)

President Bush, often criticized by Democrats for his record-breaking fund raising, provides far more information about how and when his re-election campaign collects cash than Democratic hopefuls John Kerry or John Edwards. [...]

The Kerry campaign released a list to the media in October. Even though Kerry is the winner of 18 of 20 contests, spokesman Michael Meehan said there is no need to update the list of $50,000-and-up volunteer fund-raisers because the front-runner hasn't gained any big givers since the fall.

"In a way there's an irony to this, and the irony is the Democrats are the ones beating up on Bush about this stuff, but they're the guys who have the least disclosure,'' said Frank Clemente, a spokesman for Public Citizen, a campaign finance watchdog group that has posted the Bush and Kerry lists of fund-raising volunteers on a Web site.

Clemente said Bush was the only one doing a "halfway decent'' job disclosing details of his fund-raising practices to the public, while Kerry was doing "a half-baked job'' and Edwards is "failing.''


You don't really need to see their info to know what it would say: Mr. Kerry's money comes from fiddling with his wife's finances and Mr. Edwards gets his from trial lawyers.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:35 PM

THE ME GENERATION TO THE NTH DEGREE:

No Kids, Please: They don't want to have children, they don't want to be bothered by children, and they'd just as soon not live near children. It's the child-free movement, and it's growing. (Carlene Hempel, 2/22/2004, Boston Globe Magazine)

They don't appear to have much in common. Mike Crutcher plays bass in a Lowell band and teaches piano and guitar. Kathy Reboul is a social worker and, she reveals during dinner, allergic to peanuts. Lori Schneider is a former cop from Connecticut who's going back to school. Todd Larson of Allston writes about real estate for the Brookline Tab. They've gathered, along with 10 others, at Polcari's in Cambridge on a wintry Saturday night. They convene this way once a month, because that's what social clubs do. Except that while most clubs organize around something -- a model-train fixation, an interest in needlepoint, a love of good books or fine wines -- what this bunch has in common is what they don't have: kids.

And here's the point: They don't want them.

"Here, we know we don't have to listen to touching stories or about home schooling or what kind of diaper anyone is using," says Schneider, 40, a four-year member of the Boston chapter of No Kidding. She's here tonight with her husband, though he's still in the closet and declines to give his name. As a teacher in Framingham, he fears his anti-kid sentiment might cost him his job.

This is life for the child-free. In a culture often defined by breeders, those who dare not have children feel they must band together. They need support to help fend off parents who are desperate for grandchildren, or friends and co-workers who wonder how these seemingly productive members of society could be so selfish. They're not interested in hearing about the latest family-tested flick from Pixar. They're tired of hearing: "But you'd be a great parent." They don't need tips on using a Chinese adoption agency. They can have kids, they just don't want them. And they're fighting back.

Over the last decade, the movement's been growing. Today, there are numerous support groups such as No Kidding, which was launched in 1984 and has a fast-growing number of chapters in big cities in the United States and around the world. The Internet now has countless e-mail groups and Web pages -- www.childfree.net, www.overpopulation.org, to name two -- dedicated to people who don't have kids. There are even extreme political activists pushing a kid-free society, such as Somerville-based The Church of Euthanasia, launched in 1992 to try to persuade the world with guerrilla-style tactics to stop having babies.


Such people are, practically by definition, not fit for membership in society.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:29 PM

HICKORY STICKS:

Rumsfeld v Powell: beyond good and evil: Donald Rumsfeld is the neo-conservative architect of war, Colin Powell the cuddly multilateralist. Right? Wrong. Behind the caricature is a titanic Washington struggle far more complicated and interesting. (John C. Hulsman, 23 - 2 - 2004, Open Democracy)

The truth of the competition for the foreign policy soul of the Bush administration lies not in cliché but in history. Colin Powell is the champion of the realist school of thought, which has been prevalent in America since Alexander Hamilton convinced Congress to support the Jay Treaty with England in 1794. Realism, an ideology based above all else on furthering American national interests (it must be said by either unilateral or multilateral means), is as far from the cuddly Wilsonian idealism that many Europeans ascribe to Powell as it is possible to be. [...]

[A]s a staunch believer in the transatlantic alliance, Rumsfeld is far more a Washington operator than he is an ideologue, unlike neo-conservatives such as his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, and the thrusting hawks clustered around vice-president Dick Cheney and his chief of staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby. In fact, although “neo-conservative” is the current watchword for all that is malign in European eyes about the Bush administration’s foreign policy, it is an open question as to whether Rumsfeld is one at all.

Strict neo-conservatives see America as the new Rome, the only global power of significance in an otherwise dangerous and chaotic world. Donald Rumsfeld’s famous dictum, “the mission determines the coalition – the coalition does not determine the mission”, may not be music to the ears of European believers in the multipolar ideal; but it is far from the neo-conservative belief that pursuing coalitions is pointless.


When push comes to shove, the overwhelming majority of Americans are Jacksonians, which means all our leaders have to be.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:18 PM

A WARTIME PRESIDENCY:

A Planned Parenthood Report on the Administration and Congress: George W. Bush's War on Women: A Pernicious Web

Introduction:

The accompanying report was prepared by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, a nonpartisan advocate for reproductive rights and the leading provider of reproductive health care services, without which women cannot be free to control any other aspects of their lives. In reviewing the chronology of events, we admit to being baffled by George W. Bush's seemingly single-minded determination to strip women of reproductive rights and access to the panoply of reproductive health services - not just abortion but even family planning and real sex education.

With great precision, and shielded by the smokescreen of war, the threat of terrorism, and a bad economy, George W. Bush is systematically working to gut reproductive freedom in the U.S. and around the world. He's using every means available to him, a strategy in which each issue supports and leverages the other. Taken together they form a pernicious web that, left unchecked, will strangle reproductive rights and access to reproductive health care services. They include instituting gag rules that censor free speech; supporting legislation that limits access to family planning and abortion services; sinking huge sums of money into medically unproven abstinence-only sexuality education; and nominating staunchly anti-choice judges to federal benches and right-wing, religious ideologues to important scientific posts. His refusal to sign the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is a testament to his overall contempt for women and his steadfast refusal to respect their fundamental civil and human rights.


Don't the Buchanacons keep telling us he's a closet liberal?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:04 PM

LIKE TRYING TO SNEAK A LAMB CHOP PAST A WOLF:

Antibiotic Link Is Cancer Baloney (Steven Milloy, February 20, 2004, Fox News)

Without a plausible biological link between antibiotic use and breast cancer, the researchers relied exclusively on statistical analysis, a potentially useful tool provided the data to be analyzed are of reasonable quality. These study data, however, fall way short.

The average study subject was about 60 years old. But study subjects who had taken antibiotics had been enrolled in the health plan for only about 20 years on average. Since the sole source for data on antibiotic use was the health plan’s records, about 40 years of data, on average, about potential antibiotic use were missing for each study subject.

Even more data is missing for the 18 percent of the study subjects who supposedly never took antibiotics. These women had only been in the health plan for about 10 years on average. 

But just because they didn’t take antibiotics while they were enrolled in the health plan, doesn’t mean they didn’t take antibiotics before enrollment. Indeed, some of the supposed “never users” could actually have been extremely heavy users of antibiotics prior to enrollment in the health plan.

Since the vast majority of Americans have taken antibiotics at some point, it’s difficult to believe that so many of the study subjects had never taken antibiotics.

This is a crucial data gap since the researchers claim that even a single day of antibiotic use increased breast cancer risk. The absence of complete data on lifetime antibiotic use renders comparisons between antibiotic users and “non-users” meaningless.

The study data are also faulty in terms of level of exposure to antibiotics. The researchers assumed exposure to antibiotics could be measured either by number of antibiotic prescriptions written or by the number of days prescribed for antibiotic use according to prescription records.

But patients commonly fail to complete courses of antibiotics prescribed by their doctors. Patients with a prescription for 10 days of antibiotics may feel better after just a few days and cease taking their medicine. A 10-day prescription, therefore, doesn’t necessarily mean 10 days of use. It may, in fact, mean much less use.

So the researchers really can’t say that more antibiotic use increases breast cancer risk because they really don’t know who took more antibiotics. [...]

The researchers used obviously deficient data to stir up a frightening, but dubious controversy that they hope to milk in terms of continued research funding.


Funny how those who place their faith in science insist that it is an impartial search for truth despite all evidence to the contrary.

MORE (via Mike Daley):
Bye-Bye, Bill Moyers (Center for Consumer Freedom, February 23, 2004)

Bill Moyers, who won more than 30 Emmy awards during a long career in broadcast journalism, will give up his weekly PBS show "Now" after the November elections. Although he claims to be "a journalist, reporting the evidence, not an environmentalist pressing an agenda," Moyers moonlights as president of the Schumann Center for Media & Democracy, which distributes millions every year to radical environmental and anti-business activist groups. [...]

In 1999 EWG released a widely-criticized report called "How 'Bout Them Apples," which, once again, declared that America's children were in grave danger because of pesticides and other chemicals on fruit. The same year, Moyers paid for a full-page ad in the New York Times, produced by EWG, reading: "10 YEARS AFTER ALAR, APPLES STILL NEED A CLEANUP."

Despite the overwhelming scientific consensus that Alar never posed any threat, Moyers' PBS website still includes a prominent link to an article titled: "The Alar Scare was Real." The article was published in the September/October 1996 issue of the Columbia Journalism Review. And guess what. The 1995-1996 Schumann Foundation annual report lists a "three-year grant of $2 million to help the Columbia Journalism Review achieve financial stability." Does Moyers care so much about retroactively legitimizing the Alar hoax that he would buy off a publication that prides itself on being a "watchdog of the press"? You be the judge.


Posted by David Cohen at 7:11 PM

WHO HAS NUMBER 1,324,543?

Massachusetts Supreme Court Orders All Citizens To Gay Marry (The Onion, 2/25/04).

BOSTON—Justices of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled 5-2 Monday in favor of full, equal, and mandatory gay marriages for all citizens. The order nullifies all pre-existing heterosexual marriages and lays the groundwork for the 2.4 million compulsory same-sex marriages that will take place in the state by May 15.

"As we are all aware, it's simply not possible for gay marriage and heterosexual marriage to co-exist," Massachusetts Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall said. "Our ruling in November was just the first step toward creating an all-gay Massachusetts."

Marshall added: "Since the allowance of gay marriage undermines heterosexual unions, we decided to work a few steps ahead and strike down opposite-sex unions altogether."

Marshall said the court's action will put a swift end to the mounting debate.

"Instead of spending months or even years volleying this thing back and forth, we thought we might as well just cut to the eventual outcome of our decision to allow gay marriages," Marshall said. "Clearly, this is where this all was headed anyway."

Admit it, for a moment you were wondering.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:43 PM

POLICE STATES:

In Europe, The Enemy Within (Jim Hoagland, February 26, 2004, Washington Post)

One sense of what security means in the age of terror arrived via the self-confident words of a senior French official during a recent chat in Paris: "We know where to find 90 percent of the people who are threats in this country. We can and do track them."

Later that day, a French woman who is a lawyer told me of having been stopped for an identity check while driving in Paris a week before:

"There were twin messages in the intrusive grilling I got. One was that the police have a free hand today in France. The other was meant to be reassuring. If we are treating you like this in an upscale quarter of Paris, think about what we are doing in the Arab ghettos that you fear."

These conversations took place as the French National Assembly was passing a law to forbid Muslim girls' wearing head scarves to public schools. The law was framed more broadly than that -- it prohibits displays of any religious symbols in state schools -- but its true focus was widely understood. At some level the measure was meant to reassure the French that their government was not afraid of confronting Muslim fundamentalists at home.

This concern is not confined to France.


And they tell us how we should treat non-citizens at Guantanamo?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:35 PM

THE ROAD FROM TRUDEAUPIA:

Not my Canada, Not my Post (Mark Steyn, March 2004, Toro)

When I leave, I go quietly. I departed The American Spectator three years ago, and I've never said a word about it. That was the way I would have liked to have done things at the National Post. My final column appeared in their pages last spring, on the day Ken Whyte, his deputy, Martin Newland, the executive marketing supremo Alex Panousis, and assorted others were fired by the paper's owners. In the months following, I was bombarded by mail from Post (and, more to the point, ex-Post) readers, and had no desire to say anything other than, "No comment." But, six months on, my poor assistant was still spending half her morning replying to Posties, and I figured I couldn't afford the crippling manpower costs of a dignified silence any longer. So here's why I left: [...]

One of the most tedious aspects of Canadian life is the way Liberal Party policies are always sold as "Canadian values": socialized health care, the gun registry, sitting out the war on terror, etc. Do you listen to CBC radio? Me neither. But, on obscure stretches of highway when nothing else comes in, I love their political discussions, in which a centre-left host moderates a panel comprising someone from the soft left, someone from the hard left, and someone from the loony left, as if that's the only range of opinion acceptable in polite society. These folks genuinely believe in Trudeaupia. But, given that they've cornered the market on that, there ought to be one outlet for those who want a different Canada, a Canada that doesn't despise its own history, that recognizes that the last four decades have seen us slide from a major second-rank power to a global irrelevance, that the Trudeaupian road is a dead end, and that we need something new.

When Conrad Black sold his remaining fifty-percent share in the Post, he gave a farewell speech to the newsroom in which he said that the paper needed a proprietor who had better connections with the Liberal Party elite - presumably because that's the way things work in Canada. I said to Conrad recently that that's the last thing the Post needs. As a Canadian whose principal assets are in the United Kingdom and the United States, he's one of the few businessmen who doesn't need any favours from the government. Almost every activity in the dependents' Dominion - from books to aircraft manufacturing - obliges companies to enter into some sort of formal or informal relationship with the government. That's bad. It would be bad enough in a functioning democracy, where at least the [butts] one is obliged to kiss are rotated every five years. But it's worse in a one-party state like Canada, where it's always the same Liberal Party posterior, no matter how saggy and mottled it gets. Canada is no longer quite a respectable democracy, and I want to write for a paper that understands that.

Instead, week by week, the editorials are slowly but surely swimming back toward the shallow end of the pool.


No matter what portion of our military budget goes to protect the old folks up North, it's worth it just in exchange for Mr. Steyn.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:08 PM

CAN'T WE ALL JUST GET HMONG:

60,000 Hmong should be resettled in U.S., leader says (Danel Lovering, February 26, 2004, Associated Press)

A U.S. offer of asylum for some ethnic Hmong refugees from Laos is inadequate, a Hmong leader said today, claiming a total of 60,000 of his people living in Thailand should be resettled in the United States.

The Hmong tribespeople were little known participants in the Vietnam War. They were enlisted by the CIA to help U.S. forces fight communist rebels in Laos during the was. After the communists seized power, many Hmong fled to Thailand, fearing retribution.

Between 14,000 and 16,000 Hmong refugees have been living for decades in a shantytown around Tham Krabok, a Buddhist temple in central Thailand. In December, the United States announced it may accept the refugees.

But Gen. Vang Pao, who led a CIA-funded Hmong army in Laos in the 1960s and early 1970s, said 45,000 more Hmong are living in Thailand, scattered all over the country.

``If the U.S. government is going to resettle the refugees they have to do it for all 60,000 people,'' Vang Pao said in a telephone interview from his home in Westminster, Calif.


Presumably even anti-immigrationists would concede we owe the Hmong a particular debt?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:08 PM

UNGOTCHA:

Two Different Democrats, Same Advisers and Ideas (ADAM NAGOURNEY, 2/26/04, NY Times)

[M]ore than once, Mr. Kerry's answers would wander down the tracks, thick with the Washingtonese that he had moments earlier said had been purged from his speech, as his listeners sunk deeper into their seats. An aide seated near him did not try to hide a yawn or two.

Not surprisingly for two men running for president, each evaded problematic questions, though in different ways: When asked if he would as president take the politically risky step of eliminating protections for the American sugar and cotton industries, Mr. Edwards smiled broadly and told the paper's editorial board, "Don't I wish I could give you what you want."

"I'm not for eliminating subsidies for family farmers," he said. "I am for eliminating subsidies for corporate farming operations, people who make over a million dollars a year in net profits."

When a questioner noted that the Louisiana primary is two weeks away, Mr. Edwards responded: "Yeah, you think I don't know that? Yeah, I think I'll stick where I am on that."

Mr. Kerry was similarly nonresponsive: "That is one of those issues that will be under review" in the first 120 days of his presidency, he said.

Mr. Kerry answered most questions, at least eventually, and often after an adventurous digression (a request to name his domestic policy advisers produced a five-minute discussion of his health care plan).

But even at this late date in the primary campaign, there were times Mr. Edwards seemed caught off guard by fairly standard questions. When he was asked to name his domestic advisers, Mr. Edwards pursed his lips and wrinkled his brow. "Let me think," he said. "You're testing me. Who have I been talking to about economic policy? It's been so long since I talked to anybody other than myself about economic policy."


When Mr. Bush was stumped by a question about the leaders of Inner and Outer Micronesia last campaign he was portrayed as an idiot for weeks. These clowns can't answer questions about their own policies or who their cabinet members might be and the media gives them a pass?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:42 PM

ANYTHING BUT NEW:

Marry or Burn: The White House's new anti-poverty program: Shotgun weddings (Beth Hawkins, 2/25/04, City Pages)

The notion that marriage is the government's business is anything but new. "In the beginning of the United States, the founders had a political theory of marriage," writes Nancy Cott in Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation. "As an intentional and harmonious juncture of individuals for mutual protection, economic advantage, and common interest, the marriage bond resembled the social contract that produced government. As a freely chosen structure of authority and obligation, it was an irresistible model."

Because it compelled monogamy and mutual responsibility, marriage was thought to be the bedrock of a citizenry that possessed the necessary moral capacity to create a great nation, writes Cott, a professor of history and American studies at Yale. It also formalized the ways in which wealth and property were held and passed from one generation to another.

Of course, most of the legal rights accrued to husbands, who virtually owned their wives and children. This hierarchy was thought to be fair because women were believed to enter into the bargain voluntarily and because men were supposed to support their families: "If a husband provided passably for his dependents, he fulfilled the most important requirement of his manhood in marriage, as much as a wife showed her femininity by giving evidence of obedient service."

As people without rights, slaves were not allowed to marry. Common-law marriages reflect the fact that, in addition to the parties' mutual consent, public recognition of a couple's bond defined their marriage.

Even in revolutionary times, however, there was room for divorce when one or the other spouse failed to fulfill their role. And by 1800, it was possible to divorce in almost every state in the union; several had formally spelled out the circumstances in which a marriage could be dissolved.

By the 1970s, most Americans had access to the no-fault divorce, where a marriage could be ended simply because the partners were unhappy. Divorce rates rose sharply, even as marriage rates fell. The number of households headed by unmarried couples multiplied 10 times between 1960 and 1998, and the number of unmarried adults rose. During the same time period, the divorce rate skyrocketed. Half of all marriages now end in divorce.

This trend had disturbed religious conservatives for decades. But by the mid-'90s, research confirming that children fared best in stable two-parent families had sparked a number of family social scientists, psychologists, and researchers to change their views and begin to complain that they'd wrongly put self-actualization before family unity.


It's a fairly odd criticism to say of gay marriage opponents that they don't care about divorce and other threats to the institution.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:28 PM

OIL-FOR-FOOD/CASH-FOR-U.N. (via ef brown):

A New Job for Kay: Let him investigate the U.N. Oil-for-Food scam. (CLAUDIA ROSETT, February 25, 2004, Wall Street Journal)

When David Kay recovers from his weapons hunt, there's another Iraq-related quest I'd like to send him on. It's time a top intelligence team went scavenging for the real numbers on the United Nations' Oil-for-Food Program--that gigantic setup through which the U.N. from 1996 through 2003 supervised more than $100 billion worth of Saddam Hussein's selling of oil and buying of goods. [...]

Basic integrity in bookkeeping seems little enough to ask of the U.N., where officials defending Oil-for-Food have been insisting that it wasn't their fault if Saddam was corrupt. They just did the job of meticulously recording the deals now beset by graft allegations, approving the contracts, and making sure the necessary funds went in and out of the U.N.-held escrow accounts. I'm sure there was some sort of logic to it. Though I have begun to wonder if maybe the same way the U.N. has its own arrangements for postal services and tax-exempt salaries, U.N. accounting has its own special system of arithmetic.

It all added up fairly neatly, of course, in the summary offered by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, when the U.N. turned over the remnants of Oil-for-Food to the Coalition Provisional Authority in November. Oil-for-Food, said Mr. Annan, had presided over $65 billion worth of Saddam's oil sales and in buying relief supplies had used "some $46 billion of Iraqi export earnings on behalf of the Iraqi people." (Keep your eye on those numbers.) In doing so, the U.N. secretariat had collected a 2.2% commission on the oil, which, even after a portion was refunded for relief operations, netted out to more than $1 billion for U.N. administrative overhead. The U.N. also collected a 0.8% commission to pay for weapons inspections in Iraq--including when Saddam shut them out between 1998 and 2002--which comes to another $520 million or so.

The keen observer will see that this adds up to payouts of just under $48 billion from Saddam's Oil-for-Food proceeds, which is about $17 billion less than what he took in. The difference is explained--near enough--by the $17.5 billion paid out of the same Oil-for-Food stream of Saddam's oil revenues but dispensed, under another part of the U.N. Iraq program, by the U.N. Compensation Commission to victims of Saddam's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. That gives us a grand total of $65 billion earned, and about $65 billion allocated for payments, all very tidy.

Except the U.N. Compensation Commission states on its Web site that oil sales under Oil-for-Food totaled not Mr. Annan's $65 billion, but "more than US$70 billion"--a $5 billion discrepancy in U.N. figures. A phone call to the UNCC, based in Geneva, doesn't clear up much. A spokesman there says the oil total comes from the U.N. in New York, and adds, helpfully, "Maybe it was an approximate figure, just rounded up."

OK, but in some quarters, if not at the U.N., $5 billion here or there is big money.


Did anyone who opposed the war not have a financial stake in Saddam's survival?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:13 PM

NAGL'S KNIFE:

Insurgent and soldier: two views on Iraq fight: In separate interviews, an Iraqi insurgent and a US soldier both describe a classic guerrilla war. (Nicholas Blanford, 2/25/04, The Christian Science Monitor)

When a conventional army is forced to fight an antiguerrilla warfare campaign, it can be "messy and slow, like eating soup with a knife." So said T.E. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia, the British Army officer who led the Arab revolt against the Turks in World War I.

For Maj. John Nagl, never was a truer word spoken. He even adapted the quote as the subtitle for his doctoral thesis, "Counterinsurgency Lessons From Malaya and Vietnam," published two years ago.

The 37-year-old guerrilla warfare specialist serves with the 82nd Airborne Division in this former Iraqi Air Force base in the Sunni triangle. Since deploying to Iraq in September last year, Major Nagl has grappled with the challenges posed by the cells of insurgents operating in his area.

"It's a constant struggle of one-upmanship," he says. "We adapt, they adapt. It's a constant competition to gain the upper hand."

That view is shared by "Ahmad," a member of a local resistance cell. [...]

Ahmad says the motivation underpinning his cell of insurgents is a blend of devout religious belief coupled with a strong sense of patriotism.

"What compliments nationalism, compliments religion," he says. "Islam is after all a nation in itself. I see myself as a proud Iraqi and a good Muslim."

Ahmad's cell, which eventually numbered several dozen - although he says he does not know everyone - was led by a Sunni cleric in his 50s who fought for several years with Islamic militants against Russian forces in Chechnya.

According to Ahmad, many Iraqi Islamists traveled to Afghanistan in the 1980s and Chechnya in the 1990s without the knowledge of the Baathist regime.

"If the regime had known about them, they would have been killed," he says. "The regime would not even allow us to pray for the people of Afghanistan and Chechnya."

Some cells are composed of ex-Baathists and former Iraqi soldiers, but Ahmad insists that they have shed their past ideology.

"They fight now as Muslims and Iraqis not as Baathists," he says.

The bulk of attacks in the early stages of the insurgency were hit-and-run raids against US patrols or mortar and rocket bombardments of military bases. By the time Nagl deployed to Khaldiyeh, the insurgency was well established. The roadside bomb proved to be its deadliest weapon.

"We have been most concerned about roadside bombs. From the beginning its been their most effective way of inflicting casualties upon us," Nagl says.

His 800-strong battalion has lost 12 soldiers in Iraq, 11 since deploying in September. A further 68 soldiers have been wounded. Of those 11 fatalities, 10 were from roadside bombs.

To appreciate the lethality of these bombs, consider that of the 61 US soldiers to have died in Iraq since the beginning of the year, 33 were killed by roadside bombs and six of those were in and around Khaldiyeh.

"They have gone from wire-command detonators to a variety of remote detonator devices - pagers and toy car remote controllers," Nagl says. "We were getting very good at spotting the wires. But the remote control bombs only have a small antenna attached and it's much harder to see them."

While roadside bombs continue to pose a serious threat, the number of shooting attacks and long-range bombardments has declined. "They are not spectacularly good shots nor spectacularly well-trained," says Nagl, adding that the militants usually fare badly in close encounters with American soldiers.

That appeared to bear true Tuesday when the US military announced that suspected bombmaker Abu Mohammed Hamza was killed by US troops who came under fire while distributing leaflets near Khaldiyeh.


We've encountered Major Nagl previously on-line--we could use a few hundred more like him.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:06 PM

WHERE DO WE SIGN UP FOR THAT AXIS OF GOOD?:

Georgia leader plans close ties with U.S. (Sharon Behn, 2/25/04, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

The Republic of Georgia plans to be a close ally of the United States and its giant neighbor Russia will have to live with that fact, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said in an interview yesterday.

The newly elected president, who engineered the ouster of former President Eduard Shevardnadze last fall, was in a buoyant mood after what aides described as a "very warm" meeting with President Bush yesterday in the Oval Office.

"The relationship is based on shared values," said the hulking U.S.-trained lawyer, who emphasized the "kinship" and "chemistry" between Georgia and the United States during a meeting at Blair House with editors and reporters from The Washington Times. [...]

He said Georgia also regularly exchanges information with the United States and that the FBI is active in his country, as are 70 U.S. military instructors and another 25 advisers at the Ministry of Defense.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:10 PM

ANYBODY EDIT THE TIMES?:

Stations of the Crass (MAUREEN DOWD, 2/26/04, NY Times)

The movie's message, as Jesus says, is that you must love not only those who love you, but more importantly those who hate you.

So presumably you should come out of the theater suffused with charity toward your fellow man.

But this is a Mel Gibson film, so you come out wanting to kick somebody's teeth in.


That last sentence is a dubious assertion which could be made truthful by simply substituting "I" for "you". Of course, if you do that then the problem, it becomes obvious, is Ms Dowd, not Mr. Gibson.

The great divide over the film seems to be between those who reach its end saying to themselves, "Look at what we did to Him," and those who instead say, "Look at what they did". Only the former is a Christian attitude.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:17 PM

AN ENDORSEMENT HE CAN'T AFFORD:

A Primary Endorsement (NY Times, 2/26/04)

Mr. Kerry, one of the Senate's experts in foreign affairs, exudes maturity and depth. He can discuss virtually any issue of security or international affairs with authority. What his critics see as an inability to take strong, clear positions seems to us to reflect his appreciation that life is not simple. He understands the nuances and shades of gray in both foreign and domestic policy. While he still has trouble turning out snappy sound bites, we don't detect any difficulty in laying down a clear bottom line. His campaigning skills are perhaps not as strong as his intellectual ones, but they are pretty good and getting better. Early in the race he alienated some audiences with brittle, patronizing lectures. But he has improved tremendously over the last few months. His answers are focused and to the point, and his speeches far more compelling.

If Mr. Kerry wins the nomination, the Bush administration will undoubtedly attempt to paint Mr. Kerry as a typical Massachusetts liberal, but his thinking defies such easy categorization. His positions come from mainstream American thought, centrism of the old school. He has always worried over budget deficits. His record on the environment is extremely strong. He is a gun owner and hunter who supports effective gun control laws, a combat veteran who, having seen a great deal of death, opposes capital punishment. A sense of balance comes through when he is talking. Unfortunately, so far in this campaign Mr. Kerry has shown little interest in being daring, expressing a thought that is unexpected or quirky on even minor issues. We wish we could see a little of the political courage of the Vietnam hero who came back to lead the fight against the war.


Ah, the Timesmen version of centrism: pro-taxes; pro-gun control; anti-death penalty; & anti-war. Anyone think he'll mention a single one of these positions in the campaign? They're apparently referring to the center of mid-town Manhattan.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:12 PM

CROSSING YOUR T'S:

One Shas MK says ban "Passion"; another says "Jews did kill Jesus" (Ellis Shuman February 26, 2004, Israeli Insider)

Shas Party head MK Eli Yishai said yesterday that Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ "repeats a blood libel from before the dawn of history." Yishai called on Education and Culture Minister Limor Livnat to use her influence with the film censorship board to ban the film's screening in Israel. Meanwhile, Yishai's Shas colleague MK Shlomo Benizri said there was no need to deny it, "The Jews did kill Jesus." [...]

"It is unthinkable that a movie whose sole aim is to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the Jewish people will be screened in the Jewish State," Yishai said. "The movie repeats a blood libel from the dawn of history."

Yishai also called for Gibson to be brought to trial, and he called on the Foreign Ministry to ask Jews in the U.S. to boycott the film.

Meanwhile, Yishai's colleague in the ultra-Orthodox Sephardic party, former minister of labor and social affairs Shlomo Benizri, told a Haredi pirate radio station a number of weeks ago that the Jews did, in fact, kill Jesus. "According to Torah law, they decided to hang Jesus."

Benizri, who confirmed the comments yesterday, said Jesus was put to death according to Sanhedrin (ancient Jewish court) tradition, Maariv reported. "They took him up to a high roof, and threw him crashing to the ground. Afterwards they hung his body on wooden beams in the shape of a "T," but not as the Christian legends say that he was crucified. That's nonsense."

Benizri told Maariv that Jesus' death was an internal Jewish affair. "What is there to deny? We're talking about a yeshiva student who left Judaism, and the Sanhedrim put him to death."


That clears things up...


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:03 PM

SORRY, I'LL BE AT THE V.A. GETTING EMERGENCY BOTOX TREATMENTS (via mc):

HOUSE TO VOTE ON FETAL HOMICIDE (Amy Fagan, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

The House is expected to pass fetal homicide legislation today, and Carol Lyons ˜ whose pregnant daughter Ashley and unborn grandson Landon were slain last month ˜ had a message for Senate opponents of the bill, such as Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry.

"Don't tell me there is one victim. There were two," Mrs. Lyons said yesterday, after speaking briefly at a Capitol Hill press conference. "[Ashley´s] choice was to have that baby and her choice should be protected; that baby should be protected."

Ashley's father, Buford Lyons, said he watched the video ultrasound of Landon for the first time this week, and the fetus -- about 21 weeks old during the Jan. 7 attack on Ashley -- was moving his hands and lips.

"If they can sit there and tell me that that's not a life, then I don't know where their heart is," Mr. Lyons said of the bill's opponents. [...]

"[L]egislation granting a fetus the same legal status in all stages of development as a human being is not the appropriate response," read an e-mail from Mr. Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, to one of his constituents in June.

Mr. Kerry said he opposes the bill because "the law cannot simultaneously provide that a fetus is a human being and protect the right of the mother to choose to terminate her pregnancy."


Jimmy Hoffa is more likely to appear in the well of the Senate on the day of this vote than John Kerry is.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:57 AM

AND HERE WE THOUGHT WE'D POLITICALLY CORRECTED HUMAN NATURE...:

Rapes Reported by Servicewomen in the Persian Gulf and Elsewhere (ERIC SCHMITT, February 26, 2004 , NY Times)

The United States military is facing the gravest accusations of sexual misconduct in years, with dozens of servicewomen in the Persian Gulf area and elsewhere saying they were sexually assaulted or raped by fellow troops, lawmakers and victims advocates said on Wednesday.

There have been 112 reports of sexual misconduct over roughly the past 18 months in the Central Command area of operations, which includes Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan, military officials said on Wednesday.

The Army has reported 86 incidents, the Navy 12, the Air Force 8 and the Marine Corps 6.

Military officials said that the bulk of the charges were being investigated and that some had already resulted in disciplinary actions, but they could not provide specifics. They said a small number of the reports had turned out to be unfounded.

In addition, about two dozen women at Sheppard Air Force Base, a large training facility in Texas, have reported to a local rape-crisis center that they were assaulted in 2002. The Air Force Academy in Colorado is still reeling from the disclosure last year of more than 50 reported assaults or rapes over the last decade.

The latest accusations are the most extensive set of sexual misconduct charges since the Navy's Tailhook incident of 1991 and the Army's drill sergeant scandal about five years later. In response, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld this month ordered a senior-level inquiry into the reported sexual assaults in Iraq and Kuwait, and how the armed services treats victims of sexual attacks. The Army and Air Force have opened similar investigations.

The issue came to a boil at a contentious hearing on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, where Senate Democrats and Republicans sharply questioned the Pentagon's top personnel official and four four-star officers for what the lawmakers said were lapses in the military's ability to protect servicewomen from sexual assaults, to provide medical care and counseling to victims of attacks and to punish violators.

Lawmakers said they were particularly appalled by reports that women serving in roles from military police to helicopter pilots had been assaulted by male colleagues in remote combat zones like Iraq and Afghanistan, where immediate medical treatment and a sense of justice seemed to be lacking.


Bright idea sending young men and women into warzones, where justice is always lacking, together, eh?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:48 AM

CIVILIZATION, WHAT HAS IT EVER DONE FOR US?:

Gay marriage is assuredly here to stay (James P. Pinkerton, February 24, 2004, Newsday)

The gay rights movement burst into American consciousness in 1969, during the so-called Stonewall riot in Manhattan. At the time, gays were striving for two kinds of liberation. First, they wanted to be free from routine police harassment. Second, they wanted "liberation" from the basic cultural norms of sexual restraint. In this latter quest, of course, homosexuals were joined by heterosexuals; the tagline for a 1978 movie about disco-swingers, "Thank God It's Friday," spoke to all sexual orientations: "After 5,000 years of civilization, we all need a break."

We could hardly put it better--the gay rights movement is indeed a break with civilization.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:35 AM

NOT EVEN WORTH THE EFFORT?:

Social Security Cuts Necessary, Greenspan Says: Action is needed 'as soon as possible' to address deficits and demographic changes, the Fed chief tells Congress. His remarks revive a volatile issue. (Edwin Chen, February 26, 2004, LA Times)

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), another private accounts proponent, said Greenspan's testimony was a call to action. "He has made demagoguing reform less attractive," Graham said in an interview.

But analysts were not so sure.

Several said that because Bush has antagonized Democrats in the last three years, the necessary bipartisan cooperation on the issue seems unattainable, especially in this election year.

"He's got to get Democrats to believe they can trust him," said former Democratic Sen. Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, now president of the New School for Social Research in New York. "But Democrats are feeling very burned."


Ever get the feeling that the media has become so biased that they don't even bother pretending they aren't anymore? Can you imagine Mr. Chen citing Newt Gingrich as merely an "analyst"?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:07 AM

ANDROPOV'S GET (via mc):

Kerry’s Soviet Rhetoric: The Vietnam-era antiwar movement got its spin from the Kremlin. (Ion Mihai Pacepa, 2/26/04, National Review)

Part of Senator John Kerry's appeal to a certain segment of Americans is his Vietnam-veteran status coupled with his antiwar activism during that period. On April 12, 1971, Kerry told the U.S. Congress that American soldiers claimed to him that they had, "raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned on the power, cut off limbs, blew up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan."

The exact sources of that assertion should be tracked down. Kerry also ought to be asked who, exactly, told him any such thing, and what it was, exactly, that they said they did in Vietnam. Statutes of limitation now protect these individuals from prosecution for any such admissions. Or did Senator Kerry merely hear allegations of that sort as hearsay bandied about by members of antiwar groups (much of which has since been discredited)? To me, this assertion sounds exactly like the disinformation line that the Soviets were sowing worldwide throughout the Vietnam era. KGB priority number one at that time was to damage American power, judgment, and credibility. One of its favorite tools was the fabrication of such evidence as photographs and "news reports" about invented American war atrocities. These tales were purveyed in KGB-operated magazines that would then flack them to reputable news organizations. Often enough, they would be picked up. News organizations are notoriously sloppy about verifying their sources. All in all, it was amazingly easy for Soviet-bloc spy organizations to fake many such reports and spread them around the free world.

As a spy chief and a general in the former Soviet satellite of Romania, I produced the very same vitriol Kerry repeated to the U.S. Congress almost word for word and planted it in leftist movements throughout Europe. KGB chairman Yuri Andropov managed our anti-Vietnam War operation. He often bragged about having damaged the U.S. foreign-policy consensus, poisoned domestic debate in the U.S., and built a credibility gap between America and European public opinion through our disinformation operations. Vietnam was, he once told me, "our most significant success." [...]

During my last meeting with Andropov, he said, wisely, "now all we have to do is to keep the Vietnam-era anti-Americanism alive."


There's a slogan for you: "Vote Kerry--keep Vietnam-era anti-Americanism alive."


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:00 AM

CITIZEN SOLDIERS:

Fort Leavenworth school plants seeds for democracy (Bill Tammeus, Feb. 26, 2004, Jewish World Review)

The Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth has been educating foreign military officers such as [David] Tevzadze for 110 years. This year, the 6,500th officer to go through the program will be graduated. The officers, mostly majors or colonels, often go on to become generals. More than two dozen have become heads of state. And hundreds have reached the level of minister or ambassador, as did Tevzadze.

Democratic values are part of what these officers are exposed to here, both in their coursework and as they live off base. Many come from countries with long histories of open societies and civil institutions, so they learn not fundamental values but, rather, how those values get expressed in the American system. But some student soldiers come from countries that historically have been ruled by threat and force. What they begin to see here is a way of organizing society from the bottom up.

If democratic values are to spread around the world, it's crucial that military officers such as Tevzadze understand them and — more than that — put them into practice, especially when crises strike. The future of democratic reforms in many countries depends in part on how top military officers understand their role. Do they represent the citizenry or simply whoever is in power at the moment?

Recently, nearly 90 foreign officers from more than 75 nations, each now enrolled in the Fort Leavenworth program, came here to the University of Kansas to learn more about freedom of the press, a crucial pillar of open societies.


Decades before his musings on the clash of civilizations kicked up a storm, Samuel Huntington wrote about what a bulwark of democracy a conservative idealist military can be.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:48 AM

WHAT ABOUT THE STEEL TARIFFS?:

McWorld gathers steam in East Asia (Jim Lobe, 2/26/04, Asia Times)

Despite concerns that an economic slowdown and protectionist measures would lead to globalization's end, globalization is far from dead, and in fact, according to a recent report, the world is now more integrated than it's ever been.

Not only this, but developing countries are becoming increasingly globalized. For the first time, Singapore came in second on a list of the world's most globalized nations and East Asia came in just behind Europe and North America as the world's third most integrated region, according to the fourth annual edition of Foreign Policy magazine's "Globalization Index", released here on Tuesday. [...]

As in the previous three surveys, smaller Northern and Western European states outperformed the field, accounting for 12 of the first 20 rankings.

But for the first time, North America as a region outranked Europe, as the United States moved up four spots, from 11 in last year's Index to 7; Canada moved up one, from 7 to 6; and Mexico moved up six places, from 51 to 45.

The greatest declines in the rankings included Sweden (from 3 last year to 11); Morocco (from 29 to 47); South Africa (from 38 to 49); Kenya (from 44 to 54); and Egypt (from 48 to 60). Both China and India, whose combined populations account for more than one-third of the world's total, fell four rankings over the year.

The greatest gains were made by the Philippines (from 54 to 33); Argentina (from 50 to 34); and Peru, Australia and New Zealand, all of which rose eight rankings to 52, 13 and 8, respectively.

Besides Europe and North America, the world's most integrated region was East Asia, led by Singapore and Malaysia, which were followed by Japan (29), South Korea (32), the Philippines (33), Thailand (48) and China (57). Taiwan ranked 36, but its score would have been considerably higher had the political-engagement variables not applied. Taiwan ranked 62 in membership in international organizations, United Nations peacekeeping and treaty ratifications because China, which regards the island as a renegade province, strongly opposes international recognition of Taiwan as an independent nation.

Among the Latin American countries ranked in the Index, Panama (27) took the top spot, followed by Argentina (34), Chile (37), Mexico (45), Colombia (50), Peru (52), Brazil (53) and Venezuela (58). Overall, Latin American countries performed better than in the past largely due, however, to steep currency devaluations during 2002, which in effect shrank their economies' GDP, at least in US dollar terms. Thus, as a share of economic activity, the region's trade and investment flows were magnified.

Only six African countries were rated in the survey. Led by Botswana (30), they included Uganda (38), Senegal (40), Nigeria (42), South Africa (49) and Kenya (54).

As in previous years, the least integrated regions were South Asia and the Middle East-North Africa. While Israel and Tunisia ranked 22 and 35, respectively, all other countries in the two regions, with the exception of Saudi Arabia (41), fell into the bottom 12.


Yet people cling to the myth of a protectionist George Bush as fiercely as to the myth that there are both an Eric and a Julia Roberts.


Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:44 AM

THE ACCIDENTAL AUSCHWITZ DEFENCE:

Prosecution rests at Milosevic trial(Alan Freeman, Globe and Mail, 26/02/04)

After two years, the prosecution in the war-crimes trial of former Yugoslavian leader Slobodan Milosevic finally rested its case Wednesday. But chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte was in no mood to crack open any champagne.

“There is nothing to celebrate,” Ms. Del Ponte told a small group of journalists at the converted insurance building that serves as the headquarters for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

“It's a nightmare, this trial,” she said, referring to delays due to the illness of Mr. Milosevic, who periodically suffers from exhaustion, high blood pressure and flu.

Although 4½ years have passed since the tough-talking Swiss lawyer took over as the chief prosecutor from Canadian Louise Arbour, there remain a number of frustrations.

The Milosevic case has taken much longer than expected. There are doubts that the former Yugoslavian leader will be found guilty of genocide[...]

Despite her frustration, she expressed a grudging admiration for her adversary.

“He learned a lot in court. . . . As a professional, I appreciated his ability to cross-examine.”[...]

It's one of the most complicated cases ever,” said Eric Markusen, senior researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies and an expert on the Yugoslavian conflict.

Genocide is the hardest crime to prove because you've got to show a specific intent to wipe out [a race or people],” said Reed Brody, senior counsel for Human Rights Watch. Getting that kind of documentary proof has proven extremely difficult, especially since the Yugoslav government has not been co-operative...

It sounds like they are having a chummy old time over there in the Hague. That is nice, because nobody else seems to be paying the slightest attention, certainly not the liberals/leftists that demanded we all rush to war to stop an open and shut case of genocide.

But a few questions still nag. If genocide requires proven intent, and if international relations are grounded solely in positive law and not in underlying ethical or moral concepts, is mere reckless mass slaughter permissible? If Milosevic is acquitted, was the war illegal? Will he be allowed to represent Saddam?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 AM

WHERE THE WAR ENDS:

Pakistan after India's 'Osama', too (Siddharth Srivastava, 2/27/04, Asia Times)

While all attention is focused on Osama bin Laden and his cohorts allegedly cornered in western Pakistan, in India there is an equal amount of interest in the one man who is wanted just as desperately - Dawood Ibrahim.

Reports quoting intelligence sources and independently confirmed by home ministry officials say that India's most wanted criminal - thought to be hiding in Pakistan - is facing the heat at the instance of none less than Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf. The reports say that Dawood's personal security guards, derived from the cream of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, have been removed. Ibrahim is now said to be on the run, and some reports say that he has shaved his mustache and is contemplating plastic surgery to take on a new identity and passport.

Following last week's foreign-secretary-level India-Pakistan talks, which ended with a clear time-frame and a positive roadmap for future dialogue, this crackdown on Dawood is music to India's ears. Such is the keenness in India that Pakistan nab Dawood that officials say that this one step by the Pakistan establishment could propel Indo-Pak relations to levels that have never been witnessed since the time of partition in 1947, during which the two countries have fought three wars and one near-war at Kargil in 1999.


The First Law of Terrordynamics: For every al Qaeda action there is a greater than equal and opposite reaction.

MEANWHILE, FROM THE "AXIS OF GOOD" FILES:
Israel joins hunt for 'lord of the jungle' (S Ramesan, 2/27/04, Asia Times)

After outwitting and outgunning the police for four decades, brigand Veerappan's reign as lord of the dense jungles of southern India may now come to an abrupt end - with a little help from Israel.

Representatives of an inter-disciplinary team of the Israeli Military Industries and Integrated Security System Group visited Bangalore in January, at the invitation of the state government. They offered expertise in ending what has been billed as the world's longest-running manhunt.

Reports say that Veerappan has killed about 130 people, including security personnel and forest officials. He is believed to have slaughtered about 2,000 elephants for their tusks and plundered sandalwood and other forest wealth, but has so far survived on superior jungle survival skills that have made him into a legend.

Official sources say that the Israelis are due to make a second visit soon to prepare a feasibility report on nabbing Veerappan. "We are open to making use of advanced technology from anywhere," Karnataka state's director general of police, T Madiyal, said when asked about the Israeli offer. The Israeli involvement is handled with utmost secrecy and officials evade direct answers on the subject.


Istanbul bombing suspects charged (BBC, 2/25/04)
Turkish prosecutors have issued charges against 69 people suspected of involvement in four deadly suicide bombings in Istanbul last November.

The semi-official Anatolia agency said life sentences were demanded for five suspects described as "leaders of the al-Qaeda cell in Turkey".

Prosecutors asked for sentences of up to 22 years for the other defendants.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:26 AM

A WAR CRIMINAL AND A TRAITOR? (via mc):

Kerry Donors Include 'Benedict Arnolds' (Jim VandeHei, 2/25/04, Washington Post)

Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, frequently calls companies and chief executives "Benedict Arnolds" if they move jobs and operations overseas to avoid paying U.S. taxes.

But Kerry has accepted money and fundraising assistance from top executives at companies that fit the candidate's description of a notorious traitor of the American Revolution.

At a minimum, a candidate who's going to descend into heinous demagoguery should check to make sure he's not tarring himself in the process.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:13 AM

CONSERVATISM AS NIHILISM:

President Versus Precedent: Bush's reckless bid for an amendment defies an Oval Office tradition (Cass R. Sunstein, February 26, 2004, LA Times)

In declaring his support for a constitutional amendment that would forbid same-sex marriage, President Bush is repudiating more than 200 years of American theory and practice. His proposal is radically inconsistent with the nation's traditions. Whatever it is, there is one thing that it is not: conservative.

The two most hilarious arguments made by gay marriage advocates: (1) Conservatism requires that we stand by while a key social institution of Western civilization is destroyed; (2) It is divisive for the 70% who oppose destroying the institution to try and stop the 30% from exploiting court rulings to do so.


February 25, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:52 PM

HYWAY:

Governor's 'hydrogen highway' realistic by 2010, official says (DON THOMPSON, 2/25/04, Associated Press)

Schwarzenegger's proposed network amounts to about 200 fueling stations, a fraction of California's 10,000 retail gasoline stations, Tamminen said.

Twenty-five of those stations will soon be available, and Tamminen projected more can be built by universities, waste conversion stations and automakers at little cost to the state. If California can win $20 million to $30 million of the $1.7 billion President Bush promised for hydrogen research, Tamminen said the combination will pay most of the estimated $100 million cost of Schwarzenegger's proposal.

Even if those stations serve a million hydrogen vehicles, he acknowledged they alone won't make a significant dent in the air pollution caused by the projected 30 million vehicles that will crowd California highways by 2010.

But it's a good step, Tamminen said, along with more mass transit and retiring the heaviest polluting diesel and gas-powered engines.

"California is uniquely positioned to be a national leader in the hydrogen revolution," urged Dan Sperling, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis, because of its existing edge in technology and experts. "California needs to think big here."


The reality is that the California market is so big that, if the state pushes this, industry will race to keep up.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:37 PM

LINING UP BEHIND KERRY (via Mike Daley):

: How a '50s psychology experiment can explain the Democratic primaries. (Duncan Watts, Feb. 24, 2004, at 12:49 PM PT

Barring a miraculous comeback by Sen. John Edwards, Sen. John Kerry will win the Democratic presidential nomination-despite the fact that most Democratic voters know little about him and don't like him very much. A few weeks before the Iowa caucuses, Kerry's campaign seemed dead, but then he unexpectedly won Iowa, then New Hampshire, and then primary after primary. How did this happen?

One answer may be found in a series of psychology experiments conducted at Princeton University in the 1950s. Princeton social psychologist Solomon Asch showed a room of participants a series of slides displaying sets of vertical lines. Two of these lines were clearly the same length, while the others were obviously very different. The subjects were then given the
seemingly trivial task of identifying which pair of lines were the same. But there was a trick: Everyone in the room except for one person had been instructed beforehand to give the same incorrect answer. The real subject of the experiment was the lone unwitting participant, and the real test was of an individual's ability to disagree with his or her peers.

Asch demonstrated a stunning effect: Faced with a decision that, in isolation, no one would ever get wrong, the unwitting subjects went against the evidence of their own eyes about one-third of the time. In psychology, Asch's result is famous, yet its implications for what we might call "social
decision-making" (decisions that are influenced by the previous decisions of others) are largely unappreciated by the general public, or even researchers who study decision-making.


An interesting new element is about to be introduced into this experiment: what happens when Karl Rove spends $170 million telling the participants that their negative perceptions of John Kerry are accurate and shared universally?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:31 PM

HURRICANE NAOMI:

'I Am Victim' (Anne Applebaum, February 25, 2004, Washington Post)

[I]n an extraordinary, several-thousand-word article in New York magazine, Naomi Wolf, the celebrated feminist writer, has just accused Harold Bloom, the celebrated literary scholar, of having put his hand on her thigh at Yale University 20 years ago.

But Wolf's article is not merely about that event (a secret that she "can't bear to carry around anymore"). The article is also about the lasting damage that this single experience has wrought on a woman who has since written a number of bestsellers, given hundreds of lectures, been featured on dozens of talk shows and photographed in various glamorous poses, including a smiling, self-confident head shot on New York magazine's Web site this week. [...]

[I]n the end, what is most extraordinary about Wolf is the way in which she has voluntarily stripped herself of her achievements and her status, and reduced herself to a victim, nothing more. The implication here is that women are psychologically weak: One hand on the thigh, and they never get over it. The implication is also that women are naive, and powerless as well: Even Yale undergraduates are not savvy enough to avoid late-night encounters with male professors whose romantic intentions don't interest them.

The larger implications are for the movement that used to be called "feminism." Twenty years of fame, money, success, happy marriage and the children she has described in her books -- and Naomi Wolf, one of my generation's leading feminists, is still obsessed with her own exaggerated victimhood? It's not an ideology I'd want younger women to follow.


She should have chosen Allan Bloom for a mentor instead. Meanwhile, here's Camille Paglia on Harold Bloom:
In the early 1990s, to my vexation, European commentators sometimes misidentified me as a student of Allan Bloom -- whom they confused with my real mentor, literary critic Harold Bloom, my dissertation director in graduate school. The latter's massive new book on Shakespeare has recently inspired press queries about my connection with him. For the record: Harold Bloom was the first person to fully understand and encourage my vast project for "Sexual Personae," which as a dissertation drew on materials (notably about Shakespeare's treatment of sex roles) that I had been developing since my undergraduate years at the State University of New York at Binghamton.

I never enrolled in any of Bloom's courses at Yale, nor did I meet him until he imperiously summoned me in 1970: He had heard, via fellow students, what I was planning for my doctoral thesis, and he had also been told about my problem in finding a sponsor after my graduate-seminar teacher Richard Ellmann left Yale for Oxford University to complete his biography of Oscar Wilde. "I am the only one who can direct that dissertation, my dear!" Bloom grandly announced to me -- thus beginning one of the most fruitful professional relationships that anyone could wish for.

Bloom had not yet published "The Anxiety of Influence" (1973), which made him the leading literary critic in the world, but he had already achieved fame for his books on English and Irish poetry, which revolutionized Romantic studies. Bloom and I shared a respect for Freud, a love of great art, a drive for omnivorous learning, an instinct for epic sweep, a contempt for conformist careerism and dainty institutional etiquette and an unembarrassed openness to strong emotion and intellectual risk-taking. I preached the pop gospel to him with Warholite fervor, but at that time he shared Allan Bloom's scorn for pop.

Through the long, isolated and increasingly impoverished years when I could not get "Sexual Personae" published in whole or part, Harold Bloom's faith in the book and in my ideas was an enormous source of strength and fortitude. In today's campus climate of adolescent sexual paranoia, I wonder whether women will ever get the kind of generous, freewheeling mentoring I did from Harold Bloom. Perhaps that era is over -- gone with the feminist wind.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:52 PM

GET OVER YOURSELF:

BALKING HEAD (PageSix, February 25, 2004)

Sen. John Edwards lost some votes in the disabled community the other night when he failed to provide a sign language interpreter during a speech in Rochester, and then patted a wheelchair-bound woman on the head. "It seems that Sen. Edwards lacks disability etiquette," Debbie Bonomo, who has cerebral palsy, said in a news release from the Center for Disability Rights. "Just because I am a woman who uses a wheelchair does not mean anyone should be patting me on the head. That is so 1950s."

Fine, we're all sorry she can't stand up, but how about growing up? Does anyone really think he was trying to demean her? Or was this just a simple, if politically-incorrect, way to connect to a fellow human being?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:31 PM

SAMUELSENSE:

A Phony Jobs Debate (Robert J. Samuelson, February 25, 2004, Washington Post)

Facing a weak economy, a government can do three things: cut interest rates; run a budget deficit; and allow -- or cause -- its currency to depreciate. The first two promote borrowing and spending; the last makes a country's exports cheaper and its imports costlier. All these weapons have been deployed. Bush's policies are mostly standard economics; based on past patterns, these policies should have produced stronger job growth. But private employers have resisted hiring. "Economists are scratching their heads," says Randell Moore, editor of the monthly Blue Chip Economic Indicators, which surveys 50 economic forecasters.

Some jobs have moved abroad. Slow foreign growth and (until recently) the high dollar have hurt U.S. exports and encouraged imports. Mark Zandi of Economy.com estimates that almost 900,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost to the higher trade deficit. By contrast, he reckons that "offshoring" of service jobs -- call centers, software design -- has cost only about 200,000 jobs over the same period. That's out of more than 130 million jobs. There are other theories. By one, higher fringe benefits (mainly health insurance and pension costs) have deterred companies from hiring. Although wage increases are slowing, total labor costs including fringes are actually rising. They grew 3.8 percent in 2003, up from 3.4 percent in 2002. Another theory is that employers have delayed hiring because they worry that the recovery will falter.

We don't know. But what we can know is that policies from a President Gore or Kerry or Edwards wouldn't have improved matters much. Of course, Democrats might have discarded some Bush policies: say, tax cuts for the rich. Still, the main forces shaping the job market would have remained well beyond presidential reach: the boom-bust cycle (President Bill Clinton didn't create the boom, and the bust was unfolding even before Bush's election); weak growth in Europe, Japan and Latin America, which account for almost 40 percent of U.S. exports; and business cautiousness. Protectionism is no panacea. It barely touches job creation; America's trade problem is weak exports as much as strong imports. Even if every offshored service job had somehow been saved, the job picture wouldn't have changed much.

No matter. During elections, politics overwhelms reason. Perhaps continuing economic growth and a weaker dollar will soon produce more jobs. On average, the economists surveyed by Moore expect 166,000 new jobs a month in 2004 -- or about 2 million for the year.


As one goes to Stuart Taylor for non-partisan legal analysis--though not unopinionated--so too one turns to Mr. Samuelson for common sense on economics.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:44 PM

NATURE TRUMPS IDEOLOGY:

Let Toys Be Toys: Younger Moms Reshape an Industry (Jacqueline L. Salmon and Marylou Tousignant, February 24, 2004, Washington Post)

According to marketing strategists attending the American International Toy Fair in New York last week, Goold typifies the Gen X mother -- those millions of women born from 1963 through 1975 who are under the microscope of advertising agencies because of the power of their purses.

In 2001 this group controlled an estimated $730 billion in spending, says Kim Merrill, general manager of Uproar, the kids and toys division of the Tracy Locke Partnership ad agency. Such economic clout -- much of it wielded by mothers with young children -- lures toy and game makers like ants swarming over a piece of candy dropped on the sidewalk.

During a seminar titled "Capturing the Gen X Mom," Merrill and three colleagues offer tips on "getting into the psyche" of this demographic cash cow. First, they say, one must understand how Gen Xers differ from their own, baby boomer moms.

For starters, as a group the Xers are better educated, Merrill says, and more than half consider themselves white-collar professionals; 52 percent are married and 55 percent have at least one child. More significant in the parent-child sociological context, they are the first generation of moms to grow up amid widespread divorce and with lots of working and/or single mothers and outside-the-home child care.

As a result, though 75 percent of Gen X moms work, they value family time more than their parents did, the marketing analysts say. "They're less driven to break the glass ceiling [at work] and more willing to drive the kids to soccer practice -- and they expect the boss to understand," says Robert Chimbel, president of Tracy Locke. "Part-time work is the Holy Grail."

The premium put on family time "is the visible shift from baby boomers to this generation," says Ira Hernowitz, general manager of First Fun, a division of Hasbro toys. Gen X moms, he says, are concerned that their children will grow up too quickly, so they want to do more things with them.

And, like Goold, they often put less emphasis on the educational possibilities of the toys their kids play with. "They want smart children," Hernowitz says, "but they think it's more important for them to be emotionally and socially ready than educationally" prepared for school. "The number one thing they want in a toy is fun."


One fascinating dynamic is how profoundly their mothers' generation resents that the daughters place family above career.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:08 PM

ABRENUNTIO!:

Greenspan urges cuts in Social Security (MARTIN CRUTSINGER, February 25, 2004, AP)

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, stepping into the politically charged debate over Social Security, said Wednesday the country can't afford the benefits currently promised to the baby boom generation.

Typically, when Mr. Greenspan speaks, one party or the other, or both, and editorial boards from Augusta to Guam greet his words as if they were pronouncements handed down from Mt. Sinai. These'll be met as if they were satanic ravings.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:00 PM

MAYBE HE CAN EVEN GET THE V.A. TO PAY FOR IT:

Botox May Aid in Chronic Neck, Back Pain (Reuters, Feb 25,2004)

Botox injections may help ease stubborn pain in the neck and upper back when other treatments fail, preliminary research shows.

Expect the announcement from the Kerry campaign that the Botox treatments are only to treat an old war injury.


Posted by David Cohen at 3:33 PM

TRUTH IN ADVERTISING

bushisms The president's accidental wit and wisdom (Jacob Weisberg, Slate, 02/25/04).

"But the true strength of America is found in the hearts and souls of people like Travis, people who are willing to love their neighbor, just like they would like to love themselves."—Springfield, Mo., Feb. 9, 2004 (Thanks to George Dupper)
"Bushisms" is usually just an excuse for Slate to pick on the President for being inarticulate and stupid. As such, it suits the purposes of both Democrats and Republicans. This entry, however, lives up to the subtitle -- accidental or not, this is both wit and wisdom. For those of us who believe in Fallen man, the President has improved on the original. We might not care if we are loved by our neighbors, but what wouldn't we give to love ourselves.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:28 AM

GOOD BIGOTRY:

Supreme Court allows states to deny taxpayer-funded scholarships to divinity students (ANNE GEARAN, 2/25/04, Associated Press)

The Supreme Court, in a new rendering on separation of church and state, voted Wednesday to let states withhold scholarships from students studying theology.

The court's 7-2 ruling held that the state of Washington was within its rights to deny a taxpayer-funded scholarship to a college student who was studying to be a minister. That holding applies even when money is available to students studying anything else.

"Training someone to lead a congregation is an essentially religious endeavor," Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist wrote for the court majority.

"Indeed, majoring in devotional theology is akin to a religious calling as well as an academic pursuit." [...]

Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented.

"Let there be no doubt: This case is about discrimination against a religious minority," Scalia wrote for the two.

"In an era when the court is so quick to come to the aid of other disfavored groups, its indifference in this case, which involves a form of discrimination to which the Constitution actually speaks, is exceptional."

Scalia said the court's majority was trying to play down the damage to Davey, who continued his education without the subsidy. He did not choose to enter the ministry after graduation, and is now in law school.

"The indignity of being singled out for special burdens on the basis of one's calling is so profound that the concrete harm produced can never be dismissed as insubstantial," wrote Scalia, the father of a Catholic priest.


We eagerly await the NY Times editorial denouncing this form of bigotry.


Posted by Peter Burnet at 11:01 AM

EARTHQUAKE IN SAN FRANCISCO–WORLDWIDE TREMORS:

I'm not gay, says 81-year-old monarch with 14 children (Alex Spillius, The Telegraph, 25/02/04)

King Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia, an 81-year-old father of 14, yesterday surprised his subjects by denying that he was homosexual. His comments came as he underlined his support for same-sex marriage, having seen television coverage of such weddings in California.

In a statement on his website, the king said: "I am not gay, but I respect the rights of gays and lesbians. It's not their fault if God makes them born like that."

He said the statement, posted yesterday, was made in response to an "insulting" email he received from someone called Tom Adams, which presumably accused the monarch of being homosexual after he announced his approval of same-sex unions.

His statement continued: "Gays and lesbians would not exist if God did not create them. As a Buddhist I must have compassion for human beings who are not like me but who torture nobody, kill nobody."

Buckingham Palace has called a news conference for this evening. You won’t want to miss it.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:58 AM

PASS THE SOMA (via mc):

Europe Ends Soft Stance On Hard Prescription Drugs (CHARLES FLEMING and ANNE-MICHELE MORICE, 2/25/04, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

One of every four French women regularly downs a prescription pill to calm her nerves or lift her spirits. The average Belgian consumes seven times as many sedatives as the typical American. And the Irish are world champions of antianxiety medicines.

Because of a combination of low-price drugs and accommodating doctors, Western Europeans take more tranquilizers and antidepressants than practically anyone else in the world, according to the International Narcotics Control Board, an agency financed by the United Nations. Now some cash-strapped governments are trying to break pill poppers of the expensive habit.


Note that their concern is not the need of their people to anesthetize themselves, but the cost.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:00 AM

THAT'S SOME CABANA:

Kerry loan twice as nice (Ellen J. Silberman and Jack Meyers, February 25, 2004, Boston Herald)

U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry used an appraisal pegging the value of his Beacon Hill townhouse at twice the amount listed on City Hall records in order to get the $6.4 million loan he needed to resuscitate his presidential bid.

The Kerry campaign says the elegant Louisburg Square townhouse that Kerry shares with is millionaire wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry is worth $12.8 million - exactly double the Christmas Eve mortgage the senator got from Mellon Bank.

But Boston's Assessing Department puts the value of the swank, five-story mansion - with six fireplaces, five bedrooms, a private elevator and roofdeck - at $6.6 million as of Jan. 1, 2003. The assessed value actually dropped from 2002's figure of $6.95 million.

The home's true value is significant since federal election laws allow Kerry to finance his presidential bid by borrowing only against his own assets - prohibiting him from tapping into his wife's millions.

"It could be a very, very big excessive contribution by his wife if, in fact, he's using more than half the real value of the house,'' said Don Simon, a Washington-based campaign finance lawyer who is unaffiliated with any presidential campaign. Kerry Heinz is limited to donating $2,000 to her husband's campaign.

The conflicting valuations also raise questions about the propriety of the loan - taken from Mellon Bank of New England, a subsidiary of Pittsburgh-based Mellon Bank, N.A.Kerry Heinz, heiress to the Heinz ketchup fortune, has a long history with Mellon Bank. The bank also serves as a trustee for The T & J Louisburg Square Nominee Trust, the entity that owns the townhouse.


How long before George Soros is offering $50 million for it?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:33 AM

ARE WE ON CRAZY PILLS?:

Zero-sum game (Rabbi Avi Shafran, Feb. 25, 2004 , Jewish World Review)

The lesson of the Kempling case transcends its Canadian context; it is of no less import to Americans or Europeans. The issue of "gay rights" is not benign; the struggle between those who wish to make homosexuality acceptable as a normative lifestyle and those who do not is, simply put, a zero-sum game. To the degree that the gay movement's program is advanced, those who adhere to a traditional moral system will be not merely ignored, but vilified, demonized and penalized.

That "gay rights" zero-sum truism is at the core of a legal brief recently submitted to the United States Supreme Court by the organization I am privileged to represent, Agudath Israel of America. We asked the Court to review and reverse a lower court's decision permitting the state of Connecticut to disqualify the Boy Scouts from inclusion on a list of charities to which state employees were encouraged to contribute. The reason the Boy Scouts were disqualified was the group's policy of not allowing homosexuals to serve as scoutmasters or in leadership positions

One of the brief's main points is that decisions like the lower court's patently malign traditional religious groups for their deeply-held beliefs. As The New York Sun noted in an editorial shortly after the Massachusetts Supreme Court's "same-sex marriage" ruling, "with a few exceptions, this cause [the acceptance of same-sex marriage] is being advanced through the denigration of Jews and Christians who adhere to the fundamentals of religious law."

The editorial went on to recount the reaction of "a friend" of the editorialist to the opposition to same-sex marriages asserted by "Agudath Israel and its Council of Torah Sages." Said the gentleman: "I see them as bigots..."

Similarly, an American Civil Liberties Union advertisement several years ago in The New York Times compared those who object on moral grounds to homosexuality as akin to vicious racists of yesteryear. Those who espouse a traditional view of acceptable sexual behavior, the ACLU asserted, seek "to hide behind morality." But, the ad continues, "we all know a bigot when we see one."


There's something seriously wrong with a culture in which heterosexualist bigotry is considered evil and homosexuality is not. The former is not a matter of hiding behind morality; the latter requires hiding from it. A decent society can afford some degree of tolerance towards homosexuals, because most of the damage and degradation they inflict is upon themselves and each other, but it must remain broadly intolerant of the behavior--precisely because we must care about such people even more than they care about themselves and must guard the culture from defining itself according to the proclivities of its most deviant members. There'll always be a new deviance just waiting to drag us further down into the slough of despond.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:16 AM

$$$$$$$$$$$:

Crude Reality: As the brutal battle over proposed drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge grinds on, a former oil worker returns to the North Slope in search of the truth about the pro-exploration argument. His conclusion? (Brace yourself.) The unthinkable is the right thing to do. (David Masiel, February 2004, Outside Magazine)

I have listened to the debate over Arctic drilling for 20 years, and I believe it is far from finished, that it will never be finished until oil is obsolete or the first production wells start pumping ANWR crude into the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. Election-year politics may have buried ANWR for now, but two points are clear: If reelected, George W. Bush will continue his pursuit of drilling in ANWR. And no matter who is elected, Alaskan lobbyists and politicians will never let this one go—there's simply too much at stake. "It's never decided," Senator Stevens has vowed several times, "until I win."

Meanwhile, both pro- and anti-drilling camps have dug their heels into the Arctic permafrost, each side deploying an array of facts and statistics, all of them "true," and most mutually exclusive. The Bush administration insists that, in the wake of 9/11, America's longtime goal of reversing dependence on foreign oil has become a necessity. The oil companies pledge that drilling can be done cleanly, thanks to new technologies like extended-reach drilling and man-made ice roads that melt every spring.

Environmentalists stress that any development is too much: The 1002 is home to the largest concentration of onshore polar bear dens in the world, the summer home to some 138 species of migratory birds, and the calving grounds of the 123,000-member Porcupine caribou herd. Even 2,000 acres of development, opponents argue, would create a maze of pipelines and service roads extending impacts a hundredfold. Moreover, they say, a defeat here will mortally wound the very idea of wilderness protection.

There's also the little matter of how much oil there is (no one really knows) and whether oil companies can ever be trusted as stewards (no one knows that, either). As if this weren't enough, native Alaskans themselves are divided: The Inupiat Eskimo of the North Slope largely favor drilling, but the Gwich'in Athabascans, to the south, don't.

I was divided myself. My family's ties to the oil business go back three generations. My grandfather was a tanker captain for Standard Oil, my father the president of Chevron Pipeline Company. My sister, brother-in-law, and cousin, not to mention half a dozen friends—oil people, all. On the North Slope, I'd gained intense respect for the people who work there, but I'd also seen the ways that the Arctic's harsh, remote conditions could drive crews to cut corners.

So, in 2002, I decided to drill into the issue—to drill into myself, frankly. My approach was admittedly personal. In my tiny way, I had helped bring drilling to ANWR, and I couldn't forget that bear as he escaped across the ice. I wondered, Is it possible to take care of the bear and still feed the machine?

After a journey that took me back to the Arctic for the first time in 13 years, and through dozens of interviews with policy analysts, native Alaskans, wildlife biologists, and congressional staff experts, I became convinced of only one thing: Both sides are far too entrenched to see the other side clearly.

It's time for a compromise, and as much as I can hear the cries of readers rising out of their chairs in choked protest, the reality of ANWR begs something new. Distasteful as it is, it's time to allow at least some drilling in the refuge. [...]

When old hands grumble about environmental standards, it's a good sign things are moving in the right direction. But anecdotal evidence is hardly proof. So I turned to my own contacts, including the CFO of one of the four largest oil companies in the world, who agreed to speak to me on condition of anonymity.

"We're the deep pockets," my friend told me. "Oil spills mean lost product plus cleanup costs. And ever since the Exxon Valdez, the bar has continually been raised. We're paying clean-up costs on operations from 20 years ago that were in full compliance of laws at the time. I tell my managers this all the time: Don't tell me you disposed of waste materials in some landfill and it's all according to EPA regulations, because I'm going to assume at some point we'll be required to go back and clean up—at greater costs. We want zero discharges."

In other words, economics ensures clean drilling. Another contact, the general manager of health, safety, and environment for the overseas branch of a major oil company, spelled it out for me: "The real reason for clean operations," he said, scribbling something on a piece of paper, "is this." He shoved the paper across the table. On it, he'd drawn a giant dollar sign.


Unfortunately, ANWR's talismanic status makes such sensible discussion impossible in the political system.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:50 AM

IN TURN, WHY NOT BROADCAST HIS EXECUTION?:

Al-Qaeda member tried to set up satellite TV link so bin Laden could watch 9/11 (AFP, Feb 25, 2004)

One of the two alleged al-Qaeda members charged on Tuesday tried but failed to set up a satellite television connection so Osama bin Laden could watch the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, according to the indictment.

Ali Hamza Ahmed Sulayman al Bahlul of Yemen was described by the Pentagon as a "key al-Qaeda propagandist" and former bodyguard to bin Laden, mastermind of the 2001 hijacked plane attacks on New York and Washington which left nearly 3,000 people dead.

The Pentagon announced Tuesday that Al Bahlul and another alleged al-Qaeda member held at Guantanamo Bay, Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi of Sudan, had been charged with conspiracy to commit war crimes and would face trial by military tribunal.


MORE:
U.S. Charges Two at Guantánamo With Conspiracy (NEIL A. LEWIS, 2/25/04, NY Times)

According to the charge sheets, the two men have been part of a criminal conspiracy with Mr. bin Laden and several of his top aides that committed the offenses of "attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects" and other acts attributed in the documents to Al Qaeda. Mr. Bahlul is described as a Qaeda propagandist who made a recruiting video that celebrated the bombing of the American destroyer Cole in 2000 in the Yemeni port of Aden. Mr. Qosi was described as a Qaeda senior accountant who served as the deputy to the organization's chief financial officer. Both were described as part of an elite cadre of Qaeda associates who served as close associates of and bodyguards for Mr. bin Laden.

Prof. Detlev Vagts of the Harvard University Law School, an authority on the laws of war, said the conspiracy charge appeared to be an effort to fashion a new military offense along the lines of the civilian crime of conspiracy. Officials, Professor Vagts said, appear to have taken care not to charge that membership in Al Qaeda alone constitutes a crime.

Although the tribunal rules allow for the death penalty, the two defendants will not face it. Maj. John Smith, a lawyer with the Pentagon's office of military tribunals, said Tuesday that the chief prosecutor, Col. Fred Borch, had already decided that it would not be appropriate given the details of the accusations.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 AM

THE PILOT FISH (via Tom Morin)

'Bankrupt' Forces may shut 5 bases: Internal reports say $500M shortfall may cause closures from Winnipeg to Labrador (Chris Wattie, February 24, 2004, National Post)

Canada's army, navy and air force are facing a funding shortfall of up to half a billion dollars, defence sources told the National Post, and the military is recommending drastic measures to make up the difference, including closing some of the largest bases in the country.

The federal government is stalling the release of internal documents that outline the looming financial crisis, but military sources said the reports indicate that in the fiscal year beginning on April 1, the air force expects to be $150-million short of funds needed to fulfill its commitments, the navy will be $150-million shy of its needs and the army will be as much as $200-million short.

The figures were submitted to General Ray Henault, the Chief of Defence Staff, last month by the heads of the land staff, the maritime staff and the air staff in anticipation of this year's defence budget.

The military sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the reports foresee a situation so dire that they recommend curtailing operations, dry-docking ships and mothballing vehicles or aircraft and closing at least four Canadian Forces bases.


Anyone remember back to the 1980's, when Canada was still a real nation, rather than a retirement village?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 AM

SURVEY SAYS?!:

Was Einstein Right After All (SpaceDaily, Feb 24, 2004)

The good news from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is that Einstein was right--maybe. A strange form of energy called "dark energy" is looking a little more like the repulsive force that Einstein theorized in an attempt to balance the universe against its own gravity. Even if Einstein turns out to be wrong, the universe's dark energy probably won't destroy the universe any sooner than about 30 billion years from now, say Hubble researchers.

"Right now we're about twice as confident than before that Einstein's cosmological constant is real, or at least dark energy does not appear to be changing fast enough (if at all) to cause an end to the universe anytime soon," says Adam Riess of the Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore. [...]

Currently, there are two leading interpretations for the dark energy, as well as many more exotic possibilities. It could be an energy percolating from empty space as Einstein's theorized "cosmological constant," an interpretation which predicts that dark energy is unchanging and of a prescribed strength.

An alternative possibility is that dark energy is associated with a changing energy field dubbed "quintessence." [...]

If the repulsion from dark energy is or becomes stronger than Einstein's prediction, the universe may be torn apart by a future "Big Rip," during which the universe expands so violently that first the galaxies, then the stars, then planets, and finally atoms come unglued in a catastrophic end of time. Currently this idea is very speculative, but being pursued by theorists.

At the other extreme, a variable dark energy might fade away and then flip in force such that it pulls the universe together rather then pushing it apart.

This would lead to a "big crunch" where the universe ultimately implodes. "This looks like the least likely scenario at present," says Riess.


Of course it's constant--as Einstein said: "When the answer is simple, God is answering."


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:42 AM

TWO OUT OF THREE AIN'T BAD:

Anti-Semitism in 3D (NATAN SHARANSKY, Feb. 23, 2004, Jerusalem Post)

I propose the following test for differentiating legitimate criticism of Israel from anti-Semitism. The 3D test, as I call it, is not a new one. It merely applies to the new anti-Semitism the same criteria that for centuries identified the different dimensions of classical anti-Semitism.

* The first D is the test of demonization.

Whether it came in the theological form of a collective accusation of deicide or in the literary depiction of Shakespeare's Shylock, Jews were demonized for centuries as the embodiment of evil. Therefore, today we must be wary of whether the Jewish state is being demonized by having its actions blown out of all sensible proportion.

For example, the comparisons of Israelis to Nazis and of the Palestinian refugee camps to Auschwitz – comparisons heard practically every day within the "enlightened" quarters of Europe – can only be considered anti-Semitic.
Those who draw such analogies either do not know anything about Nazi Germany or, more plausibly, are deliberately trying to paint modern-day Israel as the embodiment of evil.

* The second D is the test of double standards.

For thousands of years a clear sign of anti-Semitism was treating Jews differently than other peoples, from the discriminatory laws many nations enacted against them to the tendency to judge their behavior by a different yardstick.

Similarly, today we must ask whether criticism of Israel is being applied selectively. In other words, do similar policies by other governments engender the same criticism, or is there a double standard at work? [...]

* The third D is the test of deligitimation.

In the past, anti-Semites tried to deny the legitimacy of the Jewish religion, the Jewish people, or both. Today, they are trying to deny the legitimacy of the Jewish state, presenting it, among other things, as the last vestige of colonialism.

While criticism of an Israeli policy may not be anti-Semitic, the denial of Israel's right to exist is always anti-Semitic. If other peoples have a right to live securely in their homelands, then the Jewish people have a right to live securely in their homeland.


Mr. Sharansky is a genuine moral hero and the first two items here are easily agreed upon, but the third seems founded on a dubious proposition. Jews do not have a "right" to Israel as a function of their Judaism--any more than Mormons have a right to create a nation of their own in the "homelands" of their faith. Instead, the population of Israel has the same "right" to self-determination as any other people and the obligation to defend themselves if they wish to insure that right is honored. That's why the great threat to the continuance of a Jewish state is internal--population decline--rather than external--the military threat from Arab neighbors.


February 24, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:52 PM

SENATOR "YES, BUT...":

Past votes may dog Kerry campaign: Democrat's support of Bush at issue (Jim VandeHei, Feb. 24, 2004, Washington Post)

In the stump speech he delivers virtually every day, Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) stirs the Democratic faithful by railing against current trade practices and slamming President Bush's policies on education, civil liberties and Iraq.

But the Democratic front-runner does not mention how he, as senator, supported the president on all four issues, helping cement in law what he often describes as flawed government policies.

Kerry's past support for policies he now condemns is complicating his run for the White House, strategists from both parties say, and could prove problematic in a general election showdown with Bush. The president himself seized on this contrast in his opening attack on Kerry at a dinner last night of the Republican Governors Association.

Tony Coehlo, chairman of Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign, said it is "critical" that Kerry "clearly" explain his votes "before the public perceives him as a flip-flopper." If not, Bush "will tag him," Coehlo said.


The new campaign finance law requires that the candidate running an ad appear in it and take responsibility for authorizing it, which has had the desired effect of reducing negative ads. But what the Senator's pandering allows is a set of ads where President Bush appears in ads where he simply states positions the Senator has taken and/or votes he's taken and says something to the effect of: "My administration has worked in bipartisan fashion to grow the American economy/Leave No Child Behind/win the war on terror at home and abroad/etc.. In fact, Senator Kerry himself voted in favor of free trade authority/the war/the Patriot Act/NCLB. These programs/policies are working and this is no time to let partisan politics get in the way of continued progress." The Senator is left either appearing to endorse the President on the most important issues of the day or else repudiating himself and his own past votes.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:34 PM

WE ALL KNOW HOW THIS STORY ENDS:

Bush's McCain Strategy Redux (E. J. Dionne Jr., February 24, 2004, Washington Post)

If Kerry's twenties and early thirties are destined to be an issue in this campaign, is it fair for the media to give the same years in Bush's life a pass just because he's the incumbent? To paraphrase John Edwards, will we have two standards, one for a Democratic challenger and one for a Republican president?

The Bush campaign, of course, is leaving the brutal stuff to surrogates. Formally, Bush's apparatus is focusing on Kerry's record in the Senate, especially his votes on intelligence and military spending. Isn't that fair game?

What's forgotten is that Bush has a pattern throughout his political career of staying above the fray while others tear his opponents to shreds. The Republicans are trying to weave a clear narrative about Kerry. The above-the-surface part is about his voting record, which Kerry will, indeed, have to defend. The below-the-surface part will paint him as a Vietnam-peacenik-Massachusetts-liberal weirdo.

The template is what Bush's campaign did to Sen. John McCain, another Vietnam hero, in South Carolina during the 2000 Republican primaries.


The election will be too one-sided to be exciting, but at least if they replay South Carolina 2000 on the national stage it will be entertaining.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:16 PM

THIS MAILING BROUGHT TO YOU FOR FREE BY THE BUSH RE-ELECTION CAMPAIGN (via mc):

Health Plans Boost Benefits for Seniors: Private Alternatives to Medicare Will Get Added Government Funding (SARAH LUECK, 2/24/04, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL)

Private health plans are gearing up to sweeten coverage for senior citizens -- part of an aggressive effort to lure them away from the government-run Medicare program.

Starting next month, many private plans will begin using direct mail, advertising and informational meetings to entice seniors to sign up. The main selling point is better benefits.

Currently, more than 10% of the nation's 41 million Medicare beneficiaries are enrolled in such programs. The Bush administration wants to boost that number. As a result, the recent overhaul of Medicare showers $1.3 billion over the next two years on private plans that enroll Medicare beneficiaries. The law stipulates that the plans must use the money to enhance the benefits they offer senior citizens, lower the fees they charge them, or boost payments to the doctors and hospitals who treat them.

In New York, Oxford Health Plans Inc. says it will, pending federal approval, start covering $1,200 of prescription drugs per year instead of the $250 and $500 it currently offers Medicare beneficiaries. In Minnesota, the nonprofit health-maintenance organization UCare Minnesota will reduce premiums by $15 a month for most of the 26,000 seniors it covers. In Philadelphia, seniors in one of Aetna's HMO options won't have to pay a monthly premium to the plan at all, beyond what the government-run program deducts from Social Security checks.

"This is the gold rush for the insurance industry," says Robert Laszewski, a consultant with insurance-industry clients.

Whether it is a good idea for Medicare beneficiaries to enroll in private plans is one of the most heated subjects in the debate over the future of the program. Private plans typically offer more benefits than traditional Medicare; the government program doesn't cover routine physicals, for example, but many private plans do.

However, the private plans generally aren't as flexible about choice of doctors and hospitals. Medicare generally covers visits to any doctor or hospital the patient chooses. But the private Medicare plans -- known as Medicare Advantage plans -- tend to have managed-care type networks, limiting patients to certain doctors and hospitals that have agreed to discounts.

While the Bush administration and many Republicans say that increasing the number of Medicare beneficiaries in private plans will help provide better care and eventually reduce Medicare spending, Democrats argue that the program will be weakened and seniors will end up with widely differing benefits depending on where they live.


Spring approaches, bringing with it: tax refund checks, mailings about the new health care you can get, the handover in Iraq, al Qaeda roundup in Pakistan, an end to the Democratic primaries, more good economic growth news, a $170 million ad campaign from Karl Rove... This is John Kerry's high water mark.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:22 PM

FURTHER BACK:

I married a retrosexual: Here's to men who don't want to smell like girls ... (MARGARET WENTE, Feb. 14, 2004, Globe and Mail)

Genuine guys are sometimes known as retrosexuals, to distinguish them from metrosexuals, who are men with the good taste of gay men, only they're straight. Metrosexuals are scrupulous about their grooming and are great consumers of men's cosmetic products. They use hair gel. Retrosexuals are scared of hair gel. Some people think that retrosexuals automatically have Neanderthal views about women, but this is not the case. A retrosexual is simply someone who doesn't know the difference between teal and aqua, and frankly couldn't give a damn.

Secretly, I've always thought that my husband could stand to be just a little bit more metro. Sometimes I buy him fancy shaving cream or scent with a designer name, and leave it suggestively on his side of the sink. He never gets the hint. He prefers a 10-second dry shave, with a plastic disposable razor and toilet paper to staunch the wounds. If he's really in the mood he shaves with soap. He doesn't like anything too smelly.

From time to time, my husband's retrosexuality bothers me. For example, he can't understand why it's time to paint the kitchen when we just painted it nine years ago. He doesn't get why we need expensive matchstick blinds on all the kitchen windows, because we leave them permanently rolled up. He's baffled that my haircuts cost 10 times more than his do, and he thinks massages are a waste of time, unless it was the one he got from two Thai masseuses on the beach at Phuket. There are many things on which we'll never see eye to eye.

But there are certain advantages to my husband's retrosexual orientation, and they are large. For example, being completely indifferent to appearance, a retrosexual will never complain that you're putting on weight. This is one of the foundation stones of a good marriage. Also, it's easy to impress him with your culinary prowess. My husband is so grateful to get out of kitchen duty that he brags about my cooking, even though it's usually quite lousy. In return, he allows me to weasel out of certain household tasks like garbage duty and replacing light bulbs. He knows it's his job to talk to plumbers and electricians, man to man. We are aware that we have lapsed into tired gender stereotypes. We don't care. We only wish there were a third gender to clean the kitty litter. We have resolved our primal conflicts over housework by employing a cleaning lady and drastically lowering our (okay, my) standards in between her visits. This is another foundation stone of a good marriage.


He shaves? What a poof.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:07 PM

SOMETHING WORTH CONSERVING:

Congress Is Urged to Pass an Amendment to the Constitution (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, February 24, 2004)

President Bush backed a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage Tuesday, saying he wants to stop activist judges from changing the definition of the "most enduring human institution."

Marriage cannot be severed from its cultural and moral roots, Bush said, urging Congress to approve such an amendment.

"After more than two centuries of American jurisprudence and millennia of human experience, a few judges and local authorities are presuming to change the most fundamental institution of civilization," the president said. "Their action has created confusion on an issue that requires clarity."

Presidential spokesman Scott McClellan said in advance of Bush's announcement that the president wanted to end "growing confusion" that has arisen from court decisions in Massachusetts, and San Francisco's permitting more than 3,000 same sex unions.

"The president believes it is important to have clarity," he said. "There is widespread support in this country for protecting and defending the sanctity of marriage."


Make Kerry vote.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:55 AM

CHILDREN OF THE REVOLUTION:

Some teens in inner city barter with sex (Susan Reimer, January 25, 2004, The Baltimore Sun)

THE VOICES OF POOR, black, inner-city teen-agers are largely unheard, especially in the public debate over adolescent sex. And their faces are unknown to us.

A new report by Motivational Educational Entertainment (MEE) Productions and a devastating companion video may change that. [...]

The over-arching finding of the research is that "the old-school thinking about relationships doesn't fit low-income urban youth," said Juzang in a press briefing on the report. "Sex is transactional. It is a tool to barter with."

Girls reported having sex with a guy - any guy - in return for a new pair of tennis shoes, an outfit or a trip to the beauty parlor. And the guys pay up without complaint.

The teens also reported that adult male-teen female relationships were so common that older men are cruising high school parking lots and young girls are willingly hopping in their cars.

The men know that sex with a young girl will be relatively cheaper than sex with a more demanding woman of their own age. And the girls know the men will pay with nicer purchases than their classmates can afford.

There was also a real openness about same-sex experiences, about serial sex and about group sex. [...]

And Baltimore was the first place where the researchers heard about "try-sexuals," teens who will "try" anything once and, if they like it, they will try it again. [...]

Most disheartening of all was this comment from one young man: "Most people feel they ain't gonna live that long so they might as well have their fun on Earth." For him, a baby might be his only legacy.

The teens themselves were asked for solutions and, here too, their insight was impressive.

High school sex education classes are too little and too late. Most of them had had sex by their early teens. Remarkably, they said that if the horrific pictures of what sexually transmitted diseases can do to the genitals had been presented before they had sex, it might have made them think.

The media, of which these kids are the most voracious consumers, should clean up its act, the kids said. Even they were critical of rap songs and music videos for their overpowering sexual messages.

And, finally, these teens feel like the grown-ups have failed them, too. Their parents most often say nothing about sexual decision-making or contraception. Or they try to frighten their kids on the topic.

And parents often set horrendous examples by having sex with multiple partners in the home or by letting their children have sex in the home. One young man expressed amazement at the pornography he found in the family videocassette player.

But perhaps the most shocking revelation of all was this: Knowing what they know now, most of these teens said they wish they had waited to have sex.


Shocking? Did she think they'd believe they'd ennobled themselves?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:14 AM

SLIPPERY SLOPE? MORE LIKE A BLACK HOLE:

Gay Marriage Chaos (William J. Federer, February 23, 2004, Townhall)

"What's wrong with adult-child sex?" the college student asked me, "We read in an American Pediatric Association report that it could be beneficial for children."

Thus began the Q & A session of my talk "Preserving the Traditional Marriage" at the Indiana University, home of the Kinsey Institute.

It became clear that "gay marriage" was not the end, but the beginning of an agenda to change our entire cultural.

The ACLU, for example, is not only defending NAMBLA (North American Man Boy Love Association), which advocates the removal of all laws against incest, prostitution and age of consent, the ACLU is also working to remove laws against polygamy.

If what was unimaginable a generation ago is reality today, where will America be a generation from now? Group marriages? Mixed marriages, Children as sex toys?


Can it really be less than a year since Justice Scalia's dissent in Lawrence was dismissed as hysterical slippery-slopism?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:50 AM

IN-SOURCING PURITANS:

The Americano Dream: Contrary to what the political scientist Samuel Huntington
says, Latin American immigrants are assimilating into
American culture. (DAVID BROOKS, 2/24/04, NY Times)

In their book, "Remaking the American Mainstream," Richard Alba of SUNY-Albany and Victor Nee of Cornell point out that though there are some border neighborhoods where immigrants are slow to learn English, Mexicans nationwide know they must learn it to get ahead. By the third generation, 60 percent of Mexican-American children speak only English at home.

Nor is it true that Mexican immigrants are scuttling along the bottom of the economic ladder. An analysis of 2000 census data by the USC urban planner Dowell Myers suggests that Latinos are quite adept at climbing out of poverty. Sixty-eight percent of those who have been in this country 30 years own their own homes.

Mexican immigrants are in fact dispersing around the nation. When they have children, they tend to lose touch with their Mexican villages and sink roots here. If you look at consumer data, you find that while they may spend more money on children's clothes and less on electronics than native-born Americans, there are no significant differences between Mexican-American lifestyles and other American lifestyles. They serve in the military — and die for this nation — at comparable rates.

Frankly, something's a little off in Huntington's use of the term "Anglo-Protestant" to describe American culture. There is no question that we have all been shaped by the legacies of Jonathan Edwards and Benjamin Franklin. But the mentality that binds us is not well described by the words "Anglo" or "Protestant."


In fact, we need Catholic Latino immigrants precisely because their social views are more conservative than those of most Americans.


MORE:
Critics Assail Scholar's Article Arguing That Hispanic Immigration Threatens U.S. (DAVID GLENN, February 24, 2004, Chronicle of Higher Education)

On Monday, critics of the article attacked both its factual premises and its analytic framework. In a letter to the editors of Foreign Policy, Andrés Jiménez, director of the University of California's California Research Policy Center, wrote that the article was "misinformed, factually inaccurate, inflammatory, and potentially injurious to public policy because of its potential for being used as a further baseless rationalization for anti-immigrant and anti-Mexican politics."

In an interview, Mr. Jiménez said that Mr. Huntington was wrong to suggest that Hispanic families place a lower value on educational achievement than do native-born Americans. He cited a January 2004 study by the Pew Hispanic Center, which found that Hispanic parents are more likely to attend PTA meetings and to help their children with homework than are white or African-American parents.

He also argued that Mr. Huntington was foolish to describe the history of Hispanic families' educational and labor-force status without acknowledging the history of formal and informal segregation in the Southwest. As recently as the 1950s, he noted, the State of Texas maintained separate schools for Hispanic students, which did not continue past the sixth grade.

Mr. de la Garza, of Columbia, said in an interview that Mr. Huntington's fear that Hispanic immigrants would maintain strong loyalties to their countries of origin was not grounded in empirical fact. Mr. de la Garza cited a 1998 study by the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute, a nonprofit research organization in Los Angeles, that, he said, demonstrated that Hispanic residents of the United States have a relatively low level of engagement with the politics of their home countries and are much more oriented toward events in the United States.

James P. Smith, a senior economist at the RAND Corporation, said in an interview that Mr. Huntington's analysis appeared not to distinguish fully between the experiences of first-generation immigrants and those of their children and grandchildren.

"It's not unique to him," Mr. Smith said. "He's using the convention of the field, and I think the convention of the field is methodologically flawed."

A more precise analysis would show that Hispanic immigrants have actually made rapid progress from generation to generation, Mr. Smith argued.

He added that he saw no reason yet to believe that the United States was becoming a binational society. "To say that some time in the future we might become like Canada, and that we should keep our eye on separating the country that way -- that's fine. But I don't think we're there yet," he said.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:30 AM

ZOOLANDER?:

‘Am I on Crazy Pills?’ Zoolander, a Muse For Bonehead Age (Ron Rosenbaum, Feb. 24, 2004, Jewish World Review)

I could be wrong, but I think the number of Zoolander aficionados out there is approaching the critical mass required to tip it over from stupid guilty pleasure to Spinal Tap-like cult status. It plays enough on cable, and it's one of those comedies that grows on you. Not as good as Spinal Tap (really, what is?), but up there with Waiting for Guffman...with what has become my all-time super-fave Zoolander catch phrase. It's the one delivered by Evil Fashion Guru Mugatu, Will Ferrell's great role.

It's the moment when Mugatu denounces Derek Zoolander, the moronic male model (played with steel-jawed stupidity by Ben Stiller) who's become famous for his signature "Looks": "Blue Steel," "Le Tigre" and "Ferrari." The embittered Mugatu cries out with helpless rage, "They're the same face! Doesn't anyone notice this? I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!"

I feel like I'm taking crazy pills …. I don't know whether it was a subsurface catch phrase before Will Ferrell uttered it (the movie was released in September 2001) and he just propelled it into mainstream popular consciousness, or whether he (or the screenwriters) invented it, but it seems like it's a phrase that's found its moment: 3,400 Google entries so far, with variations like "Are you on crazy pills?" and "What am I, on crazy pills?"

I guess it's not hard to figure out why this moment in history precipitated "crazy pills" into pop argot. Certainly it had something to do with the way Will Ferrell did it so perfectly, while faintly mocking it at the same time. But these last two years have been a kind of Bad Dream — History on crazy pills, you might say. So the timing was right.

And such "verbal icons" — as they used to call them in the Yale English Department (where the catch phrase "verbal icon" was invented) — as "crazy pills" don't get propelled into popular linguistic consciousness unless they strike a chord, expressing or echoing something deeply felt in the collective unconscious in some new way.

I feel like I'm taking crazy pills …. It's that feeling you get when everyone around you seems to have willingly bought into something that seems like a mass delusion to you.


These are not the first fond words we've heard for what looks like unwatchable dreck--can anyone make a compelling case for watching this movie?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:18 AM

THE ENEMY PROBLEM:

-INTERVIEW: Our new epoch in history: 10 minutes with philosopher/political thinker/novelist Lee Harris (Bill Steigerwald, 2/24/04, Jewish World Review)

Q: Why do you say 9/11 is such an important historic event, like World War I or the French Revolution?

A: The importance is the fact that it was something that came completely out of the blue, and for which no existing categories of analysis were adequate. It was something that most intellectuals in America rushed immediately to classify. Most of them said, "Listen, I know exactly what took place. It is the beginning of a war," or, like (Noam) Chomsky, "It's the beginning of the counter-revolution of the oppressed."

So you had all these people coming in with their own particular theories explaining it, as if it fit into things we knew and could compare with before. But the more I thought about that, it didn't make any sense. From the word go, there was something mysterious about 9/11.

One of the factors being that there was no preparation for it, there was no diplomatic exchange. There were no demands. It simply just erupted one day.

The second thing is that by that time it became obvious there was no systematic strategic follow up, it began to occur to me that what we were dealing with here was not, in fact, the beginning of some kind of well-orchestrated military operation. But, in fact, it was a violent eruption of what I called "a fantasy ideology."

That is, a group of people got together and decided they wanted to change the course of history. They wanted to do something dramatic. They wanted to do something that symbolized the purity of Islam against the corrupt satanic America. They chose this act as a symbolic representation of their superior ethos. They showed that they could put themselves above material things, above fear of death, and they could make this enormous sacrifice to show us how hollow we were. It was really an act more for their sake than our sake.

Q: Who is the enemy — and where do we find him?

A: Well, to me, the use of the word "enemy" is a problem that I had actually thought about before 9/11. For a long time, I've been very interested in the problem of liberalism — that is, how a liberal society can come into existence and how it can keep in existence. We in America tend to take it for granted that when people get together, the first thing they're going to do is construct a nice little society. Well, that simply isn't the case.


About half the country apparently grasps the fact that we face an enemy in our confrontation with Islamicism. But practically no one, with the notable exception of Mr. Harris, has begun to grapple with the idea that when a civilization ceases to instill a sense of proper behavior in its members--allowing a drift towards relativism--it may find that its most fearsome enemies are those within.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:43 AM

OPPORTUNITY (via John Resnick):

Remarks by the President to the National Governors Association (2/23/04)

A lot of my foreign policy is driven by the fact that I truly believe that freedom is a gift from the Almighty to every person, and that America has a responsibility to take a lead in the world, to help people be free. And we're making progress in Afghanistan. We really are. Just look at the fact that young girls are now going to school for the first time in a long period of time.

Secretary Rumsfeld's wife, and Karen Hughes, and Margaret Spellings, who is my Domestic Policy Advisor -- they're on a plane right now heading to Afghanistan to continue the progress toward a more free society.

And in Iraq, obviously, I made a tough choice. But my attitude is, is that the lessons of September the 11th mean that we must be clear-eyed and realistic and deal with threats before they fully materialize. I looked at the intelligence and came to the conclusion that Saddam was a threat. The Congress looked at the same intelligence, and it came to the conclusion that Saddam Hussein was a threat. The United Nations Security Council looked at the intelligence, and it concluded that Saddam Hussein was a threat. My predecessor and his administration looked at the same intelligence and concluded that Saddam Hussein was a threat, and that's why Congress passed a -- resolved to remove Saddam from power, that regime change was a -- was policy for the government.

And there's a reason why not only does the intelligence say that he was a threat, his actions said he was a threat. He had used weapons of mass destruction on his own people. He hid weapons of mass destruction from inspectors. In other words, he wouldn't be open.

The United Nations Security Council, at my request, took a look at the issue one last time, and unanimously voted to have Saddam reveal, disclose, and destroy weapons of mass destruction and/or weapons of mass destruction programs and, if not, face serious consequences.

September the 11th affected my way of thinking when it came to the security of the country. We saw a danger, and so I gave him an ultimatum -- the world really gave him an ultimatum. And he refused. And rather than take the word of a madman whose actions had proven unworthy of leadership, we acted, and we removed him. And the world is better off for it, in my judgment. [...]

My view of government is to create an environment that is good for the entrepreneur; that encourages capital formation, particularly among small businesses. The tax relief we passed not only has put more money into the pockets of individuals, which I believe is good when you're trying to come out of a recession, but it also helps small businesses. Remember, most small businesses in your states are sole proprietorships or subchapter S corporations. That's a fact. And when you cut income taxes, all taxes -- not a few, but all -- you're providing additional capital for subchapter S and sole proprietorships.

And if you're worried about job growth, it seems like it makes sense to give a little fuel to those who create jobs, the small business sector. So I'll vigorously defend the permanency of the tax cuts, not only for the sake of the economy, but for the sake of the entrepreneurial spirit, which is important in your states. It's important that people have got incentive to create jobs. Not only is it good for those people looking for work, it's good for the soul of the country for people to own something. We want us to be an ownership society in America.

There's more to do. We need an energy bill. We'll try to get one out of the Congress here. We need tort reform, it seems like to me. We need tort reform for class action; we need tort reform for asbestos; we need medical -- national medical liability reform in order to help control the rising cost of health care. Associated health care plans -- I hope you support these. These are opportunities for small businesses to pool risk in order to better control the cost of health. That's where the focus ought to be, how best to address the rising cost of health care. And this administration will continue to do so for the sake of jobs -- less regulations, obviously.

We won't back off our desire to open up markets for U.S. products -- farm products, ranch products, manufacturing products. It's pretty easy to trade into America. What's hard is for Americans to trade into other countries. And so it's important for the administration to continue to focus on trade and the benefits of trade here at home. And I mentioned the permanency of the tax cuts. It's very important for people who are planning for the future to have -- wonder about tax relief, whether it will be there. It's essential that there be certainty in the tax code.

We also recognize that these are changing times, the economy is changing, people go to work in different ways. And therefore, the policy ought to reflect that. The policy ought to reflect it through health care, where people have got more control over their health care decisions. Health savings accounts are one such way to do that.

The education system is vital. However, as the economy changes, people have got to be prepared to work in the changing economy. I'm going to vigorously defend No Child Left Behind because I know in my heart of hearts it's the absolute right role for the federal government -- to provide money, but insist upon results -- to say for the first time, would you please show us whether or not the children are learning to read and write and add and subtract. And if not, there will be special help to make sure they do. And if so, there will be ample praise. You design the accountability.

I know Rod talked to you about flexibility and how we get to the numbers, which is good. Accountability isn't meant to punish anybody. Accountability systems are meant to help determine whether curriculum are working, whether or not the strategy is working, and whether or not people are being just shuffled through from grade to grade without concern as to whether or not they can read or write. That's what this is all about. And I look forward to working with you to make sure the system works well. And I just can assure you this is -- there will be a vigorous defense of what I think is the one of the most constructive reforms in education policy at the federal government ever.

We have put out some policies to encourage reading in math, a program for high school students who are falling behind; additional money for advanced placement for low-income schools; increasing -- larger Pell grants for students who prepare for college by taking more rigorous courses. And, of course, I've always felt that the community college system provides a great opportunity for job training. Elaine will talk about that to you. Community colleges are available, affordable; they're flexible. We don't need to be training 500 hairdressers for 50 jobs which exist. The system ought to be designed toward meeting the demand of your employers. And a good community college system will make it much easier for governors and mayors to attract jobs to your communities. And I know a lot of you have used your community college system wisely.

Governor Napolitano -- I was in Arizona, went to the Mesa Community College System. It's a fine community college system. One of the interesting stories there, a lady who worked for 15 years as a graphic design artist, and she went to the community college system to help get the skills necessary to become a viable employee in the high-tech world. And her starting pay -- I believe it's called Cable One -- was higher than her 15th year as a graphic artist, because she took time, with government help -- I think a Pell grant in her case -- to become reeducated. So we've got money in our budget to help invigorate the community college system.

Another issue that I think we need to work on -- I know we need to work on is welfare. They need to reauthorize welfare. I hope the Congress will reauthorize welfare. Welfare reform had worked. You need to have certainty as you plan your -- on how to help people become less dependent on government, and we need a welfare reform bill. And we'll push it, here in Washington.

And finally, the faith-based initiative -- I want to talk a little bit about that. My attitude is, if a program works, let's use it. If a program can help save somebody's life, it seems like to me that program ought to be allowed to access monies aimed at helping people help themselves. And yet, that's not the way it was here in Washington. Faith-based programs were discriminated against. There was a process argument. And governors are results-oriented people, and so am I. And it seems like to me, you ought have the flexibility, and people at your grass-roots level ought to have the flexibility to access taxpayers' money if they're able to meet common objectives.

Now -- and so -- well, I couldn't get the bill out of the Congress, so I just signed an executive order, which opened up federal grant money to faith-based groups, on a competitive basis.

We're also making sure that our bureaucracies don't say to faith-based groups, you can't be a faith-based group. If faith is part of being an effective program, it doesn't make sense to say to somebody, you can't practice your faith. And so we recognize here in Washington faith-based programs are a two-way street -- one, there's a federal interface, and two, that sometimes can be frightening to people of faith. And by the way, I'm talking about all faiths. This isn't just a single faith; it's Christian, Jewish, Muslim faiths, all -- which exist because they've heard the universal admonition to love a neighbor like you'd like to be loved yourself.

And so I want to applaud those of you who have set up faith-based offices, and encourage you, if you haven't, to do so. There is a lot of federal money available to effective providers of social services. One such program is going to be the $100-million drug treatment programs, where now vouchers can be issued to people where they can choose where they go, whether it be kind of a clinical program or a program designed to help change somebody's heart. By the way, if your heart gets changed, it's a lot easier to quit drinking. I know.

And so it's -- this is an opportunity that I think is a viable opportunity for governors and states to really help people. And that's why we're in office, isn't it, is to do the best.

So regardless of your party, I hope you have this sense of optimism I do. You see the people in your states. We are lucky to be leaders in such a fabulous country, we really are -- good, honest, decent, honorable people. We've overcome a lot. There's more to do. There's a lot we can do together.

So thanks for coming by the White House. That's my pledge. This is going to be a year in which a lot of people are probably going to think nothing can done, right, because we're all out campaigning. Well, that's not my attitude. I fully understand it's going to be the year of the sharp elbow and the quick tongue. But my pledge to you is, we'll continue to work with you. You've got what you -- you've got to do what you've got to do in your home states, in terms of politics. But surely we can shuffle that aside sometimes, and focus on our people; do what you were elected to do and what I was elected to do to make this country hopeful.


As John noted, he's much more effective in these casual settings with familiar audiences. In particular, look at how easily he tossed off the mention of his past drinking and subsequent religious awakening.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:28 AM

RUMMY ON A ROLL:

Pentagon Says It Plans to Kill Copter Program (LESLIE WAYNE, 2/24/04, NY Times)

The decision ends a program that began in 1983 and at a cost of $8 billion had yet to produce a single operational craft. Moreover, the Comanche, an armed reconnaissance helicopter, was designed for operations against Soviet and Warsaw Pact armies and has been overtaken by the Army's need for lighter and more flexible aircraft to fight terrorists and guerrillas.

"It's a big decision," said Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff. "We know it's a big decision. But it's the right decision."

The cancellation must be approved by Congress when it reviews the Pentagon's budget for the 2005 fiscal year, which contains allocations for the Comanche. But many Congressional aides say that the helicopter program lacks widespread support in Congress that many other weapons have and that the Pentagon may not have a difficult time scrapping it.

In a Pentagon briefing, General Schoomaker, along with acting Army Secretary Les Brownlee, said that ending the program would free up money for other Army aviation programs, mainly a modernization of the Apache attack helicopter now in combat use, along with more purchases of Blackhawk helicopters and continued development of drones.

Behind this decision is also a realization by the Army that the Comanche program did not fit in with the desire of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and the administration to transform the military by eliminating outdated weapons programs and substituting newer technologies.


Remember the spate of stories around a month ago about how Secretary Rumsfeld had lost his mojo? His radical transformation of the military continues, during the largest troop rotation in human history, with American troops deployed pretty nearly everywhere. Pretty good for an old guy.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:22 AM

THE FISH BARREL:

Campaign Begins as Bush Attacks Kerry in Speech: The president shed his above-the-fray posture to defend his record and begin an assault on the Democratic front-runner (RICHARD W. STEVENSON, 2/24/04, NY Times)

"It's a choice between keeping the tax relief that is moving the economy forward, or putting the burden of higher taxes back on the American people," Mr. Bush said. "It's a choice between an America that leads the world with strength and confidence, or an America that is uncertain in the face of danger."

Without using Mr. Kerry's name, the president mocked him as a politician whose positions changed with the wind. The Democratic field, Mr. Bush said, is "for tax cuts and against them. For Nafta and against Nafta. For the Patriot Act and against the Patriot Act. In favor of liberating Iraq and opposed to it. And that's just one senator from Massachusetts."

The speech, delivered at a fund-raiser to benefit the Republican Governors Association, was billed by Mr. Bush's campaign as the start of a more aggressive phase of the race after months in which the president, to the growing consternation of some in his party, had remained largely on the sidelines.

Much of the speech was forward-looking. It sought to position Mr. Bush as optimistic and steady in the face of serious challenges to the country and relentless attacks by Democrats who, he said, have failed to say how they would deal with the challenges the United States faces at home and abroad.

"Our opponents have not offered much in the way of strategies to win the war, or policies to expand our economy," he said, sounding a theme similar to one his aides tried out when it appeared that Howard Dean would be the Democratic nominee. "So far, all we hear is a lot of old bitterness and partisan anger. Anger is not an agenda for the future of America." [...]

Alluding to Democrats who have criticized the war but agreed that the world is better of with Saddam Hussein out of power, Mr. Bush said, "Maybe they were hoping he'd lose the next Iraqi election."

In an indirect slap at Mr. Kerry, who in a 1970 interview suggested that the United States military should be deployed only under the auspices of the United Nations, Mr. Bush said he would never "outsource" national security to other governments.


Given how easy his record is to run against, it might be wise to wait until Senator Kerry disposes of Senator Edwards.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:16 AM

YOU THOUGHT COPMPASSIONATE CONSERVATISM WAS AN OXYMORON?:

French Lies About Iraq (Nidra Poller, February 19, 2004, FrontPageMagazine.com)

AH:  My book is based on articles published in 5 major French newspapers--Le Monde, La Croix, Le Figaro, Libération, Ouest-France—during the three week period from the beginning of the war on March 20th to the fall of Baghdad on April 9th.  I studied the way these papers covered the war and I concluded that they misinformed their readers.  As a result, readers couldn’t understand how the Iraqi regime fell in three weeks.  I think this misinformation can be explained by an extraordinary atmosphere of nationalism in France at that time, following on the diplomatic crisis in which France and Germany stood against the US and Great Britain.  French people were unanimous on three points: they demonized the Bush and Blair administrations, approved the diplomatic line of Jacques Chirac and Dominique de Villepin, and communed with the pacifist movement.  And journalists reported the war they would like to see rather than the war that was. 

Two or three days after the operation began a few Americans were captured, wounded, or killed in action, and five days into the campaign the press was already talking about a quagmire, then about Vietnam.  They said the Pentagon’s plan was wrong, there weren’t enough soldiers, the military equipment was too sophisticated for this kind of campaign and the Americans were stuck 80 km from Baghdad.  Some said it would take weeks, months, some said they wouldn’t start moving toward Baghdad before the summer.  Of course what happened is that the Americans were at the gates of Baghdad by the 2nd or 3rd of April.  The French press didn’t explain why this happened; they began to announce that the battle of Baghdad would be a new Stalingrad.  And of course that didn’t happen either.  After a few little raids in the city Saddam Hussein’s regime fell.  Journalists didn’t explain why they had made those prophecies and announcements, and why it happened another way.  They said the worst is ahead.

I think the reason why the press didn’t report the war the way it was is due to this extraordinary atmosphere--there was no plot, no conspiracy, no collective or individual will to misinform readers.  Journalists didn’t keep a decent professional distance from what was happening.  They were more excited by bad news about the offensive than good news.  I think they themselves were totally surprised by the outcome, as were the readers.  I see three reasons for this.  One is the extraordinary anti-Americanism at that time.  I think this has a lot to do with the personality of G. W. Bush and his administration.  G. W. Bush is the kind of American the French love to hate.  Then there is some kind of nostalgia for a time when France was an important player on the international scene.  Jacques Chirac and Dominique De Villepin were able to inflame the French nostalgia for that time.  And also there is Arabophilia…in a very bad sense of the term.  Arabophilia is not a problem in itself but here it is in a bad sense. 

It’s nothing new, it’s not just in connection with Iraq; t has to do with the history of France in Algeria.  There is more compassion…we see this in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, sometimes there is more compassion for the Palestinian victims than for the Israelis.  There was a lot of compassion for the Iraqi people.  This was the second war, there had been a very long embargo.  I think the French, like any Western power, feel a little bit guilty that this embargo lasted so long, and that they didn’t go all the way to Baghdad 12 years ago, in the first war, and solve the problem.  All of these factors led to compassion for the Iraqi side.


Ah, French compassion, which requires people to live under a dictatorship?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:58 AM

BLACK LIKE ALEC:

FEARLESS LEADER (Page Six, February 23, 2004, NY Post)

ALEC Baldwin isn't suffering from any lack of self-esteem. In A&E's "Biography: Alec Baldwin," premiering tonight, the bombastic actor compares himself to Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver, who wrote "Soul on Ice." Baldwin recalls that when he was younger, "My dad said to me, 'If you were black . . . with your personality,' he said, 'Do you think you would be Martin Luther King, or would you be Eldridge Cleaver? Would you be patient and wise, and kind, and peaceful?' He said, 'Or do you think you'd really, really get out there and . . . exert yourself a little more in order to leverage change in our society?' And I knew the answer . . .

Godfrey Cambridge.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:46 AM

THE PIPE PUFFER:

What Bach could have taught Spinoza about Judaism: A world renowned Jewish philosopher on the creativity resulting from adherence to tradition (Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo, 2/24/04, Jewish World Review)

It is our thesis that in a meeting between these two great minds Bach would have staunchly defended the world of Halacha (traditional Jewish Law) against Spinoza and that Spinoza would have informed Bach that he did not appreciate his music as much as he did Beethoven's. [...]

Spinoza is well known for his rejection of Jewish Law. To him Judaism, and even more so Halacha, is a kind of religious behaviorism, in which outward action is idolized and inner devotion of secondary importance. Judaism, according to Spinoza, is a well-organized discipline, in which tradition and careful observance have the upper hand. To obey and to follow all the minutiae of the Law is the ultimate goal of the religious Jew. There is "no place for lofty speculations nor philosophical reasoning." "I would be surprised if I found (the prophets) teaching any new speculative doctrine, which was not a commonplace to gentile philosophers."

Spinoza believed that for Judaism "the rule of right living, the worship and the love for G-d was to them rather a bondage than the true liberty, the gift and grace of Deity." (Tractatus Theologico Politicus III, XIII) Spinoza's main objection against Jewish Law is its confinement of the human spirit and its intellectual constraint. It does not allow for any novelty or intellectual creativity. All that the rabbis did, as they developed biblical law, was to spin a web so intertwined that it killed its very spirit and turned the religious Jew into a robot. As such, the Jew became a slave of the law and the law became a yoke. ( Because of this, Emanuel Kant maintained that Judaism is "eigentlich gar keine Religion" [actually not a religion]. The same applies to Hegel.)

Indeed this seems to be a bitter critique on the foundations of Judaism, not easily defeated.

Those who carefully study the music of Johann Sebastian Bach will be surprised to discover that the great musician dealt with music as the rabbis dealt with the law. Bach was totally traditional in his approach to music. He adhered strictly to the rules of composing music as understood in his days. Nowhere in all his compositions do we find deviation from these rules. But what is most surprising is that Bach's musical output is not only unprecedented but, above all, astonishingly creative.


Not only the world's greatest composer, but a better philosopher than most.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:44 AM

THE PASSION:

Kerry's Inner Dove (Joshua Muravchik, February 23, 2004, washingtonpost.com)

When he won election to the Senate in 1984, Kerry said that the "issue of war and peace" remained his "passion." As a first major foreign policy cause, he championed the "nuclear freeze." Later Kerry battled Sen. Sam Nunn, a hawkish Democrat who chaired the Armed Services Committee, over the funding of research into missile defense, which Kerry wanted to slash.

The litany of weapons systems that Kerry opposed included conventional as well as nuclear equipment: the B-1 bomber, the B-2, the F-15, the F-14A, the F-14D, the AH-64 Apache helicopter, the AV-8B Harrier jet, the Patriot missile, the Aegis air-defense cruiser and the Trident missile. And he sought to reduce procurement of the M1 Abrams tank, the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, the Tomahawk cruise missile and the F-16 jet. Time and again, Kerry fought against what he called "the military-industrial corporate welfare complex that has relentlessly chewed up taxpayers' dollars."

Kerry was one of the Senate's strongest critics of President Ronald Reagan's policies of military resistance to Communist inroads in this hemisphere. When U.S. troops intervened in Grenada, Kerry denounced the action as "a bully's show of force." Kerry lent his name to Medical Aid for El Salvador, a political group that brought humanitarian aid to regions of that country held by Communist guerrillas. And he made himself one of the Senate's most vigorous opponents of aiding the anti-Communist contras as a means of pressuring Nicaragua's Sandinista regime. "I see an enormous haughtiness in the United States trying to tell them what to do," said Kerry. He and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) traveled to Managua to try to work their own peace deal with strongman Daniel Ortega and thus undercut U.S. policy. Kerry justified this by saying Reagan had failed "to create a climate of trust" with the Sandinistas.


Do even Democrats want a president who has consistently trusted our enemies more than us?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 AM

FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF TOTAL SELF-UNAWARENESS:

NAILED:
Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.”
(David Denby, 2004-02-23, The New Yorker)

In “The Passion of the Christ,” Mel Gibson shows little interest in celebrating the electric charge of hope and redemption that Jesus Christ brought into the world. He largely ignores Jesus’ heart-stopping eloquence, his startling ethical radicalism and personal radiance—Christ as a “paragon of vitality and poetic assertion,” as John Updike described Jesus’ character in his essay “The Gospel According to Saint Matthew.” Cecil B. De Mille had his version of Jesus’ life, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Martin Scorsese had theirs, and Gibson, of course, is free to skip over the incomparable glories of Jesus’ temperament and to devote himself, as he does, to Jesus’ pain and martyrdom in the last twelve hours of his life. As a viewer, I am equally free to say that the movie Gibson has made from his personal obsessions is a sickening death trip, a grimly unilluminating procession of treachery, beatings, blood, and agony—and to say so without indulging in “anti-Christian sentiment” (Gibson’s term for what his critics are spreading). For two hours, with only an occasional pause or gentle flashback, we watch, stupefied, as a handsome, strapping, at times half-naked young man (James Caviezel) is slowly tortured to death. Gibson is so thoroughly fixated on the scourging and crushing of Christ, and so meagrely involved in the spiritual meanings of the final hours, that he falls in danger of altering Jesus’ message of love into one of hate.

And against whom will the audience direct its hate? As Gibson was completing the film, some historians, theologians, and clergymen accused him of emphasizing the discredited charge that it was the ancient Jews who were primarily responsible for killing Jesus, a claim that has served as the traditional justification for the persecution of the Jews in Europe for nearly two millennia. The critics turn out to have been right. Gibson is guilty of some serious mischief in his handling of these issues. But he may have also committed an aggression against Christian believers. The movie has been hailed as a religious experience by various Catholic and Protestant groups, some of whom, with an ungodly eye to the commercial realities of film distribution, have prepurchased blocks of tickets or rented theatres to insure “The Passion” a healthy opening weekend’s business. But how, I wonder, will people become better Christians if they are filled with the guilt, anguish, or loathing that this movie may create in their souls?


EXCERPT: First Chapter of American Sucker by David Dency
By the beginning of 2000, my life had changed in a number of extraordinarily important ways, but most of it was still in place.

As I saw it, my job, as always, was to build a family, build a career, observe, observe, learn a few things, write them down, and get them into good enough shape to publish in a magazine or a book. I was a married, middle-class professional, a critic and journalist-an Upper West Sider, and therefore one of God's sober creatures, a householder and provider living among Manhattan's brown and gray buildings. The Upper West Side was the land of responsibility, a family neighborhood, hardworking, increasingly prosperous-and pleasureless, some would say. There were parks, there were dogs, there were many places to buy broccoli and diapers, to get suits pressed and prescriptions filled.

But there were few elegant people (even the wealthy dressed like assistant professors), few art galleries or clubs, no wicked entertainments to speak of. You could walk for blocks without finding so much as a neighborhood bar.

My wife and I had added two boys to the swarm of children laughing and shoving on Broadway and shooting basketballs at the netless rims in Riverside Park. They were skinny boys, both of them. We fed them virtuously with fresh vegetables and fruit purchased at the long produce counters of the great Fairway Market, at Broadway and 74th. At breakfast, I plowed through the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, and at night I watched the news (the stentorian Tom Brokaw, holding aloft the national virtue) and political chat shows (Chris Matthews interrupting God as He explained His policies on the third day of creation). I made my living writing for The New Yorker (and earlier for New York magazine). I went to Woody Allen movies and sometimes (as a type) appeared in them. I had been reviewing movies in one place or another since 1969. At the beginning of the nineties, when it became obvious to anyone with eyes to see that American movies, under conglomerate control, were not going anyplace wonderful, I wrote Great Books, in which a middle-aged man-me-slapped himself out of unhappiness by returning to his undergraduate college (Columbia) and rereading some of the Western literary and political-theory classics. Defending the books against the ideological manhandling they were being subjected to from left and right, I had made a few enemies to be proud of with that book, and a few friends, too, also to be proud of.

Thus the armature of routine, the thick-barked trunk of family love and work for a man of fifty-six. But in the months before I heard myself chattering, my daily habits had changed: I had become obsessed with piling up money, obsessed with the stock market, and I spent hours most weekdays watching CNBC. The men and women of financial reporting, my new friends, went on the air every trading day at five in the morning.

They remained on the air all day, mopping up after the market closed at 4:00 P.M. with various recaps, surveys, predictions, and so on, continuing until eight, at which point the hard-blowing Matthews and the somber Brian Williams took over with the less important criminal, political, and constitutional entertainments of the day. Like several hundred thousand other Americans, I had become addicted to the reporters on CNBC, our joshing chroniclers of the national hopes. They were with us.

On New Year's Day of 2000, the market was closed, and I relinquished CNBC and went to a party. A terrific group had gathered together, teachers, lawyers, journalists, editors, novelists, smart people, and nice, too -good people -and I ate smoked salmon and drank mimosas and spoke too rapidly to a great many of them. I wanted to talk about the market, and they wanted to talk about politics, journalism, and children, and after a while, I thought, Pleasure! What a waste of time! Every other weekday morning, I would take my post in the kitchen, looking at the little TV perched on the granite counter. A half hour, I told myself. Forty-five minutes, that's all! The kitchen was not a comfortable place to watch TV. But then, ignoring the cat, Daphne, who rubbed against my shins and nipped at my ankles, I would sit there for two or three hours, fascinated by the stock tickers running at the bottom of the image, by the declining thirty-year- bond yield and the shocking new Producers Price Index Number. Everything that happens in the market is related to every other thing; it is a gigantic puzzle whose parts move as unceasingly as the tentacles of an underwater creature. It was all new to me-the Consumer Confidence Index! Wow!-and I was amazed. Even though I knew that some of what they said was hooey, I sat patiently through interviews with strategists from the big brokerage houses, with CEOs and money managers, with gurus and savants of various sorts who spread their blankets and displayed their urns and gourds and gave their opinions of shifting currents in the bazaar. It was a rattle of semi-worthless but spellbinding words. I loved it.

Speaking over the din of a brokerage trading floor, many of the CNBC reporters and their guests raced like corsairs. They had very little airtime in which to say complicated things. But more than that, they were driven by the tempo of the market itself, the pulsing, darting flow of money around the globe, all of it intensified, as the CNBC anchors broke for commercials, by that rhythmic clickety-clack of electronic noise needled by a snare drum ... dig-a-dig-a-dig-a-dig-a-DIG-a-dig-a ... Were all the beats the same? Or were there, as I imagined, little emphases which turned the pulse into the music of money? Speed was inside my head, and I couldn't get it out.

At that moment, in early 2000, you were sure that if you could just grab hold of the flying coattails of the New Economy investments, you could get rich very quickly. The newspapers and CNBC were filled with stories of twenty-four-year-old millionaires, start-up companies going through the roof, initial public offerings outlandishly doubling and tripling their price on their first day of trading. And the market! In the previous year, 1999, the Nasdaq composite index went up 85.6 percent; it went up by more than 39 percent the year before. And, as the market soared, you could feel it. You would have to be insensible not to feel it. All around, in the suddenly resplendent corporate pomp of once-dreary San Jose in Silicon Valley; in the crisp linen and sparkle of a downtown Manhattan restaurant at lunchtime; in the fatted pages of new and brazenly successful Internet magazines like the Industry Standard-in all these places and many more, you could sense the thrilling, oxygen-rich happiness of wealth being created overnight.

My urgency was driven by hunger. Making money seemed a function of quickness, and in the market, more than anywhere else, you experienced time as the instant dead past. The market underlines the mystery and terror of time: It never stops. As I sat there in the kitchen watching CNBC, there was only the next instant, and the next, rushing toward you, and I kept trying to catch up. In Times Square, across the street from The New Yorker's office, the news headlines and stock results from Dow Jones -"the zipper"-flashed around the corners of the old Times tower. My eyes would travel with a group of words until they hit the corner and disappeared. That was time, always moving on:

No one could pull the words back. Either read them or lose the information forever. The zipper made me slightly ill, and there were much more powerful zippers around. Using the Internet as a speed lane, an ideally informed person would never sleep at all but would trade the markets and chase news and rumors through the links twenty-four hours a day. What bliss! What a nightmare! The market, it turns out, is the quintessence of instability in the Information Age, the perfect paradigm of life as ceaseless change. That is why it is so mesmerizing, so defeating, and, again, so mesmerizing.

I needed to make money, serious money, that year. Not for the usual reasons that prosperous people want to have more cash. I did not want to buy a villa in Tuscany or a BMW 540i or the Lynx $7,692 gas grill with dual smoker drawers. What in the world could you do with such a resplendent cooking apparatus? Barbecue gold-leafed weenies on it? In all, I was quite sure that I was not the patsy-victim of the standard smug liberal critique -the American who does not know that money can't buy happiness.

No, I didn't want to buy anything in particular. I wanted the money so I could hold on to something very important to me. For I had already lost something of incomparable value - not a possession, but the center of my life-and I was in danger of losing a great deal else.

At the beginning of 1999, a year earlier, my wife, Cathleen Schine, announced that she no longer wanted to be married to me. She had to leave, she had to get away for a new life, for she had mysteriously changed in her affections. Not just in her affections.

She had changed in her being, and she was no longer whole, she was broken, and I was not the one to fix what was wrong.


-EXCERPT: from Death on a Friday Afternoon by Richard John Neuhaus
This, then, is our circumstance. Something has gone dreadfully wrong with the world, and with us in the world. Things are out of whack. It is not all our fault, but it is our fault too. We cannot blame our distant parents for that fateful afternoon in the garden, for we were there. We, too, reached for the forbidden fruit-the forbidden fruit by which we not only know good and evil, but, much more fatefully, presume to name good and evil. [...]

The First Word from the cross: "Father, forgive them." Forgiveness costs. Whatever the theory of atonement, this is at the heart of it, that forgiveness costs. Any understanding of what makes at-one-ment possible includes a few simple truths. First, like the child, we know that something very bad has happened. Something has gone very wrong with us and with the world of which we are part. The world is not and we are not what we know was meant to be. That is the most indubitable of truths; it is beyond dispute, it weighs with self-evident force upon every mind and heart that have not lost the sensibility that makes us human. The something very bad that has happened takes the form of the long, dreary list of history's horribles, from concentration camps to the tortured deaths of innocent children. And it takes the everyday forms of the habits of compromise, of loves betrayed, of lies excused, of dreams deferred until they die. The indubitable truth is illustrated in ways beyond number, from Auschwitz to the shattered cookie jar on the kitchen floor. Something very bad has happened.

Second-and here I simplify outrageously, but our purpose is to cut through to the heart of the matter-we are complicit in what has gone so terribly wrong. We have problems with that. World-class criminals, murderers and drug traffickers, if they know what they have done, may have no trouble with that, but for many of us it may be a bit hard to swallow. I mean, we haven't done anything that bad, have we? Surely nothing so bad as to make us responsible for the death of God on the cross ? True, the writer of 1 Timothy called himself "the chief of sinners," and St. Paul did do some nasty things to the Christians in his earlier life as Saul of Tarsus. But then it would seem that he made up for it with an exemplary, indeed saintly, life. Chief of sinners? There would seem to be an element of pious hyperbole there, perhaps even an unseemly boastfulness, a reverse pride, so to speak.

It is difficult to face up to our complicity because the confession of sins does not come easy. It is also difficult because we do not want to compound our complicity by claiming sins that are not ours. We rightly recoil from those who seem to wallow in guilt. The story is told of the rabbi and cantor who, on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, lament their sins at great length, each concluding that he is a nobody. Then the sexton, inspired by their example, laments his sins and declares that he, too, is a nobody. "Nuh," says the rabbi to the cantor. "Who is he to be a nobody?"

Contemporary sensibilities are offended by what is dismissively termed "guilt tripping." Some while ago I was on the same lecture platform with a famous television evangelist from California who is noted for accenting the positive and upbeat in the Christian message. According to this evangelist, it is as with Coca-Cola: Everything goes better with Jesus. He had built a huge new church called, let us say, New Life Cathedral, and he explained that during the course of the building there was a debate about whether the cathedral should feature a cross. It was thought that the cross might prompt negative thoughts, maybe even thoughts about suffering and death. "Finally, I said that of course there will be a cross," the famous evangelist said. "After all, the cross is the symbol of Christianity and we are a Christian church. But I can guarantee you," he declared with a triumphant smile, "there is nothing downbeat about the cross at New Life Cathedral!"

St. Paul said the cross is "foolishness to the Greeks" and a "stumbling block to the Jews" and seemed to think it would always be that way. Little did he know what gospel salesmanship would one day achieve. In the eighteenth century, Isaac Watts wrote the hymn words: "Alas! and did my Savior bleed, / And did my Sovereign die? / Would He devote that sacred head / For such a worm as I?" A worm? Really now ? A contemporary hymnal puts it this way: "Would he devote that sacred head / For sinners such as I?" Surely "sinners" is bad enough. Similarly with the much beloved "Amazing Grace." "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound / That saved a wretch like me." "Wretch" will never do. That is cleaned up in a contemporary version: "That loved a soul like me."

Examples can be multiplied many times over. Groveling is out, self-esteem is in. And if self-esteem seems not quite the right note for Good Friday, at least our complicity can be understood as limited liability. Very limited. Perhaps the changes in Christian thought are not all bad. There have been in Christian devotion excesses of self-accusation, of "scrupulosity," as it used to be called. Wallowing in guilt and penitential grandstanding are justly criticized. And yet ? We cannot just take the scissors to all those Bible passages that say he died for us and because of us, that they were our sins he bore upon the cross. Yes, Christianity is about resurrection joy, but do not rush to Easter. Good Friday makes inescapable the question of complicity.

I may think it modesty when I draw back from declaring myself chief of sinners, but it is more likely a failure of imagination. For what sinner should I speak if not for myself? Of all the billions of people who have lived and of all the thousands whom I have known, whom should I say is the chief of sinners? Surely I am authorized, surely I am competent to speak only for myself? When in the presence of God the subject of sin is raised, how can I help but say that chiefly it is I? Not to confess that I am chiefly the one is not to confess at all. It is the evasion of Adam, who said, "It was the woman whom you gave to be with me." It is the evasion of Eve, who said, "The serpent beguiled me." It is not to confess at all, and by our making of excuses is our complicity compounded.

"Forgive them, for they know not what they do." But now, like the prodigal son, we have come to our senses. Our lives are measured not by the lives of others, not by our own ideals, not by what we think might reasonably be expected of us, although by each of those measures we acknowledge failings enough. Our lives are measured by who we are created and called to be, and the measuring is done by the One who creates and calls. Finally, the judgment that matters is not ours. The judgment that matters is the judgment of God, who alone judges justly. In the cross we see the rendering of the verdict on the gravity of our sin.


Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:30 AM

THE DIVINE ME:

The Public Square (Leander Harding quoted by Richard John Neuhaus, First Things, February, 04)

“The quintessential American Religion is the quest for the true and original self which is the ‘pearl of great price,’ the ultimate value. Finding the true self requires absolute and complete freedom of choice unconstrained by any sources of authority outside the self. Limits upon personal freedom and choice are an affront to all that is sacred to the American Religion. When the self-determining self finds ‘the real me’ salvation is achieved and the ultimate self has achieved contact with the ultimate reality. Finding your true self is to the contemporary Gnostic the same thing as finding God. For the Gnostic the purpose of the religious community is to facilitate the quest and validate the results. The contemporary Gnostic church, which can appear in both conservative and liberal forms, is the community of those who know that they have found God because they have found their own uncreated depths. Both devotees of the New Age and many in some ‘conservative’ Christian circles see salvation as purely a matter of personal experience, which can only be validated by those who have had similar ‘deeply personal’ experiences. Notice how perfectly the contemporary presentation of homosexuality fits the American Religion. A person who discovers that he or she is gay has recovered his or her true self and ‘come out’ and come through what the Gnostics called the ‘aeons,’ in this case levels of personal, familial, and social oppression that hinder and constrain the true self. It is a heroic and perilous journey of self-discovery which would be familiar to a first-century Gnostic like Valentinus. That the means of liberation is sexual practice is even a familiar theme. Some ancient Gnostics were ascetic but others counseled sexual license. Both stratagems can come from the same contempt of nature and are different ways of asserting the radical independence of the self. Here is the point. Gene Robinson was elected Bishop of the Episcopal Church in New Hampshire not in spite of being gay, not as an act of toleration and compassion toward gay people, but because he is gay and as such is an icon of the successful completion of the quest to find the true and original self. He has been chosen for high religious office because he represents high religious attainment. He is being recognized and receiving regard for being an accomplished practitioner of the American Religion. According to this Gnostic logic, divorcing his wife and leaving his family to embrace the gay lifestyle is not some unfortunate concession to irresistible sexual urges but an example of the pain and sacrifice that the seeker of the true self must be willing to endure. That natural, organic, and conventional restraints must be set aside is time-worn Gnostic nostrum. From the point of view of this contemporary Gnosticism, if the Church does not validate such a noble quest for enlightenment then it invalidates itself and shows that it is no help in the only spiritual struggle that counts, the struggle to be the ‘real me.’ Because Gene Robinson has ‘found himself’ he has according to the Gnostic logic of the American Religion found God and is naturally thought to be a truly ‘spiritual person’ and a fit person to inspire and lead others on their spiritual journey which is to end in a discovery of the true self which is just so the discovery of the only real god, the Gnostic god...”


Modern men and women, religious or not, will gravitate to any philosophy or faith that puts them personally at the center of all meaning and permits them to do whatever they want.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 AM

IN THE COURT WE DON'T TRUST:

Move on to restore constitutional powers to their place (Phyllis Schlafly, February 23, 2004, Townhall)

The opening shot in a campaign to require the federal courts to operate within their authorized jurisdiction was unveiled recently in Montgomery, Ala., as the Constitution Restoration Act.

The original sponsors of Senate Bill 2082 are Sens. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., Zell Miller, D-Ga., Sam Brownback, R-Kan., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. The original sponsors of the companion bill H.R. 3799 are Reps. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., and Mike Pence, R-Ind.

This legislation would clarify that the federal courts do not have jurisdiction to hear cases brought against a federal, state or local government or officer for acknowledging God. The bill is in response to the dozens of cases filed nationwide asking federal judges to declare the recitation in public schools of the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional because it includes the words "under God," or asking that the display of the Ten Commandments in public buildings or parks be held unconstitutional.

The bill's sponsors believe that federal courts lack the authority to hear such cases or render such a decision.


An okay first salvo, but the Court's control over Constitutional interpretation should be restricted more generally.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:16 AM

IT NEEDS TO BE US VS. US NOT US VS. THEM:

London's cops look to New York: London's mayor Ken Livingstone wants to introduce New York-style policing. It is more difficult than it sounds (The Economist, Feb 19th 2004)

WHEN “Red” Ken Livingstone ran London in the early 1980s, he enjoyed cocking a snook at authority over everything from outsize public transport subsidies to Irish terrorism. But reincarnated as the capital's ardently business-friendly, market-minded mayor, keen on road pricing and selling the city abroad, Mr Livingstone has changed his tune on the law. He's now a strong supporter of intensive, highly visible policing. [....]

Initially, the idea was to copy the “zero tolerance” approach of New York's former mayor Rudolph Giuliani and William Bratton, the police commissioner from 1994 to 1996. This interventionist method, also known as “broken windows policing” assumes that minor, unpunished crimes encourage more law-breaking. It's a sensible notion, but results in Britain have so far disappointed. The thinking now is that the new techniques worked in New York because police numbers rose a lot too.

Mr Livingstone hopes to pull off the same trick. He goes into this year's mayoral elections saying that he will be disappointed if crime in London does not halve.

That's a brave and probably a foolish pledge. New York's recovery certainly started with a clampdown on anti-social behaviour—graffiti writing, street drinking, turnstile jumping, and so on. But these low-level miscreants were then shackled, fingerprinted, and (if they didn't have identification) often held overnight in police cells. Over time, the police built up a store of information that they used to solve all sorts of crimes. British police, with their milder approach and heavier form-filling burden, will find these methods hard to copy.

Secondly, away from the neighbourhoods that British politicians tended to visit, New York's cops were trying out more aggressive methods such as undercover buy-and-bust operations, neighbourhood sweeps and “vertical patrols”, in which entire tower blocks were raided. These did more to take bad guys off the streets than harassing squeegee men.

This style of policing only works if citizens are willing to suffer it.


Folk underestimate the degree to which our enduringly puritanical ethos inclines Americans to tolerate such things.


February 23, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:23 PM

YOU MAY RECALL, WE ROOTED FOR THE PINKERTONS (via ef brown):

As jobs vanish, U.S. is an agricultural colony (Pat Buchanan, Feb. 20, 2004, San Jose Mercury News)

Sen. John Edwards did not win Wisconsin, but he closed a huge gap with John Kerry with astonishing speed in the final week.

The issue propelling Edwards was jobs, the lost jobs under George Bush, and Edwards' attribution of blame for the losses on NAFTA and the trade deals for which John Kerry voted in Congress.

Edwards has plugged into an issue that could cost Bush his presidency. [...]

To neoconservatives of the Wall Street Journal school, these trade numbers are yardsticks of their success at creating a global economy and measures of their triumph in championing NAFTA and the World Trade Organization. To the Old Right, however, manufacturing was a critical component of American power, indispensable to our sovereignty and independence, and the access road for working Americans into the middle class.


Ha! To the Old Right, industrial workers and their union representatives were the hordes of Satan and Stalin, trying to destroy capital, capitalists, and capitalism. Or, alternatively, to the Agrarians, industrialization itself was the problem with the country. It's fine for these guys to fret about trade now, but after forty years of advocating crushing unions--anyone remember the PATCO strike, Mr. Buchanan?--these crocodile tears are just ludicrous.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:05 PM

THE BUSH REVOLUTION:

Security Workers on Merit (CS Monitor, 2/24/04)

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has stepped into line with a commonly accepted practice in corporate America: tying pay increases to performance and the type of job performed.

Last week, the department formally announced its plans to shed an outdated federal system of handing out annual pay increases as a matter of course. The new rules would give government managers the flexibility they need in DHS's primary task of countering terrorists.

Salaries will be structured according to the type of work, a person's experience, and job location - and, notably, not by seniority. And in the case of a national emergency, the president can waive labor agreements. [...]

DHS began putting together 180,000 employees from some 22 government agencies in 2002. When a similar restructuring is complete at the Defense Department, about half the government's 1.8 million civilian employees will have made the transition to the new merit system. That's costly in the short term, but cost-saving in the long run.


You could no more get the President's conservative critics to acknowledge this titanic, but invisible, victory than get him to pronounce "nuclear" right. No wonder people say we're the Stupid Party.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:58 PM

"ACQUIRED URGENCY" (via Mike Daley):

Showstoppers: Nine reasons why we never sent our Special Operations Forces after al Qaeda before 9/11. (Richard H. Shultz Jr., 01/26/2004, Weekly Standard)

SINCE 9/11, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has repeatedly declared that the United States is in a new kind of war, one requiring new military forces to hunt down and capture or kill terrorists. In fact, for some years, the Department of Defense has gone to the trouble of selecting and training an array of Special Operations Forces, whose forte is precisely this. One president after another has invested resources to hone lethal "special mission units" for offensive--that is, preemptive--counterterrorism strikes, with the result that these units are the best of their kind in the world. While their activities are highly classified, two of them--the Army's Delta Force and the Navy's SEAL Team 6--have become the stuff of novels and movies.

Prior to 9/11, these units were never used even once to hunt down terrorists who had taken American lives. Putting the units to their intended use proved impossible--even after al Qaeda bombed the World Trade Center in 1993, bombed two American embassies in East Africa in 1998, and nearly sank the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000. As a result of these and other attacks, operations were planned to capture or kill the ultimate perpetrators, Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants, but each time the missions were blocked. A plethora of self-imposed constraints--I call them showstoppers--kept the counterterrorism units on the shelf.

I first began to learn of this in the summer of 2001, after George W. Bush's election brought a changing of the guard to the Department of Defense. Joining the new team as principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict was Bob Andrews, an old hand at the black arts of unconventional warfare. During Vietnam, Andrews had served in a top-secret Special Forces outfit codenamed the Studies and Observations Group that had carried out America's largest and most complex covert paramilitary operation in the Cold War. Afterwards, Andrews had joined the CIA, then moved to Congress as a staffer, then to the defense industry.

I'd first met him while I was writing a book about the secret war against Hanoi, and we hit it off. He returned to the Pentagon with the new administration, and in June 2001 he called and asked me to be his consultant. I agreed, and subsequently proposed looking into counterterrorism policy. Specifically, I wondered why had we created these superbly trained Special Operations Forces to fight terrorists, but had never used them for their primary mission. What had kept them out of action?

Andrews was intrigued and asked me to prepare a proposal. I was putting the finishing touches on it on the morning of September 11, when al Qaeda struck. With that blow, the issue of America's offensive counterterrorist capabilities was thrust to center stage.

By early November, I had the go-ahead for the study. Our question had acquired urgency: Why, even as al Qaeda attacked and killed Americans at home and abroad, were our elite counterterrorism units not used to hit back and prevent further attacks?


The thing of it is is the nine reasons make perfect sense on 9/10 and none on 9/12. But who would hold the men of 9/10 to a 9/12 standard? Are we going to hold ourselves to it? How many of us went to the voting booth in November 2000 thinking that al Qaeda was the most important issue facing our nation?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:48 PM

THE BLACK (AND FORGOTTEN) MENCKEN:

George S. Schuyler and Black History Month(s) (Nicholas Stix, February 23, 2004, Mich News)

George S. Schuyler was, simply, the greatest black journalist this country has ever produced. From 1924-1966, he bestrode the negro press like a colossus. Working for Robert Lee Vann's (1879-1940) Pittsburgh Courier weekly newspaper, under his own name, Schuyler penned a column, "News and Views," of which H.L. Mencken remarked, "I am more and more convinced that he is the most competent editorial writer now in practice in this great free republic." Schuyler was in turn known as "the Negro's Mencken." Schuyler wrote the Courier's weekly unsigned, house editorial. He traveled the world, investigating stories, which he wired back to the Courier, such as his world scoop on the return of slavery to Liberia, which had been founded in 1847 by American freedmen. (He was also the first black journalist to write, as a freelancer, for leading white publications, such as the New York Evening Post (now the New York Post), Washington Post, The Nation and The American Mercury). And under no less than eight pseudonyms, he wrote the serial pulp fiction that proved to be the Courier's most popular feature (Samuel I. Brooks, Rachel Call, Edgecombe Wright, John Kitchen, William Stockton, Verne Caldwell and D. Johnson).

Schuyler was also the greatest racial satirist this country has ever seen,
whose classic, 1931 novel, Black No More has twice been reprinted in the past 15 years.

In the same year that Black No More appeared, Schuyler's novel, Slaves Today: A Story of Liberia, was published, in which he presented, in fictional form, his discovery of the very real Liberian slave trade. [...]

George Schuyler's problem was that he was (gasp) . a conservative!


Here's Schuyler on The Negro Art Hokum (1926):
Negro art “made in America” is as non-existent as the widely advertised profundity of Cal Coolidge, the “seven years of progress” of Mayor Hylan, or the reported sophistication of New Yorkers. Negro art there has been, is, and will be among the numerous black nations of Africa; but to suggest the possibility of any such development among the ten million colored people in this republic is self-evident foolishness. Eager apostles from Greenwich Village, Harlem, and environs proclaimed a great renaissance of Negro art just around the corner waiting to be ushered on the scene by those whose hobby is taking races, nations, peoples, and movements under their wing. New art forms expressing the “peculiar” psychology of the Negro were about to flood the market. In short, the art of Homo Africanus was about to electrify the waiting world. Skeptics patiently waited. They still wait.

True, from dark-skinned sources have come those slave songs based on Protestant hymns and Biblical texts known as the spirituals, work songs and secular songs of sorrow and tough luck known as the blues, that outgrowth of ragtime known as jazz (in the development of which whites have assisted), and the Charleston, an eccentric dance invented by the gamins around the public market-place in Charleston, S. C. No one can or does deny this. But these are contributions of a caste in a certain section of the country. They are foreign to Northern Negroes, West Indian Negroes, and African Negroes. They are no more expressive or characteristic of the Negro race than the music and dancing of the Appalachian highlanders or the Dalmatian peasantry are expressive or characteristic of the Caucasian race. If one wishes to speak of the musical contributions of the peasantry of the south, very well. Any group under similar circumstances would have produced something similar. It is merely a coincidence that this peasant class happens to be of a darker hue than the other inhabitants of the land. One recalls the remarkable likeness of the minor strains of the Russian mujiks to those of the Southern Negro.

As for the literature, painting, and sculpture of Aframericans—such as there is—it is identical in kind with the literature, painting, and sculpture of white Americans: that is, it shows more or less evidence of European influence. In the field of drama little of any merit has been written by and about Negroes that could not have been written by whites. The dean of the Aframerican literati written by and about Negroes that could not have been written by whites. The dean of the Aframerican literati is W. E. B. Du Bois, a product of Harvard and German universities; the foremost Aframerican sculptor is Meta Warwick Fuller, a graduate of leading American art schools and former student of Rodin; while the most noted Aframerican painter, Henry Ossawa Tanner, is dean of American painters in Paris and has been decorated by the French Government. Now the work of these artists is no more “expressive of the Negro soul”—as the gushers put it—than are the scribblings of Octavus Cohen or Hugh Wiley.

This, of course, is easily understood if one stops to realize that the Aframerican is merely a lampblacked Anglo-Saxon. If the European immigrant after two or three generations of exposure to our schools, politics, advertising, moral crusades, and restaurants becomes indistinguishable from the mass of Americans of the older stock (despite the influence of the foreign-language press), how much truer must it be of the sons of Ham who have been subjected to what the uplifters call Americanism for the last three hundred years. Aside from his color, which ranges from very dark brown to pink, your American Negro is just plain American.


Suffice it to say, that doesn't jibe with the PC agenda too well.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:08 PM

PERSIA AS POLAND:

Solidarity With Iran: Free people are the only real stability. (MICHAEL MCFAUL AND ABBAS MILANI, February 23, 2004, Wall Street Journal)

On Friday, there was a coup d'état in Iran. By preventing thousands of democratic candidates from participating in the parliamentary elections, the clerics eliminated yet another relatively independent institution of political power. Their next target is the presidency. If President Mohammad Khatami is replaced in 2005 through a similar faux electoral process, then the concentration of monopoly power in the hands of a clique of despotic clerics will be complete.

Contrary to common perception, Iranian society is today one of the most pluralist, and the Islamic regime one of the most fragile, in the region. Even after the election, the prospects for a democratic breakthrough are greater there than elsewhere in the Middle East. Iran occupies the same place in its neighborhood as Poland did in communist Europe in the 1980s. Like Poland then, Iranian society is organized, hostile to the regime, pro-democratic and pro-American, while Iran's rulers--like their Polish counterparts 20 years ago--have no legitimacy, are deeply corrupt, and seem ready to use any means necessary to survive. At the risk of stretching the analogy, last Friday's "coup" in Iran is the equivalent of Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski's crackdown against Solidarity. Just as in Poland after December 1981, inside Iran the era of compromise and negotiation is now over. [...]

The Bush administration and our European allies cannot be tempted into an agreement with Khamenei or his surrogates. If the past is any indication, the clerics will break any agreement they have signed out of expedience. Already there are signs of their bad faith on their promise to come clean on the extent of their nuclear program. There is even a theological concept--Tagiye--to justify such double-dealings with the "infidels." Nor can they help in Iraq, where Iran's mullahs have in fact little influence over clerics such as Ayatollah Sistani. The only way they can influence events in Iraq is through the thousands of agents they have sent over the borders.

Most importantly, signals of rapprochement would send a demoralizing signal to Iran's democratic forces. Negotiations over weapons inspectors are absolutely necessary, but the interlocutors in such discussions must be elected officials, not unelected clerics. Beyond this limited engagement, President Bush must initiate a more sophisticated strategy for engaging Iranian society--without appearing to legitimize the regime. He must make public statements to assure democratic forces inside Iran that the U.S. is still on their side. President Bush should meet publicly with Iran's genuine democratic leaders, while avoiding imposters claiming to represent the Iranian people. American NGOs must engage more directly with Iranian civil society. Iranian students, scholars and entrepreneurs must be allowed greater interaction with American counterparts. Iran's democratic movement would benefit from contact with the West--with Western societies, ideas and economies. The same strategy and organizations that helped support Polish society in the dark days after December 1981 must be deployed in Iran.

The future of Iran, and of its potential democracy, must be determined inside Iran. But the U.S. can play a crucial role by making clear that democracy is the paramount foreign policy goal in Iran. Arms control negotiations with the mullahs may serve American short-term interests, but at the expense of more lasting gains. If Iran becomes a liberal democracy, surely the Iranian nuclear threat to the U.S. will disappear definitively. After all, did not Poland's Solidarity ultimately do more to end the Cold War than any Soviet-American arms control agreement?


Democratic rhetoric is a superweapon.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:05 PM

DIE AND LEARN:

Legal Disputes Over Hunt Paralyzed Clinton's Aides (Steve Coll, February 22, 2004, Washington Post)

Clinton's covert policy against bin Laden pursued two goals at the same time. He ordered submarines equipped with cruise missiles to patrol secretly in waters off Pakistan in the hope that CIA spotters would one day identify bin Laden's location confidently enough to warrant a deadly missile strike.

But Clinton also authorized the CIA to carry out operations that legally required the agency's officers to plan in almost every instance to capture bin Laden alive and bring him to the United States to face trial.

This meant the CIA officers had to arrange in advance for detention facilities, extraction flights and other contingencies -- even if they expected that bin Laden would probably die in the arrest attempt. These requirements made operational planning much more cumbersome, the CIA officers contended.

In fashioning this sensitive policy in the midst of an impeachment crisis that lasted into early 1999, Clinton's national security adviser, Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger, struggled to forge a consensus within the White House national security team. Among other things, he had to keep on board a skeptical Attorney General Janet Reno and her Justice Department colleagues, who were deeply invested in law enforcement approaches to terrorism, according to senior officials involved.

As the months passed, Clinton signed new memos in which the language, while still ambiguous, made the use of lethal force by the CIA's Afghan agents more likely, according to officials involved. At first the CIA was permitted to use lethal force only in the course of a legitimate attempt to make an arrest. Later the memos allowed for a pure lethal attack if an arrest was not possible. Still, the CIA was required to plan all its agent missions with an arrest in mind.

Some CIA managers chafed at the White House instructions. The CIA received "no written word nor verbal order to conduct a lethal action" against bin Laden before Sept. 11, one official involved recalled. "The objective was to render this guy to law enforcement." In these operations, the CIA had to recruit agents "to grab [bin Laden] and bring him to a secure place where we can turn him over to the FBI. . . . If they had said 'lethal action' it would have been a whole different kettle of fish, and much easier."

Berger later recalled his frustration about this hidden debate. Referring to the military option in the two-track policy, he said at a 2002 congressional hearing: "It was no question, the cruise missiles were not trying to capture him. They were not law enforcement techniques."

The overriding trouble was, whether they arrested bin Laden or killed him, they first had to find him.


Flawed Ally Was Hunt's Best Hope: Afghan Guerrilla, U.S. Shared Enemy (Steve Coll, February 23, 2004, Washington Post)
Members of the Bush Cabinet met at the White House on Sept. 4. Before them was a draft copy of a National Security Presidential Directive, a classified memo outlining a new U.S. policy toward al Qaeda, Afghanistan and Massoud.

It had been many months in the drafting. The Bush administration's senior national security team had not begun to focus on al Qaeda until April, about three months after taking office. They did not forge a policy approach until July. Then they took still more weeks to schedule a meeting to ratify their plans.

Among other things, the draft document revived almost in its entirety the CIA plan to aid Massoud that had been forwarded to the lame-duck Clinton White House -- and rejected -- nine months earlier. The stated goal of the draft was to eliminate bin Laden and his organization. The plan called for the CIA to supply Massoud with a large but undetermined sum for covert action to support his war against the Taliban, as well as trucks, uniforms, ammunition, mortars, helicopters and other equipment. The Bush Cabinet approved this part of the draft document.

Other aspects of the Bush administration's al Qaeda policy, such as its approach to the use of armed Predator surveillance drones for the hunt, remained unresolved after the Sept. 4 debate. But on Massoud, the CIA was told that it could at least start the paperwork for a new covert policy -- the first in a decade that sought to influence the course of the Afghan war.

In the Panjshir Valley, unaware of these developments, Massoud read Persian poetry in his bungalow in the early hours of Sept. 9. Later that morning he finally decided to grant an interview to the two Arab journalists visiting from Kabul.

As one of them set up a television camera, the other read aloud a list of questions he intended to ask. About half of them concerned bin Laden.

A bomb secretly packed in the television equipment ripped the cameraman's body apart. It shattered the room's windows, seared the walls in flame and tore Massoud's chest with shrapnel.

Hours later, after Massoud had been evacuated to Tajikistan, his intelligence aide Amrullah Saleh called the CIA's Counterterrorist Center. He spoke to Rich, the bin Laden unit chief. Saleh was sobbing and heaving between sentences as he explained what had happened.

"Where's Massoud?" the CIA officer asked.

"He's in the refrigerator," said Saleh, searching for the English word for morgue.

Massoud was dead, but members of his inner circle had barely absorbed the news. They were all in shock. They were also trying to strategize in a hurry. They had already put out a false story claiming that Massoud had only been wounded. Meanwhile, Saleh told the Counterterrorist Center, the suddenly leaderless Northern Alliance needed the CIA's help as it prepared to confront al Qaeda and the Taliban.

On the morning of Sept. 10, the CIA's daily classified briefings to Bush, his Cabinet and other policymakers reported on Massoud's death and analyzed the consequences for the United States' covert war against al Qaeda.


'This is war,' Rumsfeld told Bush an excerpt from Rumsfeld's War by Rowan Scarborough (Washington Times, 2/23/04)
Donald H. Rumsfeld sat in a vault-like room studded with video screens and talked with President Bush as the Pentagon burned.

"This is not a criminal action," the secretary of defense told Bush over a secure line. "This is war."

The word "war" meant more than going after the al Qaeda terrorist network in Afghanistan, the fault line of terrorism. Bush said he wanted retaliation.

The setting was the Pentagon's Executive Support Center, where Rumsfeld held secure video teleconferences with the White House across the Potomac or with ground commanders 10,000 miles away.

The time was 1:02 p.m., less than four hours after terrorists steered American Flight 77 into the Pentagon's southwest wall.

Rumsfeld at first had dashed to the impact site. In his shirt and tie, he helped transport the wounded.

Finally convinced to leave the scene, Rumsfeld entered the closely guarded ESC, where whiffs of burned rubble penetrated the ventilation system. The video monitor in front of him was blank, but there was an audio connection with the president at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana.

Rumsfeld's instant declaration of war, previously unreported, took America from the Clinton administration's view that terrorism was a criminal matter to the Bush administration's view that terrorism was a global enemy to be destroyed.

"That was really a breakthrough strategically and intellectually," recalls Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy. "Viewing the 9/11 attacks as a war that required a war strategy was a very big thought, and a lot flowed from that."

Rumsfeld wanted a war that was fought with ruthless efficiency: special forces, high-tech firepower, a scorecard for killing or capturing terrorists. He had no desire to become the world's jailer. And he refused to be stymied by bureaucracy.

Rumsfeld quickly shared his views in a meeting of his inner circle, the so-called Round Table group including Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and the chairman and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

This would be a global war, Rumsfeld said, and he planned to give Special Operations forces -- Delta Force, SEALs and Green Berets -- unprecedented powers to kill terrorists.


In retrospect it seems obvious that we were at war with al Qaeda all along. But there also seems little point in castigating Bill Clinton or George Bush for not pursuing a policy that we'd not have tolerated had they tried it. The country's barely on board now for the pursuit of a war strategy--imagine trying to sell us on it in the booming 90s?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:35 PM

IS JOSEPH STIGLITZ EVEN AN ECONOMIST?:

A Normal Country (Andrei Shleifer and Daniel Treisman, March/April 2004, Foreign Affairs)

Russia's economic and political systems remain far from perfect. But their defects are typical of countries at a similar level of economic development. Russia was in 1990, and is today, a middle-income country, with GDP per capita around $8,000 (at purchasing power parity) according to the UN -- comparable to Argentina in 1991 and Mexico in 1999. Almost all democracies in this income range are rough around the edges: their governments suffer from corruption, their judiciaries are politicized, and their press is almost never entirely free. They have high income inequality, concentrated corporate ownership, and turbulent macroeconomic performance. In all these regards, Russia is quite normal. Nor are the common flaws of middle-income capitalist democracies incompatible with further economic and political progress -- if they were, western Europe and the United States would never have left the nineteenth century.

To say that Russia has become a "normal" middle-income country is not to overlook the messiness of its politics and economics, nor to excuse the failures of its leaders. The average middle-income country is not a secure or socially just place to live. Nor is it to say that all middle-income countries are exactly alike. No other such country has Russia's nuclear arms or its pivotal role in international affairs. Yet other countries around Russia's level of income -- from Mexico and Brazil to Malaysia and Croatia -- face a common set of economic problems and political challenges, from similarly precarious vantage points. Russia's struggles to meet such challenges strikingly resemble the experiences of many of its peers.

The popular vision of Russia resembles the reflection in a distorting mirror: its features are recognizable, but they are stretched and twisted out of proportion. To see Russia clearly, one must return to the facts. [...]

As Russian voters go to the polls in March 2004 to elect a president for the fourth time, they will do so in a country that none of them could have envisioned 20 years ago. Russia's economy is no longer the shortage-ridden, militarized, collapsing bureaucracy of 1990. It has metamorphosed into a marketplace of mostly private firms, producing goods and services to please consumers instead of planners. A few business magnates control much of the country's immense reserves of raw materials and troubled banking system, and they lobby hard for favored policies. Small businesses are burdened by corruption and regulation. Still, the economy continues to grow at an impressive pace.

The country's political order, too, has changed beyond recognition. The dictatorship of the party has given way to electoral democracy. Russia's once-powerful Communists no longer control all aspects of social life or sentence dissidents to labor camps. Instead, they campaign for seats in parliament. The press, although struggling against heavy-handed political interventions, is still far more professional and independent than the stilted propaganda machine of the mid-1980s. In slightly more than a decade, Russia has become a typical middle-income capitalist democracy.

So why the dark, at times almost paranoid, view? Why the hyperbole about kleptocracy, economic cataclysm, and KGB takeovers? A number of factors -- psychological, ideological, and overtly political -- led to the dyspeptic consensus among Russia-watchers in the West. Many Western observers simply reacted in a generous, if unreflective, way to the visible suffering of Russians dislocated by the transition. Beside the excesses of the new super-rich, the plight of impoverished pensioners seemed doubly shocking. But there were also some less pure motivations for focusing on the darker side of Russian life. First, there is sensationalism. Newspaper editors and television producers knew they could make money exploiting the anxieties of Western publics with chilling exposes of the Russian mafiya. Second, the intellectual left adopted Russia as the poster child for its crusade against globalization. With Russia's leaders embracing market rhetoric and reforms, the country's initial hardships could be portrayed as proof of the dangers of excessive liberalization. Third, Russia became a football in American politics during the late 1990s. With President Bill Clinton committed to supporting Yeltsin and Vice President Al Gore deeply involved in steering U.S.-Russia relations, bashing Moscow became a way for Republicans to score points in the 2000 election.

Exaggerated despair over Russia was also fueled by a fundamental and widespread misconception. Many Western observers thought of Russia in the early 1990s as a highly developed, if not wealthy, country. With its brilliant physicists and chess players, its space program, and its global military influence, Russia did not look like an Argentina or a South Korea. Believing that Russia started off from a highly developed base, these people saw the country's convergence to the norm for middle-income countries as a disastrous aberration. The same misconception informed some academic analyses. A recent paper by Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz and Karla Hoff makes the remarkable observation that, when it comes to legal institutions, "between Russia and most other developed, capitalist societies there was a qualitative difference [in the 1990s]." There was indeed a qualitative difference: Russia was never a "developed, capitalist society."


Indeed, normalcy would have been appropriate by now had Russia been allowed to continue its evolution into a liberal democracy, a process well under way early in the 20th century. But the seventy years of communism left it with unique, perhaps even lethal, challenges to overcome. Arguably, at least, this is not an appropriate time for it to even pretend to be a normal modern nation--and it was certainly nowhere near being one when Boris Yeltsin took over.


Posted by David Cohen at 2:24 PM

WHAT A LUCKY NATION WE WERE.

Washington's Farewell Address (1796)

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice ? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?

Promote then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.

Those of you who have suffered through my various maunderings here will recognize these thoughts, expressed much better and in a greater spirit of brotherhood than I will ever manage. Washington's reputation is somewhat tattered and dusty these days. He was a slaveowner, and thus is open to that (half-deserved) calumny. He is not known for his intellect, suffering perhaps in comparison to Jefferson's brighter gift and Adam's brassier character. Yet Washington's relatively small number of key writings never fail to repay study.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:57 PM

WE NEED MORE FATWAS (via John Resnick):

Fatwa issued for 'shameless' reality TV (AP, 18feb04)

THE dean of Kuwait's Islamic Law College has issued a fatwa, or religious edict, calling on Muslims to boycott a popular reality TV show for its "shamelessness and decadence."

Star Academy brings together talented young men and women from different Arab countries - including Kuwait - to learn music while they live under the same roof. One participant is voted off each week.

"Following this program or supporting it (by voting for candidates) is sacrilegious," Mohammed al-Tabtabai said in comments published Tuesday.

"Heads of every family should prevent its members from watching it," because such programs are responsible for "stripping our society from its good Islamic values," he added.

But his call is likely to be dismissed by many of the program's fans, who watch it for hours a day.

Star Academy is aired from Lebanon by the privately owned Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation. Viewers can watch the participants 24 hours a day on a satellite music channel, Nagham, as they cook, eat, fight, hug, kiss and attend sports, music and dance classes. Men and women have separate sleeping quarters.


Every reality show should have a fatwa issued against it, only they should be those Salman Rushdie-type fatwas, not just boycotts.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:52 PM

WHY COULDN'T IT HAVE HAPPENED ON CHRETIEN'S WATCH?:

Funding fracas ends Martin's honeymoon: Canada's prime minister, Paul Martin, and his Liberal party are suffering a major slump in support over a financial scandal. (Anne McIlroy, February 23, 2004, The Guardian)

It wasn't much of honeymoon. Paul Martin had waited 14 years to become Canada's prime minister, only to see support for his Liberal party plummet just weeks after he had reconvened parliament.

The stunning slide, which included a drop of more than 10 percentage points in one day alone, leaves Mr Martin at risk of winning only a minority government should he call an election, as expected, this spring. Depending on which poll you read, support for the Liberals currently stands as low as 36%.

The sudden drop in the party's popularity has been triggered by a scandal over the misuse of public funds in a programme put in place in Quebec.

The programme was introduced after separatists came within a whisker of winning the 1995 referendum on sovereignty, and was designed to boost the federal presence in the predominantly French-speaking province.

The amount of money involved was relatively small - less than $75m (£40m), but the fact that it appeared to go directly into the coffers of communication companies with Liberal ties - companies that appeared to have done very little, if anything, to earn the cash - sparked outrage amongst Canadian voters.

The auditor-general, Sheila Fraser, used the word fraud in her report detailing what had happened.


See what happens when you try to buy French love.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:42 PM

ANOTHER REASON TO LOVE ORWELL:

The ever-longer road to Wigan Pier: Biographers often fall out of love with their subjects. But a year after publication of his life of Orwell, DJ Taylor is excited by new material about the writer and has become an obsessive relic collector (DJ Taylor, February 21, 2004, The Guardian)

Quite as fascinating is a letter sent from Orwell's sickbed in Hairmyres Hospital near Glasgow in May 1948 to a Mrs Marshall, a lady with whom he had begun to correspond during the war. Mrs Marshall was clearly solicitous of his welfare. At any rate, he begins by confessing that "It has been on my conscience for a long time that you once sent me a pot of jam for which I never thanked you."

The letter is chiefly interesting as a statement of Orwell's literary opinions: his continuing dislike of JB Priestley ("...he is awful, and it is astonishing that he has actually had a sort of comeback in reputation during the last year or two"), his admiration for Osbert Sitwell and George Gissing ("one of the best English novelists, though he has never had his due") and his attempt, while bed-bound, to read Henry James ("I can never really get to care for him").


Greater love hath no man than for those who dislike Henry James.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:57 AM

I DON'T THINK THAT WORD MEANS WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS (via mc):

U.S. SEARCH FOR BIN LADEN INTENSIFIES (Rowan Scarborough, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

The Pentagon is moving elements of a supersecret commando unit from Iraq to the Afghanistan theater to step up the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

A Defense Department official said there are two reasons for repositioning parts of Task Force 121: First, most high-value human targets in Iraq, including Saddam Hussein, have been caught or killed. Second, intelligence reports are increasing on the whereabouts of bin Laden, the terror leader behind the September 11 attacks. [...]

Task Force 121 is a mix of Army Delta Force soldiers and Navy SEALs, transported on helicopters from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. The SEALs and soldiers are based at Joint Special Operations Command in Fort Bragg, N.C.

Delta-SEAL teams typically move into theater, practice missions and wait for military and CIA intelligence to provide the location of a target, such as Saddam.

The new task force to hunt bin Laden in the Afghanistan area likely will be led by a Navy SEAL who was toasted in Washington while working antiterrorism issues in the Bush administration. The Washington Times is withholding his name because of the secret nature of the operation.


Could someone look up supersecret in the dictionary and see if it includes exposure in a major daily newspaper?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:53 AM

THE DEBT HOAX:

Crocodile Tears: THE RIGHT'S PHONY OUTRAGE OVER DEFICITS (Jonathan Chait , 02.23.04, New Republic)

, the most expensive spending programs under Bush have been for defense, homeland security, and international aid. None of these areas has grown fat. To the contrary, the military is overstretched, homeland security underfunded, and aid programs to build strong governments and civil societies that can resist radical Islam woefully inadequate. Still, if you add up the cost of all the legislation enacted since Bush took office--as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities did--these three areas account for 30 percent of that cost. New entitlements account for 13 percent, and, with the Medicare benefit projected to grow, that share will increase over time. But, rather than tackle these areas of spending--or address the elephant in the living room, the president's tax cuts, which account for 55 percent of the "cost" of legislation under Bush (more on this later)--conservatives have focused the brunt of their fiscal wrath upon a relatively small and innocuous slice of the federal budget called domestic discretionary spending. 

Discretionary spending includes everything the government does other than entitlements, defense, and interest on the national debt. All of this--from national highways to scientific research to public housing--accounts for a mere 17 percent of the overall budget. It makes up a still smaller 3 percent of the total cost of legislation passed under Bush, and its impact on the budget pales beside the tax cuts. But, because many of these programs lack strong political constituencies--at least when compared with heavyweights like Medicare--they are taking the brunt of the conservative attack. Heritage paints the growth in discretionary spending as insidious: "[N]on-defense discretionary spending," argues its December backgrounder, "has reached 3.9 percent of GDP ($3,900 per household) for the first time in nearly 20 years." But most of that increase has come from homeland security. The Center for American Progress found that, over the last decade, domestic programs unrelated to security have grown from 3.3 percent of GDP to--da-dum!--3.4 percent of GDP. 

Trying to balance the budget by squeezing domestic discretionary spending is like trying to lose weight by giving up that slice of tomato on your cheeseburger. Not that Republicans aren't trying anyway: GOP leaders have proposed a total freeze on discretionary spending this year. Doing so would save $2 billion. To grasp the absurdity of that effort, keep in mind that this year's deficit is expected to top $500 billion. Even if Congress persuaded Bush to completely eliminate all discretionary programs including homeland security, that would still leave Washington with $137 billion in red ink. 

The big picture, then, is this: Overall spending has crept up a bit, now taking up 1.6 percent more of the economy than it did when Bush took office, but it remains modest by modern standards. The really spectacular change is in tax revenue, which has fallen from 20.9 percent to 15.8 percent of GDP since Bush took office. The collapse in revenue, in other words, has been more than three times the growth in spending. This year, revenue will account for a smaller share of the economy than in any year since 1950. Now, it's true that much of that revenue loss stems from broader economic factors, not just tax cuts. But, even if you look only at deficit increases caused directly by legislative action, the cost of the tax cuts is still nearly five times the size of all the non-security spending increases and accounts for more than all new spending (defense, homeland security, and domestic) put together. 


Revenue is headed in the right direction and the national security costs are a temporary phenomenon. The key is to get control over entitlements in the long run--the debt doesn't matter at all in the short run--and that means the kind of privatizing of public services and the safety net that the President is effecting through things like the vouchers in NCLB, enacting the Faith-Based Initiative through executoive orders, farming out formerly civil service jobs to the prtivate sector, and the Healh Savings Accounts in the Medicare reform law. Next term it will be individual accounts for Social Security. Once this infrastructure is in place and the GOP has a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate it's easy enough to move all these nascent programs toward a thoroughgoing transformation into an Opportunity Society/compassioonate conservative/Third Way/ New Democrat-type privatized, market-based welfare state, providing people with the security they demand but the maximum degree of freedom possible given that constraint.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:09 AM

MAYHEM AT THE MARGINS (via ef brown):

Defining the Domestic Role of the Military (Peter Brownfeld, February 23, 2004, Fox News)

Amidst calls to use the military to fight the war on terrorism at home, some experts warn that allowing the military to perform a domestic role would set a dangerous precedent, put civilians at unnecessary risk and threaten Americans' basic civil liberties.

"The military has been so impressive abroad that in many ways, it's not surprising that some people think it could be equally effective at fighting the war at home," said Gene Healy, senior editor at the Cato Institute.

But, Healy added, those people could find themselves sadly mistaken.

"A free society is not a militarized society. It is a society where law enforcement is the duty of civilians and any effort to change that ought to meet a very heavy burden of proof," he said.

A number of politicians have been talking about making such a change. Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., and Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., have been calling for a militarization of America's borders.


When nativists and libertarians fight each other we all win.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:04 AM

NOT WHETHER BUT WHEN:

Reform still tops agenda in Iran: Following Friday's vote, moderate conservatives are seen by some as the new standard bearer for reform. (Scott Peterson, 2/23/04, CS Monitor)

Among the conservatives, two factions - hard-line and moderate - are already gearing up for the new tug of war. But amid a cascade of uncertainties and mixed signals, Iran's political future is far from clear.

Many reformist Iranians predict renewed repression, and point to the closure of two reformist newspapers on the eve of the vote as a sign of things to come. But others argue that moderates will prevail and embrace key elements of the reform agenda.

"This is the point where the usefulness of hard-liners is over," says Amir Mohebian, a director of the conservative newspaper Resalat. "They will endeavor to stay in [control], but their time is over. The new mission belongs to moderate conservatives.

"Hard-liners are like dynamite: You can destroy things with them, but can't build things," adds Mr. Mohebian.


The way they mishandled the election cost the hard-liners much legitimacy. If they now try to reform slightly in order to win it back, they are likely to go the way of Gorbachev, having aided forces whose strength they don't understand.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:53 AM

INDEBTEDNESS:

The good folks at Bruderhof have made available a free Ebook of Kierkegaard's writings, Provocations:
Spiritual Writings of Søren Kierkegaard
, about which First Things says:

This thoughtful selection of Kier kegaardís writings serves on several levels. In the first place, it makes the otherwise daunting Kierkegaard accessible in an inviting format. Secondly, its logical arrangement of texts presents the major themes of his work, as in the sections "To Will One Thing," "Truth and the Inwardness of Passion," and "Anxiety and the Gospel of Suffering." And thirdly the book is prayerful: it invites worshipful devotion as much as intellectual reflection, a rare and rewarding combination.

Here's an excerpt that explains why an overweening self-love leads inexorably to atheism:
Love is perhaps best described as an infinite debt: when a person is gripped by love, he feels like he is in infinite debt. Usually one says that the person who receives love comes into debt by being loved. Similarly we say that children are in love’s debt to
their parents, because their parents have loved them first and the children’s love is only a part-payment on the debt or a repayment. This is true, to be sure. Nevertheless, such talk is all too reminiscent of a bookkeeping relationship – a bill is submitted and it must be paid; love is shown to us, and it must be repaid with love.

We should not, then, speak about one’s coming into debt by receiving love. No, it is the one who loves who is in debt. Because he is aware of being gripped by love, he perceives this as being in infinite debt. Remarkable! To be sure, by giving money one does not come into debt; it is rather the recipient who becomes indebted. But when love gives, the one who loves comes
into infinite debt. What a beautiful, holy modesty love takes along as a companion!



Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:37 AM

TUNE CALLING:

Before Teaching Ethics, Stop Kidding Yourself (GORDON MARINO, 2/20/04, Chronicle of Higher Education)

Over the past couple of decades, the ethics industry has kicked into high gear. We now have a growing number of professional ethicists who are prepared to act as superegos for hire to the various professions. Indeed, take any given profession and there is another profession called the ethics of that profession. (Think bioethics, medical ethics, legal ethics, computer ethics, and so forth.) [...]

People who presume to teach ethics should help their students be honest with themselves about their own interests. Such candor is, of course, part of the Socratic curriculum of coming to know yourself. But it is hard psychological work, which we do not value much in these post-Freudian times. Unless our ethics students learn to examine themselves and what they really value, their command of ethical theories and their ability to think about ethics from diverse perspectives are not likely to bring them any closer to being willing and able to do the right thing.


Whoever is paying the "ethicists" salary will get the answer they desire.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:27 AM

AS VIETNAM BACKFIRES ON CABANA BOY:

Bush Campaign Denies Kerry's Allegation (NEDRA PICKLER, 2/22/04, AP)

George W. Bush's presidential campaign told John Kerry it "does not condone" any effort to impugn his patriotism but asserted that senator's voting record on national security and defense issues is a valid target of political scrutiny.

Responding Sunday to a letter in which Kerry accused President Bush of using surrogates to attack his military service in Vietnam and his subsequent opposition to the war, Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign chairman Marc Racicot said, "I ask you to elevate the remarkably negative tone of your campaign and your party over the past year."

Kerry had taken umbrage at statements that Sen. Saxby Chambliss made earlier, predicting trouble for the Massachusetts Democrat in Georgia's primary because of a "32-year history of voting to cut defense programs and cut defense systems."

In the letter to Bush Saturday, Kerry wrote: "As you well know, Vietnam was a very difficult and painful period in our nation's history, and the struggle for our veterans continues. So, it has been hard to believe that you would choose to reopen these wounds for your personal political gain. But, that is what you have chosen to do."


It might help if the Senator had been on the right side of a single foreign policy issue since he put down his gun in Vietnam, or if he'd just sided with the position of the American government on any issue or if he hadn't been personally responsible for so many of the wounds to our society from the anti-Vietnam period.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:05 AM

IT'S A BAD THING:

Martha Stewart's Surreal Ordeal (Christopher Westley, February 23, 2004, Mises.org)

So the Martha Stewart trial has come to this. Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum ruled that the government cannot introduce testimony about how Stewart's statements to the press asserting her innocence of violating insider trading law affected investors of her firm, Martha Stewart Living.

As a result, the government has effectively lost. The New York Times reports that this development is the nail in the coffin in the prosecution's case, noting that "[a] person involved in Ms. Stewart's defense said the ruling "renders the securities fraud charge dead on arrival, although other material might be introduced by prosecutors themselves."

This statement highlights what this trial is about--not insider trading, but the right to declare one's innocence, even when the government later agrees with the declaration.


Hey, here's an idea: if you think you're innocent, don't obstruct justice.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:00 AM

THAT'S THE SPIRIT!:

Will Eisner Draws a Rebuttal (STEVEN LEE BEEBER, 2/23/04, NY Times)

What do you do 25 years after creating a new artistic genre? If you are Will Eisner, you do the same thing again in your late 80's.

A Contract With God, set in the tenements of his Bronx youth and published in 1978, established Mr. Eisner as the father of the graphic novel. Now he has taken the adult comic-book format a step further, with a graphic history that applies his dark, 1930's-style illustrations to real events of a century ago.

This latest work, called "The Plot," tells the story behind the creation of "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," the infamous Russian forgery that purported to reveal a Jewish plan to rule the world. Mr. Eisner, the son of Jews who fled Europe, has reached into the past to say something about the present: a time, he says, when anti-Semitism is again on the rise.

"I was surfing the Web one day when I came across this site promoting `The Protocols' to readers in the Mideast," said Mr. Eisner, 86. "I was amazed that there were people who still believed `The Protocols' were real, and I was disturbed to learn later that this site was just one of many that promoted these lies in the Muslim world. I decided something had to be done."


Who knew he was even alive still, never mind surfing the Web and making a difference.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:46 AM

WHERE'S THE ANTI-WAR CROWD ON THIS ONE?:

Afghanistan: Now it's all-out war (Syed Saleem Shahzad, 2/24/04, Asia Times)

A massive land and air military operation on either side of the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan is now under way, with the main goals of catching leading commanders of the Afghan resistance, as well as Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar.

The focal point of the operation at this point is the tribal areas of North and South Waziristan on the Pakistani side, and Paktia and Paktika in Afghanistan. On Sunday, Pakistani Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat confirmed that Pakistani paramilitary troops had been deployed in these tribal areas.

In the coming weeks, the operation is gradually expected to increase in intensity and size and spread to all seven of the Pakistani-administrated tribal areas, and subsequently to all major Afghan cities, including Jalalabad, Asadabad, Gardez, Khost, Zabul and Kandahar, in a bid to wipe out the Afghan resistance.

Well-placed sources stationed in South Waziristan's Wana told Asia Times Online of a large mobilization of Pakistani troops in the two agencies, adding that several villages situated on the border had been evacuated as there were fears that they would be caught in crossfire between Pakistani troops, guerrillas and US-led coalition troops on the Afghan side of the border.

Pakistan law-enforcement agencies have virtually sealed entry and exit routes in North and South Waziristan, and travelers report exhaustive security checkposts.


President Kerry would have done this sooner and better, then opposed it.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:43 AM

WO-OH, I KANT GO FOR THAT:

Immanuel Kant and the Iraq war: The German philosopher Immanuel Kant thought his way through the global conflict sparked by the American and French Revolutions. His response was an appeal to enlightenment, law and reason. Two hundred years on, the distinguished English philosopher Roger Scruton asks: where would Kant’s principles lead him today? (Roger Scruton, 19 - 2 - 2004, Open Democracy)

There is always a danger, when reading Kant, of overlooking his profound critique of reason and its aims. Although he believed that reason is the distinguishing mark of the human condition, and although he upheld the Enlightenment view of our nature – as free beings guided by rational choice – Kant also believed that reason is prone to overreach itself. An example of this is when reason interprets a merely ‘regulative’ idea as a constitutive principle.

The idea of a world republic is just such a regulative idea. For Kant, it does not indicate a condition that can actually be achieved, but an ‘Ideal of Reason’ – an idea that we must bear in mind, by way of understanding the many ways in which mortal creatures inevitably fall short of it. The principal way in which we fall short is by failing to establish any kind of republic, even at the local level. And Kant is clear that a League of Nations can establish a genuine rule of law only if its members are also republics. Unless that condition is fulfilled, nations remain in the rivalrous state of nature.

In a republic, the people themselves are the authors of the laws that govern them, and no official can claim exemption. The members of a republic are not subjects but citizens, bound by reciprocal rights and duties and governed by representative institutions. Although Kant was suspicious of democracy and tolerant of constitutional monarchy, he nevertheless believed that free beings demand accountable government, and that nothing less could enable them to realise their potential.

Furthermore, we are commanded by reason to treat each rational being as an end and not as a means only. States in which this command is not obeyed by the rulers, or made impossible to be obeyed by anyone else, are states that violate the moral law. They also fail to conform to the version of the social contract that Kant derived from his vision of morality. Such states are intrinsically illegitimate, which means that their disappearance is good in itself, and the aim and desire of all rational beings.

This does not mean that the violent overthrow of despotism is justified, since violence has moral costs that may not easily be accepted. Although Kant was a passionate defender of the American and French Revolutions, and even inclined to turn a blind eye to the crimes of the Jacobins, news of the Terror and of the judicial murder of King Louis XVI horrified him as it horrified his contemporaries.

Nevertheless, the recourse to international law, he believed, presupposes that members of the League of Nations are republics. If they are not republics, but regard themselves as in a state of nature vis-à-vis other states, then it may be necessary to confront them with violence, in order to prevent them from imposing their will. Of course, the violence must be proportional to the threat, and its aim must be to bring about a lasting peace. But war conducted for the sake of peace was, for Kant as for his predecessors in the ‘just war’ tradition, a paradigm of legitimate belligerence.


If the regimes are illegitimate why is their violent overthrow not justified?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:30 AM

THE FREAK SHOW:

Against Illiberal Internationalism (Carroll Andrew Morse, 02/20/2004, Tech Central Station)

The identification of democratic globalism as a unique school of thought makes Krauthammer's speech important. Krauthammer's taxonomic structure for foreign policy thought is equally as impressive. The best classification schemes transcend mere explanation of the previously observed; they point to possibilities yet to be identified. In the natural sciences, the classic example of this was the prediction of new chemical elements to fill the gaps in the original periodic table of elements. In political science, a good classification scheme helps fill gaps in the prevailing worldview. By extending Krauthammer's categories, we can identify a fifth school of coherent American foreign policy thought -- an influential school of that has escaped scrutiny because it has never been called by an accurate name.

Krauthammer's categories of "liberal internationalist" and "democratic globalist" suggest a natural extension. They imply the existence of internationalists and globalists who are neither liberal nor democratic, "illiberal internationalists" or "oligarchic globalists." Starting from Krauthammer's description of liberal internationalism, where he generously suggests that liberal internationalists are not motivated by "anti-Americanism, or lack of patriotism or a late efflorescence of 1960s radicalism," but seek "to turn the state of nature into a norm driven community. To turn the law of the jungle into the rule of law," we can identify a school of thought that fits into an illiberal internationalist or oligarchic globalist category.

Despite their high-minded rhetoric, respect for the rule of law and the expansion of humanitarian norms is not the most important item for many contemporary internationalists. The de facto primary goal of the present international system is ensuring that the world's borders do not change. When this goal is assured, the next highest goal is the protection of continuity of government within the existing borders -- even when that means defending the legitimacy of brutal totalitarian states. The protection of individual freedom and democracy places a distant third, at best. Occasionally, in a Liberia or a Haiti, when civil government utterly collapses, the international community will call for coordinated action, but these cases are the exception, not the rule. Humanitarian goals are pursued only when they can be done without interfering with the decidedly illiberal goal of preserving existing state structures at any cost.

Ultimately, a school of thought that claims that "rights" of states trump the rights of individuals cannot claim the mantle of liberalism. A true liberalism would find means to act against massacres of individuals perpetrated by the governments of Iraq and Zimbabwe, to remedy chronic violations of human rights perpetrated by the governments of Saudi Arabia and Cuba. This does not require supporting war in each case, necessarily, but it does require advocating something more effective than waiting for dictators to die and hoping that something better replaces them.

Perhaps this model of global engagement is the twenty-first century heir to isolationism.


What's most interesting is the variety of parties who subscribe to this illiberal doctrine. It includes all of the pacifists, the leadership of the Catholic Church, paleoconservatives and extreme libertarians, the European Left, and some considerable portion of the American Left and, of course, every despotic regime extant. Any idea that can unite a crew that diverse deserves our scrutiny.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 AM

ONE DAY AT A TIME:

The Reluctant Imperialist: Terrorism, Failed States, and the Case for American Empire (Sebastian Mallaby, March/April 2002, Foreign Affairs)

a new imperial moment has arrived, and by virtue of its power America is bound to play the leading role. The question is not whether the United States will seek to fill the void created by the demise of European empires but whether it will acknowledge that this is what it is doing. Only if Washington acknowledges this task will its response be coherent.

The first obstacle to acknowledgment is the fear that empire is infeasible. True, imposing order on failed states is expensive, difficult, and potentially dangerous. Between 1991 and 2000 the United States spent $15 billion on military intervention in the Balkans. A comparable effort in Afghanistan, a much bigger area with deeper traditions of violence, would cost far more. But these expenses need to be set against the cost of fighting wars against terrorists, drug smugglers, and other international criminals. Right after September 11, Congress authorized $40 billion in emergency spending -- and that was just a down payment in the struggle against terrorism. The estimated cost to the U.S. economy ranges from $100 billion to $300 billion.

The second obstacle to facing the imperial challenge is the stale choice between unilateralism and multilateralism. Neither option, as currently understood, provides a robust basis for responding to failed states. Unilateralists rightly argue that weak allies and cumbersome multilateral arrangements undercut international engagement. Yet a purely unilateral imperialism is no more likely to work than the sometimes muddled multilateral efforts assembled in the past. Unilateralists need to accept that chaotic countries are more inclined to accept foreign nation builders if they have international legitimacy. And U.S. opinion surveys suggest that international legitimacy matters domestically as well. The American public's support for the Persian Gulf War and the Afghan conflict reflected the perception that each operation was led by the United States but backed by the court of world opinion.

The best hope of grappling with failed states lies in institutionalizing this mix of U.S. leadership and international legitimacy. Fortunately, one does not have to look far to see how this could be accomplished. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) already embody the same hybrid formula: both institutions reflect American thinking and priorities yet are simultaneously multinational. The mixed record of both institutions -- notably the World Bank's failure on failed states -- should not obscure their organizational strengths: they are more professional and less driven by national patronage than are U.N. agencies.

A new international body with the same governing structure could be set up to deal with nation building. It would be subject neither to the frustrations of the U.N. Security Council, with its Chinese and Russian vetoes, nor to those of the U.N. General Assembly, with its gridlocked one-country-one-vote system. A new international reconstruction fund might be financed by the rich countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the other countries that currently contribute to the World Bank's subsidized lending program to the poorest nations. It would assemble nation-building muscle and expertise and could be deployed wherever its American-led board decided, thus replacing the ad hoc begging and arm-twisting characteristic of current peacekeeping efforts. Its creation would not amount to an imperial revival. But it would fill the security void that empires left -- much as the system of mandates did after World War I ended the Ottoman Empire.

The new fund would need money, troops, and a new kind of commitment from the rich powers -- and it could be established only with strong U.S. leadership. Summoning such leadership is immensely difficult, but America and its allies have no easy options in confronting failed states. They cannot wish away the problem that chaotic power vacuums can pose. They cannot fix it with international institutions as they currently exist. And they cannot sensibly wish for a unilateral American imperium. They must either mold the international machinery to address the problems of their times, as their predecessors did in creating the U.N., the World Bank, and the IMF after World War II. Or they can muddle along until some future collection of leaders rises to the challenge.


The parallel here is to an alcoholic father, the aberrant authority figure who creates a disfunctional family situation. By simply refusing to conform to standards of international law and refusing to be bound by multinational institutions we can force them to recreate themselves in order to maintain peace with us. Thereby our disease--the belief in universal liberal democracy--eventually infects the entire world.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:33 AM

LET A MILLION FLOWERS BLOOM:


2 languages better than 1, kids say
: City school board to vote tonight on creating a charter at Fruit Ridge. (Erika Chavez, February 19, 2004, Sacramento Bee)

Founded in 1994, the Fruit Ridge immersion program starts in kindergarten with 90 percent Spanish instruction and 10 percent English. Each year, Spanish instruction decreases by 10 percent.

While students in two-way immersion programs initially score lower on standardized tests, they do as well or better than their peers in third grade and beyond, said Julie Sugarman, a researcher at the Center for Applied Linguistics, a nonprofit think tank that pioneered curricula for English as a Second Language and promotes foreign language instruction.

The same trends hold true at Fruit Ridge. Soto-Chapa said that almost four out of 10 English-speaking second-through fifth-graders in the Spanish immersion program score at advanced or proficient levels on the English Language Arts portion of the California Standards Test. By comparison, only one out of 10 English speakers in grades two through five not enrolled in the Spanish immersion program score at advanced or proficient levels.


Teach them English and who cares how you get there.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:11 AM

US:

'His Blood Be on Us': Mel Gibson and Matthew 27:25: If the verse meant only the Jews bear responsibility for Jesus' death, it would overturn Christian theology. (David Klinghoffer, BeliefNet)

Mel Gibson has reportedly dropped from his forthcoming film, The Passion of the Christ, what have been called the most inflammatory words in the New Testament. This cut has been hailed as a victory for Jews who worry about the impact of the film. Is it really something to celebrate? [...]

Of course there have been anti-Semites who understood Matthew’s words differently, and any such hateful individuals still around today will find confirmation of their bigotry in Gibson’s film. As with any piece of art, what you see will be conditioned by what you bring to it. In the same way, because representatives of the ADL see Jewish victimization wherever they look, they will see anti-Semitism in the film even if none is there.

But it’s wrong to expect Mel Gibson to tailor his work because of the extreme imaginings of a minority of viewers, whether anti-Semitic bigots or self-appointed anti-bigotry watchdogs.

When you consider that Matthew got his idea in the first place from his Jewish background, and that at the same time it speaks not of Jewish people in particular but of mankind in general, the grounds for insisting that Gibson excise the verse seem very tenuous. According to news reports, he only deleted the scene because friendly screening audiences objected to it. That, at least, is a comfort. The irony would be too painful if he had been pressured into editing his faith by critics who claim to be defenders of the freedom of faith.


The desire of even handpicked audiences not to be reminded that we're all to blame speaks volumes, does it not?


February 22, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:36 PM

BIG MONEY ON THE SIDELINES:

ICI money market mutual fund assets fell in week (Reuters, 2/22/04)

Total money market mutual fund assets stood at $2.096 trillion in the Jan. 21 week, down by $1.05 billion from a revised $2.097 trillion the prior week, an industry trade group said on Thursday.

In its own way, this number is even more staggering than the $8 Trillion Americans have in mutual funds right now. Money markets have such a low rate of return right now that these folks are making nothing, or less. As confidence in the economy rebounds and this huge pile of cash starts heading back into stocks it'll add fuel to what is already an impressive bull market run.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:19 PM

LONG WAY TO GO TO SLAY A STRAW MAN:

Satellite may sway warming debate (Hil Anderson, 2/20/2004, UPI)

Engineers in an ultra-clean assembly room near Los Angeles International Airport Friday were putting the finishing touches on a 6,500-pound satellite that potentially could change the entire debate over the controversial issue of global warming.

The sophisticated bird -- known as Aura -- is to take flight this summer from Southern California and spend the next six years in orbit, giving earthbound scientists their best look yet at the feared phenomenon of creeping climate changes that have fueled a heated debate among environmentalists, space scientists and political policymakers around the world.

"Some people don't believe it (global warming) is happening," said Anne Douglass, NASA's deputy project manager for the satellite, which is scheduled for launch in June from Vandenberg Air Force Base. "And this satellite will provide them with a lot of information."

"One of the things people are always looking for are signs of global warming that are inescapable," Douglass told United Press International Friday after a ceremony marking Aura's completion.


The argument of skeptics is not so much that global warming is not happening--though some doubt that too--but that humans aren't necessarily or even likely the cause of something that has taken place repeatedly over the planet's history.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:13 PM

ALL GREEN LIGHTS FOR RED KEN:

London road success could go global (Peter Almond, 2/21/2004, UPI)

All but the most skeptical admit that London's "Congestion Charge" experiment has significantly cut traffic, increased road speeds, doubled bus ridership and raised additional revenue -- all in the last year.

Now, socialist-minded Mayor Ken Livingstone, who campaigned for election on his pledge to introduce the charge four years ago, is so set for re-election, he has asked the government to consider adding the charge to cities all over the country.

"The scheme has made a real difference in getting London moving again," said Livingstone. "Despite the dire predictions before the launch of the scheme, congestion charging has proved a success. That is why nearly three quarters of Londoners now support the scheme. It works."

That's not quite the view of some business people in London's financial district. They blame the $9 daily charge for a significant loss of retail business. They say motorists are scared away.

"Shops, restaurants and business in the zone have been damaged, many to the point of closure," said Livingstone's Conservative Party mayoral opponent Steve Norris.

Norris cites a survey by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors claiming that 90 percent of retailers have been adversely affected. However, an independent poll published by London First, a business organization, shows that 58 percent of firms surveyed see the impact on the economy as being positive or neutral. Only 26 percent say it is negative.


These schemes will be even more successful in America where they play right into our dislike of general taxation by placing the burden directly on those causing the problem.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:07 PM

WHERE THE WAR ENDS:

Pakistan plans attacks on Qaeda and Taliban (David Rohde and Carlotta Gall, February 23, 2004, NY Times)

Pakistan is preparing to mount a major military offensive against Taliban and Al Qaeda forces along its border with Afghanistan in the next several weeks, Pakistani government officials said Sunday.

The operation is expected to be the first act of a violent, and potentially pivotal, spring along the mountainous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. In recent weeks, signs have emerged that American and Pakistani forces, as well as Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters, are all preparing to mount their own separate "spring offensives" in the area.

American military officials expect Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters to try to disrupt national elections scheduled for June in Afghanistan. At the same time, U.S. and Pakistani forces are expected to step up their efforts to gain firm control of the border area and try to capture the fugitive Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.


Expect a spate of articles from folks apologizing for not understanding why we left Musharraf in place. Not!


Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:51 PM

SPEAKING OF WHICH:

N. Korea should be given ultimatum (Richard Halloran, 2/22/04, Honolulu Advertiser)

When American, Chinese, Japanese, South Korean and Russian diplomats sit down with the North Koreans in Beijing on Wednesday, they might want to consider how the North Koreans have become almost irrelevant and should be ignored. [...]

[A]merican negotiators in Beijing may want to look the North Koreans in the eye and say: "We have had enough of your brinkmanship and failure to negotiate in good faith. We are acutely aware of your lying, deception and dissembling in the past. When you're ready for genuine negotiations, call me at this telephone number.

"And just so there is no misunderstanding, a nuclear or any other threat to our allies in South Korea or Japan will draw swift and overwhelming retribution at a time and place and in a manner of our choosing. Have a nice day."


Why not just: "Get rid of your nukes and missiles or we will"?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:47 PM

LEAVE THE SADDAM'S TO US, WE'LL LEAVE REBUILDING TO YOU:

In Iraq, It's Time for Some Smarts (Fareed Zakaria, 3/01/04, Newsweek)

As the war in Iraq was coming to a close, many people—from Tony Blair to Joseph Biden (and even this writer)—urged Washington to give the United Nations a central role in postwar politics. This had been a well-worked formula for at least a decade: in Kosovo, East Timor and most recently in Afghanistan, where it produced a legitimate government and a constitutional process with remarkably little conflict. But the Bush administration was adamantly opposed—even though sidelining the U.N. would mean fewer troops and less money from other countries. "We fought the war," administration officials explained to me at the time, "and besides, the U.N. is not competent to handle a complex undertaking like Iraq." Six months later, with Washington facing a political train wreck in Iraq, whom did it call? The United Nations.

The lesson here is not that the United Nations is always right. It isn't. The lesson is that America needs to exercise power shrewdly, using those instruments that help achieve its goals—U.N., NATO, World Bank, Rotary Club, whatever. As politics in Iraq get more complicated—and they're going to get a lot more complicated—Washington will have to be far more sophisticated than it has been.

It was obvious that a nakedly American occupation was going to make Iraqis resent the United States. The Pentagon's ideologues couldn't see this, but Ayatollah Ali Sistani did.


The reason to learn this lesson is because it allows us to change regimes and then hand the aftermath to the UN--an appropriate division of responsibilities and use of resources.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:01 AM

OLD HATE AND NEW:

Return of the old hatred: Anti-Semitism is on the increase and its roots are not in the Right but in the Sharon-hating Left (Melanie Phillips, February 22, 2004, The Observer)

Coverage of Israel is obsessive and disproportionate, and marked by a hysteria and malice not applied to any other conflict. And it cannot be divorced from the overt Jew-hatred that has now surfaced in Britain and Europe, particularly the give-away calumny of world Jewish power. The claim that Jews conspire to dominate the world is one of the oldest tropes of classic Jew-hatred. Astonishingly, claims made by the European Left are not far removed. It repeats claims that the 'powerful Jewish lobby' is now running American foreign policy. When Labour MP Tam Dalyell observed that a 'cabal' of Jewish power was behind Blair, he was thought a loveable eccentric. In the House of Lords, a meeting heard that Jews control the British media. One peer told a Jewish colleague: 'We've finished off Saddam. Your lot are next.'

The outcome is that an astonishing axis has developed between Islamic Jew-haters and the Left, marching behind the banners of 'human rights' on demonstrations in Europe producing chants of 'Hamas, Hamas, all Jews to the gas'.

Why? The main reason is ignorance of both the Middle East's history and its present. Next, the Left's hatred of Sharon is so great, along with its prejudice that America/the West is the oppressor and therefore the Islamic/Third World the victim, that it can't see what is happening.

Then there's the Left's deconstruction of the very concepts of objectivity and truth, so that it has become a conduit instead for propaganda and lies; and finally, its own history of Jew-hatred from Marx onwards. The final twist is that there are some Jews on the Left who subscribe to all the above too.


If you'll excuse the self-reference: I, for one, am honored to be hated as much for being American as the Jews are hated and to be hated by the detestable Europeans at that.


Posted by Peter Burnet at 10:50 AM

UMM, BUT OF COURSE WE MUSTN’T PRE-JUDGE THE VERDICT:

Ruling on the Barrier (Claire Cavanaugh, Radio Netherlands, 13/02/04)

At the urging of the Palestinians, the UN General Assembly has asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague to rule on Israel's construction of the controversial security barrier through Palestinian territory.

While Israel's announcement that it will boycott the ICJ hearing has surprised few, there's been more attention for the level of international criticism about the case being heard at all. The United States and European Union have both questioned the international court's jurisdiction to rule on the issue.

In this interview with Radio Netherlands, International Law expert André Nollkaemper of the University of Amsterdam explains why some parties feel the ICJ is not the right venue for this kind of case.

"...The states concerned have advanced two arguments basically. One is the strictly legal one - and I believe that is the argument of Israel - that this is an internal conflict in Israel, and by [giving] an advisory opinion the court would in essence determine a specific legal conflict."

"The other, more political background of the position of the US and the European Union, I believe, is that these states see a danger for the General Assembly to ask very general politically laden questions to the court, and then the court would become a political actor, which it was not designed to be."

RN: "Are you saying the court can never rule on politically sensitive issues?"

"Well, a particularly good precedent is the advice by the International Court of Justice in 1996 on the legality of nuclear weapons, when the General Assembly asked the court to give advice on whether the possession and use of nuclear weapons is legal. At the time, the US and the EU also took the position that this was not a question for the court to answer."

"And, of course, in the present timeframe one could think of the possibility that the Assembly would ask a question about the legality of the use of force in Iraq, for instance. And clearly that's something which both Europe and the United States would not wish to see."

RN: "What do you make of this kind of face-off between international law and politics?"

"[...] the fact that a legal conflict may have political ramifications does not mean that the court could not rule on the narrow legal issue. The court is very well able to distinguish between the legal aspects of the case and the political aspects of the case. The General Assembly has in October already adopted the position stating clearly that the building of the wall was in violation of international law."

"Personally, I can see only benefits from the court's giving a well-argued advice that supports that argument by the General Assembly, finding that the building of the wall is illegal, and then that could be a useful argument for a further political resolution of the conflict. Of course, it would not solve the conflict, but it could be one stepping stone on which the parties could find common ground for a further political resolution."

RN: "The International Court of Justice's decisions are non-binding. So Israel wouldn't have to remove one centimetre of this wall if the court ruled against it."

"That's very true, and we should not overestimate the legal impact of an opinion by the court. Nonetheless, it would confirm the widely held belief that the way the wall has been built now is illegal. Again, that would be one point on which the parties could find each other, and then use that as a basis for further political negotiations."

As Israel mourns yet more victims of barbarity, the cognoscenti continue to wage their abstract, corrupt war on behalf of darkness. The US, Europe and Canada are all opposed to this hearing and are expected to express their opposition by shunning it. Can victories in the war on terrorism ultimately prevail over the losses civilization is taking in the war of ideas?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:36 AM

60-40 VISION:

Wealthy hopefuls lead Senate race (ANDREW HERRMANN AND SCOTT FORNEK, February 22, 2004, Chicago Siun Times)

Multimillionaire candidates Blair Hull and Jack Ryan lead in their U.S. Senate primaries -- but voters don't buy opponents' complaints that they are buying the election, a new poll shows.

The survey of 1,500 Illinois voters finds that three out of four respondents said either that they are more likely to vote for a person who spends millions of his own money to win office or that a candidate's wealth doesn't matter either way. The primary is March 16.

Hull -- a trader who has pumped $24 million of his own money into his Democratic race -- leads with 27 percent, ahead of state Sen. Barack Obama and state Comptroller Dan Hynes, who each had 17 percent.

On the Republican side, Ryan -- a former investment banker who has dipped into his wallet for nearly $2.6 million -- leads dairy and investment magnate Jim Oberweis, 41 percent to 17 percent.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:32 AM

WHY CAN'T WE BE MORE LIKE NORWAY? (via Brian Hoffman):

Former President Carter says Americans generally oblivious to suffering elsewhere in the world (David Peterson, 02/22/2004, Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Former President Jimmy Carter delivered a Saturday sermon to a standing-room-only crowd at St. Olaf College, condemning the American people as much as their leaders for what he called their indifference to the disease and despair that prevail in much of the developing world.

"It's a different world from ours," he said. "And we don't really care what happens to them." [...]

What made his talk more sermonlike than political, however, was his depiction of Americans, who he said are as responsible as their government for continuing problems around the world.

He said that "despite glorious speeches in Washington" pledging assistance for AIDS in Africa, the nation of Ghana is actually getting a sixth of what it used to get from this country, and that the United States is giving one-seventeenth as much aid to others in proportion to income as Norway does.

"The problem lies among the people of the U.S.," he said. "It's time to assess what the government is doing, and shape and influence it appropriately."

Although this is a "great country, with great potential," he said, it is not doing what it could to bring about peace, freedom and health in the developing world.


What was the last nation Norway--which spends less than half what we do on its military as a % of GDP--liberated from totalitarian rule?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:19 AM

WHY STOP IT?:

A Job for Rewrite: Stalin's War (BENJAMIN SCHWARZ, 2/21/04, NY Times)

According to the conventional view, based largely on the often-self-serving accounts of German generals, the Wehrmacht was the most operationally advanced military in the war, and Soviet tactics and performance were leaden and unimaginative in comparison; the Red Army ultimately prevailed not because it was skillful, but because it was so large.

By incorporating Colonel Glantz's findings, however, Mr. Murray of Ohio State and his co-author, Allan R. Millett, conclude in "A War to Be Won" (Harvard, 2000), their general history of the Second World War, that the Soviets' brilliant use of encirclement and what they called "deep battle" — extremely rapid, far-reaching advances behind the enemy's front lines — constituted the most innovative and devastating display of "operational art" in World War II. Soviet operations from the summer of 1944 to the winter of 1945, they conclude, were far superior to those of the German Army at its best.

Speaking from his house in Carlisle, Pa., near the United States Army War College, Colonel Glantz marveled that close to one-half of wartime Soviet operations — including major battles involving hundreds of thousands of Red Army soldiers — are simply "missing from history," either neglected or covered up.

For example, in November and December of 1942 the celebrated Soviet Field Marshal G. K. Zhukov orchestrated a gigantic offensive ("Operation Mars") involving seven Soviet armies with 83 divisions, 817,000 men and 2,352 tanks. The failed operation cost the Red Army nearly 350,000 dead, missing and wounded men, and 1,700 tanks, yet it was methodically concealed in Soviet historiography, in large part to preserve Zhukov's reputation.


The impossibility of Hitler defeating and maintaining effective control of the Soviet Union is a dispositive argument against our intervening to aid a regime we'd then have to fight in turn.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:56 AM

HE MUST BE ELECTABLE, HE CRUSHED WES, HOWARD, AND GUY SMILEY:

Mr. Likable vs. Mr. Electable (JOHN TIERNEY, 2/22/04, NY Times)

"Voters find Kerry aloof and distant," said Frank Luntz, a pollster who has conducted focus groups for MSNBC among primary voters in a half-dozen states. "They find Edwards smooth and enticing. Women really find him sexy. Men like his personality."

Mr. Edwards has been criticized for not having enough government experience, but a pleasant disposition can overcome a lot of handicaps. Intellectuals made fun of Eisenhower's mangled syntax, but they were outnumbered by voters wearing "I Like Ike" buttons. Gary Hart's candidacy in 1988 was ended by his sexual indiscretion, but Bill Clinton survived his, thanks in no small part to his charm. Al Gore may have been a better debater than George W. Bush, but the audience was put off by his supercilious manner.

"A majority of Americans disagreed with Ronald Reagan's policies in 1984, but he won because they liked him personally," said Mr. Luntz, who has advised Republican candidates. "People look at presidential candidates in a special way because they can't get away from the president. They can ignore a senator or governor, but a president will be in their living rooms for four years. At a minimum they have to like him."

Michael Deaver, the crafter of Mr. Reagan's image, said that in his cheerfulness Mr. Edwards reminded him of Mr. Reagan, as did Mr. Edwards's response to criticisms by Mr. Kerry.

"Edwards responded to Kerry's negative statement by saying, 'Well, I wouldn't put it that way. I would say it this way,' " Mr. Deaver recalled. "That was exactly the way Reagan would rephrase a negative question and put a positive twist on it."

Daniel Hill, the author of "Body of Truth," an analysis of body language, has studied the candidates' styles by tracking 23 facial expressions during televised debates. He counts, for instance, the number of "social smiles" using just the mouth, "genuine smiles" using the eyes and mouth and signs of disgust or anger.

"Dean consistently showed anger by pressing his lips together or tensely holding his mouth slightly open," Mr. Hill said. "Last fall, Kerry was showing definite signs of contempt and disgust by raising his upper lip, but that's gone now. He's trying to be more likable by smiling more, but rarely can he get past the social smile to the genuine smile. Edwards gets there much more often. He conveys the most optimism, and lately he's been adding gravitas by knitting his eyebrows to show that he feels the pain of the other America."

If Mr. Edwards wins the charm contest, why is Mr. Kerry winning the primaries? Likability is not everything, especially in times of war.


Choosing an aloof, unlikable, alpha male to take on George W. Bush worked so well last time...


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:49 AM

IT'S NOT LIKE GIAMBI WILL CATCH ANY OF HIS THROWS TO FIRST ANYWAY:

For Measuring the Fielder, There Are No Formulas Yet (ALAN SCHWARZ, 2/22/04, NY Times)

JOE TORRE offered the only explanation he could. Asked on Tuesday why the Yankees are moving their newest Fabergé egg, Alex Rodriguez, to third base rather than unseat Derek Jeter from shortstop, the team's diplomatic manager cited no hard evidence to support his claim that Jeter is the superior defender. The reams of statistics that baseball churns out every year were of no use. Instead, he burrowed into the impregnable haven of opinion, where baseball arguments go to die.

"It's really tough to try to measure," Torre said of Jeter's defense. "There's something special about Derek Jeter. It's something that you can't put down on paper."

And that was that. If one had suggested that Jeter is the better hitter, even Torre would trot out the many statistical categories (home runs, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, and so on) that prove that preposterous.

But any appraisal of Jeter as being the superior fielder (an equally untenable claim, given that Rodriguez has won the Gold Glove award two years running), one hears no statistical barrage of "A-Rod had a higher fielding percentage!" or "Derek made six more errors!"

The argument remains fuzzy - fuzzy enough to obscure that the Yankees plan to play their better shortstop at third base.


The joke is NY this week is that Derek Jeter is now only the 4th best defensive SS in the city. You can't overstate how bad a fielder Mr. Jeter is.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:28 AM

WE'RE WITH ROY:

Reanimated (DEBORAH SOLOMON, 2/22/04, NY Times Magazine)

Roy E. Disney, who has long been derided as ''Walt's idiot nephew,'' as he puts it, is actually an eloquent, thoughtful man who completes the daily crossword in ink. Yet he does have a quirky sense of humor that he tends to unleash at his own expense. One recent afternoon, while we were sitting in his living room with his wife and his oldest son, I looked up from my notepad and was astonished to see him tugging on both ears, dangling his tongue from his mouth and panting like an exhausted dog. ''Did you know,'' he asked me, ''that I was the model for Goofy?''

At 74, Disney is an affable, gray-haired man whose long face and squinty eyes lend him an uncanny likeness not to old Goofy -- for whom he did not actually pose -- so much as to their mutual forebear Walt. His temperament, though, is closer to that of his father, Roy O. Disney, the kinder, gentler and lesser-known of the entertainment empire's founders. Within the company, the younger Roy has always been viewed as an oddly nonchalant heir, indifferent to the seductions of power, content to spend his days tinkering with films and keeping court with the old-time animators whom he had watched, in his privileged boyhood, sketching scenes for ''Pinocchio'' and ''Fantasia'' on their storyboards.

''When you grow up around a company in which the power is already yours,'' he explained that day at his home in Toluca Lake, a suburban section of Los Angeles, ''you look at power in a different way. I believed that the work was the important thing. I wasn't political. I wasn't trying to nudge some guy out of the way.''

These days, however, Roy Disney is very intent on nudging a guy out of the way. He is trying, by his own admission, to destroy Michael D. Eisner, the chairman and chief executive of the company and a man Disney himself helped hire in 1984.


Mr. Disney may not be the man to run Disney, but his vision should prevail.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:21 AM

WHO NEEDS KIDS?:

On the childcare bandwagon, pushing granny off the bus (Muriel Gray, 2/22/04, Sunday Herald)

[Michael] Howard has now decided to put behind him that old Conservative mantra that single mothers are the greatest living threat to civilisation as we know it, and instead make a concerted effort to win round the lactating vote. The proposal on the table is that a Conservative government would pay mothers to stay at home for three years and look after their children instead of returning to work, basing the policy on the Finnish model, under which mothers are paid £150 per month to stay at home and another £50 for each subsequent child. Parents on the poverty line receive an extra £100, but the basic rate is paid to all, irrespective of income.

Let’s put aside for a moment the naked desperation of the Tories, who would clearly say or do anything to get a sniff of power again, and examine this new attempt at winning public support. They’re not alone in thinking that the plight of the working mother is a vote winner, with the government also raking around in the issue of childcare, no doubt to see if it can salvage some votes from a disillusioned electorate still disgusted with Labour following the disaster of Blair’s Iraq campaign.

Clearly both parties think it essential that the taxpayer takes more responsibility for the upbringing of children in families where parents need or wish to work. What has not been examined in any great detail is why. A decent society, when it works, is a marvellous tool for delivering practical altruism even when the motives are selfish. For instance, a very rich, bitter and misanthropic individual might nevertheless see the sense in subsidising the poor, even though he despises them, since at its most simple such a course of action may mean that the community he lives in will be less likely to suffer from crime and his quality of life may therefore be improved overall. His tax pounds to fund education and support for the poverty-stricken are therefore no less effective, even if they’re given for the wrong reasons.

So when it comes to the taxpayer subsidising parenting, there must be similarly positive benefits for all, including the childless, or else it’s a hard policy to justify. So what are the benefits? [...]

Chameleon man Howard might think that this bandwagon is a clear winner, but he should be careful. Having a child is a lifestyle choice, not a right, and not everyone believes that the parents of healthy bouncing babies are the most down-trodden and wretched victims in society.


Ms Gray's main objection--funding single mothers--is easily dealt with: only give the money to married couples. The rest is just that strange Leftish hatred of propagating the species. Lifestyle choice?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:13 AM

PITY THE POOR GERMANS:

A Blitz on Dresden: a review of Dresden by Frederick Taylor (George Rosie, Sunday Herald)

Taylor is an assiduous researcher. He paints a picture which, while still terrible, is not quite the apocalyptic one of popular history. And in the process he deflates a number of myths.

One of them is that Dresden was an “innocent” city, a wonderland of art and architecture devoid of any strategic significance. Nothing more than Florence on the Elbe. This is nonsense. Dresden was home to any number of high-tech engineering firms all working flat out to supply Hitler’s war machine. One was Carl Zeiss-Jena, the lens-making company which was churning out optics for bomb sights, artillery sights and U-boat periscopes. Many of these factories relied on slave labour from concentration camps. In fact, the Dresden Yearbook for 1942 boasts that the city was “one of the foremost industrial locations of the Reich.”

Dresden was also the site of one of the most important railway marshalling yards in eastern Germany. It was a nodal point on the network with hundreds of thousands of troops, guns and tanks being shunted through Dresden on their way to the eastern front. Politically, the city was solidly Nazi. Hitler’s visits were met with wild enthusiasm. There was an SS barracks in the suburbs. Hundreds of Hitler’s enemies had died on the blade of Dresden’s electric-powered guillotine. One way or another, Dresden was a “legitimate” target for the allied bombers (if bombing of any city can be regarded as legitimate).

Ironically perhaps, Dresden’s tragedy was not to have been bombed far earlier in the war. If it had been, things might have been different. But for years the city was beyond the reach of allied aircraft. Dresden seems to have been lulled, quite literally, into a false sense of security. As a result it failed to build the kind of deep, air-raid shelters with blast shutters and air-filtration systems which was the norm elsewhere in Germany (and which probably saved millions of lives). Dresdeners made their own arrangements – in basements, cellars, under stairs, where so many were to prove utterly vulnerable to the rain of high explosives and incendiaries.


Hey, here's an idea: don't want to be bombed? Don't start a war.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:07 AM

VERDICT? TOO LATE:

The Not-So-Funny Farm: Labour is going to give us GM crops whether we want them or not … what does that say about British democracy? (Ian Bell, 2/22/04, Sunday Herald)

WHEN the jury is still out, you can’t have a verdict. You can have opinions, even faith, but until those who have studied the evidence reach a firm conclusion your views are not worth a great deal. Being a new Labour minister, even a prime minister, does not grant you supernatural powers of prophecy and insight denied to the rest of us. That’s the nub of the argument where genetically modified crops are concerned. The government knows only too well that a large majority of people don’t want their food modified. It knows, too, that if the public’s questions were properly addressed and properly answered, opposition would probably melt away. Show beyond doubt that the stuff is safe, in this age of mad cow disease and Sars, and we might just swallow it. Instead, according to papers leaked last week, the Blair administration intends to allow the first crop of GM maize in the name of British science regardless of what the public thinks. A government that claims to be in the middle of a “Big Conversation” with voters has decided to turn off its hearing aid. Typically, it presents this as a staunch refusal to “take the easy way out”. Most of us know, however, that the hard way, unthinkable to the Blairites, would be to continue to resist the demands of the United States and its agri-business.

That lobby tends to present GM as the latest gee-whiz way to save the world. Plant the new seeds, they say, and hunger will be banished among the wretched of the Earth. It sounds like a splendid aspiration. But why, then, are the GM companies so fanatically keen on forcing their way into the European market? Starvation isn’t exactly an issue on this side of the Atlantic. If anything, we are glutted with foods of every variety. Obesity is our problem, not hunger.

Last year, in any case, the government held what it called a national GM debate. (Were you consulted? Me neither). This produced a disappointing, not to say dismal, result for GM’s proponents. More than 80% of those polled didn’t want modified foodstuffs and only 2% said they would knowingly let such substances pass their lips. Other surveys have suggested that opposition is perhaps less deeply rooted, but none have established anything like a majority for tampering with food. Still the government, knowing nothing for sure, maintains that it knows better.

In fact, the science it has commissioned is scarcely compelling. A five-year trial by the advisory committee on releases to the environment ended in January with a report concluding that GM maize is preferable to maize saturated with herbicides (right answer, wrong question), but establishing that both GM oil-seed rape and GM sugar beet were harmful to the environment. This confirmed previous findings, including those of the government’s own chief scientist, Sir David King. Still the government presses on.

It does not know – because no-one knows – how to prevent GM crops from contaminating ordinary crops, particularly organic crops. It cannot say – because no-one can say – what economic benefit there is to be had from GM, though its own Cabinet Office has struggled to identify any benefit whatsoever. It cannot even begin to predict – because it chooses not to predict – whether the imposition of GM will provoke civil disobedience, or worse, from environmentalists and others. It is walking into a minefield, not a maize field, and appears not to grasp the fact.


Ben & Jerry's used to claim that their ice cream used no milk from cows that received bovine growth hormone. When a sufficient number of people asked how they could tell that, and how differentiate the natural hormone from the bio-engineered, they reduced their claim to one that farmers supplying them had signed a pledge.

Strange that people get so worked up about altering food but are eager to tamper with our own genome.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 AM

THE AUTISM HOAX:

MMR storm: Wakefield welcomes probe: Health Secretary demands inquiry after doctor who linked triple jab with autism accused of conflict of interest (Liam McDougall, 2/22/04, Sunday Herald)

THE scientist at the centre of new claims that his research linking the MMR vaccine with autism was “entirely flawed” has welcomed government demands for an investigation into his controversial work.

Dr Andrew Wakefield told the Sunday Herald that an independent inquiry “would be particularly welcome” after health secretary John Reid yesterday urged a probe by the General Medical Council (GMC).

Wakefield’s research was branded “invalid” by the editor of The Lancet, Dr Richard Horton, who claimed that at the time of publication in 1998 Wakefield was also carrying out studies for the Legal Aid Board on behalf of parents who believed the vaccine had harmed their children. Horton said that was a serious conflict of interest.


But in the meantime, frightened parents have foregone safe and helpful vaccinations for their kids.


MORE:
-Maverick view that sparked panic over the triple vaccine: Despite fellow doctors' doubts, Andrew Wakefield's claims won uncritical media coverage. (Jane Fineman, February 22, 2004, The Observer)

Just eight years ago, nearly every parent in the country welcomed infant vaccination against mumps, measles and rubella (MMR) as protection against serious, potentially fatal illnesses. But for over half a decade, it's become a nightmare. For a large number of people the idea of those same vaccinations has become synonymous with playing Russian roulette with their children's health.

That is has become so is thanks to a single paper, published in the Lancet on 28 February 1998. The lead author was Dr Andrew Wakefield, head of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Study Group at the Royal Free Hospital and a man on a mission. [...]

The ensuing anti-MMR hysteria manifested itself in a dramatic reduction in uptake of the vaccine - from a high of 92 per cent in the mid-Nineties to between 72 and 79 per cent now. This is well below the 95 per cent cover required to ensure herd immunity. Experts predict a measles epidemic is not far off.

GP and academic Dr Tom Heller was one of the few doctors to publicly dispute the mountain of evidence against the Wakefield paper, claiming that 'the more strident the experts become, the less believable I seem to find them'. In contrast, a survey of health workers in 2001 (at a time when over 20 papers confirming the safety of the vaccine had been published) found that only 54 per cent of GPs and 45 per cent of health professionals agreed completely with giving a second dose of the MMR vaccine.


-The Autism Quotient: A researcher wants to help you measure your AQ (Steven Johnson, 2/22/2004, Boston Globe)
According to Cambridge University psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen, the individual talent for mindreading is partially hardwired into our skulls. Baron-Cohen has devised a simple test -- called "The Reading The Mind In The Eyes Test" -- that measures an individual's mindreading ability. The test requires subjects to discern subtle emotional states from a series of photographs of eyes (see illustration, D1). Some people fly through the test with ease, correctly identifying emotions without a second thought. Others flounder, constantly second-guessing themselves. And one group consistently fails the test: people suffering from autism.

But autism, according to Baron-Cohen, may not be a simple on/off condition. Its symptoms -- including difficulties with social interaction and a disinclination to make eye-contact -- exist on a continuum. In other words, although it's impossible to be a little bit pregnant, it may be possible to be a little bit autistic. (Last fall, Baron-Cohen stirred up controversy with a book arguing that autism, which afflicts boys far more often than girls, may even be just an extreme version of normal tendencies in the male brain.)

Baron-Cohen and his colleagues at the Autism Research Centre in Cambridge, England, have devised another simple test, called the Autism Spectrum Quotient, that can help us place ourselves along the autism continuum. Instead of testing your IQ, it tests your "AQ." (The test is available at www.wired.com/wired/archive/9.12/aqtest.html, among other websites.)

Just answer 50 questions about yourself, and a simple program will spit out a number between 1 and 32. The median score is 16.4; most diagnosed autistics score 32 or higher. But Baron-Cohen emphasizes that this is not a diagnostic tool. Those who score 32 or above do not necessarily report finding social interactions difficult, he says, and do not necessarily have autism.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 AM

PAGING THE RED ARMY:

Edwards, Kerry Were Barely Solvent Last Month (Thomas B. Edsall, February 22, 2004, washingtonpost.com )

New campaign finance reports show that the two leading candidates for the Democratic nomination were barely solvent at the end of January heading into a prospective $50 million-plus ad blitz by President Bush.

Bush, whose reelection drive is the richest in American history, ended January with $104.4 million in the bank, nearly 100 times as much as the net balances of Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), the Democratic front-runner, and Sen. John Edwards (N.C.), Kerry's leading challenger for the nomination.

"We will never catch up," said Michael Meehan, Kerry's spokesman, noting that so far in February, Kerry had raised $5 million.

Bush is gearing up to weaken the Democratic nominee well before the general election starts, using a tactic that proved highly effective for President Bill Clinton in 1996.

Clinton, using unregulated large contributions of "soft money" the Democratic National Committee collected from unions, corporations and wealthy individuals, spent an estimated $30 million during the summer months on ads portraying Republican nominee Robert J. Dole in a harsh and negative light. Dole had no money to launch a counterattack.

Republican pollsters who tracked Dole's favorability said that in areas where the anti-Dole ads ran, the public's view of Dole deteriorated significantly, making it more difficult for him to mount his general election campaign in the fall.

With a base of $50 million, and perhaps significantly more, for spring and summer television commercials, the Bush campaign plans to spend at least 167 percent of what the Clinton campaign did eight years ago.


We've just seen how two months of basically unanswered attacks were able to soften up a popular president's poll numbers, now we'll get to see how an unknown senator fares after six months of being defined by Karl Rove.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:18 AM

SEWING HATRED:

P.R. GURU QUITS OVER 'PASSION' (NY Post, February 12, 2004)

SUSAN Blond - the public relations powerhouse who is also an Orthodox Jew - has quit representing Heeb magazine because she was so offended by a 10-page photo feature mocking Mel Gibson's controversial movie "The Passion of the Christ." Some Jewish leaders have attacked the film, fearing it could foster anti-Semitism for showing the role Jews played in the Crucifixion. Heeb, the hip quarterly dubbed "The New Jew Review," had used Blond to promote its launch in 2002. The magazine's new cover announces "Back Off Braveheart" to tout a photo feature inside called "Crimes of Passion." Editor-in-chief Josh Neuman wasn't very forthcoming in describing the offensive photos: "It's our interpretation of Jesus' final hours. It's what you'd expect from Heeb magazine." But Blond said one photo showed a Jewish prayer shawl being used as Jesus' loincloth and another depicted the Virgin Mary with nipple rings.

Strange we don't see a slew of stories about how Abraham Foxman and the ADL are stirring up anti-Christian hatred, eh?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:25 AM

NEVER TRUST A WACKENHUT (via Matt Drudge):

Airline says security officers approved faked ID for passenger (HARRY EAGAR, February 20, 2004 , Mauni News)

A screaming, cursing passenger without identification got help from Kahului Airport security officers to board a Pacific Wings flight last Friday.
Pacific Wings security coordinator (and chief pilot) Robert McKinney says his staff felt "pressured" by a Wackenhut officer who identified himself as a Maui police officer and by an official of the Transportation Security Administration to accept a "manufactured" police report and pass the woman through security.

McKinney says he knows his staff has the final say on who boards and who doesn't, but he says the airline's workers were "badgered by three uniformed people who insisted it was OK."

Pacific Wings became more alarmed when it turned out that the alleged police report used instead of proper ID was bogus.


We can barely describe how relieved we were that our first friend to make the Drudge Report was an author rather than a subject of a story.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM

WHERE THE WAR ENDS:

Coalition locates bin Laden in northwest Pakistan (Haaretz Service, 2/22/04)

A British newspaper on Sunday quoted American security sources as saying that coalition troops have located Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, for the first time since 2001, Army Radio reported.

The radio said that the Sunday Express cites the sources as placing bin Laden and 50 trusted associates, in northwest Pakistan, close to the border with Afghanistan.

The leader of the Taliban, Mullah Omar, is said to be among the 50, the radio said.

The Sunday Express says the Al-Qaida leader has been "boxed in" by American and British special forces.



February 21, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:51 PM

RIDING THE DRAGON:

The Man Who Would Be Khan: A new breed of American soldier—call him the soldier-diplomat—has come into being since the end of the Cold War. Meet the colonel who was our man in Mongolia, an officer who probably wielded more local influence than many Mongol rulers of yore (Robert D. Kaplan, March 2004, Atlantic Monthly)

In the early spring of 2003, as U.S. troops in Iraq were consolidating their hold over Baghdad, few people had their eyes on Mongolia. And yet what was happening at the time in that country—90 percent of whose foreign military training and assistance now comes from the United States—was critical to the extension of America's global liberal influence. "Mongolia is a vast country completely surrounded by two anti-American empires, Russia and China," S. Galsanjamts, a member of Mongolia's national-security council, told me recently. "It is therefore a symbol of the kind of independence America wants to encourage in the world." Today, more often than not, the United States is encouraging that sort of independence not by intervening militarily on a grand scale but, rather, by placing a few quietly effective officers in key locations around the globe.

Last year I traveled to Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia, to meet Colonel Tom Wilhelm, one of the best of this new breed of American soldier-diplomats. Wilhelm's official roles at the time of my visit included serving at the U.S. embassy as the defense attaché, as the security-assistance officer, and as the liaison for the military's Pacific Command (PACOM). The embassy is a small building and somewhat less imposing than other posts, befitting the low "threat assessment" assigned to Mongolia. The country lived under virtual Soviet domination for seventy years, a generation longer than the satellite states of Eastern Europe, and public opinion is staunchly pro-American. At the time of the Iraq crisis the Mongolians staged no anti-war demonstrations. Indeed, they deployed a contingent of 175 soldiers to Baghdad last year, to help with policing efforts—a move that marked the first entry of Mongol troops into Mesopotamia since 1258, when Hulagu Khan, a grandson of Genghis Khan's, arrived and exterminated most of the population of Baghdad. [...]

Wilhelm's assignment to Ulan Bator occurred against the following backdrop: Mongolia, with one of the world's lowest population densities, is being threatened demographically by the latest of Eurasia's great historical migrations—an urban Chinese civilization is determined to move north. China—which ruled much of Mongolia from the end of the seventeenth century until the early twentieth century, during the Manchu period—covets the oil, coal, uranium, and empty grasslands of its former possession. Given that a resurgent China has already absorbed Tibet, Macao, and Hong Kong, reabsorbing Mongolia—a country that on the map looks like a big piece of territory bitten away from China—seems almost irresistibly a part of China's geopolitical intentions.

Only three full-time defense attachés serve in Ulan Bator—representing Russia, the United States, and China, the three countries with past or future imperial interests in Mongolia. Americans, of course, are uncomfortable with the idea of having or running a global empire, but that responsibility is being thrust upon them nevertheless in Mongolia as elsewhere. And unconventional men like Tom Wilhelm, largely out of sight, are the ones carrying the load and transforming the world order. I went to Mongolia to see him in action. [...]

When Wilhelm arrived in Mongolia, in 2001, U.S.-Mongolian defense relations had no focus. All that existed was a hodgepodge of unrelated aid and training programs that had not been staffed out in detail in Washington or in Ulan Bator. Mongolia's post-communist military had no realistic vision of its future. It wanted a modern air force but wasn't sure what such an air force would do, or how it would be sustained, or its aircraft maintained. Wilhelm, with the active support of Ambassador John Dinger, quickly provided a sense of purpose. He and Dinger developed a "three pillars" strategy for the country and persuaded the Mongolian military to sign on. The three pillars are:

1) Securing Mongolia's borders not against a conventional military threat from China (such security would be impossible) but against illegal border incursions, criminal activities to finance terrorism, and transnational terrorism itself, particularly by the Uighur separatists of western China. Aided by the Chechens and the broad militant Islamic network, Uighur extremists represent the future of terrorism in Central Asia.

2) Preparing the Mongolian military to play an active role in international peacekeeping, in order to raise its profile in global forums and thus provide Mongolia with diplomatic protection from its large, rapacious neighbors. The dispatch of Mongolian troops to post-Saddam Iraq elicited shrill cries of annoyance from Russia and China, but it was the first building block of this pillar.

3) Improving Mongolia's capacity to respond to natural disasters, most notably drought.


We should be on the offensive against China, not the defensive--forging a permanent allliance with places like Taiwan and Mongolia and agitating for self-determination in Tibet, Hong Kong, etc.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:50 PM

NEWS FROM THE COLONIES:

Staring Into the Mouth of the Trade Deficit (ELIZABETH BECKER, 2/21/04, NY Times)

Huge container ships steam into this port every day loaded with clothes and shoes, furniture and video games, electronics and aircraft parts made in Asia.

On their return trip, those same ships often cross the Pacific half empty, bearing chemicals, meat, grain and engines and routinely stuffed with hay or scrap paper.

"This is what the nation's trade imbalance really looks like," said Mark Knudsen, the deputy director of the Port of Seattle.


Similarly, in an earlier age, the more developed nations imported raw materials from their colonies but had nothing to ship them in return that they wanted and could afford (other than opium to China). The only difference is that now we also have these colonies assemble the raw materials into finished goods for us.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:42 PM

NEVER KNOW WHAT FUNDAMENTALIST BASTION YOU'LL FIND THOSE SKEPTICS IN:

Darwin and Design (Prof. Alvin Kibel , Fall 2003, MIT)

Highlights of this Course

Many of the readings for the course may be downloaded, and all assignments are available.

Course Description

This subject offers a broad survey of texts (both literary and philosophical) drawn from the Western tradition and selected to trace the immediate intellectual antecedents and some of the implications of the ideas animating Darwin's revolutionary On the Origin of Species. Darwin's text, of course, is about the mechanism that drives the evolution of life on this planet, but the fundamental ideas of the text have implications that range well beyond the scope of natural history, and the assumptions behind Darwin's arguments challenge ideas that go much further back than the set of ideas that Darwin set himself explicitly to question - ideas of decisive importance when we think about ourselves, the nature of the material universe, the planet that we live upon, and our place in its scheme of life. In establishing his theory of natural selection, Darwin set himself, rather self-consciously, to challenge a whole way of thinking about these things. The main focus of attention will be Darwin's contribution to the so-called "argument from design" - the notion that innumerable aspects of the world (and most particularly the organisms within it) display features directly analogous to objects of human design and, since design implies a designer, that an intelligent, conscious agency must have been responsible for their organization and creation. Previously, it had been argued that such features must have only one of two ultimate sources - chance or conscious agency. Darwin proposed and elaborated a third source, which he called Natural Selection, an unconscious agency capable of outdoing the most complex feats of human intelligence.

The course of study will not only examine the immediate inspiration for this idea in the work of Adam Smith and Thomas Malthus and place Darwin's Origin and the theory of Natural Selection in the history of ensuing debate, but it will also touch upon related issues.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:33 PM

ADDING INSULT TO SOX FAN INJURY:

Club says it knew Soriano was 28 (Associated Press, 2/18/04)

Alfonso Soriano is 28 years old, not 26, and that didn't come as a surprise to the Texas Rangers.

So his best years are behind, not in front of, him? Bruce Dern needs to fly a Goodyear blimp into Yankee Stadium on Opening Day.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:25 PM

ANYPLACE, ANYTIME:

Russia Says New Missile Will Beat Any U.S. Defenses (Tom Miles, February 19, 2004, Reuters)

Russia has developed ballistic missile technology that can outwit any defensive system, a top Russian general said on Thursday, in a clear challenge to the United States' planned $50 billion anti-missile shield.

The declaration came a day after President Vladimir Putin, eyeing nationalist votes for elections next month, promised to equip his armed forces with a new generation of long-range weapons matching those of the United States. [...]

Russia's maneuvers have not gone entirely smoothly over the last week.

A Russian ballistic missile self-destructed after a failed test launch from a submarine in the Arctic north on Wednesday. On Tuesday, two ballistic missiles failed to take off in a test on another nuclear submarine.


Watching their Keystone Kops maneuvers was a reminder of how craven it was of us not to force a nuclear showdown during the Cold War.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:18 PM

KERRY VS. KERRY:

Kerry's Past to Star in Bush's Ads: Reelection Team Says Democrat's 32-Year Career Is Rich in Ammunition (Howard Kurtz, February 20, 2004, Washington Post)

President Bush's reelection campaign has decided to focus its coming advertising barrage not only on John F. Kerry's record as a senator but also on his days as an antiwar activist, a House candidate and Massachusetts's lieutenant governor.

"The beauty of John Kerry is 32 years of votes and public pronouncements," said Mark McKinnon, the chief media adviser. McKinnon suggested a possible tag line: "He's been wrong for 32 years, he's wrong now."

Campaign officials said in interviews that they plan substantial positive advertising about the president, focused on his proposals rather than accomplishments, when they begin spending tens of millions of dollars on the airwaves next month. But they made it clear that many of the ads will accuse the Democratic front-runner of "hypocrisy," in McKinnon's word, in part by reaching back into his early career. [...]

While the Bush camp is sitting on a $100 million war chest, strategists plan to target the ad blitz to fewer than 20 states -- such as Florida, Wisconsin, Missouri, Iowa, New Hampshire and New Mexico -- that were most closely contested in 2000.

By taking the rare step of preparing for a general-election ad blitz five months before the party conventions, the Bush team is following the lead of President Bill Clinton, whose early 1996 commercials helped frame the election by tying GOP nominee Robert J. Dole to unpopular House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). The Bush ads would air at a time when Kerry may lack the resources to effectively respond, and in any event the money must be spent before the fall, when both nominees will be limited to $75 million in public financing. [...]

The Republican National Committee, which is sitting on more than $30 million, could join in the aerial assault on Kerry, but officials there said no decision has been made. The Democratic National Committee has raised about two-thirds of the $15 million it hopes to spend on ads to help Kerry counter the Bush barrage.


The real beauty is that you can co-opt Senator Kerry into your argument by making ads that feature him taking the opposite position to the one that's popular now on every issue and then forcing him to repdiate himself. It's sublime.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:51 PM

DISSATISFIED LOBBYISTS (via Paul Cella):

Evangelicals frustrated by Bush (Ralph Z. Hallow, February 20, 2004, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

President Bush left several million evangelical voters "on the table" four years ago and again is having trouble energizing Christian conservatives, prominent leaders on the religious right say.

"It's not just economic conservatives upset by runaway federal spending that he's having trouble with. I think his biggest problem will be social conservatives who are not motivated to work for the ticket and to ensure their fellow Christians get to the polling booth," said Robert H. Knight, director of the Culture and Family Institute.

"If there is a rerun of 2000, when an estimated 6 million fewer evangelical Christians voted than in the pivotal year of 1994, then the Bush ticket will be in trouble, especially if there is no [Ralph] Nader alternative to draw Democratic votes away from the Democratic candidate," added Mr. Knight, whose organization is an affiliate of Concerned Women for America (CWA).

Their list of grievances is long, but right now social conservatives are mad over what many consider the president's failure to strongly condemn illegal homosexual "marriages" being performed in San Francisco under the authority of Mayor Gavin Newsom.

Top religious rights activists have been burning up the telephone lines, sharing what one privately called their "apoplexy" over Mr. Bush's failure to act decisively on the issue, although he has said he would support a constitutional amendment if necessary to ban same-sex "marriages."


This is the kind of blather you get from inside the Beltway, but in the real America rank and file evangelicals and other conservatives, of every stripe, are socked in hard for Mr. Bush, Bush in stronger position at this stage of re-election campaign than predecessors (Will Lester, January 10, 2004, Associated Press)
Bolstered by lopsided backing from core supporters, President Bush is in a stronger position with voters than his father or Bill Clinton were at the same stage of their re-election bids, an Associated Press poll found.

Men, evangelicals and rural voters are supporting Bush by big margins at the start of this election year, while traditionally Democratic-leaning groups such as women have more divided loyalties, according to the poll. The public’s growing confidence in the economy is helping boost Bush’s standing as well. [...]

Bush is in significantly better shape with the public than either Clinton or the first President Bush were at this stage in their re-election bids and about the same as Ronald Reagan before his landslide re-election victory in 1984.



Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:31 PM

A UNION OF STATES, NOT INDIVIDUALS (via ef brown):

Elections With No Meaning (NY Times, 2/21/04)

Let's hope the presidential contest is a close one this November. Otherwise, many of the voters who go to the polls may ask themselves why they bothered to show up. It's highly unlikely that the contests for Congress or the state legislatures will make them feel as if their votes make a difference. Both parties have succeeded in drawing district lines in ways that cement their power by eliminating contested elections.

The Supreme Court is poised to rule in a case that could put limits on this partisan gerrymandering and put power back where it belongs: with the voters. The plaintiffs have already made a compelling case, but two recent events — an investigation in Texas and a court ruling in Georgia — underscore the need for the Supreme Court to act against the scourge of partisan line-drawing. [...]

A major reason legislative elections are becoming a charade is that the parties that control the redistricting process now routinely follow the dictum of "pack, crack and pair." They pack voters from the other party into a single district and crack centers of opposition strength, dispersing opponents to districts where they will be in the minority. They redraw lines so two incumbents from the other party will wind up in one district, fighting for a single seat. Using powerful computers, line-drawers can now determine, with nearly scientific precision, how many loyal party voters need to be stuffed into any given district to make it impregnable.


Not only is this nonsense but a mere glance at the Constitution demonstrates it to be so. Our system of government explicitly assumes that unequal representation is perfectly compatible with the Republic. Not only does every state get two, and no more than two, senators, but there arewide variances in the number of constituents per congressman. There is no apparent reason then that states should not use similarly imaginative schemes to distribute power within their borders and determine to the greatest degree possible who will represent their interests in Congress.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:26 AM

THE CLOSING WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY:

The Multilateral Mirage: Can Democrats embrace a sensible approach to foreign policy? (LEE HARRIS, February 21, 2004, Wall Street Journal)

Multilateralism, as it is currently used by leading Democrats, means only one thing: action that is officially approved by the United Nations. But the moment this is grasped, the multilateral mirage vanishes. No Democratic candidate can tell the American people that he will only defend their national interests when the U.N. says it's OK for him to do it. That, like the pacifist option, is the path of political suicide.

There is no need for the Democrats to take this path. They could continue to disagree with Mr. Bush on Iraq and not terminate themselves, but only at a price: They would have to adopt a policy of neoisolationism, a position that is bound to be uncomfortably close to Pat Buchanan's, but which still offers a politically viable alternative to the policy of Mr. Bush.

Many Americans today wish the administration well in its idealistic efforts to bring democracy to Iraq, but remain skeptical of the political realities involved in such an undertaking. But such skepticism is not liberal, nor is it neoconservative; it is conservative in the old-fashioned sense of the word and based on a sober assessment of the difficulty of changing the deeply ingrained collective habits of strange peoples in strange lands.

If the Democratic Party wishes to articulate this conservative and skeptical doubt about the feasibility of extending liberalism to parts of the world that have no indigenous history of liberalism, then it would be serving a valuable purpose in our national dialogue. The Democratic Party would be then opposing the Bush administration on a principle that a large number of Americans can readily appreciate, even when they disagree with it.


Both parties would do well not to underestimate the path that Mr. Harris lays out for Democrats here. Our post 9-11 moment of Jacksonianism is at an end--until the next attack--and the wide majority of the country is now amenable to a more traditional Jeffersonian or Hamiltonian posture. The great danger of the war on terror was never that we might lose it in battle, but that as with the Civil War, WWI, WWII, and the Cold War we'd quit at the first sign of victory and not endure long enough to secure a just and lasting peace.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:22 AM

MR. BUSH'S NEIGHBORHOOD:

Bush's Gospel: The strengths and weaknesses of a love-thy-neighbor presidency. (Terry Eastland, 03/01/2004, Weekly Standard)

AMONG THE EVENTS that doomed Howard Dean's candidacy, one that has been insufficiently parsed took place on January 11 during a question-and-answer session in Oelwein, Iowa. A Bush supporter, Dale Ungerer, got up and condemned the press and the Democratic candidates for over-the-top criticisms of the president. Ungerer invoked the biblical imperative to "love thy neighbor," telling Dean, "Please tone down the garbage. . . . You should help your neighbor and not tear him down." Dean responded, "George Bush is not my neighbor."

Ungerer protested, "Yes, he is," but Dean said, "You sit down. You had your say, and now I'm going to have my say." And he did, identifying ways Bush hadn't been "a good neighbor" to his fellow Americans. Dean added, "Under the guise of supporting your neighbor, we're all expected not to criticize the president because it's unpatriotic. I think it's unpatriotic to do some of the things that this president has done to the country. It is time not to put up [with] any of this 'love thy neighbor' stuff."

Press accounts of the exchange tended to frame it as another instance of Dean's temper flaring, while commentators wondered whether the candidate's treatment of "love thy neighbor" as mere "stuff" wasn't at odds with his recent expressions of respect for religion.

Unnoticed, however, was the fact that Dean had made a frontal attack on the Bush presidency. For if you look closely at the president's speeches and remarks and consider carefully the sweep of his policies, both domestic and foreign, it becomes clear that Bush thinks of his presidency in terms of the commandment invoked in the Oelwein exchange. Indeed, central to George W. Bush's motivation as president is the ethic of "neighbor-love," as it is called in Christian circles.

We're not accustomed to a theological reading of a presidency. Yet it's evident, as Bill Keller of the New York Times wrote last year, that Bush's faith is "the animating force of his presidency."


What's interesting about looking at Mr. Bush from this perspective is that you can see that liberals can't accept that he's really intent on helping his American neighbors, the old Right can't accept the idea that people beyond our borders are our neighbors inb the global age, and libertarians are furious at the very idea that a neighbor should be helped.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:16 AM

WHAT TIES TO AL QAEDA?:

Saddam's Ambassador to al Qaeda: An Iraqi prisoner details Saddam's links to Osama bin Laden's terror network. (Jonathan Schanzer, 03/01/2004, Weekly Standard)

My first question to al-Shamari was whether he was involved in the operations of Ansar al Islam. My translator asked him the question in Arabic, and al-Shamari nodded: "Yes." Al-Shamari, who appears to be in his late twenties, said that his division of the Mukhabarat provided weapons to Ansar, "mostly mortar rounds." This statement echoed an independent Kurdish report from July 2002 alleging that ordnance seized from Ansar al Islam was produced by Saddam's military and a Guardian article several weeks later alleging that truckloads of arms were shipped to Ansar from areas controlled by Saddam.

In addition to weapons, al-Shamari said, the Mukhabarat also helped finance Ansar al Islam. "On one occasion we gave them ten million Swiss dinars [$700,000]," al-Shamari said, referring to the pre-1990 Iraqi currency. On other occasions, the Mukhabarat provided more than that. The assistance, he added, was furnished "every month or two months."

I then picked up a picture of a man known as Abu Wael that I had acquired from Kurdish intelligence. In the course of my research, several sources had claimed that Abu Wael was on Saddam's payroll and was also an al Qaeda operative, but few had any facts to back up their claim. For example, one Arabic daily, al-Sharq al-Awsat, stated flatly before the Iraq war, "all information indicates [that Abu Wael] was the link between al Qaeda and the Iraqi regime" but neglected to provide any such information. Agence France-Presse after the war cited a Kurdish security chief's description of Abu Wael as a "key link to Saddam's former Baath regime" and an "intelligence agent for the ousted president originally from Baghdad." Again, nothing was provided to substantiate this claim. [...]

"Do you know this man?" I asked al-Shamari. His eyes widened and he smiled. He told me that he knew the man in the picture, but that his graying beard was now completely white. He said that the man was Abu Wael, whose full name is Colonel Saadan Mahmoud Abdul Latif al-Aani. The prisoner told me that he had worked for Abu Wael, who was the leader of a special intelligence directorate in the Mukhabarat. That directorate provided assistance to Ansar al Islam at the behest of Saddam Hussein, whom Abu Wael had met "four or five times."


Yes, but was Saddam a card-carrying member, as the Left seems to require before we act?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:09 AM

WELFARE QUEEN FOUND!:

Britain's laziest woman (ALASTAIR TAYLOR, 2/22/04)

THE laziest woman in Britain is exposed by The Sun today.
Bone idle Susan Moore has finally had her benefits stopped after an astonishing 16 YEARS on the dole.

Super-sponger Susan, 34, has not done a day’s work since dropping out of college in 1988.

But amazingly, she insists she isn’t lazy — and is appealing against the decision to stop her claiming £65-a-week Jobseeker’s Allowance.

Susan, who says she needs to RELAX at weekends, has never even been for a job interview — and turned down work at a supermarket because it was five miles away.

But yesterday she said: “I don’t see why I shouldn’t get Jobseeker’s Allowance. I’m not a scrounger, I want to work but nothing suitable’s come up.”

Her local Jobcentre currently has 260 vacancies on its books, and the local paper is packed with 230 job ads. But skiver Susan reckons none are right for her.

Since abandoning college she has pocketed £30,000 in benefits. But the handouts were finally stopped when she quit a New Deal course designed to help her find a job.


Stinkin' immigrants...


February 20, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:41 PM

IN HIS OWN WORDS:

Kerry's Denials at Odds With 1971 Book He Authored (Marc Morano, February 20, 2004, CNSNews.com)

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry has denied ever accusing American troops of committing war crimes in Vietnam. But his remarks during an interview on CNN Thursday are at odds with the excerpts of a book Kerry authored in 1971, a copy of which CNSNews.com obtained this week.

The New Soldier, which is currently so difficult to find that it was selling on the Internet for about $850, featured the following passage by Kerry about his experiences in Vietnam. "We were sent to Vietnam to kill Communism. But we found instead that we were killing women and children."

In the book, Kerry stated that Vietnamese citizens "didn't even know the difference between communism and democracy" and he instead blamed the United States for causing chaos in Vietnam.

"In the process we created a nation of refugees, bomb craters, amputees, orphans, widows, and prostitutes, and we gave new meaning to the words of the Roman historian Tacitus: 'Where they made a desert they called it peace,'" Kerry explained.


One of the things that has limited the use of negative ads this year is the CFR requirement that the candidate appear in the ad stating that he authorized it. But if the Bush campaign is smart, and they always have been, they'll just play footage of John Kerry over the years and allow the Senator to sink himself denying his own past statements--no one can complain you're being negative when you just let the man speak.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:34 PM

AND THE WALLS COME TUMBLIN':

Walls closing in on House of Saud: Leaders torn between US alliance and demands of its anti-American people (John R. Bradley, 2/21/04, THE STRAITS TIMES)

One humid evening last Ramadan in the lush garden of a villa belonging to one of Jeddah's oldest merchant families, something once unheard of happened.

A select gathering of Saudi men and women sipped orange juice, fanned themselves and listened to a lecture attacking the country's austere brand of Islam known as Wahhabism.

It was delivered by Mr Sami Angawi, the self-proclaimed Sufi leader of the Hijaz. The region, which runs along the Red Sea, contains the two holiest cities of Islam, Mecca and Medina.

While presenting a slide show, Mr Angawi told of how Wahhabism had eroded the historic Hijazi urban culture of tolerance and diversity.

Gasps of outrage were heard as one image showed the private house in Medina of the Prophet Muhammad in an advanced state of decay. The rubble was reduced to dust under the giant wheels of yellow bulldozers.

The climax of the slide show was a photograph of a beautiful Ottoman building in Medina. Its roof had just been crushed by the arm of a crane.

Then, on the left of the screen, an image appeared of the Buddha statues in Afghanistan being destroyed by the Taleban.

Finally, an image of the World Trade Center in flames slowly came into focus between the first two photographs.

Mr Angawi's message was clear: The roots of global Islamist terrorism can be traced back to the fanatical puritanism of the Bedouin zealots known as the Wahhabis.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:30 PM

KURDISTAN, SHI'ASTAN, & REFUGEES:

Ethnic rift tearing Iraq apart: The longer it takes to install a government, the harder the task of reining in the rebellious Kurds, assertive Shi'ites and resentful Sunnis (Jonathan Eyal, 2/21/04, Straits Times)

Rebellious Kurds in the north, assertive Shi'ites in the south and an increasingly resentful Sunni Muslim population in the middle: Iraq has all the potential for a major implosion.

If there is one fear shared by both allies and foes in Europe, the United States or the Middle East, it is that of Iraq's disintegration into statelets.

But how serious is this threat?

Although no comparison is perfect, lessons from the recent collapse of other states point to an ominous future.

The received wisdom, widely encouraged by Washington, is that Iraq will hold together despite its current difficulties.


It was never going to hold together without a dictatorship and there's no reason it should.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:10 PM

CHEWWALKING:

Bin Laden between a hammer and a hard place (Syed Saleem Shahzad, 2/20/04, Asia Times)

After taking a dramatic, and suspect, deviation into Iraq, the United States' "war on terror" is right back where it began, in Afghanistan, once again in hot pursuit of Osama bin Laden. [...]

"On the one side of the border are US and NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] troops, on the other side are Pakistani troops," commented a source familiar with military developments to Asia Times Online. "This time it will be a big, long operation."

Another crucial side to the operation is an overhaul within the Pakistani army "to purge the elements allegedly sexed up with al-Qaeda and the Taliban", the source said, referring to those elements in the army and the intelligence services with sympathies for these groups.

The shakeup follows the recent arrest of several militants of Uzbek origin, as well as an Arab named Waleed bin Azmi, in a raid in the eastern district of the Pakistani port city of Karachi. About a dozen militants managed to escape, while the captured ones were handed over to agents of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, who found during their interrogations that the operators had been besieged near Wana, South Waziristan, but they were given an escape route, allegedly by officers of the Pakistan armed forces. The operators fled to Karachi, but were rounded up thanks to the local police's intelligence network.

The US presented these facts to Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf - not the first time such incidents have been reported, but this time with the demands that the officers be taken to task and that US officials be allowed to take part in the inquiries to understand better the nexus between Islamists and officers in the Pakistani army.


In retrospect, President Bush was right and we should have done Saddam immediately after 9-11, when the Left was too cowed to complain, then gone after the Taliban and Osama which was more easily justified. Fortunately, the Taliban, al Qaeda, and Iraq fell so quickly it hasn't made much difference and the war was always going to end in Western Pakistan.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:01 PM

AT HISTORY'S END:

The East looks West: Qatar and education (John C. K. Daly, 2/20/2004, UPI)

A tradition attributed to the Prophet Muhammad enjoined the faithful to "Seek knowledge, even as far as China."

Nowhere is this injunction taken more seriously than in energy-rich Qatar whose ruler, Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Kahlifa al-Thani is pouring a significant portion of his country's petrodollars into creating world-class academic institutions. But Emir al-Thani is looking to the West, not East, for inspiration, particularly to the United States.

In nine years, the non-profit Qatar Foundation has attracted branch campuses of some of America's most outstanding institutions. On Feb. 16, a branch campus of Carnegie Mellon University was formally opened as the Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar in the capital Doha's Education City. The new institution will offer its first class of 50 students entering in September computer science and business programs leading to Carnegie Mellon degrees based on the same admission standards and curricula as its main campus in Pittsburgh. The Liberal Arts and Sciences building was officially opened at the same time. Japanese architect designed the 237,000 sqare foot building. In a sign of the times, the Qatar Foundation board member Dr. Ahmad Zaki Yaman, the former Saudi oil minister and architect of OPEC, delivered the keynote address. [...]

The Qatar Foundation states as its philosophy, "People are the most valuable asset of a nation," while Emir al-Thani has said of his interest in education, "Let us be resolved and look forward to the future with trust and boldness in order to be among the active and influential and provide our coming generations with the best opportunities to meet their future and overcome its challenges." The Prophet would be pleased.


The Westernization of the Middle East proceeds apace.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:58 PM

SECRET SUPERSTAR:

McClellan obvious choice for CMS (Ellen Beck, 2/20/2004, United Press International)

Dr. Mark McClellan, a politically savvy physician and economist with White House experience, is viewed by analysts, consumer advocates and healthcare industry officials as the right guy in the right place at the right time to be the new Centers for Medicare and Medicaid administrator. [...]

McClellan also is politically viewed as being able to work with both Republicans and Democrats -- an important aspect to consider as Medicare launches a controversial $395 billion prescription drug and Medicare reform plan in the upcoming years. A year's worth of FDA experience dealing with pharmaceutical companies -- their pricing structures, research, development and patent issues -- also will help him in developing the drug benefit.

He'll have to oversee the writing of regulations to implement the new Medicare law, which has rankled members of both parties. Conservative Republicans are unhappy with the high price tag and almost no controls on spending.

Democrats are upset over a lack of controls on drug prices pharmaceutical companies charge, billions of dollars in perks destined to insurance companies and what they see as a skimpy drug benefit for seniors.

"It's a terrific appointment," said Gail Wilensky, a senior fellow at Project Hope and a former administrator of the Health Care Financing Administration -- now CMS.

"He is an extremely capable individual who understands Washington, knows the Department of Health and Human Services and has a very good rapport with members of Congress, and knows the Medicare program," she told United Press International.

"He's probably the most competent and qualified person available," John Rother, policy director for the seniors' group AARP, told UPI. "He has the confidence, clearly, of the president and the White House. He's widely acknowledged to be an expert on some of the issues that CMS faces -- especially those that involve competition. And he has good relations on both sides of the Hill."

"He is an MVP of this administration because he combines the ability to analyze very complicated information, to speak plainly and understandably -- with one of the nicest personalities in the city," said Karen Ignagni, president of the American Association of Health Plans/Health Insurance Association of America.


An excellent choice to make a vital program succeed.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 PM

60-40 VISION (via mc):

Daschle satisfied with war progress (Denise Ross, Rapid City Journal)

Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., on Thursday praised the Bush administration's war and nation-building work in Iraq and said he has no serious concerns about the lack of weapons of mass destruction.

Daschle told state chamber of commerce representatives meeting in the South Dakota capital that he is satisfied with the way things are going in Iraq.

"I give the effort overall real credit," Daschle said. "It is a good thing Saddam Hussein is no longer in power. It is a good thing we are democratizing the country."

He said he is not upset about the debate over pre-war intelligence on weapons of mass destruction, an issue that has dogged President Bush as Democratic presidential contenders have slogged through the primary season.

"We can argue about the WMD and what we should have known," Daschle, the Senate minority leader, said.


Translation: internal polls show John Thune beating the Senate Minority Leader.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:27 PM

THE LONG RECESSIONAL:

Bush to Install Judge, Bypassing Senate (JEFFREY McMURRAY, 2/20/04, Associated Press)

Bypassing Senate Democrats who have stalled his judicial nominations, President Bush will use a recess appointment to put Alabama Attorney General William Pryor on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at least temporarily, government sources said Friday.

Feeding the base.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:24 PM

YOU GO, RALPH:

Nader to announce Sunday whether he will run for president again (SAM HANANEL, February 20, 2004, Associated Press)

Ralph Nader will announce Sunday whether he will make another run for the White House, but all signs indicate the consumer advocate plans to jump into the race as an independent.

The war will not be an important issue between President Bush and John Kerry, but it is important that Americans who oppose the war have a candidate to vote for.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:20 PM

IMPERIAL OVERREACH:

What Ever Happened to Reason? (Roger Scruton, Spring 1999, City Journal)

The Enlightenment made explicit what had long been implicit in the intellectual life of Europe: the belief that rational inquiry leads to objective truth. Even those Enlightenment thinkers who distrusted reason, like Hume, and those who tried to circumscribe its powers, like Kant, never relinquished their confidence in rational argument. Hume opposed the idea of a rational morality; but he justified the distinction between right and wrong in terms of a natural science of the emotions, taking for granted that we could discover the truth about human nature and build on that firm foundation. Kant may have dismissed "pure reason" as a tissue of illusions, but he elevated practical reason in the place of it, arguing for the absolute validity of the moral law. For the ensuing 200 years, reason retained its position as the arbiter of truth and the foundation of objective knowledge.

Reason is now on the retreat, both as an ideal and as a reality. In place of it has come the "view from outside"—which puts our entire tradition of learning in question. The appeal to reason, we are told, is merely an appeal to Western culture, which has made reason into its shibboleth and laid claim to an objectivity that no culture could possess. Moreover, by claiming reason as its foundation, Western culture has concealed its pernicious ethnocentrism; it has dressed up Western ways of thinking as though they had universal force. Reason, therefore, is a lie, and by exposing the lie we reveal the oppression at the heart of Western culture. Behind the attack on reason lurks another and more virulent hostility: the hostility to the culture and the curriculum that we have inherited from the Enlightenment.

If we examine the gurus of the new university establishment, those whose works are most often cited in the endless stream of articles devoted to debunking Western culture, we discover that they are all opponents of objective truth. Nietzsche is a favorite, since he made the point explicitly: "There are no truths," he wrote, "only interpretations." Now, either what Nietzsche said is true—in which case it is not true, since there are no truths—or it is false. Enough said, you might imagine. But no: the point can be stated less brusquely, and the paradox concealed. This explains the appeal of those later thinkers—Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and Richard Rorty—who owe their intellectual eminence not to their arguments (of which they have precious few) but to their role in giving authority to the rejection of authority, and to their absolute commitment to the impossibility of absolute commitments. In each of them you find the view that truth, objectivity, value, and meaning are chimerical, and that all we can have, and all we need to have, is the warm security of our own opinion. [...]

What should be our response to this? Surely the first conclusion we should draw is that the new relativism is self-contradictory. Its absolute censoriousness is already proof of this; so too is its constant assumption of the "trans-cultural" perspective that it denies to be possible. Without such a perspective, the very idea of a plurality of cultures could not be expressed. And what is this perspective—the "point of view beyond culture"—if not the perspective of reason?

The second conclusion to draw is that, intellectually speaking, the Enlightenment project, as Alasdair MacIntyre has called it—the project of deriving an objective morality from rational argument—is as much a reality for us as it was for Kant or Hegel. The problem lies not in giving rational grounds for morality or objective principles of criticism. The problem lies in persuading people to accept them. Although there are those, like John Gray, who tell us that the project has failed, the failure lies in them and not in the project. It is possible to give a reasoned defense of traditional morality and to show just why human nature and personal relations require it. But the argument is difficult. Not everyone can follow it; nor does everyone have the time, the inclination, or the requisite sense of what is at stake. Hence reason, which stirs up easy questions while providing only difficult replies, will be more likely to destroy our pieties than to give new grounds for them.

What is wrong with the Enlightenment project is not the belief that reason can provide a trans-cultural morality. For that belief is true. What is wrong is the assumption that people have some faint interest in reason. The falsehood of this assumption is there for all to see in our academies: in the relativism of their gurus and in the misguided absolutism—absolutism about the wrong things and for the wrong reasons, absolutism that excludes all but the relativists from their doors.


Mr. Scruton is wrong, as he concedes when he acknowledges that the Enlightenment project is still as alive today as it was when men like Hume showed it impossible. The inability to admit this openly is unfortunately the source of the very problem he complains of--the turn away from reason. By claiming that Reason provides access to objective truth--and the only access to objective truth--rationalists overreached the built in limitations of Reason and made even those subjective truths which it is capable of discovering rather suspect.

The tragedy is that this need not have happened. Had rationalists simply followed the counsel of Hume they'd have been able to defend both the subjective value of Reason and the objective values of Western faith--including, significantly, faith in Reason.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:56 AM

GREAT IDEA, WRONG MIND (via Jeff Guinn):

An early flowering of genetics (Richard Dawkins, February 8, 2003, The Guardian)

Humanity is the missing guest at the feast of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species, published in 1859. The famous "light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history" is a calculated understatement matched, in the annals of science, only by Watson and Crick's "it has not escaped our notice that the specific pairing we have postulated immediately suggests a possible copying mechanism for the genetic material".

By the time Darwin finally got around to throwing that light with the publication of The Descent of Man in 1871, others had been there before him and the greater part of his book is not about humans but about Darwin's "other" theory, sexual selection. It might have seemed a good idea to separate it into two books: Sexual Selection followed by the Descent of Man. But Darwin knew what he was doing.

The distinguished American philosopher Daniel Dennett has credited Darwin with the greatest idea ever to occur to a human mind. This was natural selection, the survival of the fittest, of course, and I would include sexual selection as part of the same idea.


Natural selection (survival of the fittest) is a great observation, but it was made by numerous philosophers as regards knowledge and economics long before Darwin got around to applying it to nature. Moreover, since it explicitly requires the functioning of intelligence, it's not at all clear that it is any more appropriate to apply it to nature than it was to apply observations of how farmers breed animals. But the brilliance of the (unfortunately anthropomorphic) analogies is undeniable.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:55 AM

ONE GOOD REAGANESQUE PUSH:

The Red Glowing Cross: A veteran journalist makes vivid the hidden and expanding world of Chinese Christianity (David Marshall, 02/18/2004, Christianity Today)

Jesus in Beijing is first of all a portrait of Christians in China: leaders of house fellowships, artists, song-writers; a gentle Canton pastor who spent 20 years in prison linking coal cars; an American who landed a million Bibles on China's southern coast. The cautious world of Chinese evangelism, hidden from conventional journalism as any hermit kingdom, comes to life here.

Aikman is the right person to write this book. At home in Chinese and Christian cultures, he is also a serious scholar of Marxism and religion. His 1979 dissertation, The Role of Atheism in the Marxist Tradition, traced with erudite pugnacity the Promethian (even demonic) rage that infused the thinking of Marx, Engels, and Lenin. But he is matter-of-fact and fair, if occasionally cynical, about modern Chinese politics.

Aikman is weaker on how Christianity is becoming Chinese. Marx claimed to "abolish all religion and all eternal truth," and his disciples swept the public square clean of bourgeois gods. By contrast, followers of Jesus generally want not to abolish Chinese tradition but to renew it.

"The most important thing is to make people realize that Christianity is related to Chinese culture," Aikman quotes philosopher Yuan Zhimin. Though Aikman fails to fully develop this crucial insight, he does explore political aspects of how the "Christian spirit" may in the future help "save China" and benefit humanity as well. Considering the growth and influence of Christian minorities in other parts of East Asia, Aikman makes the case that if the church continues to grow, "it is almost certain that a Christian view of the world will be the dominant worldview within China's political and cultural establishments."


In the meantime, let's revoke most favored nation status until they stop abusing human rights.


February 19, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:39 PM

MERGING AT THE EXTREMES:

A 'hostile' takeover bid at the Sierra Club (Brad Knickerbocker, 2/20/04, The Christian Science Monitor)

The Sierra Club - America's premier environmental group, with 750,000 members and considerable political clout - is the target of an unfriendly takeover attempt.

A combination of animal-rights and anti-immigrant activists is aiming to take control of the organization - and change its philosophy and direction - by getting their slate of candidates elected to the group's board of directors. They already control several seats, and more are up for grabs. The dispute gets to two core questions among environmental activists.

The first is whether population growth (which in the US mainly means immigration) is a key contributor to environmental degradation because more people mean more pollution and greater consumption of natural resources. Some critics say this country's liberal immigration policy acts as a safety valve for high-population countries, making it easier to avoid dealing with their environmental problems, and adding to the problems here.


The radical mind-meld continues as the anti-life Left finds common cause with the anti-Mexican Right.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:24 PM

WHAT THE AYATOLLAH TAUGHT:

Iran, Iraq, and two Shiite visions: As Shiite-run Iran begins its elections Friday, Shiites in Iraq follow a different vision toward their own democratic debut. (Nicholas Blanford, 2/20/04, The Christian Science Monitor)

Iran's Wilayet al-Faqih doctrine (governance of the religious jurist, preached in the Iranian city of Qom) was devised in the mid-1970s by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and served as the ideological underpinning of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran which he led. It grants absolute authority over all matters - religious, social, and political - to a marja who has earned the title of mujtahid, a blend of judge and theologian.

Although the Wilayat al-Faqih system was successfully introduced into Iran's homogenous Shiite society, exporting the doctrine elsewhere has proved difficult.

Its most successful adaptation outside Iran is by Lebanon's Hizbullah organization which considered Khomeini and then his successor Ayatollah Ali Khameini as the group's marja. Establishing an Islamic state in Lebanon on the Iranian model remains one of Hizbullah's ideological goals, on paper at least. But Hizbullah long ago accepted that the tiny country's multiconfessional character mitigates heavily against the creation of an Islamic state.

So, too, with Iraq. Iraqi Shiites represent around 60 percent of the population. The remaining 40 percent is comprised of Sunni Muslims, several Christian sects and a tiny Jewish community. Furthermore, many Shiites are avowedly secular and have little enthusiasm for an Islamic state, whether governed by Wilayet al-Faqih or a less comprehensive form of Islamic rule.

Even groups such as the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), which was supported by Iran during Saddam Hussein's regime, has begun to distance itself from Tehran's clerical rulers to boost its appeal among Iraqi Shiites.


Khomeinism was a tragic error, one violative of the spirit of Shi'ism. Luckily it looks like the Shi'ites have learned that lesson in just one generation.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:01 PM

COFFINS OF FREEDOM:

'I would live in America, no problem' (David Blair, 20/02/2004, Daily Telegraph)

The old American embassy in Teheran might have been seared into the world's consciousness as the cradle of Iran's revolution, yet the talk among the young Revolutionary Guards stationed there does not match the murals shouting defiance from battered walls.

"I would live in America, no problem," said one 22-year-old, who added that he associated the country with "love and freedom". [...]

An official survey suggests that turnout in the election will be about 30 per cent. This compares with the 67 per cent in the last one, in 2000, when reformers won 190 of parliament's 290 seats.

A low turnout would almost certainly allow opponents of reform to retake control of parliament.

Millions of Iranians are grappling with this dilemma. A text message circulating on mobile phones yesterday read: "The ballot boxes are the coffins of freedom. We will not take part in the funeral of freedom."


The clerics have delegitimized the entire state--a dangerous thing to do in a nation with so many restive young people.


Posted by Paul Jaminet at 9:00 PM

TRES SOPHISTIQUE:

A War Against Elites: America Will Vote For Bush (Tom Frank, author of One Market Under God, Le Monde Diplomatique, Feb 2004)

[Conservative] populism, ever present on the radio and on Fox News, ... vituperates against the snobbish and delicate things that the powerful [liberals] are believed to enjoy ...

The all-Americans despise the affected elites, with their highfalutin ways and that’s why they vote for plainspoken men like George Bush, or his dad, or Ronald Reagan ...

The massive distortions and contradictions between these two rightwing populisms should be plain to anyone with eyes....

Why aren’t these contradictions crippling for the right? Partly because liberals ... simply don’t bother to answer the stereotype of themselves as a tasteful elite, seeing it as a treacherous and obvious deceit mounted by the puppetmasters of the right.


Quite true; liberals are not "tasteful," and it's obviously deceitful for the puppetmasters to say so.

But let's see how M. Frank refutes the view that liberals such as himself are pompous elitists.

[M]any Europeans ..., assuming that politics in the US works the same way as it does elsewhere - that material issues are important, that reason matters - ... step blithely into the minefield of political symbolism and are promptly blown up. The most spectacular recent instance of this came during the UN debate prior to the war against Iraq. You will recall that the French foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, clearly believed he was making progress every time he slapped down some US misrepresentation or pointed out some US error.

Here he was, a well-dressed and accomplished man, soundly refuting the arguments of the Americans, speaking several different languages, even receiving open applause from the UN representatives of much of the world as he berated the US Secretary of State, who stoically endured the abuse of his social superior, for this obvious error or that.

What the brilliant De Villepin missed utterly was that American conservatives don’t care when their arguments are refuted.... [De Villepin] was the hated liberal elite in the flesh: all that was missing was the revelation that he wore perfume or carried a handbag.


I can smell M. Frank's perfume from here. No doubt it was carried by the breeze from that explosion in the minefields of political symbolism.

I think I speak for all right-wing extremists when I say: In every way in which one man can be superior to another, Colin Powell is superior to Dominique de Villepin.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:03 PM

BRING BACK AL GORE!:

As Kerry surges, feistiness seen slipping (Patrick Healy, 2/19/2004, Boston Globe)

"Just a couple of days ago, the administration promised America several million jobs over the course of the next months, and I immediately said that those predictions would fall short based on the promises they made with respect to the tax cut, which was supposed to give a million jobs -- it lost a million -- and the next tax cut was supposed to produce a million jobs, and it lost a million," Kerry told reporters, going on to cite more statistics and insist that his plan is better than Bush's.

Kerry's remarks lasted three minutes, yet it left TV reporters without a soundbite until one CBS News producer asked the Massachusetts senator to try again.


Begging your pardon while I violate at least three Brothers Judd rules, but the Senator makes it very difficult to post stories in which he appears because his speaking style is so wooden that there are no punch lines. Nine months from now he's going to be the most hated man in America after forcing us all to listen to his condescending drone.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:43 PM

TWILIGHT OF THE -ISMS:

Psychoanalysis Is Dead ... So How Does That Make You Feel? (Todd Dufresne, February 18, 2004, LA Times)

What an utter disappointment the 1990s were for the fans of Freud. Time magazine asked aloud, and on its cover no less, "Is Freud Dead?" And the former analytic stronghold, the New York Review of Books, published lengthy feature articles debunking Freud's reputation as a man and as a thinker.

By the end of the decade, even the New Yorker was in on the action. Taken as a whole, these sensations of the 1990s, part of the so-called "Freud wars," capture the gist of a cause well lost.

The year 2000 — the centenary of "The Interpretation of Dreams" — should have been a triumph for Freudians. Instead, amid the celebrations was a funereal whiff of defeat: The psychoanalytic century was over before the 21st century had begun. Everyone knew the answer to Time's rhetorical question. Psychoanalysis was indeed dead.

Well, almost everyone knew. You can always count on intellectuals to keep a candle burning for whatever idea they've invested long years, enormous sums of money and, perhaps above all, limitless ego promoting.

Obviously, it's not easy to walk away from a venture of this magnitude — one that helped pave the way for tenure and the prestige of authorship. Over the years, there were so many books, so many reviews, so many lectures, all with so little perspective on Freud's limitations, and partisans were just not ready to give it all up. So the Freud industry soldiered on.

Freud is truly in a class of his own. Arguably no other notable figure in history was so fantastically wrong about nearly every important thing he had to say.


Though the other bearded godkillers--Darwin and Marx--gave him a run for his money.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:24 PM

THE TRIUMPH:

The Tragedy of Colin Powell: How the Bush presidency destroyed him. (Fred Kaplan, Feb. 19, 2004, Slate)

As George Bush's first term nears its end, Powell's tenure as top diplomat is approaching its nadir. On the high-profile issues of the day, he seems to have almost no influence within the administration. And his fateful briefing one year ago before the U.N. Security Council—where he attached his personal credibility to claims of Iraqi WMD—has destroyed his once-considerable standing with the Democrats, not to mention our European allies, most of the United Nations, and the media.

At times, Powell has taken his fate with resigned humor. Hendrik Hertzberg wrote in The New Yorker last year of a diplomatic soiree that Powell attended on the eve of war, at which a foreign diplomat recited a news account that Bush was sleeping like a baby. Powell reportedly replied, "I'm sleeping like a baby, too. Every two hours, I wake up, screaming."

At other times, though, Powell must be frustrated beyond measure. One can imagine the scoldings he takes from liberal friends for playing "good soldier" in an administration that's treated him so shabbily and that's rejected his advice so brazenly. That senseless dressing-down of the committee staffer—a tantrum that no one with real power would ever indulge in—can best be seen as a rare public venting of Powell's maddened mood.

The decline of Powell's fortunes is a tragic tale of politics: so much ambition derailed, so much accomplishment nullified.


In the midst of Iran-Contra it was written that President Reagan, George Bush, Cap Weinberger, George Schulz, etc., had destroyed themselves and their reputations. Instead they destroyed the Soviet Union and the shelves groan beneath the weight of books celebrating their achievements. Twenty years from now, with an ever more democratic Middle East emerging from centuries of backwardsness, does anyone really think the team that responded to 9-11 by transforming the Islamic world will be written about as tragic figures?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:14 PM

KING FOR A DAY:

Edwards, Dean and our Idaho conspiracy theory (John Mercurio, February 19, 2004, CNN)

John Kerry surrounds himself today with union leaders, many of whom differ with him on big issues like NAFTA but hate President Bush more than any one trade agreement.

Still, a more fascinating mating dance is taking place off-camera between John Edwards and Howard Dean, who seldom shades his disdain for his fellow New Englander and, sources say, has made overtures to Edwards since he decided to leave the '04 Dem primary last weekend. Dean and Edwards spoke cordially by phone yesterday morning and, we hear, are trying to arrange a face-to-face in the run-up to Super Tuesday on March 2. Such a meeting could take place as early as this weekend in New York.

Few things would upend this race more than Dean's decision to back Edwards, who without it remains a decided longshot today. Most importantly for Edwards: The senator badly needs money to make a solid showing on Super Tuesday, and Dean, if he endorses, would presumably transfer a vast network of donors capable of raising large sums within hours.

With that in mind, we were intrigued by the turn of events yesterday in the small state of Idaho, which Dean visited frequently as a candidate. Democrats in Boise were scrambling to find a replacement for Edwards, who abruptly withdrew his commitment Tuesday to deliver the keynote speech for the party's Jefferson-Jackson Dinner. Aides said Edwards had a scheduling conflict and needed to be in New York early Sunday morning.


Just in time for Meet the Press, one assumes.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:11 PM

21 to 65:

Elderly drivers more prone to crashes, and more likely to die from them, study finds (DEE-ANN DURBIN, February 18, 2004, Associated Press)

Drivers over 65 are more likely to get into crashes because of declining perception and motor skills, but the biggest risk is to themselves, not others on the highway, says a study based on nearly 4 million traffic accidents.

The study, released Wednesday by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, also found that drivers 65 or older are nearly twice as likely to die in a crash as drivers between 55 and 64. Drivers over 85 were nearly four times as likely to die.

Often, older drivers are frail and can die from injuries that wouldn't be fatal to younger drivers, the report said.

As they grow older, some drivers are more likely to cause a crash because of a lapse in perception, such as failing to yield or running a red light. Fifty-nine percent of drivers 75 or older involved in crashes had such a lapse, the same percentage as 15-year-old drivers. For drivers 85 or older, perception lapses were cited in 67 percent of the accidents.

Old people also were more likely to get into crashes while turning to the left, when drivers often must make quick judgments, the study said. Drivers over 65 were 25 percent more likely to get in a crash than middle-age drivers; drivers over 85 were 50 percent more likely to get in a crash during a left turn.

The study, by the Texas Transportation Institute, analyzed Texas police records from 3.9 million crashes between 1975 and 1999. Those crashes caused 90,036 fatalities.


Revoking driving privileges automatically at 65 would not only make the roads safer but foster mass transit and increased familial interdependency.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:34 AM

AWFUL BIG CONSTITUENCY, EH?

Kerry Lobbied for Contractor Who Made Illegal Contributions (Lisa Getter and Tony Perry, February 19, 2004, LA Times)
Sen. John F. Kerry sent 28 letters in behalf of a San Diego defense contractor who pleaded guilty last week to illegally funneling campaign contributions to the Massachusetts senator and four other congressmen.

Members of Congress often write letters supporting constituent businesses and favored projects. But as the Democratic presidential front-runner, Kerry has promoted himself as a candidate who has never been beholden to campaign contributors and special interests.

Between 1996 and 1999, Kerry participated in a letter-writing campaign to free up federal funds for a guided missile system that defense contractor Parthasarathi "Bob" Majumder was trying to build for U.S. warplanes.

Majumder's firm, Science and Applied Technology Inc., was paid more than $150 million to design and develop the program in the 1990s. But the program ran into some stumbling blocks at the Pentagon.

Kerry's letters were sent to fellow members of Congress — and to the Pentagon — while Majumder and his employees were donating money to the senator, court records show. During the three-year period, Kerry received about $25,000 from Majumder and his employees, according to Dwight L. Morris & Associates, which tracks campaign donations.

Court documents say the contractor told his employees they needed to make political contributions in order for him to gain influence with members of Congress. He then reimbursed them with proceeds from government contracts.
28? That's more times than I've written Margaret Thatcher.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:27 AM

OWN IDOLS:

The Platonist (David Hume, Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary)

TO some philosophers it appears matter of surprize, that all mankind, possessing the same nature, and being endowed with the same faculties, should yet differ so widely in their pursuits and inclinations, and that one should utterly condemn what is fondly sought after by another. To some it appears matter of still more surprize, that a man should differ so widely from himself at different times; and, after possession, reject with disdain what, before, was the object of all his vows and wishes. To me this feverish uncertainty and irresolution, in human conduct, seems altogether unavoidable; nor can a rational soul, made for the contemplation of the Supreme Being, and of his works, ever enjoy tranquillity or satisfaction, while detained in the ignoble pursuits of sensual pleasure or popular applause. The divinity is a boundless ocean of bliss and glory: Human minds are smaller streams, which, arising at first from this ocean, seek still, amid all their wanderings, to return to it, and to lose themselves in that immensity of perfection. When checked in this natural course, by vice or folly, they become furious and enraged; and, swelling to a torrent, do then spread horror and devastation on the neighbouring plains.

In vain, by pompous phrase and passionate expression, each recommends his own pursuit, and invites the credulous hearers to an imitation of his life and manners. The heart belies the countenance, and sensibly feels, even amid the highest success, the unsatisfactory nature of all those pleasures, which detain it from its true object. I examine the voluptuous man before enjoyment; I measure the vehemence of his desire, and the importance of his object; I find that all his happiness proceeds only from that hurry of thought, which takes him from himself, and turns his view from his guilt and misery. I consider him a moment after; he has now enjoyed the pleasure, which he fondly sought after. The sense of his guilt and misery returns upon him with double anguish: His mind tormented with fear and remorse; his body depressed with disgust and satiety.

But a more august, at least a more haughty personage, presents himself boldly to our censure; and assuming the title of a philosopher and man of morals, offers to submit to the most rigid examination. He challenges, with a visible, though concealed impatience, our approbation and applause; and seems offended, that we should hesitate a moment before we break out into admiration of his virtue. Seeing this impatience, I hesitate still more: I begin to examine the motives of his seeming virtue: But behold! ere I can enter upon this enquiry, he flings himself from me; and addressing his discourse to that crowd of heedless auditors, fondly abuses them by his magnificent pretensions.

O philosopher! thy wisdom is vain, and thy virtue unprofitable. Thou seekest the ignorant applauses of men, not the solid reflections of thy own conscience, or the more solid approbation of that being, who, with one regard of his all-seeing eye, penetrates the universe. Thou surely art conscious of the hollowness of thy pretended probity, whilst calling thyself a citizen, a son, a friend, thou forgettest thy higher sovereign, thy true father, thy greatest benefactor. Where is the adoration due to infinite perfection, whence every thing good and valuable is derived? Where is the gratitude, owing to thy creator, who called thee forth from nothing, who placed thee in all these relations to thy fellow-creatures, and requiring thee to fulfil the duty of each relation, forbids thee to neglect what thou owest to himself, the most perfect being, to whom thou art connected by the closest tye?

But thou art thyself thy own idol: Thou worshippest thy imaginary perfections: Or rather, sensible of thy real imperfections, thou seekest only to deceive the world, and to please thy fancy, by multiplying thy ignorant admirers. Thus, not content with neglecting what is most excellent in the universe, thou desirest to substitute in his place what is most vile and contemptible.

Consider all the works of mens hands; all the inventions of human wit, in which thou affectest so nice a discernment: Thou wilt find, that the most perfect production still proceeds from the most perfect thought, and that it is MIND alone, which we admire, while we bestow our applause on the graces of a well-proportioned statue, or the symmetry of a noble pile. The statuary, the architect comes still in view, and makes us reflect on the beauty of his art and contrivance, which, from a heap of unformed matter, could extract such expressions and proportions. This superior beauty of thought and intelligence thou thyself acknowledgest, while thou invitest us to contemplate, in thy conduct, the harmony of affections, the dignity of sentiments, and all those graces of a mind, which chiefly merit our attention. But why stoppest thou short? Seest thou nothing farther that is valuable? Amid thy rapturous applauses of beauty and order, art thou still ignorant where is to be found the most consummate beauty? the most perfect order? Compare the works of art with those of nature. The one are but imitations of the other. The nearer art approaches to nature, the more perfect is it esteemed. But still, how wide are its nearest approaches, and what an immense interval may be observed between them? Art copies only the outside of nature, leaving the inward and more admirable springs and principles; as exceeding her imitation; as beyond her comprehension. Art copies only the minute productions of nature, despairing to reach that grandeur and magnificence, which are so astonishing in the masterly works of her original. Can we then be so blind as not to discover an intelligence and a design in the exquisite and most stupendous contrivance of the universe? Can we be so stupid as not to feel the warmest raptures of worship and adoration, upon the contemplation of that intelligent being, so infinitely good and wise?

The most perfect happiness, surely, must arise from the contemplation of the most perfect object. But what more perfect than beauty and virtue? And where is beauty to be found equal to that of the universe? Or virtue, which can be compared to the benevolence and justice of the Deity? If aught can diminish the pleasure of this contemplation, it must be either the narrowness of our faculties, which conceals from us the greatest part of these beauties and perfections; or the shortness of our lives, which allows not time sufficient to instruct us in them. But it is our comfort, that, if we employ worthily the faculties here assigned us, they will be enlarged in another state of existence, so as to render us more suitable worshippers of our maker: And that the task, which can never be finished in time, will be the business of an eternity.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:30 AM

KARL ROVE SMILES:

Cash And Kerry: Will There Be Enough? (Paula Dwyer and Lorraine Woellert in Washington, with Rob Hof in San Mateo, and Christopher Palmeri in Los Angeles, 2/23/04, Business Week)

Now comes the money war against President George W. Bush, and Comeback Kerry is going to have to battle from behind once again.

Conventional wisdom says he can't. Sure, Kerry's campaign raised $5.5 million between his breakthrough victory in Iowa on Jan. 19 and Feb. 10 -- and is flush for the first time since December, when he mortgaged his Boston home to lend his troops $6.4 million. But Bush's coffers make Kerry's cash look like chump change: Bush has $100 million left from the $132 million his campaign raised in 2003, and is likely to amass another $50 million between January and the Aug. 30 start of the GOP convention. That lets Bush fill the airwaves with ads that try to define the Democratic standard-bearer as a Northeastern liberal -- while Kerry may have to ration his funds, or borrow against the public money he'll get as of Aug. 1. "It will be very difficult to catch Bush in terms of the head start he has in his donor base," says Anthony J. Corrado Jr., a Colby College government professor who studies campaign cash.

Kerry, like Bush, has renounced public funding for the primary portion of the race. So the Democrat -- whose decision to go it alone last December was seen as a desperate bid to counter Howard Dean's Web-based money machine -- won't face limits on his pre-convention fund-raising or spending. While neither has publicly said so, Kerry and Bush are expected to accept public funds for the general election, during which they must refrain from raising or spending private money. But there Bush has a definite advantage. Because the Dems' July 26-31 convention is a full month before the GOP confab, Kerry must stretch over three months the $75 million he'll receive in public money for the race's general-election phase. Bush, meanwhile, will have an extra month in which to spend his primary cash hoard, and will need only to stretch his $75 million public kitty over two months.



Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:11 AM

GONE TO RESUME THE CONVERSATION:

Lawrence Ritter dead at 81: Noted author was key Stern figure for 30 yrs.
(Tim Farnam, 2/19/04, Washington Square News)

Even though Lawrence Ritter clocked 75,000 miles on his odometer to interview 22 former baseball greats, the Stern School of Business finance department chair and professor emeritus of finance rarely went to baseball games and avoided watching the sport on TV.

Ritter, the author of "The Glory of Their Times: The Story of Baseball Told By the Men Who Played It," a collection of interviews with baseball players from the beginning of the 20th century, died of a stroke at home Sunday. He was 81.


Most baseball fans will have read the great book, but for a real treat check out the audio version which replays the actual interviews.


MORE:
-OBIT: Lawrence S. Ritter, Chronicler of Baseball History, Dies at 81 (RICHARD GOLDSTEIN, February 17, 2004, NY Times)
-TRIBUTE: The Historian Had a Verdict on the Yankees' Deal (GEORGE VECSEY, February 17, 2004, NY Times)


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:53 AM

MEAN TO THE MACHINE:

Psyching Out Computer Chess Players: Chess programs keep getting better, but grandmasters have learned to anticipate their game (PHILIP E. ROSS, 2/18/04, IEEE Spectrum)

The human weak point lies in calculation, while the computer's is in long-term strategy. The trick is to prepare openings that push the other side into the kind of game that accentuates its weaknesses. A good example came in the third game of the recent match, when an opening innovation on move nine gave Kasparov not merely the superior game but one that Fritz could not understand—a barricaded position that required each side to mount glacially slow maneuvers against carefully chosen targets. So slow were the maneuvers that the machine could not see their point until it was too late.

The situation was that Kasparov, playing white, advanced on the queenside (the side of the board to white's left), leaving Fritz free to advance on the kingside. Fritz should have begun by pushing its king bishop pawn from its initial square, on f7, to f4, where it could be exchanged for white's king pawn, on e3. That would have opened lines for black's rooks and created weaknesses around the square f2 (white's king bishop pawn) for black to attack the uncastled white king.

Kasparov made sure that Fritz would never see the light at the end of that tunnel by making the tunnel longer. He played his rook on the left side up a square to b2, thereby defending the f2 square even though it wasn't yet attacked. The future weakness at that point was therefore pushed beyond the computer's search horizon, so it never got around to advancing on the kingside at all.

Instead, Fritz dithered, moving its pieces back and forth while Kasparov methodically shoved a pawn down its throat, to make a new queen. Michael Greengard, a veteran chess commentator, called Kasparov's move "a classic piece of anticomputer play, the sort of thing I did against the laptop chess machines of the 1980s."


You can also just unplug them.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:38 AM

50-0:

>Jobless Claims Plummet on Better Weather (Tim Ahmann, 2/19/04, Reuters)

The number of Americans lining up for an initial week of jobless benefits took an unexpectedly sharp tumble last week from a level elevated by cold weather, a government report showed on Thursday.

First-time claims for state unemployment aid dropped 24,000 to 344,000 in the week ended Feb. 14 from a revised 368,000 the previous week, the Labor Department said.

The drop was the largest since the week ended Nov. 1 and was greater than economist on Wall Street had expected. Markets had looked for claims to fall to 353,000 from the 363,000 originally reported for the prior week. [...]

Initial claims have been below the 400,000 level normally linked by economists to a strengthening jobs market for 20 straight weeks, but hiring has remained anemic.


One does not recall similar mention of the bad weather of December and January in recent headlines about disappointing job growth.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:26 AM

CULTURE IS A CHOICE--MAKE THEM MAKE IT:

Genteel xenophobia is as bad as any other kind: Some liberals have given up on the idea of a multi-ethnic Britain (Trevor Phillips, February 16, 2004, The Guardian)

Nice people do racism too. Liberal commitment to a multi-ethnic Britain is wilting. Some very nice folk have apparently decided that the nation's real problem is too many immigrants of too many kinds. Faced with a daily onslaught against migrants it may be understandable to give in to populist bigotry; but it is not forgivable.

Take this, for example: "National citizenship is inherently exclusionary." So no foreigners need ever apply for naturalisation, then. And " ... public anxiety about migration ... is usually based on a rational understanding of the value of British citizenship and its incompatibility with over-porous borders". Straight from the lexicon of the far right. And best of all: "You can have a [generous] welfare state provided that you are a homogenous society with intensely shared values."

Is this the wit and wisdom of Enoch Powell? Jottings from the BNP leader's weblog? Actually they are extracts from an article in the Observer, penned by the liberal intellectual David Goodhart, who I have always suspected is too brainy for his own good. He is just one of several liberal thinkers now vigorously making what they consider a progressive argument against immigration. It goes like this: the more diverse a society, the less likely its citizens are to share common values; the fewer common values, the weaker the support for vital institutions of social solidarity, such as the welfare state and the National Health Service.

There are perfectly good reasons to worry about how we respond to immigration, not least the downward pressure on workers' wages; the growth of racial inequality; and the exploitation of illegals exposed by the Morecambe Bay tragedy. But as Polly Toynbee elegantly pointed out in these pages last week, the answer to these problems is not genteel xenophobia, but trade union rights, backed by equality and employment law.

The xenophobes should come clean. Their argument is not about immigration at all. They are liberal Powellites; what really bothers them is race and culture. If today's immigrants were white people from the old Commonwealth, Goodhart and his friends would say that they pose no threat because they share Anglo-Saxon values. They may not even object to Anglophile Indians - as long as they aren't Muslims.


Islam is not a race. But it is a culture that is significantly at variance with the West's. Even Mr. Phillips himself concedes the difference in recognizing that westernized Indians are welcomed. Similarly, here in the States we are able to absorb massive numbers of Latinos because they are Christian and, therefore, already part of our culture. Were Mexico to magically become an Islamic nation we'd have immigration controls tomorrow.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:15 AM

TOM TANCREDO WON'T FIX YOUR CAR:

Auto industry hangs out 'Help Wanted' sign (T.K.Maloy, 2/18/2004, UPI)

Though many economic reports are indicating a jobless economic recovery in the United States, auto dealers and servicers say they are hanging out a big "Help Wanted" sign for automotive technicians.

A coalition of all major automobile manufacturers and dealer organizations on Tuesday announced recruitment initiatives focused on attracting both returning military veterans and tech-savvy students to what are often high-paying automotive-related jobs.

According to coalition group Automotive Retailing Today, new industry research shows that a majority of auto dealers need to hire an average of 2.1 new auto service technicians in the next six months. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has set the shortage of automotive technicians at 35,000 annually through 2010.

The National Automobile Dealers Association reports that the average salary for an auto technician in 2002 was $41,588. ART officials said that the highest-paid technicians earned up to $120,000 for that same year.

James Willingham, the chairman of ART, borrowed the famous Marine Corps recruiting slogan in announcing the association's hiring initiatives, saying that auto dealers "are not just looking for a few good men...and women. There are tens of thousands of unfilled career positions available right now."

Willingham added that, "It's an employee's market in my industry. At a time when all of us are hearing a lot about a jobless recovery in our country, auto dealers are hanging out a big 'Help Wanted' sign. A key focus of the current presidential election cycle is on the urgent need to create more jobs that pay a living wage.


Missing in all the diatribes directed at immigrants is any recognition of the fact that physical labor is beneath the dignity of we natives, no matter what it pays.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:08 AM

VOTE FOR ME, I'M WINNING:

Kerry and Edwards Square Off as Dean Abandons Campaign (ADAM NAGOURNEY and  DAVID M. HALBFINGER, 2/19/04, NY Times)

Mr. Edwards, a first-term senator from North Carolina, noted that Mr. Kerry, a four-term senator from Massachusetts, voted in the Senate for the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993. Mr. Edwards asserted that he would have voted against it had he been in the Senate. He said he would, as president, renegotiate the treaty to provide protections for American workers.

In Ohio, one of 10 states that vote on March 2, Mr. Kerry declared that he and Mr. Edwards held indistinguishable positions on future trade agreements. Mr. Kerry was preparing to return to Washington to accept the endorsement of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., an event his aides asserted would help rebut Mr. Edwards's challenge on this issue in states like Ohio, as well as California and New York, which also vote on March 2.

"We have the same policy on trade — exactly the same policy," Mr. Kerry said, campaigning in Dayton, where he stood in front of a huge banner that read, "John Kerry: Protecting America's Jobs."

"He voted for the China trade agreement; so did I," he said, referring to legislation that granted China permanent normal trade relations.

"And we, both of us, want to have labor agreements and environment agreements as part of a trade agreement, so it's the exact same policy," Mr. Kerry said, before registering a note of skepticism about Mr. Edwards's commitment on the issue.

"Well, he wasn't in the Senate back then," Mr. Kerry said. "I don't know where he registered his vote, but it wasn't in the Senate."


There's a frontrunner strategy for you: My opponent and I are indistinguishable!


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 AM

1984 ALL OVER AGAIN:

It's as if Democrats just discovered capitalism (Collin Levey, 2/18/04, Seattle Times)

Vice President Dick Cheney is a force of nature. Last we saw, he was on a goodwill tour meeting with European leaders and wearing a blue tie. Next thing we know, Halliburton is announcing it will suspend $140 million of billing for food service in Iraq. Coincidence?

Probably not, if you've been listening to many of the Democrats recently on the campaign trail, where Halliburton is responsible for your receding hairline, your mother-in-law's crummy roast beef and your daughter's D in algebra. Or perhaps better to allow Dr. Howard Dean to make the diagnosis: "Coziness with Halliburton" is "an emblem of an administration that has sold this country down the river."

Dean, of course, is nattering off into the sunset about now, but the avalanche of gracious farewell remarks from his former rivals bespeaks his role in shaping the tone of the campaign. From Dean, the wisdom goes, the party learned to get PO'd again: Without him, who can imagine a D.C. lifer and professional fortune hunter like John Kerry beating his breast so loudly against "special interests" and "crony capitalism"?

Anyway, we can thank Dean for the spectacle's entertainment value. None of his opponents has yet taken up the Good Doctor's early call for a "massive reregulation" of American business. But the Democrats have firmly established themselves as the party against corporations, especially American ones that are helping to rebuild Iraq. This should be an interesting idea to watch Democrats resell in the general election. Even the reliably liberal Washington Post recently decried what it called the party's "primitive business bashing."


As Kerry vs. Edwards resembles Mondale vs. Hart, so too does the general election look to be a replay of Mondale vs. Reagan.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:30 AM

MONDALE VS. HART REDUX:

JOHN KERRY IS RIGHT TO BE SCARED (Noam Scheiber, 02.18.04, New Republic)

The Wisconsin exit polls are turning up what looks like a paradox: Despite John Kerry's aloof-liberal-Brahmin rap, and despite John Edwards's heavy "son-of-a-mill-worker" shtick, Kerry did better last night among less educated, less affluent, blue-collar, and rural voters than he did among more educated, more affluent, white-collar, suburban voters, while the opposite was true for Edwards.

Consider some of the numbers. Kerry led Edwards by large margins among people who make under $15,000 per year and under $30,000 per year (rolling up 28- and 13-point leads against Edwards in these categories, respectively). This much you'd expect, since poor voters tend to be overwhelmingly liberal. The interesting thing is that Kerry opened up a 5-point lead among voters making between $30,000 and $50,000 per year--a category you'd probably think of as mostly blue-collar voters--while only beating Edwards by one point in the $50,000-$75,000 category, and actually losing to Edwards (and by 7 points!) in the $75,000-$100,000 category. And Edwards and Kerry were tied among voters making over $100,000. Other than the result among the poor, this is the exact opposite of what the conventional wisdom would predict, which is that Edwards does better among downscale-but-not-poor voters (who tend to be more culturally conservative), and Kerry does better among upscale voters (who tend to be more culturally liberal).

And it's not just an anomaly of the income data. You get pretty much the same result in just about every category that correlates with blue-collar-ness and white-collar-ness. Kerry led Edwards by 13 points among those with only a high school diploma, but the two candidates were tied among those with a college degree, and Edwards led Kerry by 4 points among those with some post-graduate training. Ditto union membership: Kerry beat Edwards by 8 points among households with a union member. He beat Edwards by only 3 points in households without a union member. What about the urban/suburban/rural divide? Same story. Kerry, as expected, carried big cities (with their large concentrations of poor people) by a whopping margin (some 21 points). But Kerry also won by a surprising 11 points in rural areas, and by a seven-point margin in small towns--both places more likely to be culturally conservative. Edwards, by contrast, won in relatively affluent enclaves, like suburbs, which he carried by four points.


What's paradoxical about people who are naturally Democrats voting for the traditional liberal while folks who are naturally Republican vote for the candidate who, at least by the dynamics of this race, is more moderate?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:23 AM

PLAYING BY LAUTENBERG RULES:

Democrats eye plan to protect Kerry Senate seat (Frank Phillips, 2/19/2004, Boston Globe)

Massachusetts Democrats are devising a plan to keep John F. Kerry's US Senate seat in their party's hands by blocking Governor Mitt Romney from naming an interim replacement if Kerry wins the White House.

Beacon Hill lawmakers want to pass legislation that would leave Kerry's seat vacant for two months or more, until a special election is held to fill it. That would prevent the Republican governor from naming an interim senator, as is currently required by state law.

The initiator of the proposal -- Representative William M. Straus, Democrat of Mattapoisett -- insisted he is not being partisan. But Republicans say the Democrats are being premature.

"John Kerry and his supporters are doing everything but measuring for drapes at the White House," said Eric Fehrnstrom, Romney's communications director. "We have a long campaign in front of us."

Drawing on some Massachusetts political history, Fehrnstrom recalled that a Democratic governor named an interim senator when John F. Kennedy was elected president in 1960.

"The last time a temporary appointment was done, it was by a Democratic governor, and I don't remember the Democrats having a problem with that," he said. "Why suddenly now do they have a problem?"


The real point, of course, is to enable him to resign for his run at the presidency.


Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:39 AM

OK RABBI, WHO PLAYED MIDFIELD FOR THE DANISH NATIONAL SIDE IN...?

Danes restrict imams to stifle Muslim radicals ( Julian Isherwood, The Telegraph, 19/02/04)

Denmark will crack down on the immigration of Islamic preachers to try to stifle radicalism among its Muslims.

A parliamentary bill does not mention the Islamic faith, but Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Danish prime minister, has made the target of the legislation clear in announcing restrictions on "foreign missionaries".

It had been "too easy" for them to get a residence permit, he said.

"That is why we are now putting forward new requirements for residing in the country, like the demand that imams and others have an education and that they be financially self-sufficient."

The bill is expected to be passed by parliament within weeks. To cater for the Danish constitution, which bans any form of religious discrimination, the legislation will affect all religious persuasions.

About 30 organisations under the banner of the Danish Missionary Society reacted strongly to the proposals yesterday, saying the government was "stifling the freedom of religion and thought".

The bill makes exemptions for certain clerics and nuns. "Residence will only be allowed provided that the number of foreigners seeking permits as missionaries or priests is reasonably related to the size of a denomination."

It adds that foreign missionaries must have formal training and a close relationship to Danish parishioners. Foreign imams will have to show that they have a good knowledge of Danish affairs and practices, a rudimentary knowledge of Danish and an understanding of the country's democratic traditions.

Let us allow that the usually sensible Danes have a problem that calls for action. Insisting any immigrant adhere to basic societal norms and laws is perfectly reasonable. But how does one defend the specific targeting of religious leaders? And what theory of tolerance justifies religious discrimination provided all religions are discriminated against equally? Are Muslims welcome in Denmark or not? Is religion?


Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:01 AM

A BIG MESS:

Who rules Europe? (Timothy Garton Ash,The Guardian, 19/02/04)

A year ago, the French press was proclaiming a "Paris-Berlin-Moscow axis" against the Iraq war. Now Le Monde headlines a "Berlin-London-Paris axis", epitomised by yesterday's trilateral summit between Schröder, Chirac and Blair. I wonder what next year's axis will be?

A year ago, leaders of non-axis European countries responded to the Paris-Berlin-Moscow alignment with a "letter of eight", reaffirming their commitment to Atlanticism. This week, leaders of non-axis states sent a "letter of six" to the presidency of the European Union, stealing the thunder of Europe's big three by laying out their own ideas for European economic reform, the main subject of the Berlin summit. I wonder what next year's dissenting letter will be.

The great game called Wider Europe is under way. It's quite as enjoyable as the board game Diplomacy, and as softly treacherous. No one knows how it will end. [...]

It's a very good thing that the leaders of Europe's three biggest countries got together. Between them, they account for more than half the GDP and defence spending of the whole enlarged EU of 25 member states. If they are at loggerheads, Europe goes nowhere - as we saw over Iraq. Militarily, Britain and France have at least come up with a proposal to make Europe a featherweight beside America's Mike Tyson. Economically, Europe is still going nowhere fast. In fact, the German economy just shrank and the French economy is barely growing. The economic reforms our leaders were talking about yesterday, in the regrettable and frankly childish absence of Gordon Brown, are simply vital for our future. Europe's leaders have a stated objective of making Europe the most competitive economy in the world by 2010. If you believe that can be achieved, you'll believe anything.

As our manufacturing disappears to China, our services to India and our scientists to America, the real question is whether we can stop ourselves falling further behind. Tragi-comically, Schröder's people have been handing out a little red book, explaining the very modest economic reforms that have already cost him the leadership of his party. In the 1960s, Europe was booming, while China handed out little red books with the sayings of Chairman Mao. Now China is booming, and Europe is handing out little red books.

The Italians are hopping mad at being excluded from the top table. Silvio Berlusconi has called yesterday's meeting "a big mess". The Spaniards aren't happy either, Poles mutter about a new Yalta, and all the smaller countries in Europe rail against the large ones that are trying to lord it over them. But Berlusconi - a man seemingly born with his foot in his mouth - is wrong again. The "big mess" is Europe itself...


This no nonsense, eyes wide open assessment from the left starts with elan and then sputters into a depressing call for more summits and more bureaucracy. The last sentence stands in start contrast to all the “Ode to Joy” fanfare and rhetoric that usually celebrates the New Europe. Again we see how Europeans are quite capable of perceiving their problems, but are too dogmatically hidebound to solve them. Europe is becoming not only a religion, but a church as stultified and corrupt as the medieval church at its nadir. The earth may tremble when the next Martin Luther appears.

MORE (via Mike Daley):
How the balance of EU power finally changed (Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, 19/02/2004, Daily Telegraph)

For the past 40 years the Franco-German motor has driven European
integration, shaping every policy from farming and fishing to monetary
union.

British prime ministers embarked for each European Union summit with
trepidation, powerless to prevent the usual fait accompli prepared in
advance by Paris and Berlin.

No longer. Yesterday was the moment when the Franco-German duo - racked by
doubts and presiding over two of Europe's most sickly economies - accepted
that they are now too weak to keep control of an EU preparing to expand to
25 countries without Britain's clout. For Tony Blair it was evidence that
Britain can play in Europe's top league and perhaps regain its historic role
as a balancing power.

Italy's Silvio Berlusconi has led the chorus of protest. But Poland's prime
minister, Lezcek Miller, put the best face on it, acknowledging that Britain
can serve as champion of those who want a looser Europe of nation states.


February 18, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:49 PM

A FAILED PRESIDENCY (OR 4):

Are the Revisionists Right About FDR? (Alonzo Hamby, 2/16/04, History News Network)

At home, FDR quite simply failed to end the Depression. After numerous ups and downs, the American economy in the summer of 1939 was barely above its level of November, 1932. The New Deal's relief programs never provided for more than half the unemployed at any one time. Its first industrial recovery program, the National Recovery Administration, was a crashing failure. Roosevelt 's subsequent resort to a polarizing politics of class conflict probably did him political good but surely got in the way of economic revival. His delight in the exercise of power–and occasional grabs for more of it (most notoriously, the plan to pack the Supreme Court)–made plausible unfounded accusations that he wanted to be a dictator.

We all know that Hitler's Germany , utilizing loathsome totalitarian mechanisms, achieved full employment by the last half of 1935. It is less well understood that the conservative British National Government of Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain brought its people out of the Depression at about the same time, that its much-debunked dole paid a minimal benefit to every unemployed Briton, and that it maintained a vigorous agenda of social programs.

At a time when the world's democracies sorely needed a common front, Roosevelt failed to provide leadership. His most fateful decision, after first raising hopes of constructive American engagement, was to scuttle the World Economic Conference of 1933. He thus sent every nation on its own in dealing with an international economic problem that cried out for an international solution. An embittered Neville Chamberlain four and a half years later wrote privately, “It is always best & safest to count on nothing from the Americans except words.” At no time before the war did FDR make a sustained, consistent effort to lead the democracies at a time when fascism and militarism were on the march. [...]

He would be a greater war manager than depression fighter, but here also not without his missteps, especially his optimism about the possibilities of postwar cooperation with Josef Stalin. And his wartime achievement was made possible only by Winston Churchill's bulldog leadership of Britain during the eighteen months between the fall of France and Pearl Harbor .


So, other than lengthening the Depression and biffing the war, he was terrific.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:09 PM

PRIDE OF THE GRANITE STATE:

Franklin Pierce Bicentennial

He was loved by Nathaniel Hawthorne, what other mediocre president can claim as much.


MORE:
-BOOKNOTES: Hawthorne: A Life by Brenda Wineapple (C-SPAN, January 4, 2004)
-ETEXT: Franklin Pierce (Nathaniel Hawthorne)
-Franklin Pierce (Internet Public Library: POTUS)


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:01 PM

IF YOU RAISE GAS TAXES IT WILL COME:

One step closer to hydrogen economy? (Mark Clayton, 2/1/04, The Christian Science Monitor)

President Bush touts a future hydrogen economy, while environmentalists decry it as a red herring to avoid addressing global warming today. But new research may add a fresh angle to the debate.

From the wintry climes of Minnesota, Lanny Schmidt, a University of Minnesota chemist, and three colleagues of his have discovered a process that could leap several of the hurdles facing the hydrogen economy: the high cost of making hydrogen, the impact on global warming of burning hydrogen, and the safe and efficient use of hydrogen in cars.

The new approach, reported in the journal Science last week, offers hope for the cheapest and most efficient method for extracting hydrogen yet.

Because the gas is typically found in compound form, it must be extracted from other elements to be used. The new process extracts the gas from corn-based ethanol using rhodium and ceria, exotic metals needed in the catalytic process.

Currently, extracting hydrogen from natural gas costs $3.60 to $7.05 per kilogram, even with the best technology, a new National Research Council (NRC) report said last week.

But this new technique - confirmed late one night while the scientists waited for a pizza to arrive at the lab - could produce the gas at $1.50 per kilogram. That would put it in the ballpark even with ultracheap conventional sources like coal, Dr. Schmidt says.


Just have faith in our capacity to innovate.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:00 PM

SAY BYE TO HAGGIS:

With extinction on its mind, Scotland wants population growth (Gerard DeGroot, 2/19/04, CS Monitor)

Census figures just released show Scotland's population will fall below 5 million by 2009. So while most countries are worried about unchecked growth, the Scots have extinction on their minds. If current trends continue, by the year 3573 there'll be two people left in Scotland, probably an octogenarian couple living in St. Andrews for the golf.

Quite a few vibrant nations have populations smaller than Scotland's, among them Norway, New Zealand, and Ireland. None of those countries, however, are declining in population; Ireland, in fact, is the fastest-growing nation in Europe. Within the EU, only Germany and Scotland are shrinking.


And no coincidence that Ireland has the only vibrant economy in Europe.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:47 PM

WHERE THE WAR ENDS:

U.S. General Maps New Tactic to Pursue Taliban and Qaeda (ERIC SCHMITT, 2/18/04, NY Times)

The commander of American-led forces in Afghanistan said Tuesday that the military had adopted new tactics to combat Taliban and Al Qaeda militants in the country.

The officer, Lt. Gen. David W. Barno of the Army, said that in the past three months, American units down to the level of 40-soldier platoons had been dispatched to live in villages where they can forge ties with tribal elders and glean better information about the location and activities of guerrillas. [...]

General Barno, a West Point graduate who assumed command last October, said cooperation with Pakistani forces on the Afghan border had increased, especially in the past six to eight weeks. American officials say they believe that Mr. Bin Laden is hiding in the mountainous border region.

Using a harsh, century-old British method, Pakistani forces have handed local tribal leaders a list of villages suspected of sheltering members of Al Qaeda. If the tribe refuses to hand over the suspects, the Pakistani Army threatens to punish the group as a whole, withdrawing funds or demolishing houses.

"That they're confronting the tribal elders and they're holding them accountable for activities in their areas of influence is a major step forward," General Barno said.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:45 PM

ELECTABLE, OR NOMINATABLE?:

An Open/Shut Case? (Dotty Lynch, Douglas Kiker, Beth Lester, Clothilde Ewing, Sean Sharifi and Jamie English, 2/18/04, CBS News)

With the results of Wisconsin now in, it appears that there is a distinction brewing in the Democratic nomination fight between John Kerry’s and John Edwards’ pockets of support. Wisconsin voters who called themselves Democrats chose John Kerry by a wide margin, 48 to 31. Among the 9 percent who considered themselves Republicans, Edwards beat Kerry 44 to 18. Among the 29 percent who said they were Independents, John Edwards was the leader by 12 points, 40 to 28, CBS News exit polling shows.

Some Kerry folks have suggested that the Republicans who voted were making mischief—and deliberately picking the weaker candidates Looking ahead, however, 36 percent of the delegates up in the next two weeks have rules like Wisconsin where Republicans as well as independents can vote.


The numbers show up the fundamental weakness of the theory that winning Democratic primaries shows you're electable.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:35 PM

RHYMES WITH "SHORE OF TRIPOLI":

Hannity Book: Kerry Objected to Reagan's Bombing of Terrorist Gadhafi (NewsMax.com, Feb. 18, 2004)

Sean Hannity's book "Deliver Us From Evil: Defeating Terrorism, Despotism, and Liberalism" has just been released this week, and it offers explosive revelations about Sen. John Kerry.

The Fox News Channel star and nationally syndicated radio host has unearthed a letter Kerry wrote harshly criticizing President Reagan for his retaliation against terrorist leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Specifically, the Massachusetts Democrat objected to a retaliatory strike by President Ronald Reagan against the Libyan dictator in 1986. In a never-before-published letter written shortly after Reagan ordered the strikes, Kerry complained that Reagan had overreacted to the bombing by Libyan terrorists of a Berlin disco frequented by American troops.

The Libyan-sponsored bombings killed one U.S. soldier and wounded 51. Kerry claimed that the April 1986 U.S. air strike that nearly killed Gadhafi was not "proportional."

"While I stated that my initial inclination was to support the President," Kerry wrote, "I pointed out that two essential tests had to be met in determining whether or not the U.S. action was appropriate. First, the United States had to have irrefutable evidence directly linking the Qadaffi [Gadhafi] regime to a terrorist act and, second, our response should be proportional to that act."


Against almost impossible odds, this manages to lengthen the already considerable string of foreign policy/national security issues on which the Senator has been on the side of our enemies.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:24 PM

THE BLUE BATTLEGROUND:

Bush Leads in Red States, Kerry Ahead in Blue States Voters Hardened on the Economy, War,  Gays Marriage (Zogby News, February 18, 2004)

A new poll conducted by Zogby International for The O’Leary Report and Southern Methodist University’s John Tower Center from February 12-15, 2004 of 1,209 likely voters with a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percentage points found that if the election for president were held today, Democrat John Kerry would edge George W. Bush 46% to 45% in the “blue states” – or states won by Al Gore in the 2000 election.  In the “red states,” or states won by George W. Bush in 2000, however, Bush wins handily by a 51% to 39% margin. [...]

A majority of voters in the survey also reject the filibuster strategy employed by Senate Democrats against some of President Bush’s judicial nominees.  This is consistent with polling results under President Clinton when voters rejected Republican efforts to block judicial nominees. Fifty-three percent of Blue State and 59% of Red State voters felt the Democratic filibuster of judicial nominees was wrong while 35% of Blue State and 32% of Red State voters feel a minority of Senators are right to use whatever means to necessary to block the nominees.

While the issue of gay marriages dominates the news in San Francisco and Boston, a majority of Americans remain opposed to the idea. Fifty-two percent of Red State voters and 50% of Blue State voters support such a constitutional amendment while 43% of Red State voters and 44% of Blue State voters disagree. Voters gave Bush a decided edge when asked who would do a better job of dealing with Al Qaeda, Saddam Hussein, Moammar Gaddafi, North Korea and Iran.  Bush was the clear choice among Red State voters (53%) and Blue State votes (47%).  Only 31% of Red State voters and 35% of Blue State voters felt Kerry would do a better job in dealing with rogue states and leaders.


The election is over, only the magnitude of the landslide is at issue. Three more quarters of good economic news and the draw-down in Iraq will put Democrats on the defensive in all of Blue America while Red America is out of play.


N.B.--Interesting to note that it is not America generally that is evenly divided but Blue America that is.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:38 PM

WHICH REPUBLIC DOES HE WANT TO LEAD? (via ef brown):

>Kerry's pre-emptive war policy (Tony Blankley, February 18, 2004, Washington Times)

[R]egarding Mr. Bush's Iraq diplomacy, Mr. Kerry has already provided some specific words at his speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in December. They are revealing. In the question period after the speech, a Newsweek reporter asked whether Mr. Kerry, who faulted the president's diplomacy, could have done a better job.

"Yes. Absolutely. Let me explain," Mr. Kerry said. The senator went on to say: "Now at the time, [the French and Germans] were pushing for a second vote. But there was a way through that path. I don't think it took a lot of skill or analysis to understand that the politics of their populations at that time were not ready to move. And any president ought to understand the politics of other people's electorates."


Mr. Kerry's predictable empathy for Franco-German emotion appears to come at the cost of any understanding of the American mind. Our citizenry prefers a president who acts when we want him to, not when our enemies give their permission.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:55 AM

PROGNOSTABLE?:

The Empty Seat Speaketh: No TV (Al Kamen, February 18, 2004, washingtonpost.com)

There's been much chatter of late about President Bush's attendance, or lack thereof, when he was supposed to be with the Alabama National Guard. But there was buzz on the Hill last week that maybe Bush is not the only one sensitive to charges of being AWOL.

Seems staff for Democratic front-runner Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, created quite a fuss by demanding that a Meredith Broadcasting TV crew be thrown out of a hearing in which Small Business Administrator Hector V. Barreto came to testify on the president's budget. [...]

So why all the static from Kerry's committee staff? Was this to prevent video footage of Kerry gone AWOL? Meredith happens to own WSHM-TV, of Springfield/Holyoke, Mass. A gaggle of print reporters went unhassled. Only Meredith's crew and reporter Andy Gobeil had problems.


The cases are somewhat different, because Bob Dole actually did things while he was in the Senate, but the 1996 GOP candidate resigned his seat in late May of that year--any guesses on when Cabana Boy folds to the pressure to follow suit?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:07 AM

MESSIANISM IS ANTI-UTOPIAN:

Beware of Iraq's whipping boys (Nir Rosen, 2/18/04, Asia Times)

Unlike most Muslims, who are Sunnis, Shi'ites believe that after the death of the Prophet Mohammed (632 AD), leadership of the Muslim umma (community of believers) should have been inherited by the family of Mohammed and his descendants, starting with Mohammed's cousin and son-in-law, Ali Ibn Abu Talib. However, when Mohammed died, his best friend and father-in-law Abu Bakr became the first caliph (leader of the Muslim community). Abu Bakr ruled from 632 until 634 and was followed by Umar, who ruled from 634 until he was assassinated in 644, and then Uthman, who was caliph from 644 until he, too, was killed in 656. The tribal council eventually elected Ali to be the fourth caliph, starting in 656 until 661. Ali himself was killed five years into his caliphate.

Muawiyah, the governor of Syria and an important warrior hailing from the Umayyad family, became caliph after Ali. The Umayyads were enemies of Mohammed's Hashemite clan. Muawiyah had initially opposed Mohammed's prophesy and was one of the last Meccans to convert to Islam, finally becoming Mohammed's secretary. Muawiyah was also an enemy of Ali, blaming him for the death of Uthman.

Muawiyah reached an accord with Ali's first son, Hassan, who agreed to withdraw from politics. When the mantle of leadership was to be passed to Muawiyah's son Yazid, he was challenged by Husain, Ali's second son. Husain expected the people of Kufah in southern Iraq to support his claim, because his father's caliphate had been based there.

Husain was accompanied by 72 male supporters and their families. They set out for Kufah, but while en route Yazid persuaded the Kufan leadership to abandon Husain, who was subsequently intercepted and forced along with his entourage to camp in the desert outside the city of Karbala. Shemr Ibn Saad led Yazid's army, which surrounded Husain's camp, denying them access to the waters of the nearby Euphrates River. After a 10-day siege, on the 10th of Muharram (October 10, 680 AD), Shemr and his men slaughtered Husain and his followers. The women and children were sold into captivity. Yazid became the sixth caliph, ruling from Damascus.

Husain's followers, known as Shiat Ali (Partisans of Ali) refused to recognize the legitimacy of the Umayyads. Karbala became a pilgrimage destination for the world's Shi'ites and a center of theological study. In Twelver Shiism, the most common Shi'ite sect, Ali, his sons Hassan and Husain, as well as the nine descendants of Ali, who became leaders of the Shi'ite community, are called imams. Twelver Shi'ites believe that the first 11 imams were assassinated and the 12th imam went into occultation in a supernatural realm in 874 AD, to reappear on judgment day as the mahdi, or promised messiah. Shi'ites devote many days of the year to commemorating the martyred imams, as well as more contemporary leaders, such as the cleric Muhamad Sadiq al-Sadr, who was killed by alleged Saddam agents in 1999.

The stories are reiterated in countless sermons that move the audience to anger and tears year after year as they relive the tragedies. Ashura was traditionally construed by Shi'ites as an act of redemptive suffering on Husain's part. Annual ceremonies included passion plays and mourning ceremonies in Husainiyas, or mourning centers where Shi'ites would congregate to mark and reenact the martyrdom, often with acts of self-flagellation, including beating themselves with their fists, with chains, or most famously, by cutting their foreheads with a qama, or short sword. Tatbir, this extreme form of flagellation, is controversial among Muslim scholars, in part because of the negative image it conveys to the world. Najim reports that his mosque has received orders from radical Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, "no swords, it is illegal to hurt yourself".

Latmiya singers such as Iraq's famous Bassem al-Karbalai, as well as actors, describe in detail the thirst of Husain and his besieged followers in the heat of the desert of Karbala, and Yazid's cruelty in choosing the time of Muslim communal prayer on Friday noon to slaughter his rivals. At the Nasr cinema on Baghdad's main Saadoun street, the featured film is called Al-Husain thairan wa shahida, or Husain, a revolutionary and martyr. Adult men and women weep bitterly during the last scenes of the movie where they are reminded of the treachery and guilt of the Kufan community, who abandoned Husain to the evil Yazid. The virtues of Shi'ite leaders are contrasted to the alleged immorality of early Sunni leaders, who supposedly stole the mantle of leadership wrongly from Husain and showed no mercy to his family, even the children. The founders of the Umayyad dynasty are condemned and by implication, so are their followers, Sunni Muslims.

The self-flagellation and mutilation in Muharram are not merely individual acts of contrition. They are performed collectively and publicly by the entire community. It is these Muharram rituals more than any single belief or dogma that define the Shi'ite sense of community. Muharram and its accompanying rituals in the following month of Safar, as well as the mourning processions during the month of Ramadan to mark Ali's martyrdom, last for about two months of the year. The subliminal messages of Muharram are seared into the hearts and minds of participants, forming their worldview and sense of identity.


It is this set of beliefs that predispose the Shi'ites to secular democratic government, as opposed to the totalitarian vision of the Sunni.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:40 AM

A COMMONALITY, AND THUS A COMMUNITY, OF VALUES:

Horns of the liberal dilemma: The tragedy of the Chinese workers in Morecambe and the simmering arguments about freedom of movement in a newly enlarged European Union have focused attention once again on immigration. David Goodhart, one of our leading liberal intellectuals and editor of the progressives' journal, Prospect, offers a penetrating analysis and a radical prescription for one of the most contentious issues facing us (David Goodhart, February 8, 2004, The Observer)

The abstract language of globalisation and universal human rights risks blinding us to some basic truths about our society. The national community remains the basic unit of human political organisation and will remain so long into the future. And when politicians talk about this community or the 'British people', they refer not just to a set of individuals with specific rights and duties but to a group of people with a special commitment to one another.

Membership in such a community implies acceptance of moral rules, however fuzzy, which underpin the laws and welfare systems of the state. It also confers immense privileges - physical security, freedom of many kinds, the chance to flourish economically, free education, free health care, and welfare benefits if you cannot support yourself.

National citizenship is inherently exclusionary. [...]

Welcome or not, greater diversity almost by definition eats away at a common culture and feelings of mutual obligation, yet a strong common culture is required to sustain a generous welfare state. This is what I have described elsewhere as the 'progressive dilemma'.

The best summary of the dilemma has been given by Tory MP David Willetts: 'If values become more diverse, if lifestyles become more differentiated, then it becomes more difficult to sustain the legitimacy of a universal risk-pooling welfare state. People ask, "Why should I pay for them when they are doing things I wouldn't do?" This is America versus Sweden. You can have a Swedish welfare state provided that you are a homogeneous society with intensely shared values. In the US, you have a very diverse, individualistic society where people feel fewer obligations to fellow citizens. Progressives want diversity but they thereby undermine part of the moral consensus on which a large welfare state rests.'


Transition to an Opportunity Society would then have the twin effect of removing the incentive for welfare free-loaders to immigrate and alleviating the suspicion in the mind of natives that they are funding the freeloaders.

There's a corollary to Mr. Goodhart's analysis though, that too few seem to recognize these days: the immigrant (especially America's immigrants) will often adhere more closely to the core values of the Republic than the natives, for example the secular Left. Indeed, it's arguable that the "American community" has remained healthier than its European counterparts because we import enough new folk who want to be a part of it to make up for the rot of those born here who don't.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 AM

THE ANTHROPOMETAMORPHOSIS:

Darwin: Man and Metaphor (Robert M. Young, 1989, Science as Culture)

If we think of Darwin's concept of natural selection and follow closely its history in his own thinking and in the controversy surrounding his work, we find it deeply value-laden, deeply anthropomorphic - that is, partaking of human attributes and treating the idea of nature as if it was a person - just the way scientific concepts aren't supposed to be. Darwin wrote that nature was always 'scrutinizing', that she picked out with unerring skill, 'that she favoured ' this and rejected that.

Indeed, his colleagues were at pains to point this out to him and his reply is very interesting indeed. He says that 'natural selection' is no worse than chemists speaking of 'elective affinities' of elements or physicists speaking of 'gravity as ruling the movements of the plants'. 'Everyone knows what is meant and is implied by such metaphorical expressions.'

I am arguing that at the heart of science lies metaphor - a concept usually associated with literature, especially poetry. We think of science as literal but at its heart lie figures of speech, in this case the idea that nature selects rather like a breeder or a deity.

Darwin is not alone in this kind of thinking. On the contrary, he points out that 'affinity' and other scientific concepts are no more or less scientific than his. The same thing applies to all basic concepts in science. The other candidate for Britain's greatest scientist, Isaac Newton, derived the concept of gravity from gravitas: affinity, natural selection, gravity - all these are metaphors drawn from ideas of human nature and projected on to nature as a way of seeing things and providing a framework for a philosophy of science. Not all such projections turn out to be so fruitful, but that doesn't set facts apart from values or literal statements apart from metaphors. The history of scientific ideas, like the history of other ideas, is a moving army of metaphors - some more general than others, but literalness is the enemy of scientific progress.

This point connects to my last one. The values in science are not only 'connected' to those in the wider society. Rather, the values in the wider society throw up the issues in science which come to be revered. This is particularly true of the extension of the concept of natural selection into what has come to be known as 'Social Darwinism'. The social survival of the fittest had a great vogue in the period of the 1870s to the 1890s and has regained new respectability in Reagan America and Thatcher Britain. People often write about Darwin as if one could separate his scientific views from Social Darwinism. However, this simply won't wash for two reasons. The first is that as we have seen, Darwin was deeply indebted to the writings of Thomas Malthus about social competition as the motor of progress. Beyond this debt, however, we find his own writings shot full of so-called social Darwinist ideas. They are found in the Origin of Species and again in the book in which he spelled out the human implications of his thinking, The Descent of Man.

In The Origin of Species he sees nature quite as 'red in tooth and claw' as Tennyson ever did. The chapter on instinct speaks of slave ants and other apparent cruelties as 'small consequences of one general law, leading to the advancement of all organic beings - namely, multiply, vary, let the strongest live and the weakest die'.

In the Descent of Man he extols the inheritance of property and the replacement of the lower races by the higher.

'Man, like every other animal, has no doubt advanced to his present high condition through a struggle for existence consequent upon his rapid multiplication; and if he is to advance still higher, it is to be feared that he must remain subject to a severe struggle. Otherwise he would sink into indolence, and the more gifted men would not be more successful in the battle of life than the less gifted. Hence our natural rate of increase, though leading to many and obvious evils, must not be greatly diminished by any means. There should be open competition for all men; and the most able should not be prevented by laws or customs from succeeding the best and rearing the largest number of offspring.'

So - we find Darwin's scientific theory derived from prevailing theological and social ideas, feeding back into the competitive and imperialist social philosophy of his age, and we find the man honoured and entombed by the nation in Westminster Abbey.

Darwin is certainly Britain's greatest intellectual. Moreover, genius - especially intellectual genius - is not outside history or above it. It is the distillation of the times, its quintessence. In the same way we see that science is not separate from values or above them, it is their embodiment. This is true of theories, therapies and things just as it is of industrial processes and commercial products. And if science is inside history and is the embodiment of values, then science and politics - which is values linked to power - are ultimately one topic. Science, values and politics are part of a single set of issues about how we see ourselves and live together on the earth - which Darwin showed us is one world.


As the great Darwinist Ernst Mayr says:
"There is indeed one belief that all true original Darwinians held in common, and that was their rejection of creationism, their rejection of special creation. This was the flag around which they assembled and under which they marched. When Hull claimed that "the Darwinians did not totally agree with each other, even over essentials", he overlooked one essential on which all these Darwinians agreed. Nothing was more essential for them than to decide whether evolution is a natural phenomenon or something controlled by God. The conviction that the diversity of the natural world was the result of natural processes and not the work of God was the idea that brought all the so-called Darwinians together in spite of their disagreements on other of Darwin's theories..." (One Long Argument: Charles Darwin and the Genesis of Modern Evolutionary Thought)

Darwinism represents a shift in philosophical theory--a change in the metaphor by which we comprehend ourselves--not an actual science. That's why arguments between opponents and adherents are endless--appeals to reason are futile in the choice of faiths.

MORE:
POLITICAL ECONOMY AT NATURE. THE IDEOLOGICAL BACKGROUND OF DARWINIAN DISCOURSE (Julio Nuñoz-Rubio, Science as Culture)

[I]n a letter to Neil Arnott, in february 1860, Darwin had manifested his respect towards Malthus in a brief sentence: "You put the Malthusian great truth of the 'Struggle for existence' very forcibly." And in 1871, in "The Descent of Man" expressed in a footnote: "See the ever memorable 'Essay on the Principle of Population', by the Rev, T. Malthus [...]"

All along these quotations the admiration and identification of Darwin towards Malthus is clear. In 1858 Darwin wrote a never- published article, in which he summarizes his theory of the evolution of species with a passage in which the paralelism with the "Essay in the Principle of Population" is much more forceful:

"De Candolle, in an eloquent passage, has declared that all nature is at war, one organism with another, or with external nature. Seeing the contented face of nature, this may at first well be doubted; but reflection will inevitably prove it to be true. The war, however, is not constant, but recurrent in a slight degree at short periods, and more severely at occasional more distant periods; and hence its effects are easily overlooked. It is the doctrine of Malthus applied in most cases with tenfold force. As in every climate there are seasons, for each of its inhabitants, of greater and less abundance, so all annually breed; and the moral restraint which in some small degree checks the increase of mankind is entirely lost. Even slow breeding mankind has dobubled in twenty-five years; and if he could increase his food with greater ease, he would doble in less time. But of animals without artificial means, the amount of food for each species must, on an average, be constant, whereas the increase of all organisms tends to be geometrical, and in a vast majority of cases at an enormous ratio. ...Where man has introduced plants and animals into a very new and favourable country, there are many accounts in how surprisingly few years the whole country has become stocked with them. This increase would necessarily stop as soon as the country was fully stocked... Malthus on man should be studied; and all such cases as those of the mice in La Plata. of the cattle and horses when first turned out in South America of the birds by our calcualtion, &c., should be well considered. Reflect on the enormous multiplying power inherent and anually in action in all animals; reflect on the countless seeds scattered by a hundred ingenious contrivances, year after year, over the whole face of the land; and yet we have every reason to suppose that the average percentage of each of the inhabitants of a country usually remains constant. Finally, let it be borne in mind that this average number of individuals...in each country is kept up by recurrent struggles against other species or against external nature..."

In this paragraphs Darwin transports to nature the hobbesian bellum omni in omnes; asserts the certitude of Malthus's theory and extrapolate and generalize it ten times stronger than in non-human population.

As can be noticed, Darwin was imbued and identified with the principles of the work of Malthus. The allusions addressed to him are constant and recurring. All this might be more easely understood if it is noticed that Darwin, as well as many other intelectuals of Victorian England, had interest in Political Economy and in Philosphy. Since he was a young man, his education was traversed by this type of studies. So he expresed in 1829, when he sent a letter in which among other things declared: "My studies consist in Adam Smith and Locke...".

Two trascendental influences that Darwin received in his youth, came from Astronomer John Herschel and from Philosopher William Whewell. The first of them made a distinction between "fundamental laws" and "empirical laws", expressing that the task of science should be to formulate the first group of laws in a coherent way, in order to understand the deepest causes or ultimate facts that are able to explain the nature of a phenomenom, namely, its vera causa,. Whewell, on his side expressed himself in terms of "formal" or "fundamental" laws, that were those in which the vera causa should be looked for; and also talked about "physical" or "causal" laws, derived from the formers. The clearest example of a formal law would be the laws of Newton.

Darwin, assimilating Herschel's and Whewell's lessons imposed himself as an objective to discover the vera causa of biological evolution and with it, of the abundance and distribution of the species. There on, the importance of Malthus becomes more relevant. Herschel had expressed that a scientific law should posssess universal aplicability and analogical capacity in order to be able to comprehend what might be happening in other areas of knowledge. Demography was one of these cases in which analogies could work in order to interpret the behaviour of non-human populations. For Darwin, Malthus was the Newton of Demography, the discoverer of the vera causa of human population dynamics. His concept of "struggle for existence" could be extended to the rest of the species, being reinforced with the concept of "selection" of the most able individuals in getting the resources for their survival. Both concepts would explain numerous problems of geographical distribution, paleontology, embriology, compared anatomy, etc. In a word, natural selection would be the vera causa of evolution. Hence, the Malthusian principle of population raises as the analogy that Darwin requires in order to build his model, and the "struggle for existence" as the moving force of the process.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:17 AM

LEARNING FROM THEIR MISTAKES:

Bush cultivates grass roots (Richard Tomkins, 2/17/2004, UPI)

With President George W. Bush facing what's shaping up to be a bruising re-election battle, Republican campaign operatives are focusing on setting up a formidable grass-roots machine to help prevent another general election squeaker.

In chad-jinxed Florida, state re-election officials have benefited from 12 special training sessions conducted by Bush-Cheney 2004 national and regional staff. They then conduct training sessions for more local operatives, who do the same in turn.

More sessions are on the way.

Supporters in other states -- especially swing states such as Missouri and Ohio -- are likewise being taught the ins and outs of coffee klatches, leafleting, voter registration drives, radio call-ins, door-knocking and letter writing to stoke a momentum they hope will build to a final -- and successful -- 72-hour push to victory come Nov. 2.

"We've been busy putting together a grass-roots organization because we believe the election will be close, possibly as close as 2000," campaign deputy spokesman Scott Stanzel told United Press International. "By building state leadership teams, holding training for county chairmen and precinct leaders, we hope to turn out a very good vote."


How about just avoiding having a past arrest revealed in the final 72 hours?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:15 AM

NEVER A BAD TIME TO MATURE:

Young Fogeys: Young reactionaries, aging radicals—the U.S. Catholic Church's unusual clerical divide (Andrew Greeley, January/February 2004, The Atlantic Monthly)

For more than three decades now, as a sociologist and a priest, I have been tracking the evolution of the beliefs and practices of the Catholic clergy and laity in the United States. My most recent analysis, based on survey data that I and others have gathered periodically since Vatican II, reveals a striking trend: a generation of conservative young priests is on the rise in the U.S. Church. These are newly ordained men who seem in many ways intent on restoring the pre-Vatican II Church, and who, reversing the classic generational roles, define themselves in direct opposition to the liberal priests who came of age in the 1960s and 1970s. [...]

Stark differences exist between older and younger priests on many major areas of concern within the Church. The 2002 Los Angeles Times study reveals that priests of the Vatican II generation overwhelmingly support the idea that priests should be allowed to marry. In the study 80 percent of priests aged forty-six to sixty-five were in favor, as were 74 percent of those aged sixty-six to seventy-five. Only about half the priests under thirty-five, however, supported the idea. The study revealed a clear divide, too, on the ordination of women. Sixty percent of priests aged fifty-six to sixty-five, and at least half of those aged forty-six to seventy-five, supported the idea, but only 36 percent of priests under forty-six did. Significantly, even priests over seventy-five—whose views took shape well before Vatican II—were slightly more likely to support the marriage of priests and the ordination of women than were the young priests.

The lines are a bit less clear on questions of sexual ethics. According to the same Los Angeles Times study, about half of all priests reject premarital sex and homosexual sex as always wrong. But only about 40 percent of the younger generation believe that birth control is always wrong—a revealing failure of the Restoration efforts of the past thirty years, which have been fundamentally opposed to birth control. And younger priests seem to have a higher general regard for women than older priests do—an attitude demonstrated most clearly in the 1994 Los Angeles Times study, in responses to questions about support for official condemnation of sexism and for better ministry to women, and concern for the situation of nuns. This attitude, which is in line with the views of the laity, explains some of the clergy's resistance to the Church's teachings on sexuality. Nonetheless, younger priests are more than twice as likely as priests aged fifty-five to sixty-five to think that birth control and masturbation are always wrong, and they are significantly more likely to think that homosexual sex and premarital sex are always wrong.


After a destructive flirtation with fads--like the conscious recruitment of gay priests who have led to the sex abuse scandals--the Catholic Church in America is badly in need of such a counter-revolution. If nothing else, it needs to stop playing defense--as it did shamefully in covering up for its child-abusers--and get back on the offensive--as in banning pro-abortion politicians from Communion.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:26 AM

THE OIL MEN GET IT:

Oil and Democracy Don't Mix: Bush administration policies guarantee a constant flow, no matter what the human cost (Frida Berrigan, 2.4.04, In These Times)

At a 1996 energy conference in New Orleans, Dick Cheney, then CEO of Halliburton said, “The problem is that the good Lord didn’t see fit to put oil and gas reserves where there are democratic governments.”

Laying the blame on the divine is a stretch, but it seems that the vice president is right: democracy and oil do not mix. Just look at the United States’ top 10 oil suppliers. Algeria, Angola, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia are repressive regimes with deplorable human rights records. Mexico and Venezuela, while democracies, are marked by instability, inequality and civil strife. Iraq remains at war and under occupation. Only Norway, Canada and the United Kingdom are fully functioning democracies.

Why don’t oil and democracy mix? At least part of the answer can be found in Washington’s policy of providing military aid and training to leaders who guarantee an uninterrupted flow of oil, defending it against all threats-even those coming from their own citizens. [...]

There are a few exceptions to the “oil and democracy don’t mix” maxim, and they are instructive. Norway, the United Kingdom and Canada are major oil suppliers to the United States, but were established democracies with diversified economies before getting into oil exploration. Replicating these successes in other oil-rich countries will require a radical revision of U.S. military and energy policy. Now would be a good time to start.


Might help if she paid attention to Dick Cheney more or read some Bernard Lewis. She might realize that the President's energy policy is designed to end the dependence she rightly laments.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:18 AM

CAN MCNAFAQO'S BE FAR BEHIND?

The Mall of Somalia: Minneapolis's own slice of Mogadishu (Mike Mosedale, 2/18/04, City Pages)

It's a dismal day in south Minneapolis, one of those cold midwinter afternoons when the sun shines as though its batteries were dying. At times like this, a good portion of Twin Cities natives wishes they lived somewhere else, like Florida. But, what can you do? Move, gripe, or shut up. At a bustling little mall called Karmel Square--where, until fairly recently, practically everyone did live somewhere else--the frigid weather is a favorite topic of conversation. "We are an outdoor people," grumbles mall regular Abdullahi Hassan. But Hassan, along with many of the estimated 25,000 Somalis living in Minnesota, has come to grudgingly accept snowdrifts and windchill as part of the bargain he makes for a better life. Besides, when he wants a taste of home, he can always make the trek to Karmel Square.

In the food court, the mall's social nexus, the tile floor is littered with dirty napkins and snowmelt. Broken Styrofoam cups float in the ornamental fountain. Plastic buckets, which have been scattered about the room, catch drips falling from leaks in the roof. But the building's lackluster upkeep doesn't seem to bother anyone much. The air is filled with conversation. People constantly greet one another in excited voices. There is a virtual epidemic of hugging and touching.

On this midweek afternoon, the food court is inhabited by maybe two dozen people, almost exclusively Somali men speaking Somali. Most are sipping coffee or sweet tea. A few are munching hunger-quenching snack foods like nafaqo--a delectable batter-fried hunk of mashed potato wrapped around a hardboiled egg. As usual, a bunch of guys are clustered near the television. It's tuned to an English soccer match. At Karmel Square, the TV is always tuned to soccer. Unless there's no soccer. Then it's tuned to CNN and everyone looks a little bored. [...]

At a little after 5:00 p.m., a large, handsome guy hobbles into the food court on a pair of crutches. Accompanied by a friend, he plops down on one of the few vacant seats. He is nattily dressed: turtleneck sweater, wool overcoat, and a Carhart stocking cap. Speaking in halting English, he explains that he lost the lower half of his right leg in 1991, the year Somalia's last functioning government collapsed and the country descended into a nightmare of lawlessness, brutality, and madness. As the fighting overtook the capital city of Mogadishu, the man says he was struck repeatedly in the leg with the butt of a militiaman's rifle. He couldn't find a doctor or hospital, so the leg became badly infected and eventually was amputated.

He explains that he spent more than 10 years marooned in a Kenyan refugee camp, where his wife and kids remain. He's been in Minnesota for one month. This is his first visit to Karmel Square, which might explain why, despite the recounting of these awful stories, he's smiling.

Just as the man's more English-proficient friend jumps in to fill out the details of the story, a loud chanting comes crackling over a loudspeaker. It's the call to evening prayer. The crippled man and his buddy rise from their seats, just as the others do in the coffee shop, one by one. Some make their way to a spartan little prayer room in a distant corner of the building. When that space fills up, the overflow heads to Spectrum Computer, a nearby business that provides internet access, computer repair services, and free floor space where the faithful can spread their prayer mats and bow toward Mecca.

Karmel Square is located in a sprawling, 125,000-square-foot building on the 2900 block of Pillsbury Avenue. It is a little off the beaten path, about a half-block north of Lake Street. For decades, the building served as a repair shop for streetcars. Later, it became a machinery warehouse. Then, a little over four years ago, a Palestinian émigré named Basim Sabri spotted it, and the posted For Sale sign, while driving down Pillsbury. Sabri, who had already built a small empire of residential properties in the Whittier and Uptown neighborhoods, snapped up the dilapidated building for the fire-sale price of $169,000. It was his first venture into commercial property, and he wasn't exactly sure what to do with it. With limited funds, Sabri began rehabbing the heating and plumbing. Around the same time, he noticed the dramatic influx of Somali immigrants in the Twin Cities. It struck him: He would build a souk--the Arabic word for a mall or bazaar--to serve the Somali community. It was a novel idea. At the time, Sabri says, there were no other Somali malls in Minneapolis--or, for that matter, in North America.

"The word travels very quickly in the Somali community. Very rapidly," Sabri recalls. "I met with the coffee shop guys. Before you know it, I had a whole tribe of Somalis wanting to rent. I'm filled in no time." One draw was the relatively inexpensive rent: about $375 a month. And once foot traffic was established, other Somali entrepreneurs--many of whom had been merchants in the old country--were clamoring for spaces of their own. As a result, according to Sabri, Karmel Square has been fully occupied since it opened. When one tenant leaves, another quickly snaps up the vacant space.


The soccer's gotta go, but the fried mashed potato deal is a keeper.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:38 AM

WHEN CRAZY AUNTS ATTACK:

Guess Which Candidate Our Enemies Want to Lose in 2004? (James Lileks, Feb. 18, 2004, Jewish World Review)

Woe and gloom have befallen some on the right. Bush has failed to act according to The Reagan Ideal.

The actual Reagan may have issued an amnesty for illegals, but the Ideal Reagan would have done no such thing. So unless Bush packs freight cars full of gardeners and dishwashers and dumps them off at the Mexican border, some voters will just sit this one out.

The Ideal Reagan would have eliminated the National Endowment for the Arts; the actual Reagan proposed a $1 million increase in his final budget. But Bush increased NEA funding -- perhaps an attempt to placate people who wouldn't vote for him if he showed up in performance with Karen Finley and a can of Hershey's syrup. So angry conservatives might just sit this one out. [...]

Oh, sure, Bush is fine on the foreign affairs stuff, and yes, there's a partial-birth abortion law, and the tax cuts were nice, and come to think of it, Sept. 11 wasn't followed by blow after blow after blow, for some reason. The nation endures, at least at press time. But that's hardly enough. Where's that bill requiring 60-foot Ten Commandments monuments in every capitol rotunda? Let Kerry win. Teach the GOP a lesson, it will.

So both sides have elements that seem unserious about the defining issue of the day: the war. But the right's malcontents snipe from humid redoubts of Internet message boards. The left's biggest spokesmen are parading their delusions.


If only the attic we keep our nativists and libertarians locked up in were big enough to accommodate the Michael Moore's of the world.


Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:05 AM

ANOTHER BLOCKBUSTER FROM SCIENCE:

Women aren't so nice, after all? (Elaine Carey, Toronto Star, 18/02/04)

Science has proven what women have always known — they'll "dis" the competition to get the man they want.

In a study believed to be the first of its kind, York University researchers found that women at the peak of their monthly fertility cycle will downplay other women's attractiveness as a way of attracting men.

When women's fertility was at its highest, their opinions of other women's looks dropped, says the study, published today in Biology Letters, a journal published by the British Royal Society.

When fertility was at its lowest point, the subjects looked at the same pictures of the other women and rated them much more attractive.

"Previously, women have been depicted as co-operative, kind-hearted and all of that. I think this adds to the small but growing body of research that says women are actually competitive," said Maryanne Fisher, the study's lead researcher and a doctoral candidate in psychology [...]

The study illustrates one way women use what has previously been identified as "competitor derogation," a polite term for "dissing" the competition, to attract men, she said.

"You make the rival look worse by saying nasty things about them," she explained.


We always suspected. But now we KNOW. Surely this demands a rethinking of the place of women in public life. Should we not have a public debate on whether we must put up with congenital slanderers in the workplace? Distasteful, but science has proven and who can argue with science?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM

IT'S EDWARDS TIME:

Competition Back in Race (TODD S. PURDUM, 2/18/04, NY Times)

In this unsettled Democratic primary season, time has been John Edwards's friend, and competition has always inspired John Kerry, and on Tuesday the restless voters of Wisconsin gave both men a bit more of each.

Senator Kerry racked up another victory, but Senator Edwards's surprisingly strong second-place showing here gives him the ability to argue that the 29 days since the Iowa caucuses have not been enough time to pick his party's best-tested nominee. [...]

Mr. Kerry had hoped Wisconsin would make him the near-nominee with just such support, allowing him to showcase an array of pragmatic policy positions on topics like tax cuts, trade and gay marriage that he contends can make him competitive in November

Instead, this iconoclastic state gave Mr. Edwards more evidence for his own lawyer's case that a mere month of voting should not produce a verdict just yet. He came in a close second and won the support of about half the primary voters who made up their minds within the last three days, according to a survey of voters leaving the polls.

With Wisconsin allowing independents and Republicans to vote in its open primary, the senator from North Carolina also won the support of roughly 4 in 10 non-Democrats, compared with about a quarter for Mr. Kerry.


It'll be interesting how Senator Edwards does if this is down to a two man race. Exit polling continues to suggest he's the toughest opponent for President Bush, garnering much higher support from independents and Republicans and, in one of those delicious twists, outpolling Mr. Kerry handily among the wealthy, as his two America's song and dance appeals to the guilty upper middle class white folk he's castigating.

One last bit of bad news for Mr. Kerry was that he hardly did any better among veterans than Mr. Edwards, suggesting the Vietnam issue is one of the media obsessions that normal Americans don't much care about.


February 17, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:21 PM

IMPOSING STATEHOOD, AT LAST:

Border talks exclude Palestinians (Barbara Slavin, 2/17/04,USA TODAY)

For the first time in a half-century of Arab-Israeli conflict, Israel is negotiating its boundaries not with its adversaries but with its longtime ally, the United States, according to Israeli, Palestinian and former U.S. officials.

The parties that matter are there.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:31 PM

AL GORE WITHOUT PERSONAL MAGNETISM?

For Kerry, a Tough Geography Test: A Race Against Bush Could Be Decided on Conservative Turf (Dan Balz, February 17, 2004, Washington Post)

John F. Kerry faces a daunting challenge as he turns toward a prospective general election campaign against President Bush, a race that will test whether a liberal New Englander and member of the Washington elite can attract support in the more conservative swing states that cost Democrats the White House in 2000. [...]

From Kerry's positions on gun rights, abortion and civil unions to some past positions on defense and his two decades in the club of the Senate, Republicans see the senator as a candidate with significant vulnerabilities as he tries to pick off some of the "red" states, as they appeared on color-coded maps, that gave Bush his razor-thin electoral margin four years ago.

Ken Mehlman, Bush's campaign manager, said the political divisions that defined the 2000 election are likely to mean another close contest this year. "That being said," he added, "Kerry is someone who has 19 years of votes on issues that not only in red states but some of the blue states will be hard to defend." [...]

"I think the Republicans are ready to fit him into a box, and it's not just the box of Massachusetts liberal," said one Democratic strategist. "I think the box they're trying to fit him in is the Washington veteran politician who says one thing and does another. And they'll make Bush a guy making tough decisions who is plainspoken. That's the contrast they're trying to draw. I have concerns."

Mehlman made clear that is precisely what the GOP will try to do. "There is a big stylistic difference going forward," he said, "between a president who is a straight shooter, who when he says something you can put it in the bank, and an opponent who has consistently shown through this campaign that he says one thing and does something else."

A Bush strategist said of Kerry: "If you looked at all his ads, you'd think he was an outsider. This guy rails against special interests and look at what he's done over the last 20 years. He says he's going to come and fix Washington and he's been part of the problem for the last 20 years. We're going to make Kerry be who he is."

Other Democrats said they questioned whether Kerry will be able to generate real passion in voters, particularly those who are weakly tied to either party. "Can he get the new folks?" asked one strategist who has worked for one of the other Democratic candidates. "Can he make it bigger than just himself? That's an open question."


One nice thing about the coming debacle is that the youthful idealists have already been crushed by the coollapse of the Dean campaign. All that's left is cynical opportunists and it's hard to feel to sorry for them. When Mr. Kerry gets blown out no one will even care, kind of like when Bob Dole lost.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:58 PM

RELOCATE THE SUNNI TRIANGLE (via mc):

Who Will Dump
The Bedpans if They Dump German Draft?
: Inductees Who Opt Out
Of Fighting Do Jobs Few Others Would Want (PHILIP SHISHKIN, 2/17/04, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL)

Half the 180,000 young men drafted into the German military each year don't go into the armed forces at all. Instead, they empty bedpans, help rescue animals or restore the delicate masonry on historic buildings.

Now, Germany wants to scale down or even end its draft. The question is: Who will empty all those bedpans?

Germany has allowed its conscripts such peaceful alternatives to military service for nearly 50 years, in part as a reaction to its Nazi-era history. At the same time, it has built a postwar army that is the largest in Western Europe.

Today, under pressure from the U.S. to share a growing global-security burden, Germany and other European nations are trying to convert their armies to smaller, highly trained, specialized teams -- and Germany has a problem.

Its economy relies on its tens of thousands of conscientious objectors, known as "Zivis," which is short for Zivildienst or civilian service. Health-care and charity organizations fear they won't be able to replace their source of cheap recruits such as Michael Schmitz, who opted out of military service because, he says, he didn't want "to kill another person."


Time to import more Muslims.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:32 PM

THE DEMOCRATS GO BACK TO THE SECOND WAY:

Kerry on HSAs (Small Business Survival Committee, February 17, 2004)

In a February 12 report, the Associated Press asked presidential candidates: “Are health savings accounts a good way for people to control their health care costs?” Health savings accounts (HSAs), formerly known as medical savings accounts (MSAs), combine a tax-free savings account with a traditional, catastrophic insurance plan.

Senator John Kerry (D-MA), the Democrats frontrunner, answered: “Health savings accounts are not the answer to rising health care costs. They primarily benefit healthy, upper-income Americans while doing little to expand coverage.”

Senator Kerry might want to do a little more research on the topic. For example, according to a 2003 report from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), 73 percent of the consumers buying MSAs were previously uninsured.


Actually, the genius of the HSA lies in starting the accounts when you're young and healthy and have no need for insurance, so that they build up over time and leave you with plenty of savings for when you truly need healthcare. Bill Clinton at least would have understood that, even if he'd have chickened out on supporting them.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:16 PM

PULL!:

Appeals court upholds federal do not call registry, turns aside free speech challenge (Steven K. Paulson, February 17, 2004, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

"We hold that the do-not-call registry is a valid commercial speech regulation because it directly advances the government's important interests in safeguarding personal privacy and reducing the danger of telemarketing abuse without burdening an excessive amount of speech," the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said.

"In other words, there is a reasonable fit between the do-not-call regulations and the government's reasons for enacting them."


Justice Scalia will treat this like one of Dick Cheney's ducks.


Posted by Brooke Judd at 2:59 PM

25?:

Antibiotics May Raise Risk for Breast Cancer (Rob Stein, February 17, 2004, Washington Post)

Antibiotic use is associated with an increased risk for breast cancer, a new study has found, raising the possibility that women who take the widely used medicines are prone to one of the most feared malignancies. [...]

Velicer, Taplin and their colleagues examined computerized pharmacy and cancer screening records of 2,266 women in the Group Health Cooperative, a Seattle area health plan, who developed breast cancer, and 7,953 similar women who did not.

Women who had more than 25 individual prescriptions for antibiotics over an average period of 17 years had twice the risk of breast cancer as those who had taken no antibiotics. The risk was lower for women who took fewer antibiotics, but even those who had between one and 25 prescriptions were about 50 percent more likely to develop breast cancer, the researchers found.


Do you suppose being prescribed antibiotics 1.5 times per year for almost twenty years hints at bigger problems in these women?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:35 PM

UNDER CONTROL:

No call for U.S. help from Fallujah police after station ambush (Seth Robson, February 17, 2004, Stars and Stripes)

Iraq’s civil defense force asked U.S. soldiers not to aid a besieged Fallujah police station Saturday to keep the defenders from losing face with locals, according to the U.S. commander of coalition forces in the area.

At least 25 people were killed in simultaneous attacks on the police station and an Iraqi Civil Defense Corps compound. On Monday, a team of six U.S. congressmen and several members of the Iraqi Governing Council laid a wreath at the Baghdad Police Academy in memory of 17 police officers killed during the attack.

Col. Jefforey Smith, commander of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division, now based in Fallujah, said U.S. soldiers prepared to head to the police station after hearing gunfire.

However, the troops at Volturno Forward Operating Base, about seven miles from the police station, were held back at the request of the commander of the 506th Iraqi Civil Defense Corps battalion.

Shortly after the attack started the commander arrived at Volturno seeking weapons and ammunition.

“I asked if he wanted us to send an element but he said [the ICDC and Iraqi police] had the situation under control. We had four military ambulances standing by but he said they didn’t need them,” Smith said.

“He almost demanded we not put forces into Fallujah at that time because it would damage their credibility with the people there if they could not protect themselves.”

Smith promised not to intervene for two hours and provided the civil defense corps with 20,000 rounds of ammunition for their AK-47 weapons and machine guns.


People are using this incident to question whether Iraqis are ready to take over their own country? They sure seem ready.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:21 PM

DIVERGENT PATHS:

Hustling up Bush charges (PageSix, 2/17/04, NY Daily News)

Now the incorrigible Larry Flynt says he plans to market a Bush abortion story as genuine - in a book to be published this summer by Kensington Press.

"This story has got to come out," the wheelchair-bound Hustler magazine honcho told the Daily News' Corky Siemaszko. "There's a lot of hypocrisy in the White House about this whole abortion issue."

Flynt claimed that Bush arranged for the procedure in the early '70s.

"I've talked to the woman's friends," Flynt said. "I've tracked down the doctor who did the abortion, I tracked down the Bush people who arranged for the abortion," Flynt said. "I got the story nailed."


The problem for Democrats in a mud-slinging contest is that their thirty and forty year old dirt on George W. Bush is part and parcel of the narrative of his life--an irresponsible young man who found God and grew up. There's no hypocrisy in opposing the kinds of things the man you once were did.

Meanwhile, the dirt on Mr. Kerry, which is as recent as right now, fits a portrait of a man who was a hero in Vietnam but has been a disgraceful money-grubber and political-waffler since. There's no honor in having been a decent man once upon a time.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:04 PM

EMINENCE GREASED:

An Offer Kerry Can't Refuse (The Prowler, 2/17/2004, American Spectator)

It isn't for nothing that Bill Clinton has Wesley Clark on his speed dial. What with Clinton running his campaign and all.

No sooner had Clark pulled the plug on his presidential run last Tuesday night -- and started the firestorm surrounding stories of Kerry and his extramarital affairs -- than Clinton was on the horn telling him to shut his mouth and get in line behind Kerry.

Clinton is thought to have once wanted Clark to at least be on the bottom of a Democratic ticket. But as the campaign wore on, doubts arose. "All of the reasons Clark was pushed out of the Army hierarchy were made clear to Clinton during the campaign," says a former Clark staffer now advising John Edwards. "Clark was just not someone who focused well day to day. It was frustrating. That last night, where he's caught mouthing off about Kerry, is the kind of stuff we were dealing with all the time."

Now, according to several sources inside the Clinton camp, as well as DNC insiders, Bill Clinton is looking for a way to push wife Hillary Rodham Clinton onto the bottom of the ticket. One big reason: money. Kerry will need a lot more of it. Clinton can facilitate his getting it.


If there's one thing his life and career demonstrate about John Kerry it is that he can be bought.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:46 PM

THERE'S ONLY ONE SAFE HARBOR:

US assets still attractive despite dollar fall (Jennifer Hughes in London and Christopher Swann, February 17 2004, Financial Times)

Foreign investors provided a vote of confidence in US asset markets last year by increasing the amount of money they invested in the US even as the dollar fell, according to capital flow data by the US Treasury. [...]

Last year, the dollar fell about 15 per cent on a trade-weighted basis and about 20 per cent against the euro. Strategists suggested the decline, despite the strong inflows, might have been the result of hedging as investors sought to protect themselves against the falling dollar through forward contracts which put further pressure on the US currency even as they bought US assets.

Net flows into US equities rose to a strong $13.3bn in December from $8.8bn the month before compared with an average inflow of $3.1bn over the year. In the bond market, net inflows into the Treasury market slipped to $29.8bn from $33.4bn but remained well above the $22.8bn monthly average. [...]

Michael Woolfolk, currencies strategist at Bank of New York, said the December numbers were "overwhelmingly" positive for the dollar.

"It shows that the decline in US interest rates to four decade lows has not undermined foreign appetite for US securities to the degree thought earlier" he said.


Where else were they going to go to find a completely safe investment?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:30 PM

MACHIAVELLI ON THE BUSH MOMENT:

The Prince: Chapter 6 (Niccolo Machiavelli)

[I]t ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, then to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them. Thus it happens that whenever those who are hostile have the opportunity to attack they do it like partisans, whilst the others defend lukewarmly, in such wise that the prince is endangered along with them.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:53 PM

HOW MUCH DO WE PAY HIM FOR THAT NO-SHOW JOB? (via mc):

Kerry to Keep Senate Seat During Campaign (LOLITA C. BALDOR, 2/17/04, Associated Press)

Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said Kerry, who has won 14 of the 16 Democratic primaries and caucuses to date, "will continue to fight for the issues important to the people of Massachusetts and all Americans" as he makes his bid for the White House.

Darrell West, a Brown University political science professor, said it would make sense for Kerry, who is serving his fourth term in the Senate, to resign.

"He doesn't need the money or the aggravation, and he's going to be spending most of his time campaigning," West said. "It would help for him to not have to vote."

At the same time, West said, Kerry could lose everything if he resigned his seat and then didn't win the White House.

The key concern for Kerry and the Democrats is that if he resigns -- or even if he does not and goes on to win the White House -- Massachusetts Republican Gov. Mitt Romney would appoint an interim replacement.


Time for the GOP to just start hammering him on this and, in particular, to start running ads on how much Senate business he's missing.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:44 PM

LECTURE: Topic: American Leadership and Statecraft in the 21st Century (Carnes Lord, Professor of Military and Naval Strategy U.S. Naval War College, Tuesday, February 17, 2004, 12:00 PM)

This event will be broadcast live on the Internet at:

http://live.ashbrook.org

at 12:30 PM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:09 PM

ALL THAT MONEY MAKES SUCH A SUCCULENT SOUND:

Industrial Production Jumps 0.8 Percent (AP, February 17, 2004) 

Big industry production rebounded in January, rising by a strong 0.8 percent, an encouraging sign that the industrial sector's recovery is on track.

The increase in output at the nation's factories, mines and utilities came after industrial production was flat in December, the Federal Reserve reported Tuesday. While unhappy about that, economists were still hopeful that the lackluster performance seen in December was a temporary rough patch and that activity would bounce back in January.

The pickup in industrial production last month matched analysts' expectations and marked the biggest increase since November.

For all of 2003, industrial activity rose by 0.2 percent, a big improvement from the 0.6 percent decline registered in 2002. Last year marked the first year that industrial production was in positive territory since 2000, when the economy was still enjoying a record economic expansion.


Further evidence, if any was needed, that the Greenspan slump is over.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:43 AM

ONLY THE FRENCH:

Prosecutor appeals tough conviction of former Premier Juppe (PIERRE-ANTOINE SOUCHARD, February 17, 2004, Associated Press)

Prosecutors have appealed former Prime Minister Alain Juppe's conviction in a party financing scandal after the court handed him a sentence much tougher than they had requested, judicial officials said Tuesday.

Where else but France would even prosecutoirs be such sissies that they appeal firm sentences themselves?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:34 AM

BARGAIN BASEMENT BA'ATHISTS:

Iraq oil cash funded MPs' campaigns: Businessmen handed on money illicitly siphoned from UN deals to pressure groups run by George Galloway and Tam Dalyell (David Leigh and David Pallister, February 17, 2004, The Guardian)

Money illicitly siphoned from the UN oil-for-food programme by Saddam Hussein was used to finance anti-sanctions campaigns run by British politicians, according to documents that have surfaced in Baghdad.
Undercover cash from oil deals went to three businessmen who in turn supported pressure groups involving the ex-Labour MP George Galloway, Labour MP Tam Dalyell, and the former Irish premier Albert Reynolds, it is alleged in documents compiled by the oil ministry, which is now under the control of the US occupation regime. [...]

The so-called oil list has already caused worldwide embarrassment, with allegations made against prominent people and companies in France, Russia, Switzerland and South Africa, as well as employees at the UN.

Across the world, some of those named agree the lists seem authentic. Others deny it, or say details are exaggerated.


Of course, you don't have to have been in his employ to have been his de facto ally, but it does provide clarity.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:41 AM

NOW THEY'RE JUST FLAILING (via jd watson):

From Space, a New View of Doomsday (DENNIS OVERBYE, 2/17/04, NY Times)

Recent astronomical measurements, scientists say, cannot rule out the possibility that in a few billion years a mysterious force permeating space-time will be strong enough to blow everything apart, shred rocks, animals, molecules and finally even atoms in a last seemingly mad instant of cosmic self-abnegation.

"In some ways it sounds more like science fiction than fact," said Dr. Robert Caldwell, a Dartmouth physicist who described this apocalyptic possibility in a paper with Dr. Marc Kamionkowski and Dr. Nevin Weinberg, from the California Institute of Technology, last year.

The Big Rip is only one of a constellation of doomsday possibilities resulting from the discovery by two teams of astronomers six years ago that a mysterious force called dark energy seems to be wrenching the universe apart.

Instead of slowing down from cosmic gravity, as cosmologists had presumed for a century, the galaxies started speeding up about five billion years ago, like a driver hitting the gas pedal after passing a tollbooth. [...]

The idea of an antigravitational force pervading the cosmos does sound like science fiction, but theorists have long known that certain energy fields would exert negative pressure that would in turn, according to Einstein's equations, produce negative gravity. Indeed, some kind of brief and violent antigravitational boost, called inflation, is thought by theorists to have fueled the Big Bang.


Can you start with an "anti" ?

MORE
The Curious Case of the Exploding Universe: Stories from behind the scenes of science. (Catherine H. Crouch, January/February 2004, Books & Culture)

Astronomers Spy Massive Diamond (The Associated Press, 2/13/04) (via Rick Turley)

If anyone's ever promised you the sun, the moon and the stars, tell 'em you'll settle for BPM 37093. The heart of that burned-out star with the no-nonsense name is a sparkling diamond that weighs a staggering 10 billion trillion trillion carats. That's one followed by 34 zeros.

The hunk of celestial bling is an estimated 2,500 miles across, said Travis Metcalfe, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:16 AM

BRING BACK "DEMOCRAT WARS"?:

The Party of Kennedy, or Carter? (DAVID BROOKS, 2/17/04, NY Times)

[I]n the midst of the war against Islamic totalitarianism, the crucial question is this: Is the Democratic Party truly set to reclaim the legacy of Truman and Kennedy, or is it still living in the shadow of Vietnam?

If you talk to Democratic foreign policy elites in Washington and New York, you come away convinced that the party has recovered from Vietnam, and is ready to assert power, albeit in multilateral guises. If, on the other hand, you attend Democratic primary rallies, you come away convinced that the party is still, at its base, the Jimmy Carter party when it comes to global affairs.

And if you listen to John Kerry, you come away not knowing what to think. He seems like a man betwixt and between, unable to issue a clear statement about America's role in the world, and hence floating toward whatever is expedient at the moment.


It seems abiding strange that Mr. Brooks would think now is a good time for Democrats to remind us all that they got us into Korea and Vietnam.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:56 AM

THE UNSCREWABLE POOCH (via mc):

Economy May Work in Bush's Favor: Housing Boom, Tax Cuts Buoy Many Voters, Despite Job Losses (Jonathan Weisman, February 17, 2004, Washington Post)

As the presidential election hits its stride, candidates seeking to unseat the president have fixated on the still-sluggish labor market, hammering their contention that as long as jobs remain scarce, voters are not about to salute the economic recovery that Bush has been hailing.

But other facets of the economy may prove far better indicators of the sense of well-being that voters will bring to the ballot box in November, economic forecasters say. The booming housing market has given even struggling workers the ability to latch onto a tangible talisman of personal progress. Wage growth has been nearly stagnant, but thanks to Bush's tax cuts, disposable income has risen. And after nine quarters of slow but steady growth, the economy as a whole is poised to take off, giving some shaky households a sense of optimism about the coming year.

"The economy is really going to help the president this time around," said Joel Prakken, an economist with Macroeconomic Advisers LLC, whose political forecasting model predicts Bush will win in a romp in November. "I'm not saying [the Democrats] can't find pockets where they can play the economy card, but it's going to be tough." [...]

"Assuming the electoral structures of the past are going to continue into the future, Bush is almost for sure going to win," said Ray C. Fair, an economist at the Yale University School of Management who has been projecting election outcomes for decades. But, he added, "If there's any time the equation goes bonkers, it's probably times like this." [...]

Global Insight Inc., another forecasting firm, does look at unemployment rates, but the more important factor is income growth, said Nariman Behravesh, the firm's chief economist.

"In the end, it is disposable-income growth that really drives things," he said. "It's a pocketbook issue: How fast is my income growing?"

And there, Bush has himself to thank for Global Insight's prediction of his 6.5-percentage point victory.

Weekly wage growth has been sluggish since 2001, rising 8.2 percent since Bush came to office, 4.1 percent if adjusted for inflation, Labor Department statistics show. But three successive tax cuts -- coupled with the slowing economy -- have helped bring personal tax payments down by 19 percent since 2001, according to the Commerce Department. Disposable income in that time has risen 11 percent, in large part because of falling tax payments.

"In the end, if they've got money in their pockets, it doesn't matter if it came by hard-earned work or tax cuts. That's where the president may have played his cards very well," Behravesh said. [...]

[N]o matter how bad the labor market is, the vast majority of voters have jobs, and for them, incomes are rising, stocks are recovering and interest rates remain low, said Fair of Yale. For the president, the traditional signs lead to reelection.


Especially dangerous for the Democrats at a time of such prosperity is the idea of playing to the pockets and pitching a "Two America's" battle. They're essentially telling the vast majority that they are in the Democrat crosshairs and elections aren't typically won by threatening the majority.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:19 AM

KICKBALL WORLD:

Soccer Vs. McWorld: What could be more global than soccer? The world’s leading professional players and owners pay no mind to national borders, with major teams banking revenues in every currency available on the foreign exchange and billions of fans cheering for their champions in too many languages to count. But in many ways, the beautiful game reveals much more about globalization’s limits than its possibilities. (Franklin Foer, January/February 2004, Foreign Policy)

[M]ore than basketball or even the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, soccer is the most globalized institution on the planet.

Soccer began to outgrow its national borders early in the post-World-War-II era. While statesman Robert Schuman was daydreaming about a common European market and government, European soccer clubs actually moved toward union. The most successful clubs started competing against one another in regular transnational tournaments, such as the events now known as Champions League and the Union of European Football Associations Cup. These tournaments were a fan’s dream: the chance to see Juventus of Turin play Bayern Munich one week and FC Barcelona the next. But more important, they were an owner’s dream: blockbuster fixtures that brought unprecedented gate receipts and an enormous infusion of television revenue. This transnational idea was such a good one that Latin America, Africa, and Asia quickly created their own knockoffs.

Once competition globalized, the hunt for labor resources quickly followed. Club owners scoured the planet for superstars that they could buy on the cheap. Spanish teams shopped for talent in former colonies such as Argentina and Uruguay. Argentina plundered the leagues of poorer neighbors such as Paraguay. At first, this move toward an international market inspired a backlash. Politicians and sportswriters fretted that the influx from abroad would quash the development of young local talent. In Spain, for example, dictator Francisco Franco prohibited the importation of foreign players. Brazil’s government declared Pelé a national treasure in 1961 and legally forbade his sale to a foreign team. But these stabs at nationalist economics could not ultimately stave off the seductive benefits of cheap, skilled labor from abroad. And, after a while, the foreign stars were needed to compete at the highest levels of European soccer. The game evolved to the point where an English club might field a team without any Englishmen.

By the 1990s, capital frictionlessly flowed across borders in the global soccer economy. European clubs not only posted scouts throughout the developing world, they also bought teams there. Ajax of Amsterdam acquired substantial shares of outfits in Cape Town and Ghana. Newcastle United began using China’s Dalian Shide Football Club as a feeder. The biggest clubs started to think of themselves as multinational conglomerates. Organizations such as Manchester United and Real Madrid acquired a full portfolio of cable stations, restaurants, and megastores, catering to audiences as far away as Kuala Lumpur and Shanghai. Even with last year’s dull markets, Manchester United’s pretax profits for the 12 months ending on July 31, 2003, exceeded $65 million.

It is ironic, then, that soccer, for all its one-worldist features, doesn’t evince the power of the new order as much as expose its limits. Manchester United and Real Madrid may embrace the ethos of globalization by accumulating wealth and diminishing national sovereignty. But a tangle of intensely local loyalties, identities, tensions, economies, and corruption endures—in some cases, not despite globalization, but because of it.


Of course the most important limitation it exposes is that it is precisely the least skilled--but, therefore, most universally accessible--sport which becomes most globally popular, just as movies, books, music, etc., have been dumbed down in order to achieve mass appeal across the globe. As almost always in globalization, true quality and beauty will exist in the niches, not at the centerplace of the market.


MORE:
- Miller's Unified Field Theory of World Entertainment (H.D. Miller, Travelling Shoes)


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:54 AM

RACIAL PROFILING AND THE EXCEPTIONAL NATION (via Jeff Guinn):

Power and Population in Asia (Nicholas Eberstadt, February 2004, Policy Review)

Auguste Comte, the nineteenth-century French mathematician and sociologist, is widely credited with the dictum “Demography is destiny.” It is a wonderful aphorism — but it promises too much and offers too little. A more operational formulation might suggest that demographic forces can alter the realm of the possible, both politically and economically, for regularly established population groupings. Demographic considerations can (but are not always required to) alter the complex strategic balance between, and within, countries.

By comparison with other contemporary forms of change — social, economic, political, technological — demographic changes are very slow and very regular. Over the past generation, for example, a 3 percent per annum rate of population growth would have been considered terribly high in Asia, while a 3 percent inflation rate would have been regarded as remarkably low. And demographic change is only sharp and discontinuous in times of utter upheaval and catastrophe (circumstances, to be sure, not unfamiliar to modern Russia, China, Cambodia, and Korea — and a number of other Asian or Eurasian populations). From the standpoint of strategic demography, momentous developments can and do occur from one generation to the next, but rather less of note can be expected to take place over the course of three to five years.

For our purposes here, we will try to peer into the Asian and Eurasian demographic future to the year 2025. [...]

[T]he most extreme and extraordinary instance of population aging will be witnessed in Japan. By 2025, in unpd medium variant calculations, Japan will have a median age of just over 50. Less than a quarter-century hence, by those same projections, almost 30 percent of Japan’s populace will be 65 or older, and almost every ninth Japanese will be 80 or older. This future Japan would have very nearly as many octogenarians, nonagenarians, and centenarians as children under 15 — and would have barely two persons of traditional “working age” (as the 15–64 cohort is often, not unreasonably, construed) for every person of notional “retirement age” (65 and over).

Some of the implications of such extreme and rapid population aging have already been widely discussed and analyzed. To begin, there are the fiscal implications of Japan’s version of “graying”: Under current rules of the budgetary game, these look unambiguously bleak. A 1996 study by oecd researchers, for example, estimated the net present value of the unfunded liabilities in the Japanese national pension system at 70 percent of 1994 gdp. Unless radical changes in that pay-as-you-go system were implemented, they warned, Japan’s annual deficit would approach 7 percent of gdp by 2025, and the total “pure aging effect” on public finances for 2000 to 2030 could be a debt equal to 190 percent of 2000 gdp.

Given the fact that gross public debt in Japan rose from about 60 percent of gdp to nearly 150 percent of gdp from 1992 to 20028 — in a context of relatively limited population aging — those numbers may sound ominous indeed. [...]

For most aging Chinese today, the pension system is the family, and even with continuing national economic progress, Chinese families are likely to be placed under mounting pressure by the swelling ranks of seniors. By 2025, there will be nearly 300 million members of China’s 60-plus population, but, at the same time, the cohorts rising into that pool will be the same people who accounted for China’s sub-replacement fertility patterns in the early 1990s and thereafter. Absent a functioning nationwide pension program, unforgiving arithmetic suggests there may be something approaching a one-to-one ratio emerging between elderly parents and the children obliged to support them. Even worse, from the perspective of a Confucian culture, a sizable fraction — perhaps nearly one-fourth — of these older Chinese will have no living son on whom to rely for sustenance. One need not be a novelist to imagine the intense social tensions such conditions could engender (to say nothing of the personal and humanitarian tragedies).

Second, and no less important, there is no particular reason to expect that older people in China will be able to make the same sort of contributions to economic life as their counterparts in Japan. In low-income economies, the daily demands of ordinary work are more arduous than in rich countries: The employment structure is weighted toward categories more likely to require intense manual labor, and even ostensibly non-manual positions may require considerable physical stamina. According to official Chinese statistics, nearly half of the country’s current labor force toils in the fields, and another fifth is employed in mining and quarrying, manufacturing, construction, or transport — occupations generally not favoring the frail. Even with continuing structural transformations, regular work in 2025 is sure to be much more strenuous in China than in Japan. Moreover, China’s older population may not be as hardy as peers from affluent societies — people likely to have been better fed, housed, and doctored than China’s elderly throughout the course of their lives.

Data on the health status of older people in China and other countries tend to be spotty and problematic, and comparability of method can never be taken for granted. However, some of the survey data that are available through Réseau sur l’Espérance de Vie en Santé (reves), the international network of “health expectancy” researchers, are thought-provoking. According to a 1989–90 “health expectancy” study for Sichuan province, a person 60 years of age would spend less than half (48 percent) of his or her remaining years in passable health. By contrast, a study in West Germany for 1986 calculated that a 60-year-old woman could expect to spend 70 percent of her remaining time in “good health.” For men the fraction was 75 percent.11 Although one probably should not push those findings too far, they are certainly consistent with the proposition that China’s seniors are more brittle than older populations from more comfortable and prosperous locales.

Thus, China’s rapidly graying population appears to face a triple bind. Without a broad-coverage national pension system, and with only limited filial resources to fall back on, paid work will of necessity loom large as an option for economic security for many older Chinese. But employment in China, today and tomorrow, will be more physically punishing than in oecd countries, and China’s older cohorts are simply less likely to be up to the task. The aggregation of hundreds of millions of individual experiences with this triple bind over the coming generation will be a set of economic, social, and political constraints on Chinese development — and power augmentation — that have not as yet been fully appreciated in Beijing, much less overseas. [...]

If some countries in our conspectus appear to face especially disadvantageous demographic constraints, others enjoy relative strategic advantages from their own population circumstances. Interestingly enough, the Asian Pacific power with the most strategically favorable profile may be one that we have not yet discussed: the United States.

By the unpd’s medium variant projections, the United States is envisioned to grow from 285 million in 2000 to 358 million in 2025. In absolute terms, this would be by far the greatest increase projected for any industrialized society; in relative terms, this projected 26 percent increment would almost exactly match the proportional growth of the Asia/Eurasia region as a whole. Under these trajectories, the United States would remain the world’s third most populous country in 2025, and by the early 2020s, the U.S. population growth rate — a projected 0.7 percent per year — would in this scenario actually be higher than that of Indonesia, Thailand, or virtually any country in East Asia, China included.

In these projections, U.S. population growth accrues from two by no means implausible assumptions: 1) continued receptivity to newcomers and immigrants and 2) continuing “exceptionalism” in U.S. fertility patterns. (The United States today reports about 2.0 births per woman, as against about 1.5 in Western Europe, roughly 1.4 in Eastern Europe, and about 1.3 in Japan.) Given its sources, such population growth would tend, quite literally, to have a rejuvenating effect on the U.S. population profile — that is to say, it would slow down the process of population aging. Between 2000 and 2025, in these unpd projections, median age in the United States would rise by just two years (from 35.6 to 37.6). By 2025, the U.S. population would be more youthful, and aging more slowly, than that of China or any of today’s “tigers.”


And so does the maintenance of American exceptionalism depend on the defeat of both the secular anti-life Left and the anti-immigration Right. While victory in the clash of civilizations is nearly assured.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:32 AM

RESPECTABLE CLOTHES:

Welfare Queen, Meet Coatless Girl (John Tierney, 2/15/04, NY Times)

RONALD REAGAN used to talk about a "welfare queen" in Chicago with a mink coat and a Cadillac, but he got in trouble when no one was able to locate her. Mr. Edwards is on safer rhetorical ground. He does not claim to know where the poor people in his speeches live.

In his stump speech about the "two Americas," he has repeatedly deplored the plight of the 35 million Americans below the poverty line by imagining a 10-year-old girl "somewhere in America" who goes to bed "praying that tomorrow will not be as cold as today, because she doesn't have the coat to keep her warm."

Last week, after Mr. Edwards introduced an imagined scenario of a worker whose factory was shutting down the very night of the speech, reporters on his plane jokingly asked if this new character was the father of the girl. Mr. Edwards laughed and replied, "You guys are bad."

To some critics of Mr. Edwards, a more serious question is whether the coatless girl is any more representative of America's poor than Mr. Reagan's Cadillac-driving welfare recipient. After all, clothing has become so cheap and plentiful (partly because of textile imports, which Mr. Edwards has proposed to limit) that there is a glut of second-hand clothing, and consequently most clothing donated to charity is shipped abroad. The second-hand children's coats that remain in America typically sell for about $5 in thrift shops.

"Edwards would do better to say there's a girl somewhere in America who's cold because her family can't afford to fix the furnace," said Robert E. Rector of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research group, who has analyzed data from the Census Bureau and other agencies on the living standards of the poor. Since the typical American family below the poverty line has a car, air-conditioning, a microwave oven, a stereo and two color televisions with cable or satellite service, Mr. Rector said, it was implausible to assume the family could not afford coats.


Silly Mr. Tierney, everyone knows those cloth coats are Republican.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:48 AM

ALMOST TOO EASY:

The Default Democrat from another world (Mark Steyn, 17/02/2004, Daily Telegraph)

How do you feel about "outsourcing"? John Kerry, the Default Democrat that his party's poor voters are trying hard to pretend to be excited about, is very opposed to it. His stump speech includes fierce denunciations of American corporations that export jobs overseas. He has pledged his support for a "Call Center Consumer's Right To Know", which would require that the guy at the call center identify his location at the beginning of every call. Right now, you just get vague hints – for example, if I'm in New Hampshire and dial directory inquiries and ask for a number in Woodsville and the fellow says, "Certainly, sir. What hemisphere is that in?"

Unfortunately, this "Right To Know" system wasn't in place when Kerry's campaign placed calls to potential voters in Wisconsin. So it was only a few observant Democrats with "Caller ID" displays who happened to notice that the calls were coming from an Ontario area code. Ontario is not in the United States. They don't even have call centers in Ontario, only kinky misspelt call centres. Yet all those calls explaining that "John Kerry's the candidate you can count on to stand up to selfish corporations exporting American jobs to foreign countries" were coming from Canada.


At least the Howard Dean candidacy held out the prospect of being entertaining. Senator Kerry's death march will be dour and sullen, like that of his mentor, Michael Dukakis.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:04 AM

THE CREAM OF SUL ROSS SPEAKS (via The Mother Judd):

It's Home Stupid Home, but the 'Clods' Can Read (BARBARA NOVOVITCH, 2/17/04, NY Times)

The first indication that Dr. Larry J. Sechrest's neighbors and students had read his article titled "A Strange Little Town in Texas" was when he began receiving death threats and obscene phone calls and his house was vandalized.

The article by Dr. Sechrest, an economics professor at Sul Ross State University, was published in the January issue of Liberty, a small libertarian magazine with a circulation of about 10,000 and only two local subscribers, one of whom is Dr. Sechrest. But it was weeks before people heard about it in remote Alpine, which is three hours from the closest Barnes & Noble, in Midland, Tex.

The article lauded the beauty of West Texas, the pleasant climate, the friendliness and tolerance of the locals. But Dr. Sechrest, who has a Ph.D. in business administration from the University of Texas, also contended that "the students at Sul Ross, and more generally, the long-term residents of the entire area, are appallingly ignorant, irrational, anti-intellectual, and, well, . . . just plain stupid."

Criticizing the academic standards at Sul Ross State University, part of the Texas State University system, he told of a student who, after graduation, typed a note to a favorite professor, saying, "Thank you for all your patients."

In the fall of 2002, his article said, "42 percent of our freshmen had to take remedial classes in reading, writing, or math just to meet the state's ridiculously low standard of `competence.' "

He added, "The taxpayers of Texas have already paid for these kids to learn English and math in middle school, then again in high school, much of which is a review of what they were supposed to have absorbed in previous years."

Dr. Sechrest wrote that he was "prepared to defend to the death the proposition that Sul Ross, and this area of Texas more generally, is the proud home of some of the dumbest clods on the planet."


He can certainly be forgiving for assuming that no one outside a computer cubicle reads a libertarian magazine.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM

THIS FAR, AND NO FURTHER (via Patricia Garnaas):

The Opium of the Professors (Edward Feser, 02/16/2004, Tech Central Station)

Here we come to the true crux of the matter. The assumptions central and indispensable to the traditional Western religious view of the world are in fact not the origins of human beings qua organisms, nor the position of the earth relative to other heavenly bodies, nor any other matter of purely scientific concern. They are rather metaphysical in nature, and their truth must accordingly be determined, ultimately, by philosophical argument rather than empirical investigation. The immateriality of the human mind -- or the soul, to use the more traditional language -- is but one of these assumptions (an assumption usually referred to as dualism). Another is the existence of a Necessary Being who serves as the ultimate explanation or First Cause of the world of our experience and of the scientific laws that govern it: the existence, that is to say, of God (belief in whom is referred to by philosophers as theism). A third is the reality of a realm of abstract entities (mathematical truths, Plato's Forms, and the like), i.e. of objectively existing, immaterial, unchanging essences or natures of things, of which everyday material objects and organisms are merely imperfect realizations (an idea known as Platonism).
 
If each of these assumptions were established, the Judeo-Christian religious worldview would be largely vindicated, whatever empirical science might discover; and if each of them were refuted, that worldview would itself be decisively refuted, even if the biologists all got de-converted from Darwinism tomorrow. So the findings of science per se are in fact irrelevant.
 
Have these crucial assumptions been refuted by philosophers, though, if not by scientists? No contemporary philosopher could honestly say so; quite the contrary. Each of these assumptions is, among philosophers, as much a living issue today as it ever was. Anyone cognizant of what is going on in contemporary philosophy knows that the central focus of debate is whether such phenomena as the human mind and its capacity to represent the world beyond itself, our knowledge of the world in general and of mathematical truths in particular, and our general metaphysical account of what are the basic constituents of reality, can be "naturalized." That is to say, the main debate in each branch of philosophical inquiry is over whether such phenomena can be explained or accounted for in purely natural terms, in terms that make no reference to non-physical or immaterial entities or principles. And the reason why this is such a hot topic of debate is that no one has been able to show that any of them can in fact be so explained. Of course, this or that philosopher may well have his own pet theory; and most contemporary philosophers, being the modern intellectuals they are, think that these things eventually will -- someday or other -- be "naturalistically" explained. But there is a general understanding that no one has yet pulled it off in a decisive, convincing way.
 
Whence their confidence, then? You might say it is a matter of faith; for there is definitely no rational ground for it. Indeed, the arguments given by contemporary "naturalists" (as materialists -- those who believe that material reality is all the reality there is -- like to call themselves these days) are little more than variations on the same arguments that materialists have been trotting out for millennia, and are subject to (variations on) the same objections that dualists, Platonists, and philosophically minded theists first formulated in ancient Greece and Medieval Europe, and which have plagued materialist accounts ever since.
 
My point is not that those objections are absolutely decisive (though I do believe that they are -- but this is, of course, a claim that would require far more than a short essay to establish). It is rather that they are serious and formidable objections, and are recognized even by materialist philosophers to be so: that is why such philosophers write book after book trying to refute them (again, unsuccessfully, in my view; and certainly inconclusively, seeing as the "Refuting dualism, Platonism, and theism" business has been a going concern for centuries).
 
The hoary "science vs. religion" conflict is, then, a myth. What exists in reality is a dispute between rival metaphysical systems: the theism, dualism, and Platonism of traditional Western philosophy and the modern naturalism or materialism that is less a result of modern science than an ideologically secularist interpretation of it. But for contemporary intellectuals there is, we might say, public relations value in maintaining the fiction that there is a war between science per se and religion, and that religion is losing: it is easier thereby to insinuate that in the real battle -- the philosophical one -- the "naturalists" rather than their opponents ought to be given the benefit of the doubt. There is, again, no rational justification for such an attitude; but there is a motive, which the philosopher Thomas Nagel has given voice to in a moment of frankness rare among the members of his profession. In his book The Last Word, he acknowledges that it is a "fear of religion" among contemporary intellectuals that keeps them from facing up to the deep problems facing naturalistic attempts to account for the nature of the human mind and human knowledge:
 
"I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn't just that I don't believe in God and, naturally, hope that I'm right in my belief. It's that I hope there is no God! I don't want there to be a God; I don't want the universe to be like that. My guess is that this cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition and that it is responsible for much of the scientism and reductionism of our time. One of the tendencies it supports is the ludicrous overuse of evolutionary biology to explain everything about human life, including everything about the human mind."

It's the strangest thing--people of faith are largely untroubled by the notion that the material world exists and that Reason is a useful (if limited) tool for examining it. But Materialists/Naturalists, for some odd reason, insist on the primacy of Reason even though Reason notoriously disproves both its own reliability and the case for the material world. It's as if they've closed off a part of their minds--as Mr. Nagel makes clear he does above--and refuse to carry their own philosophy to its logical conclusions lest the walls come tumbling down around them. It does though make them a source of endless amusement.


February 16, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:38 PM

ROMANTIC?:

Subject of Campaign Rumor Denies She and Kerry Had an Affair (JIM RUTENBERG, 2/17/04, NY Times)

The woman at the center of unsubstantiated rumors that Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts had an extramarital affair released a statement on Monday in which she denied any romantic involvement with him.

"I have never had a relationship with Senator Kerry, and the rumors in the press are completely false," the woman, Alexandra Polier, 27, said in the statement. "Whoever is spreading these rumors and allegations does not know me, but should know the pain they have caused me and my family."


Another non-denial denial since the rumor--fostered by her family and friends--isn't that they had an affair but that his behavior was imappropriate towards her.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:30 PM

MIGHTY BIG "IF", NO?:

Rifts widen in Bush's foreign policy team (Howard LaFranchi, 2/17/04, CS MOnitor)

With key members of the Bush foreign policy team expected to leave their posts at the end of the term - including National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of State Colin Powell - some are trying to set the record straight on the role they've played. They are also, clearly, trying to shape the direction things might go in a second term.

"Perhaps a second term would resolve things, but right now there continues to be a very fundamental disagreement," says Karl Inderfurth, a Clinton administration State Department official now at George Washington University. The highly visible rift is between elements "led by the vice-president, the secretary of defense, and his deputy, who hold to a notion of America's unique right to unfettered action, and others, allied with Secretary Powell, who continue to argue for an emphasis on what he has called a 'strategy of partnership' with the international community."

Mr. Inderfurth says that two recent comments typify the internal differences. At a closely watched security conference in Munich last week, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in a spirited defense of the administration's national security strategy that "the higher the risk and the danger, the lower the threshold for action."

Also in recent days, Mr. Powell - who revealed in a Washington Post interview that he might have recommended differently on going to war with Iraq if he knew a year ago what's known now - has preferred to stress that Bush is not looking to respond to threats with force "if there are other ways to solve the problem."


How are these positions mutually exclusive? We need to reserve the right to act unilaterally when we see fit but work multilaterally where the situation isn't dire and in the aftermath of our acting unilaterally. What's the big whoop?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:38 PM

HEADSTART (via John Resnick):


Palestinians sell off phone shares (Lara Sukhtian, 2/16/04, Associated Press)

The cash-strapped Palestinian Authority has sold its stake in the local cellular phone company to help pay salaries of government employees, a top official said Sunday.

The Palestinian Authority turned over its 35 percent share in the Jawal phone service to Paltel, which runs the cellular phone monopoly, in exchange for $43 million, Palestinian Economics Minister Maher Masri said Sunday.

He said the money would go toward the salaries of 125,000 government workers. The sale is also in line with the government's privatization plans.

"At the end, we will not have any government-owned companies. We will only be partners in some companies," Masri said. "This is all part of the greater policy of reform."

Palestinian business people welcomed the deal. "The presence of the Palestinian Authority as a shareholder acts as an obstacle," said Abdel Malik Jaber, chairman of the executive board of Paltel. "Selling their shares would eliminate any accusations of government corruption.


It's not often a people gets to start off their new nation having already discarded the painful experiment with socialism.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:32 PM

RELEASING HIS INNER CARTER (via David Hill, The Bronx):

Kerry Blasts Bush's Daytona 'Photo Op' (NEDRA PICKLER, 2/16/04, Associated Press)

Kerry, who has a commanding lead in the race to oppose Bush this fall, chided the president for taking time out Sunday to attend the Daytona 500, saying the country was bleeding jobs while he posed for a "photo opportunity." Bush had donned a racing jacket to officially open NASCAR's most prestigious event in front of some 180,000 fans.

"We don't need a president who just says, `Gentlemen start your engines,'" Kerry said. "We need a president who says, `America, let's start our economy and put people back to work.'"


One almost has to admire not only Mr. Kerry's eagerness to alienate half the nation but his embrace of the old image of liberals as hair-shirt wearing and humorless. You can just see him vowing not to enjoy himself until unemployment is below 4%.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:17 PM

THE CLINTON QUALIFIER?:

BUBBA 'PUSHING HARD' FOR KERRY-CLARK TICKET (FREDRIC U. DICKER, February 16, 2004, NY Post)

FORMER President Bill Clinton, stung by how poor a presidential contender Wesley Clark turned out to be, worked aggressively behind the scenes late last week to pressure John Kerry to pick the retired general as his running mate.

"The former president has been calling people, including elected officials in New York, saying that Clark would make a great vice-presidential candidate," a well-known Democratic activist told The Post.

"He's pushing hard because this is a credibility issue for Clinton since everybody knows Clark was the guy he created, but yet Clark did so poorly when he ran."


Having run a grotesquely incompetent primary campaign was likewise Al Gore's chief accomplishment when Mr. Clinton picked him as veep.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:41 PM

DADDY DEAREST (via Robert D):

In God's Country: Thanks be to the American Atheist: a review of The Atheist: Madalyn Murray O'Hair, by Bryan F. Le Beau (Tim Cavanaugh, Reason)

O'Hair led an interesting life, but Le Beau, a historian of documents rather than persons, seems unwilling to put much flesh on the bones. He appears to have conducted no interviews, relying on published sources for his portrait of O'Hair. Since she had almost as many enemies as there are Americans, this means the narrative draws heavily from derogatory works, most notoriously My Life Without God (1982), an autobiography and conversion narrative by her apostate son William Murray.

From these, a sketch of O'Hair does emerge. A quintessential New Deal daughter, she knew the American state firsthand, through World War II service as an officer in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, in jobs with the Social Security Administration and local governments, and by obtaining various postwar government loans.

How she formed her ideas about the church, on the other hand, remains a mystery. In her own comments on the subject, OíHair claimed to have come to atheism in a teenage intellectual awakening after reading the Bible through in one weekend. In her elder sonís telling, OíHairís quarrel with the Almighty had less noble beginnings. The Catholic Army officer who knocked her up with William refused to divorce his wife. In one family legend, the pregnant Madalyn stood in an electrical storm and challenged God to prove his existence by striking her dead. [...]

The presidency of born-again Christian Jimmy Carter, followed by the high profile of evangelical Christianity under Ronald Reagan, demonstrated even to O'Hair that she was on a long slide toward irrelevance. The final insult came in 1989, when a Moscow Book Fair crowd ignored her atheist literature while grabbing 10,000 free New Testaments.

O'Hair's personal life brought frequent sadness. Son William, on whose behalf she had filed Murray v. Curlett, turned out to be a disappointment, a thrice-divorced drunk who handed his first child, Robin Ilene Murray, over to his mother to raise. Following a historic bender and a nonlethal shooting incident with the San Francisco Police Department, William found Jesus in a dream that seems to have been plagiarized from the Emperor Constantine. O'Hair's husband died slowly and painfully of cancer, American Atheists struggled for funds, and the atheist message, as measured by magazine subscriptions and mailing lists, found few takers in the United States.


It's not clear why Mr. Cavanaugh tries to make a mystery out of the source of her atheism--like most she hated her biological father--even tried killing him once--and took it out on The Father. It's a psychological type so common and easily explicable as to border on caricature.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:50 AM

BLAIRISM IS BUSHISM:

Mixed feelings for Blair over Bush's poll slide (Nicholas Leonard, February 16th 2004, Irish Independent)

TONY Blair is watching George Bush's slide down the opinion polls in the US with extremely mixed feelings. Normally a Labour prime minister would welcome the prospect of a Democrat like John Kerry regaining the White House just four years after Al Gore's controversial failure to capitalise on the legacy of President Clinton.

But Blair is no ordinary Labour leader. Many of his own MPs and party activists see him as nearer to the spirit of Thatcherism than socialism and his decision to back the US in invading Iraq last year inevitably led to his forging unusually close personal and strategic links with Bush.


As important as the Anglo-American military alliance to this dynamic is the convergence of The Third Way and Compassionate Conservatism. John Kerry would be the first president to be to the Left of his British counterpart in our history.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:35 AM

NATIVIST NATIVES:

Powderkeg of anger (John Ferguson and Fiona Hudson, 17feb04, Herald Sun)

THE gruesome death of a teenage cyclist boiled over into the nation's worst race riots, with Aboriginal anger leaving at least 40 police injured and Sydney hosing down a racial powder keg.

Redfern was on riot watch again last night after angry youths had pelted police with firebombs, bottles and rocks during nine hours of violent clashes outside the local train station on Sunday night.

A police officer was knocked senseless by a brick, others suffered broken limbs and many were cut and bruised during the battle.

Redfern station was torched, its windows smashed, and cars were firebombed. Petrol bombs were hurled through the air and police reinforcements were called in from across Sydney.

Young teenagers wearing head gear to hide their faces were among the angry mob.

Five people were arrested during the riot, which featured on TV news bulletins in Britain and the US.

The battle was sparked by the weekend death of 17-year-old Thomas Hickey, who fell from his bike and was impaled on a fence a short distance from where the riot began.

An angry Aboriginal community blamed police for the death, saying they were chasing him when the tragedy happened.


See what happens when you let immigrants come to your country without legal permission?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:22 AM

WHAT'LL WE DO WITH THE SURPLUS?:

Cutting the deficit in half (Joshua B. Bolten, 2/16/04, Washington Times)

Because of extraordinary challenges confronting America these last few years, we face a projected $521-billion-dollar deficit for fiscal 2004. That size deficit, at 4 ½ percent of gross domestic product, is not historically out of range.

Deficits have been this large or larger in six of the last 25 years, including a peak of 6 percent in 1983. Under the circumstances, today's deficit is certainly understandable. But it is also undesirable and unwelcome, and with Congress' help, we will bring it down. With continuation of the president's economic growth policies and sound spending restraint as reflected in the budget, our projections are the deficit will be cut by more than half over the next five years.

This dramatic reduction begins in 2005, with a projected deficit of $364 billion, roughly 3 percent of GDP. The rapid deficit reductions continue in subsequent years, with our projections showing the deficit falling to 1.6 percent of GDP by 2009. This is not only well below half its current 4 ½ percent level, it is also well below the 2.2 percent average deficit during the last 40 years.


That fall will only accelerate as we privatize the welfare net and as we draw down the military again after the war on terror. In fact, the greater issue twenty years from now will be whether the world economy can function efficiently without American bonds aplenty.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:54 AM

NOTHING MORE PATHETIC, HE TOLD THE NATIONAL REVIEW:

Kerry Nation?: Don't bet on it. (Fred Barnes, 02/23/2004, Weekly Standard)

Bush has one thing, and probably two, to fall back on. The first is the economy. There's every reason to expect growth of 4.5 percent to 5 percent in 2004. But will it be a jobless recovery? Not likely. The Bush economic team projects 2.6 million new jobs this year, wiping out the losses of earlier years. The Federal Reserve figures on 1.5 million to 2 million. The Blue Chip Forecast of top economists pegs job growth at 2 million. They all may be lowballing. In the 1990s, a year with 4 million new jobs was followed by a year in which 3.5 million were created. Several quarters posted job gains of one million. In any case, no president seeking reelection--and unchallenged for his party's nomination--has lost with an economy like this.

There's always Iraq, where everything depends on the turnover of sovereignty on July 1. If it goes well--which means neither civil war nor anarchy--the Iraq issue will remain a positive for the president. If the immediate result in sovereign Iraq is mixed, Bush may still claim success. The recently intercepted memo from terrorist leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi suggests anti-American diehards are rapidly losing heart.

Nothing is more pathetic in the Washington political community these days than tremulous Republicans and conservatives who whine about how Bush may lose to Kerry. Well, he might, but don't bet on it. A simple rule is worth recalling: In politics, the future is never a straight-line projection of the present. The media may think polls showing Kerry ahead of Bush in February are predictive of what will happen on November 2, but that's foolishness. The primaries will end in a few weeks and the Kerry phase of the campaign will fade. Unless Bush stumbles badly, the next phase will be his.


It's a well trod point, but worth recalling: just because the news cycle is 24 hours these days doesn't mean the election will be over a day from now.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:58 AM

SPEECH HAS CONSEQUENCES:

Bush protesters are met with hostility, violence (RAY WEISS, 15 February 2004, Daytone Beach-News Journal)

A beer-soaked Madia Paris-Wells looked shaken.

She and 35 other George Bush protesters had encountered plenty of profanity along their prerace march Sunday to the Daytona International Speedway from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. But a beer bottle, thrown by an enraged race fan, turned dissent into near disaster.

The glass bottle shattered on a narrow aluminum pole, barely missing the head of Paris-Wells, a 23-year-old Embry-Riddle student. [...]

Bush supporters on foot and in cars hollered and cursed at the protesters, calling them communists and "un-American crap," while urging them to "go back to Iraq."


The State has to respect your speech rights, not your fellow citizens.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:51 AM

DAMN TARIFFS...OOPS, NEVER MIND:

Steel users facing heavy prices, short supplies (The Associated Press, February 15, 2004)

Jeffrey Nayhouse, owner of Allegheny Fence in Pittsburgh, is contending with the unpleasant reality of rising steel prices. Nayhouse says the price of steel wire and tubing has increase 30 percent or more.
One of his suppliers wrote to him last week that "due to the existing environment, we cannot print pages as quickly as the (price) increases are taking effect."

Nayhouse isn't alone. Many domestic steel users are being pinched by rising prices, which are being attributed to a weak dollar, high consumption in China and inflated prices for raw materials.

Prices were at 20-year lows just a few years ago, which steelmakers blamed on a worldwide glut of capacity. [...]

Many blame China for its ferocious appetite of raw materials.

"China is basically screwing up the world market for steel prices right now," said Don Lawrence, purchasing agent for George L. Wilson & Co., a Pittsburgh building materials distributor.


The pie-in-the-sky crowd hasn't yet awakened to the fact that the same thing will happen with oil soon--which is why we should wean ourselves, via an exorbitant gas tax.


MORE:
A Shade of Green: S.U.V.'s Try to Soften Their Image (DANNY HAKIM, 2/16/04, NY Times)

"We fight S.U.V.'s because it is irresponsible to make vehicles that guzzle, pollute and are unsafe," said Dan Becker, a global warming specialist at the Sierra Club. "But the auto companies have the technology to fix these problems, and if they do, acceptance of S.U.V.'s will improve." [...]

Financial analysts have estimated that hybrids are more likely to account for as much as 10 percent to 15 percent of the market over the next decade or so.

"If hybrids just end up as a niche vehicle," Mr. Friedman said, "they really won't have an impact on the environment and global warming. Millions of these vehicles have to be sold every year."

But he says he thinks less ambitious technologies would also be a good option. He recently collaborated on "a blueprint for a better S.U.V.," a report that laid out a design for a more fuel-efficient and less rollover-prone vehicle that used less-expensive technologies than hybrid systems. Many skeptics view hybrid power as an inherently profit-sapping technology because it involves two drive systems instead of one, though Toyota insists its hybrids are already profitable.

"I'm just not a blind monk of hybrid technology," the chief executive of Nissan, Carlos Ghosn, said last month. Nissan will offer a hybrid version of its Altima sedan in 2006.

The industry is struggling to decide which of three technologies has the most potential to cut fuel consumption: hybrids, advanced diesels or hydrogen fuel cells. The two vehicles to be introduced this year will present hybrid S.U.V.'s in different packages: the Escape is a basic, no-frills sport utility that starts around $20,000 with a conventional engine, about $15,000 less than a conventionally powered Lexus, a luxury vehicle. Hybrids have, in the past, cost a few thousand dollars more than similar cars, though the new midsize Toyota Prius starts at about the same price as the midsize Toyota Camry. Fuel savings can make up for the high purchase price over time; there are modest tax deductions and Congress appears close to offering more. [...]

Ford, as the world's third automaker to sell a hybrid, hopes to carve out a spot between Toyota and Honda and the rest of the industry. The Escape also offers a very visible vehicle to begin to deliver on the desire of William Clay Ford Jr., chairman and chief executive, to be seen as both an environmentalist and an industrialist.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:45 AM

INCIPIENT REPUBLICANS:

California Dreaming No More: The Carranza family, like many Latino immigrants, found its way into the American middle class by leaving the Golden State. (Daryl Kelley and Carlos Chavez, February 16, 2004, LA Times)

The winter chill is biting. But Rogelio Carranza, his brother and son are out early, hammering two-by-fours together in a house-raising they expect to finish this month, and celebrate with a sweet toast of sugared coffee.

They are working on one of six houses and mobile homes here owned by six Carranza brothers and their families. It's a long way from 1993, when the brothers crowded everyone into a three-bedroom home in Oxnard. An electrical cord overheated and burned down the house, putting 43 Carranzas on the street.

Living along a rutted dirt road outside this Arkansas boomtown, the Carranzas are the new face of decades of Latino immigration: no longer in poverty, no longer renting, and no longer in California.

It is a story illustrated in the latest census data. USC urban planner Dowell Myers, in a study to be released Tuesday, said that foreign-born Latinos are experiencing a degree of upward mobility not previously detected by demographers. "They're turning the corner — and it's a big corner," he said.

For example, 32% of the nearly 1.8 million Latinos who settled in California in the '80s — such as the Carranzas — were living in poverty in 1990, compared with 23% by 2000. Likewise, Latino immigrants from the '70s had a poverty rate of just 17% by 2000.

Contrary to stereotypes, about 70% of Latino immigrant children in California graduate from high school, Myers said. And 55% of middle-aged California Latinos who immigrated at least 20 years ago own homes. That number increases to 68% after 30 years of residence, he said.

"I'm always surprised at their homeownership rates, given how low their education levels are," Myers said. "And my guess is, the reason [the Carranzas] were so crowded in Oxnard was because they were penny-pinchers, saving to buy their own homes."

At the same time, the Carranzas illustrate the burdens created by illegal immigration. All of the brothers came across the border illegally. Their families drew on housing subsidies, food stamps and free public education. And while the Carranzas are no longer leaning on government, critics will always find their entry to be a problem.


Surprise! They're just like every other immigrant group ever.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:39 AM

BY DESIGN:

The Computer at Nature's Core: Think technology is just applied science? You're wrong. It's the other way around. (David F. Channell, February 2004, Wired)

[I]ncreasingly, the scientists who do the sort of pure research advocated by Vannevar Bush explain natural phenomena by invoking such man-made artifacts as the computer. Theoretical physicist John Archibald Wheeler has coined the phrase it from bit to convey the idea that the entire universe is the result of a series of yes-or-no choices that take place at the level of quantum mechanics. Much of the recent work on black holes, including Stephen Hawking's, places a great deal of emphasis on explaining the apparent loss of information when matter is drawn into one. Also, research into quantum computers has implied that matter itself processes information. This has led some in the pure research world to the controversial claim that the universe itself is governed by the laws of computation and is, in fact, a computer.

It's not just physicists. Biologists are also drawn to the computational worldview. Ever since Erwin Schrödinger suggested in 1943 that genes carry a "code-script" similar to Morse code, biology has focused on understanding how genes control and regulate life. Today, the burgeoning field of systems biology is explicitly predicated on a computational model.

Ironically, the most significant consequence of the view that the natural world is computational may be the death of the notion that technology is applied science. If both the physical universe and the biological world are best understood in terms of information and computation - concepts that arise from the artificial world of technology - it no longer makes sense to think that technology results from an application of science. Indeed, if computation is the basis of all nature, then science is just applied technology.

If that's the case, then science becomes less purely contemplative and more purposeful, and as fraught with social and political goals as technology is. Scientific theories are more properly viewed not as discoveries but as human constructions.


But the discovery of an artifact, like a flint ax, suggests that an artisan, an ax-maker in that case, existed. Figuring out the Universe is just a matter of reverse engineering.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 AM

TWO WHOLE PARAGRAPHS!

WHEN SLAUGHTER MAKES SENSE (Peter Singer and Karen Dawn, February 8, 2004, Newsday)

Perhaps the reason for the public's particular concern during the current mass slaughters is that it seems that the lives of these animals are being wasted. When we kill cows, pigs or chickens for food, most people would say something positive comes from their deaths. The millions of animals being killed in the current slaughter are just being thrown away like garbage. Probably very few, if any, of the civet cats are carrying SARS, and no one really knows whether killing all these animals will stop or reduce the spread of the disease. Many of the chickens certainly do have avian flu, but millions of healthy birds are being killed as well, just in case.

Any concern that many of the killings are without purpose, however, is misplaced. If you've passed through an airport in the last two years, you will have been searched. We presume you were not intending to hijack a plane. Was the search, therefore, a waste of your time and of the resources required to pay the employees who searched you? Not really. If searching passengers prevents hijackings, and there is no reliable and ethical way of zeroing in on just those people likely to be planning a hijack, then none of the searching is a waste of time, even if in 99,999,999 cases out of every 100 million, no hijack was intended. The same principle governs killing animals to prevent a disease. Even though most of the animals are healthy, if one diseased animal could cause a catastrophic disease to spread through both human and animal populations, and there is no practicable way to distinguish the healthy animals from those carrying disease, it is not a waste to kill them all.


The rest of the essay is silly, but to get just this much decency out of Peter Singer must be some kind of first.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:09 AM

WHAT ARE THEY WAITING FOR?

Japan's birth dearth (COLIN DONALD, FEB 16, 2004, THE STRAITS TIMES)

GRIM economic predictions have been commonplace in post-bubble Japan but the most potentially devastating of all is only now starting to alarm policy makers and business leaders.

The dramatic slump in the nation's birth rate is the economic earthquake that no one knows how to avert. Stirring from policy paralysis, the Tokyo government's struggle to get the Japanese breeding again is looking increasingly desperate.

Recently, in the wake of the launch of the so-called 'Plus One' programme, an initiative by the Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry to coax another child out of every couple, a senior official admitted: 'If the low birth rate continues as it is, the nation's population could be reduced to less than a quarter of the current level, or as few as 30 million 100 years from now. If so, the nation's economy as well as its social welfare system would collapse, jeopardising the very foundation of the country.'

However apocalyptic the long-term view, concerns about the next two decades press most heavily on anxious Japanese, compounding their devastating reluctance to spend. The Home Affairs Ministry calculates that Japan's labour force will contract by 10 per cent to about 60 million by 2025, bringing the country's GDP down by a massive 6 per cent.

'The government is not doing enough and the public don't realise how serious this is,' says Mr Kazuyuki Kinbara, spokesman for the influential Japan Federation of Economic Organisations, or Keidanren. 'Right now, they are more worried about 5.1 per cent unemployment, but they are beginning to note the implications of this for the future state of their pension funds.'


So if you only care once you're retired that you left no young folk behind to take care of you in your old age, isn't it too late?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:31 AM

MEET THE PRESS:

Herodotus and the Art of Noticing (Ryszard Kapuscinski, Winter 2004, New Perspectives Quarterly)

Herodotus -- who lived 2,500 years ago and left us his "History" -- was the first reporter. He is the father, master and forerunner of a genre -- reportage. Where does reportage come from? It has three sources, of which travel is the first. Not in the sense of a tourist trip or outing to get some rest. But travel as a hard, painstaking expedition of discovery that requires a decent preparation, careful planning and research in order to collect material out of talks, documents and your own observations on the spot. That's just one of the methods Herodotus used to get to know the world. For years he would travel to the farthest corners of the world as the Greeks knew it. He went to Egypt and Libya, Persia and Babylon, the Black Sea and the Scythians of the north. In his times, the Earth was imagined to be a flat circle in the shape of a plate encircled by a great stream of water by the name of Oceanus. And it was Herodotus' ambition to get to know that entire flat circle. Herodotus, however, besides being the first reporter, was also the first globalist. Fully aware how many cultures there were on Earth, he was eager to get to know all of them. Why?

The way he put it, you can learn your own culture best only by familiarizing yourself with others. For your culture will best reveal its depth, value and sense only when you find its mirror reflection in other cultures, as they shed the best and most penetrating light on your own. What did he accomplish with his comparative method of confrontation and mirror reflection? Well, Herodotus taught his countrymen modesty, tempered their self-conceit and hubris, the feeling of superiority and arrogance toward non-Greeks, toward all others. "You claim that the Greeks have created gods? Not at all. As a matter of fact, you've appropriated them from the Egyptians. You say your structures are magnificent? Yes, but the Persians have a far better system of communication and transportation."

Thus Herodotus tried by means of his reportage to consolidate the most important message of Greek ethics: restraint, a sense of proportion and moderation. Besides travel, another source of reportage is other people, those encountered on the road, and those we travel to meet in order to get them to convey their knowledge, tales and opinions to us. Here Herodotus turns out to be the master extraordinaire. Judging by what he writes, whom he meets and the way he talks to them, Herodotus comes across as a man open and full of good will toward others, making contact with strangers easily, curious about the world, investigative and hungry for knowledge. We can imagine the way he acted, talked, asked and listened. His attitude and bearing show what is essentially important to a reporter: respect for another man, his dignity and worth. He listens carefully to his heartbeat and the way thoughts cross his mind.

Herodotus notices the weakness of human memory, aware that his interlocutors relate different and often contradictory versions of the same event. Trying to be impartial and objective, he conscientiously leaves for us to decide about the most disparate variants and versions of the same story. Hence his reports are multidimensional, rich, vivid and palpable. Herodotus is a tireless reporter. He takes the trouble to go hundreds of miles by sea, on horseback or simply on foot only to hear another version of a past event. He wants to know, no matter the price he pays, and wants his knowledge to be the most authentic, the closest to the truth. This conscientiousness sets a good example of the responsibility we assume, for all that we do.

The third source of reportage is the reporter's homework: to read what has been written and endures in texts, inscriptions or graphic symbols on the topic a given reporter is working on. Herodotus also teaches us how to be investigative and careful.


Wow, maybe it is the second oldest profession.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:16 AM

NO WONDER SHE FLED THE COUNTRY:

John Kerry girl tells all (BRIAN FLYNN, 2/16/04, The Sun)

THE beauty said to have had a fling with presidential hopeful John Kerry has recorded a bombshell tell-all interview.

Journalist Alex Polier taped a talk with a US TV network at Christmas.

The former Washington intern, 27, told all about an alleged fling with the 60-year-old super-rich senator in spring 2001.

The channel is sitting on the tape until it has enough evidence to back her story.


MORE:
'Kerry scandal woman reveals all to TV station' (James Langton, 2/16/04, Evening Standard)

It was reported last week that the TV news division of ABC was investigating the 27-year-old's alleged relationship with Senator Kerry, who is said to have pestered her to join his campaign team.

The channel has refused to say if it is working on the story.


February 15, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:35 PM

TURN 'EM LOOSE:

In Iraqi Towns, Electoral Experiment Finds Some Success (Anthony Shadid, February 16, 2004, Washington Post)

The banner outside declared the occasion: the first free elections in this hardscrabble southern town, battered by President Saddam Hussein and neglected in the disarray that followed. Campaign posters of men in turbans, suits and street clothes crowded for space along the wall of the polling station, peering at the gathering crowds. Inside was Tobin Bradley, a 29-year-old American trying to pull off the vote and, in the process, possibly reshape Iraq's transition from occupation.

"Ask them if they read and write," Bradley called out in Arabic to volunteers and staff. He positioned police to keep order. "One officer goes here," he said. "One goes there." To a handful of candidates gathered at the door, he lifted up a ballot box, painted in white. "You can see the boxes are empty." He caught his breath, rolled up his sleeves, then called out, "Yalla, let's go."

"We'll see how it works out," Bradley said, as voters surged through the doors. "It's always figure-it-out-as-we-go."

With a knack for improvisation and little help from Baghdad, Bradley, the political adviser for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Nasiriyah, has carried out what may stand as one of the most ambitious democratic experiments in Iraq's history, a project that goes to the heart of the debate about how Iraq's next government should be chosen. In the province of Dhi Qar, about 230 miles southeast of Baghdad and a backwater even by Iraq's standards, residents voting as families will have elected city councils in 16 of the 20 biggest cities by next month. Bradley will have organized 11, more than half of them this month.

At every turn, the elections have set precedents, some of them unanticipated. Voters have typically elected professionals rather than tribal or religious leaders, although the process has energized Islamic parties. Activists have gone door to door to organize women, who turned out in their largest numbers this past week in some of Iraq's most conservative towns. Most important is the way residents qualify to cast ballots -- cards issued by Hussein's government to distribute monthly rations.


They're as ready as they're going to be.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:47 PM

ONLY CONNECT:

With friends like these (Christopher Caldwell, February 14 2004, Financial Times)

In its diplomacy, as in its military strategy, the United States is discovering that it has a very shaky idea of who its real friends are. In the old days, it was very clear where the instinctive pro- Americans, or "Atlanticists" were to be found. They made up most of the Christian Democratic parties everywhere, and an influential right-wing rump of the Socialist parties in Germany, Scandinavia and Britain. And some of today's pro-Americans are still on the right: Germany's CDU still backs America, as do the British Tories, although not unanimously, and particularly not when Labour is in power. Beyond them, though, today's Atlanticists are an unfamiliar mix of New Labour (in its British and Dutch variants), continental human-rights activists (particularly in France), Eastern European ex-dissidents and post-cold war parties of the right (in Spain and Italy). It would be surprising if America's future foreign policy did not take some account of which Europeans like it, and which don't.

Dennis MacShane, Britain's Labour minister for Europe, tells me that I shouldn't overstate the shift in support. There were, he says, always important exceptions to the rule that America's friends in Europe were on the right. De Gaulle called the United States the biggest threat to world peace as early as 1965, while in Britain, Labour's support has been broader than the American right tends to remember.

"The roots of European social democracy are anti-communist," says MacShane. "European social democracy has far more in common with American values, including the war on terrorism, than with any other ideology." The European left should never feel embarrassed about siding with the US, provided the US is a progressive force, MacShane thinks. In the 1980s, they should have remarked (but mostly they didn't) that Ronald Reagan was, by many measures, tougher on South Africa than Europeans were.

Today, he thinks they should be quicker (but they're pretty slow) to embrace the sympathetic parts of George W. Bush's agenda. "I look at Bush, who has rejoined Unesco, talked about legalising eight or nine million immigrants from Mexico, and massively increased help for HIV/Aids," MacShane says. "This is not what we would call a hardline, right-wing agenda."

But MacShane's "we" doesn't embrace all or even most of his own party, and it sells poorly in continental Europe.

In France, Senator Jean Francois-Poncet was a pillar of Atlanticism during his term as Valery Giscard d'Estaing's foreign minister in the 1970s. He isn't one any more. He says now the Euro-American battle over the Iraq war exposed differences that cannot be ignored, and Europe marches to a different drum. "What you have to face," he told me calmly, "is that the Franco-German position had the overwhelming support of public opinion all over Europe." [...]

The issue now is: can the United States, and particularly the neo- conservatives who believe in the use of force to defend Western values, connect with like-minded people in Europe to create a new international alliance? Here is the first problem: in the United States, the neo-conservatives are on the right. In Europe, their natural home is, or has recently been, on the left.

In France, for example, the intellectuals most often associated with support for the war in Iraq were the filmmaker Romain Goupil, the philosopher Andre Glucksmann, Bernard Kouchner, a founder of Medecins sans Frontieres, and the novelist Pascal Bruckner.

Sitting outside a pub near Les Halles, Bruckner tells me he's all for a "European neo-conservatism". In his mind, this would mean a European army that would take aim at the weak links in the world's totalitarian chain. He thinks it would have an advantage over its American variant, because Europeans - partly by virtue of the French and British colonial administrative traditions - have been more rooted in other cultures than the US has, and may have formed a better sense of how to respect local cultures, recognise the local power-elites and administer transition governments. Early on in the Iraq invasion, Bruckner was struck by how much more successful British troops had been in controlling Basra and the south of Iraq, compared to the Americans who were running the rest of it.

This brand of "neo-conservatism" is not an emulation of America's; it may even reflect a distrust of it. Europe's problem, as Bruckner sees it, is not that it has drifted too far to the left - for the left-right concept is one that he considers "totally discredited". Nor is Europe's problem simply anti-Americanism.

"Anti-Americanism can only be very ambivalent," he says, "where American culture sets the tone. The French are voting for America - in the market place - all the time." Rather, Bruckner says, "our great problem as Europeans is that we want to exit from history. Sometime after 1989, we developed the belief that barbarism could be refuted intellectually." Here, he makes clear, he is speaking primarily of France and Germany, not the UK. [...]

As European integration comes to revolve increasingly around foreign-policy questions - from defence, to the Turkish candidacy for membership - hard and unavoidable decisions present themselves. Politicians on both right and left feel that Atlanticism has become a zero-sum game: they cannot take a firm stand in favour of the United States (through bilateral agreements, for instance) without endangering the European project.

It's a state of play, paradoxically, that favours the emergence of traditionally Eurosceptic Britain as a model for smaller European states. Particularly in Italy, politicians note with interest (or jealousy) Britain's ability to balance two roles - an occidental/Atlantic/Nato one and a European one. Italian Senate aide Giancarlo Loquenzi says he hopes his own country can replicate Britain's "not-so-ritual vision" within Europe.

As Italy took a hard line to protect its position on milk quotas during recent EU Common Agricultural Policy negotiations, Margaret Thatcher's name was frequently invoked.

For Giuliano Ferrara, the charismatic former communist who now edits the Berlusconi-friendly daily, Il Foglio, the Blair government represents the triumph of the political ideas of "a certain right" in Europe. "Blair acknowledges that we now live in a shareholder society." says Ferrara. "He has been consistent in foreign affairs with both Clinton and Bush." But others, inside Italy and out, doubt that the country has the means to emulate Britain's diplomatic bigamy. Enrico Letta considers the idea that a traditionally pro-EU Italy can replicate Britain's freedom of action within Europe to be delusional. France's Senator Francois- Poncet thinks Blair's stance is a dangerous one to imitate in the first place: "The British think they are in a better position by being largely subservient to the Americans," he remarks. "I would say that they wildly overstate their influence."

The point, however, is that Britain is more important in Europe because it is now becoming evident that dealing with America and dealing with the EU are not separate issues. As Gianni Bonvicini of Italy's Institute for International Affairs put it, "There is an increasing feeling that the Europe relationship can't be monopolistic. It can't mean giving up other relationships."

And Britain is the only EU-member country, at present, that is managing both relationships satisfactorily. Even French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin seems to recognise the indispensability of British military capabilities to European construction, particularly after those capabilities have been enhanced by 10 months of battlefield exposure to American technology and logistics. "There will be no Europe without a European defence," de Villepin wrote recently, "and there will be no European defence without the United Kingdom." That is why, for the Anglo-Franco-German summit recently announced for February 18, Britain appears to hold all the trumps.


The European desire to exit history is obviously at odds with our current desire to drive history towards its seemingly inevitable end as quickly as possible. But if they just have the decency get out of the way they can be tolerated.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:00 PM

NIXON'S COMING:

All Eyes on Dixie: Perhaps. But Democrats on the hunt for new electoral votes should look to Ohio. (Cliff Schecter and Ruy Teixeira, American Prospect)

Putting the Gore-Nader vote together as an indicator of underlying Democratic strength, and comparing it with the Bush-Buchanan vote, the eight closest states the Democrats won in 2000 and will have to defend in 2004 are Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin. Using the same comparison, here are the eight closest states the Democrats lost in 2000, some of which they will obviously have to win in 2004: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio and Tennessee. By these rankings, only two out of 16 states critical to Democratic chances are in the South. Compare that with six in the Midwest and four in the Southwest and you have a sense of the mathematical logic that is driving the Democrats to focus their 2004 presidential strategy outside the South.

That logic is reflected in the state targeting lists put out by Democratic voter-mobilization groups. For example, Steve Rosenthal's America Coming Together (ACT), which is shaping up to be the most important of these organizations, has a list of 17 targeted states, only two of which are in the South (including Florida, but with Arkansas substituted for Tennessee). The rest of ACT's list is the same as above, with the addition of Maine and the substitution of West Virginia for Colorado. [...]

One of the advantages of the non-southern strategy is that the Democratic presidential candidate won't have to try to appeal to a bloc of very conservative southern white voters who aren't likely to vote for him anyway. In Georgia, for example, more white voters say they're conservative than say they're moderate, and almost a third say they're members of the religious right. And, of course, white voters in Georgia are notoriously susceptible to racial politics around issues like the Confederate flag. A national Democratic candidate who tailors his message to these voters will likely succeed only in depressing base turnout, without any compensating electoral payoff.

The possible disadvantage is that the candidate, free from this constraint, will run too far to the left in order to please the liberal base of the Democratic Party. That would be unfortunate, as well as quite stupid. The whole point of this strategy should be to allow the Democrats to craft a clear message that both excites liberal base voters and holds appeal for moderate white swing voters, especially in the Midwest where the loss of manufacturing jobs and health-care access have hit particularly hard.

A quick look at Ohio -- perhaps the most coveted Democratic electoral target in the coming election -- illustrates this. Al Gore lost Ohio's 21 electoral votes by less than 4 points in 2000, and the combined Gore-Nader vote ran only 2 points behind the combined Bush-Buchanan vote. In that election, Gore got 41 percent of the white vote; 44 percent and he would have won the state.


Even Bob Dole stayed within six points of Bill Clinton in Ohio, and that was with Ross Perot taking 11%. Hard to see how it's anything but a waste of time and resources for a MA liberal to try and make it a battleground.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:40 PM

BE ONE FLESH:

Has secular sexual freedom sowed the seeds of social disintegration? (Peter Sellick, 5/2/2004, Online Opinion)

While most married couples recognise the corrosive effects of adultery, it seems that the unmarried are to have as many sexual partners as the want without expecting a negative effect on their future relationships. The one proviso is that these relationships are serial; that they pay some lip service to monogamy. This marks the boundary between promiscuity and responsible sexual behaviour. However, while these assumptions may be shared by the older generation who may never have experienced such freedom in sexual affairs, they may not he embraced by the younger generation for whom the sexual handshake has become the norm. These issues and how they have effected the quality of marriage and hence the prevalence of divorce have been canvassed by Leon R. Kass in his article The End of Courtship. Kass deftly tells us of the contemporary obstacles to the formation of permanent and satisfying marriages and family. The list is extensive and includes easy contraception, the cult of individual rights, the crippling of sexual imagination, public sexual education that is reduced to physiology/safety and the demystifying effect of science that robs sexuality of its mystery.

While this article takes the more extensive treatment by Kass as a given, I am going to concentrate on one aspect of our dilemma that has yielded to the penetrating theological analysis of John Howard Yoder in his article entitled One Flesh until Death: conversations on the meaning and permanence of marriage. Yoder was a Mennonite theologian who specialised in Christian ethics. He died in 1997. The centre of Yoder’s argument focuses on the proclamation of God (Genesis 2:24) that Adam and Eve will become one flesh and the subsequent repetition of those words in the mouth of Jesus when he talks of marriage (Mark 10:8). But most surprisingly, Paul also uses the phrase “be one flesh” in 1Cor. 6:16 when he talks about sex with prostitutes. It is clear that marriage is essentially a sexual union and it occurs whenever such a union takes place. This means that there is no such thing as premarital sex, all sex is marital, even that with a prostitute. Furthermore, Yoder argues that these marriages are indissoluble contra the Roman Church. The warrant for this conclusion is biblical but it is also a psychological reality. While we may behave as if we do not carry our personal history with us, the exact opposite is the case. When we leave each sexual encounter we leave a piece of ourselves behind. We have shared an intimacy that leaves a trace in our memory and our affections. Even if the encounter is a one-night stand in a strange city, we remember, a place is left in our hearts that holds tenderness and concern for the other. To live as if we can have sexual encounters that do not leave such a trace in us means that we either lie to ourselves or that we have become emotionally castrated. Yoder thus argues that our experience of multiple partners is not serial monogamy but is more like polygamy because these other relationships continue to be present in memory, they continue to exist.

Of course, spouses die and marriages break down. The social wariness of hasty replacement speaks a truth about the time that is necessary to retrieve those parts of ourselves that have been left behind in the previous relationship. For a person to be free of a marital relationship they must proceed with the work of disentanglement, a process of grieving that takes its own time and sets aside, for a time, the proclamation of God that “It is not good for the man to be alone”.

When this generation of young people hop from one bed to another, either in search for sexual gratification or as a contorted form of courtship, or simply slide into cohabitation, they rob themselves of the very things that have traditionally kept marriage sustainable. They miss the erotic allure of the long-sought partner. They miss the community support provided by a public pronouncement and celebration of marriage with its attendant advantages of shared purse, orderly habitation and most essential of all, children. For the sexual union is not enough to sustain married life, that requires the shared responsibility for other lives and the attendant maturity that develops with it. In marriage we encounter the neighbour at close quarters and we learn that the path to full humanity lies in our dying to that person, that we displace ourselves. That some couples are barren and yet still maintain their marriages does not counter the argument, they are to be congratulated. Neither does the argument run aground in the face of singles who live rich and faithful lives. But to marry and choose not to have children seems a sin against the very centre of what marriage is about. Despite our rage about the individual’s right to choose, this choice condemns couples to immaturity and loneliness as they proceed through life without their own children and their grandchildren around them to transcend their own deaths.

Yoder contends that the high divorce rate may find its causes more in how we begin our marriages than how we end them. When couples proceed from one sexual partner to another, even if serially, and even if with the intention of finding a life-long mate, they accustom themselves to divorce. While they know that it is painful, they have done it before and know that it is possible. What we have in effect is not a courtship followed by marriage but a series of maimed marriages that do not have the resources to survive. There is no way that couples can distinguish between marriage and cohabitation when life continues as usual after the marriage ceremony. The danger is that the dynamics of cohabitation set the scene for the marriage: one stays as long as things are going OK but one reserves the right to leave unilaterally when the going gets rough.


And, if sex does not leave such a permanent trace then of what value is it? Certainly it would be absurd to elevate such an empty activity to the level of a human right.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:06 PM

SOMEWHERE, NUMBER 3 SMILES

Junior passes, holds-off Stewart for win (ESPN.com, 2/15/04)

Daddy would have been proud.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., taking a page from the old man, barreled past Tony Stewart and won the Daytona 500 Sunday on the same track that claimed his father's life three years ago.

Junior showed the impatience of youth, needing only five tries to win the race that bedeviled the senior Earnhardt for 19 years.

Stewart led the most laps before giving way to Earnhardt with 19 remaining.

Once Earnhardt was in front, he stayed there until the checkered flag and was able to drive into history, joining the legendary names that have won the biggest race in NASCAR.


MORE:
Bush takes to the track to woo 'Nascar dads' (James Harding, February 15 2004, Financial Times)

The average fan of stock-car racing is a white middle-aged man with an above-average income and more than likely to have children under 18. And, so the political theory goes, they count because there are a lot of them - 45m by some counts.

They are a growing crowd, once rooted in the south but now spread across the country. They are flag-waving blue-collar and rising Americans, expected to vote on jobs and the war on terror. They represent working and middle-class Americans who lean Republican but could vote either way on November 2. [...]

Inside the stadium...it was far easier to find Republicans than Democrats. A Democrat pollster and political scientist, Celinda Lake, coined the "Nascar dad" term, pitching him as prize political quarry for the Democrats, but recent studies have shown Nascar fans preferring Republicans to Democrats by more than two to one.

Don Slachta, who brings his wife Suzie to the Daytona 500 as a St Valentine's Day gift each year, said: "I am a big Bush fan. I think he has had a lot of pressure on him and he has handled it well." Tom Heineman, who could just be heard over the deafening din of the 43 cars lined up to roar 500 miles around a tri-oval track, said: "I am a Republican. I was in the marine corps. I am a vet - I am for Bush."

Bill Clinton, who came to a race in 1992, was booed. Yesterday Mr Bush received - as befits the noisiest event of what promises to be a high-decibel year - a loud welcome. Mr Bush is certainly not the first to see political opportunity at the speedway. Richard Nixon welcomed Richard Petty to the White House in 1971, the first race-car driver to get an invitation to Pennsylvania Avenue.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:55 PM

THE CREEP QUOTIENT:

'This won't go away. What happened is much nastier than is being reported' Adrian Blomfeld in Nairobi and Andrew Alderson, 15/02/2004, Daily Telegraph)

"This is not going to go away," one American friend of Miss Polier said yesterday. "What actually happened is much nastier than is being reported."

Even if the Senator can survive an affair, it's hard to believe he could endure accusations of unwanted attention directed at the young woman in question.


MORE:
So it has come to this - a choice of scandals (Mark Steyn, 15/02/2004, Daily Telegraph)

[W]hatever Bush did or didn't do back in those days is consistent with who he is. As horrified European commentators are fond of pointing out, Mr Bush is a "born-again" Christian. We don't need to see grainy home movies of a soused goofball in a Mexican bar face down in the beer nuts to know more or less the kind of guy he was 30 years ago. But he changed; he was born again. If you found some video of Bush rat-arsed (as the British say) in 1974, how relevant is that to the abstemious tucked-in-by-nine family man of 2004? In that sense, even if everything the accusers said was true - that he was an absentee Guardsman - it's not inconsistent with the official Bush narrative.

By contrast, the Kerry narrative is almost impenetrable. If Vietnam bitterly divided a nation, split communities, tore apart families, etc, etc, Sen Kerry somehow managed to wind up on both sides of the fence: in the 1960s, he was John Wayne taking out the gooks in 'Nam; in the 1970s, he was Hanoi Jane Fonda, leading the protest movement; now, after two decades in Congress opposing every new weapons system for America's military, he's campaigning like Bob Hope on a USO tour flanked by wall-to-wall veterans. What story accounts for Senator Flip-Flop these past 40 years?

If character is the issue, Bush can relax. And, if doing your bit for national security is the issue, then John Kerry's been Awol for two decades.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:00 PM

STORYVILLE:

How the World Lost Its Story (Robert W. Jenson, October 1993, First Things)

The modern world, the world that instrumental and critical reason built, is falling about us. Modernity, it now becomes evident, has been all along eroding its own foundations; its projects and comforts have depended on an inheritance to which it has itself been inimical. Walter Lippmann spoke of "the acids of modernity"; as it turns out, the stones attacked by this acid have been those on which the modern world was itself erected. Analysts from all relevant disciplines converge on one insight: modernity has lived on a moral and intellectual capital that it has not renewed, and indeed could not have renewed without denying itself. They moreover agree that this intellectual and moral capital was that built up by the Christian church's long establishment in the West, also if they themselves do not share the church's faith or even admire it.

Perhaps the fall of modernity will be complete in our lifetimes; perhaps it will occupy another century. However long it takes, any successor society is still too distant-or perhaps too precluded-to discern. It is the collapse itself amidst which the church must for the foreseeable future live and speak the gospel, it is modernity's time of ending as such that constitutes the Western church's postmodern mission field. As the church once lived and conducted her mission in the precisely post-Hellenistic and post-Roman-imperial world, remembering what had vanished but not knowing what if anything could come next, so the church must now live and conduct her mission in the precisely "post"-modern world.

The self-destruction of modernism can be described basically under two rubrics: story and promise. The question is what the church is now required to do with respect to each. First, story.

The modern world's typical way of knowing human life was what Hans Frei has taught theologians to call "realistic narrative." The novels of Jane Austen and James Baldwin are "realistic narratives"; so are the histories of Gibbon or your local newspaper; so are soap operas. "Realistic narrative" is a particular way of telling a sequence of events which is distinguished from other possible forms by two characteristics.

First, the sequential events are understood jointly to make a certain kind of sense-a dramatic kind of sense. Aristotle provided the classic specification of dramatically coherent narrative. In a dramatically good story, he said, each decisive event is unpredictable until it happens, but immediately upon taking place is seen to be exactly what "had" to happen. So, to take the example of Aristotle's own favorite good story, we could not know in advance that Oedipus would blind himself but once he has done it instantly see that the whole story must lead to and flow from just this act.

Second, the sequential dramatic coherence is of a sort that could "really" happen, i.e., happen in a presumed factual world "out there," external to the text. Thus Len Deighton's story of the Winter family did not in fact occupy time and space in pre-Nazi and Nazi Germany, but there is nothing in the story itself to say that it might not have. With this kind of narrative the question of whether the story depicts something beyond itself, and if it does, how accurately, are therefore subsequent and independent questions.

But now notice two things supposed by this way of reporting our lives to ourselves. First and obviously, it is supposed that stories dramatically coherent a la Aristotle are the appropriate way to understand our human task and possibility. The modern West has supposed that living on the patterns of King Lear or Horatio Alger is appropriate to beings of the sort we are, and living on the patterns of a schizophrenic or Till Eulenspiegel is not. We have supposed that we somehow "ought" to be able to make dramatic sense of our lives. (We should note that humankind does not universally share the supposition: not shamanist cultures nor Confucian or Taoist China nor the high Indian religions suppose any such thing.)

And it is further supposed that some stories dramatically coherent a la Aristotle are "realistic," that is, that they may be fitted to the "real" world, the world as it is in itself prior to our storytelling. The use of realistic narrative as the normal way of understanding human existence supposes that reality out there, "the world" itself, makes dramatic sense a la Aristotle, into which narrative the stories we tell about ourselves can and sometimes do fit. Put it this way: the way in which the modern West has talked about human life supposes that an omniscient historian could write a universal history, and that this is so because the universe with inclusion of our lives is in fact a story written by a sort of omnipotent novelist.

That is to say, modernity has supposed we inhabit what I will call a "narratable world." Modernity has supposed that the world "out there" is such that stories can be told that are true to it. And modernity has supposed that the reason narratives can be true to the world is that the world somehow "has" its own true story, antecedent to, and enabling of, the stories we tell about ourselves in it.

There is no mystery about how Western modernity came by this supposition. The supposition is straightforwardly a secularization of Jewish and Christian practice-as indeed these are the source of most key suppositions of Western intellectual and moral life. The archetypical body of realistic narrative is precisely the Bible; and the realistic narratives of Western modernity have every one been composed in, typically quite conscious, imitation of biblical narrative. Aristotle's definition found its future through a strange channel.

Postmodernism is characterized by the loss of this supposition in all of its aspects. We can see this most vividly in literature. The paradigmatic fictional works of the twentieth century either present accounts that make dramatic sense in themselves, but tell of events or sequences that could not occur in the world outside the storytelling; or they meticulously describe events that could occur or perhaps actually have occurred in "the real world," but in such fashion as to display precisely their lack of dramatic coherence. Gunter Grass' The Tin Drum may serve as an example of the first mode, Sartre's Nausea as an example of the second, and Joyce's Ulysses of both at once.

The same modes appear in the visual arts. The classical visual art of the modern West was at once realistic and narrative; it portrayed the world beyond itself, and constrained within itself some portion of a narrative possible in that world. Thus one of Valesquez's royal family portraits depicts both a set of actual and recognizable human individuals, and relationships between them that can be described only by narrative.

Modernist/postmodernist art is in most of its modes defined precisely by a passion to avoid any such portrayal. Most usually this is done by elevating the formal or expressive aspects of the act or product of art to be themselves the subject-matter of the work. I have long remembered the remark of a notable art critic-though I have forgotten which one- that many modernist paintings could be understood as fragments of classical painting blown up for their own sake, displaying the formal and technical elements by which painting is accomplished but eschewing the narrative depiction within which such patches of paint on canvas would earlier have had their place.

But there is also a meticulously realistic modernism that carefully reproduces pieces of the world out there, but in such fashion as either to tell a story that is impossible in the world, as in surrealism, or to alienate the depicted reality altogether from our quest for coherence. So every item in a painting by Magritte is an item of our accustomed world, and yet nothing hangs together in the way we expect; we cannot make out what story has been, or will be, going on with the persons and objects depicted. And precisely to induce this schizophrenic apprehension in us was the stated purpose for which Magritte and other surrealists and modernist realists have made their works.

If there is little mystery about where the West got its faith in a narratable world, neither is there much mystery about how the West has lost this faith. The entire project of the Enlightenment was to maintain realist faith while declaring disallegiance from the God who was that faith's object. The story the Bible tells is asserted to be the story of God with His creatures; that is, it is both assumed and explicitly asserted that there is a true story about the universe because there is a universal novelist/historian. Modernity was defined by the attempt to live in a universal story without a universal storyteller.

The experiment has failed. It is, after the fact, obvious that it had to: if there is no universal storyteller, then the universe can have no story line. Neither you nor I nor all of us together can so shape the world that it can make narrative sense; if God does not invent the world's story, then it has none, then the world has no narrative that is its own. If there is no God, or indeed if there is some other God than the God of the Bible, there is no narratable world.


One of the most interesting things that happened in the wake of 9-11 was that a series of films came out which assumed--rather against the tide of previous years--that the story we tell ourselves matters. Chief among these was Spider-Man and The Lord of the Rings, both of which not only asserted the existence of good and evil in an absolute sense but the corresponding idea that their existence imposes certain responsibilities on each of us. The scene that really stood out--which would have been inexplicable to the culture on 9-10 but seemed inevitable on 9-12--was when Peter Parker sacrificed a personal relationship with MJ in order to fulfill his responsibilities as Spider-Man. Such an action only makes sense in a narratable world.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:52 PM

THE TRULY IMPORTANT WALL OF SEPARATION (via Mike Daley):

Particularity: The Root of Character: a review of The Death of Character: Moral Education in an Age without Good or Evil By James Davison Hunter (Robert Heineman, Texas Education Review)

In this closely reasoned and remarkably readable book, James
Davison Hunter
, William R. Kenan Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies at the University of Virginia, describes the dilemma that grips moral education in America's schools. From Hunter's perspective there is little of serious ethical worth left in education's approach to instilling
morality in the nation's youth. In their efforts to be inclusive, educators have weakened the very particularity that provides the deep grounding essential to moral belief and judgment.

Hunter begins with a "Post-Mortem," in which he lays out his basic themes. He contends that the beliefs essential to a concept of character have been seriously undermined, perhaps beyond recovery.

Character for Hunter is the unquestioning acceptance of virtues embedded in the institutions and habits of a society. Values may be true, but their prominence in discussion and debate deprives them of the unconscious allegiance that the components of character possess. Individual moral choices are not the source of the difficulty. Much more powerful historical and sociological forces have removed character as an influential moral force in the American nation.

Following his "post-mortem," Hunter uses an historical, sociological perspective to demonstrate that character has mattered throughout Western history. He contends that the fundamental truths that have constituted this concept have resulted from particularity in society. However, today, the search for inclusiveness by American educators has marginalized the importance of social differences. Those striving to implement moral education have used essentially three broad strategies to try to recoup ethical standards in society. Hunter identifies these as the psychological, which emphasizes shared method; the neoclassical, which stresses shared virtues; and the communitarian, which focuses on shared experiences.

These strategies appear throughout the book, and, although Hunter assigns some influence to the latter two, in his mind the psychological regime dominates the modern American educational approach toward morality. Moving from a time in which morality was "conviction of truth made sacred," the concept of character has been replaced by that of personality. It is this latter notion that all three strategies have now made, in some cases unwittingly, the central focus of morality. Hunter is especially emphatic that his analysis of moral education is about society generally. The educational practices and assumptions of America's school systems "mirror" those of society as a whole.

In chapters three (coauthored with James L. Nolan, Jr.) and four, Hunter traces the history of moral education in America. Early in the nation's history education was heavily theological and, specifically, Calvinist in orientation. At this time it was understood that church and state would work together in building a common Christian civilization. But as America moved into the latter nineteenth century, industrial and material values began to supplant the claims of the churches. The increasing religious diversity of American society encouraged movement away from theologically based morality toward a more "inclusive," and secular, civic idealism. By the end of the nineteenth century, 41 of 46 states specifically prohibited sectarian influence in their public schools.

The Progressive movement completed this trend. The inculcation of traditional values was replaced by an emphasis on method and personal effectiveness. The most serious damage was inflicted by John Dewey, whose impact on American education was, and remains, tremendous. Dewey had no use for the substantive values of revealed religion in education, and emphasized
instead the importance of process in learning. Hunter concludes that as the Progressive era drew to a close the concept of character was no longer creditable in education. By the 1970s the Progressive reliance on method had evolved into the "values clarification" movement, which avoided substantive values in favor of individual sensitivity to those feelings engendered in each particular situation. Morality became "situation specific."

Summarizing the chronology of moral education, Hunter suggests a dialectical movement in which the proponents of moral education have continually sought inclusiveness in reaction to increasing diversity. Thus, the Calvinists were followed by the more inclusive Evangelical Christians,
who were in turn succeeded by the Progressives. Today the psychologists hold claim to the imprimatur of inclusiveness. At each stage, diversity has been met with an increasingly abstract level of moral inclusiveness which in turn has removed character and its attendant virtues further from a grounding in the institutions and habits of particular communities.


Diversity and morality are antithetical concepts.

As James Q. Wilson wrote to Daniel Patrick Moyniohan:

[E]recting walls that separate "us" from "them" is a necessary correlate of morality since it defines the scope within which sympathy, fairness, and duty operate...

The great achievement of Western culture since the Enlightenment is to make many of us peer over the wall and grant some respect to people outside it; the great failure of Western Culture is to deny that walls are inevitable or important.


Or, as Alfred North Whitehead put it:
It is a profoundly erroneous truism, repeated by all copy books and by eminent people when they are making speeches, that we should cultivate the habit of thinking of what we are doing. The precise opposite is the case. Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them.


MORE:
-ESSAY: A Living Lesson: An Essay by James Davison Hunter (NPR, 9/30/01)
-ESSAY: When Psychotherapy Replaces Religion (James Davison Hunter, Spring 2000, National Interest)


Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:37 PM

SHALLOW PONDS:

Henry David Thoreau: His Character and Opinions (Robert Louis Stevenson, June 1880, Cornhill Magazine)

Thoreau's thin, penetrating, big-nosed face, even in a bad woodcut, conveys some hint of the limitations of his mind and character. With his almost acid sharpness of insight, with his almost animal dexterity in act, there went none of that large, unconscious geniality of the world's heroes. He was not easy, not ample, not urbane, not even kind; his enjoyment was hardly smiling, or the smile was not broad enough to be convincing; he had no waste lands nor kitchen-midden in his nature, but was all improved and sharpened to a point. "He was bred to no profession," says Emerson; "he never married; he lived alone; he never went to church; he never voted; he refused to pay a tax to the State; he ate no flesh, he drank no wine, he never knew the use of tobacco and, though a naturalist, he used neither trap nor gun. When asked at dinner what dish he preferred, he answered, 'the nearest.'" So many negative superiorities begin to smack a little of the prig. From his later works he was in the habit of cutting out the humorous passages, under the impression that they were beneath the dignity of his moral muse; and there we see the prig stand public and confessed. It was "much easier," says Emerson acutely, much easier for Thoreau to say no than yes; and that is a characteristic which depicts the man. It is a useful accomplishment to be able to say no, but surely it is the essence of amiability to prefer to say yes where it is possible. There is something wanting in the man who does not hate himself whenever he is constrained to say no. And there was a great deal wanting in this born dissenter. He was almost shockingly devoid of weaknesses; he had not enough of them to be truly polar with humanity; whether you call him demi-god or demi-man, he was at least not altogether one of us, for he was not touched with a feeling of our infirmities. The world's heroes have room for all positive qualities, even those which are disreputable, in the capacious theatre of their dispositions. Such can live many lives; while a Thoreau can live but one, and that only with perpetual foresight.

He was no ascetic, rather an Epicurean of the nobler sort; and he had this one great merit, that he succeeded so far as to be happy. "I love my fate to the core and rind," he wrote once; and even while he lay dying, here is what he dictated (for it seems he was already too feeble to control the pen): "You ask particularly after my health. I suppose that I have not many months to live, but of course know nothing about it. I may say that I am enjoying existence as much as ever, and regret nothing." It is not given to all to bear so clear a testimony to the sweetness of their fate, nor to any without courage and wisdom; for this world in itself is but a painful and uneasy place of residence, and lasting happiness, at least to the self-conscious, comes only from within. Now Thoreau's content and ecstasy in living was, we may say, like a plant that he had watered and tended with womanish solicitude; for there is apt to be something unmanly, something almost dastardly, in a life that does not move with dash and freedom, and that fears the bracing contact of the world. In one word, Thoreau was a skulker. He did not wish virtue to go out of him among his fellow-men, but slunk into a corner to hoard it for himself. He left all for the sake of certain virtuous self-indulgences. It is true that his tastes were noble; that his ruling passion was to keep himself unspotted from the world; and that his luxuries were all of the same healthy order as cold tubs and early rising. But a man may be both coldly cruel in the pursuit of goodness, and morbid even in the pursuit of health. I cannot lay my hands on the passage in which he explains his abstinence from tea and coffee, but I am sure I have the meaning correctly. It is this; He thought it bad economy and worthy of no true virtuoso to spoil the natural rapture of the morning with such muddy stimulants; let him but see the sun rise, and he was already sufficiently inspirited for the labours of the day. That may be reason good enough to abstain from tea; but when we go on to find the same man, on the same or similar grounds, abstain from nearly everything that his neighbours innocently and pleasurably use, and from the rubs and trials of human society itself into the bargain, we recognise that valetudinarian healthfulness which is more delicate than sickness itself. We need have no respect for a state of artificial training. True health is to be able to do without it. Shakespeare, we can imagine, might begin the day upon a quart of ale, and yet enjoy the sunrise to the full as much as Thoreau, and commemorate his enjoyment in vastly better verses. A man who must separate himself from his neighbours' habits in order to be happy, is in much the same case with one who requires to take opium for the same purpose. What we want to see is one who can breast into the world, do a man's work, and still preserve his first and pure enjoyment of existence.

Thoreau's faculties were of a piece with his moral shyness; for they were all delicacies. He could guide himself about the woods on the darkest night by the touch of his feet. He could pick up at once an exact dozen of pencils by the feeling, pace distances with accuracy, and gauge cubic contents by the eye. His smell was so dainty that he could perceive the foetor of dwelling-houses as he passed them by at night; his palate so unsophisticated that, like a child, he disliked the taste of wine -- or perhaps, living in America, had never tasted any that was good; and his knowledge of nature was so complete and curious that he could have told the time of year, within a day or so, by the aspect of the plants. In his dealings with animals, he was the original of Hawthorne's Donatello. He pulled the woodchuck out of its hole by the tail; the hunted fox came to him for protection; wild squirrels have been seen to nestle in his waistcoat; he would thrust his arm into a pool and bring forth a bright, panting fish, lying undismayed in the palm of his hand. There were few things that he could not do. He could make a house, a boat, a pencil, or a book. He was a surveyor, a scholar, a natural historian. He could run, walk, climb, skate, swim, and manage a boat. The smallest occasion served to display his physical accomplishment; and a manufacturer, from merely observing his dexterity with the window of a railway carriage, offered him a situation on the spot. "The only fruit of much living," he observes, "is the ability to do some slight thing better." But such was the exactitude of his senses, so alive was he in every fibre, that it seems as if the maxim should be changed in his case, for he could do most things with unusual perfection. And perhaps he had an approving eye to himself when he wrote: "Though the youth at last grows indifferent, the laws of the universe are not indifferent, but are for ever on the side of the most sensitive."


NPR did a story the other day on QuirkyAlones, who as near as one can tell are people so self-centered that they are incapable of forming healthy relationships with others. It brought to mind this essay by Stevenson.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:32 PM

IF YOU'RE A SINGLE ISSUE PARTY, MAKE IT THIS ONE:

PM cool on National poll surge (VERNON SMALL, 16 February 2004 , The Dominion Post)

A shock political poll showing National vaulting ahead of Labour has jolted the Government, but Prime Minister Helen Clark has vowed not to change direction.

The One News Colmar Brunton poll showed National leader Don Brash's Orewa speech, pledging to end special treatment for Maori, pushed National up 17 percentage points to 45 per cent.

Labour was down seven at 38, the first time it has trailed National since 2000. ACT fell five points to 1.3 per cent. NZ First fell five points to 6 per cent.

Political analysts said it confirmed a significant change in fortune for National, though it hinged on a single issue and might not yet reflect a mood to change the Government.

Senior lecturer in politics at Auckland University Raymond Miller said National had shown Labour was out of step with public opinion on race.


Race is always a good political issue.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:12 PM

NO WONDER WE KEEP THE U.N. HERE:

British spy op wrecked peace move (Martin Bright, Peter Beaumont and Jo Tuckman, February 15, 2004, The Observer)

A joint British and American spying operation at the United Nations scuppered a last-ditch initiative to avert the invasion of Iraq, The Observer can reveal.

Senior UN diplomats from Mexico and Chile provided new evidence last week that their missions were spied on, in direct contravention of international law.

The former Mexican ambassador to the UN, Adolfo Aguilar Zinser, told The Observer that US officials intervened last March, just days before the war against Saddam was launched, to halt secret negotiations for a compromise resolution to give weapons inspectors more time to complete their work.

Aguilar Zinser claimed that the intervention could only have come as a result of surveillance of a closed diplomatic meeting where the compromise was being hammered out. He said it was clear the Americans knew about the confidential discussions in advance. 'When they [the US] found out, they said, "You should know that we don't like the idea and we don't like you to promote it."'

The revelations follow claims by Chile's former ambassador to the UN, Juan Valdes, that he found hard evidence of bugging at his mission in New York last March.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:31 PM

NASCAR NATION:

Racing pros revved up for GOP (Paul Newberry, February 14, 2004, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Here's a challenge: Try finding a Democrat in the NASCAR garage.

Richard Petty looked around and smiled.

"You'd be hard-pressed," said Petty, the winningest driver in Nextel Cup history and -- oh, yeah -- a hard-core Republican.

If President Bush were looking for a friendly audience in this vitriolic election season, he sure picked the right place. He is assured of getting a warm welcome -- especially from those on the track -- when he attends tomorrow's Daytona 500.

"He's just a great American," said Terry Labonte, a Bush supporter and fellow Texan. "In times like this, I'm glad we've got someone like him in office."

Without question, this is Republican Country.


Slightly different than the Super Bowl, eh?


MORE:
- NASCAR Marketing Jesus with "Passion" (Suburban Chicago News, February, 13 2004)
-The Last American Hero is Junior Johnson. Yes!: He is a coon hunter, a rich man, an ex-whiskey runner, a good old boy who hard-charges stock cars at 175 m.p.h. Mother dog! He is the lead-footed chicken farmer from Ronda, the true vision of the New South (Tom Wolfe, March 1965, Esquire)


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:31 AM

ALL MEN:

George Bush and the Treacherous Country (Steve Erickson, 2/13/04, LA Weekly)

Notwithstanding Woodrow Wilson, the son of a Presbyterian minister, and Jimmy Carter, a Sunday-school teacher, Bush is more than just the most religious president the country has ever had. His most profound political impulses — of which he barely may be conscious himself, but which are the source of his political strength and bind him to his political base — are theocratic. This isn’t reflected simply by the well-documented bulletins he sends to his base in his speeches, with the evangelic references to “good news” and (from the 2003 State of the Union) “wonder-working power,” or by the fact that he’s expressed on occasions his conviction that his faith is the sole passport to eternity (such as when he told a Jewish reporter for an Austin newspaper that only Christians could enter heaven). The president believes himself to be God’s instrument, as do his most devoted followers — two of every five who voted for Bush in 2000 consider themselves evangelical Christians — and the absolute nature of his religious beliefs, and the way in which they demand that the values of secular democracy ultimately submit to Christian values, inevitably lead him to regard democracy with a latent distrust. [...]

What President Bush translates into ideology isn’t just religious conviction but something more majestic, which is a theocratic psyche. Although he does this because it’s the constitutional deference that must be paid to secularism if the president is to uphold his oath of office, the new right understands what’s really involved. Speaking to NBC’s Tim Russert last fall, one of the new right’s most prominent spokesmen, Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly, put it succinctly: There’s a culture war in America, he said, between the “secularists” and the “traditionalists.” Of course O’Reilly is correct, if not exactly as he defines the terms. As O’Reilly defines the terms, secularists are atheists who want to marry homosexuals and abort pregnancies and remove God and religion from American life. Traditionalists fight to protect the family and the unborn and God Himself, a remarkably vulnerable deity. This conflict has marked the American experience from the beginning, with the New World originally settled by Puritans who had a theocratic social vision, which gave way to an idea of “America” invented 150 years later by secularists who were products of the Enlightenment. Of all the Founding Fathers — who had varying degrees of religious interest — only Samuel Adams was distinctly devout. The two presidents most responsible for authoring the American Idea, Thomas Jefferson and, later, Abraham Lincoln, were not Christians in any sense of the word that they or anyone else understood it then or now.

This always has been a nation caught between Cotton Mather and Tom Paine. As the New World’s pre-eminent theologian, Mather wrote Memorable Providences and Wonders of the Invisible World, which marshaled passionate arguments in support of the mass executions of women for witchcraft. Paine, raised in England, where he watched starving children his own age hanged for stealing food, disavowed his Quaker religion; employing the language of the Old Testament (which he preferred to the New) in the writing of Common Sense, Paine chortled to John Adams that he had done so for reasons as perverse as they were strategic. Among others, Jefferson was impressed. Similarly impressed by Paine’s later book The Age of Reason, which included an outright attack on religion, was a young Lincoln, who as a congressional candidate in 1846 was hounded by rumors regarding his lack of religious affiliation until finally he issued a statement assuring voters that, while he didn’t belong to any church, he was nothing but respectful of those who did.

Over the centuries, one side or the other of the Mather/Paine divide hasn’t so much held sway as overplayed its hand, beginning with the traditionalists 300 years ago in Salem. Conversely and more recently, if to less spectacular effect, in 2002 the 9th District Court of Appeals ruled the words under God in the Pledge of Allegiance a violation of the First Amendment. First among the problems with this decision was its constitutional wrong-headedness: The First Amendment was never intended to strike from public life all reference to a supreme power. Jefferson, the amendment’s guiding spirit by way of his protégé James Madison, and as hostile to organized religion as Bush is committed, made such a reference in the country’s founding document. Rather the First Amendment was intended to ensure that one religion isn’t favored by the state over another, and that religious practice is neither restricted by the state nor imposed; however much public pressure occasionally is brought to bear on the issue, the Pledge of Allegiance isn’t compulsory, with or without God. But beyond constitutional considerations the 9th Court’s decision was a tactical disaster, the sort that gives the separation between church and state a bad name. It played into the traditionalists’ most inflammatory depiction of secularism and undercut a thousand more credible arguments of the future — so that when the day comes that Republican congressional leader Tom DeLay wants to change the pledge to read “one nation under Jesus Christ,” the moral authority of the First Amendment will have been squandered on judicial reasoning specious at best and elitist at worst.

When George W. Bush found Jesus in the mid-’80s as part of a struggle with alcoholism, he was most electrified by the story of Paul’s conversion en route to Damascus, as told in the Book of Acts. Formerly a persecutor of Christians, Paul had a vision and became a prosecutor for Christianity. As pointed out by essayist and novelist Michael Ventura, American Christian fundamentalism is based largely on Paul’s epistles and the books of Revelation and John, from which the president quoted in his address to the nation on the evening of September 11, 2001 (“And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness will not overcome it”). John offers a harsher, more unforgiving portrait of Jesus than is found in the other Gospels. While in the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus turns the other cheek and says on the Mount, “Judge not, that ye be not judged,” it’s in the Book of John that Jesus suggests that anyone who doesn’t believe in him is doomed. Most conspicuous about the letters of Paul that so affected Bush is that, in them, Jesus and his actual teachings barely appear at all. Almost exclusively Paul writes of how the soul’s deliverance or damnation resides purely with acceptance of the Resurrection. “Paul constantly insists on his own righteousness,” Ventura explains, “and constantly questions the righteousness of anyone who disagrees with him, as well as twisting the earlier scriptures to suit his views.”

Whether it’s Christian or Islamic, an uncompromising religious vision can’t recognize the legitimacy of democracy without betraying itself. Democracy insists on a pluralism that entertains the possibility that one’s religious beliefs might be wrong and another’s might be right, and that all religious beliefs may be varying degrees of wrong or right — what traditionalists despise as “relativism.” Almost by definition, democracy is at least a little bit blasphemous. It’s a breach of rigorous spiritual discipline, and its mechanisms are among the human works of the modern age, which itself is viewed by fundamentalism as an abomination. Doubt is a critical component of both democracy and its leadership. In the eyes of democracy, doubt is not just moral but necessary; the psychology of democracy must allow for doubt about the rightness of any given political position, because otherwise the position can never be questioned. The Bill of Rights and the First Amendment in particular are monuments to the right to doubt, and to the right of one person to doubt the rightness of 200 million. In contrast, the psychology of theocracy not only denies doubt but views it as a cancer on the congregation, prideful temerity in the face of divine righteousness as it’s communicated by God to the leaders of the state.

Nothing about Bush or his presidency makes sense without taking into account the theocratic psyche. Only once you consider the possibility that his administration means to “repeal the Enlightenment,” in the words of Greil Marcus, do Bush’s presidency and his conception of power, their ends and their means, become comprehensible. Doubt is personally abhorrent to Bush; otherwise he couldn’t have assumed the presidency in the manner he did, with decisions and policies that from the first dismissed out of hand the controversy that surrounded his very election. This isn’t to suggest that his presidency is invalid, or to dispute the constitutional and legal process that produced it. It is to try and explain how on the second day of his presidency — in what was his first major act as president — in such draconian fashion he could cut off money to any federally funded family-planning clinic that merely advised women that the option of abortion exists. This was more than just a message to the president’s evangelical constituency that he was undeterred by what happened in Florida in November and December 2000. It was more than just a message to the rest of the country of the president’s contempt for it (which in part accounts for so many people’s intensity of feeling about him). It was, from the second day of the Bush presidency, a frontal assault on doubt.


Mr. Erickson is not much of a novelist, but an entertaining essayists and campaign chronicler. Here he's right on many of the facts but wrong on most of the implications. Although it is the Left's dream to create a culture that is so secularized, doubt-filled, and devoid of strong beliefs that every man will have to accept ever thought and action of his fellow citizens as permissible, it is not possible to maintain either a democracy or any other kind of decent society on such a basis. This kind of intolerance masquerading as tolerance is not only inherently destabilizing, it also contradicts the very basis of the American Republic, which is founded on the universalist creed that:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Which was put into effect here in words no less confident of ultimate ends:
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

While, despite Mr. Ericksons focus on religious language in Mr. Bush's public addresses, no one could have been more explicit about the religious underpinnings of the American experiment than was George Washington (one of Mr. Erickson's supposed secularists) in his First Inaugural:
AMONG the vicissitudes incident to life no event could have filled me with greater anxieties than that of which the notification was transmitted by your order, and received on the 14th day of the present month. On the one hand, I was summoned by my country, whose voice I can never hear but with veneration and love, from a retreat which I had chosen with the fondest predilection, and, in my flattering hopes, with an immutable decision, as the asylum of my declining years—a retreat which was rendered every day more necessary as well as more dear to me by the addition of habit to inclination, and of frequent interruptions in my health to the gradual waste committed on it by time. On the other hand, the magnitude and difficulty of the trust to which the voice of my country called me, being sufficient to awaken in the wisest and most experienced of her citizens a distrustful scrutiny into his qualifications, could not but overwhelm with despondence one who (inheriting inferior endowments from nature and unpracticed in the duties of civil administration) ought to be peculiarly conscious of his own deficiencies. In this conflict of emotions all I dare aver is that it has been my faithful study to collect my duty from a just appreciation of every circumstance by which it might be affected. All I dare hope is that if, in executing this task, I have been too much swayed by a grateful remembrance of former instances, or by an affectionate sensibility to this transcendent proof of the confidence of my fellow-citizens, and have thence too little consulted my incapacity as well as disinclination for the weighty and untried cares before me, my error will be palliated by the motives which mislead me, and its consequences be judged by my country with some share of the partiality in which they originated.

Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station, it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own, nor those of my fellow-citizens at large less than either. No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency; and in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their united government the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities from which the event has resulted can not be compared with the means by which most governments have been established without some return of pious gratitude, along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to presage. These reflections, arising out of the present crisis, have forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be suppressed. You will join with me, I trust, in thinking that there are none under the influence of which the proceedings of a new and free government can more auspiciously commence.

By the article establishing the executive department it is made the duty of the President "to recommend to your consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient." The circumstances under which I now meet you will acquit me from entering into that subject further than to refer to the great constitutional charter under which you are assembled, and which, in defining your powers, designates the objects to which your attention is to be given. It will be more consistent with those circumstances, and far more congenial with the feelings which actuate me, to substitute, in place of a recommendation of particular measures, the tribute that is due to the talents, the rectitude, and the patriotism which adorn the characters selected to devise and adopt them. In these honorable qualifications I behold the surest pledges that as on one side no local prejudices or attachments, no separate views nor party animosities, will misdirect the comprehensive and equal eye which ought to watch over this great assemblage of communities and interests, so, on another, that the foundation of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality, and the preeminence of free government be exemplified by all the attributes which can win the affections of its citizens and command the respect of the world. I dwell on this prospect with every satisfaction which an ardent love for my country can inspire, since there is no truth more thoroughly established than that there exists in the economy and course of nature an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness; between duty and advantage; between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity; since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained; and since the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly considered, perhaps, as deeply, as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.


Likewise, consider the best known words of the other president we celebrate this weekend:
Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

One is hard-pressed to find any secularism or doubt here as Mr. Lincoln explicitly frames the Founding in religious terms and says that the question of whether the liberty it established will endure is dependent on who wins the war. Suffiuce it to say, you don't sally forth to slaughter your countrymen if you think their opinions are equally as valid as yours.

Despite Mr. Erickson, we Americans just aren't a particularly doubtful people and never have been.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:51 AM

TECHNOLOGY, NOT SCIENCE:

Letter: DEATH OF TB (Richard C. Lewontin, Reply by Lewis Thomas, January 25, 1979, NY Review of Books)

In response to The Big C (November 9, 1978)

To the Editors:

In his zeal to propagate the claims of modern scientific medicine, Lewis Thomas (NYR, November 9) has badly distorted the history of tuberculosis and, by implication, of the other major killing diseases of the past. The impression given by Dr. Thomas is that tuberculosis was a great scourge of the 1930s ("Everyone lived in fear of tuberculosis, but it was not much talked about") and that its final conquest as a serious killer was the result of scientific medicine beginning with Koch's discovery of the tubercle bacillus in 1882 and ending with the discovery, a few years ago, of isoniazid. "The conquest of tuberculosis became, at last," he writes, "a stunning success."

But the historical truth is rather different. In 1828, when causes of death were first systematically recorded in Britain, the death rate from tuberculosis was nearly 4,000 per million. The rate can only be appreciated in contrast to the present death rate in the US and Britain from all causes of only 9,000 per million. By 1855 the death rate from tuberculosis had fallen to about 2,700 and continued to fall steadily so that by the turn of the century it had reached about 1,200 per million. Koch's discovery of the causal bacillus in the 1880s had no effect whatsoever on the rate of decline, and by 1925, after the Flexner revolution in medical schools, the rate was about 800, only 20 percent of its value in 1838. Totally unaffected by the arrival of modern medicine, the death rate continued its steady drop to 400 per million until 1948 when the introduction of chemotherapy on a broad scale did indeed accelerate the decline to its present negligible level. It is important to note that 57 percent of the decline had occurred by 1900 and 90 percent of the decline had occurred by the time of the introduction of chemotherapy. Extrapolation of the trend predicts that by 1970 death from tuberculosis would have reached its present low value even in the absence of chemotherapy.

The history of tuberculosis is the history of nearly all the major killers of the nineteenth century. Whooping cough, scarlet fever, and measles, all with death rates in excess of 1,000 per million children, and bronchitis, all declined steadily with no observable effect of the discovery of causative agents, of immunization or of chemotherapy. The sole exception was diphtheria which began its precipitous decline in 1900 with the introduction of anti-toxin and which was wiped out in five years after the national immunization campaign. The most revealing case is that of measles which killed about 1,200 in every million children in the nineteenth century. By 1960, despite the complete absence of any known medical treatment, it had disappeared as a cause of death in Britain and the US while in much of Africa it remains the chief cause of death of children.

The causes of the tremendous decline of mortality from infectious diseases in the last 100 years are not certain. All that is certain is that "scientific medicine" played no significant part.


It's remarkable how many of the advances that folks are wont to attribute to science are really nothing more than improvements in technology, hygiene and the like.

MORE:
The Unraveling of Scientific Materialism (Phillip E. Johnson, November 1997, First Things)
-REVIEW: of The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan (Richard Lewontin, NY Review of Books)


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:48 AM

LINGERING QUESTIONS:

A few questions for John Kerry (George Will, February 15, 2004. Townhall)

In the more than 250 days until Nov. 2, John Kerry can answer questions that linger in spite of, or because of, all he has said so far. Such as: [...]

You say the rich do not pay enough taxes. In 1979 the top 1 percent of earners paid 19.75 percent of income taxes. Today they pay 36.3 percent. How much is enough?

You say the federal government is not spending enough on education. President Bush has increased education spending 48 percent. How much is enough? [...]

You oppose immediate termination of U.S. involvement in Iraq, and you opposed the $87 billion to pay for involvement. Come again? [...]

Praising McCain-Feingold restrictions on political contributions, you said: "This bill reduces the power of the checkbook and I will therefore support it." In December you saved your sagging campaign by writing it a $6.4 million check. Why is your checkbook's unfettered freedom wholesome?

You deny that restricting campaign contributions restricts speech. How much of the $6.4 million did you spend on speech -- broadcast messages? [...]

There are 28 more questions where these 28 came from.


Mr. Will is a frequent critic of George W. Bush, but an adult. Who--other than a libertarian or a paleocon--thinks the country would benefit from the Right discplining the President at the ballot box and giving us a Kerry administration?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:36 AM

THEY ARE THE FOCUS OF EVIL IN THE MODERN WORLD:

Yankees Said to Be Closing Deal to Obtain Rangers' Rodriguez (TYLER KEPNER, 2/15/04, NY Times)

In a trade that would join the most celebrated franchise in baseball with perhaps the best player in the game, the Yankees and the Texas Rangers have agreed in principle to a deal that would bring Alex Rodriguez to New York for Alfonso Soriano and a player to be determined, according to several people familiar with the discussions. The deal is all but complete, they said.

The commissioner's office and the players union must approve the trade, and the teams were working on administrative details last night, baseball officials said. "It has reached the commissioner's office," said Sandy Alderson, Major League Baseball's executive vice president for baseball operations, who declined further comment.

Rodriguez has seven years and $179 million remaining on the 10-year, $252 million contract he signed in December 2000. The Rangers would include money in the mid-$60 million range that would reduce the Yankees' average annual payments to Rodriguez from $25.5 million to about $16 million. [...]

The Boston Red Sox, bitter rivals of the Yankees, reached their own deal for Rodriguez in December, only to have the trade quashed when the players union rejected the restructuring of Rodriguez's contract. But with more financial might than the Red Sox and the lesson of Boston's failed trade to guide them, the Yankees were privately confident their deal would not fail.


As Bill Murray once said of the Mets, during a Cubs broadcast: I hate these guys more than communism.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 AM

ALTERING THE POSSIBLE:

The Emptying of Russia (Nicholas Eberstadt, February 13, 2004, washingtonpost.com)

Population trends and demographic characteristics in Russia today are severely -- and adversely -- altering the realm of the possible for that country and its people. Russian social conditions, economic potential, military power and international influence are all affected, and the situation stands only to worsen.

Russia is at the brink of a steep demographic decline -- a peacetime population hemorrhage framed by a collapse and a catastrophic surge, respectively, in the birth and death rates. The forces that have shaped this path of depopulation and debilitation are powerful and by now deeply rooted in Russian soil. Altering this demographic trajectory would be a formidable task under any circumstances. Unfortunately, neither Russia's political leadership nor its voting public have begun to face up to this enormous challenge.

On New Year's Day 1992 -- one week after the dissolution of the Soviet Union -- Russia's population was estimated at 148.7 million. As of mid-2003, according to the Russian State Statistics Committee, the Russian Federation's population was 144.5 million. This was by no means the only population loss recorded by any country during that period. According to estimates and projections by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, more than a dozen states experienced a population decline between midyear 1992 and midyear 2003, 10 of these amounting to drops greater than Russia's 3.1 percent. But unlike some of these drops -- e.g. Bosnia's -- Russia's could not be explained in terms of war and violent upheaval. In other places, population decline was due entirely to emigration. Russia, by contrast, absorbed a substantial net influx of migrants during those years -- a total net addition of more than 5.5 million.

Moreover, continuing population decline -- at a decidedly faster tempo -- is envisioned for Russia as far as demographers care to project into the future. The only question is how steep the downward path will be. [...]

In the decades immediately ahead, Russia seems likely to contend with a sharp falloff in its youth population. Between 1975 and 2000, the number of young men ages 15 to 24 ranged between 10 million and 13 million. By 2025, on current U.N. projections, the total will be barely 6 million. Apart from the obvious military implications of this decline, there would be economic and social reverberations. With fewer young people rising to replace the older retirees graduating from the Russian workforce, the question of improving (or perhaps maintaining) the average level of skills and qualifications in the economically active population would become that much more pressing. And since younger people the world over tend to be disposed toward and associated with certain kinds of discovery, innovation and entrepreneurial risk-taking, a pronounced choking off of younger blood could have real consequences for Russia's social capabilities and economic responsiveness.

To the extent that Russian policymakers have concerned themselves with the country's negative natural increase problem, they have focused almost entirely on the birthrate -- and how to raise it. Not surprisingly, this pro-natalist impulse has foundered on the shoals of finance. In plain terms, raising the birthrate is an expensive business: especially when the potential parents are educated, urbanized women accustomed to paying careers. To induce a serious and sustained increase in childbearing, a government under such circumstances must be prepared to get into the business of hiring women to be mothers -- and this is a proposition that could make the funding of a national pension system look like pin money.

Meanwhile, Russian policy circles persist in treating the country's horrendous mortality rate with an insouciance verging on indifference.


What's surprising is not that the secular West is dying, but that it's so indifferent, even eager seeming, for that death. Thenm again, if a people believes in nothing it has only Darwinian survival instincts to fall back on, and we see how much good they are.


Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:33 AM

(PROGRESSIVE) WHITE MAN'S BURDEN:

When the soil dies and the well dries (Lester Brown, International Herald Tribune, 14/02/04)

...Most of the nearly three billion people to be added to the world's population by 2050 will live in countries where water tables are already falling and where population growth swells the ranks of those sinking into hydrological poverty. Water refugees are likely to become commonplace.

Villages in northwestern India have been abandoned because overpumping had depleted the local aquifers and villagers could no longer reach water. Millions of villagers in northern and western China and in parts of Mexico may have to move because of a lack of water.

Spreading deserts are also displacing people. In China, where the Gobi Desert is growing by 10,400 square kilometers (4,000 square miles) a year, the refugee stream is swelling. A photograph in Desert Witness, a book on desertification by the Chinese photographer Lu Tongjing, shows what looks like a perfectly normal village in the western reaches of Inner Mongolia - except for one thing. There are no people. Its 4,000 residents were forced to leave because the aquifer was depleted, leaving them with no water.

In Iran, villages abandoned because of spreading deserts already number in the thousands. In the vicinity of Damavand, a small town within an hour's drive of Tehran, 88 villages have been abandoned.

In Nigeria, 3,500 square kilometers of land become desert each year, making desertification the country's leading environmental problem.

Another source of refugees, potentially a huge one, is rising seas. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in a study in early 2001, reported that the sea level could rise by nearly one meter (3 feet) this century. But research completed since then indicates that ice is melting much faster than earlier reported, suggesting that the rise may be much higher. Even a one-meter rise in sea level would inundate half of Bangladesh's rice-growing land, forcing the relocation of 40 million people.

Other Asian countries with rice-growing river floodplains, including China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam, could bolster the mass exodus from rising seas to the hundreds of millions.

The rising flow of environmental refugees is yet another indicator that modern civilization is out of sync with the earth's natural support systems. Among other things, it tells us that we need a worldwide effort to fill the family planning gap and to create the social conditions that will accelerate the shift to smaller families, a global campaign to raise water productivity, and an energy strategy that will cut carbon dioxide emissions and stabilize the earth's climate.


Just as Human Rights Watch argues the Third World has a right under international law to suffer tyranny and genocide, so the Earth Policy Institute finds Mother Nature to be aiming her vindictive terrors primarily at non-white countries. We must fear imminent flooding in Bangladesh, but not in Holland. Desertification will ravage Asia, but not North America. The forests of Nigeria will slip away inexorably, but not those of Finland. Rice everywhere will disappear, but presumably the potato will do just fine.

The solution? Statism for us and fewer of them, of course. The left has now adopted the old idea of the yellow/black/brown peril and integrated it smoothly into its thinking. One can only dream of the day the Third World finally brings the racism that underlies so much progressive thought into stark relief by calling on French and Swedish couples to save themselves from disaster by having more children, and ponying up money and aid workers to help show them how.


February 14, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:31 PM

FLORIDA SWAMPED (via Tom Corcoran):

Dr. Florida's Fever Swamps (Shawn Macomber, 2/12/2004, American Spectator)

Economist Richard Florida sees something more than a good flick when watching the wildly popular Lord of the Rings films. Specifically, he sees the economic demise of the United States. [...]

Likewise, when musician Youssou N'Dour canceled his U.S. tour last spring to protest the invasion of Iraq, it signaled the end of the American music industry. [...]

The Carnegie Mellon professor of economic development became a hero to gays, dirty hippies, and extreme sports types everywhere a few years ago when he declared that the "creative class" was the real engine of the American economy, not those stodgy "older sectors," a catch-all term to describe the blue collar manufacturing industries.

He set out this thesis in his best-selling 2003 book The Rise of the Creative Class. Florida created a series of non-traditional "economic indicators," including the "Bohemian" and "Gay" indexes, that are relevant to that by now well-worn phrase, the "new economy."

Instead of sifting economic trends, Florida used the acres of print to answer such age old questions as: "Why cities without gays and rock bands are losing the economic development race." The Rise of the Creative Class ranked locales on "coolness" as measured by the vitality of the backbone of the new economy: artists and homosexuals.

The somewhat ham-fisted thesis of his book was that "knowledge workers" only settle in countries and cities that are "tolerant, diverse and open to creativity." Thus, tax cuts don't create jobs, or not the kind of jobs that matter. The super-cool creative workforce doesn't care about income taxes. So the path to economic prosperity is simple. The federal government should subsidize "fun" -- i.e., bike paths, indie rock bands, coffee shops, and art galleries. [...]

Of course, economics isn't called the dismal science for nothing. When Florida's colleagues finally got around to looking at the numbers, they found him to be wrong on virtually every particular.

In a sledgehammer of an article in the American Enterprise, Joel Kotkin demolished the case against the creative class thesis. Historically, the economies of Florida's vaunted top ten "creative" cities have struggled behind the national economy by several percentage points. More to the point, those cities dismissed as "least creative," have grown 60 percent faster than the "most creative" ones over the last 20 years.


Who among us wasn't inconsolable when Youssou N'Dour cancelled his tour, but the idea that the success of The Lord of the Rings demonstrates that the future lies with the values of gay Bohemia, rather than testifying to the enduring strength of traditional Judeo-Christian values, borders on the delusional. It need only be pointed out that the place where "culture" most closely resembles Mr. Florida's ideal is in the dying states of Western Europe in order to see how silly his thesis is.


MORE:
Paths to Prosperity (Joel Kotkin, July/August 2003, American Enterprise)

Today, economic growth is more likely to be found in areas dismissed by Richard Florida and his media supporters as barely worth living in. It’s not likely that this correction will be trumpeted with anything like the fervor of Florida’s original claims, however, because many journalists prefer his original perspective. In fact, a whole industry has arisen over the last decade to promote the premise that economic growth directly follows “quality of life” factors that appeal to singles, young people, homosexuals, sophistos, and trendoids. What really matters are dance clubs, cool restaurants, art museums, and hip shopping districts, many writers agreed.

If you go to today’s new growth hot-spots, however, you will find few of those supposed prerequisites of prosperity. Instead, in a land like the Inland Empire you will see single-family homes, churches, satellite dishes, and malls. These are places where households, not singles, dominate the economy. These are cultures attractive to ordinary families. And therefore to business people.

Family is the key factor here. The places high on Florida’s “Creativity Index,” such as San Francisco, Boston, and Seattle, also tend to be the parts of the U.S. with the fewest number of children per capita. In contrast, thriving places like McAllen, Boise, Fresno, Fort Worth, Provo, and the Inland Empire have among the highest percentages of children in the nation. And the reality is that family strength has a much longer and deeper track record as an indicator of economic health and entrepreneurial motivation than homosexuality or bohemianism.

America’s new growth spots tend to be economies centered around basic industries like construction, distribution, retail, and low-tech manufacturing. This can be seen in the relative success of such diverse economies as Portland, Maine; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; and McAllen, Texas. Some tech centers—like Boise, Raleigh, Austin, and Provo—also rank as family-friendly locales, with well-above-average rates of married-with-children households.

In addition to being much more family friendly places, today’s growth regions tend to differ from fashionable but economically lagging parts of the Northeast and coastal California in another way: They have different attitudes toward business and enterprising. Places like the Inland Empire are very friendly toward founders and builders of business establishments. In these places, expansion is regarded by citizens, local government, and regional media much more as a good thing than as a source of problems. That attitude is reversed in many more culturally liberal regions—and in the national media.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:43 PM

THE MAJORITY NEVER FEARS A VOTE:

Dixie Tricks: Bush sidesteps Senate to seat extremist Mississippi judge (Wade Henderson, 2.13.04, In These Times)

After the U.S. Senate twice determined that Charles W. Pickering Sr. did not deserve promotion to a lifetime appointment on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit largely because of his lifelong opposition to civil rights, President Bush sidestepped the confirmation process and granted a recess appointment.

Really? We were under the impression that Democrats prevented such a determination precisely because the full Senate would have found him deserving.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:38 PM

THE SCIENTIFIC STATE:

INTERVIEW: An Insidious Evil: Christopher Browning, the author of The Origins of the Final Solution, explains how ordinary Germans came to accept as inevitable the extermination of the Jews (Atlantic Unbound, February 11, 2004)

Browning presents the "gas van," introduced in 1939 to kill the mentally ill, as the first significant step toward Nazi extermination camps. Based on the theory of eugenics, an offshoot of nineteenth-century Darwinist thought, the Nazis formulated a program in which euthanasia was used to remove those they deemed genetically weak [...]

You begin the book by reviewing the historical events that set up the conditions for the Holocaust in Germany. One of these was, as you put it, "a distorted and incomplete embrace of the Enlightenment." Can you elaborate on this?

In Germany, after the Napoleonic conquest, the values of the Enlightenment were spread in an uneven way. What I call the humanistic and individualistic side of the Enlightenment was generally associated with the French, and in order to break away from Napoleon, the Germans embraced the scientific and rational side of the Enlightenment. You have this kind of schizophrenia where Germany absorbed those aspects of the Enlightenment that gave them the power to drive the French out but shunned those parts that they considered contrary to German values.

So a certain strand of German culture rejected such aspects of the Enlightenment as individual rights and a more liberal, democratic political tradition, while embracing the notion of rational, bureaucratic management of society. That's what I mean by a kind of unequal or asymmetrical embrace of the Enlightenment, at least within one part of German culture.

At the same time as Jews were beginning to be deported from villages in the East, you explain that the Nazis were working to resettle groups of ethnic Germans. These were people of German ancestry whose families had lived in Eastern Europe for generations, and who still lived in German-speaking communities. How were those two initiatives connected?

What's key is that the Nazis had a vision that their new empire in the East would be somewhat different from many of the overseas empires that other European nations had constructed. This wasn't going to be an empire in which you would have a thin layer of Germans ruling over a foreign native population like, for instance, the British administration in India. Rather, going along with the Nazis' very basic racial concepts, if the land didn't belong to Germany—if it wasn't part of German Lebensraum, settled entirely by people of German blood—it therefore would be only an annexation of the territories of Western Poland.

This required the expulsion of all Poles, Jews, Gypsies—all the "undesired" population. The Germans then had to resettle the area. And the way to find German blood to do this was to bring back—they used the term "repatriation"—the ethnic Germans living in the areas that were being conceded to Stalin by the Non-Aggression Pact: the Baltic Germans, the Ukrainian Germans. So these people were brought over and placed in refugee camps and then settled on evacuated Polish farms.


Freud may have been the silliest of the bearded godkillers, but at least he doesn't have so blood-soaked a legacy as Marx and Darwin.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:23 PM

BOX?:

The $45 Trillion Problem: Carefree spending, huge tax cuts, and—above all—unalterable demographic facts have put us all in a box. And there's no easy way out (Nathan Littlefield, January/February 2004, Atlantic Monthly)

Even if you think government budget numbers are generally not very interesting (and they do tend to blur together into an eye-glazing morass), here's a number to quicken the pulse: $45.5 trillion. That's the size of the long-term gap between the federal government's projected outlays (future spending plus current debt) and its projected revenues. Most government budget projections look only a brief distance into the future—a year, perhaps, or ten at the most. But Jagadeesh Gokhale and Kent Smetters, economists working at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland and the University of Pennsylvania, respectively, have looked further into the future and determined that, in effect, if the U.S. government were a company its owner would have to pay a rational investor $45.5 trillion to take it off his hands. To put this figure in perspective: the entire U.S. economy generated only about $10.4 trillion last year, and total household wealth is currently only about $39 trillion.

Perhaps one of the economists among us can explain why someone who had $45 trillion would not leap at the opportunity to buy an enterprise that had $39 trillion (it actually topped $42 Trillion by the end of the Third Quarter last year) in capital and was generating $11 Trillion in revenues a year?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:07 PM

WHAT A FLOCK OF SHUT-INS:

Glitch unmasks book 'reviewers' at Amazon.com (AMY HARMON, 2/14/04, New York Times)

Close observers of Amazon.com noticed something peculiar this week: The company's Canadian site had suddenly revealed the identities of thousands of people who had anonymously posted book reviews on the U.S. site under signatures like "a reader from New York."

The weeklong glitch, which Amazon fixed after outed reviewers complained, provided a rare glimpse at how writers and readers are wielding the online reviews as a tool to promote or pan a book -- when they think no one is watching. [...]

But even with reviewer privacy restored, many people say Amazon's pages have turned into what one writer called "a rhetorical war," where friends and family members are regularly corralled to write glowing reviews and each negative one is scrutinized for the digital fingerprints of known enemies.

One well-known writer admitted privately -- and somewhat gleefully -- to anonymously criticizing a more prominent novelist who he felt had unfairly reaped critical praise for years. She regularly posts responses, or at least he thinks it is her, but the elegant rebuttals of his reviews are also written from behind a pseudonym.


We once got an e-mail informing us that there was a clandestine effort to have the Brothers Judd reviews removed from Amazon because we were in reality a Dartmouth fraternity house with dozens of brothers posting.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:31 PM

KERRY REX (via Kevin Whited):

Wonder LandPrimary Democrats Find Perfect Vessel In John Kerry. The '60s generation has its candidate. (DANIEL HENNINGER, February 13, 2004, Wall Street Journal)

It doesn't matter that the iconic president bearing Mr. Kerry's initials (as a young man, Mr. Kerry dated Jackie Kennedy's half-sister, Janet Auchincloss) sent the U.S. into Vietnam on a flying carpet of moral certainty. Or that the political commitment to repulse communism in Vietnam, a commitment that troubled Mr. Kerry as he departed in 1968 for heroic service in the war and revulsed him when he left, was set by Lyndon Baines Johnson. Primary Democrats, for reasons that await the tools of psychoanalysis, believe Vietnam was "Nixon's war." After winning Iowa's caucuses, Mr. Kerry volunteered, "I stood up and fought against Richard Nixon's war in Vietnam."

The Republican Nixon's too-ardent anticommunism, they came to believe, was the provenance for Ronald Reagan's wrongful spending on the communist "threat." So it followed that Primary Democrats would then resist Ronald Reagan on Grenada, Nicaragua and installing Pershing missiles in Europe. As senator, Mr. Kerry held hearings into Ollie North and the Iran-Contra connection. In the same Iowa interview just last month, Mr. Kerry described that effort in the words used in the 1980s by all Primary Democrats: "I stood up and fought against Ronald Reagan's illegal war in Central America."

John Kerry was present at the creation of the moral and intellectual voyage of post-1960s Democrats. He helped map its course. [...]

The vote in 2004 is not just a referendum on the two men running for president. It is a keystone election. (Next time, Hillary Clinton, though liberal, will not run the campaign Mr. Kerry will run if nominated.) With American soldiers fighting overseas, this election offers one last vote on whether the forces put in motion around 1968 will also carry America forward into the new century--or stop, to be replaced, finally, by a new vision.


Here's your psychoanalysis: it's guilt. Even Democrats have came to realize that they were disastrously wrong about not just the Vietnam War but, even more importantly, tearing America apart because of it. So, in the primaries, where Mr. Kerry gets to frame himself, he's running as the pro-Vietnam candidate. After all, the images in his campaign ads are of him fighting the war, not protesting it, and he has the great advantage of being largely unknown outside the Beltway and Boston, so this Curtis LeMay persona is saleable.

Unfortunately for him, and his Party, Karl Rove's turn is coming and when folks out in the country find out that the Senator is more Fonda than Rambo those very same feelings of guilt are unlikely to serve him well. If voters were scared off by a Howard Dean who seemed ready to divide the nation, how likely are they to embrace a man who has already done so once before?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:10 PM

CLAPTRAPPERY (via jd watson):

Why Are Universities Dominated by the Left? (Edward Feser, 02/13/2004, Tech Central Station)

The hegemony of the Left over the universities is so overwhelming that not even Leftists deny it. [...]
 
The rankest claptrap is given the most serious consideration, while common sense and tradition are dismissed without a hearing. Why is this so?
 
The mystery only deepens when we consider that intellectual life was, for centuries -- even millennia -- not at all like this. The most influential views among Western intellectuals in particular once were, even when they were in error, of a decidedly down-to-earth and common sense nature where morality and politics were concerned, the Aristotelianism that dominated intellectual life through the Middle Ages being the chief example. There have always been eccentrics too, of course; but perversity, at least where theorizing about practical affairs is concerned, is largely a modern phenomenon. Indeed, it is only very recently in modernity that it has become something of the norm: specifically, with the great frontal attack on received ideas about human nature and society represented by late 19th- and early 20th-century thinkers like Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud.
 
The astute reader will have noticed that, at least as I have described the situation, the era of common sense coincides with the medieval Age of Faith, while the thinkers cited as heralding the era of perversity are the great representatives of modern atheism, a kind of Four Horsemen of the secular Apocalypse. And here, I believe, lies the answer to our riddle. For if the great minds of the Middle Ages saw their mission as upholding a religious view of the world, so too, would I argue, do the intellectuals of the modern world. Here Rothbard was, in his own somewhat crude way, the closest to the truth: the modern professoriate is best understood as a kind of priesthood, and its religion is Leftism.

There's a much easier way to comprehend the phenomenon that Mr. Feser is describing than to try and trace it back to either intellectuals in and of themselves or to Leftism as a doctrine. The simple truth is that these various absurd and obfuscatory theories that have come to dominate the humanities are a reaction to the quite truthful but complex insights that science has revealed over the past couple centuries.

One of the effects of scientific complexity has been to create a need for specialization--it has been said that Goethe was the last genius for whom it was possible to comprehend everything that was known in his culture. Were he alive today, for example, it would be necessary for him to actually go and study physics somewhere before he could speak to a physicist as a peer or to go study medicine before we'd go to him for brain surgery.

On the other hand, there's no reason that you couldn't walk into any research lab in the country and grab the next five people you met, hand them copies of A Tale of Two Cities and sit down a week later and discuss the book intelligently with them. Such a situation, that science had become somewhat inaccessible while the arts remained universal, was just intolerable to those in the humanities. The obvious solution was to make the study of the arts just as obscure and specialized as higher math and science. However, a problem arises because where the sciences were being driven by genuine discoveries, great art is by its very nature universal. How to escape this quandary?

Well, go look at a Picasso or try reading Joyce and it's easy enough to figure out what the intellectuals did--they just pretended that their trades were incredibly complex too. Joyce spilled the beans when he said: "The demand I make of my reader is that he should devote his whole life to reading my works." Shakespeare rattled off plays to please a mass audience and he created great literature--Joyce wrote in order that only a secret sect could decipher his meanings, his intent not to please or edify but to be himself a part of the in-group.

This may at first appear to leave open the question of why intellectuals moved so rapidly and so far to the Left, but on further consideration that too is pretty obvious. Whatever one thinks of particular religions or specific religious doctrines, it seems apparent that Judeo-Christianity is founded upon a series of key insights about humanity and our relation to the world around us--chief among these is that we are by our very nature Fallen beings and prone to sin. If you are going to try to make your field of study as unavailing of common sense as possible, how better do so than deny universal truth? So the four thinkers he cites--Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud--each deny the truth, though perhaps not intentionally, and their followers, quite intentionally, then pushed their theories ever further from reality until eventually only someone immersed in such nonsense could hope to unravel it.

Given the cachet we grant to people of learning, this strategy worked for some time. Recall Tom Wolfe's opening lines about modern architecture in From Bauhaus to Our House:

O beautiful, for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, has there ever been another place on earth where so many people of wealth and power have paid for and put up with so much architecture they detested as within they blessed borders today?

But the need to keep pushing ridiculous theories further and further, combined with the need to deny their ridiculousness, led to an inevitable backlash and the collapse--everywhere but on campus and amongst intellectual elites--of the various isms the "thinkers" propounded. Consider, for example, the hostility which greeted the more "cutting edge" designs for the new World Trade Center. People of wealth and power may still be fooled, but the unwashed masses are not amused.

So on our campuses today we find students choosing to take courses in math and science at much higher rates than ever they used to and the Birkenstocked mafia of the humanities preaching to a dwindling cohort and become little more than objects of perplexity, fun, hostility, or outright ridicule in the wider world. It seems then unlikely that the claptrapists will dominate the next generation as they have the past couple. Let us enjoy the spectacle while we can.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:16 PM

HOW MY POOR HEART ACHES (via Kevin Whited):

Presence of Army agents stirs furor: Roster sought of attendees at UT meeting on Islam (JANET ELLIOTT, 2/14/04, Houston Chronicle)

University of Texas law students and professors are questioning the actions of two Army intelligence agents who roamed the school halls Monday looking for a roster of attendees at a recent conference on Islamic law and sexism. [...]

Jessica Biddle, a third-year law student from Houston, was questioned by Special Agent Jason Treesh in the office of the Texas Journal of Women and the Law, where she is co-editor. The journal had donated money for the conference and reserved a courtroom at the law school for the Feb. 4 event.

"I thought it was outrageous. He was intimidating and was using the element of surprise to try to get information out of us, which was wholly inappropriate," Biddle said. "The conference was an academic conference, totally benign and not focused on foreign policy."


If it's benign why worry about them getting the list?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:05 PM

DON'T FEAR 'EM, KILL 'EM (via Thomas A. Corcoran):

Is Fear Itself the Enemy? (EDWARD ROTHSTEIN, 2/14/04, NY Times)

[A]t a time in which a war on Islamist terror is working itself out in so many incarnations and with so many controversies, what seems noteworthy is that there are now so few examples of graphic American propaganda and none using ethnic or racial caricatures.

Yet this conference, called "Fear: Its Uses and Abuses," which extended over three days, paid little attention to that difference. Beginning with former Vice President Al Gore, who delivered the keynote address, speakers asserted again and again that the American government is preoccupied with instilling fear. The conference, organized by the journal Social Text and its editor, Arien Mack, gathered scholars like the poet and critic John Hollander, the political scientists George Kateb and Ira Katznelson, and the law professor Cass R. Sunstein. There were talks on the neuropsychology of fear, the social psychology of fear and fear in literature, and varied analyses of the Bush administration from critics like the Nation columnist Eric Alterman and Aryeh Neier, the president of the Open Society Institute.

But the dominant idea was that, as the conference's thematic statement put it, fear was being "encouraged by our government and exacerbated by our media." It was compared with the irrational fear of Communism and the perversions of McCarthyism. It was described as part of a counter-constitutional coup by a radical right. Talks about other aspects of fear — how, for example, it tends to drive out reflective thought with its stimulus of the "lateral nucleus of the amygdala" — mainly served to frame the theme. Mr. Hollander devoted some time to discussing Roosevelt's classic statement that "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself," but after a while it became evident that "fear itself" was what many speakers wanted to inspire, not just to describe.

Mr. Gore asserted that a "powerful clique" had the run of the White House. We were being ruled, he said, by a president with a "determined disinterest in the facts," who "abused the trust of the American people by exploiting the fears of the American people," and a Republican party that thinks of other Americans as "agents of treason." The "machinery of fear is right out in the open," he said, "operating at full throttle." [...]

There was a reluctance to use the concept of an enemy to refer to anything but domestic political opponents. This is similar to a problem described in Lee Harris's Civilization and Its Enemies: The Next Stage of History, a new book that in its idiosyncratic brilliance and unrelentingly aggressive vision about the war on terror is bound to stir more controversy — and fear — than the New School conference. For we live, according to Mr. Harris, in a civilization with an intellectual culture that is reluctant to take the idea of an external enemy seriously; its enemies, though, have no such qualms.

"We are caught," Mr. Harris writes, "in the midst of a conflict between those for whom the category of the enemy is essential to their way of organizing all human experience and those who have banished even the idea of the enemy form both public discourse and even their innermost thoughts."

For those prepared to accept even some of Mr. Harris's premises, there is nothing to fear but the lack of fear itself.


Both sides are right here. We have no more reason to "fear" Islamicism than we did Communism or Nazism--none is/was a serious threat to the Republic. However, they are/were our enemies and our enemies deserve to be treated rather harshly--in fact deprived of all power, and if possible of life--regardless of whether they can do anything even remotely similar to us. As Mr. Rothstein writes, what's notable about our current war is that President Bush has avoided fear-mongering and demonization of Islam, even as he's cold-bloodedly pursued the enemy. Compare this to FDR who may have said "we have nothing to fear but fear itself" but who also rounded up innocent citizens and put them in concentration camps simply because of their race and proceeded to pursue a horribly misguided war policy in Europe because his hatred of the Germans blinded him to geopolitical realities.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:50 AM

WARMAKERS AND PEACEMAKERS:

The Zarqawi Rules (DAVID BROOKS, 2/14/04, NY Times)

If you read the memo properly, you can extract what might be called "Zarqawi's Rules" -- maxims for winning the war on terror.

Massive retaliation works. We now know that Saddam Hussein felt free to defy the international community because he thought that casualty-averse Americans would never actually invade his country. At worst, we'd drop a few bombs, which he could survive. Now our enemies know us better, and respect us more. "America, however, has no intention of leaving, no matter how many wounded nor how bloody it becomes," Zarqawi warns his colleagues. This shift in perceptions should deter some attacks all by itself.

Hard power isn't enough. The extensive coalition effort to hunt down terrorists is clearly making progress. "Our enemy is growing stronger day after day, and its intelligence information increases. By God, this is suffocation!" Zarqawi laments.

But he also says only an indigenous Iraqi security force, backed by a legitimate democratic government, can truly put him out of business. [...]

The lesson is that the so-called soft-power programs — the democracy-building seminars, the civil society efforts, the town hall meetings — are not the gooey icing on the cake of law and order. They are the substance of law and order itself.

Soft power isn't enough. Though Zarqawi senses that his time in Iraq is running out, he is already preparing for the next battle: "If, God forbid, the government is successful and takes control of the country, we just have to pack up and go somewhere else again, where we can raise the flag or die, if God chooses us." [...]

The Zarqawi memo's central message is that there is a symbiotic relationship between hard power — the sort of thing the Pentagon can do — and soft power, the sort of thing the National Endowment for Democracy and the United Nations can do.


This is a logical division of responsibilities: America and its few reliable allies determine who is not allowed to govern certain states and the UN works to make those places more governable, but gets no say in the prior matter.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:43 AM

IN AMERICA, WHERE THE BLOOD RUNS COLD:

The Vietnam vet will win: No candidate has more relevant personal experience or better policies than John Kerry, the man who'll beat Bush (Will Hutton, February 8, 2004, The Observer)

It is testimony to the profound dominance of conservatism on the American national consensus, with the noxious charge of not being patriotic that is levelled by Bush against any critic, that the best way any liberal voice can fireproof himself against such a charge is to play the Vietnam vet card. As Kerry says, in order to be heard about the rollcall of domestic issues that concern ordinary Americans, any Democratic presidential candidate has to get past the security issue; being a decorated Vietnam vet offers Kerry the passport.

So now for one safe-ish forecast and one risky prediction, which I wish I had written last May when I first met the Kerry camp. Kerry is going to win the nomination to be the Democrat presidential candidate and I think he will go on to beat George Bush. American democracy may have its grievous defects - the role of money, the grotesquely gerrymandered congressional districts, the low turnouts and all the rest - but it still retains a core functionality.

Bush led his country into an illegitimate war for trumped-up reasons; the consequent morass is already costing more than $100 billion, many American lives and profoundly compromising US and Western interests. In a democracy, you pay for such fundamental misjudgments with your job and Bush will pay with his.

The American democratic process in this respect is showing its underlying smartness. Howard Dean's emergence as the Democratic front runner for President last year was very important. He articulated the raw anger that the Democrat base felt at Bush and he reminded the Democratic establishment about core Democratic values.

If you weren't stirred by Dean's rallying call, you had cold blood. But it isn't and wasn't good enough to get mad - Democrats have to get even.

Too much is at stake in this election to risk the indulgence of a candidate who, however fiercely he may proclaim his commitment to fiscal conservatism and toughness on crime, is now so far from the centre as Dean, and who, moreover, does not have the cachet of having seen military service. In January, faced with the sobering truth that 2004 is an election year, Democrat voters have turned their back on Dean's rage and embraced the war hero. They want their case to get to first base.


At the point where you're referring to the "profound dominance of conservatism on the American national consensus" and opining that "If you weren't stirred by Dean's rallying call, you had cold blood" you have to recognize that you're kidding yourself.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:43 AM

OUR FREEDOM:

When Philosophy Makes a Difference (SARAH LYALL, February 14, 2004, NY Times)

When the Library of Congress first talked to the 76-year-old Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski, it was to ask him to nominate candidates for a new $1 million humanities prize. So he was taken aback when the Library later called to tell him he had won the award himself.

If Dr. Kolakowski was surprised, most Americans were probably puzzled; his name is not well known in the United States. But for those who wonder why this philosopher was selected for the first John W. Kluge Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Humanities and Social Sciences, Dr. James H. Billington, the librarian of Congress, explained it in his announcement three months ago: "Very rarely can one identify a deep, reflective thinker who has had such a wide range of inquiry and demonstrable importance to major political events in his own time."

Born in Poland and ejected from his university position and from the Communist Party in the 1960's because of his increasingly anti-orthodox beliefs, Dr. Kolakowski in exile became a major figure in the Polish Solidarity movement in the 1980's. His three-volume dissection of Marxism, "Main Currents of Marxism" (1978), is considered a definitive work on the subject. But he is also a lucid and engaging essayist whose books and other writings touch on subjects like Spinoza, Kant, modernism, authority and free will, and the relevance of philosophy in everyday life


-LETTER: THE FATE OF POLAND By Leszek Kolakowski, Reply by Theodore H. Draper (In response to Yalta & the Fate of Poland: An Exchange (August 14, 1986), November 20, 1986, NY Review of Books)
To the Editors:

Readers are quickly bored with protracted polemics in journals. My remarks on Mr. Draper's counter-comment on Yalta [NYR, August 14] will thus be cut to minimum. Mr. Draper has got the facts wrong. He thinks that the Polish government in exile was just a self-appointed body, a group of people who called themselves a government and that one may not speak of the breach in continuity of the Polish state in 1945, as this breach had occurred in 1939. In reality the Polish government was a perfectly constitutional body; it was operating under the provisions of the 1935 constitution which assured special legal forms of continuity in the case of war (this constitution was criticized by many people for other reasons, which we do not need to dwell upon now). As such, this government was recognized by Poles living and dying under the German occupation; it had its extended underground apparatus and an army that fought the Nazis both in Poland and in the West; at the time of Yalta part of this army, consisting mainly of refugees from the Soviet liberators, was fighting in Italy. As such this government was recognized by the Western allies until the moment when Stalin had a better idea to which Churchill and Roosevelt readily (and honorably, no doubt) bowed. It was recognized, for that matter, by the Soviets from 1941, when Hitler broke his friendship with Stalin, until the moment when those Polish extremists, as Mr. Draper calls them, impudently wanted to know who had murdered in Katyn thousands of Polish officers captured by the Soviets in September 1939.

And Mr. Draper thinks that to predict, in February 1945, the destiny of Poland under the Yalta agreement would take clairvoyance or even, as he says, fantastic clairvoyance (meaning that nobody can be blamed for not being clairvoyant, least of all Churchill and Roosevelt). This, I believe, is too flattering to the Poles, millions of whom proved to have had this supernatural gift, including, of course, the Polish government in exile; apart from its clairvoyance and the memory of its experience with the Soviets, it had a fair amount of information about the behavior and intentions of the Soviets who by then had ruled the parts of Poland east of the Vistula for over half a year. This information was made available to Western governments (with no results).


Well, he's certainly got that right.


MORE:
-INTERVIEW: PRIZE WINNER: Leszek Kolakowski, an anti-Communist Polish philosopher at Oxford University in England, was awarded the first $1 million John W. Kluge prize for lifetime achievement in the humanities. Jeffrey Brown reports on Kolakowski and the new honor. (Online Newshour, November 5, 2003, PBS)
-BIO: Leszek Kolakowski (1927-) (kirjasto)
-BIO: Leszek Kolakowski (1927-) (Polish Culture)
-ESSAY: "How to be a Conservative-Liberal-Socialist" (Leszek Kolakowski, Modernity on Endless Trial)

A Conservative Believes:

1. That in human life there never have been and never will be improvements that are not paid for with deteriorations and evils; thus, in considering each project of reform and amelioration, its price has to be assessed. Put another way, innumerable evils are compatible (i.e. we can suffer them comprehensively and simultaneously); but many goods limit or cancel each other, and therefore we will never enjoy them fully at the same time. A society in which there is no equality and no liberty of any kind is perfectly possible, yet a social order combining total equality and freedom is not. The same applies to the compatibility of planning and the principle of autonomy, to security and technical progress. Put yet another way, there is no happy ending in human history.

2. That we do not know the extent to which various traditional forms of social life--families, rituals, nations, religious communities--are indispensable if life in a society is to be tolerable or even possible. There are no grounds for believing that when we destroy these forms, or brand them as irrational, we increase the chance of happiness, peace, security, or freedom. We have no certain knowledge of what might occur if, for example, the monogamous family was abrogated, or if the time-honored custom of burying the dead were to give way to the rational recycling of corpses for industrial purposes. But we would do well to expect the worst.

3. That the idee fixe of the Enlightenment--that envy, vanity, greed, and aggression are all caused by the deficiencies of social institutions and that they will be swept away once these institutions are reformed-- is not only utterly incredible and contrary to all experience, but is highly dangerous. How on earth did all these institutions arise if they were so contrary to the true nature of man? To hope that we can institutionalize brotherhood, love, and altruism is already to have a reliable blueprint for despotism.


-ARCHIVES: "Leszek Kolakowski" (Find Articles)
-ARCHIVES: "Leszek Kolakowski" (NY Review of Books)
-REVIEW: of Modernity on Endless Trial by Leszek Kolakowski (Robert Royal, First Things)
-REVIEW: of Freedom, Fame, Lying and Betrayal: Essays on Everyday Life by Leszek Kolakowski (The Bactra Review: Occasional and eclectic book reviews by Cosma Shalizi)


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:46 AM

WHO KNEW HE'D THROW LONG?:

Halliburton Likely to Be a Campaign Issue This Fall (JOEL BRINKLEY, 2/14/04, NY Times)

As the accusations and investigations of the Halliburton Company's federal contracts in Iraq expand in size and number, Democrats say they will use the company's ties to the Bush administration as a campaign issue, and Halliburton is responding with television advertisements implying that it is being unfairly singled out.

Amazingly, even in the fourth quarter, the Democrats play run defense though they're facing Don Coryell. So here we see them preparing to attack someone who won't even be on the ticket.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:40 AM

MANIFEST DESTINY (via Tom Lane):

Democratic Realism: An American Foreign Policy for a Unipolar World (Charles Krauthammer, Thursday, February 12, 2004, 2004 Irving Kristol Lecture, AEI Annual Dinner)

What is the unipolar power to do?

Four schools, four answers.

The isolationists want simply to ignore unipolarity, pull up the drawbridge, and defend Fortress America. Alas, the Fortress has no moat--not after the airplane, the submarine, the ballistic missile--and as for the drawbridge, it was blown up on 9/11.

Then there are the liberal internationalists. They like to dream, and to the extent they are aware of our unipolar power, they don't like it. They see its use for anything other than humanitarianism or reflexive self-defense as an expression of national selfishness. And they don't just want us to ignore our unique power, they want us to yield it piece by piece, by subsuming ourselves in a new global architecture in which America becomes not the arbiter of international events, but a good and tame international citizen.
Then there is realism, which has the clearest understanding of the new unipolarity and its uses--unilateral and preemptive if necessary. But in the end, it fails because it offers no vision. It is all means and no ends. It cannot adequately define our mission.

Hence, the fourth school: democratic globalism. It has, in this decade, rallied the American people to a struggle over values. It seeks to vindicate the American idea by making the spread of democracy, the success of liberty, the ends and means of American foreign policy.

I support that. I applaud that. But I believe it must be tempered in its universalistic aspirations and rhetoric from a democratic globalism to a democratic realism. It must be targeted, focused and limited. We are friends to all, but we come ashore only where it really counts. And where it counts today is that Islamic crescent stretching from North Africa to Afghanistan.
In October 1962, during the Cuban Missile crisis, we came to the edge of the abyss. Then, accompanied by our equally shaken adversary, we both deliberately drew back. On September 11, 2001, we saw the face of Armageddon again, but this time with an enemy that does not draw back. This time the enemy knows no reason.

Were that the only difference between now and then, our situation would be hopeless. But there is a second difference between now and then: the uniqueness of our power, unrivaled, not just today but ever. That evens the odds. The rationality of the enemy is something beyond our control. But the use of our power is within our control. And if that power is used wisely, constrained not by illusions and fictions but only by the limits of our mission--which is to bring a modicum of freedom as an antidote to nihilism--we can, and will, prevail.


Of course the reason we face Islamicism now is because we did not settle the totalitarianism issue with the USSR when given a perfect opportunity to do so in 1962--or preferably long before. And Mr. Krauthammer's limitation of the American mission to the Middle East alone plays into the image of neocons as concerned only with threats to Israeli security. But if we just broaden the vista for him, democratic globalism (or forcing the end of history) is the policy we should be using our unique power to vindicate.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:26 AM

BATTLE FOR THE BUCKET:

So Begins the Vice-Presidential Mating Dance (TODD S. PURDUM, 2/14/04, NY Times)

Senator John Edwards used to say he didn't want it, but now he's not so sure. Gov. Jennifer Granholm of Michigan couldn't take it, because she is Canadian-born. Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico has already begun asking people if he should accept it, suggesting he thinks it could be his.

It is the No. 2 spot on the Democratic ticket, and Gen. Wesley K. Clark is said by some Democrats to covet it so much that he no sooner folded his own tent than he endorsed his party's front-runner, Senator John Kerry, in Wisconsin on Friday. Afterward, the general told amused Kerry aides, "You were my pick," implying that had he not run, he would have backed Mr. Kerry all along.

It may barely be Valentine's Day, but the vice-presidential mating dance has begun. [...]

"If anybody tells you they wouldn't be interested in being vice president," said Senator John B. Breaux, Democrat of Louisiana, a potential swing state, "they're not telling you the truth."


Bill Richardson is the best of the lot--particularly since the top of the ticket will be one of the senators, and a governor would bring much needed executive credentials. But John Kerry suddenly has to look even more seriously at choosing a woman running mate, just to make himself appear trustworthy to the fairer sex.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:07 AM

GLEE CLUB, 4-H, AND JUNIOR ACHIEVEMENT:

Pic of 'JFK' sex storm girl (BRIAN FLYNN, 2/14/04, The Sun)

THIS is the girl at the centre of a sex scandal that threatens Democratic front-runner John Kerry’s run for the White House.

Presidential hopeful Kerry, dubbed the new JFK, has denied claims he had a two-year fling with brunette Alex Polier. Alex, 27, was a cross-country runner and in the world affairs club at her Philadelphia school.

One source said: “She was attractive, intelligent and one of the leaders in her year.”

She went on to graduate from Columbia University, New York, and met Kerry, 60, as she began a career as a freelance journalist.


Here's the least we can ask of our fifty and sixty year old leaders: when your sex scandal breaks, how about having a partner old enough that news services aren't reduced to using yearbook pictures to identify them, huh?


MORE:
JOHN RIPS INTERN RUMORS (DEBORAH ORIN, February 14, 2004, NY post)

Democratic front-runner John Kerry yesterday said allegations of a relationship with a young woman are "untrue" and told his supporters not to worry about anything in his past.

"I just deny it categorically. It's rumor. It's untrue. Period," Kerry told reporters traveling with his campaign.

After denying the report, Kerry added: "And that's the last time I intend to."


Dream on.

N.B. The double entendre in the headline though is exquisite.


February 13, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:55 PM

DAMN THOSE REPUBLICAN SCANDALMONGERS!:

The Kerry scandal? (MICHAEL SNEED, February 13, 2004, Chicago Sun-Times)

Sneed is told the real reason former Dem presidential nominee Al Gore did NOT select Kerry as his veepmate was because of allegations of women problems, or marital infidelity involving Kerry's marriage to Heinz, heiress to the Heinz Ketchup fortune, whom he met in 1990.

A top source tells Sneed Gore was talking about Kerry's sexual baggage "with a young woman" as recently as late last week!

"Kerry was the favorite to be Gore's veep, but they worried a female problem could erupt, so U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman was selected instead," said the source.

"In addition to Gore backing Howard Dean for president, because he wanted access to the cadre of Dean youth called the "Deanie babies" when he runs for president again and goes up against Hillary Clinton, Gore chose Dean because he feared the Kerry female mess would rear its ugly head," the source added.


Not content with just taking out Howard Dean--by endorsing him--the former veep goes for a two-fer? (Three, if you count his own campaign.)


Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:47 PM

HIDE IN PLAIN SIGHT:

Health Savings Accounts great plan for health care (TERRY SAVAGE, January 22, 2004, Chicago Sun-Times)

The Health Savings Account was hidden away in the prescription drug bill passed by Congress last December. But unlike the seriously flawed drug plan, the Health Savings Account is an exciting concept that could make health insurance available -- affordable -- for millions of Americans who aren't covered by an employer plan.

It's a concept so new that the insurance industry is just gearing up to make it available. Health Savings Accounts combine inexpensive, high-deductible health insurance plans with a tax-advantaged savings account. "Tax-advantaged" is a new phrase, appropriate because this new account has so many different tax benefits.

Aside from making health insurance more affordable, there's a great social benefit to HSAs since they encourage everyone to be more watchful about unnecessary medical tests and expenses. If you don't spend the money in your HSA account, you keep it!

So let me explain how the plans work and how much money you can save. Then, in the coming weeks as various plans start to be offered by insurers, I'll give you some guidance about specific plans and how to compare them.


They were the point of the bill.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:38 PM

DOUGH BOY (via mc):

How did theKerry cookies crumble? (Sam Dealey, 1/28/04, The Hill)

To hear Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) tell it, his brief foray into the cookie business in the late 1970s gives him a leg up on the concerns of small-business owners. Earlier this month, the Democratic presidential candidate introduced his small-business program with vignettes from his own cookie-making experience.

Yet all that experience kind of, well, crumbles, in the mind of David Liederman, another cookie entrepreneur. Liederman, the founder of the David's Cookies chain, claims Kerry ripped off the idea from him.

"The bottom line is he just stole it from me," said Liederman, now a restaurateur and real estate developer in the New York City suburbs.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:32 PM

THE ARRANGEMENT:

Rumsfeld on Israel (Washington Times, 2/13/04)

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld fielded questions during his recent visit to Munich where he took part in an annual European security conference.

He was asked about the Arab-Israeli conflict and Israel's nuclear weapons. One man identified as a Palestinian noted Israel's nuclear weapons and suggested the United States is worried about Iran and North Korea but is not doing anything about Israel's arsenal.

"You know the answer before I give it, I'm sure," Mr. Rumsfeld replied. "The world knows the answer. We take the world like you find it; and Israel is a small state with a small population. It's a democracy and it exists in a neighborhood. Many, over a period of time, [have] opined from time to time that they'd prefer it not be there and they'd like it to be put in the sea. And Israel has opined that it would prefer not to get put in the sea, and as a result, over a period of decades, it has arranged itself so it hasn't been put in the sea."


If George W. Bush could speak that fluidly he'd be president.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:26 PM

WHAT? NO DICTIONARY WORK?:

Ex-Guardsman Says Bush Served in Ala. (ALLEN G. BREED, 2/13/04, Associated Press)

A retired Alabama Air National Guard officer said Friday that he remembers George W. Bush showing up for duty in Alabama in 1972, reading safety magazines and flight manuals in an office as he performed his weekend obligations.

This gives a real flavor of how silly the whole story is--will we all be comforted now that we know he showed up to do every last jot and tittle of pointless busy work?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:07 PM

TRY THEM UNDER RULE 303:

A Familiar, Thorny Record Of Wartime Justice (Michael Dobbs, February 8, 2004, washingtonpost.com)

There are few more difficult issues for a democracy than how it metes out justice to its enemies in time of war. Over the coming weeks and months, as the Supreme Court hears a series of challenges to the Bush administration's proposed use of military commissions to try suspected terrorists, we will become spectators to an extraordinary constitutional drama.

For a preview of how the action is likely to unfold, consider what happened the last time the play was performed, 62 years ago. The setting: wartime Washington. The leading characters: a president determined to make an example out of a group of captured saboteurs; a gritty, Army-appointed defense lawyer intent on doing the best he can for his unpopular clients; nine Supreme Court justices struggling to balance the competing demands of law and war. These characters -- like their modern-day counterparts -- epitomized the American justice system to the rest of the world, and history has delivered a mixed verdict on their performance.

I became fascinated with the case of the Nazi saboteurs (who traveled to America by U-boat with the aim of blowing up factories, bridges and department stores) at about the time the planes crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. The more I delved into the archives, the more I was struck by the parallels between then and now. When President Bush decided, two months after 9/11, to emulate President Franklin D. Roosevelt and establish military tribunals for alleged al Qaeda operatives, history appeared to be repeating itself. [...]

Views about whether justice was served in the saboteur case have veered back and forth, depending on whether America is at war or at peace.


There's a threshold question to be answered here: why would a democracy apply its internal standards of justice to the enemy in a time of war? What useful purpose does that serve for the citizenry?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:39 PM

UPI WINS:

Kerry denies allegations of infidelity (UPI, Feb 13 2004)

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., front-runner for the U.S. Democratic presidential nomination, Friday denied he engaged in an extra-marital affair.

"Well, there is nothing to report," Kerry told the talk radio show Imus in the Morning. "So there is nothing to talk about. I'm not worried about it. No."


Where's the part where he denied the allegation? This is a Nixonian non-denial-denial.


MORE:
Kerry Says He's Ready for GOP Onslaught (DAVID ESPO, 2/13/04, AP)

John Kerry, attacked by President Bush's campaign as a pretend foe of the special interests, said Friday he is "ready to fight back" in the battle for the White House. Former candidate Wesley Clark offered to help the front-runner oust the Republican incumbent.

"These guys will want to try to do everything to change the subject," the Democratic presidential front-runner said in an interview on the Don Imus radio program.


Might help if he weren't standing next to the guy who raised the subject of his "intern problem".


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:30 PM

VLAD TIDINGS:

Chechen Terror Leader Killed by Car Bomb (The Scotsman, 2/13/04)

Former Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, who has been linked to al-Qaida and was accused by Russia of maintaining international terrorist ties, was killed today after his car exploded in the Qatari capital Doha.
An official at the Qatari interior ministry said the explosion killed Yandarbiyev and injured his 13-year-old son.

A doctor at Hamad General Hospital said Yandarbiyev died from his injuries on his way to the hospital. Yandarbiyev’s son was in a critical condition.

The doctor said they were the only two people brought to the Hamad General Hospital, but a hospital official had said earlier that two bodyguards were dead on arrival.

The Russian Embassy had no immediate comment.


Actions do speak louder than words.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:38 AM

POISONED BY FAIRY TALES:

The Lie of Egalitarianism: John Kekes, the author of The Illusions of Egalitarianism, discusses the absurdity - and danger - of pursuing "equality." (Jamie Glazov, 2/13/04, Frontpage)

Kekes: One basic truth about human nature is that people are individuals: they have different strengths and weaknesses, different talents and shortcomings, different experiences, different upbringing, and different luck in lives. Their actions reflect these differences. And whether their actions succeed or fail depends on these differences. Egalitarians find these differences immoral. But this is simply a failure to accept the human condition, the fact that human beings are different as a result of genetic inheritance and subsequent experiences.

To undo these differences would require forcing people to live and act in the same way, and that would destroy individuality and establish the worst kind of tyranny the world has ever seen. Egalitarians perhaps do not intend this, but whether they intend it or not, this is what they would have to aim at in order to pursue their absurd goal of changing human nature. [...]

FP: [L]et’s talk about how the bad idea of socialism and Marxism was applied repeatedly throughout the 20th century and how it ended up producing 100 million corpses. And yet, despite this genocide, the Marxist idea continues to be as popular as ever in academia and other milieus. The Left is completely unchastened in terms of the horrific consequences of its own ideas. If it has another opportunity to put socialism into practise, even though it will automatically create another Stalin or Pol Pot, it will do it. And it will do it over and over again. How do we explain the Left’s refusal to acknowledge the human blood that flows from its ideas – and its insistence to continue reapplying the same ideas over and over again?

Kekes: I'll try to answer the question you pose in a minute, but I want to distinguish first between Marxist and non-Marxist socialism. When I agreed with you about the evil consequences of socialism I meant only the Marxist version. I am strongly opposed to all forms of socialism, but it has to be said that the socialist governments in England or Sweden, for example, were not evil. Their policies were mistaken, in my opinion, but they had nothing to do with the sort of mass murder that Stalin and Mao had perpetrated.

It is, therefore, one question of why some people on the Left sympathize with non-Marxist socialism, and quite another why they sympathize with the Marxist kind. Having said that, it remains true, of course, that many Lefists do sympathize with Marxist socialism, which continues to be popular in academia, and it requires an explanation of how supposedly intelligent, well-informed academics could continue to have that sympathy after the well-known atrocities of the Marxist socialist regimes.

My answer is not simple because I think that the explanation is a complex mixture of several causes. First, these largely American academics do not believe that the atrocities were all that bad. They may concede that a few people have been unjustly murdered, but they refuse to accept that their number ran in the tens of millions. They think that the numbers have been exaggerated by right-wing propaganda. And as to those who have been unjustly murdered, they think that all countries, especially America, have been guilty of worse offenses. Not a word of this is true, of course, but that is what they believe.

So we need to ask how they could continue to hold such beliefs in the face of the readily available evidence to the contrary. Part of the answer is that they are outraged by what they see as the grave defects of their own society. They see poverty, racism, exploitation, and they think that the system that allows such things to happen is so rotten that it must be radically changed. They look around for an alternative to it, and Marxist socialism looks attractive to them from a distance. It lends some plausibility to their position that it is true that bad things have happened in America. It would be dishonest to deny this.

But what they don't see is that our system is set up in such a way that the bad things are publicly identified, acknowledged, great attempts are made to correct them, and are not allowed to continue. Our system is open, both the good and the bad are visible, not kept secret. In Marxist socialist regimes, great efforts were made to hide the bad things from outsiders. This was done by secrecy, deception, propaganda, and reliance on the testimony of people who were either duped or terrorized.

So these American would-be Marxist socialists see the bad here, don't see the awful there, and they arrive at the stupid view that what they are not allowed to see is not there. But this is still not the full answer to your question. For we need to understand the outrage that so often goes with these Leftist political commitments. Why are they so angry? I think this is because of their innocence. They start with the belief that everyone is basically good, that if people did not starve, were not unjustly treated, and so forth, then life would be simple and pleasant.

They don't see that in any complex society conflicts of interests are frequent, that people are motivated not just by love, altruism, sympathy, and kindness, but also by selfishness, greed, aggression, hatred, prejudice, cruelty, and so forth, and the idea of basic human goodness is a sentimental falsification of reality. They refuse to believe these hard truths, partly because is would shatter their illusions, and partly because their implications are frightening. They are outraged because they feel that their illusions are attacked. They passionately feel that the world ought not to be like that. But the world is like that and the rage is a symptom of their refusal to admit it. Most of these Leftists have never lived in a repressive tyrannical society, and they cannot imagine just how bad life could be. Their innocence is due to their ignorance, and their innocence is irresponsible because the knowledge they lack is readily available but they refuse to acquire it. And they refuse it because it would result in the painful loss of their innocence.


The idea that Man is basically good is not evil in itself, but none other has produced as much evil.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:22 AM

KENYA? (via Casey Abell):

Kerry to answer sex affair claim (PHILLIP COOREY, February 14, 2004, news.com.au)

At the centre of the allegations is Alex Polier, 24, who had worked as a New York-based reporter for Associated Press. She now is now in Kenya.

Her parents, Donna and Terry, speaking from Malvern, Pennsylvania yesterday, said there was no evidence of an affair, only that Senator Kerry may have been attracted to their daughter.

Mr Polier said Senator Kerry had called his daughter "two or three years ago" to ask her to work on his re-election team. She declined.

"I think he's a sleaze-ball," Mr Polier told London's Sun newspaper.

Mrs Polier claimed Senator Kerry was "after" her daughter.


Hard to see where the "I'm a stalker not an adulterer" defense gets him.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:15 AM

JUST A GLORIFIED JOBS PROGRAM:

Teachers union chief warns of lawsuit over planned job cuts (ROSALIND ROSSI , February 13, 2004, Chicago Sun-Times)

A plan to eliminate 1,000 school jobs to help plug an estimated $200 million Chicago public school deficit is an "outrage'' that could trigger legal action by the Chicago Teachers Union, CTU President Deborah Lynch said Thursday.

Lynch said a budget shortfall was never mentioned during this fall's contract talks, and instead the union was assured the system had enough money to fund this year's 4 percent teacher pay raise.

So, she said, threats of job cuts reflect either "bad-faith bargaining,'' which could trigger an unfair labor practice complaint, or budget "ignorance.'' [...]

Chicago Schools CEO Arne Duncan said later that teachers "needed and deserved'' a pay raise. He said he hopes the 1,000 job cuts -- from a system that employs more than 45,000 -- will be absorbed by the loss of:

*900 non-teachers and up to 1,100 teachers who are expected to retire early;

*200 teachers due to a projected drop of 5,000 in student enrollment, and

*up to 500 teachers not fully certified.

Some but not all of those 2,700 positions will be filled, Duncan said. "The bottom line is, are we going to have to fire any teachers? I don't think we're going to have to.''


For the unions it's not about education but about more members.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:05 AM

KEPT MEN AND PET CAUSES:

Teresa Heinz Kerry: Bag Lady for the Radical Left (Ben Johnson, February 13, 2004, FrontPageMagazine.com)

Teresa Heinz Kerry has financed the secretive Tides Foundation to the tune of more than $4 million over the years. The Tides Foundation, a “charity” established in 1976 by antiwar leftist activist Drummond Pike, distributes millions of dollars in grants every year to political organizations advocating far-Left causes. The Tides Foundation and its closely allied Tides Center, which was spun off from the Foundation in 1996 but run by Drummond Pike, distributed nearly $66 million in grants in 2002 alone. In all, Tides has distributed more than $300 million for the Left. These funds went to rabid antiwar demonstrators, anti-trade demonstrators, domestic Islamist organizations, pro-terrorists legal groups, environmentalists, abortion partisans, extremist homosexual activists and open borders advocates. [...]

Senator John F. Kerry has gone far with his  nuanced view of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He voted for the war resolution but specified a litany of conditions the Bush administration must meet before he would support combat, then proceeded to vote against funding troops already in harm’s way – then claimed he had always supported the president when Saddam Hussein was captured. The grant recipients of the Tides Foundation, to which Kerry’s wife has steered more than $4 billion in “charitable” funds, understand no such nuance.
 
Tides established the Iraq Peace Fund and the Peace Strategies Fund to fund the antiwar movement. [...]
 
Immediately after 9/11, Tides formed a “9/11 Fund” to advocate a “peaceful national response” to the opening salvos of war. Part of the half-million dollars in grants the 9/11 Fund dispersed went to the New York Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project to protect the rights of homosexual Arabs. The Foundation replaced the 9/11 Fund with the “Democratic Justice Fund,” which was established with the aid of George Soros’ Open Society Institute. (Currency speculator and pro-drug advocate Soros is, like Teresa Heinz Kerry, a major contributor to Tides, having donated more than $7 million.) The Democratic Justice Fund seeks to ease restrictions on Muslim immigration to the United States, particularly from countries designated by the State Department as “terrorist nations.”
 
Tides has also given grant money to the Council for American Islamic Relations. Ostensibly a “Muslim civil rights group,” CAIR is in fact one of the leading anti-anti-terrorism organizations within the Wahhabi Lobby, with links to Hamas. CAIR regularly opposes and demonizes American efforts to fight terrorism, claiming, for instance, that Homeland Security measures are responsible for an undocumented surge in “hate crimes.”


Well, we did survive Eleanor Roosevelt and her ties to every communist front group in America.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:54 AM

THOSE AUSTRIANS WORRY ABOUT THE DAMNDEDEST THINGS:

What's Wrong with Monopoly (the game)? (Benjamin Powell and David Skarbek, February 13, 2003, Mises.org)

You have surely played the Parker Brother's board game Monopoly. It has been published in 26 languages and in 80 countries around the world. Since being introduced in 1935, in fact, an estimated one-half billion people have played it. It has taught the multitudes what they know about how an economy works.

The problem is that the game seriously misrepresents how an actual market economy operates. To review, in the free market, Mises wrote,

Neither the entrepreneurs nor the farmers nor the capitalists determine what has to be produced. The consumers do that. . . . Their buying and their abstention from buying decides who should own and run the plants and the farms. They make poor people rich and rich people poor. They determine precisely what should be produced, in what quality, and in what quantities. They are merciless bosses, full of whims and fancies, changeable and unpredictable.

That's the real world. In the game Monopoly, owners of land and houses and hotels, though acquiring their possessions by luck, are flattered into believing they are masters of the universe, extracting profits from anyone who passes their way. There is no consumer choice and no consumer sovereignty. This is not a small detail. The entire raison d'etre of the market is missing, and thus the real goal and the guide of all production in a market economy.

Consumer choice is replaced by a roll of the dice.


In a related story, just because you've practiced for hours on the game Operation doesn't mean your Mother will be proud when you try removing one of your brother's internal organs with a butter knife.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:48 AM

AS THE UNTHINKABLE BECOMES INEVITABLE:

U.S. May Support Israeli Approach on Leaving Gaza (STEVEN R. WEISMAN, 2/13/04, NY Times)

The Bush administration, signaling a major shift of policy on the Middle East, has indicated that it may support Israel's new proposal for a unilateral withdrawal from parts of Gaza and the West Bank, according to administration and Israeli officials. [...]

"How can the United States say it is against withdrawal of Israelis from Palestinian areas?" said Dennis Ross, the Clinton administration's Middle East negotiator. "The administration sees this as a tremendous development because if you don't have diplomacy going on, at least you have something that creates space for future diplomacy."

Martin S. Indyk, ambassador to Israel under President Clinton, said the Bush administration's challenge was "to get behind this plan and shape it to make it work to the benefit of an ultimate settlement." Israelis, he said, had given up on the Palestinian Authority because it had failed to stop terrorism.

"The Sharon plan's advantage is to keep it consistent with the road map but not to generate a road map negotiation with the Palestinians," said Mr. Indyk, who is director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.

The road map calls for negotiations to create a Palestinian state over three years' time. It has been frozen because Israel has not stopped military operations in Palestinian territories and Palestinians have not halted attacks on Israelis by militant groups.

By contrast, Mr. Sharon's plan would create a Palestinian unit that might be able to control its affairs, even if it constitutes perhaps half of the territory the Palestinians want for their state. Israel would not necessarily declare the entity a state.

Even the United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan, has spoken positively of Israel's taking unilateral actions, as long as a negotiating process with the Palestinians is kept alive. Last week he said that a Gaza pullout was "a positive development" and "a first essential step" leading to "a new dynamic" in the peace process.


The road map has always only had one sensible route to its final destination--that route is finally getting crowded.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:33 AM

THINKS IT'S NOT KOSHER:

A Cure for the Clash? (Clifford D. May, February 11, 2004, Foundation for the Defense of Democracies)

Early in the final decade of the last century, Harvard professor Samuel Huntington offered what seemed an eccentric prediction. While others saw economic, political and ideological tempests ahead, he glimpsed different and darker clouds on the horizon. [...]

The Bush administration hopes it is formulating a better, broader and more thoughtful approach to the clash of civilizations. The outlines are to be presented to French and other European diplomats in the weeks ahead. A formal announcement is planned for the G-8 summit to be held in June at Sea Island, Ga.

In November, in his speech to the National Endowment for Democracy, President Bush previewed this initiative, calling for a new "forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East." Vice President Dick Cheney took the idea a step further at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland last month, saying: "Our forward strategy for freedom commits us to support those who work and sacrifice for reform across the greater Middle East. We call upon our democratic friends and allies everywhere, and in Europe in particular, to join us in this effort."

The idea, essentially, is to recreate something akin to the 1975 Helsinki framework that helped bring political, economic, human rights and security reform to the Soviet bloc. Support would be increased for individuals and groups in the Arab and Muslim worlds who genuinely favor democracy and freedom -- and who genuinely oppose terrorism, totalitarianism and radical Islamism. Incentives would be offered to rulers willing to take meaningful steps toward liberalization. [...]

Yes, civilizations clash. But they also may co-exist and even converge. The truth is that the diverse civilizations that comprise the Free World would be eager to make room for the Islamic World. It's hard to believe there aren't millions of Muslims who would be just as eager to be included.


One might feel better about this essay if the title didn't invoke two bands with respective hits titled: "Killing an Arab" and "Rock the Casbah".


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 AM

THE BROKEN PROMISE OF PUBLIC EDUCATION (via Clark Irwin)

Study Says U.S. Should Replace States' High School Standards (KAREN W. ARENSON, February 10, 2004, NY Times)

A patchwork of state standards is failing to produce high school graduates who are prepared either for college or for work, three education policy organizations say in a new report. The solution, they say, is to adopt rigorous national standards that will turn the high school diploma into a "common national currency."

"For too many graduates, the American high school diploma signifies only a broken promise," the groups, which favor standardized testing to improve education, say.

Working through what they call the American Diploma Project, the organizations -- Achieve Inc., the Education Trust and the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation -- consulted with higher education officials and business executives in five states to develop standards they say will ensure that high school graduates are equipped to move into either college-level work or a decent-paying job.

"For many kids, the diploma is a ticket to nowhere," Kati Haycock, director of the Education Trust, said. "In this era, where some postsecondary education is essential, that's no good."

Ms. Haycock said half the students who went on to four-year colleges ended up taking some remedial course work because their preparation was inadequate.

The report charges that employers and postsecondary institutions "all but ignore the diploma, knowing that it often serves as little more than a certificate of attendance," because "what it takes to earn one is disconnected from what it takes for graduates to compete successfully beyond high school."


Vouchers are probably the best solution, but tough national standards are certainly better than the prevailing situation. The hard part for folks to adjust to will be a return to the idea that kids who aren't smart enough to meet the standards shouldn't go to college. We've dumbed the whole system down this far just to make it possible for everyone to go to college as a kind of universal social promotion.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 AM

28 DAYS LATER...WITH EGG ROLL:

Red lights flashing for China's economy (Li YongYan, 2/14/04, Asia Times)

Over the years, statistics show, investment in fixed capital has a correlation factor of 0.87 to GDP growth. So it is not surprising that when all other measures fail, the Chinese government relies on a "capital investment" strategy to boost domestic output. Since all banks are owned by the government, and only state-owned enterprises are allowed to issue bonds, the government alone must finance heavy industries' projects.

For the first 11 months of 2003, China's industrial investments saw an average increase of 43.8 percent above 2002's level. Such sectors as raw materials (metals, chemicals) registered a whopping 82.8 percent jump in investment. For the first quarter of 2003, investment in the steel sector rose by 153.7 percent over the previous three months. It all looks dizzying, but the problem with this is that it brings about long-term ill effects. By nature, government is synonymous with inefficiency and waste. These industries are building themselves into overcapacity with no corresponding increase in consumption for their products. For example, the production capacity for aluminum will outstrip the predicted needs by 3 million tons, or 30 percent, in 2005. Belatedly, the GDP-obsessed government in Beijing has realized that high consumption and waste of resources and energy cannot continue.

That is why the red lights are now flashing for China's economy. It is impossible to keep pouring money into infrastructure without increasing the bad-debt burden on an already shaky banking system. With less investment from the government, with no financing available to non-government sectors, with no hope of external trade to replace capital investment as the driving force, with income, especial that of the vast majority of farmers actually declining, the national economy is bound to lose steam.

The dilemma thus facing Beijing is truly unpalatable.


One bright side of the Democrats regaining control of Washington would be that even though their protectionist policies would cause a massive recession here they'd push China into a complete social meltdown.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 AM

NNNNNNNNNINE-TEEN, NINETEEN:

Bush's driving records disclosed (Dave Moniz and Jim Drinkard, 2/12/04, USA TODAY)

The White House disclosed information in documents Thursday showing that President Bush had been arrested once for a college prank and was cited for two automobile accidents and two speeding tickets before he enlisted in the National Guard. [...]

The White House described the four traffic incidents as two "negligent collisions" in July and August 1962 and two speeding tickets in July and August 1964. Bush was a teenager at the time.

McClellan did not indicate any cause of the accidents. He said Bush paid a $10 fine for the speeding tickets and a $25 fine for the collisions. It was not immediately clear whether the amounts were for each incident or combined.


He's practically Ted Bundy.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:08 AM

HATS FIRMLY PLANTED:

Counting the dollars and cents (David Isenberg, 2/14/04, Asia Times)

To paraphrase the well-known saying of former US Senator Everett Dirksen, a division sent here, a division over there, and pretty soon you are talking about real empire.

However, a real empire costs money, lots of money; especially when it involves stationing or deploying military forces around the world.

How much money? Let's turn to the budget. For fiscal year (FY) 2004, Congress approved about US$400 billion for "national defense", or in plain English, military spending. But hold on to your hats because, as they say on Broadway, you ain't seen nothing yet.

In FY 2004, military spending accounted for over half of all US federal discretionary spending. The annual military appropriations bill is expected to grow from $369 billion this year to nearly $600 billion by 2013, according to the US Congressional Budget Office.


Suppose for a moment that this year's bill were $600 billion. Given a GDP of over $11 trillion, that's substantially below 6%, at a time when we are in the occupation/rebuilding phase of two shooting wars and playing catch-up on revitalizing various programs and bases that had been allowed to atrophy in the '90s. By comparison, the average expenditure on defense during the entire Cold War was 7% per year. One would prefer that we not drag out this war for forty years, as we did the battle with Communism, but we can obviously afford to if we're so inclined.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:16 AM

A BORN FOLLOWER:

Kerry after Vietnam (William Hawkins, 2/11/04, Washington Times)

Missing from this coverage of Mr. Kerry's record is what he did when he got home. He immediately entered the political arena with the radical New Left outfit Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). This was an extremist fringe group. Some 21/2 million Americans served in Vietnam, but by the VVAW's own accounting only 30,000 joined its ranks. This is a very low number given that the Army was filled with draftees during an unpopular war. But then VVAW was not a mainstream organization like the American Legion or the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Its portrayal of U.S. troops as war criminals turned off most vets. [...]

The Vietnam War was part of the larger Cold War struggle. Mr. Kerry acknowledged this in his testimony, but attributed it to "paranoia about the Russians." The Soviets provided North Vietnam with the heavy weapons that allowed it to invade South Vietnam — and to kill 50,000 Americans.

In return for this military aid, the victorious Hanoi regime allowed the Soviets to base bombers and warships at the former U.S. base at Da Nang. This deployment was of strategic importance as it outflanked the U.S.-Japanese alliance which hemmed in Russia's northern naval bases.

VVAW is still active in left-wing circles, protesting American imperialism. Two weeks after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, VVAW issued a statement declaring "The use of massive military power will only escalate the cycle of violence, spreading more death and destruction to more innocent people with no end in sight. ... We see many parallels between Vietnam and Afghanistan."


No one questions the fact that John Kerry served bravely in Vietnam, but the lack of judgement he's consistently shown since, in backing every totalitarian and anti-American regime to come down the pike, calls into question his fitness for promotion to commander in chief.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:50 AM

IF ONLY:

Eight Questions for George Bush (David Corn, The Nation)

Did he decided to use military force against Iraq before 9/11? Where are the WMDs he insisted were there? Why is he using phony budget numbers? Did he engage in less-than-proper business dealings before he entered politics? Why he has misled the public while promoting his policies on stem cells research, global warming, and missile defense? Why has he opposed certain homeland security measures and not adequately funded others? [...]

When you ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1978 in Texas, you gave an interview to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal newspaper. You were asked about your position on abortion, and this is how that newspaper reported your answer: "Bush said he opposes the pro-life amendment [which would outlaw abortion] and favors leaving up to a woman and her doctor the abortion question." Sixteen years later, when you ran for governor in Texas in 1994, you campaigned as an antiabortion conservative. Few people seem to realize your position on abortion changed 180 degrees. Please tell us, when did you change your view on abortion and why?


(1) Yes

(2) They and the dctator who developed and used them are gone.

(3) Because the budget is phony

(4) No more than the usual

(5) To get the policies through

(6) Because they're just window dressing anyway

(7) When I realized that fetuses too are human life--is there ever a bad time to choose life?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:25 AM

THE CAMPAIGN REVOLUTIONIZING POLITICS AND THE WEB:

Bush Web Spot Blasts Kerry (Wendy Melillo, February 12, 2004, AdAge)

The George W. Bush campaign launched its first Web video Thursday attacking Democratic frontrunner John Kerry.

Called "Unprincipled, Chapter I," the video features an Internet search engine with the words "John Kerry" being typed into the header. Kerry's Web site pops up and the viewer hears Kerry making a speech in which he says, "I have a message for the influence peddlers and special interests. We're coming, you're going."

"Sounds good," the female voiceover says as the words "special interests" are typed in the search engine. A Washington Post article appears and the voiceover says, "More special interest money than any other senator. How much?"


One nice thing about such ads is that you don't have to insert the President saying "I'm George Bush and I authorized this ad", as required in the recent Campaign Finance Reform law.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:09 AM

THIRD CREEP LUCKY?:

Kerry will respond
to infidelity charge
(WorldNetDaily.com, February 12, 2004)

Sen. John Kerry plans to respond to allegations of infidelity published yesterday by the Drudge Report, according to the Internet newssite.

Drudge reported several major news outlets are engaged in a serious investigation of Kerry's relationship with a former Associated Press reporter.

The AP, Time magazine, ABC News and the Washington Post have been working on a story about a woman who began a two-year relationship with the Massachusetts senator in the spring of 2001, Drudge said.

The woman reportedly was approached by a top news reporter, prompting Kerry to urge her to leave the country. Drudge reported last night the woman fled to Africa, where she remains. [...]

A week ago, the Boston Herald's Inside Track column discussed a National Enquirer investigation on Kerry which claimed the senator is "an admitted pot smoker who had an eye for Hollywood honeys, namely Morgan Fairchild, Michelle Phillips and Catherine Oxenberg. In fact, Morgan and Michelle were so turned off by him, they both contributed to the other candidates seeking the nomination," the Herald stated.


Even if one were inclined to say that the Senator's infidelities are between him and Mrs. Heinz--which, make no mistake, we're not inclined to do--that last paragraph suggests a Clintonian level of creepiness lurking in the story.


February 12, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:47 PM

A LIFE OF ITS OWN:

Father, Son And Holy Mess: Taunts at Trinity-Dalton hoops game sets off competing charges of anti-Semitism and overreaction. (Jewish Week, 02/13/2004)

Ever since a handful of boys from the Trinity School, one of them Jewish, yelled "Gefilte fish," "Mazel tough" and other derogatory comments at a Jewish basketball player from The Dalton School, two of Manhattan's most elite private schools have been plunged into a swirl of controversy.

Did the Shabbat-eve incident Jan. 30 at a heated basketball game at Dalton expose a deep-seated culture of anti-Semitism at Trinity, an Upper West Side institution dating back to 1709 in which approximately half the students have at least one Jewish parent?

Or did a Dalton dad overreact to tasteless adolescent ribbing by shouting at the name-calling kids and then firing off a mass e-mail comparing the scene to the Crusades, Kristallnacht and Palestinian suicide bombings?

Oy vey.

Neither Dalton nor Trinity officials would speak to The Jewish Week on the matter, although both discussed it with students and parents, and Trinity conducted an investigation into the incident.

In a Feb. 10 memo posted on the school Web site, Trinity headmaster Henry Moses did not comment on whether the students' conduct was anti-Semitic. He noted, however, that "Trinity teaches at every turn that it is essential that we respect one another and ourselves and that bigotry in any form is intolerable.

"From time to time, some individual will behave in a way that is not consonant with the school's mission; this unfortunately, is bound to happen," said the memo, adding later that "In the present case, the students involved have been disciplined in a manner utterly consistent with our mission, published policies, and traditions."

So what exactly happened at the Trinity-Dalton game?

Dalton dad Shelly Palmer, watching the game with his son, said a group of Trinity boys taunted Dalton player Matt Goldberg, then other kids echoed their chants and parents did nothing to stop them. Palmer, who works in public relations, said he confronted the boys, then walked out.

The following Monday, Palmer wrote to Moses, e-mailing copies of the letter to scores of contacts in the media even before the letter was delivered to Moses.

In his letter Palmer wrote that the "rancorous taunting awakened long-forgotten images of Kristallnacht, the Holocaust and the more current senseless deaths of 9/11 and the war in Iraq." He went on to write that the incident was "a sorrowful indictment of the Trinity culture" and that Trinity's constituents and charges are "stellar examples of all that is wrong with our world."

Palmer subsequently told The New York Times some of his generalizations about Trinity were unfair, but noted that "I was totally unprepared for this. What skill set do I have to deal with something like this? It's easy to be Jewish in New York, or at least it was for me until last Friday night."

But several Jewish Trinity parents and students dispute Palmerís characterization of events. In addition, on a Web log where the issue is being debated, several anonymous writers who claim to be Trinity students also took issue with Palmer. (Some contributors to the blog, who were not associated with Trinity, sided with Palmer, however, and Palmer said he has received hundreds of supportive e-mails.)


MORE:
Cries of Foul After Basketball Game At a Tony Private School Turns Ugly (FORWARD, 2/13/04)


Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:40 PM

ROGUES GALLERY:

The Millennium Challenge Account: Rewarding Open Markets (Sara J. Fitzgerald and Anthony Kim, February 10, 2004, Heritage Foundation)

Congress approved $1 billion for the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), a new approach to foreign aid, on January 22. President Bush’s mission for the MCA is to “reward nations that have more open markets….” To accomplish the President’s mission, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), which administers the program, should focus on the progress of candidate countries towards more open markets. The Heritage Foundation’s annual Index of Economic Freedom measures this progress precisely. [...]
 
The following table shows the performance of the 49 countries – out of the 63 that have been designated by the MCC as being eligible to compete for MCA grants - that are also covered by Heritage’s Index. The table uses Index data to divide the countries into quartiles according to how much their overall Index scores have improved over the past four years. Countries within each quartile are listed from the biggest improvement to the smallest. The first quartile represents countries that are progressing fastest toward economic freedom and, therefore, would benefit most from the MCA; the fourth quartile shows countries that have improved the least and are the least deserving of MCA grants. [...]
 
The MCC board should seriously consider that those countries receiving the highest ranking in this table receive MCA funds this year. The countries that are chosen this year will set a standard for years to come. Economics, not politics, should be the measurement standard for the MCA to carry out its mission.

1st Quartile
 
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mauritania, Azerbaijan, Rwanda, Cape Verde, Nicaragua, Albania, Mozambique, Niger, Georgia, Armenia, Vietnam


Not the ten you'd come up with off the top of your head, eh?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:27 PM

RADICALITY:

Regime Thought War Unlikely, Iraqis Tell U.S. (THOM SHANKER, 2/12/04, NY Times)

A complacent Saddam Hussein was so convinced that war would be averted or that America would mount only a limited bombing campaign that he deployed the Iraqi military to crush domestic uprisings rather than defend against a ground invasion, according to a classified log of interrogations of captured Iraqi leaders and former officers.

Mr. Hussein believed that a "casualty averse" White House would order a bombing campaign that Iraq could withstand, according to the secret report, prepared for the Pentagon's most senior leadership and dated Jan. 26. And the Iraqi Defense Ministry, in a grand miscalculation, believed that any ground offensive would come across the Jordanian border.

The study, a rough-draft history of the war from the perspective of Iraqi leaders, offers a scathing history of a Stalinist, paranoid leadership circle in Baghdad that guaranteed its own destruction. The interrogations yielded a portrait of a government disconnected from reality in peace and in war, where members of Mr. Hussein's inner circle routinely lied to him and each other about Iraqi military capacities. [...]

The leadership in Baghdad believed the United States would mount a long-distance air war, mostly focused in the south because Turkey, north of Iraq, had denied access rights. A bombing campaign could "be absorbed," leaving the government in control, Iraqi officials said during their interrogations.

The interrogations were viewed by military officers who received the briefing as validating both the decision to send ground forces from the south to drive swiftly toward Baghdad — what Gen. Tommy R. Franks, the wartime commander, described as a strategy of "speed kills" — and the decision to use small numbers of Special Operations forces in western Iraq instead of large infantry forces in that section of the nation.

The speedy invasion by Army and Marine ground forces, entering from Kuwait, shocked the Iraqi leadership and its military, and brought the swift capture of Baghdad in three weeks with the loss of only 115 American lives to hostile fire.

Despite the broad news media coverage of the American and British buildup in Kuwait, the Iraqi Defense Ministry insisted that Jordan would be the launching pad for the invasion, according to the detainees.

That assessment was a wild misinterpretation of a series of Special Operations raids by relatively small numbers of the elite troops in the western desert, which began before the major land force crossed out of Kuwait.

The goal of the Special Operations missions was to destroy border posts and blind the Iraqi military in those zones as American and allied commandos hunted for unconventional weapons and missiles and controlled that vast, desolate terrain.

Pentagon officials said that the politically charged question of whether Iraq possessed unconventional weapons just before the invasion came up during the many closed-door discussions about the study, but that the report carried a disclaimer that that question was not under review in the study.


Glancing around the Web and twisting the radio knob you'll see and hear folks saying that this shows how badly Saddam misjudged us. In fact, his judgment was entirely sound as regards nearly everyone in the West, except for George W. Bush. No wonder though that the President's radical departure from our previous pusillanimity is paying such dividends from Libya to Pakistan.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:06 PM

PROGNOSTATHON ALERT--WHO WILL BREAL THE STORY IN THE MAINSTREAM?:

Will Press Pounce on Drudge's Kerry Rumor? (E&P Staff, February 12, 2004, Editor & Publisher)

Reached by E&P for comment, AP spokesman Jack Stokes said, "We simply don't comment on stories we are pursuing or not pursuing."

Leonard Downie Jr., executive editor of The Washington Post, acknowledged that his staff had begun to dig deeper into the life and career of Kerry, but said he had not heard anything about an alleged infidelity. "What we're finding, I don't know," he said. "This is the first we are looking into him this way."

The Drudge site also declared that General Wesley Clark, in an off-the-record chat with reporters earlier this week, predicted that the Kerry campaign would soon implode due to an "intern." It would seem strange, however, if he really believed that, that he would drop out of the race, as he did yesterday.

The site added, however, that the Kerry rumor helped explain why Howard Dean did stay in the race and has been increasingly aggressive in his attacks on Kerry this week.


Smart money is betting on John Solomon at AP to be the first big media source to run the story, though Michael Isikoff at Newsweek is a decent sleeper pick. The big test is whether Chris Matthews can avoid mentioning it on his show tonight.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:04 PM

GARY HART REDUX?:

Game Over (Andrew E. Busch, February 2004, Ashbrook.org)

The heavily front-loaded nature of the presidential primary calendar has often worked to the clear benefit of the front-runner. But there was always another possibility latent in the system: That another candidate might sneak up on the front-runner (who, in early January, was Dean), knock him from his perch, and ride the subsequent momentum all the way to the nomination. In 1984, Gary Hart's post-New Hampshire momentum—the period during which he benefited from a massive dose of almost-entirely positive free media and public fascination—lasted about three weeks. When it ended, and Democrats took a second and closer look at Hart, Walter Mondale surged back. Today, with the primaries so stacked at the beginning, a three-week shot of momentum is apparently enough to catapult one to victory.

While this is very good for John Kerry, it remains to be seen whether it is good for Democrats, who have settled on him even though they have hardly begun to hear the case against him. The incoherent somersaults on Iraq, the 93 percent ADA rating, the lunches with lobbyists, the hurling of (someone else's) medals to the ground, the pictures with Hanoi Jane, the votes against CIA funding and against the death penalty for terrorists—none have penetrated the more-or-less constant din since Iowa. There may be a serious case of buyer's regret looming on the horizon for Democrats. If so, they will have Howard Dean’s rage, John Edwards' opportunism, and primary front-loading to thank for it.


It seems hardly a coincidence that John Kerry became Mr. Electability three weeks ago.


MORE:
False Positive (Jonathan Chait, 02.11.04, New Republic)

[K]erry won Virginia and Tennessee under circumstances in which losing would have been nearly impossible. He has ridden a wave of favorable publicity. Nearly every article about the campaign has underscored that his nomination is inevitable. His opponents have not attacked him, and have not been able to afford much in the way of television advertising. In fact just about the only way his opponents have gotten their name out to the public is through media coverage that inevitably centers on the theme of why they're losing and how soon they'll drop out. Under such circumstances, how on Earth could Kerry not win?

A better measure of Kerry's potential strengths can be gleaned by looking at how he matches up against Bush in polls. On the surface, of course, he looks pretty good. In some polls he's had a five- or seven-point lead. This week's Time magazine shows Kerry down by two to Bush. But of course right now Kerry remains an empty vessel into which voters can pour their hopes. Just about the only thing voters know about him is that he served in Vietnam. He has an extensive liberal voting record that has not yet been presented to the voters. Given his wooden personality--even admirers describe Kerry's speeches as average at best--there's little reason to think he can withstand the inevitable barrage. You can't talk about Vietnam every day until November. [...]

I think the notion that Kerry is the Democrats' best hope for beating Bush is essentially the same fallacy. Kerry has benefited from a self-sustaining bubble--the same kind of bubble that nearly propelled Howard Dean to the nomination. If the primaries went on forever, the bubble would eventually pop. But since the process is going to end, probably very soon, Kerry will survive without having his electability truly tested.


Never mind.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:50 AM

PRESIDENT EDWARDS, I PRESUME? (via Paul Cella):

CAMPAIGN DRAMA ROCKS DEMOCRATS: KERRY FIGHTS OFF MEDIA PROBE OF RECENT ALLEGED INFIDELITY, RIVALS PREDICT RUIN (DRUDGE REPORT, FEB 12, 2004)

A frantic behind-the-scenes drama is unfolding around Sen. John Kerry and his quest to lockup the Democratic nomination for president, the DRUDGE REPORT can reveal.

Intrigue surrounds a woman who recently fled the country, reportedly at the prodding of Kerry, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned.

A serious investigation of the woman and the nature of her relationship with Sen. John Kerry has been underway at TIME magazine, ABC NEWS, the WASHINGTON POST and the ASSOCIATED PRESS, where the woman in question once worked.


If nothing else, we're likely to hear less about how he's the one candidate who's been in foxholes...

On the other hand, this would explain Mrs. Heinz insisting on a prenup.


MORE:
Job Seeker Is Model Constituent (Gayle Fee And Laura Raposa, Sept 2, 1998, The Boston Herald)

Question of the day: Who was the statuesque blonde strutting out of Sen. John Kerry's palatial Louisburg Square manse late Monday night when Kerry's wife, heiress Teresa Heinz, was on Nantucket?

We are told she is a 22-year-old Harvard student and former model who, Kerry's people claim, was dropping off a resume.

Our spies on the Square say the stunning Southern gal, dressed in oh-so-chic black, arrived at Kerry's townhouse around 11:15 p.m. and left just before the clock struck 12.

Not unlike Cinderella.

Which leads us to ask: In the age of Monica Lewinsky, is it smart for a senator with presidential aspirations to be entertaining attractive women when the wife is away?


And here we'd always heard that Strom Thurmond had the best constituent services operation in the Senate...


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:26 AM

WHERE SEEING IS NOT BELIEVING:

Devils in America: a review of Reds: McCarthyism in Twentieth-Century America by Ted Morgan (Harvey Klehr, 2/12/04, New Republic)

[G]ermane to Morgan's argument is his demonstration that the American government's repression of radicalism was often a response to a real threat of subversion. The first "Red Scare" was prompted by left-wing violence. A group of Italian anarchists, led by Luigi Galleani, launched a terrorist campaign in 1914. In 1919 more than thirty bombs targeted opponents of radicalism including Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, John Rockefeller, Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, and a variety of United States Senators. The newly organized communist parties created underground wings and issued blood-curdling threats about overthrowing the government. Outraged citizens demanded the deportation of radicals "in ships of stone with sails of lead, with the wrath of God for a breeze and with hell for their first port." State and congressional committees launched investigations, and Palmer and a young Justice Department employee named J. Edgar Hoover inaugurated a round-up of radicals in 1919-1920 that swept up no less than ten thousand people, with 3,500 held as deportable aliens. Morgan notes that, as in the McCarthy era, there was a genuine threat -- thirty-five people had been killed and two hundred people had been injured by terrorist bombs, and the nascent communist movement had thirty-four thousand nominal members committed to overthrowing the government; but Palmer's blunderbuss response certainly violated civil liberties, failed to target many of the most important perpetrators, and discredited his cause.

While the chastened FBI under Hoover curtailed its surveillance of radicals in the 1920s, the Communist International, headquartered in Moscow, embarked on a long-term plan to subvert America, setting up clandestine networks that transmitted money to finance the CPUSA, and using such agencies as Amtorg and the Russian Red Cross to facilitate espionage and the illegal transfer of American technology. Following American recognition of the Soviet Union in 1933, the Soviets quickly violated several of the conditions to which they had agreed and began extensive use of the CPUSA as an instrument of espionage. In the late 1930s the Ware Group, for which Whittaker Chambers served as a courier, transmitted material from numerous government departments to Moscow with scarcely a concern for the FBI. Liberals such as Lawrence Duggan, a high-ranking State Department employee, and Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Harry Dexter White, romantic pro-communists such as Noel Field, covert Soviet admirers such as Alger Hiss, and crooks such as Congressman Samuel Dickstein (the prime mover behind the formation of a special committee to investigate "un-American activities") all blithely aided Soviet intelligence.

At the end of the 1930s, during which American communists became cheerleaders for the New Deal, the Popular Front eased these spies' consciences by making it appear that American and Soviet interests were congruent. Similarly, the hundreds of Americans who spied for the Soviet Union during World War II could rationalize their behavior by pretending that they were only helping a deserving ally. While the Dies Committee, like many congressional investigations of communism (including McCarthy's) did uncover some significant data, its penchant for wackiness and extremism, giving publicity to cranks and alarmists, led the Roosevelt administration to ignore the significance of some of its findings: that lots of government employees, including several later unmasked as spies, were active in Communist-controlled organizations.

The Roosevelt administration had first authorized domestic surveillance of radicals in 1936, but such efforts were largely ineffective and sporadic until after World War II. Morgan calls Soviet espionage during the war "without historical precedent. Never did one country steal so many political, diplomatic, scientific and military secrets from another." Although the most spectacular feat of Soviet intelligence was to pilfer the scientific secrets of the atomic bomb, hundreds of Americans working for Soviet intelligence also turned over important details on virtually every American secret, ranging from proximity fuses and radar to diplomatic cables and war production figures. A killer such as Roland Abbiat, who had murdered the Soviet defector Ignace Reiss in Switzerland in 1937, based himself in New York under the cover of a Pravda correspondent by the name of Vladimir Pravdin and befriended American journalists such as Walter Lippmann and I.F. Stone while supervising a stable of spies. Communist subversion, Morgan concludes, was a real threat to American security.

While it is a useful and well-written summary of what has been learned about Soviet espionage in the last decade, Reds adds little new to what has already been revealed. Morgan has unearthed additional details from FBI reports in the Truman Library about J. Robert Oppenheimer's communist contacts in the years before he moved to Los Alamos to direct the Manhattan Project. His conclusion that Oppenheimer kept his distance from communists once he became privy to secret information, but ran into trouble because he lied to security agents to cover up his past activities, is congruent with Gregg Herken's argument in Brotherhood of the Bomb. Morgan occasionally stumbles into minor factual errors, and he has an annoying habit of calling Elizabeth Bentley "Liz," despite the fact that no one referred to her in that manner. More seriously, his footnoting apparatus makes it impossible to be sure about his sources. Citations are only loosely related to specific paragraphs in the text and direct the reader not to specific documents but to such sources as "Hoover memo, Truman Library."

One of the virtues of Morgan's book is his reminder that McCarthy was a latecomer to the anti-communist cause. He was able to exploit the issue because Harry Truman, far more suspicious of Stalin's intentions than Roosevelt, was also ambivalent about dealing with communist subversion, an issue that threatened to embarrass Democrats and liberals who had once welcomed communists as allies. [...]

Had Morgan ended his book with McCarthy's downfall, it would have been a useful corrective to the hysterical accounts of a McCarthyite reign of terror and the equally blustering defenses of a thug and a liar. Instead, Morgan suddenly redefines McCarthyism at the end of Reds as "the use of false information in the irrational pursuit of a fictitious enemy," as if he had not just written a few hundred pages about communist spies and subversion. He then draws a direct line between McCarthy and Richard Nixon's plumbers, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush, and the war in Iraq, even though the premise of his entire book is that McCarthyism was a response to the very real and specific issue of communism and the particular dangers that it presented. Morgan asserts, with dubious analogies, that in the aftermath of September 11, a "McCarthyite strain in American political life reemerged with a vengeance -- the politics of fear, the politics of insult and the politics of deceit."


To be an honest historian requires that you acknowledge witchcraft existed. To be a liberal historian requires you to deny that anyone practiced it.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:02 AM

EVERYBODY LOVES PATRICIA:

'It's Not About Me': How Everybody Loves Raymond's Patricia Heaton keeps the faith. (Dan Ewald, January/February 2004, Christian Reader)

Patricia Heaton may soon lose her job. For eight seasons, she has starred on CBS's hit sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, and it looks like the show is nearing its end. Not that we're crying for the double Emmy-winning actress, who has reportedly been pulling down over $6 million a year. But how often do you hear a Hollywood star say things like this?

"I struggle to keep it simple. Obedience, sacrifice, and modesty are not real popular buzzwords out here. An issue I'm dealing with lately is, 'Do I have too much money, and am I being a good steward of it?' In fact, I was talking to a friend about tithing—just giving your 10 percent as opposed to giving until it actually starts costing you something, which is what I think tithing is all about."

An actress who is so candid about her life is rare. Her famous confession that she has had cosmetic surgery (primarily a tummy tuck after four C-sections) stirred up chatter a couple years back. Then she got into hot water with at least one fellow actress during an appearance on a late-night talk show when she half-jokingly insinuated that certain celebrities were getting plastic surgery and then lying about it. She later apologized for the remarks, but she refuses to get swept up in the image-obsessed culture of her profession. "Plastic surgery is like a big elephant sitting in the Hollywood living room," she told Ladies' Home Journal last year. "Everyone does it, and apparently no one is supposed to talk about it. I understand privacy, but when women come up to me who've also had four kids and cesareans and say, 'My body's shot, but you look so great,' I'm not going to lie to them." Indeed, part of her secret for keeping a balanced attitude about life is laughing at herself and being refreshingly upfront about the showbiz world in which she lives. [...]

She is brazen in her decision to be pro-life in an unabashedly pro-choice town. Patricia is the honorary chairperson of Feminists for Life, a non-religious group that attempts to bring feminism back to its original meaning, which, she says, was about making the world a place where women and children can feel safe and protected and become whom they are to the fullest extent. Since most of her peers connect pro-lifers to a brand of Christian extremism, Patricia appreciates Feminists for Life's method." In my community in Hollywood, FFL is a way to approach the question of feminism and pro-life thinking in a way that people can hear it and don't have a preconceived idea."

With the fame that Everybody Loves Raymond has brought, people notice when Patricia Heaton says or does something unusual. Last year, the actress was at the American Music Awards, waiting to go onstage and introduce a retrospective segment. The show was hosted by the Osbourne family—still riding the initial wave of popularity from their MTV reality show—and true to form, nearly every other word out of the hosts' mouths was being bleeped. The foul broadcast started to "embarrass" Patricia and she was increasingly uncomfortable with her participation in the show. "It wasn't like I made a decision to take a stand. At the time when I was there, I just felt mortified and horrified and did not want to get up on stage and be associated with it."

So she left. She just got up and went home.

"I have to tell you, I got a thousand e-mails and letters about it," she says. "So clearly people in America are very frustrated about what's coming through their television sets, and they feel like nobody in Hollywood cares. They feel alone and helpless about how to protect their kids from stuff."


Sadly, for every one Patricia Heaton there are scores of cretins.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:44 AM

TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE:

Not in cult: Woman gets $7.5 million (ABDON M. PALLASCH, February 12, 2004, Chicago Sun-Times)

This is not "The X-Files" or a supermarket tabloid story -- it is a real court case settled this week at the Daley Center.

Rush North Shore Medical Center psychiatrist Bennett Braun and psychologist Roberta Sachs paid a northwest suburban woman $7.5 million to settle her claim that they brainwashed her into believing she was a member of a cult and needed to be sterilized so she would not bear any more babies to be sacrificed for the cult.

The truth is that Elizabeth Gale, 52, never had any children. She was just a woman with mild depression who surrendered herself to the care of Braun in 1986.

"At the time, Dr. Braun and his team were recognized national experts in multiple personality syndrome, recovery of repressed memories of childhood abuse, etc.," said Mary Ellen Busch, attorney for Rush, which denies the charges. "Over the last 10 years, the methods by which repressed memories were recovered have become very controversial."

Braun, Sachs and their practices have since been banished from Rush. The state suspended Braun's psychiatry license for three years, although he's now practicing in Montana. The state reprimanded Sachs, who is now in Maryland. Their attorneys could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Braun and Sachs "convinced Ms. Gale she had dozens of different personalities which had been created as a result of the horrific trauma they told her she suffered as a child," said her attorney, Todd Smith of Power Rogers & Smith. Smith takes over this summer as president of the American Trial Lawyers Association.

He said Braun and Sachs "convinced Ms. Gale she was a member of a worldwide secret ... satanic cult ... that Ms. Gale was a 'breeder' for the cult and that she had sacrificed her previous children, when she in fact had never had children," Smith said. Braun and Sachs "instructed Ms. Gale to undergo a tubal ligation to avoid further 'cult pregnancies.' She did so in May of 1991."

They persuaded Gale to abandon her family, change her name more than once, quit her job and sell all her possessions to stay a step ahead of the alleged "cult," Smith said.


Again we see that psychiatry--like its fellows: Darwinism and Marxism--is the real cult.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:13 AM

DEMOCRATIC PRIORITIES:

A Tale of Nuclear Proliferation: How Pakistani Built His Network (WILLIAM J. BROAD, DAVID E. SANGER and RAYMOND BONNER. 2/12/04, NY Times)

[W]what has become clear in recent days is that Dr. Khan, a Pakistani national hero who began his rise 30 years ago by importing nuclear equipment to secretly build his country's atom bomb, gradually transformed himself into the largest and most sophisticated exporter in the nuclear black market.

"It was an astounding transformation when you think about it, something we've never seen before," said a senior American official who has reviewed the intelligence. "First, he exploits a fragmented market and develops a quite advanced nuclear arsenal. Then he throws the switch, reverses the flow and figures out how to sell the whole kit, right down to the bomb designs, to some of the world's worst governments."

The story of that transformation emerges from recent interviews on three continents — from Islamabad, Pakistan's capital, to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; from the streets of Dubai, where many of the deals were cut, to Washington and Vienna, where intelligence agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency struggled to understand and defuse the threat.

Taken together, they show how Dr. Khan assembled a far-reaching organization of scientists, engineers and business executives who operated on murky boundaries between the legal and the illegal, sometimes underground but often in plain view, unencumbered by international agreements that prohibit trafficking in nuclear technology.

Dr. Khan started in the mid-1980's, according to nuclear proliferation experts, by ordering twice the number of parts the Pakistani nuclear program needed, and then selling the excess to other countries, notably Iran.

Later, his network acquired another customer: North Korea, which was desperate for a more surreptitious way to build nuclear weapons after the United States had frozen the North's huge plutonium-production facilities in Yongbyon.

And in the end he moved on to Libya, his ultimate undoing, selling entire kits, from centrifuges to enrich uranium, to crude weapons designs. Investigators found the weapons blueprints wrapped in bags from an Islamabad dry cleaner.


As a result of the intelligence failure in Iraq, we removed a genocidal tyrant who'd developed and used WMD. As a result of the Pakistan intelligence failure, hostile regimes in Iran, North Korea, and Libya secured nuclear weapons technology and technical assistance. As a result of the former the world is a safer and better place, but there are calls for firings and a blue-ribbon panel to examine what went "wrong". As a result of the latter the world is less safe, our allies endangered, and the response from the Democrats is....

Thus does partisan politics take precedence over national security.


MORE:
Bush Proposes Strict Limits on Black Market Sale of Equipment to Make Nuclear Fuel: President Bush on Wednesday proposed a seven-point plan to make it far more difficult to sell nuclear equipment on the black market. (DAVID E. SANGER, 2/12/04, NY Times)


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:53 AM

GOT 'EM SURROUNDED:

Break On Through: The dream of a Northwest Passage linking the Atlantic to the riches of Asia has driven explorers and visionary adventurers for centuries. With climate change in the air, Natasha Singer braves the frigid 900-mile journey to find out if the old, mythic dream is becoming an epic new reality. (Natasha Singer, February 2004, Outside Magazine)

The Healy had just departed the harbor of the U.S. Air Force's Thule Air Base, in Greenland, and was sailing to its next assignment, in the Beaufort Sea, north of Alaska. The ship was going to smash through the 900-mile-long Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The only other time the Healy accomplished this was on its maiden voyage, in July 2000—a test to see whether this behemoth ice-breaking machine could survive the waterway.

Built with state-of-the-art laboratories and sonar mapping systems, the four-year-old, 420-foot, 16,000-ton, $350 million Coast Guard icebreaker was designed to be a platform for Arctic exploration. The ship's crew regularly hosts visiting research teams who do everything from collecting water samples to monitoring how clams survive on the polar seafloor. Although no extensive experiments were planned for this voyage, scientists—like Dave Monahan, director of ocean mapping for the Canadian Hydrographic Service, who was on board to map spots on the passage's seafloor that have remained blank on nautical charts for 500 years—would be gathering anecdotal information.

As the Healy cruised through calm seas, Captain Oliver, a soft-spoken 46-year-old from California, underlined the fact that, on a calm day like today, even a yacht would be able to sail unhindered to the Alert radar station—the Canadian Forces' acoustic surveillance facility about 400 miles away on the tip of Ellesmere Island and the northernmost permanently inhabited spot in the world.

"Don't forget: The Alert station is named after the HMS Alert, a steamship that got up that far in 1876," the captain said. "Back in the 19th century, when they didn't even have icebreakers, a lot of navigators made it up to Alert, because there was open water."

The captain was making an important point: If wooden schooners could sail that far more than a hundred years ago, then the recent disappearance of Arctic ice might be the result of the earth's naturally cyclical climate, rather than human-induced global warming. Blame Mother Nature or human nature, but my mission was the same: to conquer the passage and jump ship when the boat arrived at Barrow, Alaska, 14 days later. [...]

If it weren't for the fact that recent NASA satellite data showed Arctic ice coverage to be shrinking, shipping magnates, government officials, and political scientists would probably still be ignoring the Northwest Passage. But the lack of ice has rekindled interest. A viable route through the Arctic could save time and money; from Europe to Japan, it's 6,000 miles shorter than the Panama Canal route.

This only causes headaches for Canada, whose government sees the Northwest Passage as a proprietary waterway, as Canadian as Lake Winnipeg. The United States and Europe—relying on the United Nations' International Law of the Sea definition of an "international strait" as a body of water that connects two oceans—view the passage as the world's property. In 1969, the SS Manhattan, a tanker in the Humble Oil and Refining Company fleet, crossed the Northwest Passage without asking our northern neighbor's permission. Even though Canadian politicians objected vociferously, Ottawa provided two icebreaker escorts that helped free the American ship from 25 separate jams. Nowadays, the U.S. State Department notifies Canada of American icebreaker travel plans, and Canada responds by "granting permission" that the U.S. never asked for in the first place.

In diplomatic terms, you could call this a stalemate. According to Morris Maduro, a political-science professor at the University of Alberta, "in five years the passage will be navigable in summer, and in ten years, the winter. This will be one of the hottest issues dividing Canada from the U.S." That seems slightly alarmist. But as defense analyst Rob Huebert, associate director of the University of Calgary's Center for Military and Strategic Studies, points out, Canada is not prepared to handle the environmental disasters, mass tourism, maritime accidents, potential terrorist activity, and contraband smuggling that a new Canada Canal could entail. As sea ice recedes, he told me, "America's back door swings wide open."

More worrisome is the fact that only 150 full-time Canadian soldiers are guarding the 2.5 million square miles that constitute the northern areas of Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, and the Yukon Territory. There are also a few thousand volunteer Canadian Rangers—aboriginal reservists equipped with World War I-era Enfield rifles. As Colonel Norris Pettis, commander of the Canadian Forces Northern Area, tried to reassure me, the rangers serve as the nation's "eyes and ears in the middle of nowhere." When I asked a spokesman in Canada's Department of National Defense how the military is readying for an open Northwest Passage, I received a release stating that an Arctic Capabilities Study recommended "slightly increasing the number of personnel" and providing the Inuit rangers with "GPS systems, radios, binoculars, and camping equipment."


Inuit rangers?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:32 AM

PORK & RIDE:

Police plan to use pig lard to ward off suicide bombers (Ellis Shuman, February 12, 2004, Israeli Insider)

Israeli police are considering using bags of pig lard in buses and other places to deter Muslim suicide bombers, Maariv reported today. The proposal received the Jerusalem rabbinate's approval.

The police's suggestion is based on the fact that strict Muslim trad