March 31, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:08 PM


New glimpses of Bush worldview: Bush made major changes to his predecessor's list of foreign policy priorities, as all new administrations do. (Peter Grier and Faye Bowers, 4/01/04, CS Monitor)

[I]n the first months of the Bush administration US diplomacy changed directions, with new items such as withdrawal from the ABM Treaty and the multilateral Kyoto pact on atmospheric emissions moving up the priority list. Bush's first real foreign crisis - recovering a Navy spy plane and crew forced down near China - perhaps confirmed officials' beliefs that big-power politics would be their focus in the months ahead.

But it's probably wrong to portray the Bush team as just a bunch of unreconstructed Cold Warriors. Much of the US national security apparatus remains consistent, president to president, and as Richard Clarke's testimony demonstrates, worry about terrorism was widespread in Washington. The new Bush officials weren't deaf to their fears.

Both National Security Adviser Rice and her deputy, Stephen Hadley, told the 9/11 Commission that they realized the Clinton administration had worked very hard on the Al Qaeda problem, according to a commission report. But they'd accomplished little, and their policies, in Hadley's words, were "out of gas."

So they determined to produce new ones. They asked counterterror chief Clarke for ideas. On March 7, 2001, Stephen Hadley convened an informal meeting of his counterparts from other agencies, to mull over such options as increasing aid to Afghanistan's Northern Alliance. They discussed a new presidential terrorism directive.

"The Bush administration was in the process of developing new approaches ... but it took time," says Robert Pfaltzgraff, an international security expert at Tufts University's Fletcher School.

On Sept. 4, 2001, a foreign-policy principals group chaired by Rice "apparently approved" a draft terrorism directive, according to a 9/11 commission report. Among other things, the directive envisioned an expanded covert action program against Al Qaeda.

It's not something we like to acknowledge with 3,000 fellow citizens dead and buried, but withdrawing from things like the Kyoto, ABM, & ICC treaties was and is more important than terrorism. Al Qaeda can't destroy our way of life; transnationalism can.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:59 PM


No ‘Choice’: Wal-Mart prepares to bury the left under a mountain of money (Glen Ford and Peter Gamble, 3.31.04, In These Times)

Jim, John, Alice, Sam and Helen may carry the world’s most dangerous genetic markers. They are the Waltons, heirs to the global destructive force called Wal-Mart.

With more than $100 billion in personal assets among them, the five Waltons occupy positions six through 10 in the Forbes billionaires rankings, twice as rich as Microsoft’s Bill Gates, the guy at the top. Collectively, they are antisocial malevolence with a last name. These spawn of Bentonville, Arkansas harbor an abiding hatred for the public sphere: business regulatory controls, nondiscrimination laws, wage and workplace safety standards, the social safety net—all of it—as expressed through the operations of their retail empire, which is both the largest employer in the United States and biggest importer of goods made in China. As the Democratic Socialists of America put it: “Wal-Mart is more than just a participant in the low-wage economy: It is the most important single beneficiary of that economy. It uses its economic and political power to extend the scope of the low-wage economy and threatens to extend its business model into other sectors of the economy, undermining the wages of still more workers.”

Such a vast project of political economy is far too complex for four middle-aged children of wealth and the 84-year-old matriarch, Helen. The family’s immediate personal ambitions are more modest: to destroy public education in the United States. To that end the Waltons, through their Walton Family Foundation and in close collaboration with Milwaukee’s Bradley Foundation, literally invented the national school “choice” network and its wedge issue-weapon, vouchers.

It is the existence of the school vouchers “movement” that allows the Bush administration to savage and massively disrupt the nation’s public schools while positing “alternative” forms of education, both vouchers and charter schools that often operate very much like public-funded private schools. “Choice” has become national policy under Bush’s Department of Education, which has doled out more than $75 million to organizations birthed by the Waltons, Bradley and their allies. (See “Funding a Movement” by People for the American Way,

Public education’s defenders, already outgunned by the combined resources of the right-wing political funding network plus the full weight of the Republican executive branch, now await the deluge: an infusion of $20 billion into the Walton’s private philanthropy, most of it earmarked for education “reform”—the euphemism for school privatization. At the usual rate of foundation disbursement, this would translate as $1 billion a year—a tidal wave of money, enough to reinvent the voucher “movement” many times over.

This would move them into the lofty ranks of Carnegie and Rockefeller in terms of a positive investment in education in America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:54 PM


The God Wars: From here in the ‘None Zone,’ a feeling of helplessness as religious warriors relentlessly reshape the world. (Knute Berger, 3/24/04, Seattle Weekly)

In the Pacific Northwest, we’re the most irreligious folks in America. We have the largest percentage of adults in the nation who are unaffiliated with any church (63 percent) and the largest percentage who don’t identify with any religion (25 percent)—which is more than double the size of the largest religious group in the region (Catholics, 11 percent). The “state” religion in the Pacific Northwest is no religion, according to a new study, Religion and Public Life in the Pacific Northwest: The None Zone (AltaMira Press). If you’re one of these so-called “Nones,” you’re in good company here.

That doesn’t mean we Nones aren’t deeply involved in religious conflict. From Israel and Palestine to the war on terror to the culture wars at home, they’re unavoidable, whether you’re religious or not. God, we are told, is setting the agenda.

In his Iraq anniversary speech last week, George W. Bush, whose statements since 9/11 have been filled with Biblical resonance and religious phrasings, showed that he’s honed his Manichean view of the world. We are engaged in a war of civilizations, good versus evil, he said again. But this time he was clearer than ever, provoked by the upstart Spanish electorate to assert that there is no room for dissent. “There is no neutral ground—no neutral ground—in the fight between civilization and terror, because there is no neutral ground between good and evil, freedom and slavery, and life and death.” He preached to representatives of 84 nations, and the essence was: Bush’s values constitute the dividing line between good and evil, and he represents good. Choose Bush, or you’re the enemy. [...]

[I]t appears that Bush’s side is winning—even here in heathen country. According to James Wellman, a professor of comparative religion at the University of Washington, evangelical churches are where the growth is. He described a veritable “revival” in Washington state. They seem to appeal to people who find the mainline protestant denominations too wishy-washy, secular, liberal, or old-school. Evangelical congregations are thriving because they’re dynamic, growth-oriented, and they offer moral clarity. He also notes that with Bush articulating so well the evangelical worldview of a titanic struggle between good and evil, people are drawn to the churches because they seem to reflect reality.

In this, Bush’s role is key right now. He believes he is called to rise to the challenges of his times. Others believe that he is interpreting events to suit his beliefs. Either way, he’s right that there is no longer a dividing line: His faith is shaping politics, and his politics are shaping America’s faith.

The effect of having such an evangelical President is obviously significant for America, but what's truly remarkable is the effect he's having in the Islamic world, where he's essentially forcing a Reformation.

Posted by Paul Jaminet at 7:45 PM


The Mariane Pearl-Eason Jordan Link (Washington Post, 3/31/2004)

Eason Jordan, a CNN news exec who was deeply involved in the network's coverage of the kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl, is now romantically involved with Pearl's widow, Mariane, people familiar with the relationship told us yesterday....

Married for 16 years, with two children, the Atlanta-based Jordan, 43, got to know Pearl, 36, who now lives in New York, after Islamic terrorists killed her husband in Pakistan two years ago....

Some CNNers mulled the ethical implications of the relationship.... "While she's a source, what kind of source is she?" one staffer wondered. "She's a source about her husband's death."

To see how ethical standards have fallen in 3000 years, imagine that Deuteronomy's evaluation of an adulterous relationship hinged on whether the woman is an important news source; or that Jesus had said, "Let he who lost the biggest story throw the first stone."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:05 PM


'I'm fascinated by Hip-Hop," says Prez Candidate John Kerry (Rich Rock, Mar. 31, 2004, The Wire / Daily Hip-Hop News)

"I'm fascinated by Rap and Hip-Hop" said Democratic presidential candidate, John Kerry during an MTV Choose or Loose forum. Offering up a heavy dose of street credibility, Kerry defended gangsta rap, freedom of speech and the realities of street life.

Kerry spoke with MTV's Gideon Yago and took questions from the audience last night in MTV's annual Choose or Loose forum. The youth voting movement this year endeavors to get 20 million new voters to the polls and impact what is projected to be a tight presidential race.

The Boston-born heir by marraige to the Heinz Ketchup fortune, offered his perspective on rap music as the voice of the streets. [...]

Calling rap a "reflection of life", Kerry empathized with the struggles reflected in the music.

"I'm still listening because I know that it's a reflection of the street and it's a reflection of life, and I understand all that. I'm not for the government censoring or stepping in. But I don't think it's inappropriate occasionally to talk about what you think is a standard or what you think is a value that is worth trying to live up to."

Today on NPR they were talking to some author who has a book out on the relationship between the presidents and Hollywood. He said, quite accurately, that George W. Bush seems the least interested in popular entertainment and noted that during the 2000 campaign had never even heard of the movie Titanic. He's certainly never listened to a single rap tune. Of course, neither has John Kerry. One of them though is honest.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:31 PM


Reclaiming pro-lifers (Nat Hentoff, 3/28/04, Washington Times)

Quiet as it's kept, the diminishing Democratic majority in Congress for the past quarter of a century equals the rate at which pro-life Democrats have been abandoning the party. This was the message given to Terry McAuliffe, head of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), when he was visited on March 8 by members of Congress on the National Advisory Board of Democrats for Life of America. Among them were Reps. Bart Stupak of Michigan and James Oberstar of Minnesota.

These are the illuminating statistics — ignored by the media — that were presented to Mr. McAuliffe: In the 95th Congress (1977-78), Democrats had a 292-seat majority in the House of Representatives, which included 125 pro-life Democrats. Now, as a minority, Democrats are down to 204 seats, with 28 pro-life Democrats.

At the meeting, Mr. McAuliffe was told that in certain congressional districts, a pro-life Democrat would be able to win a Republican-leaning seat.

Add in the Roe effect and the Red Brown factor and you've got a party in demographic crisis and denial--not a good combination.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:23 PM


In Britain, one in five pregnancies ends in abortion (Sarah Womack, 31/03/2004, Daily Telegraph)

More than one in five pregnancies in Britain ends in abortion while the number of childless women over 40 "increases substantially", according to new figures.

For the general population, parenthood has largely become a matter of choice as opposed to chance, says the Office for National Statistics.

Its report said 36 per cent of all pregnancies in women under 20 were terminated, a figure that has continued to rise despite the widespread availability of contraception and the "morning after" pill.

Among women of all ages, 23 per cent of pregnancies were terminated in 2000.

Sadly the loop feeds on itself, because who would bring a child into a self-loathing culture like Europe's. Islam can't take over fast enough.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:20 PM

THE FINE ART OF HEADLINE WRITING (via Christianity Today Weblog):

Statue of Jesus defaced by pro-choice vandal (NEIL SHEA, March 24, 2004, Providence Journal)

Outside Our Lady of Grace Church, black spray-paint streaked down the statue of Jesus, coating his face and throat. Near his feet, across a border of gray slate slabs, a vandal had scrawled: "Anti-choice Nazis."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:00 AM


Readers Of The Last Aardvark: Dave Sim's postmodern comic-book epic, Cerebus, ends after 26 years and 6,000 pages (Grady Hendrix, March 30th, 2004, Village Voice)

One of the most ambitious literary projects of the last 25 years came to an end this March and you probably don't even know its name: Cerebus. It's a comic-book series about a talking aardvark, whose creator seems to have slowly gone insane somewhere over the course of its 6,000 pages. But it is also something of a masterpiece.

In 1979, Dave Sim (then just 23) made the improbable announcement that his black-and-white comic book, Cerebus, would run for 300 issues and that he would write, draw, and publish the books himself (although it was initially put out by his then wife, Deni Loubert). [...]

[O]ver the course of this story arc ("Mothers & Daughters")—both in the book itself and in the book's editorial pages—Sim made it clear that he believes we live in a feminist totalitarian state. Readers left in droves. The last 2,000 pages have been driven by their creator's deeply personal preoccupations ("Latter Days," the penultimate story line, devoted 144 pages to commentaries on the first 38 chapters of Genesis) and his religious faith (a homemade blend of fundamentalist Christianity, Islam, and Judaism).

Sim found his religion while writing Cerebus, and his uncompromising beliefs have become a whip driving his readers away and his fictional creations through increasingly convoluted antics intended to make theological points. Vexingly, the last 100 issues have also seen Sim and his collaborator (the mysterious Gerhard, who does the backgrounds) hone their visual technique to unparalleled expressive heights. With its dense layers of lettering, literary allusion, and internal logic, one page of Cerebus requires—and rewards—migraine-inducing concentration.

Cerebus's enormous contradictions have alienated it from the comic-book market. To Sim's readers, Cerebus was the satirical story of a talking aardvark in a realpolitik world. To Sim, Cerebus was a soapbox from which to proclaim his beliefs. And, like a true monomaniac, Sim painted himself into a corner, denouncing the Marxist-feminist axis to an increasingly hostile audience.

But despite Sim's anti-feminist crusade, Cerebus stands on its own as a ferocious critique of power. Sim believes that freedom is an absolute, and to this end he has self-published Cerebus, advocated for artists' rights, and bucked intellectual-property laws wherever possible (after his and Gerhard's deaths, Cerebus will become public domain). In an era when selling out is considered synonymous with success, Sim's resistance is bracing. But independence comes at a cost, and the price of Sim's is that his 26-year project, his life's work, is ending largely in silence. Tired of his grandstanding, most people long ago tuned him out. But for the scale of its ambition, the intricacy of its characters, the beauty of its artwork, and its commitment to mapping the at times objectionable mind of its creator without ever blinking or looking away, Cerebus remains a staggering declaration of independence.

Geez, I read it in high school, but had no idea it was still going and had become so much more interesting.

-ESSAY: Requiem for an Earth-Pig (Brian Doherty, 3/23/2004, American Spectator)

One of our era's most enduring and complex epics of fantasy storytelling came to an end this month. It was 6,000 pages long, and chronicled one man's rise through a fascinatingly imagined world, on the cusp between medieval and early industrial ages. We witness the introduction of the printing press, cannons, and primitive airships as the tale progresses. The hero moves, often haplessly and buffeted by outside forces he barely understands, from a barbarian thief and adventurer to a prime minister to Pope of its Catholic-reminiscent church to renegade fighter against a matriarchal dictatorship to bartender to tyrannical head of his own brand new religion.
As with any 6,000-page epic, a one-paragraph prÈcis cannot do it justice. It can, I hope, hint at the riches to be found therein. A couple of complications are also worth noting. First, the protagonist is not strictly a man -- in two respects. "He" is a hermaphrodite, though he thinks of himself as male, and he's also an aardvark. A talking, hind-foot walking, sword-wielding, hard-drinking, scripture-parsing aardvark, mind you.
This 6,000-page epic, it should also be noted, is 6,000 pages of comic book, told and sold in 20 page chunks (mostly) monthly since 1977, published under the title Cerebus (the aardvark's name). It is a sad reflection of the regard with which the art of storytelling through the artful combination of words and pictures is held in our culture that knowing that Cerebus is a comic book is enough to make most intelligent readers not give it a second thought. The general level of regard for comics is low at best, usually plunging to "beneath notice" for the vast majority of literate Americans beyond an ever-shrinking cult of funny book devotees.
Most unusually for a comic book, which are generally produced in an assembly-line manner as work-for-hire for a corporate entity, this epic was mostly a one-man job, written and drawn by a Canadian named Dave Sim. Sim published it himself and retained full ownership of his characters and work. (With issue 65 of his 300 issue series, Sim hired another artist, the singly named Gerhard, to pen the backgrounds while Sim continued to draw the characters.)
The story started off as a broad parody of Conan the Barbarian comics. But it quickly latched on to greater ambitions. Throughout the series Sim continued his early practice of introducing parody characters based on figures from the world of comic books (both characters and creators), movie comedies (ditto), and authors (these latter less parody than attempts to grapple with the figure's meaning). These takeoffs are almost always hilarious, biting, and brilliantly observed.
Within the pages of Cerebus you'll find takes on Groucho and Chico Marx, Batman and the Sandman, the Three Stooges, and Norman Mailer, among many others, that in many cases capture and extend the essential aspects of those characters (it seems apt to refer to Norman Mailer as a "character") as well or greater than their original creators -- all the while fitting them in to Cerebus' fantasy world with perfect sense.
SIM STARTED OFF AS an energetic cartoonist, but 6,000 pages of practice turned him (and Gerhard) into, if not geniuses, highly skilled journeymen who through hard and continuous work discovered techniques and reached destinations not often matched in their discipline.
Cartoonists can achieve stylistic distinctions far more, well, distinct than a prose writer. A prose writer, after all -- unless he strives for Joycean unintelligibility -- uses the same words as everyone else. But within very wide limits, every ink line, and method of drawing a human figure, hand, furniture, a building, is unique. Sim and Gerhard, to abuse the language a bit myself, were even uniquer than most in the world of comics.
It might seem belittling to call Cerebus great "for a comic." But there is no other way for it to be great -- it is a comic book. This is not an insult to comic art, but the ultimate praise: it can strive for and reach storytelling effects that would be simply impossible for other storytelling forms. Sim's lettering is the most obvious example of this.
No one has yet discovered a way for a prose writer to make dialogue say as much about a speaker's intentions, inflections, thought processes and meanings (both hidden and surface) than Sim's brilliantly varied hand-lettering of it -- the most wild and innovative the form has ever known. Sim once made a bravura eight-page sequence of a broken-legged Cerebus trying to climb a huge staircase in complete darkness say surprisingly much, with nothing but panel after panel of differently-divided solid black ink with his lettering of Cerebus' thoughts and words, incredibly revealing of mania, panic, relief, comedy, and self-doubt.
The mastery of pacing through his choices in how to present images across panels and pages is another area where Sim approaches nonpareil, and similarly irreproducible by prose writers.
WITHIN THE WORLD OF comic books, Sim has achieved something unprecedented in length and focus: 6,000 pages all telling a single life story, all written and drawn by the same man. But he's not much loved for it. Somewhere along the line, Sim decided he had a mission with his story. Its theme became the evils and perfidy of feminism, in all its varieties, especially the notion that a man ought to cleave unto a woman and become one flesh.
Sim's methods of expressing this theme shifted as his own ideology did. The real tectonic shift came when he discovered religion and created his own portmanteau syncretist monotheism from aspects he admired from Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Bloody fight scenes, long debates, quotes from fictional treatises, detailed representations of the depths men would sink to in a world dedicated tyrannically to motherhood at all costs, were all in the delightful mix as the story progressed. By the tale's end, Sim was theologizing feminist evils in the YHWH character in the Torah, who Sim insists is not the God who created the world.
I should give a spoiler warning here: One detail of the practice of the theocratic dictatorship that Cerebus sets up toward the work's end will give you a hint as to why, within the narrow community of comics fans, its creator is embattled and widely despised. Cerebus the religious leader arranged the public executions of women who didn't meet the approval of a gathered crowd of men.
Because of his very public animus toward feminism, which shades toward pure misogyny in the eyes of many readers, the comics community at best damn Sim with faint praise, raising the glass to his maniacal productivity and dedication -- a fully written and drawn page pretty much every weekday for 26 years without fail or falter. But they mostly just damn him, and Cerebus, for ideological reasons.
Sim's representation of himself as the embattled last defender of reason and masculinity against the Marxist-feminist axis that he thinks rules the world has marginalized him, to the point that he seriously seems to expect an angry mob of feminazis to lock him up for thoughtcrime. (Well, he is Canadian, so perhaps that's not so unrealistic a notion.)

-ESSAY: Cerebus: An Aardvark on the Edge: (A Brief History of Dave Sim and His Independent Comic Book) (Kelly Rothenberg, Spring 2003, Americana: The Journal of American Popular Culture)
Cerebus did appear at first to be a funny-man's comic book, taking everyone along for the ride for the first year and a half. The fact that Cerebus is an aardvark and everybody else is human, although never mentioned, is just one small thing (although Cerebus is described from time to time as anything from a short midget to a guy wearing a bunny's costume). The early stories were populated with parodies of famous fictional characters and figures from Marvel Comics. These lampoons of standard comic book clichés made Cerebus stand out in the early days from the rest of the pack; Sim was thumbing his nose at the corporate comic book machine.

There was Elrod of Melvinbone, a character who was based on Michael Moorcock's famous albino hero Elric, whose speech was patterned after the Warner Brothers cartoon character Foghorn Leghorn. There was Red Sophia, a parody of the Red Sonja character created by Robert E. Howard, and The Regency Elf, Sim's version of Tinkerbell. One of the best was Jaka's uncle, Lord Julius, the ruler of Palnu and an impersonation of Groucho Marx down to his speech, mannerisms and his first name (Groucho's real first name was Julius). Finally, but not least, there was Artemis, who morphed into parodies of Wolverine, Captain America, Spider-Man, Moon Knight, The Punisher, Sandman, and countless others over the years.

With all this parody going on, when did Cerebus get serious?

The seriousness started with Sim himself. He was always serious about doing comics, but it was around 1979—when he declared that Cerebus would run 300 issues—that the comic began to show more focus. Sim moved away from sword-and-sorcery tales and started dealing with the more adult themes of politics and society. The comics, collected in Book 2 as High Society, told one continuing story and were first published in comic form at around the same time as his announcement. Nobody noticed this connection, but the reader could see that Sim was more focused, as if he had something bigger in mind, and with each subsequent collection the stories and the artwork became more involved and, at times, more serious in tone. These collections, or Books, would eventually showcase the entire series. Sim also declared that the series would be in two overall parts, each with 150 comics. Cerebus, High Society, Church and State, Jaka's Story and Melmoth (Books One through Six) are the First Half of the series, and the Second Half (unfinished as of this writing) are Flight, Women, Reads, Minds, Guys, Rick's Story, Going Home and Form and Void (Books Seven through 14; the books got shorter as the years went along because Sim published fewer issues per book).

Two themes that developed as the comic evolved were Cerebus' campaigns to move up the ladder of power and his love/hate relationship with the dancer Jaka, who was introduced in Issue 6. Cerebus wanted Jaka, but only when he could not have her, and when he could have her he was too busy campaigning for power to notice. "You said you'd wait forever for Cerebus…" he says to Jaka at one point, referring to their first meeting when he was drugged against his will so he would not remember her. Jaka replies, "I said I'd wait forever for you to remember [me]. Well you did remember and you never came back" (Sim, Church and State I: 461-63). Cerebus does come back to her in Jaka's Story, but unfortunately she is married to Rick (who appears later in Rick's Story). Sim's take on the guy/girl romance angle haunts Cerebus through the entire run of the series. Cerebus is only truly happy with Jaka at the end of Rick's Story, and even that is short-lived. Throughout twenty-plus years of Cerebus, he has loved Jaka and driven her away, and when it seems that he has finally learned his lesson, he drives her off again at the end of Form and Void. The reader can only wonder if Jaka is to be heard from again.

Cerebus' campaign for power eventually wins him the title of Pope of the Eastern Church of Tarim, which in turn leads to a power struggle and eventually a radical power shift from men (Kelvinist) to women (Cirinist) being in control. While Cerebus' quest for power is at times very funny, it is also very serious. When all is said and done, Cerebus embodies the notion that "absolute power corrupts absolutely." The more powerful he becomes, the more insane he becomes until finally he is brought before The Judge—a being of intense power (though his greatest power is observation)—to prevent the destruction of the entire world through Cerebus' greed. Church and State ends with a prophetic warning from The Judge: "You live only a few more years. You die alone. Unmourned. And unloved" (Sim, Church and State II: 1212). This prophecy will haunt Cerebus, and the reader, for the remainder of the series.

Cerebus' drive to do things his way only mirrored Sim's. When Sim launched his series, there were only two comic companies around: Marvel and DC. Rather than sell his creation outright (the fight over creator-owned comics was still to come), Sim decided to self-publish his work. He had an advantage because he could do everything himself, from writing and drawing to stapling the issue together. However, he also had a disadvantage: he had to do everything himself, from writing and drawing to stapling the issue together…

With his girlfriend's help, he began planning out the comic. He wanted a character that was barbaric like all those Barry Windsor Smith comics he read (Smith had worked on Conan for many years before he was let go by Marvel, a move that angered Sim). He wanted a name, something mythological, and his girlfriend Deni suggested the three-headed dog of Greek mythology. Deni, however, spelled the name wrong; Ceberus became Cerebus, and a legend was born (Jones and Jacobs 229). Over time, as Cerebus started to attract a reading audience, Sim realized that there was an incredible amount of power in doing everything himself. He did not have to answer to anybody as far as his subject matter; if the readers did not like it, they would stop reading it. The readers' vote was what mattered most, and not the corporate idea of what a comic should look like or how much money it should make. As Marvel and DC were in a constant power struggle over which company was on top that week, Sim was left alone because, as far as the Big Two were concerned, Sim and his ilk did not matter. Little did they realize how wrong they were.

-DISCUSSION: Cerebus #300 (Craig Lemon, Silver Bullet Comics)
-REVIEW: of Cerebus (
-Cerebus the Aardvark (Wikipedia)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:48 AM


Kerry personally vulnerable (Tony Blankley, March 31, 2004, Jewish World Review)

[W]hat may become the enduring exemplar of the Kerry style was his spontaneous expletive on the ski slopes when his Secret Service guard bumped into him by accident (while guarding him): "I don't fall down. The S.O.B. knocked me over." To instinctively say that about the man who is sworn to put himself between Kerry and a bullet, paints a lasting and contemptible character portrait. Contrast that with what Ronald Reagan said shortly after he was shot: "Honey, I forgot to duck." It was at that moment that 60 percent of the American public fell permanently in love with the Gipper. As Ernest Hemmingway put it in another time, that is grace under pressure — and Kerry doesn't have it.

The second emerging liability is the matter of Senator Kerry's health and vigor. Few people commented adversely when Mr. Kerry had his cancer operation last year. Most otherwise healthy men go on to fully active lives after such a successful operation. But some people began to notice when he took a week off to relax and "re-charge his batteries" at his wife's ski lodge — just when the campaign was heating up and he had not yet recovered from his foolish foreign leaders claim. His staff had to explain that he gets verbally sloppy when he gets tired. (Of course, the presidency is a darned tiring job 365 days a year.)

Now comes the unrelated matter of an operation to repair a torn shoulder tendon, an injury that the Kerry campaign says he incurred while on a campaign bus in January. The post-operative period will again take him out of action for "three or four days." Of such episodes, impressions begin to form. [...]

The American public has a growing experience with incomplete, protective or misleading statements by the doctors of politicians and other celebrities. So long as Mr. Kerry refuses to permit the release of his military records relating to his war injuries and health, as well as his current and comprehensive medical records, a curious American public will have to judge the senator's physical fitness for the presidency by publicly available evidence, speculation and rumor. It's Kerry's own fault if false rumors affect his candidacy.

He is already on record as lying about his cancer condition last year — first denying the condition, then admitting it when the fact could not be avoided. Even The Washington Post yesterday reported that: "Kerry, 60, who appeared athletic and robust during his recent skiing holiday, has nonetheless faced medical issues in the past year that have raised questions about his overall health." When the Washington Post puts its corporate teeth into a candidate on a personal matter — that's not good news for the politician.

In 2000, everyone knew that George W. Bush had some skeletons in his closet that he preferred not come out--anyone who drinks to excess will inevitably have such. By not dealing with the embarrassment early--even if for understandable reasons--he left himself vulnerable, at the mercy of the media and his opponents, and when the old DUI charge came out so close to Election Day it cost him the popular vote and nearly the electoral.

The fundamentals of this race make it nearly unwinnable for Mr. Kerry--Northeastern liberal sitting senator vs. popular incumbent during economic boom--but if he doesn't get out in front of stories like this then Mr. Blankley is correct about his candidacy's potential for flophood.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:18 AM


The Jobs of the Future Are a Thing of the Past: Outsourcing and the sad little movement to stop it (Rick Perlstein, March 30th, 2004, Village Voice)

The outsourcing of white-collar jobs overseas began in earnest during the personnel shortage caused by the run-up to Y2K. In a sense, it grew directly from a parallel phenomenon, generally ignored. Call it "in-sourcing." Averting the catastrophe of a nation of computers suddenly partying one New Year's morning like it was 1899 gave Congress a reasonable excuse to raise the cap on the number of H-1B visas, which are issued to allow companies to sponsor specialized foreign workers in cases of a demonstrable labor shortage.

On the other side of the world, the Y2K panic catalyzed India, which was dismantling the protectionist components of its own quasi-socialist economy, to bid for all kinds of service work to be done there—thanks to its relatively large, educated, English-speaking middle class and a providential 10.5-hour time shift that lets Indian researchers crunch numbers on behalf of sleeping American financial analysts on the East Coast.

Importing labor, exporting jobs: These are the two sides of the coin. According to the regnant economic theories, the sides are inseparable: capital scouring the world to find labor at the cheapest price, supply meeting demand, each dollar being spent at its greatest point of efficiency. A fat lot of comfort that is if you're on the receiving end of the regnant economic theories. Capital does the scouring a lot more aggressively these days than it used to—even to the point of systematically abusing the law.

Some of the worst abuses are the "body shops," made possible by another kind of temporary work visa: the L-1. This permit is tailored even more narrowly; it was designed to allow companies to fill short-term vacancies with transfers only from their overseas branches. And since it was intended to be of such limited application, Congress didn't bother setting ceilings on their issuance. This proved a loophole big enough to fly a 747 through: Indian consulting companies set up U.S. branches, imported Indian computer programmers en masse, and rented them as cheap replacement parts to cost-conscious third-party companies in the U.S.

Such "intracompany transfers" made for one of the most dramatic stories of this fragile little movement. Siemens Information Communications Networks in Lake Mary, Florida, replaced its entire IT department with employees of the Indian consulting company Tata, who worked at about a third of the Americans' salary. For a severance bonus, the displaced workers received the privilege of training their replacements. The Dickensian maneuver turned one of them into a political animal. Mike Emmons, a 42-year-old father of two, awoke one morning with the sun and sent out thousands of e-mails to Siemens employees explaining the whole dirty deal—at 5:30 a.m., while possibly suspicious Siemens network administrators slept. Like a scene out of some post-industrial Erin Brockovich, some 1,000 workers settled down to their toil one January day in 2003, opened their inboxes, and, one by one, broke into a spontaneous cascade of applause in appreciation of the brave truth-teller no longer in their midst.

Now Emmons is running for Congress, as a Democrat. He makes some great points: "You know," he says, "I wouldn't mind if the relentless search for cheap, cheap, cheap included critical items Americans need. While I was training my Indian replacements, my HMO insurance was being increased 84 percent, to $18,000 a year—one-half the money Siemens pays my replacement!"

Mr. Emmons can be forgiven such obtuseness--it's practically a requirement for a Democratic congressman--but Mr. Perlstein is normally more sensible. The high cost of the health care Americans demand is one of the ways in which they've made their own labor more expensive that it's worth. Adopt HSA's and make these workers more affordable for corporations.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:38 AM


Christian Quotation of the Day (March 31, 2004)

If there were a righteousness which a man could have of his
own, then we should have to concern ourselves with the question
of how it can be imparted to him. But there is not. The idea
of a righteousness of one's own is the quintessence of sin.
--Lesslie Newbigin (1909-1998)

The central claim of secularism is precisely that we each have access to a righteousness of our own.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 AM


Alternative teachers' training 'alarming': Group calls for reforms, oversight of programs that prepare new educators (Nancy Mitchell, 3/24/04, Rocky Mountain News)

Before they lead classrooms, alternative teachers in Colorado average only 18 hours of preparation. Some have none at all.

The Alliance for Quality Teaching labels that statistic "alarming" in its report, released this week, on the state's 44 alternative teacher preparation programs.

"That was a surprising and somewhat distressing discovery," said Gully Stanford, one of three people who lead the statewide Alliance, a nonpartisan group of educators, politicians and policymakers.

"It goes hand-in-glove with our first recommendation that there be more consistent oversight, even regulation, of alternative programs." [...]

Alternative programs, once considered a stop-gap measure to ease teaching shortages, are supplying greater numbers of the state's teachers.

The report found the typical alternative teacher is older, with an average age of 35, and better-educated, with nearly a fourth already holding a master's degree.

A system that would require people who are manifestly competent to go back and get the worthless "educational" training that most teachers get now would be totally pointless. It would actually be better to do away with every education department at every college in America and only hire people who've had some real world experience and been trained in other fields.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 AM


Bush Administration Shows More Support of Free Trade (EDMUND L. ANDREWS, 3/31/04, NY Times)

Top officials at the Federal Reserve, though independent of the Bush administration, have sided with the White House in defending free trade.

Ben S. Bernanke, one of the central bank's most visible and outspoken board members, said on Tuesday that foreign trade accounted for only a tiny fraction of the 2.2 million jobs that have been lost over the last three years.

Mr. Bernanke, citing estimates by outside economists that foreign trade may have led to the loss of as many as 167,000 jobs a year since 2001, said the numbers were small in comparison with the nation's overall pace of both job creation and job destruction. During the 1990's, Mr. Bernanke said, the United States lost about 15 million jobs a year but gained about 17 million jobs.

"Quantitatively, outsourcing abroad simply cannot account for much of the recent weakness in the U.S. labor market," he told an audience at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business.

Mr. Bernanke argued that the biggest reason for the weak job market was the rapid rise in domestic productivity, which has allowed companies to make more goods without hiring additional workers. American productivity has grown by about 5 percent a year for the last two years, twice its normal pace.

William Poole, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, told a college audience in Indiana that foreign trade and outsourcing would ultimately benefit the United States by reducing prices at home and expanding export markets.

"This process has been going on in the course of economic development for hundreds of years," Mr. Poole said. "So this is a fact of life. It's not something that we're going to reverse."

Unless the Democrats can repeal the basic laws of economics they're stuck with the fact that the Administration is right. So, the argument that John Kerry will stop the outsourcing is a de facto statement that he'll damage the efficient functioning of the economy.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:50 AM


The Limits of Medicine (Philip Longman, Washington Post, 31/03/04)

Faith in medicine runs deep in America. We spend more per person on health care than any other nation. Most of us are confident that we will live longer, more active lives than our parents. Whether we eat too much or exercise too little, whether we're turning gray or feeling blue, we increasingly look to some pill or procedure to make us better. No one likes to hear official projections such as those that came out last week about Medicare, which show that the program will be running multitrillion-dollar annual deficits just when baby boomers need it. But a common response is: What's a more important priority for society's resources?

Good question, assuming that devoting ever more dollars to medicine will bring us longer, healthier lives. But there is mounting evidence that each new dollar we devote to the current health care system brings small and diminishing returns to public health. Today the United States spends more than $4,500 per person per year on health care. Costa Rica spends less than $300, and has half as many doctors per capita. Yet life expectancy at birth is nearly identical in both countries.

Despite the ballyhooed "longevity revolution," life expectancy among the elderly in the United States is hardly improving. Since 1990 Medicare expenditures per senior have more than doubled. Yet life expectancy among American women at age 65 was lower in 2003 than it was in 1991, according to estimates released by the Social Security Administration last week. Yes, we are an aging society, but primarily because of falling birthrates.

Younger Americans, meanwhile, are far more likely to be disabled than they were 20 years ago. Most affected are people in their thirties, whose disability rates increased by nearly 130 percent, due primarily to obesity. Americans of all ages are also increasingly likely to die from a host of infectious diseases and chronic conditions. Between 1980 and 2000, the age-adjusted death rate from diabetes increased by 39 percent, chronic lung disease by 49 percent, and kidney disease by 21 percent.

Why has our huge investment in health care left us so unhealthy? Partly it is because so many promised "miracle cures," from Interferon to gene therapies, have proven to be ineffective or even dangerous. Partly it's because health care dollars are so concentrated on the terminally ill and the very old that even when medical interventions "work," the gains to average life expectancy are small. And partly it is because of medical errors and adverse reaction to prescription drugs, which cause more deaths than motor vehicle accidents, breast cancer or AIDS. Each year roughly 200,000 seniors suffer fatal or life-threatening "adverse drug events" due to improper drug use or drug interaction. Will Medicare's new prescription drug benefit save more lives than it ends? The answer is not obvious.

There are some simple ways to improve the effectiveness of medicine. Each year 90,000 patients in the United States die from infections they contract in hospitals, and doctors and nurses who fail to wash their hands are the biggest vector. To cut down on medical errors, many hospitals are adopting sophisticated quality control measures similar to those used by manufacturers to reduce "defect rates." Today only 1 cent out of every dollar spent on the National Institutes of Health goes to establishing "best practices" in medicine. Redirecting more funds from basic research to studying the effectiveness of different treatments would go a long way toward preventing such lethal medical fads as high-dose chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants.

It is all well and good to encourage people to have more children to support the aged, but given the modern frantic determination to live as long as possible at whatever cost, what kind of slavery will they be born into?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:11 AM


Dear Mr. Judd,

I just wanted to notify you and your readership about a call for submissions for the new journal of the Bull Moose Republicans:

"Defending the rule of law and promoting free trade are two of the foundational values of modern American conservatism. President Bush's immigration proposal has brought these two principles to the fore of public discussion within the GOP as faithful conservative loyalists debate the practical application of these two shared values as they apply to our country's present immigration situation.

Authors are invited to interpret these two values - rule of law and free trade - philosophically and/or historically, and apply them in defense of or opposition to the specific immigration policy proposal of the Bush administration.

For source material, read the President's immigration proposal."

More information is available at Thank you for your time.

Sincerely yours,
William M. Fusz
Policy Director
Bull Moose Republicans

Posted by Paul Jaminet at 12:17 AM


EU 'anti-terror Tsar' to fight al-Qa'eda (Telegraph, 3/26/2004)

European Union leaders agreed yesterday to rush forward a clutch of EU-wide surveillance measures and created an anti-terror "Tsar" in response to the Madrid bombings.

The list of counter-terrorism measures pushed by Britain, France and Spain at a Union summit in Brussels include plans to retain mobile telephone records, e-mail and internet data indicating the time and address of all websites visited.

Europhobe that I am, I still wouldn't have guessed that Europe's pre-eminent anti-terror measure would be monitoring of web-browsing. At least we'll know if the next Mohammed Atta was using Internet Explorer. Planned response to the next bombing: electronic ankle bracelets for everyone. Then we'll know if the third Mohammed Atta went bowling like the Columbine killers.

Campaign 2004 prediction: in September, Dick Clarke and John Kerry explain that the Europeans take terrorism much more seriously than the Bush administration.

March 30, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:23 PM



The NEW YORK OBSERVER will report on Wednesday that former Vice President Al Gore will close the deal to buy his own cable TV channel this week!

Mr. Gore and his business partner, entreprenuer and Democratic fundraiser Joel Hyatt, will acquire Newsworld International for around $70 million from Vivendi. The Observer will also report that Mr. Gore approached French-owned Vivendi through French President Jacques Chirac in 2003, hoping to get a better deal from Vivendi CEO Jean-Rene Fourtou.

Who is running that Party that they think things like this help?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:47 PM


Heinz Seeks to Disavow Kerry Connection (CHARLES SHEEHAN, 3/30/04, AP)

H.J. Heinz Co. has launched an election-year campaign of its own, this one to distance the ketchup maker from what is shaping up to be an acrimonious presidential race.

If you've waited this long, why not file online? Get a move on with E-filing tips and tax site comparisons.

The company has sent nearly 50 letters to radio and television talk shows nationwide to tamp down chatter on the airwaves and Internet suggesting revenue from ketchup sales will benefit the campaign of pending Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry.

My, they are in a pickle.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:43 PM


Medicare's Hidden Bonanza: After millions in campaign contributions, an insurance magnate's 10-year lobbying campaign finally pays off. (Michael Scherer, March/April 2004, Mother Jones)

For conservative leaders, the best part of the Medicare bill President Bush signed in December had absolutely nothing to do with Medicare. Rather, the provision that House Speaker Dennis Hastert calls "the most important piece in the bill" and former Speaker Newt Gingrich considers "the single most important change in health care policy in 60 years" is a little-noticed tax rebate set to cost the Treasury $6.4 billion over the next decade. The measure allows Americans to open tax-free "health savings accounts," which can be used to pay medical bills—in effect removing their owners from the shared risk that has been the core of the health-insurance system since World War II.

One problem with assuming your political opponents are always doing things that are merely expedient is that you blind yourself to their often obvious real intent. So, when Democrats, libertarians and the rest look at the Medicare law that the President ram-rodded through, they think he was just trying to buy the votes of seniors, when, in fact, he was buying them off. If the price of passing the significant social welfare reform that is embodied in HSA's was tossing the seniors their pharmaceutical bone, so be it--just as the price of school vouchers was a little extra federal money for education. Mr. Bush keeps building the infrastructuure of the Opportunity Society and laying the groundwork for permanent Republican control of the government cash spigot, yet the perceptive stories like this one are few and far between.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 PM


CRISP POTATO "PIZZA" (Lynne Rossetto Kasper, The Splendid Table)

Serves 3 to 4 as a side dish or antipasto

2 large cloves garlic
3 tightly packed tablespoons fresh Italian parsley leaves
1 1/2 pounds small red-skinned potatoes, sliced 1/16 to 1/8 inch thick
1 medium red onion, sliced into very thin rings
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
Shredded zest of 2 large oranges
1/3 cup oil-cured black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 heaping cup shredded Asiago or Fontinella cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 500°F. Oil a 14-inch pizza pan or a cookie sheet. Mince together the garlic and parsley. Place in a large bowl with the potatoes and onion. Fold in the olive oil, oregano, hot pepper, half the orange zest, and half the olives, along with generous sprinklings of salt and black pepper. Toss everything to coat the potato slices.

2. Spread the potatoes out in an even single layer on the pan. Bake 20 minutes, then sprinkle with the remaining orange zest and olives. Bake another 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are speckled with golden brown and the zest has darkened. To get the top to brown to a rich gold, it may be necessary to broil the pizza for 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle with the cheese, let it begin to melt, then take the pizza out of the oven. Slice into wedges (or squares) and lift off the pan with a spatula. Serve hot or warm.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:18 PM


The Red-Green Divide Over Human Enhancement (James Pethokoukis, 03/30/2004, Tech Central Station)

Having spoken with many enhancement advocates, it seems pretty clear to me that they, for the most part, think the cultural momentum is moving in their direction. Just look, they point out, how we are already enhancing themselves. College students are already using Ritalin to enhance their concentration for exams. Human growth hormone has been approved for healthy short kids. Demand for cosmetic plastic surgery continues to soar. In 2003, more than 6.9 million procedures were done -- 41 percent more than a year earlier, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Interest in plastic surgery has grown so much that it's now the subject of reality shows on ABC and MTV. And as soon as embryonic stem cells are shown to cure some disease or tinkering with the germline is shown to prevent some horrific malady from ever occurring, "the debate over them will be over," as UCLA's Gregory Stock, author of the book Our Inevitable Genetic Future, told me recently.

Except ... that Hispanics and blacks, who by 2050 will compose 39 percent of the population, both display strong culturally conservative values and -- along with evangelical whites -- may form formidable political obstacle to new biotechnologies. Take the issue of abortion, which serves as a handy stand-in for attitudes toward cutting-edge biotech since both touch on the issue of what it means to be human. A 2002 Pew Research survey found that more than 55% of both registered Latino and African-American voters believe that abortion should be illegal in most or all cases -- ten points higher than whites. When asked whether abortion is "unacceptable, 79 percent Hispanics who identified themselves as Roman Catholic -- about 70 percent of respondents -- agreed that it was vs. 53 percent of white Catholics. (Even 53 percent of self-described "secular" Hispanics found abortion "unacceptable" vs. 22 percent of secular whites.) And a 2001 Survey USA poll of attitudes of New Yorkers towards stem cell research found that only 38 percent of Hispanics and 44 percent of blacks thought such research ethical vs. 68 percent of whites.

Religious commitment, of course, plays a big part in that divergence. Another 2002 Pew Research poll of attitudes toward federal funding for stem cell research found that individuals with a high level of religious commitment (based on factors such as how often individuals pray and attend church services) opposed such funding in far greater numbers than low commitment individuals. Roughly 48 percent of black with a high religious commitment, for instance, opposed such stem cell funding vs. 22 percent of those blacks with a low commitment. For Hispanics, it was 44 percent vs. 32 percent.

Now unless we are about to enter a Star Trek world where religion seems to have disappeared, it appears likely that over the coming decades both demographic and technological trends will turn America's current red-blue divide into a red-green divide (like the colors in a traffic light) -- "red" for those religious Hispanic, blacks and evangelical whites who will want to stop human enhancement, and "green" for those more secular Hispanics, blacks and whites who will want to go forward with it.

This is the dynamic that George W. Bush comprehends but many others on the Rioght are oblivious to.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:58 PM


Face the Fetus: It's time for abortion rights advocates to stop denying reality. (William Saletan, March 29, 2004, Slate)

Once the embryo is defined as a child, and killing it is defined as killing a child, abortion at any stage of pregnancy becomes murder—immediately in theory, and eventually in law.

Is this what the Senate intended? Not really. Last year, 52 senators voted for an amendment declaring that Roe "secures an important constitutional right" and "should not be overturned." Fourteen of those 52 pro-choice senators voted Thursday for UVVA. Four of them voted against an amendment to UVVA, offered by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that would have preserved UVVA's penalties for assaults on pregnant women while changing its language to avoid a collision with abortion rights. Feinstein's amendment was the sole alternative put forward by abortion rights supporters. It was the whole ball game, and those four senators held the balance of power. With their support, Feinstein's amendment would have been adopted, and abortion rights would be safe. Instead, the amendment failed, 50 to 49.

Why did the pro-choice side lose those four votes? The answer lies in the text of the Feinstein amendment. It says that anyone who commits one of the enumerated violent federal crimes and "thereby causes the termination of a pregnancy or the interruption of the normal course of pregnancy" will get a second punishment "the same as the punishment provided for that conduct under Federal law had that injury or death occurred to the pregnant woman."

One word is notably missing from the amendment. The word is "fetus." There is no fetus. There is only a "pregnancy."

This is not an accident. Each time pro-lifers have tried in recent years to treat the embryo or fetus as a person in one context or another, pro-choicers have responded by treating the fetus as a nonentity. When pro-lifers sought to ban human cloning, pro-choicers offered a counterproposal that would require the destruction of every cloned embryo—which they referred to only as "an unfertilized blastocyst" and "the product of nuclear transplantation"—within two weeks of its creation. When pro-lifers sought to make fetuses eligible for the State Children's Health Insurance Program, pro-choicers offered a counterproposal to expand the program's eligibility guidelines "as if any reference to targeted low-income children were a reference to targeted low-income pregnant women." The pro-choice alternative made no reference to the gestated entity until it was "born."

It's a strategy of denial. And this week, it ran into too much reality. [...]

"If a state can put someone in jail for life because they took the life of an unborn child, then we're clearly saying there is something very valuable there," Feinstein warned Thursday. She wasn't endorsing that conclusion. She was reading aloud, with disapproval and alarm, the words of a Nebraska state senator. Guess what: There is something very valuable there. And if you can't see it, we can't hear you.

The pro-life strategy of re-humanizing the fetus is truly brilliant.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:48 PM


MAY DATE TARGET FOR DEM MATE (Brian Blomquist, March 30, 2004, NY Post)

John Kerry is looking to name a running mate early - by the end of May - to help raise money, build momentum and serve as an attack dog, sources said yesterday.

Kerry's advisers believe they can send out their No. 2 to hammer President Bush and quickly respond to Republican charges - in a fashion similar to Bush's use of Vice President Dick Cheney, who's been giving hard-hitting anti-Kerry speeches.

They can't be this stupid. They are not going to pick a veep four months before anyone is paying attention and then send this unknown out to be the attack dog, so that the first impression voters get of them is that they're a hatchet man/woman.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:40 PM


New Happiness Index shows British society peaked in 1976: Overall quality of life said to have dropped, despite technological advances and economic prosperity. (Mark Rice-Oxley, 3/31/04, CS Monitor)

Britain was in the grip of inflation, drought, and punk rock. The cold war was in remission, the IMF bailed out the economy, and the Muppets and Starsky and Hutch were on TV.

It hardly sounds like the halcyon days of a golden era. But according to new research from a London think tank, 1976 was the year when Britain peaked as a society. Since then, Britons may have become more prosperous and more technologically advanced, but at such a social and environmental cost as to weigh negatively on the overall quality of life.

The report by the New Economics Foundation (also dubbed the Gross National Happiness Index ) is the latest salvo in an ongoing global debate over how to measure progress. Some US cities have created their own quality of life or "sustainability" indexes that include crime, health, environmental, and cultural factors. Canadian, British, and Scandinavian governments have added a catalog of new social and environmental yardsticks, too.

Understanding that, however, hasn't stopped economists and social commentators here from balking at the idea that a period in British history often known for industrial unrest, bellbottoms, and terrorism can be considered the apogee of anything.

Some doubt that after a generation of economic growth and exponential technological change, British citizens are really worse off now than almost 30 years ago.

And yet the study insists that this is just the point: traditional measurements of progress, it says, heavily favor the economic over the social, and are becoming outmoded. Becoming bigger, faster, and richer is only part of the story.

Yet folk still believe in progress...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:23 PM


Clarke's Progress: Guess who used to believe in the Iraq/al-Qaida connection? (Christopher Hitchens, March 29, 2004, Slate)

Opposition to the Bush policy since Sept. 11, 2001, has taken one of four forms. There are those who continue to believe that there must have been some administration collusion in the planning and timing of the attacks. (I notice that yet another book alleging this has attracted endorsements from about half of The Nation's editorial board.) There are those who feel that America has antagonized the Muslim world enough already, and that the use of force in Afghanistan and Iraq only makes the enemy more angry. There are those who think that Iraq is "a war too far" (to annex David Rieff's phrase) and a distraction from the hunt for al-Qaida as well as a dangerous exercise in pre-emption. And there are those who think that the Clinton administration would have done, indeed was doing, a superior job.

Of course this quartet of positions is not mutually exclusive, and elements of each are to be found in one another, but the third and fourth ones have emerged as the safest and most consensual with the reception accorded to Richard Clarke's book. Among those claiming to be vindicated by his testimony are Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, two senior counterterrorism figures from the Clinton National Security Council, whose not-bad book The Age of Sacred Terror, published in 2002, bears re-reading. Among other things, it contains (on Pages 230-233 and 336-338 of the paperback version) an interesting profile of Richard Clarke, who is depicted as an egotistical pain in the ass who had the merit of getting things right. This seems fair: He has been exposed as wildly wrong in saying that Condoleezza Rice had never even heard of al-Qaida—an allegation that almost amounts to the dread charge of "character assassination"—and his operatic bow to the families of the victims is fine unless you think (as don't we all?) that one shouldn't appear to exploit Sept. 11 for partisan purposes. However, when in office he worked to develop the Predator drone, pushed for aid to the Northern Alliance, and leant heavily on the CIA and FBI to stop their wicked practice of hiding information from each other, and one can picture his rage at learning that the hijackers had bought seats using their "terrorism watch list" names.

The Benjamin-Simon book contains a long account of the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 and also a stern defense of Clinton's decision in August 1998 to hit the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Sudan with cruise missiles. What is interesting is the strong Iraqi footprint that is to be found in both episodes. Abdul Rahman Yasin, one of the makers of the bomb that exploded at the World Trade Center, was picked up by the FBI, questioned, and incredibly enough released pending further interrogation as a "cooperative witness." He went straight to Amman and thence to Baghdad, where he remained under Saddam Hussein's protection until last year. As Clarke told the Sept. 11 commission last week: "The Iraqi government didn't cooperate in turning him over and gave him sanctuary, as it did give sanctuary to other terrorists." That's putting it mildly, when you recall that Abu Nidal's organization was a wing of the Baath Party, and that the late Abu Abbas of Klinghoffer fame was traveling on an Iraqi diplomatic passport. But, hold on a moment—doesn't every smart person know that there's no connection between Saddam Hussein and the world of terror?

Ah, we meant to say no connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden. Well, in that case, how do you explain the conviction, shared by Clarke and Benjamin and Simon, that Iraq was behind Bin Laden's deadly operation in Sudan?

You have to wonder if the reason that Mr. Clarke's testimony made so little dent is because he so forcefully argued that Bill Clinton had done different and better.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:50 PM


Economists see 'booming economy' (Barbara Hagenbaugh and Barbara Hansen, 3/30/04, USA TODAY)

Employers soon will add jobs steadily as the economy continues to expand, say economists surveyed by USA TODAY.

In an optimistic outlook, the 56 economists also predict businesses and consumers will continue to spend more as the unemployment rate falls. Inflation will stay low, they say, letting the Federal Reserve keep interest rates at historic lows a bit longer. [...]

"Business looks really very, very good," Decision Economics President Allen Sinai says, noting that corporate profits are rising rapidly. That means firms can spend on new technology and other improvements.

They also may finally spend on hiring. In the survey conducted March 19-24, 31% of the economists said they expect hiring to begin in earnest in the second quarter. More than half expected considerable gains in the second half.

Economists say the economy is improving quickly enough that businesses will no longer be able to meet demand with their existing workforces.

It's 1984 with no MN.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:33 PM


Upsetting But Powerful Logic Behind Outbreak of War Over Taiwan (Tom Plate, 3/30/04, Korea Times)

It’s unimaginable that China would ever go to war against Taiwan, right? Until recently, that’s what I thought.

Why would the government of China alter strategic course, veer away from its sane game plan of prioritizing economic development for 1.3 billion people and launch some kind of military attack on Taiwan, a major investor on the mainland and the democratic darling of people in the West?

The international implications for Beijing would be staggering. It would shock an on-looking world every bit as much as last century’s horrific Cultural Revolution, not to mention Tiananmen Square. China again would become, for some years at least, a pariah on the international stage.

Die-hard anti-Communist Republicans in America would say “I told you so”; anti-free trade Democrats now blaming China for aggravating U.S. joblessness would say “There the Bad Guys go again.” Even the worshipful French would have to duck for political cover. Thus China, assuming the success of invasion, would gain Taiwan but lose the world.

And so I used to laugh when learned scholars such as UCLA’s Richard Baum would refuse to rule out the possibility of such military action. How could they be so oblivious to the primacy of economics over politics in our globalized world?

But now I have come to accept the Baum possibility: that significant forces inside China marching to a drumbeat different from that of rational economists may wind up calling the shots over Taiwan, where pro-independence party President Chen Shui-bian has apparently been reelected (subject to the recount) and unleash the first shot.

We should have settled their hash during Tiananmen, but it's never too late to get rid of the last three Communist regimes.

Posted by David Cohen at 12:19 PM


March 30, 2004 Letter from Alberto R. Gonzales, Counsel to the President, to Thomas A. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton. (From the Corner)

We continue to believe, as I advised you by letter dated March 25, 2004, that the principles underlying the Constitutional separation of powers counsel strongly against such public testimony, and that Dr. Rice's testimony before the Commission can occur only with recognition that the events of September 11, 2001 present the most extraordinary and unique circumstances, and with conditions and assurances designed to limit harm to the ability of future Presidents to receive candid advice.

Nevertheless, the President recognizes the truly unique and extraordinary circumstances underlying the Commission's responsibility to prepare a detailed report on the facts and, circumstances of the horrific attacks on September 11, 2001. Furthermore, we have now received assurances from the Speaker of the House and the Majority Leader of the Senate that, in their view, Dr. Rice's public testimony in connection with the extraordinary events of September 11, 2001 does not set, and should not be cited as, a precedent for future requests for a National Security Advisor or any other White House official to testify before a legislative body. In light of the unique nature of the Commission and these additional assurances, the President has determined that, although he retains the legal authority to decline to make Dr. Rice available to testify in public, he will agree, as a matter of comity and subject to the conditions set forth below, to the Commission's request for Dr. Rice to testify publicly regarding matters within the Commission's statutory mandate.

The necessary conditions are as follows. First, the Commission must agree in writing that Dr. Rice's testimony before the Commission does not set any precedent for future Commission requests, or requests in any other context, for testimony by a National Security Advisor or any other White House official. Second, the Commission must agree in writing that it will not request additional public testimony from any White House official, including Dr. Rice. The National Security Advisor is uniquely situated to provide the Commission with information necessary to fulfill its statutory mandate. Indeed, it is for this reason that Dr. Rice privately met with the Commission for more than four hours on February 7, fully answered every question posed to her, and offered additional private meetings as necessary. Despite the fact that the Commission will therefore have access to all information of which Dr. Rice is aware, the Commission has nevertheless urged that public confidence in the work of the Commission would be enhanced by Dr. Rice appearing publicly before the Commission. Other White House officials with information relevant to the Commission's inquiry do not come within the scope of the Commission's rationale for seeking public testimony from Dr. Rice. These officials will continue to provide the Commission with information through private meetings, briefings, and documents, consistent with our previous practice.

I greatly appreciate the strong support you expressed to me last night for an agreement to the conditions on which we are proposing this extraordinary accommodation and your commitment to strongly advocate for the full support of the Commission. If the Commission accepts the terms of this agreement, I hope that we can schedule a time as soon as possible for such a public appearance by Dr. Rice. I want to reiterate once again, however, that Dr. Rice would be made available to the Commission with due regard for the Constitutional separation of powers and reserving all legal authorities, privileges, and objections that may apply, including with respect to other governmental entities or private parties.

I would also like to take this occasion to offer an accommodation on another issue on which we have not yet reached an agreement - Commission access to the President and Vice President. I am authorized to advise you that the President and Vice President have agreed to one joint private session with all 10 Commissioners, with one Commission staff member present to take notes of the session.

This is a climb down, although politically necessary. It is one of the rare instances in which the administration, as Condi Rice was urged to do yesterday, chooses to rise above principle. The part about only doing this because Hastert and Frist agreed that it would not be a precedent is particularly silly, for being so transparent. I want to see Pelosi and Daschle agree. I expect that, far from agreeing, they, and the Democrats on the committee, will attack this agreement. The last thing they want is Dr. Rice's public testimony.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:59 AM


Radio legend Cooke dies aged 95 (BBC, 3/30/04)

Veteran BBC broadcaster and writer Alistair Cooke has died at his home in New York.

For 58 years, Cooke presented his radio series Letter from America, the world's longest-running speech radio programme.

Earlier this month, he announced his retirement on health grounds following advice from his doctors. [...]

A special one-hour tribute, Remembering Alistair Cooke will be broadcast on BBC Radio Four at 2100 BST on Tuesday 30 March, 2004 and at 2000 BST on Saturday 3rd April, 2004.

A World Service tribute is being broadcast at 1030 GMT, 1430GMT (not Europe) and 2130 GMT (Europe) on Tuesday 30 March, 2004.

For more on the irreplaceable Mr. Cooke, see here.

Alistair Cooke, Elegant Interpreter of America, Dies at 95: Alistair Cooke was the urbane and erudite British-born journalist who was a peerless observer of the American scene for almost 70 years. (FRANK J. PRIAL, 3/31/04, NY Times)
-TRIBUTE: Alistair Cooke: More than a charming TV personality, the elegant and erudite Englishman was, first and foremost, a top-notch journalist and social historian. (DOROTHY SAMUELS, 3/31/04, NY Times)
-TRIBUTE: The Bond Across the Pond: My friend Alistair Cooke was a literate and wise interpreter of life in the daughter country. (WILLIAM SAFIRE, 3/31/04, NY Times)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:49 AM


William Tell, Tax Rebel (Adam Young, March 30, 2004,

The legend of William Tell, the Swiss legendary hero who symbolizes the struggle for individual and political freedom, has its origins in medieval Switzerland, in the tax rebellions that launched the Everlasting League and the defeat of an empire., [...]

As the legend goes, the emperor dispatched his army of tax collectors to enforce his long unrecognized claims. One of them, Hermann Gessler, arrived in Altdorf, where he promptly acted to enforce imperial and feudal authority over the people. Raising a pole in the center square, and using his hat decorated with peacock feathers atop it as a symbol of imperial power, Gessler commanded all who passed to bow before it and show proper respect for the government.

William Tell and his young son Walter, peasants from the nearby countryside of Bürglen in Uri, perhaps having not heard of Gessler's command or maybe choosing not to obey it, walked past without bowing. Some versions say he laughed out loud at the silly symbol of the government and its claim to tax.

When Gessler heard of this, he became enraged, fearing that other men would also disobey him, and ordered William Tell's arrest. Hearing that this William Tell was a famous hunter, Gessler devised a cruel plan. He ordered Tell to shoot an apple atop the head of his young son, Walter.

Now, William Tell begged the tyrant not to have him do this. "What if my son should move? What if my hand should tremble? What if the arrow should not carry true? Will you make me kill my boy?" he asked. "Say no more," said Gessler. "You must hit the apple with your one arrow. If you fail, my soldiers shall kill the boy before your eyes."

Without another word, William Tell aimed and let the arrow loose. Walter, hands tied, stood firm and still. He wasn't afraid. The arrow struck the apple in the center, carrying it away from him.

Gessler was impressed and infuriated, but as Tell was turning away, a second arrow that he had hidden in his coat fell to the ground. Cried Gessler, "what mean you with this second arrow?" Tell proudly replied "Tyrant, this arrow was meant for your heart if I had hurt my son."

Not quite as central to the emergence of democracy as the longbow was, but it's surely significant that the Swiss national myth, like the Anglo-American, centers on tax rebellion and the leveling effect of lethal instrumentalities. If you've got kids, we particularly recommend the Newberry winner The Apple and the Arrow.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:09 AM


US, Israel agree on disengagement terms (Herb Keinon, Mar. 30, 2004, Jerusalem Post)

[B]oth sides are presently 'mapping out the areas of understanding and agreement.' The discussions are taking so long, the official said, because they are tantamount to negotiations, with the US representing the interests of a number of other players - Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority.

The official also said he believes the final formula of support for the plan that the Bush administration will issue 'will be satisfactory for the Israeli domestic scene,' meaning that it will live up to the three conditions Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spelled out for his critical support of the plan.

Netanyahu, whose support is considered key in swaying some of the uncommitted Likud ministers, laid out three conditions for accepting Sharon's disengagement plan at last Sunday's meeting between Sharon and the Likud ministers.

These conditions are:

* All of the points of entry to the Gaza Strip - by land, air, and sea - must remain in Israeli hands. This condition was earlier by the Defense Ministry as well.

* A public and detailed US rejection of the Palestinian demand for the right of refugees to return to Israel. The US's rejection of the 'right of return' was strongly implied in comments by presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

* Completion of the security fence before withdrawal from Gaza begins, including building the fence around the Ariel, Gush Etzion, and Ma'aleh Adumim settlement blocs, as well as around Route 443 from Modi'in to Jerusalem. This will be the most difficult commitment to secure, since the US has objected to the route of the fence dipping deep into the West Bank. [...]

Sources close to Sharon said the disengagement plan placed Netanyahu in a political dilemma. While he has real problems with the plan, he understands the public sentiment in favor of withdrawal, and he is looking beyond the plan to the next election.

Remarkable how easy it is to solve the Palestinian problem if you just cut them out of the decision-making loop.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:00 AM


Rays tee off on Mussina in Tokyo (AP, 3/30/04)

On the other side of the world, these New York Yankees looked lost.

Jose Cruz Jr. hit a tying home run that sparked a comeback, Tino Martinez helped beat his former team with his 300th career homer and the lowly Tampa Bay Devil Rays roughed up Mike Mussina in defeating the Yankees 8-3 Tuesday night.

The team that dominates the AL East couldn't do much in the Far East, giving up 15 hits and playing sluggishly in the field.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:16 AM


NPR Stations Had Pushed for Change (LYNETTE CLEMETSON, 3/30/04, NY Times)

National Public Radio's decision to remove Bob Edwards as host of "Morning Edition" is part of a broader push by the network, at the urging of many of its local partners, to remain competitive in an increasingly demanding and crowded news marketplace, several public radio managers across the country say.

The announcement that Mr. Edwards would leave his anchor post, effective April 30, to take on a new assignment as a senior correspondent, and his statements that the move was not his idea, ignited widespread criticism. NPR, based in Washington, has received more than 17,000 calls and e-mail messages from angry listeners, its officials said. A Web site,, has generated close to 3,000 signatures. [...]

In recent years, however, several station managers confirmed, some member stations have voiced concerns to NPR management that Mr. Edwards, who has served as host of "Morning Edition" from its beginnings in 1979, often seemed less engaged on the air. More critically, some station officials said, the program's traditional anchor-dominated format, heard live from 5 to 7 a.m., Eastern time. and rebroadcast with updates throughout the morning, has left NPR ill positioned to respond instantly to breaking news.

"A host, when news is breaking, actually needs to be able to interact live with a reporter on the scene and do live interviews with analysts as a story is unfolding," said Jeff Hansen, program director for KUOW in Seattle, and an independent coordinator for news-focused radio statons that carry NPR programs. "We owe a lot to Bob Edwards for setting exactly the right tone for the first 25 years. But I think there is probably wide agreement in the public radio system that it is time for an evolutionary change."

Though it was a Saturday, so not on Mr. Edwards's watch, their coverage of the Columbia disaster was exemplary, helped greatly by their correspondent Pat Duggins, whose coverage of the space program is outstanding. Meanwhile, some of the best reportage early on 9-11 cvame from Imus in the Morning, when Warner Wolf heard the planes flying over his Manhattan apartment and was able immediately to say that the first hit was a jumbo jet, not a small plane as some first thought. Maybe there's more "luck" involved in such fast-breaking stories than they care to realize.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:15 AM


No More Clash of Civilizations: Greece and Turkey join hands to defeat al-Qaeda. (Stephen Schwartz, 3/30/04, FrontPage)

The victors in the Greek election--Kostas Karamanlis and his conservative New Democracy party--won on a classic free market platform. They preached lower taxes for citizens and corporations, leaner government, deregulation, privatization and denationalization of major industries, and reform of social security, health care, and education.

Their opponents, the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), in power for 20 of the last 23 years, had long been known for virulent anti-American and anti-NATO rhetoric, and such provocative policies in foreign affairs as allowing Arab and other extremists free access to their country so long as they refrained from harming local interests. As a result, Greece had long been treated with near-universal disdain in European capitals, as well as in Washington.

At the same time, PASOK, for all its coziness with Arab militants, indulged in furious demagogy against Muslim Turkey. There was no contradiction in this--Arabs don't like Turkey, which has close links to Israel. But above all, Greeks still smart over their long humiliation at the hands of the Turks, symbolized by the fall of Constantinople in 1453. [...]

But all that is in the past. Now the Socialists--with George Papandreou as their leader--are in opposition, and Kostas Karamanlis, is prime minister of Greece, like his father before him. His government has approved a framework for direct Greek-Turkish negotiations regarding Cyprus. And on April 20, the Cypriots are scheduled to vote in a UN-sponsored referendum. Greek and Turkish Cypriots will be asked to approve a fairly predictable UN-style system for settlement of refugee claims, along with provisions for power-sharing between the two communities.

While UN-sponsored "conflict resolution" has failed in Bosnia and Kosovo, the Greeks and Turks, fortified by their thriving capitalist economies, seem bent on avoiding the path taken in the upper Balkans. For this, Athens and Ankara deserve congratulation and support. In the age of terrorism, a rapprochement between Greece, the cradle of democracy, and Turkey, the pioneer of Muslim secularism, is welcome news for the civilized world. It is of course anathema to al-Qaeda.

Fortunately wiser heads prevailed over the petulant, who wished to punish Turkey for its entirely justifiable worries about the ramifications of our liberating Iraqi Kurdistan. The ideal American response to the way the Europeans are mucking Turkey about as regards its entry into the EU would be to immediately cut a joint free trade and defense agreement with them and the Israelis and anyone else in the region who cares to join.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:14 AM


Reagan Wounded In Chest By Gunman; Outlook 'Good' After 2-Hour Surgery; Aide And 2 Guards Shot; Suspect Held (Howell Raines, 3/30/1981, The New York Times)

At 4:14 P.M, Mr. Haig, in a voice shaking with emotion, told reporters that the Administration's ''crisis management'' plan was in effect, and citing provisions for Presidential succession, Mr. Haig asserted that he was in charge.

Mr. Reagan's wife, Nancy, and senior White House advisers rushed to the hospital and talked to Mr. Reagan before he entered surgery at about 3:24 P.M.. Despite his wound, the 70-year-old President walked into the hospital and seemed determined to assure his wife and colleagues that he would survive.

''Honey, I forgot to duck,'' Mr. Reagan was quoted as telling his wife. As he was wheeled down a corridor on a hospital cart, he told Senator Paul Laxalt, a political associate, ''Don't worry about me.'' According to Lyn Nofziger, the White House political director, Mr. Reagan winked at James A. Baker 3d, his chief of staff. Then, spying Edwin Meese 3d, the White House counselor, Mr. Reagan quipped, ''Who's minding the store?''

The operating room was said to be the scene of a bit of the partisan humor favored by the chief executive. Mr. Nofziger said that Mr. Reagan, eyeing the surgeons, said, ''Please tell me you're Republicans."

At this point, Mr. Reagan had apparently not been told of the grave wounds to the three men who went down in the spray of bullets aimed at him.

Mr. Reagan regained consciousness early tonight, according to a White House statement. It said: ''At 8:50 this evening, the President joked with his doctors in the recovery room and, despite the tubes in his mouth, he gave them a handwritten note that said, 'All in all, I'd rather be in Philadelphia.' ''

The President's game recounting of the show-business line, attributed to W.C. Fields as his choice of epitaph, struck a sharp contrast with the events of the day. [...]

Mr. Reagan was operated upon by Dr. Benjamin Aaron and Dr. Joseph Giordano of the university's staff. Asked if it was ''medically extraordinary'' for Mr. Reagan to have walked into the hospital, Dr. O'Leary said, ''Maybe not medically extraordinary, but just short of that.''

Dr. O'Leary said the surgeons made an incision about six inches long just underneath the left nipple. Mr. Reagan received two and a half quarts of blood through transfusions during what Dr. O'Leary called a ''relatively simple procedure.''

The bullet was removed intact, although its shape had been distorted by striking Mr. Reagan's rib. A .22-caliber bullet is relatively small, and although capable of killing, generally does less tissue damage than the larger calibers typically used by lawenforcement officers.

Mr. Reagan, who has been in office just over two months, is the eighth American President to become an assassin's target. Abraham Lincoln, James A. Garfield, William McKinley and John F. Kennedy were killed by gunmen. Unsuccessful attempts were made on the lives of Andrew Jackson, Harry S. Truman and Gerald R. Ford. This is the third assassination attempt since President Kennedy's death in 1963. Two attempts were made on President Ford's life in September 1975.

Funny how that one incident indelibly shaped our images of both Ronald Reagan, positively, and Al Haig, negatively. Meanwhile, note Howell Raines's implication that the President's humor was inappropriate. Jackass.

March 29, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:28 PM


Future of a ruined Germany (George Orwell, April 8, 1945, The Observer)

As the advance into Germany continues and more and more of the devastation wrought by the Allied bombing planes is laid bare, there are three comments that almost every observer finds himself making. The first is: 'The people at home have no conception of this.' The second is, 'It's a miracle that they've gone on fighting.' And the third is, 'Just think of the work of building this all up again!' [...]

To walk through the ruined cities of Germany is to feel an actual doubt about the continuity of civilisation. For one has to remember that it is not only Germany that has been blitzed. The same desolation extends, at any rate in considerable patches, all the way from Brussels to Stalingrad. And where there has been ground fighting, the destruction is even more thorough. In the 300 miles or so between the Marne and the Rhine there is not such a thing as a bridge or a viaduct that has not been blown up.

Even in England we are aware that we need three million houses, and that the chances of getting them within measurable time seem rather slender. But how many houses will Germany need, or Poland or the USSR, or Italy? When one thinks of the stupendous task of rebuilding hundreds of European cities, one realises that a long period must elapse before even the standards of living of 1939 can be re-established.

We do not yet know the full extent of the damage that has been done to Germany but judging from the areas that have been overrun hitherto, it is difficult to believe in the power of the Germans to pay any kind of reparations, either in goods or in labour. Simply to re-house the German people, to set the shattered factories working, and to keep German agriculture from collapsing after the foreign workers have been liberated, will use up all the labour that the Germans are likely to dispose of.

We always think the task we face is uniquely challenging, eh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 PM


Clarke Refused to Testify in 1999, Citing Same Reasons as Condi (NewsMax, March 29, 2004)

Former Clinton terrorism czar Richard Clarke refused to testify before the Senate Y2K Committee in 1999, citing the same rule invoked by National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice in recent days, with the Bush White House saying the regulation prevents her from testifying publicly before the 9/11 Commission.

In a transcript of a July 29, 1999, Senate hearing first unearthed by, Committee Chairman Robert Bennett, R-Utah, explained that Clarke had canceled his appearance because, as a member of the National Security Council, he hadn't been confirmed by the Senate and as such was prohibited from testifying before Congress.

The Congressional Record confirms Clarke's decision not to appear by invoking the same rule cited by Dr. Rice.

One of the things the Bush team determined to do before they ever took office was to restore the prerogatives of the executive, many of which Bill Clinton had squandered. As with Vice President Cheney's Energy meetings they've pretty much stuck to their guns.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:18 PM


Kerry slams Cheney in Sacramento campaign stop (Associated Press, March 29, 2004)

Sen. John Kerry lashed out at Vice President Dick Cheney on Monday, accusing Cheney of distorting his Senate record on taxes as the Democrat sought to shift the debate to President Bush's stewardship of the economy. [...]

"They found Dick Cheney in an undisclosed location and brought him out to attack me," Kerry said at the start of a town hall meeting at the Charles A. Jones Skills & Business Education Center. "That seems to be his designated role, not to create jobs, but to attack John Kerry. [...]

Two weeks ago, Kerry and Cheney engaged in a cross-country, rhetorical fight over national security and the Democrat's credentials to be commander in chief. On Monday, they sparred over taxes and the economy.

Kerry is on a two-day campaign swing through four California cities, where he is raising money and talking to voters about the need for jobs. While Kerry blames Bush for rising unemployment, Bush's campaign portrays Kerry as a habitual tax-raiser.

Cheney said Kerry had voted for higher taxes some 350 times in his Senate career and was likely to seek huge tax increases to help pay for nearly $1 trillion in his spending proposals.

"That averages to one vote for higher taxes every three weeks for almost two decades. At least the folks from Massachusetts knew who was on the job," Cheney told a receptive audience at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

This is protoypical behavior for an undisciplined and unprepared candidate. He's stepping on the Richard Clarke story that was helping him. He's calling attention to Cheney's attack, which would otherwise have been buried behind the want-ads. And he's picking a fight with a flunky, one who won't even be on the ticket in the Fall.

Unfortunately for the Democrats, no one qualified to run for president entered the race and the campaign season was so mild that Mr. Kerry was never tested. Now they find they're stuck with a bad candidate who learned nothing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:07 PM


Jewish defections irk Dems (Alexander Bolton, 3/30/04, The Hill)

“On the GOP side they’ve been very aggressive in courting the community,” said Nathan Diament, director of public policy at the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations. “The point person on the Senate side is Rick Santorum. Over the past two or three years they’ve been working the community and having a lot of meetings.”

Diament said Barbara Ledeen, the director of coalitions for the Senate Republican Conference, initiated the efforts.

Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), who is Jewish, has also been active. He has traveled around the country “stumping in Jewish venues trying to convey a sense of why Republicans are more deserving of support,” said Diament.

On the House side, Cantor, the only Jewish Republican in the House, has led the GOP outreach effort.

“Democrats do not speak with a unified voice on Israel anymore,” said Cantor. “The Democrats want to re-inject the United States into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a neutral arbiter and neutral voice.”

If only they still believed in Judaism and Zionism they'd all be Republicans.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:54 PM


A pitched battle for state legislatures: Chambers in 25 states could change majorities with a tip of three seats or less. (Daniel B. Wood, 3/30/04, CS Monitor)

The battle for party control over state legislatures, say experts, is more intense than at any point in recent political memory.

Of the more than 7,000 legislative seats in the US, the GOP holds a slim 60-seat advantage. And of the 50 states, 25 have legislative chambers that could switch party control with a shift of just three seats or less.

In Maine and Colorado, a switch of one seat could reverse longtime party dominance of both legislative and executive branches. While in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, a change in three seats could significantly reshape the poltical path of the South's fastest-growing states.

Several of the nation's key battleground states - Missouri, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Washington - could solidify political alliances for years to come.

"This is a far bigger election year for state legislatures than most," says Tim Story, election analyst for the National Conference of State Legislatures. "Because there are so many close votes which could shift party control of legislative chambers, it will likely have an impact on every issue before state government from civil unions to transportation, education, and health care."

This fall's vote will indicate whether Republicans can continue to garner more power in state governments. The 2002 election gave the GOP control of a majority of US legislative seats for the first time in 50 years. (Republicans now control both chambers in 21 states, compared to 18 for Democrats.)

And George Soros isn't gonna pump money into keeping Indiana safe for gay marriage.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:49 PM


The Transition Has Begun: One by one, Iraqis regain control of their own government operations. (Robert Alt, 3/29/04, National Review)

Much debate has swirled from Washington to Baghdad over the June 30, 2004, Coalition-pullout deadline: Will it be too soon to formally transfer power over key governmental operations from Coalition authority to the Iraqi people? At least one agency has demonstrated that June 30 is not soon enough: In a formal ceremony on Sunday, Ambassador Paul Bremer, surrounded by Iraqi doctors, announced that authority over the Ministry of Health is now officially in the hands of the Iraqi people.

That the Ministry of Health should be the first of the 26 public ministries to return to Iraqi control is quite an accomplishment, especially when you consider its dilapidated status just one year ago. Years of neglect had taken their toll. Maintenance was unheard of under Saddam, leaving only 35 percent of the equipment in hospitals operable. Doctors and medical students were unable to view medical journals online because of government policies that made owning a satellite dish a crime punishable by the state. And to add insult to injury, when Jim Haveman, the senior Coalition adviser, and Dr. Kudair Abbas, the Iraqi minister of health, arrived last year, the ministry building itself was completely looted. It is therefore not surprising to learn that Iraqis had come to expect little in the way of medical care.

What a difference a year makes! Saddam only provided $16 million for health care in his 2002 budget, a wretchedly low sum that should again prompt questions about how the Oil-for-United-Nations-Cronies — I mean, Oil-for-Food — program was operated. In FY 2004, however, the health budget received an enormous 60-fold increase, providing $948 million for 26 million Iraqis. At the end of the war, Iraq possessed only 300 tons of pharmaceuticals on hand. Compare this to the 35,000 tons of drugs distributed this year alone, a total that notably includes 30 million doses of children's vaccinations.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:43 PM

60-40 NATION:

Mass. takes step toward gay marriage ban (AP, 3/29/04)

The Massachusetts Legislature adopted a new version of a state constitutional amendment Monday that would ban gay marriage and legalize civil unions, eliminating consideration of any other proposed changes.

The vote came at the opening of the third round of a constitutional convention on the contentious issue, as competing cries of "Jesus Christ" and "Equal Rights" shook the Statehouse outside the legislative chamber.

Lawmakers had voted earlier this month in favor of a similar amendment. The revised version adopted Monday would ask voters to simultaneously ban gay marriage and legalize civil unions — rather than taking those steps separately. It clarifies that civil unions would not grant federal benefits to gay couples.

That even MA can pass at least some kind of amendment is a sign of hope.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:29 PM


Peter Ustinov, Oscar-Winning Actor, Dies at 82 (THE NEW YORK TIMES, 3/29/04)

Peter Ustinov, the hair-trigger wit with the avuncular charm whose 60-year-career amounted to a revovling series of star turns as actor, playwright, novelist, director and raconteur, died Sunday at a clinic near his home in Bursins, Switzerland. He was 82.

Mr. Ustinov had suffered for years from the effects of diabetes and, more recently, a weakened heart. His death was announced by Leon Davico, a friend and former spokesman for Unicef, for which Mr. Ustinov worked for many years.

Mr. Ustinov, a cosmopolitan, corpulent and full-bearded six-footer whose ancestors were prominent in czarist Russia, was a prodigy who began mimicking his parents' guests at the age of 2. He wrote his first play, "House of Regrets," in his teens; it opened in London to glowing reviews when he was 21.

As an actor, Mr. Ustinov won international stardom as a languid, quirky Nero in the 1951 sword-and-sandal epic Quo Vadis?, gained increasing stature by playing sly rogues, and became one of the few character actors to hold star status for decades, adjusting easily to movies, plays, broadcast roles and talk shows, which he enlivened with hilarious imitations and pungent one-liners.

The entertainer's many honors included two supporting-actor Academy Awards for portraying a shrewd slave dealer in Spartacus in 1960 and a clumsy jewel thief in Topkapi in 1964. He received three Emmys for television performances: in the title role of "The Life of Samuel Johnson" in 1958, as Socrates in "Barefoot in Athens" in 1966 and as a rural shopkeeper who gains compassion from a youngster in "A Storm in Summer" in 1970. He won a Grammy for narrating Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf" in a concert conducted by Herbert von Karajan and also directed operas and his plays in half a dozen European cities.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:18 PM


Listen to the Arab Reformers (Jackson Diehl, March 29, 2004, Washington Post)

The most underreported and encouraging story in the Middle East in the past year has been the emergence in public of homegrown civic movements demanding political change. Two years ago they were nonexistent or in jail. Now they are out in the open even in the most politically backward places in the region: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria. They are made up not only of intellectuals but of businessmen, women, students, teachers and journalists. Unlike their governments -- and the old school of U.S. and European Arabists -- they don't believe that change should be gradual, and they reject the dictators' claim that democracy would only empower Islamic extremists. It is the delay of change, they say, that is increasingly dangerous.

These people weren't created by George W. Bush. They are the homegrown answer to a decadent political order, and they ride a powerful historical current. But they will tell you frankly: The new U.S. democratization policy, far from being an unwanted imposition, has given them a voice, an audience and at least a partial shield against repression -- three things they didn't have one year ago.

"In the Middle East today, you talk about food, you talk about football -- and you talk about democracy," says Mohammed Kamal, a young political scientist from Egypt. "Some people condemn the Americans, others say, 'Look at the other side, these are universal values.' The point is that for the first time in many years, there is a serious debate going on in the Arab world about their own societies. The United States has triggered this debate, it keeps the debate going, and this is a very healthy development."

Kamal and another prominent Egyptian political scientist, Osama Ghazali Harb, were in Washington last week; both attended a groundbreaking meeting of civic organizations at Egypt's Alexandria Library earlier this month. The conference, unthinkable a year ago, produced a clarion call for democratic change -- one that was all but ignored by Western media.

So here is what the Alexandria statement said: "Reform is necessary and urgently needed." That means: an "elected legislative body, an independent judiciary, and a government that is subject to popular and constitutional oversight, in addition to political parties with their different ideologies." Also, "the freedom of all forms of expression, especially the freedom of the press . . . and the support of human rights in accordance with international charters, especially the rights of women, children and minorities."

The reason the stories are underreported is fairly obvious: they indicate George W. Bush is winning his world-historical gamble.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:20 PM


Judge hands down a harsh sentence . . . on columnists (EJ Montini, Mar. 28, 2004, Arizona Republic)

Judge Stephen A. Gerst is a cruel and heartless jurist, bordering on evil. How a person like this could get appointed to the bench, then re-elected again and again by voters, is beyond comprehension.

Not because of what he did on Friday to convicted Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien. Not because of what he did to the family of victim Jim L. Reed. But because of what he did to . . . me.

He made me irrelevant. He made everybody who does a job like mine irrelevant. At least for a day.

Gerst spent over an hour explaining why he sentenced Bishop O'Brien to probation, community service and a deferred jail sentence. And he did so in a way that left people like me with nothing to gripe about. Not a thing.

Gerst detailed how he had read all 99 cases of those who, like the bishop, had been convicted of leaving the scene of a fatal accident. He showed a picture of himself with boxes and boxes and boxes of files. He announced in court that he had reviewed each file, using no clerks or other help, and then he described in meticulous detail exactly what the defendants in those cases received as sentences and what factors led to those decisions. [...]

If he were to treat the bishop differently, Gerst said, "It would establish a standard that treats people more leniently who do not hold religious position and treats people more harshly if they do. How people may personally wish to feel about this issue is their own business, but all people should be treated equally under the law."

That is what he did. He considered all of the evidence, all of the testimony, all of the mitigating and aggravating factors. Then he ignored the rants of self-righteous, marginally informed, overly emotional hacks like me and treated Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien equally under the law.

It was a good day for justice, a bad day for columnists.

Atticus Finch lives.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:53 PM


Americans fighting their own holy war (ALEX MASSIE, 3/27/04, The Scotsman)

[I]f there’s one essential truth about the United States these days, it is that the principal divide in the country is no longer between rich and poor, or even black and white, but between the devout and the unbelievers. Clearly, racial issues remain immensely important, but race is both an openly acknowledged problem and one that, although far from solved, is at least moving in the right direction. By contrast, the cultural war between religious and secular is only getting worse.

The case before the Supreme Court is the latest skirmish in this grinding cultural war. Mel Gibson’s The Passion drove another nail through the idea that the United States could comfortably reach any kind of consensus about religion. For the first time in living memory, religious conservatives had no problem with graphic violence on the big screen, while liberal atheists disparaged the pornographic brutalism of Gibson’s vision.

Last year, foreigners chuckled as devout Christians flocked to the state courthouse in Birmingham, Alabama, to protest against the (court-ordered) removal from the building of a slab depicting the Ten Commandments.

To some extent, the argument over gay marriage is but another front in this wider, deeper cultural struggle. The religious Right (and in this case many on the religious Left, too) sees no difference between the Church’s definition of marriage and the civil, secular, definition of the institution. "Activist" judges in Massachusetts and elsewhere disagree.

If further evidence were needed that a religious revival is under way, it came this week as Congress passed legislation making it a crime to hurt or damage unborn children. To godless Europe, this is an extreme measure; to many Americans, it is commonsense.

There is another point to be made too. The notion that the United States was and is a great and divine experiment is central, indeed crucial, to the idea of American exceptionalism. The US remains a profoundly evangelical country, even if the constitution explicitly rejects the idea of a State-sponsored established religion. [...]

The idea of manifest destiny, still deeply felt today, may trouble non-Americans more than any other aspect of contemporary American culture, be it secular or religious. But it is nothing new. Woodrow Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt both believed themselves to be in the business of saving other countries from themselves. There was, in that respect at least, no contradiction in their minds between the interests of the divinity and the United States.

In other words, US religious fervour is inseparable from the political mission the United States has believed itself to be engaged in ever since its founding. In that respect, the modern-day US remains a deeply old-fashioned place, burdened with the sense of obligation (and righteousness) not seen in Europe since the 19th century. The spirit of noblesse oblige lives on and America is destined to be an inspiration for the rest of humanity. Some may see this as hubris, of course, but it is an essential element of American amour propre.

One as yet unrecognized problem for Democrats is that their Atlanticism places them at odds with this Americanism. It makes their choice of presidential candidates especially disastrous.

Socialist Cousin Insists Kerry Isn't French (NewsMax, 3/29/04)

John Kerry's French cousin insists there's nothing gallingly Gallic about the Massachusetts Democrat.

"John Kerry is incredibly American," claimed cousin Brice Lalonde, mayor of Saint-Briac-Sur-Mer and environment minister under Socialist former president Francois Mitterrand. "He has absolutely nothing French about him."

The Associated Press reported today: "With the race for the White House turning nasty - and France-U.S. ties not quite mended from the Iraq war - Kerry's Gallic clan, when questioned, talks up his American-ness. Some are keeping a low profile, saying too much talk about France could be political arsenic."

Lalonde admitted, "I'm afraid to hurt him," but like other Frenchies has a Kerry bumper sticker pasted to his car.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:26 PM


The leftist's Adam Smith (Joshua Glenn, 3/28/2004, Boston Globe)

ADAM SMITH IS often hailed as the original free-market guru. But according to Samuel Fleischacker, an associate professor of philosophy at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and author of the new book On Adam Smith's `Wealth of Nations", the Scottish economist was also a deeply moral thinker who has some lessons to teach the left. "I came to Adam Smith with the notion that he must be a right-wing libertarian," says Fleischacker, who spoke with Ideas from his home in Evanston, Ill. "So it was eye-opening to discover that Smith didn't exalt `commercial society' because it allows people to amass goods, but because it can lead to good for human beings."

IDEAS: Before writing "Wealth of Nations" (1776), which is in part a tract against mercantilist restrictions on trade, Adam Smith published a much-acclaimed treatise on moral philosophy. Yet it's difficult to find any mention of morality in "Wealth of Nations."

FLEISCHACKER: It's true that in "Wealth," moral considerations are given oblique and cursory treatment. But remember, Smith was writing for politicians and merchants likely to ignore appeals to their better natures. Still, he argued for a liberal political economy largely because the broadening of free markets reduces the price of food and raises the standard of living for the poor. Also, he believed that political liberty has a crucial moral function: In a commercial society, individuals are able to develop virtues of self-reliance and self-government, essential to the development of good character.

IDEAS: But isn't Smith pessimistic about our selfish human nature? In a famous line, he writes, "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest."

FLEISCHACKER: Read in context, Smith's point is that what distinguishes humans from animals isn't self-interest, but the fact that we understand that we can pursue our individual interests together. Instead of being a zero-sum game, economic exchange can serve a joint human effort to increase the wealth of everyone -- that's also the point of his "invisible hand" line. But it's important to note that Smith also believed that sometimes an individual's unconstrained pursuit of his interest will not benefit society, and he didn't rule out the possibility of benevolent actions.

The Leftist (or libertarian) who turns to Adam Smith will find cold comfort, Is Adam Smith’s Moral Philosophy an Adequate Foundation for the Market Economy? (James Halteman, Fall 2003, Markets & Morality)
For Smith, the innate passions of humanity fall into three main categories: the social passions of generosity, compassion, and esteem that, when practiced, lead to benevolence and self-control. Unfortunately, these are rare and cannot be counted on to provide the glue of a social order. The unsocial passions of hate, envy, and revenge are never condoned as a social practice and they cannot be transformed into a social virtue. The third category of passions includes grief, joy, pain, pleasure, and self-preservation. These passions are the key to the formation of the social order, and when the downside of these passions is channeled for good, these passions become the virtues of prudence and justice.

The key to the transforming of passions into virtues is three screens or conditioners that function to make society viable. The first is sympathy, which helps people see themselves as others see them. The innate ability to see, hear, feel, and identify with another person’s situation and to experience the same fellow-feeling in return creates an interdependency that is socially constructive. The second screen is the impartial spectator, which acts to provide a totally unbiased perspective on how the passions are lived out. Finally, there is always the appeal “to a still higher tribunal, to that of the all-seeing Judge of the world, whose eye can never be deceived, and whose judgments can never be perverted.”

If this system of three checks on the passions is effectively supported by the proper institutional structures, then the social order can be viable and virtuous. In the area of economics, a market order will best fit this moral framework because of its compatibility with the rules of prudence and justice. The key is the effective control of the passions, and it is the moral order described above that must be present in order for the market system to succeed. What follows is a more detailed discussion of that moral system with special attention given to the question of whether that system is based on nature, custom, and habit alone or whether there is a moral force involved that is anchored in some sense of human telos or essence that defines human purpose. [...]

Smith does not root morality in our ability to attach self-command to sympathy or to our ability philosophically to discern right from wrong. Rather, he looks to the impartial spectator that comes to us from creation and is outside of ourselves—but people often do not have constancy in following the impartial spectator, so the moral battle is ever-present. In one example of a person in distress, Smith describes the battle that goes on between the selfish passions and the impartial spectator.

His own natural feelings of his own distress … presses hard upon him, and he cannot, without a very great effort, fix his attention upon that of the impartial spectator. Both views present themselves to him at the same time. His sense of honor, his regard to his own dignity, directs him to fix his whole attention upon the one view. His natural, his untaught and undisciplined feelings, are continually calling it off to the other. He does not, in this case, perfectly identify himself with the ideal man within the breast, he does not become himself the impartial spectator of his own conduct.

In other words, the inability to appropriate the ideal impartial spectator limits the ability of people to live a truly moral life. The language and context of this discussion points toward a view of the impartial spectator that approximates the conscience as it is used in modern discussion. There is a spiritual component to the conscience, but it can be easily abused by human weakness. In a similar manner, there are times when public pressure opposes the impartial spectator’s judgment for a person, and in those times the influence of the spectator will become weak and faltering, leaving the person with sympathy alone to guide action.

In such cases, this demigod within the breast appears like the demigods of the poets, though partly of immortal, yet partly, too, of mortal extraction. When his judgments are steadily and firmly directed by the sense of praiseworthiness and blameworthiness, he seems to act suitably to his divine extraction: But when he suffers himself to be astonished and confounded by the judgments of ignorant and weak man, he discovers his connexion with mortality, and appears to act suitably, rather to the human, than to the divine, part of his origin.

The All-Seeing Judge of the World: The Still-Higher Tribunal

This divine and human extraction of the impartial spectator leaves the possibility of unsolved moral dilemmas where there is no reliable guidance left for a person involved in such a situation. Commenting on the mortal side of the impartial spectator, Smith concludes that there are times when the impartial spectator is no more dependable than the man without (sympathy of public) that accepts options that are not just or ethical.

In such cases, the only effectual consolation of humbled and afflicted man lies in an appeal to a still-higher tribunal, to that of the all-seeing Judge of the world, whose eye can never be deceived and whose judgments can never be perverted. A firm confidence in the unerring rectitude of this great tribunal, before which his innocence is in due time to be declared, and his virtue to be finally rewarded, can alone support him under the weakness and despondency of his own mind, under the perturbation and astonishment of the man within the breast, whom nature has set up as, in this life, the great guardian, not only of his innocence but of his tranquility. Our happiness in this life is, thus, upon many occasions, dependent upon the humble hope and expectation of a life to come: a hope and expectation deeply rooted in human nature, which can alone support its lofty ideas of its own dignity.

Smith believed that the idea of life beyond death where justice is fully realized is a valuable contributor to the willingness of people to transcend a weak man within and a faulty man without. Having this fully immortal backup to the impartial spectator, whether real or imagined, would be the final line of defense against antisocial behavior. Religious values could be very beneficial to a social order. In this sense, Smith, though espousing only a natural religion, did adopt a concept of telos that specified how people would behave if they live up to their essential purpose.
The Stoic tradition, which can be seen beneath the surface of Smith’s moral analysis, came through several phases from early Hellenistic philosophy through the Roman period up to the third century. Fundamental to Stoic thinking is the notion that the world is an ideally good organism that operates as a system with each part serving the whole. A divine logos, or primary moving force, ordained the system and acted as its guide, but direct access to the Creator rather than submission to the created order is an error of Christianity. Moral development, in the Stoic view, involved an ever-expanding sense of one’s self-interest until the good of the whole is foremost even to the point of sacrificing what would commonly be one’s personal interest, though later Stoicism developed a more pragmatic, ethical posture.

The notion of self-control in Stoicism gives clues as to how one progresses morally. Smith’s ability to connect the Stoic organismic view of the world with the mechanistic natural concepts of the Enlightenment provided a broad base on which Smith built his views. The notion of moral progress in Stoicism when blended with the Enlightenment ideas of moral precepts led Smith to his three-level approach to the moral socializing of behavior. The ability to exercise sympathy, appropriate to the impartial spectator and, if need be, the final judge of our conduct, can be seen as a marriage of Stoic moral development and the secular virtue concepts of David Hume. While there may be no teleology in Hume, one can see Stoic threads in Smith that make the teleological claims plausible.

The Role of Rules in Proper Conduct

Smith believed that if the proper institutional structures were established and new rules of the economic game could be established, then a new era of economic performance would result. The reason for established rules in a social order relates to the problem of appropriating the impartial spectator. Since all the circumstances and motivations must be known before the impartial spectator can authoritatively speak, and because humans rarely know those things in advance, it is necessary to set up general practices and rules that simplify the moral discernment process. “So partial are the views of mankind with regard to the propriety of their own conduct, both at the time of action and after it; and so difficult is it for them to view it in the light in which any indifferent spectator would consider it.”

Given this problem and the fact that individuals are easily self-deceived, Smith sees in nature a method that can standardize behavior effectively. We observe behavior that generates individual welfare and social harmony, and we see behavior that does not. “It is thus that general rules of morality are formed. They are ultimately founded upon experience of what, in particular instances, our moral faculties, our natural sense of merit and demerit, approve, or disapprove of.” Once the rules are established, it becomes the duty of everyone to follow the rules. Apparently, nature reinforces the opinion that the Deity is behind the rules and will subtly enforce them. “Those vice-regents of God within us, never fail to punish the violation of them, [rules] by the torments of inward shame and self-condemnation; and, on the contrary, always reward obedience with tranquility of mind, with contentment, and self-satisfaction.”

Conversely, for Smith, the rules are limited in their purpose. In discussing the operation of virtue development, Smith divides the process into efficient and final causes. The efficient cause of the heart, arteries and veins, or the digestive track in the body is to circulate blood and process food respectively. The efficient cause of the wheels of a clock is to spin with consistency. The final cause of the body is to make human life meaningful, and the final cause of the watch is to tell time. At this point Smith claims that we are trying to do too much if we focus on final causes.

But though, in accounting for the operations of bodies, we never fail to distinguish in this manner the efficient from the final cause, in accounting for those of the mind we are apt to confound these two different things with one another. When, by natural principles we are led to advance those ends, which a refined and enlightened reason would recommend to us, we are very apt to impute to that reason, as to their efficient cause, the sentiments and actions by which we advance those ends, and to imagine that to be the wisdom of man, which, in reality, is the wisdom of God.

This passage illustrates Smith’s concern that we confuse natural systems, which function as efficient causes, with the ends of social organization, which are the final causes. In short, the natural system is God’s design and the tendencies and forces that he programs into the system guide those concerned with morality to the virtues that God intends for us—but the guiding process is toward an end, which is more than simply a viable social order or an efficient economy. The goal is to achieve the perfection of human nature. “And hence it is, that to feel much for others and little for ourselves, that to restrain our selfish, and to indulge our benevolent affections, constitutes the perfection of human nature; and can alone produce among mankind that harmony of sentiments and passions in which consists their whole grace and propriety.” This surely represents a vision of the essential purpose of human creation and the role of the impartial spectator and the higher tribunal are not trivial in this process of perfecting human nature.

MacIntyre’s reading of Smith at this point sees Smith’s view of nature as a substitute for the Christian God. When applied to a setting such as economics, nature prescribes principles or rules that when submitted to properly, become a system of prudence. When a similar approach is taken in the moral realm, ethics and moral reflection become a prudential rule following enterprise. When Smith says, “The man who acts according to the rules of perfect prudence, of strict justice, and of proper benevolence, may be said to be perfectly virtuous,” MacIntyre sees Smith as having a moral system that simply follows rules given in a system based on human passions.

When Smith criticizes ancient moralists for ignoring the rules of justice, MacIntyre sees Smith as equating virtue with rule-following. No purpose beyond the rules of prudence is recognized. While I agree that the intellectual climate in which Smith wrote would support MacIntyre’s view, I believe that Smith could not easily discard the notion that there is a meaningful telos toward which, human activity should be directed. Smith’s references to the design of God, his vice-regents within us, the higher tribunal, and final causation, I argue, are attempts by Smith to hold onto a sense of telos.

In this day and age, only the Right accepts the need for such Christian moralism and rigid institutional structures as a prerequisite for the economic and social systems.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:25 PM


THE HEIGHT GAP: Why Europeans are getting taller and taller—and Americans aren’t. (BURKHARD BILGER, 2004-03-29, The New Yorker)

When Vincent van Gogh was thirty-one years old, in the fall of 1883, he travelled to the bleak moors of northern Holland and stayed at a tavern in the village of Stuifzand. The local countryside was hardly inhabited then—“Locus Deserta Atque ob Multos Paludes Invia,” an old map called it: “A deserted and impenetrable place of many swamps”—but a few farmers and former convicts had managed to carve a living from it. They dug peat, brewed illegal gin, and placed poles across the marshes to navigate by. Any squatter who could keep his chimney smoking for a full year earned title to the land he cleared.

There is little record of what happened to van Gogh in Stuifzand—whether he got lost in the marshes or traded sketches for shots at the bar. When I visited the village, the locals mentioned him merely to illustrate an even greater national obsession: height. At the old tavern, which is now a private home, I was shown the tiny alcove where the painter probably slept. “It looks like it would fit only a child,” J. W. Drukker, the current owner, told me. Then he and his wife, Joke (a common Dutch name, they explained, pronounced “Yoh-keh”), led me down the hall, to a sequence of pencil marks on a doorjamb. “My son, he is two metres,” Joke told me, pointing to the topmost mark, six and a half feet from the floor. “His feet”—she held her hands about eighteen inches apart—“for waterskiing.” Joke herself is six feet one, with blond tresses and shoulders like a Valkyrie. Drukker is six feet two.

The Netherlands, as any European can tell you, has become a land of giants. In a century’s time, the Dutch have gone from being among the smallest people in Europe to the largest in the world. The men now average six feet one—seven inches taller than in van Gogh’s day—and the women five feet eight. The national organization of tall people, Klub Lange Mensen, has considerable lobbying power. From Rotterdam to Eindhoven, ceilings have had to be lifted, furniture redesigned, lintels raised to keep foreheads from smacking them. Many hotels now offer twenty-centimetre bed extensions, and ambulances on occasion must keep their back doors open, to allow for patients’ legs. “We will not go through the ceiling,” the pediatrician Hans van Wieringen assured me, after summarizing national height surveys that he had coördinated. “But it is possible that we will grow another ten centimetres.”

Walking along the canals of Amsterdam and Delft, I had an odd sensation of drowning—not because the crowds were so thick but because I couldn’t lift my head above them. I’m five feet ten and a half—about an inch taller than the average in the United States—but, like most men I know, I tend to round the number up. Tall men, a series of studies has shown, benefit from a significant bias. They get married sooner, get promoted quicker, and earn higher wages. According to one recent study, the average six-foot worker earns a hundred and sixty-six thousand dollars more, over a thirty-year period, than his five-foot-five-inch counterpart—about eight hundred dollars more per inch per year. Short men are unlucky in politics (only five of forty-three Presidents have been shorter than average) and unluckier in love. A survey of some six thousand adolescents in the nineteen-sixties showed that the tallest boys were the first to get dates. The only ones more successful were those who got to choose their own clothes.

Like many biases, this one has a certain basis in fact. Over the past thirty years, a new breed of “anthropometric historians” has tracked how populations around the world have changed in stature. Height, they’ve concluded, is a kind of biological shorthand: a composite code for all the factors that make up a society’s well-being. Height variations within a population are largely genetic, but height variations between populations are mostly environmental, anthropometric history suggests. If Joe is taller than Jack, it’s probably because his parents are taller. But if the average Norwegian is taller than the average Nigerian it’s because Norwegians live healthier lives. That’s why the United Nations now uses height to monitor nutrition in developing countries. In our height lies the tale of our birth and upbringing, of our social class, daily diet, and health-care coverage. In our height lies our history. [...]

If you were to stretch a string from the head of the earliest soldier in that row to the head of the most recent recruit, you might expect it to trace an ascending line. Humans are an ever-improving species, the old evolution charts tell us; each generation is smarter, sleeker, and taller than the last. Yet in Northern Europe over the past twelve hundred years human stature has followed a U-shaped curve: from a high around 800 A.D., to a low sometime in the seventeenth century, and back up again. Charlemagne was well over six feet; the soldiers who stormed the Bastille a millennium later averaged five feet and weighed a hundred pounds. “They didn’t look like Errol Flynn and Alan Hale,” the economist Robert Fogel told me. “They looked like thirteen-year-old girls.”

Fogel, who won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1993, is the man most responsible for Komlos’s interest in height. In the fall of 1982, when Komlos was working on a Ph.D. in economics at the University of Chicago (he had earlier earned a Ph.D. in history there), Fogel gave a lecture on stature that Komlos attended. Most historians, if they thought about height at all, tended to assume that it was tied to income. The more people earn, the better they eat; the better they eat, the taller they grow. “Men grow taller and faster the wealthier their country,” the French hygienist and statistician Louis-René Villermé wrote in 1829. “In other words, misery . . . produces short people.”

Fogel knew it wasn’t that simple. In 1974, he and Stanley Engerman published an exhaustive study of slave economics entitled “Time on the Cross.” Historians had long insisted that slavery was not only inhuman; it was bad business—hungry, brutalized workers made the poorest of farmers. Fogel and Engerman found nearly the opposite to be true: Southern plantations were almost thirty-five per cent more efficient than Northern farms, their analysis showed. Slavery was a cruel and inhuman system, but more so psychologically than physically: to get the most work from their slaves, planters fed and housed them nearly as well as free Northern farmers could feed and house themselves.

“Time on the Cross” was greeted with uncommon fury in academia—one reviewer consigned it “to the outermost ring of the scholar’s hell.” Yet each point that critics blew apart left a scattering of uncomfortable facts behind it. The most dramatic example came from a graduate student of Fogel’s, Richard Steckel, who is now at Ohio State. Steckel decided to verify his mentor’s claims by looking at the slaves’ body measurements. He went through more than ten thousand slave manifests—shipboard records kept by traders in the colonies—until he had the heights of some fifty thousand slaves; then he averaged them out by age and sex. The results were startling: adult slaves, Steckel found, were nearly as tall as free whites, and three to five inches taller than the average Africans of the time.

The height study both redeemed and rebuked “Time on the Cross.” Although the adult slaves were clearly well fed, the children were extremely small and malnourished. (To eat, apparently, they had to be old enough to work.) But Fogel was more than willing to stand corrected. This wasn’t just another data set, he realized. Height records offered a new angle on history, and they were readily available. Measurements of French military conscripts date back to 1716, and anthropologists have collected much older skeletal measurements. “There are millions of these data lying around and nobody is looking at them,” Komlos remembers Fogel suggesting at the lecture. All that was needed was a few good graduate students to gather them up.

Which might explain why the French fight like 13-year old girls.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 PM


Who rules Iran? (AMIR TAHERI, Mar. 28, 2004, Jerusalem Post)

Since 1979, Iran has been ruled by an occult oligarchy with a strong theocratic component. That oligarchy sees itself as the embodiment of a messianic revolution in opposition to state structures that remain to be cleansed of millennia rule by "corrupt" kings, emirs and khans.

The oligarchy controls the real levers of power, sets policies, and imposes key decisions with little deference to the governmental fa ade. That fa ade is maintained as a first line of defense for the revolution which, so the oligarchs assert, is sill threatened by internal and external foes.

At the center of the oligarchy stands the "Office of the Leader," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the "Supreme Guide." Under the Khomeinist Constitution, the "Supreme Guide" represents Allah's sovereignty on earth and has unlimited powers. The opening articles of the Khomeinist Constitution, approved in 1979, make it clear that the "Supreme Guide" is also the leader of all Muslims throughout the world, whether they like it or not. Thus, theoretically at least, the Khomeinist "Supreme Guide" can decide what Islam is and is not at any given time.

But that is not all.

In practical terms, the "Supreme Guide" controls the purse strings of the Iranian state, one of the richest in the Muslim world. (In the past quarter of a century the "Supreme Guide" has supervised the expenditure of almost half a trillion dollars in Iran's oil income.) He must approve the national budget and is the commander-in-chief of all armed and security forces. Every ministerial, gubernatorial and ambassadorial appointment must receive his assent. Also, each year he has a cool $1.5 billion, some eight percent of Iran's average annual oil income, to play with as he pleases.

This is no time to take the pressure off and legitimize the mullahs by cutting deals, as the Europeans wish too. As Reagan did with the Soviets, we should begin speaking of Iran as the revolution that failed on its own terms.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:59 AM


Europe, U.S. Diverge on How to Fight Terrorism (Glenn Frankel, March 28, 2004, Washington Post)

While President Bush was giving an address earlier this month describing the war on terrorism as "not a figure of speech" but "an inescapable calling of our generation," the official in charge of overseeing Europe's counterterrorism efforts was offering a far different assessment.

"Europe is not at war," Javier Solana, foreign policy chief for the European Union, told a German newspaper. "We have to energetically oppose terrorism, but we mustn't change the way we live."

Between those two declarations lies a gap that reflects the different modern histories, cultures and approaches to terrorism of the United States and Europe, according to politicians and analysts on the continent. [...]

Analysts trace some of the differences between the United States and Europe to the ways they view recent history. For Europeans, the seminal date is November 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell and Europe began the process of reunification with the former Soviet bloc. The end of the Cold War and European reunification has been the enduring narrative of the past 15 years, one that has promised peace and prosperity.

But for the United States, that narrative has been supplanted by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and the Pentagon and a new global campaign that some Americans liken to a new world war.

European leaders insist they are prepared to use force to combat terrorism. They point to their enthusiastic support for the U.S.-led military campaign against al Qaeda and the Taliban government in Afghanistan in the fall of 2001. And Bush and European leaders have all identified the lack of democracy, human rights safeguards and economic opportunity as root causes of popular support for Islamic extremists in the Muslim world.

"At the government level I don't see any huge differences in principle," said Gary Samore, an analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. "Everyone accepts you need both hard power in the near term to deal with terrorist operatives and soft power to deal in the long term with root causes."

Europeans have had decades of bitter experience in dealing with domestic terrorism. Britain waged a 25-year campaign against the Irish Republican Army, while Spain has battled the Basque separatist group ETA. Germany defeated the Baader-Meinhof gang and Italy, the Red Brigades. France has engaged in a long struggle with Islamic extremists from Algeria.

"Their experience told them terrorism is a threat but not a war," said Mustafa Alani, a terrorism analyst at the Royal United Services Institute here. "If it's a war, you have to commit yourself fully -- all your resources, everything, and they found this has no appeal in public opinion."

Mr. Solana is right--it's not about changing how we live in the West. However, the Europeans are incapable of stepping up to the challenge of changing the way the people of the Islamic world live, which is what the war is actually about. Their populations would never let them divert resources to such an undertaking and they haven't the armed forces to be much help in deposing the regimes that will have to go and rounding up the concentrations of al Qaeda where we track them down. Moreover, they no longer believe in the principles around which we're restructing the Middle East, if they ever did. It's our war, not theirs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:31 AM


A Misleading Fetal Violence Law (NY Times, 3/29/04)

The law that Congress passed last week making it a federal offense to harm a fetus, distinct from the crime of attacking the pregnant woman, is an attack on abortion rights masquerading as law enforcement.

There should be a keyboard function that stops you from typing when you've written something as silly as the thought that a law to protect fetuses is misleading because it could prevent them from being aborted.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:26 AM


Summit's Collapse Leaves Arab Leaders in Disarray (NEIL MacFARQUHAR, 3/29/04, NY Times)

Arab governments were in disarray on Sunday after the Arab League summit meeting, set to grapple with vital regional issues like democratic reform, Arab-Israeli bloodshed and the American occupation of Iraq, was abruptly called off just before it was to open Monday.

The exact reason is a matter of some dispute, but all sides viewed the meeting's collapse — even as some heads of state were on their way — as an embarrassment. It was a stark public admission that the commitment to change voiced by Arab leaders risks becoming just more words.

The Arab League is infamous for its fractious gatherings, but even its most experienced bureaucrats described the cancellation as extraordinary. Some commentators thought the collapse inevitable from the start. The very idea of reform remains too divisive, and many nations' governments have yet to decide how to deal themselves with issues like elections.

With so many regimes reforming so quickly, instability has been introduced as a principle in Arab affairs--hard for leaders to act in concert when that's the case.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:16 AM


Iraq economy shakes off the shackles of Saddam (Paul Wiseman, 3/28/04, USA TODAY)

Anything goes these days in Baghdad's teeming streets, crowded souks and back alleys. An exhilarating but virtually lawless economy has risen from the ashes of Saddam Hussein's government. Business opportunities are everywhere, but so are corruption and crime.

"The regime is gone," says Osama al-Quraishi, an Iraqi entrepreneur who returned to Baghdad to search for business opportunities after decades in exile in Europe and the Middle East. "There are no restrictions. There are no rules." He predicts Baghdad will soon replace Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, as the Middle East's commercial center.

Besides crushing human rights, Saddam smothered the Iraqi economy. The dictator, who invaded Iran in 1980 and Kuwait in 1990, ran a war-based economy, diverting resources to the military and starving the rest of the country. Iraq's infrastructure deteriorated; the oil industry alone needs $10 billion to $40 billion of investment to catch up. Saddam and his cronies imposed stiff duties on imports, steered government contracts to loyalists and buried business in regulations. This encouraged a culture of kickbacks and corruption.

"It was a lawless economy governed by one principle: Saddam and the Baathist party took whatever they wanted," says Bill Block, an economist with the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority.

Under Saddam, the shops were silent, the goods available were obsolete or absurdly overpriced, and the cars were clunkers dating back 15 or 20 years. Now that Saddam is gone, signs of bounty are visible everywhere in Baghdad and to a lesser extent in smaller cities such as Mosul and Basra.

The World Bank says Iraq's economy shrank by nearly a third last year after several years of smaller declines. The World Bank projects a sharp rebound in 2004 — growth ranging anywhere from 30% to 70% — and an overall economy worth $17 billion to $22 billion. That would make the Iraqi economy about the size of North Dakota's or Vermont's, which have the smallest output among the 50 states.

Arab's throughout the region are wondering what they have to do to get us to attack them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:38 AM


Riyadh To Close Charities Oversees: Some of targeted charities have been established by royal decrees  (Fawaz Mohammad, March 29, 2004,

Saudi Arabia is set to close all charities and relief organizations outside the kingdom and place their funds and properties under the control of a newly established governmental body, well-places Saudi sources revealed Sunday, March 28.

Among the targeted organizations are the World Assembly of the Muslim Youth (WAMY), the Islamic Relief International, the Islamic Waqfs and the Saudi Joint Committee for the Relief of Kosovo and Chechnya (SJRC), the sources, speaking on condition not to be named, told

The activities of the yet-to-be dismantled charities would be exclusively run by the state-run Saudi Civil Council for Relief and Charity Work Overseas, which was set up last month by a royal decree by King Fahd.

The sources said the Saudi move is expected to have a domino effect on some 100 charities worldwide. [...]

Analysts believe the kingdom has yielded to Washington, which has been laying huge pressures on Arab and Islamic countries, particularly Saudi Arabia to regulate charity operations, claiming that funds usually end up in the hands of “terrorists.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:14 AM


Songs of Cuba, Silenced in America (JACKSON BROWNE, 3/22/04, NY Times)

Carlos Varela, the great Cuban singer-songwriter, applied for a visa to come to the United States to sing his powerful, amazing songs. He had concerts planned in Miami, New York and Los Angeles. Our government turned him down.

Visas have been denied to other Cuban artists because their visits are "detrimental to the interests" of our country. In essence, the government says that if Carlos Varela plays concerts in the United States, the money he makes would go to Fidel Castro. This is untrue. In Cuba, renowned artists keep much of what they earn, because the government does not want them to leave the country and live somewhere else. Yet, the Bush administration used the same reasoning to keep Ibrahim Ferrer, of the Buena Vista Social Club, and Manuel Galbán from attending the Grammy award ceremony in Los Angeles last month. (Both men won awards.)

So, is he really saying that the fact that those who collaborate with the regime get to keep this blood money is an argument in their favor? Was Leni Riefenstahl less objectionable because she got to keep the proceeds from her films?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:08 AM


Jaw-dropping theory of human evolution: Did mankind trade chewing power for a bigger brain? (MICHAEL HOPKIN, 25 March 2004, Nature)

Researchers have proposed an answer to the vexing question of how the human brain grew so big. We may owe our superior intelligence to weak jaw muscles, they suggest.

A mutation 2.4 million years ago could have left us unable to produce one of the main proteins in primate jaw muscles, the team reports in this week's Nature. Lacking the constraints of a bulky chewing apparatus, the human skull may have been free to grow, the researchers say.

The timing of the mutation is consistent with rampant brain growth seen in human fossils from around 2 million years ago, says Nancy Minugh-Purvis of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, who helped with the study. "Right at the point you lose power in these muscles, brain size evolution accelerates," she says.

One does so love these folks, who argue on the one hand that evolution proceeds by millions of tiny incremental changes, so small we can never observe them, but on the other that there was this one magic moment when, "presto change-o", everything is radically altered. Even setting aside the "just-so story" quality of the thesis and the obvious deus ex machina nature of it, you can't help but be amused by the way they speak of this mutation "freeing" the brain to grow--because, of course, as in all teleologies the end was foreordained and that end was a brain as big as ours (though strangely only for us--no other animal's brain, not even those most similar genetically, appears to have been rattling the bars of its cage).

March 28, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:46 PM


Terrorists Don't Need States: The danger is less that a state will sponsor a terror group and more that a terror group will sponsor a state—as happened in Afghanistan (Fareed Zakaria, 4/05/04, Newsweek)

Around 1997, members of the intelligence community—and others, like Richard Clarke—began focusing on a Saudi man, Osama bin Laden, who they realized was the financier and leader of a new group, Al Qaeda. Few in government shared their concern. In 1997 Al Qaeda was not confirmed to have executed a single terrorist attack against Americans. "Employees in the government told us that they felt their zeal attracted ridicule from their peers," the commission's report on intelligence says.

In due course, some senior officials in the Clinton administration awakened to the threat: CIA Director George Tenet, national-security adviser Sandy Berger and Clinton himself. But they never proposed a full-fledged assault on it. Their one dramatic attack—bombing the Afghan terror camps and Sudanese factory in 1998—proved unsuccessful and led to domestic criticism, and they did not think they could do something more ambitious. The Pentagon, which comes off poorly in the commission reports, was stubbornly unwilling to provide aggressive and creative options. [...]

The Bush administration came to office with different concerns. During the 1990s conservative intellectuals and policy wonks sounded the alarm about China, North Korea, Cuba, Iran and Iraq, but not about terror. Real men dealt with states. [...]

Afghanistan housed Al Qaeda, and thus it was crucial to attack the country. But that was less a case of a state's sponsoring a terror group and more one of a terror group's sponsoring a state. Consider the situation today. Al Qaeda has lost its base in Afghanistan, two thirds of its leaders have been captured or killed, its funds are being frozen. And yet terror attacks mount from Indonesia to Casablanca to Spain. "These attacks are not being directed by Al Qaeda. They are being inspired by it," the official told me. "I'm not even sure it makes sense to speak of Al Qaeda because it conveys the image of a single, if decentralized, group. In fact, these are all different, local groups that have in common only ideology and enemies."

This is the new face of terror: dozens of local groups across the world connected by a global ideology.

It seems somewhat surprising that Mr. Zakaria essentially plunks his chips down on Kerry-ite police action against al Qaeda rather than the Bush revolution, the democratic transformation of Islam. Though, it's probably equally odd that it is the conservative Republican president who is now the leader of the root causes crowd.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 PM

STILL SHRUGGING (via Tom Morin):

The Holocaust Shrug: Why is there so much indifference to the liberation of Iraq? (David Gelernter, 04/05/2004, Weekly Standard)

[S]addam, like Hitler, murdered people sadistically and systematically for the crime of being born. Saddam, like Hitler, believed that mass murder should be efficient, with minimal fuss and bother; it is no accident that both were big believers in poison gas. Saddam's program, like Hitler's, attracted all sorts of sadists; many of Saddam's and Hitler's crimes were not quite as no-fuss, no-muss as the Big Boss preferred. Evidently Saddam, like Hitler, did not personally torture his prisoners, but Saddam (like Hitler) allowed and condoned torture that will stand as a black mark against mankind forever.

Hitler was in a profoundly, fundamentally different league. And yet the distinction is unlikely to have mattered much to a Kurd mother watching her child choke to death on poison gas, or a Shiite about to be diced to bloody pulp. The colossal scale and the routine, systematic nature of torture and murder under Saddam puts him in a special category too. Saddam was small compared with Hitler, yet he was like Hitler not only in what he wanted but in what he did. When we marched into Iraq, we halted a small-scale holocaust.

I could understand people disagreeing with this claim, arguing that Saddam was evil but not that kind of evil, not evil enough to deserve being discussed in those terms. But the opposition I hear doesn't dwell on the nature of Saddam's crimes. It dwells on the nature of America's--our mistakes, our malfeasance, our "lies." It sounds loonier and farther from reality all the time, more and more like the Holocaust Shrug.

Turning away is not evil; it is merely human. And that's bad enough. For years I myself found it easy to ignore or shrug off Saddam's reported crimes. I had no love for Iraq or Iraqis. Before and during the war I wrote pieces suggesting that Americans not romanticize Iraqis; that we understand postwar Iraq more in terms of occupied Germany than liberated France. But during and after the war it gradually became impossible to ignore the staggering enormity of what Saddam had committed against his own people. And when we saw those mass graveyards and torture chambers, heard more and more victims speak, watched those videotapes, the conclusion became inescapable: This war was screamingly, shriekingly necessary.

But instead of exulting in our victory, too many of us shrug and turn away and change the subject.

This is too easy though--patting ourselves on the back after we've gotten rid of Saddam--the question we face is : how can we justify to ourselves allowing the very same things to happen in North Korea?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:48 PM


Wanted in Germany: a few good risk-takers: Germany now seeks to counter a culture that stymies innovation. (Andreas Tzortzis, 3/29/04, CS Monitor)

Last month, a group of companies headed by DaimlerChrysler and Deutsche Telekom conceded that they could not produce a high-tech toll-collection system in time to meet government deadlines. The government canceled the contract, sparking a national debate on the decline of the "Made in Germany" standard.

"Can't we do anything anymore in Germany?" read a headline in Bild, the country's widest-circulating tabloid.

Once Europe's economic powerhouse, Germany is facing an identity crisis as it reforms structures that steered its postwar economic miracle.

Analysts say Germany's welfare programs have made its workforce too costly, scaring away both foreign and German firms. The German economy, the largest in Europe, shrank by 0.1 percent last year. Researchers and academics quickly list two reasons Germany is falling behind in the global economy: Years of declining investment in research and development by both the government and private firms, and an overall aversion to risk.

"We're finding the interest in licensing new research comes from foreign companies ... even though we ask German companies first," says Ulrich Schmoch of the Fraunhofer Society, a think-tank network that develops new technology for companies and the government. "There's a whole culture that's behind it."

The Democrats want to make us more like them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:52 PM


GOP Success: It's the Principles, Stupid: Liberals don't get the forces behind the right's rise (Matthew Dallek, March 28, 2004, LA Times)

The conservative edge of the Republican Party in the 1950s crafted a political philosophy, adapted it to the social turmoil of the '60s and deepened its popular appeal in the '70s by donning the mantle of political insurgency. When World War II ended, conservatives were isolationist in foreign affairs and adrift on domestic matters. Following Sen. Robert Taft's death and Sen. Joseph McCarthy's demise in the 1950s, they were what Sidney Blumenthal and others have called a "remnant." At the time, liberal commentators described conservatives as crackpots out of touch with modernity and progress.

Conservatives wore such epithets like medals of honor. The National Review, William F. Buckley Jr. wrote in the magazine's 1955 premiere issue, "stands athwart history, yelling 'Stop,' at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it." Conservatives logged long hours behind the scenes in pursuit of a political philosophy — not policies and electoral strategies. Far from monolithic in outlook, they relished ideological debates among themselves. Leading conservatives gave speeches to business organizations and exhorted fellow travelers at anti-communist rallies. They wrote books called "Witness" and "Up From Liberalism" and "None Dare Call It Treason." In addition to writing in the National Review, conservatives propounded ideas in Human Events and other magazines and pamphlets. "It is not the single conservative's responsibility or right to draft a concrete program — merely to suggest the principles that should frame it," Buckley noted.

Disdaining both Democrats and mainstream Republicans as big-government liberals, conservatives successfully adopted three bedrock beliefs: anti-statism, anti-communism and pro-moral authority. These beliefs formed the foundation of the movement's success over the next four decades. [...]

As the '60s progressed, however, right-wing jeremiads aimed at totalitarian ant heaps were replaced by a single-minded focus on public morality and law and order. Running against riots, crime, anti-Vietnam demonstrators and student dissent, conservatives appealed to whites — some racist — angry at Democratic support for civil rights. Conservatives shattered the liberal political order by ostracizing fringe figures like Welch and promising to restore traditional values to schools and streets. In 1966, Ronald Reagan complained that California's city streets resembled "jungle paths after dark." As governor, he had a sign near his office that read: "Observe the Rules or Get Out." In 1968, George Wallace, who had then abandoned the Democrats and was running for president as an independent, used the language of law and order and "values" to win votes in white, working-class communities. Conservatives soon appropriated Wallace's themes, denouncing "acid, abortion and amnesty," as Richard Nixon's running mate, Spiro Agnew, put it, which helped them further refine their populist message.

By the 1970s, conservatives were routinely using insurgent imagery and language to identify with middle- and working-class voters. In 1978, Howard Jarvis spearheaded his "tax revolt," Proposition 13, by attacking the liberal establishment for thwarting people's will and giving ordinary people's money to minorities and other so-called special interests.
In the aftermath of Vietnam, neoconservatives, calling Democrats weak on security, promised to win the Cold War by taking the struggle to communists, from Afghanistan to Nicaragua. Appealing to pride and patriotism, conservatives wrapped themselves in the flag. To this day, Democrats still wrestle with this foreign policy critique.

Today, conservatives are entrenched, politically dominant and often intransigent — exhibiting some of the proclivities that predated the liberals' crackup in the 1960s. Against this backdrop, the left's challenge is to stop obsessing over the right's organizing successes. Instead, it should articulate its bedrock beliefs, then unite and figure out which buttons to push to maximize its appeal in a country where "order" — the war on terror — remains a central concern. Liberals must drum out of their ranks figures like Ralph Nader who are now part of the fringe and seek a balance between philosophy and strategy, internal dissent and political cohesion. By taking these steps, they will finally be able to claim Buckley and Reagan's conservative counterrevolution legacy.

That's sound advice, except for one thing: Democrats, having abandoned religion, no longer believe in order. In fact, they no longer have any principles--they are simply a collection of special interests, which by its nature disagrees within its own ranks on most issues. To adopt a set of organizing principles would drive away several of the members of the coalition and make them even more of a minority party. It would be healthy as an intellectual exercise but suicidal as a political matter.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:10 PM


Did We Have It Coming? (Lee Harris, 03/23/2004, Tech Central Station)

"This is the culture in which we live… The world is ruled by force. The only way we can put a permanent end to terrorism is to stop participating in it… This is the first time the guns have been pointed the other way."

-- Noam Chomsky, discussing the events of 9/11/01.

Noam Chomsky has endorsed, however reluctantly, John Kerry.

This is an endorsement from the man who, on hearing about 9/11, attempted to put it in perspective for the American people by arguing that President Clinton had murdered many times more people in his response to the Al Qaeda bombing in Kenya than Al Qaeda had murdered on 9/11. The fact that Mr. Chomsky had not a shred of evidence for this blood libel did not kept him from making it. After all, he had something far better than evidence -- he had his own opinion; or what Jeremy Bentham called ipsedixitism: something is true because I myself have said it is true.

Yet Noam Chomsky was by no means alone in standing up in the days immediately following 9/11 and declaring that 9/11 was the expected and natural reaction of those who had been oppressed by American hegemony, and who, however immaturely, were fighting back in retaliation for what we had done to them. [...]

Now let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that these critics of America are right. Let us suppose that when the terrorists struck us we had done more than enough bad things to deserve such an attack. But now let me ask these apologists for terrorism a simple question:

If we had it coming then, don't we have it coming even worse right now?

At this rate the Democratic convention is going to resemble Hades.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:04 PM


GOP Pressing Cultural Issues (DAVID ESPO, 3/27/04, AP)

Passage [of the fetus protection bill] was not in doubt, only the size of the split within the Democratic ranks.

Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, who will be Bush's challenger this fall, opposed the bill, which passed on a vote of 61-38. But 13 Democrats voted for it, including Sen. Tom Daschle, the party leader seeking re-election in conservative South Dakota. [...]

The vote occurred two days after a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on a second contested social issue, a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages.

Bush has called for action on the measure. Republicans appear far short of the two-thirds majority needed for passage, and Daschle charges them with using the Constitution for partisan purposes.

"There are those who would like to politicize this issue and they'll use whatever means available to them to maximize whatever value they find politically," he said recently.

Republicans sense the potential for gain in the presidential race and in the battle for the Senate, where Democratic retirements have created open seats in five culturally conservative southern states.

A recent national CNN poll put opposition to gay marriage at 64 percent to 32 percent.

Why would anyone be surprised when the governing party enacts laws supported by 60%+ of the electorate?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:03 PM


Germans go on offensive to retain U.S. military bases (Melissa Eddy, 03/28/2004, Associated Press )

As host to 170,000 American soldiers and dependents, Germany has a lot to lose under Pentagon plans to shift forces out of western Europe, and officials in areas facing a pinch are lobbying heavily for them to stay.

Economic survival for their communities, more than security, is the concern for these supporters of a continued U.S. presence in their regions, where ties are deeply rooted despite Germans' current criticism of U.S. policy in Iraq.

Many of the communities depend on business and jobs generated by the bases, located mainly in economically weak regions of southern and western Germany.

"We realized that our installations are in grave danger," said Karl Peter Bruch, a state official in Rhineland-Palatinate who heads an effort to lobby U.S. officials. "And then came the question, what can we do to make us more attractive?"

Being beside us during the Iragi offensive might have helped, instead of behind us with long knives.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:53 PM


Saboteurs: The Nazi Raid on America by Michael Dobbs (C-SPAN, March 28, 2004, 8 & 11pm)

Shortly after America's entry into World War II, Adolf Hitler ordered an extensive sabotage campaign against the United States to disrupt the production of tanks and airplanes and blow up bridges and railroads. Eight German saboteurs were dispatched across the Atlantic by U-boat, one team landing in Amagansett, Long Island, the other near Jacksonville, Florida. They brought with them enough money and explosives for a two-year operation and traveled inland to explore potential targets.

The full story of this audacious endeavor is a remarkable account of a terrorist threat against America. Michael Dobbs describes the saboteurs' training in Nazi Germany, their claustrophobic three-week voyage in submarines, and their infiltration into American life. He explores the reasons each volunteered, and their links to a network of Nazi sympathizers in the United States. He paints a portrait of the group's leaders: George Dasch, a onetime waiter who dreamed of leaving his personal mark on history, and Edward Kerling, a fanatic Nazi caught between his love for his mistress and his love for his wife. And he shows how the FBI might never have captured the saboteurs had one of them not helped J. Edgar Hoover transform a hapless manhunt into one of his proudest accomplishments. A military tribunal, a historic Supreme Court session, and one of the largest mass executions in American history provide a stunning climax to a dangerous but failed mission.

-BOOK SITE: Saboteurs: The Nazi Raid on America by Michael Dobbs (Knopf)
-ESSAY: A Familiar, Thorny Record Of Wartime Justice (Michael Dobbs, February 8, 2004,
-ESSAY: Back in Political Forefront: Iran-Contra Figure Plays Key Role on Mideast (Michael Dobbs, May 27, 2003, Washington Post)
-REVIEW: of MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: A 20TH Century Odyssey By Michael Dobbs
(Michael Hirsh, Washington Monthly)

Posted by Paul Jaminet at 2:34 PM


Virginity auction ends on net (BBC News, 2/9/2004)

A lesbian at the University of Bristol who is selling her virginity on the internet has closed the bidding. Rosie Reid, 18, a social policy first year student from Dulwich, south-east London, wants to avoid graduating with excessive debt.

According to her website, bidding closed at £8,400 on Sunday, with the winner to be contacted by 11 February....

Can Okar, President of the University's Student Union, previously said: "... It is a great stunt ..."

It appears that in England a one-night stand with a lesbian virgin is equal in price to a four-year college education.

This information will certainly come in handy to economists calculating English GDP. Very likely they've been under-estimating the value of teenage deflowerings.

Internet virgin faces police probe (3/28/2004)

Avon and Somerset police are investigating if Reid is guilty of soliciting. A London man paid £8,400 by banker's draft to sleep with the lesbian student....

She told the News of the World the experience was "very uncomfortable but over quite quickly".

The man involved is a 44-year old divorced father of two. He is a BT engineer and lives in south east London, according to reports.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:44 PM


Transcript (NBC MEET THE PRESS, March 28, 2004)

MR. RUSSERT:  As you know, the White House has been rather aggressive trying to undercut your credibility.  They've released an e-mail which says it's Richard Clarke vs. Richard Clarke.  This is now last week on "60 Minutes." "...I find it outrageous that the president is running for re-election on the grounds that he's done such great things about terrorism.  He ignored it.  He ignored terrorism for months ...  I think he's done a terrible job on the war against terrorism."  And the White House then says then and they refer to a background briefing you gave reporters which has now been placed on the record.  "...the Bush administration decided then, you know, [in late] January, to do two things.  One, vigorously pursue the existing policy, including all the lethal covert action findings ...  The second thing the administration decided to do is to initiate a process to look at those issues which had been on the table for a couple of years and get them decided.  ...[T]hat process which was initiated in the first in February, uh, decided in principle, uh in the spring to add to the existing Clinton strategy and to increase CIA resources, for example, for covert action, five-fold, to go after al Qaeda. [T]he principals met at the end of the summer [of 2001], approved them in their first meeting, changed the strategy by authorizing the increase in funding five-fold, changing the policy on Pakistan, changing the policy on Uzbekistan, changing the policy on the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan.  And then changed strategy from one of rollback with al Qaeda over the court [of] five years, which it had been, to a new strategy that called for the rapid elimination of al Qaeda."  There you are...

MR. CLARKE:  And it's not inconsistent.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:37 PM


A Test of Kerry's Faith: The candidate's policies are at odds with church canon. Will there be a price to pay? (KAREN TUMULTY AND PERRY BACON JR., Apr. 05, 2004, TIME)

Kerry and other Catholic politicians have long argued that their religious beliefs need not influence their actions as elected representatives. That position is what provoked New York's Archbishop John Cardinal O'Connor in 1984 to castigate New York Governor Mario Cuomo and Democratic vice presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro, who are both pro-choice.

If anything, the church is getting tougher. The Vatican issued last year a "doctrinal note" warning Catholic lawmakers that they have a "grave and clear obligation to oppose any law that attacks human life. For them, as for every Catholic, it is impossible to promote such laws or to vote for them." When Kerry campaigned in Missouri in February, St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke publicly warned him "not to present himself for Communion"—an ostracism that Canon Law 915 reserves for "those who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin." Kerry was scheduled to be in St. Louis last Sunday, and told TIME, "I certainly intend to take Communion and continue to go to Mass as a Catholic." [...]

Most Catholic officials expect that the church's response to Kerry's candidacy will vary from diocese to diocese. You may not see many Catholic bishops appearing at Kerry photo ops this campaign season, and there's a possibility of some uncomfortable moments on the trail. "All you need is a picture of Kerry going up to the Communion rail and being denied, and you've got a story that'll last for weeks," says Father Thomas Reese, editor of the Jesuit magazine America.

For now, theologians say, Kerry's conduct is principally a matter between the candidate and his own Archbishop. Boston Archbishop Sean O'Malley has given him Communion in the past; the Senator took the sacrament at O'Malley's installation last July. More recently, however, O'Malley has said that Catholic politicians who do not vote in line with church teachings "shouldn't dare come to Communion." But between the gay-marriage debate in Massachusetts and his efforts to repair the damage from the sexual-abuse scandal that began in his archdiocese, O'Malley already has a plateful of controversy. Kerry, for his part, is planning to avoid stirring any up. "I don't tell church officials what to do," he says, "and church officials shouldn't tell American politicians what to do in the context of our public life."

Senator Kerry's position, like that of all putatively Catholic politicians who are permissive on social issues, is patently absurd. The Church defines the morality of its members. If you can't accept that then you aren't a communicant.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:27 PM


Prison guards forbidden to wear protective gear (DOUG BEAZLEY, March 17, 2004, Calgary Sun)

Corrections Canada won't let guards at maximum security prisons wear stab-proof vests because it sends a confrontational "signal" to prisoners. "If you have that kind of presence symbolized by (a stab-proof vest), you're sending a signal to the prisoner that you consider him to be a dangerous person," said Tim Krause.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:22 AM


That Seldom Heard Encouraging Word (Christopher Farrell, 3/26/04, Business Week)

I think it's time for a reality check. What's everyone really complaining about? That India and China are joining the global trading system? That Russia and Taiwan just had democratic elections, however imperfect, for their Presidents? That the American productivity growth rate jumped to a 3% average annual rate from 1995 to 2003, about double the anemic pace of 1973 to 1995?

"We -- the globally collective we -- are getting rich so much faster than before that we ought to be in need of sedatives to subdue the wild laughter," says James Griffin, economist consultant at ING Investment Management.

Let's not lose sight of the bigger picture here. Even with the threat of terrorism, freer trade is invigorating global growth by providing entrepreneurs from all the world's major economies access to bigger markets.
The Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek emphasized the role the markets play in creating and disseminating knowledge. In the Information Age, the cost of gathering and sharing information and knowledge has plummeted even as the size of the market has expanded exponentially.

"Capitalism, as Hayek conceived it, was fundamentally dynamic, and that dynamism was due to the discovery of new needs and new ways of fulfilling them by entrepreneurs possessed with 'resourcefulness,'" writes historian Jerry Muller in The Mind and the Market. These are the tantalizing glimmers of a payoff from globalization.

One is reminded most of the brief and rather painless period of slowed growth under the first President Bush, when the readjustment from a Cold War to a peacetime economy distracted attention from the protracted boom that was inevitably to follow. We are even more comfortable economically than we were then and the current difficulties--like outsourcing--are even more trivial, while the benefits to be reaped from increasing globalization are likely to be substantial.

If it weren't so disheartening, it would be hilarious to listen to Americans bitch and moan about how hard life is at a time when no one has ever had it so good--at least in material terms.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:01 AM


Foreign Policy for a Democratic President (Samuel R. Berger, May/June 2004, Foreign Affairs)

The foreign policy debate in this year's presidential election is as much about means as it is about ends. Most Democrats agree with President Bush that the fight against terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) must be top global priorities, that the war in Afghanistan was necessary and just, and that Saddam Hussein's Iraq posed a threat that needed to be dealt with in one form or another. Over time, moreover, the Bush administration has, at least rhetorically, embraced the Democrats' argument that to win the war on terrorism the United States must do more than destroy something bad; it must also construct something good, supporting other peoples' aspirations to live in freedom and peace and to conquer poverty and disease.

But the manner in which the Bush administration has advanced these goals has been driven by a radical set of convictions about how the United States should act on the world stage. Key strategists inside the administration appear to believe that in a chaotic world, U.S. power -- particularly military power -- is the only real force for advancing U.S. interests, that as long as the United States is feared it does not matter much if we are admired. These same people believe it is best to recruit temporary "coalitions of the willing" to back our foreign actions, because permanent alliances require too many compromises. They believe the United States is perforce a benign power with good intentions and therefore does not need to seek legitimacy from the approval of others. And they believe that international institutions and international law are nothing more than a trap set by weaker nations to constrain us.

These are not new ideas. During the Truman and Eisenhower administrations, a hard-line faction of congressional Republicans, led by Senate Majority Leader Robert Taft, fought virtually every measure to build the postwar international order. They opposed NATO and the permanent deployment of U.S. troops in Europe, believing we should rely on the unilateral exercise of military power to defeat Soviet designs. They fought the creation of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and turned against the un. And they disdained "one worlders" such as Eleanor Roosevelt for their support of international law. Taft Republicans were briefly dominant in the U.S. Congress (until the combined efforts of Democrats and internationalist Republicans such as Dwight Eisenhower relegated them to the sidelines). But their radical world-view never drove policy in the executive branch -- until today.

The real "clash of civilizations" is taking place within Washington. Considering the open differences between Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, it is even playing out within the Bush administration itself. It is not really a clash over discrete policy issues -- the merits of the war in Iraq, the costs of the Kyoto Protocol, or the level of spending on foreign aid, for example -- but between diametrically opposed conceptions of America's role in the world. It is a battle fought between liberal internationalists in both parties who believe that our strength is usually greatest when we work in concert with allies in defense of shared values and interests, versus those who seem to believe that the United States should go it alone -- or not go it at all.

Bush administration hard-liners have not been bashful about defining and defending their vision. In an election year, Democrats must also be clear about what they believe and about what they would do to advance U.S. security, prosperity, and democratic ideals, to restore our influence, standing, and ability to lead. Democrats must outline a foreign policy that not only sets the right goals, but also rebuilds America's capacity to achieve them. [...]

A posture of strength and resolve and a willingness to define clear terms and to impose consequences are clearly the right approach for dealing with our adversaries. But where the Bush administration has gone badly wrong is in applying its "with us or against us" philosophy to friends as well as foes. Put simply, our natural allies are much more likely to be persuaded by the power of American arguments than by the argument of American power. Democratically elected leaders -- whether in Germany, the United Kingdom, Mexico, or South Korea -- must sustain popular support for joint endeavors with the United States. When we work to convince them that the United States is using its strength for the common good, we enable them to stand with us. But when we compel them to serve our ends, we make it politically necessary, even advantageous, for them to resist us. It would have been hard to imagine a decade ago that leaders of Germany and South Korea -- two nations that owe their existence to the sacrifice of American blood -- would win elections by appealing to anti-Americanism. [...]

A Democratic administration will need to reaffirm the United States' willingness to use military power -- alone if necessary -- in defense of its vital interests. But it will have no more urgent task than to restore America's global moral and political authority, so that when we decide to act we can persuade others to join us. Achieving this reversal will require forging a new strategic bargain with our closest allies, particularly in Europe. To this end, Washington should begin with a simple statement of policy: that the United States will act in concert with its allies in meeting global threats as a first, not last, resort. When we ask our allies to join us in military action, or in nation-building efforts in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan, we should be ready to share not just the risks but also the decision-making. That is what we did when NATO went to war in Bosnia and Kosovo, and what the administration irresponsibly failed to do when NATO invoked its collective defense clause to offer aid to the United States in Afghanistan. The U.S. side of the bargain must also include a disciplined focus on our true global priorities, starting with the war on terrorism, undistracted by petty ideological disputes over issues such as Kyoto, the icc, and the biological weapons convention.

The Democratic approach to resolving disputes with Europe over treaties should be pragmatic, focused on improving flawed agreements rather than ripping them up. International law is not self-enforcing. It does not, by itself, solve anything. But when our goals are embodied in binding agreements, we can gain international support in enforcing them when they are violated. By the same token, nothing undermines U.S. authority more than the perception that the United States considers itself too powerful to be bound by the norms we preach to others.

What Mr. Berger seems oblivious to is that the internationalism he describes -- essentially a surrender of American sovereignty to transnational institutions and treaties -- is an end in itself, not just a means. And that end is to restrain American power and avoid conflict. The Europeans don't much care about fighting terrorism or bringing democracy to the Islamic world or depriving North Korea of nuclear weapons or any of a host of our goals, because all of these things are destabilizing, just as victory over Nazism and Communism destabilized the world.

Europeans are reasonably comfortable in their dotage and would like to be left alone to die in peace. What concern is it of theirs if the Muslim world is unfree, backwards, impoverished, and a breeding ground for radicalism? So long as totalitarian regimes have a reasonably firm grip on their populations, the worst that'll happen is a periodic bombing--hopefully aimed at the confrontational Americans, rather than the accommodationist Europeans.

That's all well and good for the Europeans--they aren't much use anymore anyway. But if we base our own foreign policy on keeping them happy then it seems obvious that we must act against our own interest and that of the people of the Middle East. You can't both satisfy Europe and transform Islam. So the difference between the foreign policy of George W. Bush and that of the Democrats is not a matter of means only but of ends.

The Two World Orders (Jed Rubenfeld, Autumn 2003, Wilson Quarterly)

What’s the source of America’s growing unilateralism? The easy answer is self-interest: We act unilaterally to the extent that we see unilateralism as serving our interests. But the answer prompts a more searching question: Why do so many Americans view unilateralism this way, given the hostility it provokes, the costs it imposes, and the considerable risks it entails? Americans sometimes seem unilateralist almost by instinct, as if it were a matter of principle. Might it be?

It will not do to trace contemporary U.S. unilateralism to the 18th-century doctrine of isolationism, for unilateralism is a very different phenomenon. An isolationist country withdraws from the world, even when others call on it to become involved; a unilateralist country feels free to project itself—its power, its economy, its culture—throughout the world, even when others call on it to stop. Although there may still be a thread of isolationism in the United States today, unilateralism, the far more dominant trend, cannot usefully be derived from it.

The search for an explanation should begin instead at the end of World War II. In 1945, when victory was at hand and his own death only days away, Franklin Roosevelt wrote that the world’s task was to ensure “the end of the beginning of wars.” So Roosevelt called for a new system of international law and multilateral governance that would be designed to stop future wars before they began. Hence, the irony of America’s current position: More than any other country, the United States is responsible for the creation of the international law system it now resists.

The decisive period to understand, then, runs roughly from the end of the war to the present, years that witnessed the birth of a new international legal order, if not, as widely reported, the death of the Westphalian nation-state. America’s leadership in the new internationalism was, at the beginning, so strong that one might be tempted to see today’s U.S. unilateralism as a stunning about-face, an aberration even, which may yet subside before too much damage is done. But the hope that the United States will rediscover the multilateralism it once championed assumes that America and Europe were engaged in a common internationalist project after World War II. Was that in fact the case? [...]

At the risk of overgeneralization, we might say that for Europeans (that is, for those Europeans not joined to the Axis cause), World War II, in which almost 60 million people perished, exemplified the horrors of nationalism. Specifically and significantly, it exemplified the horrors of popular nationalism. Nazism and fascism were manifestations, however perverse, of popular sovereignty. Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini rose to power initially through elections and democratic processes. Both claimed to speak for the people, not only before they assumed dictatorial powers but afterward, too, and both were broadly popular, as were their nationalism, militarism, repression, and, in Hitler’s case, genocidal objectives. From the postwar European point of view, the Allies’ victory was a victory against nationalism, against popular sovereignty, against demo-cratic excess.

The American experience of victory could not have differed more starkly. For Americans, winning the war was a victory for nationalism—that is to say, for our nation and our kind of nationalism. It was a victory for popular sovereignty (our popular sovereignty) and, most fundamentally, a victory for democracy (our democracy). Yes, the war held a lesson for Americans about the dangers of democracy, but the lesson was that the nations of continental Europe had proven themselves incapable of handling democracy when left to their own devices. If Europe was to develop democratically, it would need American tutelage. If Europe was to overcome its nationalist pathologies, it might have to become a United States of Europe. Certain European countries might even need to have democratic institutions imposed upon them, although it would be best if they adopted those institutions themselves, or at least persuaded themselves that they had done so.

These contrasting lessons shaped the divergent European and American experiences of the postwar boom in international political institutions and international law. For Europeans, the fundamental point of international law was to address the catastrophic problem of nationalism—to check national sovereignty, emphatically including national popular sovereignty. This remains the dominant European view today. The United Nations, the emerging European Union, and international law in general are expressly understood in Europe as constraints on nationalism and national sovereignty, the perils of which were made plain by the war. They are also understood, although more covertly, as restraints on democracy, at least in the sense that they place increasing power in the hands of international actors (bureaucrats, technocrats, diplomats, and judges) at a considerable remove from popular politics and popular will.

In America, the postwar internationalism had a very different meaning. Here, the point of international law could not ultimately be antidemocratic or antinationalist because the Allies’ victory had been a victory for democracy (American democracy) and for the nation (the American nation). America in the postwar period could not embrace an antinationalist, antidemocratic international order as Europe did. It needed a counterstory to tell itself about its role in promoting the new international order.

The counterstory was as follows: When founding the United Nations, writing the first conventions on international rights, creating constitutions for Germany and Japan, and promoting a United States of Europe, Americans were bestowing the gifts of American liberty, prosperity, and law, particularly American constitutional law, on the rest of the world. The “new” international human rights were to be nothing other than the fundamental guarantees made famous by the U.S. Constitution. Wasn’t America light-years ahead of continental Europe in the ways of democracy? International law would be, basically, American law made applicable to other nations, and the business of the new internationalism would be to transmit American principles to the rest of the world. So of course America could be the most enthusiastic supporter of the new international order. Why would it not support the project of making the world more American?

In the American imagination, then, the internationalism and multilateralism we promoted were for the rest of the world, not for us. What Europe would recognize as international law was law we already had. The notion that U.S. practices—such as capital punishment—held constitutional by our courts under our Bill of Rights might be said to violate international law was, from this point of view, not a conceptual possibility. Our willingness to promote and sign on to international law would be second to none—except when it came to any conventions that might require a change in U.S. domestic law or policy. The principal organs of U.S. foreign policy, including the State Department and, famously, the Senate, emphatically resisted the idea that international law could be a means of changing internal U.S. law. In the 1950s, the United States refused to join any of the major human-rights and antigenocide conventions. The rest of the world might need an American-modeled constitution, but we already had one.

What Mr. Berger and the Democrats seek is a world where we submit to Europe's vision rather than they to ours.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 AM


Norah Jones’s eternal afternoon.
(SASHA FRERE-JONES, 2004-03-22, The New Yorker)

Norah Jones is apparently very boring. Recent reviews of her new album, “Feels Like Home,” use words like “tepid,” “blank,” and “dull” to describe her music. She has been referred to more than once as Snorah Jones. But there are at least twenty million people who have a different take. Her 2002 début album, “Come Away with Me,” which sold eight million copies in America and ten million overseas, and won a number of Grammys, is the flag waved by record executives every time another article about the end of the music business appears. Like many mega-platinum records, “Come Away” succeeded without the benefit of much critical support, and “Feels Like Home” has sold two million copies in the first month of its release. How her records do what they do is a topic that is annexing its own wing of journalism. Some credit marketing, but record companies regularly promote releases by sending out advance copies to critics, buying ads, licensing songs to Starbucks compilations, and the like. It’s what record companies know how to do. Yet the records they push rarely sell eight million copies. Eight million means there are no red states or blue states. Eight million means everyone voted for you.

There are sociological explanations. Critics point out, accurately, that young artists like Jones, who is twenty-five, and Josh Groban and Michael Bublé are selling soothing songs by the seashore to a much older audience. These artists’ faith in melody and acoustic instruments ostensibly provides evidence that not all musicians below the age of thirty are getting tattooed with runic symbols and sending viruses to each other on tiny, inscrutable batphones. Record companies have agreed to think that the older audience is their pot of gold. This is half science—the percentage of records being bought by listeners above the age of thirty is growing—and half hearsay. Older listeners are continually saddled with the calumny that they are too dumb or scared to download music for free.

There is the aesthetic explanation—Norah Jones and her foot soldiers are organic, grass-fed artists taking back the castle from the injection-molded, polyblend popbots who are accused of a number of crimes against music. (These crimes are often what drew people to pop in the first place, but what are a few false dichotomies when you’re mourning your youth?) Jones’s sound is distinctive enough to have created its own subgenre, and new singers like Katie Melua, possibly against their wishes, are being sold as post-Norah artists. Jones has managed to make music that is universally useful, like a paper clip, but personal enough that listeners think they discovered it for themselves.

There are two plausible explanations for all this smoke and fire: Norah Jones is actually pretty good. And she is selling the all-time No. 1 hit song—sex.

Who but the critics would be stumped by the popularity of melody?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 AM


How myth became the legend of Joseph Campbell: He’s half-Scottish and his work was the force behind star wars. So why haven’t we heard of him? (Allan Burnett, 3/28/04, Sunday Herald)

[The late anthropologist Joseph] Campbell was born 100 years ago this month, and it is testament to [George] Lucas’s acknowledgement that this once-obscure, half-Scottish, quiet academic is the subject of a glitzy, sell-out centenary celebration in the US hosted by the educational foundation set up in his name. A friend to the Steinbecks, his past admirers also include Jackie Kennedy Onassis and John Lennon – a nod to the fact Campbell was a cult figure even before Star Wars made him a worldwide celebrity.

The first child of a middle-class Catholic couple in New York, the young Campbell became consumed by myth when he was taken to see Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Upon seeing the figure of a naked American Indian, “his ear to the ground, a bow and arrow in his hand, and a look of special knowledge in his eyes”, he began a lifelong obsession with ancient cultures.

Already immersed in the rituals, icons and traditions of his parents’ Catholic heritage, he read all he could on Native Americans and even started his own pretend tribe. Fascinated with totem poles and masks, he was hooked by the direct experience “primal” people seemed to have of myths.

Campbell went on to study at Columbia, and in Paris and Munich, becoming an expert in Arthurian studies. It was during his time in Europe in the 1920s that he was exposed to the ideas of people such as Picasso and Freud, whose work was to have a profound influence on him. Returning to the US in 1929, and with the onset of the Depression giving him little hope of finding a teaching job, he decided to hit the road in an effort to discover “the soul of America” and in the process, hopefully, discover his own purpose in life. He eventually reconnected with the academic world and made his reputation in 1949 by publishing The Hero With A Thousand Faces.

That book posited that the concept of the heroic journey occupies the heart of all the world’s cultures. Moreover, the stages of this journey, or mythic cycle, are essentially the same in every culture – whether it be the creation myths of Native Americans or the Book of Genesis. So what makes one culture different from another is not an exclusive set of mythical principles, but a distinctive inflection on the universal “monomyth” that moves us all. The wrappings are different, he explained, but underneath it is the same diamond.

When Lucas reread the book in 1975, after he had first come across it while studying anthropology at college, it gave him the focus he needed to turn his sprawling fantasy universe into one coherent, powerful story. Above all, a story that felt real.

Campbell had argued that the travails of Odysseus or the legends of King Arthur were not meant to be taken literally – you wouldn’t go into a restaurant, he famously explained, see “steak” on the menu and then eat the menu. Rather, their truthfulness emerges when they are understood as metaphors for human action that work in terms of deep psychological principles.

Lucas realised that if his space-age fantasy could pull the same psychological triggers, audiences would respond to the trials and tribulations faced by Luke Skywalker during his quest to defeat Darth Vader in much the same way as bygone generations had to the journey of awakening undertaken by Christ, the Buddha or Telemachus. Lucas followed Campbell’s blueprint for the hero’s journey of initiation, departure and return exactly – and the result was a sensation.

The durability and continued pertinence of the monomyth is nowhere better demonstrated than in how closely the life of Charles Darwin adheres to it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:02 AM


A Long, Long Muddle (NY Times, 3/28/04)

The White House has been driving Congress — and the nation — in wildly contradictory ways that suggest a deeply muddled, or perhaps nonexistent, set of domestic goals.

Last year, for instance, the Republican House leaders desperately pummeled their more fiscally conservative members to get the Medicare drug program passed at the behest of the White House. Meanwhile, when the chief Medicare actuary tallied up the program's real cost, the administration did everything to keep him quiet but bury the man alive.

While Mr. Bush was pressing for this huge increased commitment in entitlements — along with big new spending on the military and homeland security — he was also drastically cutting taxes, depriving the government of the revenue it would need to pay for programs like a Medicare prescription drug plan. Last week, at the president's behest, the loyal House leaders waded into the fray once more, defeating attempts to block new tax cuts in next year's budget.

There are many people who believe in small government and low taxes. They often make the argument that tax cuts are needed to "starve the beast" and force the government to cut spending, particularly for mammoth entitlement programs. Others, including this page, believe the social safety net is vital, that the government has a responsibility to do things such as help the elderly pay their drug bills, and to collect enough revenue to make that possible.

But virtually no one believes it is a good idea to dramatically expand expensive Medicare entitlements while drastically cutting taxes.

Any estimates on how long it takes before the Times figures out that Health Savings Accounts, which effectively reprivatize health care and submit it to market forces, were the point of the bill?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:46 AM


The Moor's Last Laugh: Radical Islam finds a haven in Europe. (FOUAD AJAMI, March 28, 2004, Wall Street Journal)

In the legend of Moorish Spain, the last Muslim king of Granada, Boabdil, surrendered the keys to his city on Jan. 2, 1492, and on one of its hills, paused for a final glance at his lost dominion. The place would henceforth be known as El Ultimo Suspiro del Moro--"the Moor's Last Sigh." Boabdil's mother is said to have taunted him, and to have told him to "weep like a woman for the land he could not defend as a man." An Arab poet of our own era gave voice to a historical lament when he wrote that as he walked the streets of Granada, he searched his pockets for the keys to its houses. Al Andalus--Andalusia--would become a deep wound, a reminder of dominions gained by Islam and then squandered. No wonder Muslim chroniclers added "May Allah return it to Islam" as they told and retold Granada's fate.

The Balkans aside, modern Islam would develop as a religion of Afro-Asia. True, the Ottomans would contest the Eastern Mediterranean. But their challenge was turned back. Turkey succumbed to a European pretension but would never be European. Europe's victory over Islam appeared definitive. Even those Muslims in the Balkans touched by Ottoman culture became a marked community, left behind by the Ottoman retreat from Europe like "seaweed on dry land."

Yet Boabdil's revenge came. It stole upon Europe. Demography--the aging of Europe on the one hand and, on the other, a vast bloat of people in the Middle East and North Africa--did Boabdil's job for him. Spurred by economic growth in the '60s, which created the need for foreign laborers, a Muslim migration to Europe began. Today, 15 million Muslims make their home in the European Union. [...]

Europe's leaders know Europe's dilemmas. In ways both intended and subliminal, the escape into anti-Americanism is an attempt at false bonding with the peoples of Islam. Give the Arabs--and the Muslim communities implanted in Europe--anti-Americanism, give them an identification with the Palestinians, and you shall be spared their wrath. Beat the drums of opposition to America's war in Iraq, and the furies of this radical Islamism will pass you by. This is seen as a way around the troubles. But there is no exit that way. [...]

Whatever political architecture Europe seeks, it will have to be built in proximity to the Other World, just across the Straits of Gibraltar and in the grip of terminal crisis.

Those who would alter our policies to curry European favor are gripping onto that terminal crisis.

March 27, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:56 PM


‘Bloom Building’ honors civilian news veteran at Fort Lee (Jamie L. Carson, March 26, 2004, Army News Service)

From the comfort of their homes, millions of Americans watched the war in Iraq through the eyes of David Bloom, veteran NBC news correspondent.

Traveling on top of his creation, the "Bloom Mobile," with the 3rd Infantry Division across the Iraqi desert toward Baghdad, the former White House Correspondent was exactly where he wanted to be, at the tip of the spear.

The 39-year-old husband and father of three daughters never made it to Baghdad. Bloom died from a pulmonary embolism April 6, 2003.

Fort Lee honored the news veteran for his commitment in a March 19 ceremony, dedicating its new Public Affairs Office building as the "Bloom Building."

A Soldier's journalist, Bloom stayed on the front lines of Operation Iraqi Freedom to accomplish his mission and broadcast the Soldier's story to the world.

"David risked his life to be with Soldiers, and he died among Soldiers, while telling the Soldier's story," said Maj. Gen. Terry E. Juskwoiak, U.S. Army Combined Arms Support Command and Fort Lee commanding general.

It's not fair to the soldiers, of course, but for most of us the two deaths that brought the reality of the war home were Mr. Bloom's and Michael Kelly's.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:52 PM


Stop behaving as if you are a Frenchman if you want to win, says Kerry's (French) adviser (Julian Coman and Charles Laurence, 28/03/2004, Sunday Telegraph)

He has already attempted one reinvention: as outdoorsy Marlboro Man rather than buttoned-up Boston Brahmin. Yet John Kerry, the Democrats' challenger to George W Bush, has been warned by a French-born adviser that his style on the stump is still too "French" to win the presidential election.

Clotaire Rapaille, a psychologist and business consultant, has concluded that Mr Kerry, a noted francophile and fluent French speaker, would go down better in Paris than the Mid West because his style is too highbrow. In short, he needs a radical makeover.

"My expertise is in breaking the unconscious code in every culture, and you must do that to understand the presidency," he told the Telegraph last night. [...]

Mr Rapaille's devastating decoding of Mr Kerry will come as a blow for aides who sought help after the Republicans depicted their candidate - despite his Vietnam war service - as a woolly intellectual, given to over-analysing important issues.

"A French writer living in America," as one Democrat official described Mr Rapaille last week. "Who better to advise on the dangers of being seen as too intellectual?"

The ski trip didn't help.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:43 PM


Kerry challenges Bush to prosecute Clarke if former anti-terrorism advisor lied (AFP, 3/26/04)

"My challenge to the Bush administration would be, if (Clarke) is not believable and they have reason to show it, then prosecute him for perjury because he is under oath, Kerry told CBS's MarketWatch.

"They have a perfect right to do that," said Kerry.

Sort of strange for a presidential candidate to use his post to call for the prosecution of a private citizen, but presumably if this is what the Senator believes he'll help declassify Mr. Clarke's prior testimony.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:39 PM


The little horse that couldn't (The Japan Times, March 28, 2004)

Haruurara, the chestnut mare famous for having now lost 106 races in a row, must be a secret fan of Samuel Beckett, the acerbic Irish playwright who died in 1989. We are thinking in particular of Beckett's late play "Worstward Ho," a line from which is said to have become the mantra of a thousand struggling stand-up comics: "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

Haruurara's feats of ignominy at the racetrack -- the 8-year-old has never placed higher than second and has lifetime winnings of just 1 million yen -- have inspired pop philosophers from the prime minister down to the lowliest bettor to meditate on failure and its meaning, especially for slump-ridden Japan.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi praised the horse in the Diet as an example of fortitude in tough times. Conveniently ignoring the fact that the horse hardly has a choice in the matter, having stayed the course under whip and spur, the prime minister said the lesson of Haruurara's story was that "people shouldn't give up, even when they lose." Many ordinary people seem to have interpreted the saga of this Anna Kournikova of the equine world in the same way. (That's not a far-fetched comparison, by the way: Haruurara has earned millions in the horsy equivalent of endorsements and will soon go the winless tennis diva one better by having a movie made about her life).

Fans have told reporters that they identify the mare's losing streak with their own difficulties in a time of recession. "We feel that if we do our best for long enough we will win in the end," one man said last Monday after the little horse in the pink Hello Kitty hood posted a reliable 10th place out of 11 at Kochi Racecourse, despite the best efforts of a champion jockey.

Unfortunately, if Japan is comparable to a horse, that horse is a gelding.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:40 PM


New Face Delivers Old Result in El Salvador: Candidate Seen as an Average Joe Retains Presidency for Pro-Business Party (Mary Beth Sheridan, March 23, 2004, Washington Post)

Tony Saca, the winner of El Salvador's presidential elections, had everything going for him. He was backed by the country's business barons, by a party in power for 15 years and by a national media tilted strongly toward his conservative party.

And yet, Saca's Nationalist Republican Alliance, or Arena, was running scared as it geared up for Sunday's vote. Many Salvadorans have expressed concern about a lack of economic progress, and showed it in previous elections -- handing a victory in congressional elections last year to a party headed by former Marxist guerrillas. That raised the possibility of a dramatic change of leadership in El Salvador, one of the most pro-American governments in Latin America.

Arena fought off the challenge with its traditional advantages of money and media. But it also renovated its image, distancing the party from the 12-year civil war in which it had been linked to death squads.

The new president is a 39-year-old businessman who had no role in the conflict and no experience in political office. Saca became famous as a TV commentator narrating soccer games, and went on to purchase a string of radio stations. He projected a cheerful, Average Joe style in a party dominated by well-heeled businessmen.

"I represent that Salvadoran who wants to find . . . a pretext to vote for Arena," Saca said in an interview on the eve of the election.

But his overwhelming victory, with about 57 percent of the vote, also reflected the difficulties that El Salvador's former rebels have faced in adjusting to democratic competition since they signed peace accords in 1992, political analysts said. Their party, the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, or FMLN, ran a former guerrilla leader known for his hard-line views. The candidate, Schafik Handal, 73, failed to gain much support beyond his party's hard-core supporters. [...]

Saca, who takes office on June 1, has promised to continue Arena's free-market policies, which have included privatization of state-run industries, adopting the U.S. dollar as the nation's currency and negotiating a free-trade agreement between Central America and the United States. He said in the interview that he would "be ready to consider" any U.S. request to keep the Salvadoran troops in Iraq beyond their current commitment, which ends in June. And he has pledged to seek more programs for the poor, who make up about half the population, according to official statistics.

Senator Kerry, of course, did his level best to help the FMLN take over El Salvador in the '80s and even recently worked to stop the nomination of Otto Reich as revenge for his role in defeating Central America's Marxist movements.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:03 PM


Bush, Clinton Varied Little on Terrorism (Dana Milbank and Dan Eggen, March 27, 2004, Washington Post)

The Bush administration's approach, which was in draft form by Sept. 4, 2001, did not differ substantially from Clinton's policy. The commission staff, in the "key findings" it released this week, said: "The new administration began to develop new policies toward al Qaeda in 2001, but there is no evidence of new work on military capabilities or plans against this enemy before September 11" -- a point on which Armitage concurred.

The primary differences in the Bush proposal were calls for more direct financial and logistical support to the Northern Alliance and the anti-Taliban Pashtuns and, if that failed, to eventually seek the overthrow of the Taliban through proxies. The plan also called for drafting plans for possible U.S. military involvement, according to testimony and commission findings.

But those differences were largely theoretical; administration officials told the panel's investigators that the plan's overall timeline was at least three years, and it did not include firm deadlines, military plans or significant funding at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. [...]

But Clarke, who was counterterrorism director for both Clinton and Bush, has been much more critical of Bush. In testimony this week, he said al Qaeda and terrorism "were an extraordinarily high priority" and there was "certainly no higher a priority" under Clinton. On the other hand, he said, "the Bush administration in the first eight months considered terrorism an important issue but not an urgent issue."

In fact, Clarke was constantly agitating for a more aggressive response to terrorism from the Clinton administration, including more significant bombing of al Qaeda and Taliban targets. The commission staff described him as "controversial" and "abrasive" and included an observation that several Clinton colleagues wanted him fired.

"He was despised under Clinton," said Ivo H. Daalder, who worked under Clarke in the Clinton National Security Council on issues other than terrorism. James M. Lindsay, who also worked under Clarke, concurred that people "thought he was exaggerating the threat" and said he "always wanted to do more" than higher-ups approved.

Even had we known for certain that al Qaeda planned hijackings, it seems unlikely we would have prevented 9-11, given that the anti-hijacking measures we had in place had worked so well for so long. And the idea that we'd ever have taken military action absent 9-11 is just delusional.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:39 PM

STARTING AT THE END (via Political Theory):

REVIEW: of Darwin and Design: Does Evolution Have a Purpose? by Michael Ruse (Manuel Bremer, Mar 25th 2004, Metapsychology)

Michael Ruse's Darwin and Design is the third book in his trilogy on evolution, the first being Monad and Man: The Concept of Progress in Evolutionary Biology, the second being Mystery of Mysteries: Is Evolution a Social Construction? All three books are written for a non-specialist audience and all three try to place evolutionary thought and the debate around evolution into the wider cultural climate of the times. In Darwin and Design Ruse takes on the relation between the theory of evolution and the argument from design as one of the classical ways to prove that there has to be a God. Aiming at the non-specialist the debate is not developed systematically or presented in formal clothing, but enfolds as Ruse leads us through the history of the argument from design and the unfolding of Darwinism and the theory of evolution. Ruse starts with the versions of the argument from design in Plato and Aristotle, distinguishes between a realistic reading of it (i.e. there really is design by God) and Kant's methodological reading of it (i.e. we have to see the world as if it was designed to formulate the laws of biology), and sees the argument from design in British natural theology employed as a justification of science: If the laws of nature are God's design, then it cannot be against faith to do science (as a means to understand God's ways).

The teleological language used in the argument from design is congenial to the language of functions in biology, it seems. The function/telos of the eye is to see, the function of the heart to circulate blood -- and so on. Darwin himself often writes in a teleological fashion. One of his favorite pictures of the process of evolution is the similarity to breeding, which obviously involves the farmer planning his breed. So the question is: What keeps Darwin's (and other evolutionist's) usage of functional or teleological expression distinct from the cosmological view of the argument from design?

Ruse is not very explicit about the formal structure of the argument from design, but introduces an important distinction between the two major steps in that argument. The first premise of the argument Ruse calls "the argument to (organized) complexity". This is a premise won by observation. We see around us highly complex living systems. Once we look into the details of the working of the human eye or the metamorphosis of a butterfly we see what immensely structured entities or processes we encounter. Given this complexity the decisive step, according to Ruse, is the "argument to design", namely that the observed complexity is design. Ruse takes the name "argument from design" a misnomer, since it is tautological that design requires somebody doing the designing. The crucial step, therefore, rather is that complexity is taken as design. This step involves two sub-steps, it seems. The first sub-step underlines that complexity is something to be explained. Complexity is not random. Explained such this sub-step trades on the definition of "complexity", and seems to be unproblematic. Scientists, naturalists, and religious people agree on the need to explain the occurrence of organized complexity in nature. The decisive second sub-step in the argument to design is the statement that nothing but design explains complexity. It is a negative claim arguing to design as the only/best explanation. It is here that Darwin and the theory of evolution enter, and it is here where the argument from design crumbles. What the theory of mutation ("inherited variation" in Darwin's first version of his theory) and selection provides is exactly some such explanation of complexity as adaptation to a (complex) environment. Since there is the interplay of (random) mutation and selection (of better adaptive traits), there is a mechanism -- even an "algorithm" the workings of which can be ascertained ex post -- to increase complexity, to get "design" out of chaos.

One can only assume this is a parody, particularly at the point where Mr. Bremer is arguing that the existence of algorithm leading to complexity is an argument against design, rather than in favor.

But as a general proposition, Darwinism can't help but be teleological because it is historical. It attempts to explain how we got to this precise point in the history of Evolution. As the great Darwinist Ernst Mayr puts it:

[D]arwin introduced historicity into science. Evolutionary biology, in contrast with physics and chemistry, is a historical science - the evolutionist attempts to explain events and processes that have already taken place. Laws and experiments are inappropriate techniques for the explication of such events and processes. Instead one constructs a historical narrative, consisting of a tentative reconstruction of the particular scenario that led to the events one is trying to explain.

Darwinism then, by definition, starts from the telos (the end) and then argues backwards to find a way it could have occurred randomly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:09 PM


Rethinking the United States — A European Perspective (Helmut Schmidt, March 23, 2004, The Globalist)

Some people in the United States believe that 9/11 changed the world. But that's not quite true, says former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt. Rather, it deeply changed the way in which Americans perceive the outside world. His analysis is all the more relevant one year after the start of the Iraq War.

On September 11, 2001, despite all of their power —and for the first time in many generations — Americans suffered from a violent attack on its own soil. This experience led the U.S. leadership to use their enormous military power to fight the so-called “war on terrorism.”

As a result, tendencies toward hegemonic behavior vis-à-vis other nations appear to have come to the forefront.

An imperialist element within the foreign policy of the United States has always co-existed with isolationism, and also with internationalist idealism (which is nowadays called “multilateralism”). Sometimes, one of these elements prevailed — and sometimes another.

Even for someone as historically hostile to the American mission as Mr. Schmidt, it's remarkable how quickly he strays into error. Note the assumption that multilateralism is the idealist position. In fact, American imperialism is more idealistic -- seeking to impose liberal democracy unilaterally -- where internationalism has historically allowed Europe to thwart our efforts. So, for instance, Mr. Schmidt was reluctant to site the new generation of missiles that helped win the Cold War and eager to help the USSR with the oil pipeline which would have supplied them with desperately needed hard currency and prolonged the War.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:47 PM


The Origins of Occidentalism (IAN BURUMA, February 6, 2004, Chronicle of Higher Education) the Occidentalist idea of the West?

That is the problem that vexed a group of prominent Japanese intellectuals who gathered for a conference in Kyoto in 1942. The attack on Pearl Harbor was not the ostensible reason for the conference, but the underlying idea was to find an ideological justification for Japan's mission to smash, and in effect replace, the Western empires in Asia. The topic of discussion was "how to overcome the modern." Modernity was associated with the West, and particularly with Western imperialism.

Westernization, one of the scholars said, was like a disease that had infected the Japanese spirit. The "modern thing," said another, was a "European thing." Others believed that "Americanism" was the enemy, and that Japan should make common cause with the Europeans to defend old civilizations against the New World (there would certainly have been takers in Europe). There was much talk about unhealthy specialization in knowledge, which had fragmented the wholeness of Oriental spiritual culture. Science was to blame. So were capitalism, the absorption into Japanese society of modern technology, and notions of individual freedom and democracy. These had to be "overcome."

All agreed that culture -- that is, traditional Japanese culture -- was spiritual and profound, whereas modern Western civilization was shallow, rootless, and destructive of creative power. The West, particularly the United States, was coldly mechanical, a machine civilization without spirit or soul, a place where people mixed to produce mongrel races. A holistic, traditional Orient united under divine Japanese imperial rule would restore the warm organic Asian community to spiritual health. As one of the participants put it, the struggle was between Japanese blood and Western intellect.

Precisely the same terms had been used by others, in other places, at other times. Blood, soil, and the spirit of the Volk were what German romantics in the late 18th and early 19th centuries invoked against the universalist claims of the French Enlightenment, the French Revolution, and Napoleon's invading armies. This notion of national soul was taken over by the Slavophiles in 19th-century Russia, who used it to attack the "Westernizers," that is, Russian advocates of liberal reforms. It came up again and again, in the 1930s, when European fascists and National Socialists sought to smash "Americanism," Anglo-Saxon liberalism, and "rootless cosmopolitanism" (meaning Jews). Aurel Kolnai, the great Hungarian scholar, wrote a book in the 1930s about fascist ideology in Austria and Germany. He called it War Against the West. Communism, too, especially under Stalin, although a bastard child of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, was the sworn enemy of Western liberalism and "rootless cosmopolitanism." Many Islamic radicals borrowed their anti-Western concepts from Russia and Germany. The founders of the Ba'ath Party in Syria were keen readers of prewar German race theories. Jalal Al-e Ahmad, an influential Iranian intellectual in the 1960s, coined the phrase "Westoxification" to describe the poisonous influence of Western civilization on other cultures. He, too, was an admirer of German ideas on blood and soil.
Clearly, the idea of the West as a malign force is not some Eastern or Middle Eastern idea, but has deep roots in European soil. Defining it in historical terms is not a simple matter. Occidentalism was part of the counter-Enlightenment, to be sure, but also of the reaction against industrialization. Some Marxists have been attracted to it, but so, of course, have their enemies on the far right. Occidentalism is a revolt against rationalism (the cold, mechanical West, the machine civilization) and secularism, but also against individualism. European colonialism provoked Occidentalism, and so does global capitalism today. But one can speak of Occidentalism only when the revolt against the West becomes a form of pure destruction, when the West is depicted as less than human, when rebellion means murder.

Wherever it occurs, Occidentalism is fed by a sense of humiliation, of defeat. Isaiah Berlin once described the German revolt against Napoleon as "the original exemplar of the reaction of many a backward, exploited, or at any rate patronized society, which, resentful of the apparent inferiority of its status, reacted by turning to real or imaginary triumphs and glories in its past, or enviable attributes of its own national or cultural character."
The same thing might be said about Japan in the 1930s, after almost a century of feeling snubbed and patronized by the West, whose achievements it so fervently tried to emulate. It has been true of the Russians, who have often slipped into the role of inferior upstarts, stuck in the outer reaches of Asia and Europe. But nothing matches the sense of failure and humiliation that afflicts the Arab world, a once glorious civilization left behind in every respect by the post-Enlightenment West. [...]

What, then, is new about the Islamist holy war against the West? Perhaps it is the totality of its vision. Islamism, as an antidote to Westoxification, is an odd mixture of the universal and the pure: universal because all people can, and in the eyes of the believers should, become orthodox Muslims; pure because those who refuse the call are not simply lost souls but savages who must be removed from this earth.

Hitler tried to exterminate the Jews, among others, but did not view the entire West with hostility. In fact, he wanted to forge an alliance with the British and other "Aryan" nations, and felt betrayed when they did not see things his way. Stalinists and Maoists murdered class enemies and were opposed to capitalism. But they never saw the Western world as less than human and thus to be physically eradicated. Japanese militarists went to war against Western empires but did not regard everything about Western civilization as barbarous. The Islamist contribution to the long history of Occidentalism is a religious vision of purity in which the idolatrous West simply has to be destroyed.

The worship of false gods is the worst religious sin in Islam as well as in ancient Judaism. The West, as conceived by Islamists, worships the false gods of money, sex, and other animal lusts. In this barbarous world the thoughts and laws and desires of Man have replaced the kingdom of God. The word for this state of affairs is jahiliyya, which can mean idolatry, religious ignorance, or barbarism. Applied to the pre-Islamic Arabs, it means ignorance: People worshiped other gods because they did not know better. But the new jahiliyya, in the sense of barbarism, is everywhere, from Las Vegas and Wall Street to the palaces of Riyadh. To an Islamist, anything that is not pure, that does not belong to the kingdom of God, is by definition barbarous and must be destroyed.

Just as the main enemies of Russian Slavophiles were Russian Westernizers, the most immediate targets of Islamists are the liberals, reformists, and secular rulers in their own societies. They are the savage stains that have to be cleansed with blood. But the source of the barbarism that has seduced Saudi princes and Algerian intellectuals as much as the whores and pimps of New York (and in a sense all infidels are whores and pimps) is the West. And that is why holy war has been declared against the West.

Since the target of the holy warriors is so large, figuring out how to defend it is not easy. But it is not immediately apparent that a war against Iraq was the most effective way to fight the Islamist jihad. Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath regime was a murderous dictatorship that deserved to come to an end, but it was not in line with the holy revolution.

However, if the war is between liberalism and totalitarianism, then is not the forced liberalization of Islamic regimes incredibly effective?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:17 AM

READY FROM DAY ONE (via Tom Morin):

Hamas linked to area housing (Jerry Seper, March 26, 2004, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

The terrorist organization Hamas invested millions of dollars during the past decade in real-estate projects nationwide, including in suburban Maryland, as part of a scheme to raise cash to fund acts of terrorism, records show.

The investments -- involving the construction of hundreds of new homes, including many in Oxon Hill -- were handled through BMI Inc., a defunct Secaucus, N.J., investment firm founded by Soliman S. Biheiri, an Egyptian and Hamas supporter, according to a newly released sentencing declaration by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

They already demonstrate a better understanding of market economics than the PA ever did.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:42 AM


The Lonely Historian: Benny Morris discusses the new version of his famously controversial book, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, which has left him alienated from both the left and the right (Elizabeth Wasserman, March 25, 2004, Atlantic Unbound)

I want to ask you about the recent change in your politics, from a highly critical to a more pro-Israel view. How do you explain that?

Let me just say something up front: I don't really regard my views as having changed much.

I still believe that a territorial compromise is necessary, that a two-state solution is the only equitable solution here, and that Israel must withdraw from the territories. What has changed in my views is my perception of the Palestinian side during the past decade. Whereas in the 1990s I was fairly optimistic that the Palestinians had accepted in their hearts the need for a compromise and for a two-state solution, now I'm very doubtful. I don't think the Palestinians really want to agree to a two-state solution. They want a one-state solution, which means Israel's destruction and the turning of all of Palestine into one Arab majority state. That's what has changed in my thinking.

How has this influenced your thinking on the subject of transfer?

From my realization about the Palestinians stems a number of conclusions. If it is true that the Palestinians—historically, monolithically, continuously and probably forever—are disagreeable to a two-state solution, to the acceptance of Israel's existence, then one has to think afresh about the problem of demography and territory. And what this has led me to conclude is that in 1948, it would probably have been better for everybody to have had all the Palestinians cross the Jordan River rather than having many of them stay on the Israeli side at the end of the war. In other words, if Israel had been established on all the territory between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River and the Palestinians had crossed the river and turned Transjordan into a state of their own, both peoples would have probably been happier, and the Middle East would certainly have been a pleasanter place over the next fifty years.

Do you have an idea of how and when this should have come about?

Well, there were expulsions and there was mass movement of population in '48 in the course of the war, and had this transfer occurred completely rather than partially, that would have been the right moment for it to occur, historically speaking—the only possible moment it probably could have occurred. Later it was already too late. The Palestinians were not going to move of their own volition; Israel was not going to kick anybody else out; and the opportunity for a complete separation between the two peoples, and the establishment of two states—one on each side of the Jordan—was lost.

In conducting research for Revisited you found a lot more evidence that the Arab leaders were partially responsible for promoting the evacuation. What is the significance of this? Should this information affect the Palestinian cause internationally?

It should translate in some way. Look, there is a connection between current policy on the Arab side—the demand for the right of return of the refugees to their homes and lands in Palestine—and the question of who is to blame for what happened in '48. There's sort of a formula here that essentially asserts that if the Israelis were by and large to blame for the displacement of the Palestinians, therefore they are guilty and must agree to a full-scale return of the refugees. On the other hand, if the Palestinians have more blame in the flight or the displacement of the Palestinians, their argument for a return of the refugees is diminished. So there is a political significance to the apportioning of blame

You have referred to Arab intellectuals' approach to the history of the Arab-Jewish conflict in the Middle East as hypocritical. Can you elaborate on this?

A lot of Arab critics have become hot and bothered about the so-called ethnic cleansing of Arabs in 1948. But they neglect to mention that ethnic cleansing is a sport long and consistently practiced by the Arabs, from Muhammad, who ethnically cleansed Arabia of its Jewish tribes back in the seventh century, down to the Arab world in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, which systematically cleansed their communities of Jews. Almost no Jews live in the Arab world today—in Yemen, Iraq, Egypt, etcetera. And, for that matter, there are very few Christian communities in the Arab world. The Arabs between the seventh and the twentieth centuries took care to expel them, massacre them, or forcibly convert them to Islam. An ethnic cleansing of giant proportions is currently under way in the Sudan, and has been for decades. No Arab historian I know of has ever studied or written about these events.

How has the change in your politics affected your relations with your leftist colleagues?

My relations have suffered as a result. Before the recent, as we think of it, change of heart, they were at least courteous. They were suspicious of my basic feeling because they always knew that I wasn't on the Arab side—I was never pro-Palestinian or pro-Arab, but at least I was producing a history that they enjoyed and made use of. But since I have made these statements blaming the Palestinians for much of what is going on, especially since the year 2000, they've been extremely hostile in print and I find that even my colleagues at the university don't say hello in the corridors. I'm talking about extreme leftists. So in some ways there is a beginning of an embargo or ostracism in the works. It isn't pleasant, but I think it's instinctive.

If you're a university professor and your colleagues are talking to you, it's time to worry.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:23 AM


The Virtues of C-SPAN (Harvey Mansfield, September/October 1997, The American Enterprise)

With a healthy, unexciting breakfast, you need a zesty appetizer to start the day. I receive mine from C-SPAN, where the morning talk show, "Washington Journal," gets my partisan juices flowing. A liberal and a conservative politician pick articles from the morning paper and usually get into an argument. They spin, they bicker, they exchange barbs. I love it.

C-SPAN, two [now three and a radio station] educational channels funded by the cable television industry, is known for providing "unfiltered" news-including live coverage of floor debates in the U.S. House and Senate, unabridged taping of campaign stump speeches, and similar political jousting. Yet the same network famous for providing the most partisan news is also considered the most objective. Why? Because C-SPAN lets politics appear as it is, with all its partisan slants. Sometimes the slant is obvious, as when a Democrat or Republican states his party's position, and sometimes it is concealed behind the desire to appear "nonpolitical" (or "bipartisan"). C-SPAN tolerates both: It doesn't dismiss people's opinions merely because they are partisan, and it doesn't dismiss the aspiration to rise above partisanship merely because the effort often fails or is insincere.

Brian Lamb, the head moderator, and his able assistants do something almost never done on the major networks. They listen and they question; or rather, they listen so that they can question. Lamb's purpose is to enable the talker to make his point, not to embarrass him. But to do that, he asks for evidence, for a source, for an example, for consistency, or-when it's a wanderer-for the point. Sometimes the result is to embarrass an ill-informed caller or a biased guest, but that is not the intent. The intent-though Lamb doesn't boast of it-is to educate.

On C-SPAN talk-show programs the moderators do not simply sit by silently while others talk; they maintain an active neutrality that helps all sides. They want to improve our respect for democratic debate; so they do their best to make the debate worthy of respect. You never hear a voice-over or a sound-bite on C-SPAN. In a voice-over, the network reporter gives the gist
of a speaker's statement in his own words, and then often illustrates his interpretation with a punchy phrase actually taken from the speaker. The emphasis is the reporter's, and the speaker, who may well be the President of the United States, becomes a character in the reporter's story-and thus a witness to the reporter's moral or intellectual superiority.

The ruling vice of American journalists is not that too many are Democrats but that they show such disrespect for democracy. Their error is mostly unconscious but nonetheless grave: They despise the surface of things and look too much, too quickly, for the inside story. The surface of things in democratic politics is the partisan dispute of the moment, but journalists allow themselves to get bored with that. They don't listen partly because they have heard it before and mostly because they are convinced beforehand that it doesn't mean anything. The only important events, they believe, are the ones that go on behind the scenes, and the only important words are those spoken in private: what we don't see determines what we do see, and the job of the journalist is to unearth secrets, not to report what is obvious.

C-SPAN, by contrast, is not afraid of the obvious.

If you're headed to the videostore today and your spouse is as much a policy wonk as you, see if they have Alexandra Pelosi's documentary, Journeys with George. It's an entertaining look at the boys on the bus, covering George W. Bush in 2000. The portrayal of Mr. Bush is rather generous, including the key scene in the film, where he comes to Ms Pelosi's rescue after she's pulled a boner. Moreover, there's a very sly plotline in which the most cynical and partisan reporter in the film ends up playing a key role in another controversy, and in retrospect we can see that Ms Pelosi has essentially been working to destroy his credibility.

But the film does have a significant weakness, one pointed up by Mr. Mansfield above: even as the media complains constantly that the campaign is devoid of substance, Ms Pelosi avoids the substance almost entirely. We see that George Bush is at Bob Jones University or at a debate or giving his nomination acceptance speech, but get none of the words. His candidacy becomes almost inexplicable except to the extent that he charms the journalists covering him. It's almost as if the election were about whether they ended up liking him or not. That they do is a credit to one fact of his political skills, but it does make the election seem as if it was devoid of ideas--a notion which his presidency has laid to rest.

THE WALLFLOWER KNOWS: C-SPAN has downsized Washington, revealing it to be a city of mere people, not giants. (William Powers, March 24, 2004, The Atlantic)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:04 AM

FROM YELLOW TO RED (via Mike Daley):

The Myth of the Racist Republicans (Gerard Alexander, March 20, 2004, Claremont Review of Books)

[B]ias is how differently they treat the long Democratic dominance of the South. Carter and the Black brothers suggest that the accommodation of white racism penetrates to the very soul of modern conservatism. But earlier generations of openly segregationist Southerners voted overwhelmingly for Woodrow Wilson's and Franklin Roosevelt's Democratic Party, which relaxed its civil rights stances accordingly. This coalition passed much of the New Deal legislation that remains the basis of modern liberalism. So what does the segregationist presence imply for the character of liberalism at its electoral and legislative apogee? These scholars sidestep the question by simply not discussing it. This silence implies that racism and liberalism were simply strange political bedfellows, without any common values.

But the commonality, the philosophical link, is swiftly identified once the Democrats leave the stage. In study after study, authors say that "racial and economic conservatism" married white Southerners to the GOP after 1964. So whereas historically accidental events must have led racists to vote for good men like FDR, after 1964 racists voted their conscience. How convenient. And how easy it would be for, say, a libertarian conservative like Walter Williams to generate a counter-narrative that exposes statism as the philosophical link between segregation and liberalism's economic populism.

Yet liberal commentators commit a further, even more obvious, analytic error. They assume that if many former Wallace voters ended up voting Republican in the 1970s and beyond, it had to be because Republicans went to the segregationist mountain, rather than the mountain coming to them. There are two reasons to question this assumption. The first is the logic of electoral competition. Extremist voters usually have little choice but to vote for a major party which they consider at best the lesser of two evils, one that offers them little of what they truly desire. Segregationists were in this position after 1968, when Wallace won less than 9% of the electoral
college and Nixon became president anyway, without their votes. Segregationists simply had very limited national bargaining power. In the end, not the Deep South but the GOP was the mountain.

Second, this was borne out in how little the GOP had to "offer," so to speak, segregationists for their support after 1968, even according to the myth's own terms. Segregationists wanted policies that privileged whites. In the GOP, they had to settle for relatively race-neutral policies: opposition to forced busing and reluctant coexistence with affirmative action. The reason these policies aren't plausible codes for real racism is that they aren't the equivalents of discrimination, much less of segregation.

Why did segregationists settle for these policies rather than continue to vote Democratic? The GOP's appeal was mightily aided by none other than the Democratic Party itself, which was lurching leftward in the 1970s, becoming, as the contemporary phrase had it, the party of "acid, amnesty, and abortion." Among other things, the Democrats absorbed a civil rights movement that was itself expanding, and thus diluting, its agenda to include economic redistributionism, opposition to the Vietnam War, and Black Power. The many enthusiasms of the new Democratic Party drove away suburban middle-class voters almost everywhere in the country, not least the South.

One of the tragedies of American politics is that white Southerners supported the Democrats for so long, simply because of racial issues. Had the voted their conservative consciences much of the damage done by FDR and Truman might have been avoided.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:38 AM


Democrats' Ads in Tandem Provoke G.O.P.: An analysis of advertising data shows a striking synchronicity between the advertising campaigns of Senator
John Kerry, and the Media Fund. (JIM RUTENBERG, 3/27/04, NY Times)

Senator John Kerry's advertising campaign is so closely complemented by those of two major liberal groups running commercials against President Bush that Republicans are accusing the Democrats of trying to evade campaign finance laws.

An analysis of advertising data provided by Republicans, Democrats and an independent group shows a striking synchronicity between the advertising campaigns of Mr. Kerry and and the Media Fund, which flatly deny any illegal consultations. They have been advertising in the same 17 swing states, in most of the same markets while almost uniformly ignoring others.

In mid-March, while Mr. Kerry advertised slightly more in the morning, the groups advertised slightly more at night. At other times of day, the two groups and the Kerry campaign together matched Mr. Bush's advertising nearly spot for spot, in a couple of cases exceeding it. That level of correlation has delighted Democrats, who acknowledge that the groups have gone a long way in helping Mr. Kerry to meet the advertising onslaught of Mr. Bush, whose campaign has raised far more money.

Officials of the two groups say that they do not need to speak to the Kerry campaign to join it in answering the Bush campaign. But such help is becoming a focal point in what is widely expected to be a legal battle with Republicans and some advocates of election reform over what legitimate role the groups, which are called 527 committees for the section of the tax code that created them, should be allowed to play.

The 527 groups' significance has grown exponentially this election cycle because they are able to collect millions in unregulated, unlimited contributions from unions, corporations and wealthy individuals. The parties and candidates are now prohibited from that type of fund-raising under the new campaign finance law.

While the law does not affect the fund-raising practices of these groups, it prohibited them from coordinating their efforts with federal parties or candidates.

March 26, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:45 PM


Palestinian officials call on militants to lay down arms (Ha'aretz, 3/26/04)

Over 60 prominent Palestinian officials and intellectuals Thursday urged the public to refrain from retaliation for Israel's assassination of Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, saying it would ignite a new round of bloodshed that would only hurt Palestinian aspirations for independence.

A half-page advertisement in the PLO's Al-Ayyam newspaper called on Palestinians to lay down their arms and turn to peaceful means of protest to end Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The ad reflected apparently growing sentiment among many Palestinian leaders and intellectuals that military struggle is not helping the Palestinian cause. [...]

The intellectuals who signed Thursday's ad - including lawmaker Hanan Ashrawi, Nablus Governor Mahmoud Aloul, Geneva Accord co-author and PLO Executive Committee member Yasser Abed Rabbo and Abbas Zaki, a leading member of Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement - said such revenge attacks would lead to a strong Israeli retaliation and further hurt the Palestinian cause.

The group called on the public to "rise again in a peaceful, wise intifada." While saying the 37-year occupation must be brought down, they asked the public to reconsider the benefits of a violent struggle.

The conflict is over. They have their state. The Israelis are leaving. Time to stop dehumanizing themselves.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:43 PM


5 planets offer stargazers rare show visible at dusk (MARCIA DUNN, 3/24/04, Associated Press)

For the next two weeks, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn -- the five closest planets -- should be easily visible at dusk, along with the moon.

"It's semi-unique," said Myles Standish, an astronomer at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "They're all on the same side of the sun and stretched across the sky and that's what is kind of pretty."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:40 PM


When Kerry's Words Obscure His Message: Deviations From Script Don't Always Resonate (John F. Harris, March 26, 2004, Washington Post)

For a national security speech earlier this month, Sen. John F. Kerry's speechwriters produced a draft that included the story of a woman who was suddenly evicted from military housing. Because her husband was killed in Iraq, authorities brusquely told her, she no longer qualified as a military family.

Kerry's prepared speech had the words to crisply convey his outrage. "How can this happen in the United States of America?" the prepared text read. "Who among us could move on short notice when you don't even know where your paycheck will come from?"

But when the Massachusetts Democrat delivered the speech, those crisp words went a bit limp. "Now how can this happen in the United States of America in the way that it happens? . . . Who among us thinks it's right to say so quickly, on short notice, before you even know where your next paycheck's going to come from; before you know, if you haven't been working, what skill you can apply to be able to earn a paycheck; before you've been able to adjust to the loss and begin to be able to get back into life?" [...]

The fear among some Kerry backers is that muddy language from Kerry -- at a time when he is still not well known among most voters -- will also cloud the policy distinctions he needs to unseat Bush, and make it easier for Republicans to promote their less flattering definition of what the Democrat represents.

The obfuscation is the message.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:30 PM


Republicans seek to declassify Clarke testimony (DAVID ESPO, March 26, 2004, AP)

Key Republicans in Congress sought Friday to declassify two-year-old testimony by former White House aide Richard Clarke, suggesting he may have lied this week when he faulted President Bush's handling of the war on terror.

"Mr. Clarke has told two entirely different stories under oath," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said in a speech on the Senate floor.

The Tennessee Republican said he hopes Clarke's testimony in July 2002 before the House and Senate intelligence committees can be declassified. Then, he said, it can be compared with the account the former aide provided in his nationally televised appearance Wednesday before the bipartisan commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. [...]

One Republican aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the initial request for declassification was made by House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Rep. Porter Goss, the chairman of the House intelligence committee.

Frist, without elaborating, said Clarke's testimony in 2002 was "effusive in his praise for the actions of the Bush administration."

Frist also noted that Clarke, appearing as an anonymous official, had praised the administration's actions in an appearance before White House reporters in 2002.

Clarke on Wednesday dismissed that appearance as the fulfillment of the type of request that presidential appointees frequently receive.

But, Frist said, "Loyalty to any administration will be no defense if it is found that he has lied to Congress."

Who ya gonna believe: me or me?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:17 PM


Syria seeks our help to woo US (John Kerin, 27Mar04,

SYRIA has appealed to Australia to use its close ties with Washington to help the Arab nation shake off its reputation as a terrorist haven and repair its relations with the US.

Secret talks between the two nations have been under way for months but have become more urgent as rogue nations reconsider their role in allowing terrorists to thrive, in light of the US determination to take pre-emptive military action.

A Syrian embassy will be opened in Canberra in weeks and Australia is considering reopening its mission in Damascus.

Australia's close relationship with Washington, and its much higher profile in the Middle East, have prompted Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara'a and parliamentary speaker Mahmoud Al-Ibrache to appeal to Canberra to help bring their country back in from a US-imposed diplomatic freeze.

"You're his partner, can't you talk to him? We'll do anything he wants!"

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:12 PM


Abortion on the line in election (Joan Ryan, March 26, 2004, San Francisco Chronicle)

The message scrolled across Kate Michelman's cell phone as she sat in the Westin St. Francis Hotel ballroom Thursday afternoon. Around her, the room buzzed with the conversation and clicking flatware of 975 people, the largest turnout in the nine years San Francisco has hosted the NARAL Pro- Choice America lunch. Michelman, the longtime president of NARAL, read the message and let out a soft groan. [...]

If you looked across the enormous ballroom at the hundreds and hundreds of smart, accomplished, committed women, you might shake your head at the Bush administration's folly. How can it think it will succeed in making abortion illegal again? We won already. The Supreme Court said so 31 years ago. It's a done deal. Living in an America that forces women to back-alley butchers to end unwanted pregnancies seems as preposterous, in the year 2004, as living in an America that makes women wear burqas.

But the assumption of keeping this fundamental liberty could be the agent of its demise. [...]

"The situation is perilous,'' Michelman said. "It's very scary. There's a lot going on in the world, and this (unborn victims' act) might get missed. But this is a very, very serious setback. Pro-choice advocates have been too complacent that the right to an abortion can never be lost. Too many believe it cannot and will not happen. But the Supreme Court is not immune to social currents. This highlights how important it is to elect a pro-choice president."

San Francisco businessman and philanthropist Richard Goldman, a lifelong Republican, drove the point home. He walked to the lectern and announced publicly he was supporting Democratic candidate John Kerry for president.

"This is the most important election of my lifetime,'' said Goldman, a man not given to hyperbole. "There is no choice.''


Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:58 PM


The Faith-Based Presidency: You can question Bush's veracity, his grip on reality, and the rationality of his policies, but not his faith. (Jack Beatty, March 25, 2004, Atlantic Monthly)

George W. Bush has made rationality an antonym of Republican. His is the first faith-based presidency. Above the entrance to the Bush West Wing should be St. Paul's definition of faith—"the evidence of things unseen." [...]

You can question Bush's veracity, his grip on reality, and the rationality of his policies, but not his faith. Turning to Jesus to escape from drinking was the turning point in his life. Sincerity, unreservedly giving your heart to Jesus, is the fulcrum of life-altering faith, say people who have experienced it. Reason, skepticism, critical thought, irony, argument—all threaten this sustaining emotional purity. You owe your life to a miracle, and it will go away if doubt creeps in.

All lives have the kind of soul-trying trouble that nearly cost George W. Bush his marriage. Some people see psychiatrists; others take medication; many turn to faith. And for many of this last group, I suspect, Bush's sins against reason, his privileging of his heart over his head, make up no small part of his appeal. Religiosity—intensity of faith and frequency of church attendance—now vies with race as a partisan predictor. Just as 9 in 10 African-Americans voted for Al Gore in 2000, so nearly 9 in 10 "high-commitment evangelicals" voted for George W. Bush. Altogether, evangelicals and white Protestant fundamentalists constituted 40 percent of Bush's vote. When Pat Robertson resigned as president of the Christian Coalition, in late 2001, Gary Bauer, a spokesman for social conservatism, said he knew why: "I think he stepped down because the position has already been filled..." President Bush "is that leader right now."

He's contemptuous of that faith and completely fails to understand how it translates into policy, but Mr. Beatty is right that this is the central fact about Mr. Bush and the partisan political divide in America.

You can't arrive at a belief in human dignity, inalienable rights, the necessity of freedom, and a basis for democracy without Judeo-Christianity. So George W. Bush can't use Reason to explain why the Iraqi people should be free. He's "reduced" to fundamentalist religious formulations, like this one:

Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to humanity.

just as the Founders--supposed Rationalists--could do no better than this:
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...

Of course, Mr. Beatty can't use Reason to arrive at these things either. So, the choice is between faith, and American values, or Reason, and no values.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:29 PM


Islamic world is violent, says Carey (Sam Jones, March 26, 2004, The Guardian)

The Islamic world is a violent, authoritarian and undemocratic place, according to Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury.

In a speech in Rome yesterday, Dr Carey denounced moderate Muslims for refusing to condemn the "evil" of suicide bombers, urged Islamic theologians to take a more critical approach to the Koran, and lamented that "no great invention has come for many hundred years from Muslim countries".

"Throughout the Middle East and North Africa, we find authoritarian regimes with deeply entrenched leadership, some of which rose to power at the point of a gun and are retained in power by massive security forces," he said.

Turning his attention to suicide bombers, he said: "Sadly, apart from a few courageous examples, very few Muslim leaders condemn clearly and unconditionally the evil of the suicide bombers ... We need to hear outright condemnation of theologies that state that suicide bombers are martyrs and enter a martyr's reward."

Dr Carey's words, reported in the Daily Telegraph, come as the present Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, leads a seminar of Muslim and Christian scholars in New York today.

His call for Islamic theologians to be as rigorous in their studies as their Jewish and Christian counterparts is unlikely to please his successor.

Is the Reverend Williams not aware of this?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:19 PM


'Culture wars' shaping election (Bill Sammon, March 25, 2004, Washington Times)

"He sort of wins on a lot of these issues without even firing a shot," said Democrat Manfred Wolf, an English professor at San Francisco State University. "It's just a feeling that a lot of people have that the country is growing soft, and they don't like it.

"The Republicans tend to cash in on this," he added. "I would hate to see the Democratic Party get caught in this, because the Democratic Party will lose on these cultural issues."

The Bush campaign agreed.

"The Democrats' position on almost all of these issues is anti-majoritarian," said a senior campaign official. "Their position is: Because we don't trust the majorities in defining marriage, or in establishing appropriate laws in their states on things like abortion or on so many other fronts, we need to step in and have an elite group of people who share our values tell the majority what to do."

For example, he said, the left warned that Mel Gibson's "The Passion," which graphically depicts Jesus' crucifixion, would incite anti-Semitism.

"Think about what they're saying: You can't be trusted to go see this movie. You can't be trusted, or your passions will rise up," said the Bush campaign official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Is Mr. Wolf saying he'd rather see the culture destroyed?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:13 PM


Tax flip-flop? (The Tipsheet, March 26, 2004, The Hill)

Sen. John Kerry (Mass.), the Democrats‚ presumptive presidential nominee, withdrew his co-sponsorship of the Senate‚s corporate tax bill last fall, citing concerns that the bill‚s international provisions could spur the outsourcing of jobs overseas. The move came shortly after he joined other Democrats in voting the bill out of committee. A spokesman for Kerry said that he had wanted to move the bill forward in an attempt to avert trade sanctions, but later had concerns about the international provisions.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:32 PM


Whatever happened to evolutionary theory?: INTELLIGENT DESIGN: Intelligent design has now (in 2025) become a thriving scientific research program and replaced materialistic accounts of biological evolution (in particular, Darwinism). ID theory led to new understanding of embryo development and the importance of "junk DNA" (Jonathan Wells, 4/03/04, World)

[D]arwinian evolution is little more than a historical footnote in biology textbooks. Just as students learn that scientists used to believe that the Sun moves around the Earth and maggots are spontaneously generated in rotting meat, so students also learn that scientists used to believe that human beings evolved through random mutations and natural selection. How could a belief that was so influential in 2000 become so obsolete by 2025? Whatever happened to evolutionary theory?

Surprising though it may seem, Darwinism did not collapse because it was disproved by new evidence. (As we shall see, the evidence never really fit it anyway.) Instead, evolutionary theory was knocked off its pedestal by three developments in the first decade of this century-developments centered in the United States, but worldwide in scope. Those developments were: (1) the widespread adoption of a "teach the controversy" approach in education, (2) a growing public awareness of the scientific weaknesses of evolutionary theory, and (3) the rise of the more fruitful "theory of intelligent design." [...]

In the second major development, students who were free to examine the evidence for and against evolution quickly realized that the former was surprisingly thin. Although Darwinists had long boasted about having "overwhelming evidence" for their view, it turned out that they had no good evidence for the theory's principal claim: that species originate through random mutation and natural selection. Bacteria were the best place to look for such evidence, because they reproduce quickly, their DNA can be easily mutated, and they can be subjected to strong selection in the laboratory. Yet bacteria had been intensively studied throughout the 20th century, and bacteriologists had never observed the formation of a new species.

If there was no good evidence that a Darwinian mechanism could produce new species, still less was there any evidence that a Darwinian mechanism could produce complex organs or new anatomical features. Darwinists discounted the problem by arguing that evolution was too slow to observe, but this didn't change the fact that they lacked empirical confirmation for their theory.

Of course, there was plenty of evidence for minor changes in existing species-but nobody had ever doubted that existing species can change over time. Domestic breeders had been observing such changes-and even producing them-for centuries. Unfortunately, this was not the sort of evidence that evolution needed. After all, the main point of evolutionary theory was not how selection and mutation could change existing species, but how that mechanism could produce new species-indeed, all species after the first-as well as new organs and new body plans. That's why Darwin titled his magnum opus The Origin of Species, not How Existing Species Change over Time.

A growing number of people realized that the "overwhelming evidence" for evolutionary theory was a myth. It didn't help the Darwinists when it became public knowledge that they had faked some of their most widely advertised evidence. For example, they had distorted drawings of early embryos to make them look more similar than they really are (in order to convince students that they had descended from a common ancestor), and they had staged photos showing peppered moths on tree trunks where they don't normally rest (in order to persuade students of the power of natural selection).

In the first few years of this century, the cultural dominance of Darwinism was so strong, especially in academia, that critics were slow to speak up. By 2009, however, when Darwin's followers had hoped to stage a triumphal celebration of their leader's 200th birthday, millions of people were laughing at the emperor with no clothes. [...]

More and more people saw through the lies, however, and within a few short years Darwinism had lost its scientific credibility and public funding. By 2015 it was well on its way to joining its intellectual cousins, Marxism and Freudianism, in the dustbin of discarded ideologies. By 2020, Darwinism was effectively dead.

To his credit, Darwin's replacement for Judeo-Christianity did last longer than that of his rivals.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:48 PM


Guess What’s Hot? Politics! (Dotty Lynch, Douglas Kiker, Beth Lester, Clothilde Ewing and Sean Sharifi, 3/26/04, CBS News)

The latest poll from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press indicates that Americans feel the stakes of the 2004 presidential campaign are high. About 63 percent of those surveyed said it really matters who wins the election. This is up from the last presidential election when a June 2000 Pew poll showed that only 45 percent said it really mattered who won the presidency.

Given that in most American presidential elections the candidates have been either rather similar (TR/Wilson, Hoover/FDR, Dewey/Truman, JFK/Nixon, Nixon/Humphrey, Ford/Carter, Carter/Reagan, Bush/Dukakis, Bush/Clinton, Clinton/Dole) or one candidate has been so different as to have no shot (William Jennings Bryant, Barry Goldwater, George McGovern, Walter Mondale), this is likely the most important election of the past century and a half, if not in all of American history. George Bush's liberal democratic interventionism and free marketeering contrasts sharply with Kerry's isolationism and protectionism. His opportunity society will radically reform the New Deal/Great Society welfare state that Kerry is defending. His shift of taxation to consumption instead of income marks a sea change. And his Christian conservatism on social issues is the polar opposite of Kerry's libertinism. No two candidates with reasonable chances of winning have ever had such different visions of the future.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:38 PM


Democrats Trounce Bush in Negative Ads (Dotty Lynch, Douglas Kiker, Beth Lester, Clothilde Ewing and Sean Sharifi, 3/26/04, CBS News)

The Bush-Cheney campaign has defended its ads attacking John Kerry by saying that Kerry ran 16 negative ads against Bush before Bush-Cheney even got into the game. And a study out today by the Wisconsin Ad Project documents that Democrats have been clobbering President Bush in TV ads for months.

"The Democrats spent $51.3 million in the top 100 media markets during the Democratic presidential primaries … Although only a handful of ads attacked fellow Democrats in the field, half of all the ads aired by the Democratic presidential candidates had at least one negative mention of President Bush and his administration. Of the $10.6 million that now-Democratic nominee Kerry spent on advertising in his bid for his party’s nomination, 78 percent of his ads had at least one criticism of President Bush."

The study also says that "of all of the Democratic presidential primary candidates, Kerry ran the most negative television advertising campaign, with less than a quarter of his spots being purely positive. Kerry’s criticisms were entirely aimed at Bush, while other candidates, most notably Richard Gephardt and Howard Dean, also used spots to directly attack their Democratic primary opponents. Edwards and Clark were the most positive of the Democratic candidates."

The study says that by and large the Bush ads so far have been mainly positive and a Pew Poll released yesterday indicated that Americans may be aware of that fact. Forty-seven percent say that John Kerry has been too critical of George Bush, while only 33 percent feel Bush has been too critical of Kerry.

Which gives Bush and Rove a free hand to "respond".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:59 AM


NEWS ANALYSIS: Sharon's Gaza Strategy: Good for Hamas, or Israel? (JAMES BENNET, March 26, 2004, NY Times)

Hamas sees a unilateral Israeli withdrawal as a political opportunity. In the weeks before he was killed in an Israeli missile strike on Monday, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader of Hamas, was in talks with other Palestinian factions over how to govern Gaza if the Israelis depart, according to officials of Hamas and Yasir Arafat's Fatah faction.

That is a landmark change for Hamas. A fundamentalist group that officially seeks Israel's destruction and rejects any negotiated end to the conflict, Hamas always refused a role within the governing Palestinian Authority, regarding it as a creature of the Oslo peace framework. Since Mr. Sharon is planning to leave Gaza without an agreement, Hamas now feels free to step in, its leaders said.

How much of a role the group wants to play in running Gaza in the near term is unclear. Dr. Mahmoud Zahar, one of its leaders in Gaza, said, "We are going to contest municipal elections."

For now, the killing of Sheik Yassin has given Hamas a lift among Gaza's Palestinians. "Sheik Yassin's death will give more momentum and more power to Hamas," said one Palestinian Authority official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Palestinian Authority in Gaza is already struggling. It is straining to meet payrolls and keep the lights turned on in ministry buildings. Its popularity has faded as Palestinians have come to view it as incompetent and corrupt. By contrast, Hamas has built a network of schools and low-cost health clinics. Its leaders live modestly and have reputations as incorruptible. [...]

Under Olso, Israel was supposed to yield civil or security control of some Gaza and West Bank land to the Palestinian Authority, which in turn was supposed to safeguard Israelis from attack by Hamas and other militant groups.

Mr. Sharon says the Palestinian Authority did not live up to its end of the deal. Now he wants to act without any agreement, withdrawing from Gaza and part of the West Bank because, he says, Israel needs to draw more defensible boundaries.

He also says he fears that if Israel does not act on its own, an internationally imposed plan may eventually deprive it of far more of the territory it captured in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

It's always amusing when they run a think piece like this which is devoid of any thought. What Mr. Bennett has done is draw a false dichotomy, ignoring what his own story makes clear, that what's good for Hamas is good for Israel and vice versa. Israel wants to get out and leave a state behind. Hamas wants Israel out and is better prepared to run a state than the PA. Who loses...other than Yassir Arafat?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:44 AM


Bush criticized for gags about weapons search (Frank James, March 26, 2004, Chicago Tribune)

The jokes came at Wednesday night's annual Radio and Television Correspondents Association dinner. In a 10-minute, mostly puckish, self-deprecating speech, the president presented a slide show he called "an election year, White House photo album."

In several photos, he appeared to be searching the Oval Office. A photo of Bush looking under a piece of furniture was flashed on the large projection screens in the ballroom.

"Those weapons of mass destruction got to be here somewhere," Bush said in his narration, drawing laughter from the audience of journalists, politicians, government workers and other guests.

Another photo showed him looking through a window. "Nope, no weapons over there," the president said.

"I'm appalled," said Larry Syverson of Richmond, Va., who has a son serving with the Army in Iraq and another who recently returned after serving in the Tikrit area. Syverson read news accounts of the event.

"I think it's in extremely poor taste," he said. "I think he owes an apology to those families who have lost loved ones there and those of us that are going through the dread every day having a son or daughter in Iraq."

Syverson recalled the displeasure many military families felt with Bush after he appeared last year to be daring Iraqi insurgents to attack U.S. troops by saying "Bring it on."

"Now he pokes fun at the reason that he told us [soldiers] went over there. I think it's extremely callous."

First of all, get over yourself you humorless git. Second, that's not why he said we went.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:54 AM


Change in South Carolina (George Will, March 26, 2004, Jewish World Review)

With the Heritage Foundation, a Washington think tank, [Rep. Jim DeMint] has developed an ``index of dependency.''

America is in, he says, ``an eleventh-hour crisis'' of democracy because it recently reached a point where a majority are ``dependent on the federal government for their health care, education, income or retirement.'' Tax reforms, from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush, have removed many Americans from the income tax rolls: ``Today, the majority of Americans can vote themselves more generous government benefits at little or no cost to themselves.'' DeMint asks: ``How can any free nation survive when a majority of its citizens, now dependent on government services, no longer have the incentive to restrain the growth of government?''

DeMint's fear, that dependency produces ``learned helplessness,'' echoes Tocqueville's warning about government keeping people ``fixed irrevocably in childhood,'' rendering ``the employment of free will less useful and more rare.'' It is, Tocqueville said, ``difficult to conceive how men who have entirely renounced the habit of directing themselves could succeed at choosing well those who will lead them.''

In the context of a welfare state devoted to assuaging the insecurities and augmenting the competencies of its citizens, conservatism's challenge is to use government — collective action — to promote individualism. DeMint believes dependency can be countered by policies that foster attitudes and aptitudes requisite for independence. He favors applying to public policy the axiom that ``no one washes a rental car.'' Which means: Ownership encourages rational maintenance of resources. Consider the pertinence of this to health care.

DeMint was one of 25 doughty House Republicans who, resisting intense White House pressure, voted against the Medicare prescription drug entitlement, partly because of its cost. And this was before the administration's ``$130 billion `oops!'" — the projection of a 10-year cost that much higher than previously anticipated.

But DeMint says the Medicare bill's provision for individual health savings accounts is ``the grain of sand in the oyster,'' from which a pearl of progress may emerge.

The oyster is the cost required for the pearl--Ameriucans are going to have to be tricked into giving up dependency, as Ted Kennedy was on NCLB;'s vouchers and as everyone was on the HSA's in the Medicare bill.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:41 AM


Why are we still annoying Americans with metrics? (Dean P. Johnson, 3/26/04, Jewish World Review)

Last week saw the passing of an international hero. Steve Thoburn, 39, died in Sunderland, England from an apparent heart attack, reports said.

While most people probably never heard of Thoburn, his stand against a system forced upon millions of people in both the UK and here in America echoes many people's beliefs.

In 2001, Thoburn was prosecuted for selling fruits and vegetables in pounds and ounces when the European Union requires produce to be sold in metric units.

Fortunately, Thoburn's spirit of aversion to the metric system carries on. [...]

It is time for the world to realize that our system of measurement is indefatigable because it is quintessentially American. It's no accident that the United States is one of the only countries in the world not totally committed to adopting the metric system. Rugged defiance of global influence and shrewd isolationism are representative of the American spirit. What else than good ol' American determination can fathom (6 feet) measurements like the rod (16.5 feet) or the pole (5.5 yards) or the peck (2 gallons) or the pace (2.5 feet) or the gill (half a cup) or the hogshead (63 gallons)?

America will keep her measures just as she pleases. She will not bend to the torrents of international pressures. Her scales of justice will tip left and right with ounces and pounds; her quantities of milk and honey will flow in pints, quarts and gallons; her rulers will hold its inches to a foot. And remember what Thomas Jefferson said: People get the rulers they deserve.

Just one of the many things that makes us the exceptional nation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:33 AM


Bye, bye Banfield (Lloyd Grove, March 26, 2004, Jewish World Review)

Onetime cable television star Ashleigh Banfield — a publicity-magnet even before she achieved celebrity in the aftermath of 9/11 — is out at NBC News. [...]

The native Canadian was a controversial figure at NBC, where detractors spread rumors of diva-like behavior and sniped at her supposed journalistic deficiencies.

Banfield didn't try to butter up colleagues and supervisors, and instead cast herself as an enemy of the Establishment. She once showed up for anchor duties at MSNBC's Secaucus, N.J., studios sporting a T-shirt that shouted, in garish glitter: "Starf — — r." But on camera, the message was discreetly concealed by a conservative jacket.

On Sept. 11, 2001, her dramatic reports from Ground Zero won her star status and her own nightly live show from Afghanistan and Pakistan, "A Region in Conflict" (for which she wore a burqa and dyed her hair) and, later, "Ashleigh Banfield: On Location."

Of course, her main "journalistic deficiency" was that she wasn't exactly like every other bubblehead on the air; she was actually interesting.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:26 AM


Do thoughts count?: Intent, action and responsibility (Rabbi Hillel Goldberg, March 25, 2004, Jewish World Review)

Do thoughts count? Of course they do, one might be tempted to say, especially after forgetting an important birthday, then remembering it two weeks later. If the person you forgot is gracious, he or she will say, "It's the thought that counts." Meaning: What really counts is the action, but I'll forgive you since you meant well.

Which counts most, then, thoughts or acts? It's a complicated topic in Judaism. Saul of Tarsas, propagator of Christianity, thought that Judaism regarded actions above all else. Judaism doesn't care what you think or feel, only what you do, he said. Judaism values the "law." To Saul, this was a biting criticism.

Some 1,700 years later, this was a high compliment, according to Moses Mendelsohn, the founder of the Jewish enlightenment in Western Europe.

Mendelsohn argued that Judaism required only action — and that this was a strength. Mendelsohn wished to adopt European ways of thought and felt he could do so and still remain a good Jew, provided only that he performed Jewish acts — the mitzvos, or commandments. Judaism, he said, was strictly a matter of "legislation." Any Jew was free to think whatever he wanted about G-d and philosophy, just so he observed the laws of the Torah.

Here is a contemporary version of the same approach, heard in certain Orthodox Jewish circles: Homosexuality is wrong, but only to the extent that it expresses itself in an act. The act is wrong, but the thought or "orientation" is not proscribed. Judaism values the "law" only. The circle comes back on itself, from Saul of Tarsas to Mendelsohn to some Orthodox rabbis. Strange bedfellows indeed.

The point is this: Yes, Judaism values acts; yes, Judaism is a religion of acts, of mitzvos; but no, acts do not exhaust Judaism. Far from it. Just as Saul was wrong about Judaism, ignoring the importance that Judaism places on love and other emotions and intentions, so, too, every Jewish thinker who tries to reduce Judaism to deeds alone ignores a pivotal quality of the religion.

This is brought home in this week's Torah portion by the olah sacrifice. It was offered on many occasions, one being this: Having sinful thoughts that are not carried out. Do thoughts count? Indeed they do. The very first sacrifice in Leviticus — the olah — was brought for imagining sin, for thinking unworthy thoughts. One dreamt of sin, nothing more. For this one was obligated to go to the trouble and expense of offering an olah sacrifice in the Temple.

We have no more Temple, but we do have sinful thoughts, and we do have a clear value statement about them in this week's Torah portion. Thoughts count.

Almost thirty years ago, then candidate Jimmy Carter confessed in a Playboy interview:
I try not to commit a deliberate sin. I recognize that I'm going to do it anyhow, because I'm human and I'm tempted. And Christ set some almost impossible standards for us. Christ said, 'I tell you that anyone who looks on a woman with lust has in his heart already committed adultery.'

I've looked on a lot of women with lust. I've committed adultery in my heart many times. This is something that God recognizes I will do--and I have done it--and God forgives me for it.

He was widely derided in the mainstream media, but this sort of talk gave him the narrow margin by which he was elected, quite possibly the last time the Democratic standard bearer will ever carry the religious vote.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:10 AM


Eagles dare nest in city first time in a century (GARY WISBY, March 26, 2004. Chicago Sun-Times)

Chicago is home to a pair of nesting bald eagles for the first time in more than a century, bird experts said Thursday.

State officials and birders are trying to keep the eagles' location secret, lest people spook them into leaving town.

Suffice it to say they are nesting next to the Little Calumet River, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service said. The Little Calumet marks part of Chicago's southern border.

"This is a historic event," said Walter Marcisz, a longtime birder in the Calumet area. "The last eagle nesting in the Chicago area was in 1897, in the Indiana Dunes. So this is a big deal."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:07 AM


America's Disappearing 'Black Vote' (Todd Boyd, March 26, 2004, LA Times)

[C]onsider this question: What happened to "the black vote"? Once a hot topic of discussion during presidential campaigns, it has been noticeably absent in recent years. Instead, it is the Latino swing vote that appears to be "in play" right now, with both parties vying for this group's attention in the presidential race.

It's not all that hard to figure out why. Over the years, Democrats have come to take the black vote for granted. And why shouldn't they, as long as blacks vote overwhelmingly and unwaveringly Democratic?

Republicans feel the converse: No matter what they do — even with prominent African American figures like Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice in high places — they now realize that their appeal to black voters in large numbers remains limited. So, why address this constituency? Latinos, by contrast, are up for grabs.

A cursory glance across the political landscape reveals another fact: There are no African American politicians with a substantial presence on the national stage who demand any real respect.

Whahappen? Are Powell and Rice (and Rodney Paige) not respected or not counted because they are Republican?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 AM


In your face: Bush gives Kerry a Boston beaning (Andrew Miga, March 26, 2004, Boston Herald)

Red-meat rhetoric topped the menu last night as President Bush took aim at Sen. John F. Kerry at a Boston fund-raising reception, needling his rival as a big-spending Democrat eager to boost taxes.

Spicing his attacks with a dash of humor as he invaded Kerry's home turf, Bush seized on the senator's 1993 vote that would have boosted the federal gasoline tax by 50 cents per gallon.

"He wanted you to pay the extra money at the pump - and he wouldn't even throw in a free car wash,'' Bush said to a crowd of about 1,000 well-heeled supporters who paid upwards of $2,000 apiece to attend his reception at the Boston Park Plaza ballroom.

Bush ticked off a laundry list of tax cuts, ranging from the marriage penalty to the child care tax credit and the death tax, that he accused Kerry of opposing.

"My opponent is one of the main opponents of tax relief in the United States Congress,'' Bush said. ``Over the years, he voted over 350 times for higher taxes on the American people, including the biggest tax increase in American history.'' [...]

Bush shared the stage with Gov. Mitt Romney and his Bay State fund-raising chief, former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Richard J. Egan, founder of Hopkinton-based EMC Corp. Former Gov. William F. Weld was among the crowd.

A playful Bush tweaked Romney's national political ambitions, noting he telephoned Sunday's traditional St. Patrick's Day political roast in South Boston.

"When I called in, I had the feeling they were going to ask me about a Massachusetts politician who had his eye on the White House,'' Bush recalled. ``So I addressed the issue as directly as possible: I told Mitt the job was filled until 2008."

Geez, you half expect to read that he whizzed on a fire hydrant in front of Kerry's townhouse or rubbed his rump on a tree in the Commons.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM


rish Lessons (Anne Applebaum, March 24, 2004, Washington Post)

Read the British or the Irish press and you'll see references to the "battered" peace process or the "flagging" peace process, stories of Irish Republican Army beatings and kneecappings, tales of hopelessly complex machinations among Belfast politicians. But Trimble agrees that there have nevertheless been some fundamental changes over the past decade. Some IRA members, while still claiming they are fighting a war for Irish independence, in fact spend much of their time smuggling cigarettes and dealing drugs. Others have morphed into democratic politicians, and now compete in Northern Irish elections. It's unsavory for someone like Trimble to deal with them, and cigarette smuggling and drug dealing don't contribute much to the greater social good either. Still, this is preferable to the frequent bloody attacks on innocent people that once characterized the IRA's "war" on Britain.

Nor is the IRA unique: Moving to another part of the world, the same phenomenon was on display last weekend in El Salvador. There, two parties that represented in effect the two sides of that country's old civil war clashed in a bitter, unfriendly but ultimately nonviolent election. The loser, a former FMLN Marxist guerrilla leader who recently congratulated Fidel Castro for imprisoning dissidents, was ungracious, refusing to congratulate the winner of his own country's election. Nevertheless, he didn't take to the forests, go underground or set off bombs. That, too, is progress.

These conflicts, as well as South Africa and Israel-Palestine--which seemed intractable for fifty years but have been quickly settled in recent years--were largely functions of our failure to reckon with the Soviets in the 40s, as we should have. It has obviously helped that the respective militant movements have lost their main source of funding and armaments, but even more important--if subtler--is the fact that if we still had a significant geostrategic rival we would not have allowed the replacement (or potential replacement) of allied regimes at these navigational chokepoints, nor in South Africa's case ceded control over its natural resources.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 AM


Kerry to Offer Cut in Corporate Taxes (Jim VandeHei, March 26, 2004, Washington Post)

John F. Kerry today will propose cutting the corporate tax rate as part of an economic plan designed to create 10 million jobs by 2009 and discourage companies from sheltering taxable income overseas, his economic advisers said yesterday.

How about doing something sensible like not taxing corporations at all?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:22 AM


Police: 'Passion' movie prompts man to admit murder (Associated Press, March 25, 2004)

The hanging death of Ashley Nicole Wilson in January was closed as a suicide and might have remained so if longtime friend Dan R. Leach hadn't seen "The Passion of the Christ."

Leach's experience viewing Mel Gibson's cinematic depiction of the last hours of Jesus Christ, coupled with a discussion with a religious adviser, caused him to walk into the Fort Bend County sheriff's department earlier this month and confess to killing Wilson, Detective Mike Kubricht said Thursday.

Leach otherwise had successfully tricked authorities and the Harris County Medical Examiner into ruling suicide, Kubricht said.

"He was very, very meticulous," Kubricht said. "It was very well-planned and well executed."

Wilson's body was discovered Jan. 19 in her apartment near Richmond, just beyond the southwest suburbs of Houston. All physical evidence pointed to suicide, Kubricht said, and Wilson had gone off several anti-depressant medications because she was pregnant.

The pregnancy apparently was the motive, Kubricht said, because Leach believed the baby was his and did not want to raise the child.

Should have gone to Dawn of the Dead instead.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:05 AM


Credentials for Pulp Fiction: Pimp and Drug Addict: The novels of Donald Goines, who died in 1974, are experiencing a resurgence in popularity, fueled by prison
literacy programs, hip-hop music and now a new movie. (LOLA OGUNNAIKE, 3/25/04, NY Times)

Born to a middle-class family in Detroit, [Donald] Goines was expected to go into the family's laundry business. Instead, at 15 he falsified his age and joined the Air Force, for which he served from the early to mid 1950's. While enlisted Goines developed a heroin habit that plagued him until he died. For nearly 15 years after leaving the military, he pimped, robbed and gambled to support his addiction, spending several years in and out of prison. During his last stint behind bars Goines began his literary career. A fan of cowboy flicks, he first tried to write westerns. After reading Iceberg Slim's autobiography, "Pimp: The Story of My Life," Goines moved from the Wild, Wild West, to the wilds of America's urban jungles.

"Dopefiend," which follows the descent of a middle-class woman into drug abuse, was almost too graphic to be published, Mr. Morriss said. In it Terry, a prostitute, happens on the corpse of a pregnant addict who has just hanged herself and discovers "what looked to be a child's head protruding from" between the woman's naked legs, Goines writes.

When working on "Never Die Alone," Mr. Dickerson said, he shied away from many of the more graphic passages. "Some of it was too much."

While Goines's novels, like many rap songs, tend to glorify the gangsta lifestyle — pimp's wardrobes, cars and diamond jewelry are often described in loving detail — his words are also quick to condemn. Comeuppance is the guiding theme for much of his work.

Dr. Brenda Greene, director of the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, prefers to view Goines's books as cautionary tales. "You can tell someone not to do drugs," she said, "or you can give them a copy of `Dopefiend.' "

Driven by a need to support his drug habit, Goines wrote at a feverish pace, sometimes finishing books in less than month, Mr. Morriss said. His novels at times have the hurried feel of a first draft. "He was a junkie, but you'd never know it," said Mr. Morriss, who remembered Goines as introspective and low-key, standing just over 5 foot 6. "His eyes were always sharp, and he always wore long sleeves."

Though Goines wrote when blaxploitation films were beginning to flourish, bringing larger-than-life characters like Shaft, Superfly and Foxy Brown to the big screen, there are few heroes and even fewer positive role models to be found in most of his earlier works. Toward the end of his career Goines introduced Kenyatta, a character named after Jomo Kenyatta, the first president of independent Kenya. This protagonist heads a Black Panther-like organization intent on ridding the ghetto of its ills.

Whether Goines intended to move in a more political direction can never be known. In October 1974, while sitting at his typewriter at home in Highland Park, Mich., Goines was fatally shot. His common-law wife was also killed. Their murders remain unsolved.

Be prepared for a funny look from the cashier at Borders when you purchase Whoreson and Dopefiend.

March 25, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:54 PM


Paring Away at Microsoft (STEVE LOHR, 3/25/04, NY Times)

On its own, the European ruling might be seen largely as a nuisance to Microsoft. Yet it comes as other forces are also weakening Microsoft's grip on desktop computers.

Beyond the moves to open the Windows desktop to rivals, Microsoft faces growing competition from Linux, an operating system that is distributed free. Even more important, Microsoft's dominance is threatened by a shift in computing from the personal computer to technologies like Internet-connected cellphones and Internet-based services offered by Google and similar companies.

"The significance of Europe is not the decision itself, but it adds to the other pressures on Microsoft," said David Yoffie, a professor at the Harvard Business School.

Those pressures may be having some effect. There are signs that Microsoft has altered its practices since the settlement with the Bush administration — and the European ruling could provide a further prod.

Industry analysts note that work on the company's next generation of Windows, expected in 2006 or 2007, emphasizes programming code as building blocks, or modules, that can be removed and snapped into the larger program.

This approach may be paving the way for the day when Microsoft shifts away from its bundling approach. Skeptics, however, say that Microsoft may be adopting this approach simply because it needs to be able to locate and combat security flaws in Windows more easily.

Other analysts say that the Microsoft division responsible for MSN Web sites — and not the Windows division — is working to develop a Web search service to compete with Google. To be sure, Microsoft could eventually decide to fold its search software into Windows, as it has with other products in the past.

Critics and competitors contend that the company, having long used the bundling strategy to protect and extend its Windows monopoly into other software products, will not significantly change its approach.

"How do you really deter Microsoft from pursuing this bundling strategy when they have bet the company on it?" asked Andrew I. Gavil, an antitrust expert at the Howard University law school in Washington.

Timothy F. Bresnahan, a professor at Stanford University who was chief economist for the Justice Department's antitrust division during the Clinton administration, said, "Microsoft sees a new product and says, `We were about to invent that, too,' comes up with its version and bundles the software into Windows." The result, he added, is that "the early leader in some promising new technology is bundled out of the market."

"It's an innovation tax that is a problem for society," Mr. Bresnahan said.

The fine is a joke--it's Mrs. Gates's pin money. Meanwhile, as Mr. Bresnahan notes, Microsoft uses predatory practices to stifle innovation and destroy people who come up with new ideas.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:49 PM


Atheist Presents Case for Taking God From Pledge (LINDA GREENHOUSE, 3/24/04, NY Times)

Michael A. Newdow stood before the justices of the Supreme Court on Wednesday, pointed to one of the courtroom's two American flags and declared: "I am an atheist. I don't believe in God."

With passion and precision, he then proceeded to argue his own case for why the daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in his daughter's public school classroom violates the Constitution as long as the pledge contains the words "under God."

Dr. Newdow, a nonpracticing lawyer who makes his living as an emergency room doctor, may not win his case. In fact, justices across the ideological spectrum appeared to be searching for reasons he should lose, either on jurisdictional grounds or on the merits. But no one who managed to get a seat in the courtroom is likely ever to forget his spell-binding performance.

That includes the justices, whom Dr. Newdow engaged in repartee that, while never disrespectful, bore a closer resemblance to dinner-table one-upmanship than to formal courtroom discourse. For example, when Dr. Newdow described "under God" as a divisive addition to the pledge, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist asked him what the vote in Congress had been 50 years ago when the phrase was inserted.

The vote was unanimous, Dr. Newdow said.

"Well, that doesn't sound divisive," the chief justice observed.

Dr. Newdow shot back, "That's only because no atheist can get elected to public office."

The courtroom audience broke into applause, an exceedingly rare event that left the chief justice temporarily nonplussed. He appeared to collect himself for a moment, and then sternly warned the audience that the courtroom would be cleared "if there's any more clapping."

Wow, this is more like a mash note than journalism. Particularly odd is that she thinks Dr. Newdow one-upped the Chief by proving Mr. Rehnquist's point. The universal opposition to his view in a country of so many different faiths amply demonstrates that there's no establishment involved in the Pledge.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:36 PM


Friend Jim Siegel wrote the following:

The Consequences of Mel Gibson’s Fifth Gospel (Jim Siegel, March 2004)

1966 was the first time I read the Four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. I was a high school freshman in a Boston suburb at St. John’s Prep taking the required Catholic religion course. As a fourteen year old Jewish kid, I asked our teacher Brother Linus, “Why are there four versions of the story?”

Because the film medium has so much power, today Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion of the Christ” is a fifth version. He thinks his Gospel is the right one and that anyone who thinks otherwise is wrong.

From what Gibson has said in recent interviews, he does not appear to be interested in having a conversation about this with anyone who has a different point of view.

Yet one good thing about the film is that it has sparked a lot of constructive conversations among Christians and among Christians and Jews. This is a consequence that I doubt Gibson intended. We’re learning more about each other. We’re learning more about ourselves. A couple of years ago Father Richard John Neuhaus, editor-in- chief of the interreligious journal “First Things” said, Salvation Is from the Jews (First Things, November 2001) :

The percentage of Christians involved in any form of Jewish-Christian dialogue is minuscule. Not much larger, it may be noted, is the percentage of Jews involved. …Only in America are there enough Jews and Christians in a relationship of mutual security to make possible a dialogue that is unprecedented in two thousand years of history…. Providential purpose in history is a troubled subject, and the idea of America’s providential purpose is even more troubled, but I suggest that we would not be wrong to believe that this dialogue, so closely linked to the American experience, is an essential part of the unfolding of the story of the world.

So far I’ve had conversations with eight friends I would describe as religious Christians who have seen the movie. Most say that its portrayal of how much Jesus suffered for them has strengthened their faith.

For them, that is good.

My friends who mentioned the portrayal of the Jews in the movie describe it as not positive. But they do not blame the Jews as responsible for the death of Jesus. Instead they say God in His love for humanity sacrificed His only son to redeem the sins of all mankind.

From what they said, I think they do believe that. I don’t think they were pulling punches for the Jewish guy.

In his unprecedented visit to the Synagogue in Rome eight years ago, Pope John Paul II denounced anti-semitism and the blaming of Jews for "what happened in Christ's passion" and proclaimed the bond between Christianity and Judaism:

Through myself, the Church, in the words of the (of the Second Vatican Council’s) well-known Declaration Nostra Aetate (Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions), "deplores the hatred, persecutions and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews at any time and by anyone;" I repeat: "by anyone."

The Jewish religion is not "extrinsic" to us, but in a certain way is "intrinsic" to our own religion. With Judaism therefore we have a relationship which we do not have with any other religion. You are our dearly beloved brothers and, in a certain way, it could be said that you are our elder brothers.

No ancestral or collective blame can be imputed to the Jews as a people for "what happened in Christ's passion". Not indiscriminately to the Jews of that time, nor to those who came afterwards, nor to those of today. So any alleged theological justification for discriminatory measures or, worse still, for acts of persecution is unfounded. The Lord will judge each one "according to his own works," Jews and Christians alike (cf. Rom 2:6)

It is not lawful to say that the Jews are "repudiated or cursed," as if this were taught or could be deduced from the Sacred Scriptures of the Old or the New Testament. …(Refer to) Saint Paul in the Letter to the Romans (11:28-29), that the Jews are beloved of God, who has called them with an irrevocable calling.

Nonetheless Jews today fear that Gibson’s film will fuel overt anti-semitism. This is not paranoia. Reactions in the past to passion plays have led to dreadful acts. There is a horrible history of Jews tortured, murdered and persecuted -- from the Crusades to forced conversion or burning at the stake in Spain and Portugal to the pogroms of Eastern Europe to the Six Million exterminated in the Holocaust.

Not What Jesus Would Do.

Jesus would condemn as well the covert, “polite” American anti-semitism that caused grandparents and parents of the Baby Boom Generation to anglicize their last names in order to deflect bigotry and get jobs.

A Jewish friend of mine recalls:

I grew up in a virulently anti-Semitic neighborhood in the Midwest. The police had to surround our house every Halloween to protect us from loving Christian children. Going to school every day was pure and violent hell. To this day I recall a kid sitting on my chest in kindergarten his fingers around my throat screaming, “You f-ing Jews killed Jesus." At the time I had never heard about Jesus and really hadn't thought much about what I was or wasn't.

There will always be a tiny percentage of Americans who dislike or hate people simply because they are Jewish. But I'm not worried about the United States. This is the best and most free country in the world to be a Jew or a Christian, or a Moslem or to choose another religion or none at all. For a Jew the United States is better than Israel in terms of economic opportunity, physical safety (while Israel can be a dangerous place the media highlight not the peace but the terrorist attacks) and the freedom to practice Judaism that is not Orthodox of the strictest kind. Religious freedom lies at the heart of our country’s founding, and the Constitution protects it. Religious freedom is enmeshed in American values.

However, Europe and the Arab world are another story. I greatly fear the film's effect where anti-Semitism is more prevalent and more public.

In recent interviews Mel Gibson supports his father, someone who has denied Hitler’s Holocaust. Gibson is not accountable for what his father says or does. Yet Gibson does not seem to recognize that the movie will encourage people who hate the Jews. This is not a Christian act. This is irresponsible. God teaches us that we must take responsibility for our actions.

I am dismayed that Gibson presents Pilate in the movie as a sympathetic man, when all other accounts describe him as cruel and ruthless.

I am troubled that many scenes are based not on the Gospels but on the graphic, bloody and imagined visions of an early19th Century nun Anne Catherine Emmerich. One of my friends noted the scene in the movie where an earthquake cracks the Temple structure when Jesus dies. He asked, “Was it factual or made up?” Emmerich made it up. So too the movie’s prominent role of Satan.

Why should the Gospels carry more weight than Emmerich’s visions? Two thousand years’ acceptance by hundreds of millions far outweigh a 200 year old tract that only a small number of traditionalist Catholics have embraced.

Based on Emmerich’s visions and Gibson’s concept, the film portrays the Romans’ torture of Jesus with far greater gore and violence than do the Gospels. Father Bob Robbins of the Church of the Holy Family in Manhattan spoke at a packed-house, interfaith gathering of neighborhood clergy and congregants at Manhattan’s Central Synagogue on March 15. On this point, he said:

Traditionally, Christ fell three times on the way to the Cross. I stopped counting at seven! The whipping that Christ receives at first from the Romans is so severe that no human being could have lived through it. He has the Lord turned over for a second beating. He has the Romans use a cat o nines tail and there is a close-up of the flesh being torn from Jesus' body. There isn't as much blood in the human body as he has gush from every imaginable body part. The Romans are portrayed as whipping Jesus all the way on the road to Calvary – a sheer physical impossibility.

Gibson has said that he intentionally focused on the death of Jesus. So the film barely touches upon life -- how Jesus taught that we should act with compassion and virtue.

An essay on Jesus from the Jewish perspective would be incomplete without explaining the Jewish concept of the Messiah. Monsignor Tom Hartman and Rabbi Marc Gellman (“The God Squad”) explain it in their wonderfully clear way:

The Hebrew Bible doesn’t really include the idea of a personal Messiah who will end evil and usher in a time of peace. Instead, there is the idea of a ‘Day of God’ – a kind of messianic age that would bring peace to the earth. Later, in the chaos that followed the Roman destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem (around the year 70 Common Era), when rabbinic Judaism gradually arose to replace the priestly sacrificial offerings, the idea of a personal Messiah developed. This idea became a part of both rabbinic Judaism and, obviously, Christianity…The rabbinic idea was that there would be two Messiahs:

* A Messiah, the son of Joseph, who would die in the great battle of the end of days, fighting the forces of evil.

*A Messiah, the son of David, who would come and defeat evil, gather the scattered exiles of the Jewish people into the land of Israel, bring world peace, resurrect the dead to eternal life, and usher in the end of suffering, death and strife.”
(Source: Rabbi Marc Gellman & Monsignor Thomas Hartman, Religion for Dummies®, 2002)

I respect Christians who believe that Jesus is the Messiah and who pursue their lives with the tenets of ethical monotheism -- that there is one God, and that His primary demand is that we treat each other decently. What matters is how we choose to act, and that we recognize that each person is created equal in the eyes of God.

Judaism does not believe that Jesus is the Messiah. Nor do Jews believe that the Messiah would be an incarnated god whose death would erase original sin and save mankind. The idea of original sin and its punishment are not at the core of Judaism. For my sins against other people, only they can forgive me. For my sins against God, only He can forgive me.

A fundamental principle of Judaism is that each of us is born with an inclination to do good and an inclination to do evil. Our struggle in life is to choose to act as God wants – to be His partner on earth in unfinished and ever-unfolding creation and to make the world a better place one act at a time.

We’ve got a lot of work to do.

Linking our purpose in life with Gibson’s “Passion” in particular, Central Synagogue Senior Rabbi Peter J. Rubinstein said in a recent sermon:

All of us need to take responsibility for our actions and that is what we can learn from the events that surround the release of this movie. All of us would do well to think about the effects, intended or not, of what we do and what we engender. We all would do much better expanding the scope of our responsibility rather than claiming that we are powerless over others or the events of their lives or what they think.

At the start I said that the dialogue that Gibson’s movie has generated is a good thing. This is no small matter, as Father Neuhaus says:

We can and must say that there are great goods to be sought in dialogue apart from conversion; we can and must say that we reject proselytizing, which is best defined as evangelizing in a way that demeans the other; we can and must say that Jews and Christians need one another in many public tasks imposed upon us by a culture that is, in large part, in manifest rebellion against the God of Israel; we can and must say that there are theological, philosophical, and moral questions to be explored together, despite our differences regarding Messianic promise; we can and must say that friendship between Jew and Christian can be secured in shared love for the God of Israel; we can and must say that the historical forms we call Judaism and Christianity will be transcended, but not superseded, by the fulfillment of eschatological* promise. But along the way to that final fulfillment we are locked in argument. It is an argument by which—for both Jew and Christian—conscience is formed, witness is honed, and friendship is deepened. This is our destiny, and this is our duty, as members of the one people of God—a people of God for which there is no plural.

Let’s keep the conversations going.

And if Mel Gibson wants to chat, all he has to do is give me a call.

(* -- Eschatology is the branch of theology dealing with death, resurrection, judgment, immortality. I had to look that one up. )

(Endnote: For those who wish to explore this topic more deeply, has created a terrific, comprehensive e-book called The Passion Papers)

MORE (via Rod):
One Small Problem With 'The Passion' (Jeffrey K. Mann, March 9, 2004, AScribe)

Claims that the film is anti-Semitic are ludicrous, and we need to recognize them as such. Even the argument that it could inflame anti-Semitism is rather weak. And since when do we condemn a work of art because it may be misunderstood? Could one see the film and conclude that the Jews are Christ-killers? Of course. However, I suspect even more people will see the film and conclude that the savior of the world is a Jew.

We live in an age when our racial sensitivities are on such high alert that we condemn not only racism, but anything that could potentially lead to racism. The Anti-Defamation League condemns the "objectionable elements that would promote anti-Semitism" in the film. This movie, according to these folks, is problematic not because it is anti-Semitic, but because it might be misused to convey anti-Semitism.

Now, in a society that constantly rewards those who claim discrimination, we can hardly be surprised by such objections. We have moved from condemning actual racism to behavior that could conceivably evoke racism. To do so is absurd and can never be applied equitably. We would have to censure "Schindler's List" for potential anti-Germanism, "The Killing Fields" for its anti-Cambodianism, "Austin Powers" for its potential anti-dwarfism, and "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" for its ... wait, we've already done that.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:14 PM

60-40 NATION:

Without the Consent of the Governed: Without a Federal Marriage Amendment, the gay marriage movement is threatening to overturn one of our bedrock legal principles: that all laws stem from the consent of the governed. (Hugh Hewitt, 03/25/2004, Weekly Standard)

Had the proponents of gay marriage taken their cause to state legislatures, they would have been rebuffed, at least today and in the foreseeable future. Across the country, even in the liberal precincts of California, supermajorities continue to believe that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, and presented with the question on ballots, have continually affirmed the millennia-old standard. And off course the Congress has already passed, by supermajorities in both houses, the Defense of Marriage Act.

FACED WITH THIS WALL OF RESISTANCE, proponents of a radical new view of marriage wish to bypass the consent of the governed and impose their vision. Andrew Sullivan has taken to branding opponents of gay marriage as "theocrats," but of course those seeking to impose their own vision of society--without even a single instance of elected officials acting in legislative bodies to endorse their view--are acting in the tradition currently on display in Iran, where the reigning mullahs do everything in their power to prevent majorities from electing legislatures to represent their own desires and views. The theocrats of the gay marriage movement have set their goals above the consent of the governed.

THE MARRIAGE AMENDMENT is a necessary, indeed urgently required antidote to such a radical assault on the bedrock of the American experience. If imposition of new norms can be accomplished without even one law anywhere ever having being passed, then it can happen again and again whenever willful minorities can persuade robed elites to act without conscience against the idea that all law proceeds from the people.

Mr. Sullivan is right, those who believe in morality are theocrats.

Senate Passes Bill On Harm To Fetuses: Critics Say Measure Defines Start of Life (Helen Dewar, March 26, 2004, Washington Post)

The Senate gave final approval yesterday to legislation that would make it a crime to injure or kill a fetus during the commission of a federal crime of violence, overriding critics' claims that the bill defines the start of human life in a way that could undermine abortion rights.

The 61 to 38 vote to approve the measure came after a vote of 50 to 49 to reject an alternative favored by abortion rights advocates that would have imposed the same penalties without reference to the legal status of a fetus.

The Unborn Victims of Violence Act, given new impetus by the killing of Laci Peterson and her unborn son in California more than a year ago, was passed by the House last month and now goes to President Bush, who strongly supported its passage.

It was the second narrowly focused initiative by antiabortion forces to pass in the past two years, fulfilling a strategy aimed at incremental gains in the absence of a congressional majority to ban abortion outright. It follows approval last year of legislation to ban a specific procedure, called partial-birth abortion by its critics.

Posted by David Cohen at 11:11 PM


Rice Accuses Clarke of Conflicting Stories (Steve Holland, Reuters, 3/24/04)

Rice is not testifying before the 9/11 commission based on a White House principle that a presidential adviser who has not been confirmed by the U.S. Senate should not give public testimony. Commissioners are calling on her to testify.

About that call, she said: "I would like to be very clear that this is not a matter of preference. I would like nothing better than to be able to go up and do this, but I have a responsibility to maintain what is a long-standing constitutional separation between the executive and the legislative branch."

In February she spent four hours privately with the commission and said she would be available to answer more questions. "I'm prepared to spend longer with them, any where they want, any time they want, answer as many questions as they have," she said.

Here's another bizarre thing I believe: when the Constitution says, in Article II, clause 1, "The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America", it means that the executive power is vested in the President.

There are lots of clauses in the Constitution to which we pay less attention than we should, but this might be the one clause most ignored. For my part, I think that it means that the so-called "independent agencies" are unconstitutional and that there is no executive action within the scope of the power of the United States that the president himself can't take, unless the Constitution specifically provides a limitation. If the president chooses to delegate power to Dr. Rice, an officer of the Executive Branch not subject to Senate confirmation, then when she acts, it is the Presidency acting through her. In other words, I'm all for this claim of executive privilege.

But this hit on Dr. Rice is the cheapest of cheap shots. An oath makes no difference here at all. As Martha Stewart found, we make false statements to the government at our peril:

Section 1001. Statements or entries generally

(a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully -

(1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact;
(2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or
(3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry;
shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both. . . .

(c) With respect to any matter within the jurisdiction of the legislative branch, subsection (a) shall apply only to - . . .

(2) any investigation or review, conducted pursuant to the authority of any committee, subcommittee, commission or office of the Congress, consistent with applicable rules of the House or Senate.

18 USC Sec. 1001. If Condi lies, whether she was under oath is the least of her problems.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:08 PM


'Al-Qaeda has got it wrong' (Ritt Goldstein, 4/25/04, Asia Times)

A recently released Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) provided document affords some remarkably critical and militant Islamic perspectives on the "war on terror". Highlighting the unique nature of the document's perspective, it addresses an analysis of al-Qaeda's efforts by al-Jama'ah al-Islamiyah, a faction which is designated by the US State Department as a terrorist organization. The fact of the document's release by the CIA speaks volumes about its interest.

Providing an equally surprising parallel, in December the US Defense Department's Strategic Studies Institute released a report describing the objectives of the Bush administration's war efforts as "politically, fiscally and militarily unsustainable". Al-Jama'ah observed essentially the same of al-Qaeda. And according to the CIA translation, al-Jama'ah argues that al-Qaeda "entangled the Muslim nation in a conflict that was beyond its power to wage". [...]

The authors blame anti-US violence (including the Trade Center bombing) for casting Islam as "the green peril". They portray a shift in US perception as transpiring during the period when America was attempting to define its "new enemy" following the Cold War.

Particularly singled out as evidence of this American development are the works of Francis Fukuyama The End of History and Samuel Huntington (The Clash of Civilizations). However, the authors pointed out that even during this period, the US sought an accommodation with the Taliban, demonstrating "the supremacy of the US self-serving logic on US strategy". But concurrently the authors saw an al-Qaeda policy of confrontation lead to the foregoing of unique opportunities that may never recur.

According to the text, because of US geostrategic (oil and gas) interests, the Taliban were offered "US$3 billion as a free grant and $300 million annually in return for leasing the pipeline transporting natural gas from the Caspian" to Pakistan. This was in reference to the trans-Afghan pipeline the US had long desired.

Al-Jama'ah cites Islamic history to make the point that mutually advantageous accommodation is not sacrilegious.

The authors note that instead of the assets and stability the proposed pipeline revenue held for both Afghanistan and Pakistan, there have instead been substantive setbacks for the global Islamic community. The siege al-Qaeda is under, as well as the increased pressures on those who are fighting traditional struggles of liberation, were seen as but one part of a much broader fallout. Particular note is given to the extreme nature of September 11, and the West's reaction to it.

Let's assume no one in al Qaeda has ever heard of the Tonkin Gulf, Pearl Harbor, the Lusitania, the Maine, Fort Sumter, or the Stamp Act.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 PM

THE ENEMY (via Robert Duquette):

L’Année de la Chine: Will Europe arm Red China? (John J. Tkacik Jr., 3/25/04, National Review)

A bitter dispute over election results is bad enough. But Taiwan's troubles — and ours — may be just beginning.

The reason: Our European allies might well approve plans to sell China advanced weaponry at the March 25-26 European Union summit that begins today.

The repercussions would be disastrous. Not only could China use new weapons from Europe against Taiwan, but Chinese generals have said they're prepared to confront U.S. forces in the Pacific if America tries to help Taiwan.

Why would NATO allies put the United States in this position? Money is one reason. But European commentators suspect that France and China want to build a multipolar alliance to counter American "hegemony."

Instead of holding hearings on why we didn't move against al Qaeda in the past, how about hearing on why we aren't attacking France now?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 PM


The Man Who Defused the "Bomb" (Steven Martinovich, 03/25/2004, Tech Central Station)

In the long history of the global popularity contest known as the Nobel Prizes it's beyond debate that more than a few of them were undeserved. What should also be beyond debate, however, was the merit in awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Dr. Norman Borlaug in 1970. Despite the fact that Borlaug -- who celebrates his 90th birthday on March 25 -- isn't a household name, he is owed a debt by the world that is simply beyond calculation.

Borlaug's contribution to the world is what we know today as high-yield farming. During the Depression Borlaug, who had already made a name for himself researching the rust fungus, noted that areas that employed high-yield farming saw less soil lost to wind than those that employed traditional practices. Borlaug decided that his life's mission would be to spread the word about the benefits of high-yield farming.

Borlaug took that mission to Mexico in the 1940s when he became director of a wheat program. There he developed crops that were able to grow in a wide variety of climates and more quickly. Combined with fertilizer and irrigation, Borlaug's new wheat was the answer to a problem that not many people were thinking about in the years after the Second World War. The world's population was growing quickly and many third world nations faced the prospect of perpetual famine.

In 1965, India and Pakistan were two of those nations. The famines were so extreme that the institutional resistance to Borlaug's technology disappeared. The results spoke for themselves. Just three years later Pakistan became self-sufficient in wheat product. Despite a prediction by Paul Ehrlich in 1968's "The Population Bomb" that it was a "fantasy" that India would ever do the same, it managed the feat for all cereals by 1974. In 1967, the average Indian consumed 1,875 calories a day. That same average Indian consumed 2,466 calories a day in 1998 even while the population of India doubled during that period.

What Borlaug was able to do, as Gregg Easterbrook illustrated in a 1997 Atlantic Monthly essay, was grow more grain, for more people on only marginally more land. [...]

[H]e continues to add to his legacy as the man, as Easterbrook wrote, who "has already saved more lives than any other person who ever lived."

Here's a bit of free advice: if a Malthusian offers you a bet, take it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:50 PM


Sahara refugees form a progressive society: Literacy and democracy are thriving in an unlikely place. (John Thorne, 3/26/04, CS Monitor)

A dozen women recline on the steps of the main girls' school in the Saharawi refugee camps, their pastel robes like blots of water-color on the whitewashed cement. When the door opens and the headmistress emerges, the women suddenly leap up and crowd around her, clamoring. They are mothers seeking places for their daughters in the already-crowded school.

The Saharawi women are among the most liberated of the Muslim world, and their status is characteristic of the well- organized, egalitarian society that has developed in the refugee camps over the past three decades. For all their bleakness, the Saharawi camps boast a representative government, a 95 percent literacy rate, and a constitution that enshrines religious tolerance and gender equality.

The Saharawis are the Arab nomads of Western Sahara, bound together by their Yemeni ancestry and their dialect, Hassaniya, which remains close to classical Arabic. For centuries, they roamed the territory with their camels and goats, sometimes trading with Spanish colonizers, and became known as "blue men" for the indigo robes they wear.

When Spain abandoned Western Sahara in 1975, Morocco invaded and drove the Saharawis into neighboring Algeria. Trading their camels for Land Rovers, they fought a guerrilla war under the leadership of the Polisario Front, an independence movement, until the UN brokered a cease-fire in 1991. Since then, the promised vote on independence has been stalled by disagreement over who should be allowed to participate. [...]

It has also begotten an individualistic approach to Islam. While most Muslims tend to stress the importance of the Islamic community, "the Saharawis believe that religion is a very personal issue," says Mouloud Said, the Polisario's representative in the United States. "It's a personal relationship between the human being and his Creator. This is the mentality of the nomadic society."

Mosques are conspicuously absent from the camps, in large part because the Saharawis "don't believe that to speak to God, you need a fancy place," explains Mr. Said.

Saharawis seldom pray in groups save on important Muslim holidays, and view even these ceremonies as purely optional. For some, this is a welcome escape-hatch from the religion's bloodier rituals.

"Each person has his own Islam," says Zorgan Laroussi, a translator in the camps who chose not to attend the mass slaughter of camels for the feast of al-Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan. His brother-in-law Salek did go, and relishes explaining the ritual's finer points while the two men and their families share a dish of grilled hindquarters.

Saharawis are equally welcoming of other religions. "There is an almost continuous presence of church groups from all over the world - in particular the US - in the camps," says Said. "Every year for the last four years, there has been a joint prayer at Easter."

"Tolerance is not something new, but it's something [Saharawi leaders] encourage," he says. "In a tolerant society, the center prevails, not the extremes. That means respect for others, whether for the faith or their ideas."

Move them here.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:40 PM


Different hearings - and times: 9/11 hearings expose Washington's culture of caution. (Gail Russell Chaddock, 3/26/04, CS Monitor)

While the news media fixed on the firefight between the Bush White House and former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke, there's a deeper theme in this week's 9/11 commission hearings: Call it un-Church imperative.

Sen. Frank Church's scorching 1973-76 investigations of US intelligence operations changed the thinking of a generation. Starting with the CIA role in the downfall of Chile's Salvador Allende, the hearings targeted international "dirty tricks." Today, instead of asking why an assassination was attempted (against Fidel Castro), panels are asking why one didn't succeed (against Osama bin Laden). The difference stems partly from the 9/11 attacks themselves, which galvanized Americans against terrorists - and in favor of using stronger means of stopping them. But it also reflects a slower evolution of national opinion.

In the mid-'70s, packed hearing rooms heard of botched attempts on the life of Cuba's Castro that ranged from exploding cigars to acid in his shoes. In the wake of the just-completed Watergate hearings, the cautions stuck. At the end, assassination was no longer viewed as a legitimate tool of foreign policy, and the CIA was no longer considered a top career path for the "best and brightest."

Asked why US officials seemed cautious "to a fault" in going after bin Laden, 9/11 Commission chairman Thomas Kean recalled his days as a student at Princeton University: "The CIA was not a very good thing to go into for a while. When I was in college, I think the guy who recruited for the CIA was the dean of the college. It was a very prestigious organization to go into. Some years later, the CIA was kicked off campus and most good campuses didn't even allow them to recruit on campus because of the kind of reputation they got after some of those [Church] hearings."

Critics at the time dubbed the Church Committee hearings "potentially dangerous" to the nation's security. "The repercussions of the Church Committee's misguided zeal are still being felt today," wrote former Sen. John Tower (R) of Texas in his 1991 memoir.

That legacy was everywhere in evidence in this week's 9/11 hearings.

Excellent point which requires one follow-up: perhaps the most successful foreign policy initiative of the past several decades was Reagan's covert aid to the Contras, in contravention of congressional desires. It is a model for how aggressive we need to be against our enemies, including those here at home who opposed it, like John Kerry.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:33 PM


Who's behind the LTTE split? (Sudha Ramachandran, 3/25/04, Asia Times)

Speculation is rife in Sri Lanka over who might have engineered the recent split in the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). While some are pointing to a foreign hand - India and/or the United States - others are insisting that Colombo might have had a part in fomenting the rebellion. [...]

Some have suggested that it might be the Americans. After all, there is little love lost between the US and the LTTE. Washington has declared the LTTE a terrorist organization and has refused to remove this tag despite the Tigers engaging in negotiations with the Sri Lankan government. The US has in fact openly backed the government and has warned the LTTE of dire consequences if it walks out of the peace process. Less than a week before the rebellion, the US State Department issued a stern warning to the LTTE, blaming it for the assassination of Sinnathamby Sunderapillai, the United National Party's Batticaloa candidate, and the killing of P Yogeswaran, a member of the Eelam People's Democratic Party.

When it expelled Karuna, the LTTE blamed "malicious elements" for instigating Karuna's "traitorous act". It did not elaborate on the identity of these "malicious elements". In a subsequent interview to the Associated Press, Thamilselvan, the LTTE's leader of the political wing, accused "external forces" for the crisis. Although he did not identify the external force, he elaborated that it was one that "did not accept the LTTE's position of being the sole representative of the Tamil people and was jealous of the high regard and acceptance it was enjoying in the international community".

One of the very beneficial effects of the global hysteria over George W. Bush being an anti-terror fanatic is that every time something bad happens amongst these groups where bad things are rather routine will only serve to burnish his legend. We saw the same dynamic at work in Palestine this week, where it was simply assumed that he must have been in on the assassination of Sheik Yassin.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:26 PM


Laid-Off Jac-Pac Workers Search for Work (Raquel Maria Dillon, 2004-03-25, NHPR)

It's been seven weeks since the Jac-Pac plant in Manchester closed and left 550 workers unemployed. The state Employment Security Department could not absorb this vulnerable population of mostly immigrant workers. So state officials got a federal emergency grant worth 2.4 million dollars to boost their unemployment services. In a matter of weeks, a new job training and placement center opened downtown. It will stay open for the next two years, or as long as workers need it. As New Hampshire Public Radio's Raquel Maria Dillon reports, the former Jac-Pac workers who gather there are desperate to start working again soon.

Job hunting is never easy. You need a good resume, networking contacts, and someone to cheer you on when you get discouraged. The former Jac-Pac employees also need English-as-a-Second-Language classes, translation services, and training -- but at least they have the new Worker Assistance Center in downtown Manchester. [...]

Earlier this week, one of the center's new job placement counselors, Rafael Calderon was helping a job-seeker compose a resume. Like some of his clients, Calderon emigrated from the Dominican Republic, and struggled to learn English far from home. He knows finding a job will be isn't easy for new immigrants with few skills. But he's full of confidence and encouragement. He tells them that self-esteem and a firm handshake is just as important as speaking English. [...]

Calderon tries to put them at ease -- He recommends taking the language pill that will teach them English automatically [...]

If only there were...a miracle pill for Felix Soto. He stopped by the Worker Assistance Center with a handful of unpaid bills. He was injured on the job in January, less than a month before Tyson Foods closed down the Manchester plant. He hasn't received any of the workers' comp benefits he expected. But his first priority is finding a new job.

SOTO: yo estoy preparado para hacer cualquier tipo de trabajo – supervisor, produccion (son los ultimos trabajos que yo he tenido). Lo unico que quisa es por el ingles, porque el ingles mio es bien limitado.

VOICEOVER I'm prepared to do whatever kind of job: supervisory work, manufacturing -- that's what my last few jobs have beenâ€| The only thing is English, my English is very limited.

Soto moved from New York City to Manchester about a year ago. Rents are cheaper here, and he says he was lonely in Brooklyn, life is easier here. He lives with his parents and sends money home to his grandparents in the Dominican Republic and to his wife and son in Puerto Rico.

SOTO: vine con la ilusion de progresar y encontrar un futuro para los mio alla en mi pais, y estoy luchando para eso. Tengo muchas illusions metas, espero conseguir un buen trabajo y ahora estoy fuera de trabajo.

VOICEOVER I came with the hope of finding a better future for my family in my home country. That's what I'm fighting for. I have a lot of hopes and goals -- I want to find a good job and now I'm out of work. [...]

About a quarter of the Jac-Pac workers don't speak English. 40% say Spanish is their first language. The rest speak Arabic, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Bosnian and a handful of other languages. At first, workers were reluctant to come to the job center. Calderon says there was some mistrust, and lots of rumors. [...]

About 100 former Jac-Pac employees have found new jobs. Now the center is focusing in on the harder cases -- the workers with fewer skills, no English, no drivers license or transportation. Job Counselor Emily LaBlonte speaks French (with a Canadian accent) and translates for her clients from Togo (who speak French with West African accents). [...]

LaBLONTE: In NH it's so white and so European. For someone like myself, a NH native, it's very striking to see that these people do exist here. Yes, they are a minority, but they're a hidden population. You can live your life in city of Manchester and never run into these people, but they're here and they're working and contributing.

And they're heading back to work -- one by one. Lablonte says that about every day, someone comes in with good news about a new job. Earlier this week it was Michael Kuda, a refugee from Sudan. He says the new job came just in time.

KUDA: I was in a difficult of money. My wife get a new baby, I don't know how to help myself, employment security didn't pay me until today. They say they're going to send check this week. Every day I open my mailbox 2-3 times looking for check, nothing, I don't know what's going on. it's better I will find job and help myself.

Kuda says he'll be working the second shift at a fan factory in Bow. That way he can take classes in the morning, get his G-E-D, and move on to a better job.

KUDA: I'm looking on internet, job sites. All need to have high school diploma, or EGD, if you don't have that they cannot qualify your application to get the job.

LaBlonte says Kuda was one of the easier workers to place, he speaks English, he has a car, and his wife takes care of their five children. Kuda says he'll continue looking for a better job. He earned 9-25 an hour at Jac-Pac, but his new job only pays 8 dollars an hour.

The Jac-Pac tale is emblematic--a Tyson food packing plant whose entire workforce was pretty much immigrants. NHPR has done an excellent job covering the closing, including maybe the only favorable story ever broadcast about Tyson and how they handled the closing and the equanimity with which employees took the news, determined to find new jobs instead of bitching and moaning the way natives most likely would have.

Jac Pac workers find welcome at support center (DALE VINCENT, 3/22/04, Manchester Union Leader )

The Tyson plant was a magnet for immigrants and refugees, many of them recent arrivals. One asset is a strong work ethic. Another is they look out for one another. "There's a strong community spirit," said LaBonte.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:03 PM


Crimes against fetuses bill nears Senate passage (JIM ABRAMS, March 25, 2004, Associated Press)

Congress stood ready Thursday to send President Bush legislation making it a separate offense to harm a fetus during a violent federal crime, an issue that has become tangled with the battle over abortion.

The Senate cleared the way for passing the Unborn Victims of Violence Act by defeating an amendment, backed by abortion rights lawmakers, that would have increased penalties but maintained that an attack on a pregnant victim was a single-victim crime.

The House approved the legislation last month.

The vote is being closely watched by anti-abortion and other conservative groups, who have made passage of the measure one of their top goals this year. Abortion rights groups say the bill is an effort to undermine a woman's right to end her pregnancy.

Perhaps this presidency is so radical that folks just can't process what's happening around them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:13 PM


Kerry's Task Now Is to Win Enthusiasm of Democrats: Fresh from an Idaho vacation, the likely presidential nominee needs to turn his party's anti-Bush fervor into passion for him. (Mark Z. Barabak and Matea Gold, March 25, 2004, LA Times)

[E]ven as he sets his sights on the fall contest against President Bush, Kerry faces a challenge within his own party, rallying Democrats who seem more passionate at this point about beating the Republican incumbent than backing the party's apparent nominee-to-be.

"The early Kerry people are certainly enthusiastic about their guy," said David Rosen, a Democratic fundraiser in Chicago. "But the rest of the folks, the folks coming over and jumping on the bandwagon, I don't think they have this great enthusiasm yet for Kerry."

Rosen is convinced that will change as the senator becomes better known. But for now, Rosen and others say Kerry is still a mystery to many fellow Democrats, who know little beyond the fact that he once served in Vietnam and won a succession of primaries to clinch the party's nomination in record time.

And while Democratic leaders praised Kerry as both a candidate and potential president, notwithstanding the rough patch his campaign hit before vacation, they tacitly acknowledged that he has yet to forge a personal connection with many of the party faithful

"I think people in the Democratic Party like, admire and love him because he's a Democrat," said Mark Brewer, the state party chairman in Michigan.

Does anyone who knows him like him?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:05 PM


Richard Clarke KOs the Bushies: The ex-terrorism official dazzles at the 9/11 commission hearings. (Fred Kaplan, 3/25/04, Slate)

Among the many feckless or snarky statements that Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and White House spokesman Scott McClellan have issued about Clarke the past few days, the observation they've recited with particular gusto is that this disgruntled ex-official was in charge of counterterrorism policy during the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, the attacks on the U.S.S. Cole, and the bombing of our East African embassies. Their implication was: How can this guy, who allowed so much bloodshed on his watch, be blaming us?

And so now here's Clarke, in an official, nationally broadcast forum, announcing: I failed, I'm sorry, please forgive me. Which, as one member of the panel noted, is more than any official in the Bush administration has said to any victims of the far more devastating 9/11 attacks.

I am not suggesting that Clarke's apology was cynical or purely tactical.

Odd that Slate doesn't run a disclaimer that Mr. Kaplan is assisting the Kerry campaign, perhaps illegaly, no?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:59 PM


Blair meets Gadhafi, sees 'common cause' (MSNBC News Services, March 25, 2004)

In a state visit that marks Britain's willingness to welcome Libya back into the international community, British Prime Minister Tony Blair met with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi on Thursday, saying that the two shared a common goal in defeating the al-Qaida terrorist network.

After historic talks with the Libyan leader, Blair said Gaddafi recognized “a common cause with us in the fight against al-Qaida, extremism and terrorism, which threatens not just the Western world but the Arab world also.”

“We are showing by our engagement with Libya today that it is possible for countries in the Arab world to work with the United States and the U.K. to defeat the common enemy of extremist fanatical terrorism driven by al-Qaida", Blair said, "and to ensure we have a more secure world because of the absence of weapons of mass destruction.”

“I think it is a very, very important signal for the whole of the Arab world,” Blair added.

Ghaddafi's son: Arab leaders should embrace US reform proposals (Khaled Abu Toameh, Mar. 25, 2004, Jerusalem Post)
The son of Libyan leader Muammar Ghaddafi, Saif al-Islam, said on Wednesday that his country would be prepared to compensate Jews who had lost their property in Libya. He also welcomed Libyan Jews to return to Libya and receive Libyan citizenship.

"In the future, we will open the file of compensation for Jews who lost their property and money," Saif al-Islam Ghaddafi said in an interview with al-Jazeera. "These people are Libyans, and therefore they will be compensated. We should call on the 30,000 Jews of Libyan origin who are living in Israel to return to Libya as citizens. This is their land and the land of their ancestors. That way, they will leave the country they took away from the Palestinians."

Ghaddafi's son said his country no longer viewed Israel as an enemy. "Until recently, Israel was an enemy," he said. "But things have changed, and the Palestinians, whom we supported with weapons, are saying that they don't want these weapons. In addition, neither Jordan nor Egypt wants a confrontation [with Israel]. We are not negotiating with Israel because it's not occupying our land; it's not a country with which we are in conflict, and we have no problems with it."

However, he stressed that Libya has no intention of recognizing Israel in the near future.

Saif al-Islam lashed out at the Arab states for failing to endorse democracy and reforms. He called on Arab leaders to agree to US demands to introduce democracy to their countries. "Instead of shouting and criticizing the American initiative, you have to bring democracy to your countries, and then there will be no need to fear America or your people," he said, addressing Arab rulers.

"The Arabs should either change or change will be imposed on them from outside," he said.

He denied reports that he is a candidate to succeed his father. "Many Arab countries are now following the policy of inherited leadership, but there are hundreds of Libyans who are better [suited] than I," Saif al-Islam said.

He even praised Israel, saying that unlike Arab countries, sons do not tend to succeed their fathers in power there.

"We don't place the appropriate person in the right place, but Israel is a democratic country," he added.

Saif al-Islam joins King Mohammed of Morocco and the sons of the Shah and Ayatollah Khomeini as a hopeful sign that there are leaders in this generation who see comprehend the End of History.

Posted by David Cohen at 4:28 PM



Since the arrival of the first ship-load of “government contract labour in February 1885, until the 26th Immigrant boat “Miike Maru” in the early part of 1894, some 29,032 Japanese poured into Hawaii. During the next three years from 1896 private immigration companies looked after the immigrants, and brought here 40,208 Japanese. In July 1898, Hawaii was annexed to the United Slates. The contract labour was forbidden, and over-night, Japanese labourers in Hawaii became free labourers. Children, born in the islands, were granted the right of American citizenship.

For a time being, the Japanese government restricted the immigration to Hawaii, but the bar was lifted in the latter part of 1901, and a limited number of Japanese was allowed to leave Japan. Within the short period of five or six years more than 40,000 Japanese came. The majority of these Japanese made Hawaii their stepping-stone and deluged the Pacific coast states. In 1907 the ‘Gentleman’s Agreement” was drawn up, and the immigrants from Japan were stopped. With the passage of the Immigration Act in 1924, Japanese were ex­cluded from the United States. Not a single Japanese Immigrant can now come into Hawaii.

Looking back at the past half a century, the Japanese have gone through many striking changes. They have built up slowly, the foundation of today, but industrially they have not accomplished anything very strik­ing. Only in population, have the Japanese beaten other nationalities. Out of some 15.000 Japanese only a third are first genera­tion Japanese. Death has removed many of them; others have gone back to Japan. But the second and third generation Japanese are increasing steadily. Over 10,000 are now ex­ercising their right as voters, and many engaged in hopeful occupations. These facts are most encouraging, and they strengthen our hope of the future.

However today, the Japanese both of the first and second generation are being put to a test. They are, in the words of the streets, “being put on the spot.” They are seriously been questioned:

a. Have the Japanese during the past fifty years made an honest effort toward assimilation?

b. Are the Japanese born in Hawaii truly loyal American citizens, or can they become absolutely loyal to America?

c. Are the Japan­ese bringing up their children into good and loyal American citizens?

The future of the Japanese in Hawaii, and the relations between the two countries depend on the solution of these two problems. Japanese have been excluded from Canada. Australia, America and Brazil. The chief reason is that “Japanese do not assimilate,” for example, let us quote some of the out­standing arguments.

1. Mr. McClatchy. Editor of ” Sacra­mento Bee,” holds that the Japanese as a race cannot assimilate. He gives three reasons:

a. “Japanese racial characteristics, hered­ity and religion prevent social assimilation,

b. “Japanese government claims all Ja­panese, no matter where born, as its citizens, thus preventing political assimilation.

c. “Individually and in mass with op­portunity offered and even when born under the American flag, they have shown pro­nounced antagonism to assimilation.”

2. After his extensive tour of Hawaii in July, 1923 the late Congressman Charles F. Curry of California stated:

“I do not think there is any possibility of Americanising the Hawaiian Japanese who were born in Japan. While a majority of them may not wish to return to Japan, they are nevertheless loyal to the Mikado ant their government, and Japan is first in their thoughts at all times. This is only natural in as much as they speak an alien language and live among the alien people.

“In so far as the native-born Japanese are concerned; that portion of them who are sent back to Japan for their education and return to the United States just before the time when they would be required for army service are also alien in thought and sympathy. Same result must be expected of those who are educated even in Hawaii under the alien influences. Public Schools in Hawaii should exert their utmost endeavour to correct these evils. Y.M.C.A. and Sunday Schools are called upon to pay particular attention to them.

“I am convinced more than ever that aliens ineligible to citizenship should be ex­cluded in the future, and that an immediate stop should be placed upon the bringing of ‘picture brides’. All Oriental influences must be stamped out.

3. In this argument against the injunction proceeding instituted by the language schools against the Act 36, ex-Governor W. F. Frear said:

“The most important problem of this territory is the character of the children who are to become our future citizens. Whether Hawaii will have a commission form of government, or whether she will be granted statehood will be largely determined by the character of our future citizens. Will these citizens of Oriental descent act as the United States citizens or as the subject of Japan, or as citizens half-American and half-Japan­ese is a most Important problem?”

Today the questions of commission form of government and the statehood are being widely discussed. Naturally the qualifications and loyalty of our second-generation are seriously questioned. We can easily surmise that President Roosevelt came here primarily to make a personal check on the problems of our second generation.

“To the eyes of those who came here to give us an once-over, do the Japanese in Hawaii seem to be making honest efforts assimilate, and are they actually assimilating? Or as Mr Frear feared, does it look as though the Japanese are trying their outmost to become subjects of Japan or citizens half-American? Are we able to pass these tests?

“When a person is living in a room of a large family, he must follow the rules of that home. Otherwise he can never get along harmoniously with the others living in the home. We are living today in a corner of American territory under the protection of America and are enjoying many privileges. We have an obligation to perform. That is we must try to assimilate and bring our children up into good and loyal American citizens. In a sense our boys and girls are adopted children of America, and we must see to it that they become simon-pure American citizens. If we perform this task sincerely we would be rendering a great service to both America and Japan.”

On the eve of his departure from Seattle, Viscount Kikujiro Ishii said:

“The Americanisation campaign which is now going on in the United States is a nation-wide movement. As long as you are residents of America you must make your status clear. If you desire to assimilate, you must make up your mind to live here permanently. If you can not assimilate, you ought to return to Japan.”

Today Japanese in Hawaii are displaying Japanese spirit in full colour. This may be the reaction of the rise of nationalism in Japan. Many of the Japanese schools have become Japanised. Imperial rescript is boldly read and taught in some of the schools. Some teachers have openly declared that they are teaching Japanese spirit through the medium of the Japanese language. This audacity may he the result of their mistaken idea of victory in the legal battle. If the Japanese go on in the present conditions, they will fail miserably in the test. Politically and socially America may oppress the Japanese. The doors of Canada, Australia and South American countries may be closed more and more tightly. We must think more of the future and remove every obstacle that hinders our real progress.

All sorts of suggestions on the ways and means of celebrating the Fiftieth anniversary of the first landing of Japanese immigrants in Hawaii have commenced to appear in the various newspapers. It is a splendid thing to observe this memorable day. As a fitting celebration can the Japanese throughout the territory get together and work for the radical change our community? As Ishii has said: “Let’s remove every trace of alien influence and attitude” and expatriate all our children from their allegiance to Japan. Then we will be declaring to the world that the “Japanese can truly assimilate” and that “our children can become loyal citizens.” This will be more suitable work than having a noisy festival.

That this article is wrong is self-evident. There was no reason to think that the Japanese would not be able to assimilate into a majority white, majority Christian, English speaking culture. Mexicans, on the other hand . . .

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:16 AM


Teenager promised sex with virgins if he blew himself up near soldiers (Ellis Shuman, March 25, 2004, Israeli Insider)

"I wanted to get to the Garden of Eden, to have sex there with 72 virgins," said 14-year-old Hussam Abdu, who approached an army roadblock near Nablus yesterday with 8 kilograms (14 pounds) of explosives wrapped around his waist. Alert IDF Paratroopers suspected the teen bomber, and helped him cut off the belt. It was the second time in ten days that Nablus terrorists have sent a young boy on a bomb mission.

"They told me that this was the only way (to get to Heaven), and they promised that my mother would get one hundred shekels ($22) if I did this," Hussam told the soldiers after the belt was removed. Hussam said that after being bullied in school, he wanted "to be a hero."

Hussam's path to the Garden of Eden was planned to pass through the Huwara roadblock, south of Nablus, where ten days ago an alert Border Policewoman spotted an innocent-looking 12-year-old carrying a heavy bag with wires protruding from it.

Okay, we know that it is no longer justifiable for us to judge the sexual tastes of others, no matter how deviant, but necrophilia is one thing--at least there it's only your partners who are dead--killing yourself before sex is quite another.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 AM


Howard Zinn's History Lessons (Michael Kazin, Winter 2004, Dissent)

From the 1960s onward, scholars, most of whom lean leftward, have patiently and empathetically illuminated such topics-and explained how progressive movements succeeded as well as why they fell short of their goals. But Zinn cares only about winners and losers in a class conflict most Americans didn't even know they were fighting. Like most propagandists, he measures individuals according to his own rigid standard of how they should have thought and acted. Thus, he depicts John Brown as an unblemished martyr but sees Lincoln as nothing more than a cautious politician who left slavery alone as long as possible. To explain why the latter's election in 1860 convinced most slaveowners to back secession, Zinn falls back on the old saw, beloved by economic determinists, that the Civil War was "not a clash of peoples…but of elites," Southern planters vs. Northern industrialists. Pity the slaves and their abolitionist allies; in their ignorance, they viewed it as a war of liberation and wept when Lincoln was murdered.

To borrow a phrase from the British historian John Saville, Zinn expects the past to do its duty. He has been active on the left since his youth in the 1930s. During the 1960s, he fought for civil rights and against the war in Vietnam and wrote fine books that sprang directly from those experiences. But to make sense of a nation's entire history, an author has to explain the weight and meaning of worldviews that are not his own and that, as an engaged citizen, he does not favor. Zinn has no taste for such disagreeable tasks.

The fact that his text barely mentions either conservatism or Christianity is telling. The former is nothing but an excuse to grind the poor ("conservatism" itself doesn't even appear in the index), while religion gets a brief mention during Anne Hutchinson's rebellion against the Puritan fathers and then vanishes from the next 370 years of history.

Given his approach to history, Zinn's angry pages about the global reach of U.S. power are about as surprising as his support for Ralph Nader in 2000. Of course, President William McKinley decided to go to war with Spain at "the urging of the business community." Zinn ignores the scholarly verdict that most Americans from all classes and races backed the cause of "Cuba Libre"-but not the later decisions to vassalize the Caribbean island and colonize the Philippines. Of course, as an imperial bully, the United States had no right, in World War II, "to step forward as a defender of helpless countries." Zinn thins the meaning of the biggest war in history down to its meanest components: profits for military industries, racism toward the Japanese, and the senseless destruction of enemy cities-from Dresden to Hiroshima. His chapter on that conflict does ring with a special passion; Zinn served as a bombardier in the European theater and the experience made him a lifelong pacifist. But the idea that Franklin Roosevelt and his aides were motivated both by realpolitik and by an abhorrence of fascism seems not to occur to him.

The latest edition of the book includes a few paragraphs about the attacks of September 11, and they demonstrate how poorly Zinn's view of the past equips him to analyze the present. "It was an unprecedented assault against enormous symbols of American wealth and power," he writes. The nineteen hijackers "were willing to die in order to deliver a deadly blow against what they clearly saw as their enemy, a superpower that had thought itself invulnerable." Zinn then quickly moves on to condemn the United States for killing innocent people in Afghanistan.

Is this an example of how to express the "commonality" of the great majority of U.S. citizens, who believed that the gruesome strike against America's evil empire was aimed at them? Zinn's flat, dualistic view of how U.S. power has been used throughout history omits what is obvious to the most casual observer: al-Qaeda's religious fanaticism and the potential danger it poses to anyone that Osama bin Laden and his disciples deem an enemy of Islam. Surely one can hate imperialism without ignoring the odiousness of killers who mouth the same sentiment.

Funny how once you acknowledge the Christianity and conservatism of the American people it sudedenly appears that they are generally winners rather than losers in the Manichean struggle.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:05 AM


Kerry spoke of meeting negotiators on Vietnam (Michael Kranish and Patrick Healy, 3/25/2004, Boston Globe)

In a question-and-answer session before a Senate committee in 1971, John F. Kerry, who was a leading antiwar activist at the time, asserted that 200,000 Vietnamese per year were being "murdered by the United States of America" and said he had gone to Paris and "talked with both delegations at the peace talks" and met with communist representatives.

Kerry, now the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, yesterday confirmed through a spokesman that he did go to Paris and talked privately with a leading communist representative. But the spokesman played down the extent of Kerry's role and said Kerry did not engage in negotiations.

Asked about the appropriateness of Kerry's saying that the United States had "murdered" 200,000 Vietnamese annually when the United States was at war, Kerry spokesman Michael Meehan said "Senator Kerry used a word he deems inappropriate."

Meehan said Kerry "never suggested or believed and absolutely rejects the idea that the word applied to service of the American soldiers in Vietnam." Meehan then declined to say to whom Kerry was referring when he said that the United States had murdered the Vietnamese; Kerry declined to be interviewed about the matter. [...]

When Kerry was asked by committee chairman Senator J. William Fulbright how he proposed to end the war, the former Navy lieutenant said it should be ended immediately and mentioned his involvement in peace talks in Paris.

"I have been to Paris," Kerry said. "I have talked with both delegations at the peace talks, that is to say the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the Provisional Revolutionary Government and of all eight of Madam Binh's points . . . ."

The latter was a reference to a communist group based in South Vietnam. Historian Stanley Karnow, author of "Vietnam: A History," described the Provisional Revolutionary Government as "an arm of the North Vietnamese government." Madam Nguyen Thi Binh was a leader of the group and had a list of peace-talk points, including the suggestion that US prisoners of war would be released when American forces withdrew.

Hard to know whether he was a dupe or a traitor.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 AM


An Unlikely Immigration Champion (Tamar Jacoby, March 23, 2004, LA Times)

[E]ven if no bill is passed in the foreseeable future, the Bush initiative still marks a critical step forward in the effort to make our immigration code rational, bringing it more into line with the realities of the global labor market.

For one thing, popular or not, the proposal has already energized a national conversation about immigration — a conversation that would never have taken place otherwise. Despite the glaring failure of current law — a failure acknowledged both by those who want higher immigration ceilings and those who are determined to lower them — no one on either side of the argument had made any headway with the public since 9/11. The Bush initiative changed that overnight.

Second, the Bush proposal has put a floor under the immigration debate: a point beyond which we as a nation can no longer retreat. The analogy is civil unions for gay couples. Just a few months ago, that seemed like a radical idea. Now, in the light of the debate about gay marriage, civil unions are the least-generous option and a plausible fallback position even in some conservative states. So too now with a guest worker program and more realistic immigration ceilings.

Finally, by making clear that the critical question about an immigration overhaul is not if but when, the president's speech created space for advocates to get busy working out the details of a reform package. The Bush proposal is only the roughest outline of the change that's needed. The most glaring gap has to do with enforcement. Congress' last best idea for enforcing the nation's existing immigration code — the employer sanctions at the heart of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act — has proved a total failure, and nobody has come up with a better notion.

For more than a hundred years now, Americans have tolerated — and worse, all but deliberately maintained — a vast underclass of disenfranchised and exploitable foreign laborers. In California, they included Chinese, then Filipinos and then mostly, since the 1920s, Mexicans. Wherever they came from, they've done our dirtiest work, mainly though not only in the fields. But because they came as temporary workers or without papers — though often with a wink from ineffective immigration authorities — they were easily taken advantage of and could be deported at will. They are the last century's dirtiest secret. Yet now, led by, of all people, a conservative Republican president, the nation is moving toward abolishing this shameful institution.

One tries to give the anti-immigrationists the benefit of the doubt, and crediot their disclaimers that they don't just hate Mexicans but value our current culture. Then you get an essay like Steve Sailer's latest, Japanese Substitute Inventiveness for Immigration; NYT Shocked (Steve Sailer, 3/21/04, V-Dare)
Sofia Coppola, who owns a fashion business in Japan, recently captured the best original screenplay Academy Award for the movie Lost in Translation—making her the fourth Oscar-winning member of the Coppola dynasty, after her father Francis, grandfather Carmine, and first cousin Nicolas Cage. Bill Murray stars as a morose and mordant American action movie star who finds himself washed up in a Tokyo Hyatt.

The hotel seems dispiritingly like every other downtown luxury hotel in the world. But its Japanese idiosyncrasies make it subtly disconcerting.

Japan refuses to import millions of Third Worlders, so the Japanese have robotized many service jobs. This takes Murray some getting used to. His drapes fling themselves open in the morning. In a hotel gym devoid of personal trainers, he finds himself in the clutches of an unstoppable and hyperactive exercise machine shouting indecipherable and no doubt deranged commands.

But, of course, it's the puzzling uniqueness of Japanese life that helps make Lost in Translation so entertaining. You leave the theatre thinking that a trip to the Orient would be disappointing if it wasn’t a little disorienting. Isn't travel more fun when other countries are different from your own?

In a lot of small ways, Japan is indeed very different. Consider professional nail care. [...]

The Japanese voters think their islands are crowded enough already without importing human nail polishers. And the Japanese government is mysteriously inclined to enforce the will of its people.

So the Japanese have done something that by our standards is weird, even comical. They've invented yet another kind of vending machine, this one for doing your nails. You stick your finger in, and it gives it back (you hope) with the nail painted to your specifications using inkjet printer technology.

The idea that a complete lack of human contact is preferable to living people who are somewhat different than you is not just anti-immigrant but anti-human. It does though raise a question that few will have any trouble answering: can you have a healthy society in which life is reduced to the completely atomized one led by Bill Murray's character in the film?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 AM


Bush's Meandering Moral Compass (Peter Singer, March 25, 2004, LA Times)

Do Bush's statements and actions reflect a coherent, defensible ethic?

First, what does Bush think about the proper reach of the federal government? In his preelection memoir, "A Charge to Keep," he was eloquent about his support for states' rights, individual freedom and small government. He contrasted that with "a philosophy that seeks solutions from distant bureaucracies" and added, "I am a conservative because I believe government closest to the people governs best."

Again and again during the campaign he hammered that theme. On the "Larry King Show," in response to a question about a hypothetical state vote on gay marriage, he replied: "The states can do what they want to do. Don't try to trap me in this states' issue."

Yet in office, Bush has done just the opposite of what he said he would do. The Patriot Act has given the federal government unprecedented powers over American citizens. Arguably, that legislation may be justified by the need to combat terrorism. But no such justification exists for Bush's support for a constitutional amendment to rule out gay marriage. Here, his stated reason for this proposal is to curb "judicial activism." And what about attempts by his attorney general to overturn Oregon's law permitting physician-assisted suicide and to fight against state decisions allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes? These changes were brought in at the ballot box, by the state's voters.

Next, take Bush's stance on taxes. Leading up to the 2000 election, he argued for a tax cut on the basis that the government was running a huge surplus, and the money should be given back to the taxpayers. Instead of government spending the money, he said, his preferred option was "to let the American people spend their own money to meet their own needs."

When the surplus evaporated and turned into a huge deficit, however, Bush did not reverse his arguments. Instead, he simply switched ground, defending a further tax cut on a completely new basis: that it would benefit the economy. But now a tax cut was not letting the American people spend their own money; it was letting this generation of Americans spend the money of future generations.

Finally, there is Bush's policy on the sanctity of human life. In August 2001, he announced that his administration would not allow federal funds to be used for research on stem cells if that funding could encourage the destruction of human embryos — even though there are more than 400,000 surplus embryos in laboratories across the country and the chances of most of them ever becoming children are close to zero.

In defending this policy, the president says he worries about "a culture that devalues life" and believes that, as president, he has "an important obligation to foster and encourage respect for life in America and throughout the world." Yet under his command, the U.S. military has, by the most conservative estimates, caused the deaths of at least 4,000 civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq — the real number could easily be three times as high — and injured thousands more. Sometimes a target as insignificant as a single Taliban truck has brought American bombs down on a village, killing people sleeping in their homes.

Pretty shocking ignorance from the premier moral philosopher of the age. Except for single white males who sit in a computer cubicles surrounded by cheesecake photos of Ayn Rand, everyone accepts that the first purpose of government is to provide for the physical security of those who give up some measure of personal freedom in subjecting themselves to the state. The Patriot Act conforms precisely to this near universally accepted role of the federal government.

Second, if you believe that people can generally spend their own money more effectively than the government can spend it for them, then what does it matter if there's a deficit? Does the government's insatiable need for more money demonstrate that it is more efficient than the citizenry? Or does it not demonstrate the truth of the initial proposition?

Finally, it is innocent life that is to be protected, not that which is morally compromised. This why it is appropriate to put to death criminals and to make war on totalitarian regimes. Indeed, as the Declaration of Independ3ence says, the people of Afghanistan and Iraq had a moral duty to depose their rulers. They failing to do so, we did it for them.

March 24, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:34 PM


Only Fools Bark at Dogma (Patrick O'Hannigan, 03/22/04, Catholic Exchange)

Many freedom-loving Americans are frustrated by Christianity. They stumble over dogma, not because anything in it is provably wrong, but because dogma is the public face of authority, and they do not comprehend the nature and purpose of authoritative teaching — particularly as expressed by the Catholic Church.

Where pious people part company with thoughtful agnostics is not in thinking that truth and virtue sustain each other, but in articulating the implications that flow from that premise. As Thomas Aquinas wrote in answer to the first question of his Summa Theologica, "The entire salvation of man depends upon the knowledge of the truth."

Note the lack of equivocation: this Doctor of the Church has confidence in our ability to comprehend enough of what is true to preserve both sanity and hope.

The Christian understanding of freedom has an equally impressive pedigree. It dates back to Judaism, and the prominent role that free will plays in the Garden of Eden. As Fr. James V. Schall writes: "No faith is worth anything at all if it is not rooted in freedom, freedom not for its own sake — as if there was nothing further than making our own choices — but freedom to seek and live by what is true and what is right."

One of the great tragedies of modernity is that secularists, libertarians, and the rest have become terribly confused and believe freedom to be an end, rather than a means.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:32 PM


Did 311 = 911?: Spain’s Surrender, and the Destiny of Europe (Nicholas Stix, March 21, 2004, Men's News Daily)

By the early 20th century, Europeans tended to speak synonymously of “Europe,” “Christianity,” and “the West.” But Christianity was born in the same place as Judaism – the Middle East. Christianity may have achieved its greatest political power in Europe, but its greatest religious passion had peaked long before it arrived on the Continent. By the mid-19th century, at the height of European power, Christianity was a decadent, empty shell. And the ideas associated with “the West” were already moving … west.

Until the past generation, the notion of being a “European,” as opposed to the national of a particular country, was an oddity. There were no “Europeans,” there were only Frenchmen, Germans, etc. Today, since “Europeans” refuse to identify themselves in opposition to Asia and Africa (and South America isn’t a part of their consciousness), the only reason I can see for their identification with the Continent, is in unified opposition to America. (No, not “North America”; Europeans are indifferent to Mexico and Canada. The term “North America” functions merely as a petty insult to Americans.)

The official story today, is that nationalism destroyed Europe. As is so often the case, the official story is nonsense. Nineteenth century European history is largely split between wars pitting nation-states and alliances against each other, and the rise of revolutionary, transnational movements (communism, pan-Germanism). Those two trajectories converged and exploded, in the first half of the 20th century. In each case, a transnational movement (communism, national socialism) bonded with a national base and nationalistic passion (Russia, Germany, Austria). The irony, is that one of the reasons that Europe failed to stop Nazism, was due to the interwar influence of a bureaucratic, pacifist humanitarianism. After the war, that pacifist humanitarianism was left standing, unchallenged, in Western Europe, where it still saps the Continent’s strength. Today, corrupt, supranational bureaucracies (the UN, EU) are manipulated by nationalist interests (France, Germany, Russia) in the name of “internationalism.”

And as Europeans permit their nations to be swamped with their Muslim enemies, one wonders if the nations of the Old World will go down with a bang or a whimper.

By the time the Europeans decide to ship the Muslims to the East they'll be too old to herd them on the cattle cars.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:19 PM


Al Green on Gay Marriage and Prince (Peter Scholtes, March 19, 2004, Complicated Fun)

Have you ever met Prince?
Yes, I got some Minneapolis memories. And I got to see Prince once. But I really never got a chance to get close enough to him to shake his hand. And that's what we wanted to do, was go meet him. He was at the Grammys once, maybe two or three years ago. He sung and he played his guitar, and vroom, they went off the stage, and nobody got a chance to meet anybody or say hello or anything like that.
But he's a tremendous, dynamic personality and a wonderful performer, and I know you guys up there know that. I mean he's awesome in his own right. And everybody got their way of doing things, you see. That may be his way of keeping himself where he's clear at, you know? So if he don't want to talk with the Letterman or Leno people, or whatever that is, everybody got their own way. I don't condemn a man for having his own way. If that's the way he is, then that's what he's got to do, to keep his head together. If he don't want to talk to people about what he's doing and what his thing is, then that's his prerogative to have that, and people should respect that, you know?
I mean, I don't want to jump in the man's business. My idea was, it would be exciting for me to meet him.

It is a disgrace that an artist as gifted as Prince is going into the Rock Hall of Fame with the flock of riff-raff that got voted in with him, but ya gotta make time for Al Green.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:14 PM


Germany axes Lederhosen subsidies (Reuters, 23 March, 2004)

Germany can no longer afford state aid to help its yodellers buy Lederhosen, the Bavarian government says, in a sign of how drastically public finances have deteriorated in Europe's largest economy.

"We no longer want to sponsor the Lederhosen with subsidies," Bavarian Premier Edmund Stoiber said, ignoring outcries from traditional folk groups, some of whom have threatened to boycott the opening parade of the Munich Oktoberfest, the world's biggest beer festival.

The Alpine state had previously provided the 300,000 members of its folklore groups with half a million euros in state funds to help buy traditional Bavarian attire such as the leather shorts -- amounting, one newspaper said, to a subsidy of 13 percent per garment.

This is a sign that they're getting serious?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:11 PM


Putin on the Writs (Marta Glazier, 03/17/2004, Tech Central Station)

In the midst of so many tumultuous changes (Presidential Administration turnover not one of them), the Yeltsin-era Mikhail Kasyanov was booted for Mikhail Fradkov, who the pundits claim is a complete "unknown" and has been chosen to execute Putin's wishes. Now, just for kicks, let's say that is true. Yes, Putin has replaced a Soprano-type family member with a man with little political clout, but with experience in essentially two areas: tax collection/corruption control and relations with the European Union.

Maybe, just maybe, Putin (and I share this view) thinks that corruption and tax evasion, are intermingled and potentially the most destructive problems in post-Soviet Russia. And let's say that Putin recognizes how important foreign relations are in this quickly shrinking world, and in particular, Russia's relationship with the EU, as well as the effect these relationships could have on his ambitious plans for Russia's economy. And maybe, like any CEO or good manager, Putin wants someone working for him who is smart and fresh, responsive and even malleable, depending on the position - someone untouched by ugly political entanglements and tainted experiences. In a nutshell, appointing Fradkov as Prime Minister could mean that Putin's priorities are to fight corruption and improve relations with the EU, while simultaneously looking out for Russia's best interests. [...]

It seems to me that Putin has one thing on his mind: growing Russia's economy. And that includes its trade interests in the surrounding countries (the actual trade effects of the EU expansion remain unclear. Russia and the EU disagree in terms of their predictions). Over the past eight years, living standards have improved dramatically and the creation of a middle class has been initiated. By contrast, most of Western Europe is middle class, most Europeans live in a clean and safe environment where venturing out on a sidewalk in January is not the equivalent of signing up for an arm cast of plaster. Russia's government does not have the luxury of planning 20 years down the road whether for future trade or environmental benefits.

Europe doesn't have that luxury either, but that's a different meme.

Posted by Paul Jaminet at 11:08 PM


The EU's Fine State Of Affairs (Forbes, 3/23/2004)

A few weeks ago, a man in Finland was fined 170,000 euros, or $208,847, for speeding, which was said to be a record. In Finland, it appears that speeding tickets are assessed according to income and the man in question, heir to his family's sausage business, earned nearly 7 million euros, or $8.6 million, per year.

For the record, the Finnish fine amounted to about a week's pay....

Brussels is not far from Finland, which is where Microsoft ... is reportedly facing a fine from the European Union of 487 million euros or $613 million relating to antitrust violations ...

The amount is far less than the theoretical maximum 10% of the company's annual revenue of $32.2 billion ...

"We believe it's unprecedented and inappropriate for the Commission to impose a fine on a company's U.S. operations when those operations are already regulated by the U.S. government," Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft's lead lawyer in Europe, told the Associated Press. "The conduct at issue has been permitted by both the U.S. Department of Justice and a U.S. court."...

One would think that fine levelers would seek to pay attention to the seriousness of the offense as well as the ability to pay. No one suggests that Microsoft earned more than a pittance of its overall profit--in Europe or anywhere else--from either servers or its Media Player software. But Mario Monti, antitrust chief of the European Union, thinks the issue goes beyond the specific violations ...

So, where does the EU get $613 million? Perhaps from Finland. The fine, as it happens, works out to about one week's worth of Microsoft's annual worldwide revenue.

The common link between European support for Saddam (and his oil-for-palaces-and-bribes program) and its massive fines for trivial Microsoft offenses is Europe's grasping spirit. It's becoming difficult to do business abroad without diplomatic protection, backed by a credible military threat. The Wall Street Journal today had an article about how Wal-mart has found it impossible to operate abroad without support from the U.S. government, and thus has built up a Washington lobbying organization. It appears, however, that the Bush administration has not made any credible threats of a European invasion, and so the EU is less accommodating toward us than Lybia or Pakistan.

Sometimes on the Brothers Judd we argue that the Judeo-Christian ethic of kindness and love is better for the economy than the sheer self-interest, however enlightened, of homo economicus. Europe's ongoing decline will continue to provide support for that thesis.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:04 PM

SIGNS OF HOPE FROM THE TORIES (via Robert Duquette):

Jihadists keen to repeat Spanish effect (The Australian, 24 March 2004)

The legacy from Spain is that political parties, in government or opposition, must decide whether to lead or merely to follow public opinion as the war on terrorism penetrates the political culture of Western democracies.

One of the first responses has come from Britain's Conservative Party leader Michael Howard, who chose defiance.

Howard's message is that terrorists cannot manipulate Britain to repeat the "Spanish effect", whereby an opposition won by seeking to separate itself from the US – in effect, to procure a better deal from the terrorists.

"If the terrorists hope they can gain their ends by perpetrating in Britain a similar outrage to that in Spain, their wickedness will be in vain," Howard told a News Corporation conference in Mexico. His comments reflect an unspoken reality – that toppling Tony Blair via a massive strike on Britain would be the prize for the jihadists.

"Whatever my disagreements with Tony Blair, any government that I lead will not flinch in its determination to win the war against terror where it has to be fought," Howard said. "It would be a terrible thing indeed if last week's murders in Madrid led the terrorists to conclude that attacking America results in retribution but attacking Europe results in victory. We cannot buy ourselves immunity by changing our foreign policy."

Howard confronted the issue at the heart of Europe's agony – that the war on terror has to be won side by side with the US. There is no other way. A separate peace would never work and it is folly to think that it would (as many Europeans do). Appeasement would usher in a new dark age.

If we had an effective intelligence service, they could blow up the Eiffel Tower and pin it on al Qaeda, making it look like appeasement doesn't work.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:54 PM


(via John Resnick):
Gee, look who's 'outsaucing'! (CHIDANAND RAJGHATTA, MARCH 20, 2004, Times of India)

John Kerry's financial fortunes may be linked to a ketchup empire, but in his political notebook, what's sauce for the goose isn't sauce for the gander. The Democratic Presidential nominee, who has been railing against outsourcing, is walking on a sticky wicket on the issue. There are outsourcing footprints all over Kerry's pristine all-American turf.
H J Heinz & Co, the family business of Kerry and his wife Teresa, has spread its ketchup operations across the world. Of the 79 factories that the food processor owns, 57 are overseas. Heinz makes ketchup, pizza crust, baby cereal and other edibles in such countries as Poland , Venezuela , Botswana , Thailand , and most of all, China and India .
That's not all. Campaign finance reports reviewed by the Congressional publication, The Hill, reveal that executives at 25 companies identified by CNN's Lou Dobbs as prime outsourcers have contributed more than $370,000 to Kerry's presidential campaign. Among them are executives of Citigroup (who contributed $68,250 to Kerry), Morgan Stanley (gave $38,000) and Goldman Sachs (gave $50,300).
Direct investments and trusts controlled by Kerry list assets of $124,026 to $636,000 in companies that outsource jobs, according to his financial disclosures. Trusts held by Teresa Heinz Kerry hold at least $8.5 million in outsourcing companies. Among them are General Electric, IBM and AIG which have big operations in India and China .
All this has led analysts to believe that Kerry's anti-outsourcing stand is just election season posturing.

They needed analysts to figure that out?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:45 PM

60-40 FILES:

The Arnold Effect: Senate race tests his coattails: Incumbent Boxer faces a strong Republican in a race that may revive California's GOP. (Daniel B. Wood, 3/25/04, CS Monitor)

The fact that Senator Boxer faces a challenge amplifies the question of whether the GOP can stage a Schwarzenegger-led comeback. From now through November's presidential election, analysts say, that's the story to watch: whether the governor's coattails will be as broad as his smile and whether Republicans - whose fortunes have long sagged here - and President Bush himself can ride Schwarzenegger's honeymoon train. Is the movie star's popularity strictly personal, they ask, or a harbinger of further expansion among Republicans promoting his formula for social tolerance and fiscal conservatism?

"There is no question California is enjoying a new era of enthusiasm and possibility because of its historic recall election," says Steven Schier, a political scientist at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn. "The question is, is this a new era of Republican possibilities or does it go no further than [Schwarzenegger's] popularity?"

To be sure, Boxer has a loyal following, and with over 1 million more registered Democrats than Republicans, she has a clear advantage - though Republicans say they'll register half a million new voters by November. Though more liberal than most senators, she's a national figure and is considered a formidable campaigner.

For his part, Jones is an eight-year assemblyman and eight-year secretary of state, author of the controversial "three strikes, you're out" law that became a national model. The former rancher and businessman won a second term as secretary of state in 1998 with the endorsement of nearly every major state newspaper. He's considered a specialist in agriculture, trade, and water issues and has received national attention for tightening voting laws.

"The attempt by conservative Bill Jones to unseat liberal Barbara Boxer will be the first big test in California of whether Arnold Schwarzenegger's rise to victory was an anomaly or [if] Republicans are making a comeback here," says Jack Pitney, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College. "If Jones even comes close, then it's a sign that the Democratic swing of California in recent years may have crested and is headed in the other direction."

This should be the GOP battleground. Importantly, President Bush will be helped nationally by campaigning with guys like Schwarzenegger and McCain, both because news coverage will be massive and because of their popularity with moderates.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:31 PM


Hard-liners take hard hit in Malaysia: Secular wins in national elections emphasize narrow appeal of strict Islamist politics. (Simon Montlake, 3/25/04, CS Monitor)

The sweeping victory of Malaysia's secular rulers in last Sunday's national elections emphasizes the narrow appeal of Muslim hard-liners in Southeast Asia, where strict religion-based politics run up against multiethnic realities.

Muslim voters dealt a potentially knock-out blow to the conservative Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS), which slid to third place in parliament.

This message may resonate in neighboring Indonesia when it holds national elections on Apr. 5. Although several Muslim-oriented parties are expected to do well, their platforms mostly eschew calls for strict Islamic law in favor of vague appeals to Muslim brotherhood.

"[PAS's] loss will be felt across the Muslim world. They were seen as a future model for political Islam in a democratic context," says Karim Raslan, a political analyst and author. PAS has forged close ties in recent years with like-minded parties in Indonesia, Egypt, and other Muslim-dominated countries, he says.

For Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, a former Muslim scholar who took office last October and campaigned on a platform of rural development and anticorruption, the election was a personal triumph. His ruling coalition won 90 percent of seats in parliament and regained majority in one of two state legislatures formerly dominated by PAS. Adding to its humiliation, PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang lost his seat by only 163 votes.

Noordin Sopiee, who chairs Malaysia's Institute of Strategic and International Studies, a political think tank, says this shows Islamic challengers to secular politics can be curbed at the ballot box. "There's a lesson here. You can democratically win over conservative, fundamental Muslim candidates if you have the right mixture of leaders and policies, and if you appeal to people with respect and humility," he says.

Poll-watchers in Malaysia give Abdullah credit for reaching out to rural Malays who deserted the ruling party at the last election in 1999. They say his soft-spoken manner, Islamic piety, and refusal to rise to the bait of his conservative foes played well among Malay voters, particularly first-time voters attracted to his reformist rhetoric.

The real blow it to the anti-religious and their claims that Islam is incompatible with liberal democracy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:02 PM


Clarke contrasts Bush, Clinton terror priorities (HOPE YEN, March 24, 2004, Associated Press)

The government's former top counterterrorism adviser testified Wednesday that the Clinton administration had "no higher priority" than combatting terrorists while the Bush administration made it "an important issue but not an urgent issue."

Richard Clarke told a bipartisan commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that "although I continued to say it (terrorism) was an urgent problem I don't think it was ever treated that way" by the current administration in advance of the strikes two and a half years ago.

Does anyone else find it odd that in his entire run for president, Al Gore never mentioned the most urgent foreign policy issue of the administration he was helping to lead?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:57 PM


Kerry Still Backpedaling on Presence at 1971 Anti-War Meetings (Marc Morano, March 24, 2004,

Early last week, Kerry's presidential campaign spokesman David Wade told the New York Sun, "Kerry was not at the Kansas City meeting." Wade added that Kerry had resigned from the VVAW "sometime in the summer of 1971."

But following the March 18 publication of the report, in which the FBI files were used to corroborate Kerry's attendance at the meeting, Wade reversed himself.

"If there are valid FBI surveillance reports from credible sources that place some of those disagreements in Kansas City, we accept that historical footnote in the account of his work to end the difficult and divisive war," Wade said in a statement late last week.

Kerry also retreated from an earlier comment he made in response to a question about former VVAW executive director Al Hubbard. Kerry and Hubbard appeared together on an April 18, 1971 broadcast of the news show Meet the Press to discuss their anti-war efforts.

But Hubbard, who had passed himself off as a decorated Air Force captain, was later shown to have lied about his military record. An investigation in 1971 by a CBS News reporter revealed that there were no military records showing that Hubbard had either served in Vietnam or was injured there.

When asked about his relationship with Hubbard at a televised press conference two weeks ago, Kerry said, "I haven't talked to Al Hubbard since that week" of the April 1971 Meet the Press appearance.

But after reported that FBI files and eyewitness accounts from former VVAW members had placed Kerry and Hubbard in the same place on several occasions after the Meet the Press appearance, the Kerry campaign conceded that the senator was also incorrect on that point. [...]

Gerald Nicosia, author of the book Home to War: A History of the Vietnam Veterans' Movement and a Kerry supporter, told last week that Kerry was being less than truthful about his anti-war activities.

"I am having some problems with the things he is saying right now, which are not matching up with accuracy," Nicosia said.

"I am in kind of an awkward position here. I am a Kerry supporter and I certainly don't want to do anything that hurts him. On the other hand, my number one allegiance is to truth. So I am going to go with where the facts are, and John is going to have to deal with that," Nicosia said.

Kerry hosted a reception in Nicosia's honor in 2001 when the book was released and praised it as an "important new book [that] ties together the many threads of a difficult period in our history every American should take the time to understand in its totality."

More recently, Nicosia offered some advice for Kerry: "The chickens are coming home to roost, and unfortunately he is starting to backtrack and I personally don't think backtracking is going to work because people are going to go at him and find the discrepancies," Nicosia said.

Nice the way they work "chickens coming home to roost" into an assassination story--Brother Malcolm would be tickled pink..

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:49 PM


Judge Permits Testimony About Fetus Pain (LARRY NEUMEISTER, 3/23/04, Associated Press)

A pediatrician who says a fetus can feel pain during an abortion will be allowed to testify in a legal challenge to a new law banning a type of late-term abortion, a judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Richard Casey ruled Friday that Dr. Kanwaljeet S. Anand can testify as a government witness at a trial scheduled for later this month.

The judge rejected arguments from the National Abortion Federation that the testimony would be irrelevant and unreliable. [...]

The judge said the doctor's testimony will help him assess Congress' findings that the procedure is "brutal and inhumane" and that "the child will fully experience the pain associated with piercing his or her skull and sucking out his or her brain."

Anand has conducted research on pain in fetuses and newborns and concluded that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks of gestation.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the National Abortion Federation, argued that Anand's testimony is insufficient because he will say it is likely but not definite that a fetus experiences pain during late-term abortions.


Posted by David Cohen at 3:15 PM


Hot Cocoa Tops Red Wine And Tea In Antioxidants; May Be Healthier Choice (Science Daily, 11/06/03)

There's sweet news about hot cocoa: Researchers at Cornell University have shown that the popular winter beverage contains more antioxidants per cup than a similar serving of red wine or tea and may be a healthier choice.

The study adds to growing evidence of the health benefits of cocoa and points to a tasty alternative in the quest to maintain a diet rich in healthy antioxidants, chemicals that have been shown to fight cancer, heart disease and aging, the researchers say.

Just so I've got this straight: I should be eating eggs, meat, cheese and cream and washing it down with hot chocolate?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:29 PM


(via Andrew Withers):
Transcript: Clarke Praises Bush Team in '02 (FoxNews, March 24, 2004)

The following transcript documents a background briefing in early August 2002 by President Bush's former counterterrorism coordinator Richard A. Clarke to a handful of reporters, including Fox News' Jim Angle. In the conversation, cleared by the White House on Wednesday for distribution, Clarke describes the handover of intelligence from the Clinton administration to the Bush administration and the latter's decision to revise the U.S. approach to Al Qaeda. Clarke was named special adviser to the president for cyberspace security in October 2001. He resigned from his post in January 2003.

RICHARD CLARKE: Actually, I've got about seven points, let me just go through them quickly. Um, the first point, I think the overall point is, there was no plan on Al Qaeda that was passed from the Clinton administration to the Bush administration.

Second point is that the Clinton administration had a strategy in place, effectively dating from 1998. And there were a number of issues on the table since 1998. And they remained on the table when that administration went out of office — issues like aiding the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, changing our Pakistan policy -- uh, changing our policy toward Uzbekistan. And in January 2001, the incoming Bush administration was briefed on the existing strategy. They were also briefed on these series of issues that had not been decided on in a couple of years.

And the third point is the Bush administration decided then, you know, mid-January, to do two things. One, vigorously pursue the existing policy, including all of the lethal covert action findings, which we've now made public to some extent.

And the point is, while this big review was going on, there were still in effect, the lethal findings were still in effect. The second thing the administration decided to do is to initiate a process to look at those issues which had been on the table for a couple of years and get them decided.

So, point five, that process which was initiated in the first week in February, uh, decided in principle, uh in the spring to add to the existing Clinton strategy and to increase CIA resources, for example, for covert action, five-fold, to go after Al Qaeda.

The sixth point, the newly-appointed deputies — and you had to remember, the deputies didn't get into office until late March, early April. The deputies then tasked the development of the implementation details, uh, of these new decisions that they were endorsing, and sending out to the principals.

Over the course of the summer — last point — they developed implementation details, the principals met at the end of the summer, approved them in their first meeting, changed the strategy by authorizing the increase in funding five-fold, changing the policy on Pakistan, changing the policy on Uzbekistan, changing the policy on the Northern Alliance assistance.

And then changed the strategy from one of rollback with Al Qaeda over the course [of] five years, which it had been, to a new strategy that called for the rapid elimination of al Qaeda. That is in fact the timeline.

QUESTION: When was that presented to the president?

CLARKE: Well, the president was briefed throughout this process.

QUESTION: But when was the final September 4 document? (interrupted) Was that presented to the president?

CLARKE: The document went to the president on September 10, I think.

QUESTION: What is your response to the suggestion in the [Aug. 12, 2002] Time [magazine] article that the Bush administration was unwilling to take on board the suggestions made in the Clinton administration because of animus against the — general animus against the foreign policy?

CLARKE: I think if there was a general animus that clouded their vision, they might not have kept the same guy dealing with terrorism issue. This is the one issue where the National Security Council leadership decided continuity was important and kept the same guy around, the same team in place. That doesn't sound like animus against uh the previous team to me.

JIM ANGLE: You're saying that the Bush administration did not stop anything that the Clinton administration was doing while it was making these decisions, and by the end of the summer had increased money for covert action five-fold. Is that correct?

CLARKE: All of that's correct.

Man, this guy must be hanging around Kerry, he's on both sides of all these issues too.

Posted by David Cohen at 12:07 PM


Man Who Killed Armed Intruder Jailed Eight Years (Will Batchelor, PA News, 3/23/04)

A man who stabbed to death an armed intruder at his home was jailed for eight years today. . . .

When the gang tried to rob him he grabbed a samurai sword and stabbed one of them, 37-year-old Stephen Swindells, four times. . . .

After the case, Detective Chief Inspector Sam Haworth said: “Four men, including the victim, had set out purposefully to rob Carl Lindsay and this intent ultimately led to Stephen Swindells’ death.

“I believe the sentences passed today reflect the severity of the circumstances.”

I've read the quote over and over, and I can't for the life of me figure out what Detective Chief Inspector Haworth is saying. For our foreign visitors, in the US it would be more likely that the other robbers would be tried and convicted for Swindells' death than that the victim would. Oh, and in the US the "victim" would be the stabber, not the stabbee.

ETA: This must be misreporting, mustn't it?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:23 AM


The End of Europe? (Niall Ferguson, March 4, 2004, AEI Bradley Lecture)

When we look closely at the way in which the European Union is evolving and try to set its evolution in some kind of historical perspective, I believe it becomes apparent that, far from approaching a kind of parity with the United States, whether in economic and cultural and political or in international terms, in reality the European Union is an entity on the brink of decline and perhaps ultimately even of dissolution.

Now, for the avoidance of doubt, I'm not saying that the European Union will disappear as an institution in our lifetimes. Institutions, in Europe particularly, tend not to disappear. They just decline in their power. Like, for example, today's Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development--once the prototype of a far larger post-Marshall Aid European union, today a harmless agency for gathering data and producing economic reports. And ladies and gentlemen, Europe is littered with such agencies, which once embodied grandiose plans--think, for example, of the Bank for International Settlements or the International Labor Organization. There's scarcely a European capital without the relic of some past plan for great greater European integration.

My suggestion is not that the European Union will vanish, but simply that its institutions are in danger of atrophying and that it, too, may one day be no more than a humble data-gathering agency with expensive but impotent offices in the city of Brussels and elsewhere.

Let me try to illustrate to you why I think this is. There are really three parts to my argument, one of which is quite obvious and I will deal with as swiftly as possible. And that is, essentially, to point out why so many of these signs of rapid integration and of approaching parity with the United States are false signs.

The second and more interesting part of the argument has to do with a fundamental historical insight into the way that the European Union or, to be precise, the process of European integration, has always functioned from its very inception until the present. I want to draw on the work of recent scholars, not all of which will be known to you, to suggest that there is a key to understanding the process of European integration, and that key can be summed up in a single phrase: German gravy.

Finally, having bored you near to unconsciousness with economics, I will soar away from such dry matter and offer a third cultural argument to the effect that Europe may not only experience a kind of institutional decline, but that its very culture is in itself authentically, and in the true sense of the word, decadent. So my conclusion will be as much cultural as economic.

First, the economics. In every year of the last decade but one--that was 2001--the economy of the United States has grown in real terms faster than that of the European Union. In every year but two out of the last nine years, productivity has grown faster in the United States than in Europe. If you look at the average of unemployment--and these are the standardized measures of unemployment that the OECD uses--you can see that on average over the last decade unemployment in the European Union has been double what it has been in the United States.

Why is this? I think there are two ways of explaining European economic under-performance in the past decade. One of them is that the labor market and indeed markets generally are less flexible than those of the United States. The other is simply that the monetary policy of the European Central Bank has been somewhat inept, or at least somewhat unbalanced, in the way that it has treated the different members of the euro zone.

The key point about economic under-performance in Europe is that it is principally, or at least predominantly, a German story. It is richly ironic that only 20 years ago scholars were warning that Germany--along, of course, with Japan--was going to surpass the United States among the world’s biggest economies. In truth, those of us who were living in Germany in the 1980s could see an impending economic crisis in that country, a crisis that German reunification temporarily postponed in an orgy of deficit finance and subsidized consumption.

Now we see the reality. There is a profound problem in the German economy that would be there whether the Bundesbank was still in charge of monetary policy in that country or not. The problem is worsened by the fact that, under the ECB, interest rates in Germany are probably around 100 basis points higher than they should be. And given that the German economy is roughly a third of the economy of the euro zone, an unhealthy Germany is an unhealthy European economy.

I want to add a little footnote to this story. If you look closely at man-hour statistics-comparing the productivity of, say, a Frenchman in a single hour with that of his American counterpart--there is in fact nothing to choose between them. As a worker, a Frenchman is just as efficient as an American. It's less true in the case of a German worker, but the difference is not huge. One of the biggest differences in economic terms between Western Europe and the United States has been an astonishing divergence in working hours. In the past decade or so, Americans have steadily worked more hours per year. In fact, according to figures from the OECD, the average American in employment works nearly 2,000 hours a year--and hours a year are a good measure of just how much work people are doing. The average German, ladies and gentlemen, works fully 22 percent less of the year.

Between 1979 and the present, the length of the working year grew in the United States. Or, if you want to put it in more conventional terms, the vacation shrank. Precisely the opposite happened in Europe. In Europe, working hours diminished, vacations grew. Labor participation also diminished. Fewer and fewer of the population actually entered the labor market altogether. And that in many ways explains that differential in GDP growth rates as well as anything I could suggest to you. It's a little hint of what I'm going to say in a minute, that this, I think, is more than just an economic phenomenon. In some ways it is a symptom of that cultural malaise in Europe that I want to see as a critical part of the end of Europe.

To put it very crudely, it is the work ethic itself that has declined and fallen. And it is, I think, noteworthy that the decline in working hours is most pronounced in what were once distinctly Protestant countries of northwestern Europe. Once. [...]

There's been some very good work on the history of European integration done recently. It hasn't been, I think, widely enough understood or received. Perhaps the most interesting work has been produced by the venerable British economic historian Alan Milward, but it's also been complemented by the young Harvard historian Andrew Moravcsik. Between them, working independently, they've arrived at a new interpretation--and I think it deserves to be called a new interpretation--of why European integration happened at all after the Second World War.

Instead of the conventional view that a few saintly figures, like Jean Monnet, realized a vision of European integration to prevent the recurrence of war in Europe and generally make everybody happier and better off, they argue that, beginning with the negotiations that produced the European Coal and Steel Community, the nation states of Western Europe made very limited concessions of sovereignty in the pursuit of the national economic interest---or, to be quite specific, in pursuit of the interests of well represented economic groups within their societies, principally heavy industry and small agriculture.

If one understands the process of European integration in these terms--essentially an economically driven set of deals between still largely sovereign nation states--one thing becomes abundantly clear. And that is, ladies and gentlemen, that from the very outset this process relied on what I rather crudely called a moment ago "German gravy." It was the Germans who, from the very word go, were prepared to subsidize the other parties in the process of European integration.

To give you just one example: The fundamental bottom line of the coal and steel community was that German taxpayers would prop up the inefficient coal mines of Belgium at the cost of hundreds of thousands of marks. In the same way, it was German taxpayers who paid the development aid to the French colonial empire, aid that was an integral part of the Treaty of Rome.

It's often forgotten that where the British saw a choice between empire and Europe, and dithered and hesitated about that choice, the French did what I always do whenever I see a choice. They said, "We'll have both, please." Not only did the French seek to retain their African empire and what was left of their Asian empire within the structures of the emerging European community, but, with a brilliant stroke of diplomacy, they insisted that the other five members that signed the Treaty of Rome should subsidize their colonies. And so it was that, in an extraordinary deal, Konrad Adenauer agreed to payments to French colonies that came very largely from German taxpayers. Likewise, the Common Agricultural Policy, which became the single largest item in the budget of the European community, was from its very inception underwritten by net contributions from German taxpayers. That was how it worked.

If you add up all the--to use the technical term--unrequited transfers that Germany has paid through the European budget since its inception, one of the most striking facts that I can offer you is that the total exceeds the amount that Germany was asked to pay in reparations after the First World War. It is more than 132 billion marks, the sum that the Germans in the 1920s insisted would bankrupt them if they paid it. Well, they finally did pay it. They paid it not as reparations, but as net contributions to the European budget. [...]

But ladies and gentlemen, I didn't come here this evening to make a purely economic argument. What I've said I think is in fact a sufficient argument to explain the end of the process of European integration as we have known it up until this point. But I have one last argument to make that is not, in the end, an economic argument at all.

The fundamental problem that Europe faces, more serious than anything I've mentioned so far, is senescence. It's a problem that we all face as individuals to varying degrees, but from society to society the problem of senescence, of growing old, varies hugely. In the year 2050, which is less remote than it may at first sound, current projections by the United Nations suggest that the median age of the European Union countries, the EU 15, will rise from 38 to 49. The median age will rise in the United States, too, though less sharply. (I wish I had time to tell you about the problems that you are going to face, because then it would stop you feeling the complacency that you may have begun to feel this evening.)

The situation in the United States is not great at all in this respect, but it is--and I believe this is the most one can say--better than the situation of the European Union. The German population is projected to decline absolutely from 82 to 67 million between now and 2050. Falling populations will be a characteristic feature of the once globally dominant societies of Western Europe. An increase in retirement ages would help only slightly, but it is not an adequate answer to the problems that already beset the social security systems of Western Europe. The implicit liabilities of the German social security system at the moment are currently around about 270 percent of German GDP. There are problems with the social security and Medicare systems in this country--very serious problems indeed. But the problems in Europe are much worse, and they will bite politically much sooner.

There is only one way out for this continent, and that is immigration. There is an obvious source of youthful workers who aspire to a better standard of living. All around Europe there are countries whose birth rate is more than twice the European average, indeed, significantly more than twice. The trouble is that nearly all these countries are predominantly Muslim. Not only that, but there is, right next door to the European Union, in fact between the European Union and Iraq, a country that now has a very plausible claim to European Union membership. And that country is Turkey.

Turkey's per capita income is in fact, by some measures, higher than that of Hungary, Latvia, and Lithuania, all of which are about to enter the European Union--certainly higher than those Balkan economies that hope to be in the next, or next but one, wave. The arguments against Turkish membership--and the Turks have been pressing for some form of membership since the 1980s--are getting weaker and weaker. And you know the only one that is left? It's one most often heard among German conservatives, but occasionally it slips out of a French mouth, too. That argument is a cultural argument. It is the argument that Europe is fundamentally a Christian entity; that the European Union is a kind of latter day secular version of Christendom.

Ladies and gentlemen, I only wish that were true. The reality is--and it is perhaps the most striking cultural phenomenon of our times--that Western and Eastern Europe are no longer in any meaningful sense Christian societies. They are quite clearly post-Christian--indeed, in many respects, post-religious--societies. In the Netherlands, Britain, Germany, Sweden, and Denmark, less than 1 in 10 of the population attends church even once a month. A clear majority do not attend church at all. There are now more Muslims in England than Anglican communicants. More Muslims attend mosque on a weekly basis than Anglicans attend church. In the recent Gallup Millennium Survey of Religious Attitudes conducted just a couple of years ago, more than half of all Scandinavians said that God did not matter to them at all. This, it seems to me, makes the claim to a fundamental Christian inheritance not only implausible but also downright bogus in Europe. The reality is that Europeans inhabit a post-Christian society that is economically, demographically, but, in my view, above all culturally a decadent society.

They cannot, though they will try, resist forever the migration that must inevitably occur from south and from east. They will try. Indeed, they try even now to resist the migration that really ought legally to be permissible from the new member states to the old member states after May the 1st. Even that has become contentious. Increasingly, European politics is dominated by a kind of dance of death as politicians and voters try desperately and vainly to prop up the moribund welfare states of the post-Second World War era, but above all to prop up what little remains of their traditional cultures.

Here's something to consider: John Kerry may very well be the last Atlanticist candidate of the major parties. Europe simply doesn't matter anymore except to the bicoastal intellectuals.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:09 AM


A Dance to the (Disco) Music of Time: A review of Homosexuality and Civilization, by Louis Crompton (John Derbyshire, March 16, 2004, Claremont Review of Books)

We are, as everyone knows, living in the, or a, "gay moment." One of the consequences is that we have to put up with a great deal of homosexualist propaganda. (I favor the usage "homosexualist" for people who are activist about their sexual orientation, versus "homosexual" for people who are merely, and privately, homosexual. I admit, though, that my attempts to promote this—it seems to me, useful and non-insulting—usage have fallen mostly on stony ground.) Among homosexualists there are many whose devotion to what Christopher Isherwood famously called "my kind" is as intense as anything that can be shown by the followers of any religion or political ideology.

One aspect of this devotion is the urge to recruit long-dead historical names to the Cause—to comb through history seeking out gayness. Since history is, much more often than not, a very ambiguous affair, an explorer of this inclination can return with many trophies, which he will then display triumphantly to us dull-witted, unimaginative breeders, revealing to us that the human race is, contrary to our narrow brutish prejudices, a very ocean of gayness. Julius Caesar? Gay! Jesus of Nazareth? Gay! Leonardo? Gay! Frederick the Great? Gay! All of them-gay, gay, gay! I do not recall having seen it argued that George Washington was gay, but I have not the slightest doubt that the argument has been made by somebody, somewhere.

Louis Crompton's Homosexuality and Civilization belongs to this genre of homo-prop. It has, I should say here up front, many virtues. Crompton has done prodigies of literary and historical research across a wide range. His sources are for the most part secondary, but they could hardly be otherwise in a book of this scope. Nobody has real expertise on both ancient Greece and feudal Japan. He writes well for an academic (Crompton is Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Nebraska), and the book is beautifully produced, with a high standard of copy editing and many fine plates to please the eye.

Certainly Crompton has a bill of goods to sell, but there we come to matters of personal taste in reading. You either like didactic history, or you don't. I myself like it very much, to the degree that I even like it when an author writes contrary to my own prejudices. We—the readers of this fine periodical, I mean—are not gaping rubes, to be lured from the straight and narrow by a silver-tongued swindler. We have powers of judgment, which we can apply to an author's reasoning, and we have knowledge, which we can compare with the facts he presents. Crompton left me unconvinced on his main point, but he proved thoughtful, and entertained me along the way. As propaganda goes, this is a superior specimen.

Don't know about General Washington, but ole Abe was outed a few years back.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:05 AM


Romney's national profile rises (Frank Phillips, 3/24/2004, Boston Globe)

Governor Mitt Romney's national profile has risen significantly over the last year, as he created a broad fund-raising machine, developed closer ties to President Bush, and became the chief GOP leader in a state that is home to both the likely Democratic presidential nominee and that party's convention.

A perfect storm of events -- including the convention, gay marriage, and John F. Kerry's presidential candidacy -- has created a swirl of national media attention for Romney, a marked contrast to his lower profile when he took office in January 2003.

Romney's new image will be on display tomorrow when he hosts a Boston fund-raiser for Bush that is expected to raise $1 million and further foster his links to the president, who had hosted Romney at the White House for two nights shortly before the president endorsed a federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

By every indication, Romney and his staff are relishing his emerging role, even while insisting that the events are not of his making. They said the governor's increasing national role is being thrust on him because of the events rooted in Boston. [...]

The national attention has forced Romney to try to quash speculation about his future. He fended off a leading question Monday night from WBZ radio personality David Brudnoy about replacing vice president Dick Cheney, and laughed along with Bush when the president joked to a St. Patrick's Day breakfast that Romney would have to wait until 2008 to run for the White House.

Though the GOP does not have the same tradition of MA politicians routinely winning the NH presidential primary, Governor Romney's proximity would have to make him an early favorite to succeed President Bush--though Jeb Bush, Vice President Rice, John McCain and others will make for perhaps the most formidable field in U.S. history.

Posted by David Cohen at 8:58 AM


U.S. OK’d plan to topple Taliban a day before 9/11, Panel report faults intelligence, lack of will (MSNBC, 3/23/04)

After years of delay caused by inadequate intelligence, the U.S. government decided just one day before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that it would try to overthrow the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan if a diplomatic push to expel Osama bin Laden from the country failed, the independent panel investigating the attacks reported Tuesday. . . .

The report alleges that the Clinton and Bush administrations moved slowly against the al-Qaida terror network in the years before the attacks, partly because they lacked detailed intelligence that would have allowed a military strike and partly because they preferred to explore diplomatic alternatives. As a result, bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders were able to elude capture repeatedly.

So, the criticism is that we should have acted pre-9/11 in Afghanistan the way we acted in post-9/11 Iraq and in post-9/11 Iraq the way we acted in pre-9/11 Afghanistan?

I'm all for holding people responsible for being wrong ex post, even if they seemed to be right ex ante. (This is almost a religious view. It flows from my scepticism about the inherent limits of human knowledge. Also, some people just seem to have a knack for being right ex post beyond what chance would allow for. Because I don't think those people are necessarily beloved of G-d, this doesn't quite edge over into religion.) This, however, seems to me to be something a little different: a sort of situational analysis that measures human action against perfection. We went into Iraq in part because of the lessons of 9/11. Intelligence is always lacking. There are always gaps and they are always filled by guessing. Pre-9/11 we thought we could wait for certainty, not because we thought Al Qaeda wouldn't act but because we thought we were willing to take whatever damage their first (ok, fifth) strike would inflict.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:54 AM


Edwards ousted as 'Morning Edition' host (Peter Johnson, 3/24/04, USA TODAY)

Bob Edwards, whose smoky, understated delivery on Morning Edition draws 13 million listeners a week to National Public Radio, is out as host after 25 years.

The surprise move at the nation's No. 1-rated morning radio show comes amid a reassessment of programming at NPR, where executives are discussing how to use a $200 million bequest in November from Joan Kroc, wife of McDonald's founder Ray Kroc.

Edwards will become a senior correspondent, and his work will air on Morning Edition and other NPR broadcasts.

The ouster surprised Edwards, 56, who has hosted the show since its inception in 1979. He was told two weeks ago that his last day is April 30.

"They want somebody else. They're taking the program in a new direction. Those aren't my words," Edwards said Tuesday. "I am not totally clear what it is I am going to be doing, but whatever it is, I'm looking forward to doing it. I'm trying to focus on the positive."

Change for the sake of change is always a bad idea. He's terrific and should have had the job until he didn't want it anymore.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 AM


Weapons of Mass Sedition: Can a sacred music festival lure us away from violence and toward reason? (Larry Blumenfeld, March 23rd, 2004, Village Voice)

I flew to Casablanca on my way to last year's Fez Sacred Music Festival just three weeks after terrorist bombings shook Morocco. Everywhere were public-service billboards bearing the Hand of Fatima, a symbol of protection for Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Scholars and cab drivers alike told me that the slogan, in Arabic and French—"Don't lay a hand on our country"—was directed at terrorists and fundamentalist Muslims.

Set in Morocco's northern Middle Atlas region, Fez is among the oldest of Islamic holy cities, a center of learning since the founding of Qaraouine University in the ninth century. It boasts a history of religious tolerance: Many of the Muslims and Jews expelled from Spain in the 15th century ended up there. I'd arrived for a week of sacred music and consciousness-raising. Yet little prepared me for how the first sacred sounds I'd encounter would affect my consciousness. A 3 a.m. muezzin's call to prayer, issued from mosque minarets in all directions, woke me. I'd heard this before, right down to the vocal embellishments, from the Sephardic cantor in my childhood Brooklyn synagogue.

Morocco is ruled by a monarchy, but its constitutional reforms and civil society stand in contrast to most Islamic states. Sufism, the mystical humanist face of Islam, is represented in Fez by the many brotherhoods active there. Embodied as it is in the tenor of daily life and high-level policy-making, the Moroccan Sufi spirit is akin to the voice of liberalism here—a force for moderation and inclusion.

Fez native and Sufi scholar Faouzi Skali first initiated a film festival in the wake of the first Gulf war. He dubbed it Desert Colloquium, after Desert Storm. "It was a modest response," he told me over mint tea in Fez last year, "and it has kept on evolving." What it evolved into is the current Fez Festival of Sacred Music. "Music seemed more elemental," he explained, "and it got around barriers of language."

The Moroccan festival has included Buddhist and Native American music, but its focus remains the unity of the three Abrahamic traditions: Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. And for the past three years, among the festival's most resonant sounds has been people simply talking.

Morocco, mind you, is one of those places that people who hate religion say can never be a decent liberal society because it is Islamic.

March 23, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:27 PM


Why Do They Hate Us? (Ilya Shapiro, 03/23/2004, Tech Central Station)

In the end, anti-Americanism boils down to the timeless disgust with America's daring to export its idea of liberty to the four corners of the globe. Whether via gunboat diplomacy, realpolitik, humanitarian intervention, or the current blend of preemptive strikes and trade liberalization -- despite intermittent rollbacks at the behest of groaning industrial-age unions and its John Edwards demagogues -- it is anathema to the Old World mind (and its Rousseauean influence in the New World) that a nation would choose to pursue other than parochial mercantilist interests. This is why French companies violated the sanctions against post-Gulf War Iraq while the chattering class decried the Yankee drive to trade blood for oil. It is why Vladimir Putin is a supposedly faithful partner in the war against Islamic terrorism while selling nuclear reactors to Iran. And it is the reason that, unfortunately, Europeans consider the United States to be the second-most dangerous country in the world -- second only to the sole democracy in the Middle East.

To oversimplify the point, Europeans (like New Yorkers) are cynical, and cannot comprehend the "shining city upon a hill." They can't help it; their Enlightenment was essentially French and positivistic, rather than Scottish and natural law-oriented. Still, it is amusing to observe the simultaneous attacks on America from what roughly corresponds to the political left and right, for being an insufficient promoter of "social justice" while reveling too much in proletarian culture. Such is the paradox of this irrational anti-Americanism.

This, in a nutshell, is the radicalism of George W. Bush, though it is implicit in our Founding and played out in much of our history--and all of our wars--since. It is, in essence, the application of Judeo-Christian principles to foreign policy--requiring us to intervene in places like the Middle East not because any particular interest of ours will be advanced but because they are our neighbors, because they too are Created and have inalienable rights, and because we are obligated to love them. Presidents from Lincoln to Reagan have found that the nation can be rallied to such causes when sufficiently provoked, but that it is difficult to sustain such an inherently selfless crusade for long. President Bush then is taking a considerable risk when he says:
This nation is prosperous and strong, yet we need to remember the sources of America's greatness. We're strong because we love freedom. America has a special charge to keep, because we are freedom's home and defender. We believe that freedom is the deepest need and hope of every human heart. We believe that freedom is the future of every nation, and we know that freedom is not America's gift to the world, it is the Almighty God's gift to every man and woman in this world.

and tries to make this faith the cornerstone of our foreign policy.

If he fails to convince people that this ambition is worthwhile, they'll gladly dump him and turn to John Kerry, who they think will restore our more typical isolationist posture. But if President Bush can drag a wisely reluctant citizenry along behind him, he will become one of the most important figures in human history. That sounds like a mouthful, no? But just imagine five more years (or 9 or 13 or 17 or however many succeeding administrations it takes) of constant pressure on the globe's most dysfunctional polities and what kind of salutary effect it could have.

Mind--we needn't turn the whole Islamic world and the few Communist remnants and the various other dictatorships into mini-Americas in that time. All we need do is get them firmly on the path that leads to the End of History and give them a shove. That in itself would be epochal.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:54 PM


The Nose Knows: The Bombing of the Al Shifa Pharmaceutical Plant in Sudan is one of Clinton's lamest lies— but who cares? (Jason Vest, March 10 - 16, 1999, Village Voice)

[W]hile the Domestic Lie will draw the wrath of Congress and the independent counsel and whip the Fourth Estate into a frenzy that flings all else aside, the National Security Lie -- though more blatant and consequential -- will be granted and allowed to fly off into the horizon of memory.

Case in point: Last August's obliteration of the Al Shifa pharmaceutical plant in the Sudan. Two Fridays ago, the Al Shifa's owner, Salah Idris, filed lawsuits against the U.S. government in Washington and San Francisco to release millions of dollars the Treasury Department ordered frozen last year, not long after the Defense Department -- on instructions of the commander in chief -- destroyed Idris's Khartoum plant with 13 cruise missiles on the heels of Clinton's grand jury testimony in the Lewinsky matter. The grounds for converting the Al Shifa to rubble, some may recall, were that the plant was supposedly the weapons-of-mass-destruction arm of new U.S. foreign policy bogeyman Osama bin Laden's international terror empire, churning out precursor chemicals to concoct VX nerve gas. At first, the U.S. government asserted that Al Shifa was financed by Bin Laden; upon finding out it wasn't, the government said that Idris was a front man, a Bin Laden confederate, and, despite not being on the State Department's list of "designated terrorists" (yes, Virginia, there is such a thing), the Sudanese-Saudi banking and investment magnate would have to deal with his U.S.-held millions being put into stasis. [...]

Immediately after the bombing, the U.S. propagated the notion that Al Shifa had vats of lethal brew ready for action. Indeed, unnamed government sources told U.S. News & World Report that this was old news: that Al Shifa "had been in the Pentagon's inventory of targets for several years," and that "one final step" before loosing the Tomahawks was running "computer models of the risk that explosions at the chemical factory would unleash a plume of poison gas across Sudan." However, when it quickly became evident that the plant was not the "clear and immediate danger" that Clinton had declared it to be, backpedaling commenced: the scientific basis for the attack was a soil sample containing EMPTA, a non-lethal VX precursor.

No more details than that, sayeth the White House, in the name of protecting intelligence "sources and methods." However, everyone from an EMPTA authority at Oxford's chemistry department to the American Chemical Society has pointed out that the presence of commercially used EMPTA proves nothing. According to a recent issue of ACS's Chemical & Engineering News, the administration's refusal to examine the results of Professor Tullius's investigation, and its contention that intelligence activities would be "jeopardized by disclosing the amount found, the analytical techniques used, or the other chemicals detected . . . [serve] only to exacerbate people's disbelief of the U.S. government's claims."

No matter. On January 22, as demonstrated in The Washington Post, the government's story underwent yet another permutation. Currently, according to White House terrorism czar Richard Clarke, the U.S. is "sure" that the Iraqis were the sinister force behind Al Shifa, producing what the Post characterized as "powdered VX-like substance at the plant that, when mixed with bleach and water, would have become fully active nerve gas." This, says Professor Tullius, strains credulity: "Bleach is often used to detoxify nerve agents," he says. "Using bleach to activate an agent makes no sense." While the Iraqi and Sudanese militaries are known to have collaborated on limited munitions projects, says investigative reporter Frank Smyth, there is nothing linking these endeavors to Al Shifa or Bin Laden. "It looks like the administration acted based on inferences drawn from pieces of intelligence they presumed were connected," he says.

That seems to be about par for the Clinton foreign policy course. According to the intelligence agent who once hung his cloak and dagger in Khartoum, behind every intelligence failure is a policy failure, and, he says, one has to question the U.S. approach to Sudan. Currently controlled by a government with a horrible human rights record -- which is at war with Christian and animist rebels with somewhat less horrible human rights records -- the Khartoum government has been the focus of a hard-line approach by a clique of U.S. foreign policy officials: Berger, Clarke, Madeline Albright, and Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Susan Rice. This has been the case despite Khartoum's attempts at international outreach, through acts such as delivering Carlos the Jackal to the French and expelling Osama bin Laden for the U.S. ("The Sudanese aren't sweethearts, but even the Taliban in Afghanistan get more respect than Khartoum does," a rueful mid-level State Department official says.) If the U.S. government is serious about neutralizing threats of Islamist terrorism from Sudan, says former Sudanese foreign minister Francis Deng, it should try to understand this famine-plagued country and work to change it from the inside rather than bombing it.

So we bombed the Sudan instead of really going after Osama just because Richard Clarke has some weird obsession with Iraq, right?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:32 PM


What's That in Your Shirt Pocket?: The Rev. Al Green talks about his spirit and what happened when God found his stash (Peter S. Scholtes, 3/24/04, City Pages)

City Pages: A question from the old days: What was "Take Me to the River" about, anyway?

Al Green: I wrote the song, "Take me to the river/Wash me down/Cleanse my soul/Put my feet on the ground." That's what I wrote down. Now, [guitarist] Teenie Hodges and Willie Mitchell wrote, "I don't know why you treat me so bad," and "took all my cigarettes," and da-da-da. I didn't write none of that. I wrote, "Put my feet on the ground." That's what I wanted. And at that time my feet definitely wasn't on the ground. Far from it. I was zinging away, I'm telling you.

CP: Do you still feel like your feet aren't on the ground sometimes?

Green: No, no. I asked to be delivered from that. And I was delivered from it. God said to me, "You have to pray about this. Now what I want you to do is...uh, what's that in your shirt pocket?"

I'm going like, "Huh? Oh, well, there's some junk up in it. But I just bought this." [laughs]

The man says, "Well, when you need my help, you call me."

I say, "Hold it, hold it. I need your help."

So he says, "Okay, speed up a little bit. Take the bottle out of the bag, roll down the window, start shaking. Ah ah ah, don't look back. Keep going."

Honestly, I never talk about that. But that really did happen. And since that time, I haven't done that. It's a waste of time, a waste of your money, a waste of your life. You betray your children, you betray yourself. I don't need that. I need to be... [breaks into song] "I don't know why/I love you like I do."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:26 PM


Karl Rove's Moment: How "Bush's Brain" hijacked Washington, D.C. and politics-as-usual (Steve Perry, 3/24/04, City Pages)

To speak of Karl Rove's successes is to speak of the failures and corruptions of American politics and public life. They are two expressions of the same thing. Since January and the start of the Democratic presidential campaign, there has been some hint of life in the loyal opposition and the press; American newspapers, led by the big three (New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times), have turned notably more critical in their Bush coverage. Any one of numerous potential scandals still might return to haunt the administration. (One of the figures reportedly implicated in the criminal investigation of the Plame leak is Rove underling I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.) There are also signs that Democrats aren't the only ones in the Washington political establishment feeling anxious about Bush's brazenness and his reckless, sloppy management of economy and empire. This circle is not a great power in electoral politics, but it could lend fuel to a media feeding frenzy, if one arose.

The president could lose this election, as I'm guessing Rove surmised early on. In crafting a campaign that is half poison-pen note, half Hallmark card, he and George W. are wagering against a lot of things: real, and serious, competition from John Kerry and the Democrats; and sustained criticism of Bush in the media. These aren't bad bets. The news media has proven that it does consist mainly of deadline-driven trained seals, most of whom don't know much about the issues in question themselves. But they do know the rules of political theater, and that is what they write about. Rove and the Republicans understand this so much better than the Democrats that in terms of hand-to-hand political combat, it's a little like the Democratic National Committee beer-ball team against the New York Yankees.

John Kerry has been slowly dematerializing in the public imagination since his wrap-up of the nomination came into view. He has made some trenchant criticisms of Bush, but he hasn't made any of them stick. He doesn't know how. It's still possible that Kerry and the Dems could put the White House back on the defensive, force them off their game, but they've been losing that battle for a month now and can't afford to keep losing it much longer.

It doesn't mean Bush is home-free. No matter how well you do political campaigns, there is always the faint chance that too many people will already have seen through you. The amazing thing about 2004 is not that a radical, reckless president has the chance to be reelected; the amazing thing is that, in the face of a political establishment and a news media that rarely said boo to George W. Bush, millions and millions of people have his number anyway. Where the people are concerned, therefore, Karl and W are forced to make a dicier bet--against public memory, decency, and self-interest. It isn't clear yet whether terror fears and "wedge" issues like gay marriage, guns, and religion will once again divert sufficient numbers of people from more pressing matters, such as their own livelihoods. Maybe not.

On the other hand, Karl Rove has yet to lose a race by underestimating the integrity and rationality of American electoral politics.

It's always interesting to see someone totally Blue flail around trying to comprehend Red America. For instance, the idea that you are betraying your own self-interest if you oppose the party of gay marriage, gun control, anti-religion and appeasement of terror reflects a rather profound alienation from the basic values of most Americans.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:27 PM


Editorial: Appalling treatment (Toronto Star, 3/23/04)

Is it fair to boo a U.S.-born Grade 9 girl for carrying an American flag across a stage during a school multiculturalism parade?

Is it fair to insult and use obscene gestures against 11-year-old peewee hockey players from the Boston area because you don't like the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq?

Is there no limit to some Canadians' anti-American anger?

Those questions are being asked again on the one-year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq after a teenager was in tears after being loudly booed as she carried the American flag in a parade of 39 flags representing every nationality in the school.

Not to worry, they'll salute it when they're the 51st star.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:00 PM


L.A. Times Overlooks Details of Kerry's FBI Record (Scott Stanley Jr., 3/30/04, Insight on the News)

News management may have reached an embarrassing low in the Los Angeles Times for March 23 where an article by staff writer John M. Glionna purports to offer selections from the FBI file on soon-to-be Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry, who was under surveillance by the G-Men as a member of the executive board of the pro-Viet Cong Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW).

Presenting items from 50 documents carefully selected from what it reported were 14 boxes of related government papers 12 feet high, the Times confirmed from the FBI and other witnesses that Kerry had resigned from the VVAW leadership in November 1971 at a Kansas City board meeting to run for Congress. For years Kerry claimed that he had resigned after a July 1971 meeting in St. Louis and had not been present for the Kansas City meeting that was moved from venue to venue to try to avoid FBI surveillance of the group's most secret plans.

The reason official confirmation that he did not leave the group until after the Kansas City meeting is important, say specialists on radical activities during the Vietnam era, is that the FBI documents confirm earlier reports by those present that Kerry participated in a closed-door discussion of a proposal to assassinate seven U.S. senators who were special targets of Hanoi, with whose agents selected leaders of VVAW had been meeting. The Los Angeles Times made no mention of this part of the story, broken 10 days earlier in the New York Sun by founding New York Times books editor Tom Lipscomb and since spiked by editors coast to coast.

Any editors from the LA Times attend that Kerry Fan Cub meeting at Al Franken's?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:45 PM


Ex-White House aide defends 9/11 allegations (CNN, 3/23/04)

During the Clinton administration, [former White House counter-terrorism expert Richard Clarke] said, al Qaeda was responsible for the deaths of "fewer than 50 Americans," and Clinton responded with military action, covert CIA action and by supporting United Nations sanctions.

"They stopped al Qaeda in Bosnia," Clarke said, "They stopped al Qaeda from blowing up embassies around the world."

"Contrast that with Ronald Reagan, where 300 [U.S. soldiers] were killed in [a bombing attack in Beirut,] Lebanon, and there was no retaliation," Clarke said. "Contrast that with the first Bush administration where 260 Americans were killed [in the bombing of] Pan Am [Flight] 103, and there was no retaliation."

"I would argue that for what had actually happened prior to 9/11, the Clinton administration was doing a great deal," Clarke said.

Just in case there was any doubt that this is merely partisan bitching.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:59 PM


Hardliner Rantissi named new Hamas chief for Gaza Strip (Amos Harel, Arnon Regular and Uri Ash, 3/23/04, Haaretz)

Abdel Aziz Rantisi on Tuesday became the new "general commander" of Hamas replacing slain Ahmed Yassin, who was assassinated by Israel on Monday.

Immediately after claiming the mantle at the packed Yarmouk Stadium in Gaza, where thousands - including Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia - gathered to pay condolences to the Hamas leadership, the 57-year-old Rantisi went underground, fearing an Israeli attempt on his life.

He should be hiding, because he's a dead man. Before Israel unilaterally creates a state of Palestine it has to kill as many of these guys as it can, because once there is a state such attacks would be acts of war.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 AM


The Enemies of Religious Liberty (James Hitchcock, February 2004, First Things)

It is common for religious believers to lament the Supreme Court's barely concealed hostility to the free exercise of religion, at least since the middle decades of the twentieth century. But in the long term, even more damage is likely to be done by the influence of ideas advocated by a cluster of political and legal theorists in the academy. For these writers, religious liberty itself is a pernicious idea.

The term "liberalism" in recent political theory has been defined, by John Rawls and others, as both an agreement to abide by constitutional principles that provide access to all citizens ("political" liberalism) and as a particular ideological concept of a free and open society ("comprehensive" liberalism). According to Rawls, the "political" notion of liberalism takes no position on ultimate questions of meaning — and it is the ideal to which contemporary liberals should aspire.

Oddly enough, this formulation seems to harmonize with the argument of the Jesuit theologian John Courtney Murray, according to which belief in religious absolutes can be reconciled with the First Amendment of the Constitution by considering it to be an "article of peace" rather than an "article of faith." In this view, one is not obliged to accept any particular philosophical assumptions but must merely agree to respect the Constitution for the sake of civil harmony. As we shall see, despite Rawls endorsement of this Murrayan ideal, many of the most prominent liberals writing today adopt, whether or not they expicitly say so, a radically comprehensive and even imperial version of liberal ideology. [...]

It is religion's claim to articulate the meaning of existence that runs up against Rawlsian "comprehensive" liberalism. As Carter observes, deep faith is both incomprehensible and threatening to the liberal order, which therefore defines religion as irrational, private, and divisive. As J. Judd Owen has pointed out in Religion and the Demise of Liberal Rationalism (2001), the liberal concept of individual freedom tends to create an atmosphere in which religion is tolerated only to the degree that it is deemed harmless: tolerance ends at the point where religion makes strong demands on its adherents.

The strict separationist argument has therefore been extended to what is "private" as well as public. Thus Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson acknowledge in Democracy and Disagreement (1996) that the liberal order threatens religious belief — and they believe it should. Similarly, in Toleration and the Constitution (1986) David A. J. Richards asserts the necessity of fostering "a religion and an ethics that validate the highest-order moral powers of rationality and reasonableness of a free people," which he declares to be "the only kind of religion suitable for a democracy." Richard Rorty likewise proclaims in Truth and Progress (1991) that the "highest achievements of humanity" are incompatible with traditional religion.

Ostensibly the primary political argument against strong religious beliefs is that they threaten civic peace; for this reason, Cass Sunstein argues in The Partial Constitution (1999) that America's founding document decrees "a secular liberal democracy in a way that is intended to minimize religious tension." He thus urges the liberal state to force the intolerant to be tolerant, with government serving as "a divine instrument" for depriving groups of "weapons to use against one another."

But if no deep conflicts are permissible in the liberal state, coercive methods may be necessary to restrain them. As Stanley Fish, no friend of religion, admits, the liberal state is tolerant in inverse proportion to the seriousness of what is at stake and does not achieve its promised neutrality. At the same time, in There's No Such Thing As Free Speech (1994) he ridicules believers for invoking liberal principles on their own behalf, arguing that they should not expect to benefit from liberalism's promises but ought actually to reject them. Wojciech Sadurski similarly argues in Moral Pluralism (1990) that government cannot be neutral towards those who allegedly deny the principle of neutrality itself.

According to Kathleen M. Sullivan of the Stanford University Law School, the "establishment clause" actually establishes a culture from which there can be no legitimate dissent — in which religion is tolerated only "insofar as it is consistent with the establishment of the secular moral order." She candidly admits that "the religion clauses enable the government to endorse a culture of liberal democracy that will predictably clash over many issues with religious subcultures." But believers "must pay for the secular army which engineers the truce among them" for the sake of civil peace. Critics of the theory of evolution, for example, are accused by Sullivan of being in violation of the spirit of the Constitution, which, she claims, has been "shaped by an argument honoring Galileo's defense of empirical rationality against the abuses of Bible interpretation." Hence the state is obligated to encourage "scientific rationality."

It follows logically that churches should be denied the right to be fully self-governing. Thus in A Wall of Separation (1998) Ted Jelen accuses a Catholic bishop who threatens religious sanctions against dissident church members of being guilty of "a religiously based threat to the prerogatives of democratic citizenship." The same charge would be brought against religious officials who express or enforce opposition to homosexual marriages or abortion. Sullivan thinks that churches can be allowed to exclude women from the ranks of the clergy only so long as this does not "impede the functioning of the civil public order." In Please Don't Wish Me a Merry Christmas (1997), Steven Feldman goes so far as to argue against allowing the major Christian denominations to proselytize among non-Christians.

The liberal state, Sadurski argues, should discriminate among religious groups on the basis of how "progressive" each is thought to be, and Rogers Smith insists in Liberalism and American Constitutional Law (1990) that religion can only enjoy constitutional liberties if it undergoes a basic transformation to make itself more "rational" or "self-critical." Going further, Steven Macedo, who explicitly identifies his view as "comprehensive," defines liberalism in The New Right Versus the Constitution (1987) as "a permanently educative order" for the preservation of liberal values and argues that the power of government can be legitimately used against illiberal churches because doing so promotes greater overall freedom. He urges "the right sort of liberal partisanship in all spheres of life," and, despite the Constitution's explicit prohibition of any religious test for public office, he argues that certain religious believers (notably Catholics) can justly be excluded from certain public functions, such as serving as judges. [...]

In identifying the interests of the state, in formulating some concept of the public good, comprehensive liberals exclude religious believers as such from citizenship, even though a very high proportion of citizens define themselves as religious. A large majority of the nation is thus required to acquiesce in the use of governmental authority precisely for the purpose of undermining their own beliefs, even of impairing their ability to inculcate those beliefs in their children. By redefining "free exercise" and exalting the "establishment clause," separationists have in effect "established" their own hostility to religion.

Extreme separationists justify restraints on religious liberty on the grounds that religion tends to foment divisiveness. But they impose no such restraints on divisiveness of a secular kind. Ironically, liberals who are quick to detect signs of political repression even in democratic societies now justify the restriction of religious liberty on precisely the grounds traditionally used to justify political repression — that full freedom cannot be granted to those who allegedly would use it to undermine the regime of freedom. It is, to say the least, paradoxical to restrict religion undemocratically because it is deemed to be insufficiently supportive of democracy.

One Nation, Enriched by Biblical Wisdom (DAVID BROOKS, March 23, 2004, NY Times)
[T]onight's reading assignment is A Stone of Hope by David L. Chappell.

A Stone of Hope is actually a history of the civil rights movement, but it's impossible to read the book without doing some fundamental rethinking about the role religion can play in schools and public life. [...]

Chappell argues that the civil rights movement was not a political movement with a religious element. It was a religious movement with a political element. [...]

[The Reverend Martin Luther] King had a more accurate view of political realities than his more secular liberal allies because he could draw on biblical wisdom about human nature. Religion didn't just make civil rights leaders stronger — it made them smarter.

Whether you believe in God or not, the Bible and commentaries on the Bible can be read as instructions about what human beings are like and how they are likely to behave. Moreover, this biblical wisdom is deeper and more accurate than the wisdom offered by the secular social sciences, which often treat human beings as soulless utility-maximizers, or as members of this or that demographic group or class.

Whether the topic is welfare, education, the regulation of biotechnology or even the war on terrorism, biblical wisdom may offer something that secular thinking does not — not pat answers, but a way to think about things.

For example, it's been painful to watch thoroughly secularized Europeans try to grapple with Al Qaeda. The bombers declare, "You want life, and we want death"— a (fanatical) religious statement par excellence. But thoroughly secularized listeners lack the mental equipment to even begin to understand that statement. They struggle desperately to convert Al Qaeda into a political phenomenon: the bombers must be expressing some grievance. This is the path to permanent bewilderment.

We need not speculate too deeply on whether it is their specific intent or not, but it must be obvious that the effect of the Left's demand that religion be driven from the public sphere is to destroy the very foundations of the rather minimalist Republic that the Founders established. Do away with right understanding of human nature; abolish the internal morality that is required to restrain men; and you not only make the evil that men do incomprehensible, you've no choice but to revert to a thoroughgoing statism in order to control these suddenly inexplicable creatures.

Thus does the call for tolerance, which cloaks itself in the language of liberalism, work instead to subvert liberal democracy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:58 AM


Catholic + American = ?: How a communal body made its peace with liberal democracy.: a review of Catholicism and American Freedom: A History by John T. McGreevy (Allen Guelzo, March/April 2004, Books & Culture)

[M]cGreevy is...a great noticer of irony, and the principal irony of Catholicism and American Freedom is that the 1940s were precisely the moment when long-dormant Catholic voices calling for assimilation and accommodation to liberal democracy began to clear their throats and be heard. The twin horrors of fascism and communism persuaded many Catholics—and McGreevy focuses strongly on Jacques Maritain—that visions of paradisiacal communities, including those based on class or race, were delusions, and that liberal democracy, whatever its problems, was an infinitely safer bet for Catholics than the fascism of Franco, Petain, Salazar, and the Anschluss. In the United States, legal disputes over schools and local tax revenues found Catholics deploying church-state-separation arguments to demand equal treatment; the American Jesuit John Courtney Murray argued for a reconciliation of Catholicism and American democracy, even if the price was a cautious endorsement of individualism. And the proof was in the presidential pudding. John F. Kennedy was narrowly elected president in 1960, despite the less-than-discreet questions about whether his loyalty to the Catholic Church was at war with his loyalty to the Constitution, and to the mortification of truculent Protestants, the republic did not end.

All too soon, however, it became apparent that conflict over Catholicism and American freedom, far from disappearing, had only shifted its location, from Catholics v. American culture to Catholics v. Catholics. Every hope of liberal Catholics that the way was now clear for a rapprochement with American life crashed onto the twin rocks of Catholic moral theology: contraception and abortion. The indifference with which the American Catholic laity greeted Paul VI's 1968 encyclical on contraception, Humanae Vitae, suggested that the cultural rapprochement had been a little too successful. "Most Catholic couples rejected the teaching or ignored it," McGreevy admits, and as early as 1964, Catholic physicians were already suggesting that the Church needed to "redefine what is meant by abortion." Intellectually, Catholic theologians heaved overboard the ballast of Thomistic theology as "legalism" and shifted their attention to "the historical, the particular, the individual, the changing and the relational" —the words coming, not from a Protestant situational ethicist, but from Fr. Charles Curran.

But the one unarguable virtue of an ecclesiastical hierarchy which is pledged to the principle of semper eadem is the conviction that there are some rocks on which it would be better if the ship actually broke rather than transforming itself into a sponge, and abortion proved to be one of them. Also, even the most forward liberal Catholics sat uneasily beside the onward rush of American political and legal thought beyond Isaiah Berlin's "two ideas" of liberal democracy and into the embrace of John Rawls and the "third idea" of liberalism as absolute individualistic self-definition (now enshrined in Justice Anthony Kennedy's opinion, striking down the Texas sodomy law).

What is surprising in this regard is how near to success Catholics were in turning back state legislation liberalizing abortion in the early 1970s; it was the overriding intervention of the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton which upset the expectation that the tide of individualism could be resisted by Catholic political strength alone. Still more surprising, and more ironic, was how abortion signaled the end of the alliance between Catholics and Democrats. "A Democratic Party adamant that all abortions remain legal" drove observant Catholics (and the more observant, the more driven) into the unlikely arms of both the Republican Party and Protestant evangelicals. As liberal Protestantism dissolved into mere blue-America secularism, Protestant evangelicalism found itself, for the first time, as deeply alienated from the dominant culture as Catholics had been a century before. It discovered the limits on raging individualism, and then discovered that conservative Catholics also had a controversy with individualism, based on natural law theory.

It is certainly one of the great ironies of American life that Catholicism, once thought incompatible with liberal democracy, is now one of its last remaining bulwarks. Indeed, the alliance of evangelicals and Catholics may be what saves us from the kind of precipitous decline that secular Europe is in the midst of today.

Orestes Brownson and the Truth About America (Peter Augustine Lawler, December 2002, First Things)

With Brownson and Murray, we can say that there is an American tradition of Thomistic realism that opposes itself to the dominant American tradition of contractualism and pragmatism, while also resolutely affirming the achievement of American constitutionalism. We might add to the American Thomist tradition the great literary artists Walker Percy and Flannery O'Connor. Percy, for example, realistically affirmed the truth and goodness of science while also rejecting scientific claims that do not acknowledge the reality of the distinctive excellence, and destiny, of human beings.

Brownson and Murray teach us the important lesson that the beliefs we hold in common as Americans must really be true if our liberty is to be defensible. Where Brownson goes beyond Murray is in his robust defense of the necessarily national or territorial character of democracy. This was arguably his keenest insight--and one that contemporary Catholics, in America and elsewhere, inclined as they are toward skepticism of national sovereignty and admiration of transpolitical institutions, would do well to ponder.

For Brownson, national solidarity is a natural human potential rooted in necessary human dependence. It also accords with the real but limited human powers of knowing and loving one another. The universality of reason and even religion, given our natural possibilities and limitations, cannot be the model for political order. The proper political form is thus the nation, the modern equivalent of the polis. Brownson thought national solidarity perfectly compatible with the solidarity of the human race through reason and faith, as long as the state was properly oriented toward the truth.

Given our need to flourish as social but limited beings, government deserves our love, loyalty, and obedience. "Loyalty," Brownson writes, "is the highest, noblest, and most generous of human virtues, and is the human element of that sublime love or charity which the inspired Apostle tells us is the fulfillment of the law." Loyalty is more specifically human or particular than the supernatural virtue of charity. And charity cannot replace loyalty as a political or national passion. So Christianity elevates "civic virtues to the rank of religious virtues [by] making loyalty a matter of conscience." Brownson even asserts that "he who dies on the battlefield fighting for his country ranks with him who dies at the stake for his faith." More precisely, "Civic virtues are themselves religious virtues, or at least virtues without which there are no religious virtues, since no man who does not love his brother does or can love God." Human beings approach the universal through the particular, and love of the personal Creator cannot be separated from other particular human beings. Human love is never for human beings in general. All men are brothers, but men come to know brotherly love only when they experience political solidarity with their fellow citizens.

Through the blessing of the Internet: The American Republic: Constitution, Tendencies, and Destiny (1865) (Orestes A. Brownson)
The ancients summed up the whole of human wisdom in the maxim, Know Thyself, and certainly there is for an individual no more important as there is no more difficult knowledge, than knowledge of himself, whence he comes, whither he goes, what he is, what he is for, what he can do, what he ought to do, and what are his means of doing it.

Nations are only individuals on a larger scale. They have a life, an individuality, a reason, a conscience, and instincts of their own, and have the same general laws of development and growth, and, perhaps, of decay, as the individual man. Equally important, and no less difficult than for the individual, is it for a nation to know itself, understand its own existence, its own powers and faculties, rights and duties, constitution, instincts, tendencies, and destiny. A nation has a spiritual as well as a material, a moral as well as a physical existence, and is subjected to internal as well as external conditions of health and virtue, greatness and grandeur, which it must in some measure understand and observe, or become weak and infirm, stunted in its growth, and end in premature decay and death.

Among nations, no one has more need of full knowledge of itself than the United States, and no one has hitherto had less. It has hardly had a distinct consciousness of its own national existence, and has lived the irreflective life of the child, with no severe trial, till the recent rebellion, to throw it back on itself and compel it to reflect on its own constitution, its own separate existence, individuality, tendencies, and end. The defection of the slaveholding States, and the fearful struggle that has followed for national unity and integrity, have brought it at once to a distinct recognition of itself, and forced it to pass from thoughtless, careless, heedless, reckless adolescence to grave and reflecting manhood. The nation has been suddenly compelled to study itself, and henceforth must act from reflection, understanding, science, statesmanship, not from instinct, impulse, passion, or caprice, knowing well what it does, and wherefore it does it. The change which four years of civil war have wrought in the nation is great, and is sure to give it the seriousness, the gravity, the dignity, the manliness it has heretofore lacked.

Though the nation has been brought to a consciousness of its own existence, it has not, even yet, attained to a full and clear understanding of its own national constitution. Its vision is still obscured by the floating mists of its earlier morning, and its judgment rendered indistinct and indecisive by the wild theories and fancies of its childhood. The national mind has been quickened, the national heart has been opened, the national disposition prepared, but there remains the important work of dissipating the mists that still linger, of brushing away these wild theories and fancies, and of enabling it to form a clear and intelligent judgment of itself, and a true and just appreciation of its own constitution tendencies,--and destiny; or, in other words, of enabling the nation to understand its own idea, and the means of its actualization in space and time.

Every living nation has an idea given it by Providence to realize, and whose realization is its special work, mission, or destiny. Every nation is, in some sense, a chosen people of God. The Jews were the chosen people of God, through whom the primitive traditions were to be preserved in their purity and integrity, and the Messiah was to come. The Greeks were the chosen people of God, for the development and realization of the beautiful or the divine splendor in art, and of the true in science and philosophy; and the Romans, for the development of the state, law, and jurisprudence. The great despotic nations of Asia were never properly nations; or if they were nations with a mission, they proved false to it--, and count for nothing in the progressive development of the human race. History has not recorded their mission, and as far as they are known they have contributed only to the abnormal development or corruption of religion and civilization. Despotism is barbaric and abnormal.

The United States, or the American Republic, has a mission, and is chosen of God for the realization of a great idea. It has been chosen not only to continue the work assigned to Greece and Rome, but to accomplish a greater work than was assigned to either. In art, it will prove false to its mission if it do not rival Greece; and in science and philosophy, if it do not surpass it. In the state, in law, in jurisprudence, it must continue and surpass Rome. Its idea is liberty, indeed, but liberty with law, and law with liberty. Yet its mission is not so much the realization of liberty as the realization of the true idea of the state, which secures at once the authority of the public and the freedom of the individual--the sovereignty of the people without social despotism, and individual freedom without anarchy. In other words, its mission is to bring out in its life the dialectic union of authority and liberty, of the natural rights of man and those of society. The Greek and Roman republics asserted the state to the detriment of individual freedom; modern republics either do the same, or assert individual freedom to the detriment of the state. The American republic has been instituted by Providence to realize the freedom of each with advantage to the other.

The real mission of the United States is to introduce and establish a political constitution, which, while it retains all the advantages of the constitutions of states thus far known, is unlike any of them, and secures advantages which none of them did or could possess. The American constitution has no prototype in any prior constitution. The American form of government can be classed throughout with none of the forms of government described by Aristotle, or even by later authorities. Aristotle knew only four forms of government: Monarchy, Aristocracy, Democracy, and Mixed Governments. The American form is none of these, nor any combination of them. It is original, a new contribution to political science, and seeks to attain the end of all wise and just government by means unknown or forbidden to the ancients, and which have been but imperfectly comprehended even by American political writers themselves. The originality of the American constitution has been overlooked by the great majority even of our own statesmen, who seek to explain it by analogies borrowed from the constitutions of other states rather than by a profound study of its own principles. They have taken too low a view of it, and have rarely, if ever, appreciated its distinctive and peculiar merits.

As the United States have vindicated their national unity and integrity, and are preparing to take a new start in history, nothing is more important than that they should take that new start with a clear and definite view of their national constitution, and with a distinct understanding of their political mission in the future of the world.

The idea that the United States has a mission, that we are in the process of becoming (or of not becoming, as the case may be), is foreign to most people, precisely because we so little understand the the nature of the Constitution and of the Republic that the Founders bequeathed to us. If you get a couple minutes today and want to reflect on America, try reading especially the last two chapters of Brownson's book. Even if you reject them utterly, it would seem useful to ponder what purpose the nation does then serve and whether the ideas that animated the Founding are things we no longer believe in as a people. Because if we don't understand those ideas and/or don't believe in them, then the American Republic will join many other noble experiments in the dustbin of history.

-The Orestes Brownson Society
-ETEXT: New Views of Christianity, Society, and the Church (Orestes A. Brownson)
-ESSAY: Catholicity Necessary To Sustain Popular Liberty (Orestes Brownson,
-ESSAY: Democracy and Liberty (Orestes Brownson)
-Orestes Augustus Brownson Papers (Notre Dame Archives)
-BACKGROUND: Orestes Brownson (Notre Dame Archives)
-Orestes A. Brownson (1803-1876) (My Virtual Study: Terrence Berres)
Orestes Augustus Brownson (Catholic Encyclopedia)
-Orestes Brownson (American Transcendentalism Web)
-Orestes Augustus Brownson (Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty)
-Chapter 4: Early Nineteenth Century: Orestes Augustus Brownson (1803-1876) (PAL: Perspectives in American Literature - A Research and Reference Guide, Paul P. Reuben)
-ESSAY: Brownson's Quest for Social Justice (Edward Day, C.SS.R., August 1954, The American Ecclesiastical Review)
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(Find Articles)
-ARCHIVES: "Orestes Brownson" (Mag Portal)
-ESSAY: Limits and Hope: Christopher Lasch and Political Theory (Jean Bethke Elshtain, Summer 1999, Social Research)
-REVIEW: of Aliens in America: The Strange Truth about Our Souls. By Peter Augustine Lawler (Damon Linker, First Things)
-ESSAY: Christianity and Liberty (George H. Smith, Nov/Dec 1992, Religion & Liberty)
America "last best hope of mankind" (Jay Ambrose, 7/04/03, Manchester Union-Leader)
Today, July 4, we celebrate a declaration, and that in itself is something special among nations. It is wars that nations often celebrate as their most patriotic of days, but our focus is on words about the "unalienable rights" of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness"; our focus is on a statement that the American colonies are now independent, not that they will be after armed conflict, but that they are as of the declaration's adoption.

July 4 is a celebration of a people deciding to choose a destiny free from the dictates of others. The decision--an act of mind --is what counts most. And what have we done with that independence? We have become incredibly powerful, of course, but not because we sought power. We are where we are because we afforded common men and women opportunities nowhere else equally available.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:25 AM


Darwin Day and the Peppered Moths (Marek Kohn, 29 February 2004, Independent on Sunday)

Richard Dawkins was looking magisterial, his demeanour and his dark suit apt for an occasion devoted to an eminent Victorian. This was Darwin Day, February 12, the anniversary of the great scientist's birth in 1809. The international Darwin Day Program urges its celebration around the world; the British Humanist Association, for whose event Dawkins was acting as chair, wants it to be a public holiday. It feels that if believers have saints' days, non-believers should have a ceremonial day off too.

How should we spend such a day, though? There are no obvious traditions, like maypole-dancing and marches for May Day. Over in Shrewsbury, Darwin's birthplace, they were having "a night of fine food and revelry" on the grounds that as a Cambridge student, Darwin had belonged to a 'Glutton Club' devoted to dining on "strange flesh". At the London School of Economics, by contrast, the atmosphere was more chapel than feast. Darwin Day was an occasion for sober dress and righteous ire. [...]

These are the two main forms of the peppered moth, emblems and textbook examples of evolution in action. The dark form appeared in Victorian Manchester, described at the time as "the chimney of the world", and had almost taken over from the speckled by the century's end. An entomologist named J.W. Tutt suggested that the dark ones were better concealed from birds in industrial districts, where pollution had stripped the lichen from the trees and covered them in soot. Half a century later, experiments by Bernard Kettlewell, of Oxford University, supported Tutt's hypothesis and made the peppered moths famous as a demonstration of evolution at a pace humans could observe. Then the dark forms duly went into decline along with smokestack industries and coal fires, making the textbook story complete. Yet in the past few years, Creationists and other anti-evolutionists have taken up the peppered moth as a stick with which to beat Darwinians. The LSE event was a rally in defence of the peppered moths' tarnished reputation.

And it was personal - relentlessly, vehemently, entirely personal. The speaker was Dr Michael Majerus, who leads the Evolutionary Genetics group at Cambridge University. Some years ago, he published a book in which he reviewed the studies done on the peppered moths. There were some anomalies, such as the appearance of dark moths in unpolluted areas, and it remained infernally difficult to do experiments which did not distort the untidy reality of life in the wild. These difficulties did not, however, shake his confidence in the story that Tutt had started a century before. But reviewing the book in the journal Nature, Jerry Coyne, an American evolutionist, compared his reaction to Majerus's discussion with the dismay he had felt when he discovered the truth about Santa Claus. He considered that the moth should be discarded as "a well-understood example of natural selection in action". [...]

Given a platform, Majerus took his revenge. For an hour he refuted, denounced and mocked. He closed with an impassioned invocation of over forty years' experience, man and boy: "I have caught literally millions of moths in moth traps. And I have found in the wild more peppered moths than any other person alive or dead. I know I'm right, I know Kettlewell was right, I know Tutt was right."

But, he acknowledged, anyone else needs scientific proof.

There's something almost sublime about a Darwinist religious event where the faithful acknowledge that it is the dubious who are more scientific in their skepticism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 AM


The Brothers Judd have put together a group on's Tournament Challenge and would like you to join.

Group name: BrothersJudd
Password: ericjulia

Helpful links:

Create a new account:

Already have an entry? Go to your entry page and then click on the following link:

Tournament Challenge

We'll figure out some prizes, beyond bragging rights, for the winners.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM



In an attempt, probably feeble, to create our own version of a tracking poll, we've (well, the Other Brother has) set up a page where you can pick the electoral vote results for each state for the 2004 election. The unique feature here is that you can go in up to once a week and change your picks. We'll display a running tabulation of the current results. This should let us see how one (with all apologies to our readers) incredibly odd corner of the Internet sees the political climate at any given moment.

Eventually we'll freeze the picks (late October), turn it into a contest,and award prizes to the winners.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Click The Vote: In the age of Internet politics, the Web can make or break a candidate (Stephen Baker, 3/29/04, Business Week)

As the eight-month Kerry-Bush marathon takes off, the President looks to extend his lead on the Net. The Republican Party, with its long history of direct-mail activism, has far more experience breaking its list into target groups, from tax hawks to pro-life activists. The plan is to solidify this base through the long campaign, adding e-mail names and tapping volunteers to call conservative radio stations, write letters to the editor, and knock on doors for the Bush ticket. The Republicans are even experimenting with instant messaging to create up-to-the-second links between small groups, says Max Fose, partner at consultancy Integrated Web Strategy.

The Democrats, by contrast, are struggling to catch up. The party, say insiders, relied heavily on its control of the White House to mobilize supporters during the '90s. When Terry McAuliffe took the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee in 2001, he found the tech system "nothing short of shocking," says one DNC tech leader. Kerry, who used the Web far less than Dean, faces a steep learning curve. Kerry has signed up only 33,000 volunteers online, according to his campaign spokeswoman Morra Aarons.

The most innovative Web approaches are likely to come from the networked activists. With campaign-finance reform stemming the flow of so-called soft money to the parties, much of the moolah goes straight to online advocacy groups. They can focus on a single message, a strategy that plays to the Web's strengths. And they innovate constantly. After country singer Willie Nelson released an antiwar song, Aaron Sain, a member of, recorded Hey Hollywood, a conservative response in praise of President Bush. RightMarch sent a link to the song to its members, and some 20,000 downloaded it.

Even as the Web rises, TV remains the key to reaching undecided voters. According to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR, television spending this political season is expected to reach $1.1 billion, dwarfing the millions spent on the Web. Unlike the Net, TV reaches nearly every home in America. It has the power to grab the viewer's attention, and it offers far more compelling video than a broadband Net connection. "TV is still the most efficient. It interrupts you," says Robert M. Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies, a research organization in Los Angeles. "But the Internet is far more cost-effective."

AND THE WEB IS GAINING GROUND. WHILE the growth of ad-zapping technology, such as TiVo (TIVO ), erodes the value of a TV ad, the Web's reach is growing. With the spread of broadband connections, candidates -- including the vast majority who can't afford to buy time on TV -- can speak directly to voters. "It's a godsend for candidates who literally wouldn't have a voice," says David M. Stone, a film producer in Philadelphia who created Web videos for long shot Garrett Gruener in the California recall election.

The Web also has a legal edge. It's not bound to the same election regulations as TV. A candidate who runs a hard-hitting ad against an opponent on television must take responsibility for it, in his own voice, sometime during the ad. No such requirement yet exists for Net ads. In February, the Bush team circulated its first attack ad against Kerry to its millions of online supporters -- minus the President's voice authorizing the message. The pace of Web ads is sure to pick up, especially in the last two months of the campaign, when political ads by advocacy groups on TV are prohibited. "It's going to be a wild last two months on the Web," says James F. Moore, senior fellow at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

Interesting that it took the Dean implosion for the press to recognize that it is actually the Bush campaign that is leading the way on the web.

March 22, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:48 PM


Voting Bloc: In Geneva, the U.N.'s successor may be testing its wings (Jonathan Rauch, March 22, 2004, Reason)

Since 1996, a handful of foreign-policy wonks have been kicking around the idea of a "democracy caucus" at the U.N. Two administrations, first Bill Clinton's and then George W. Bush's, took quiet but significant steps in that direction. Now, according to Bush administration officials, the concept will be test-flown at the six-week meeting of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights that began on Monday in Geneva.

Reached at his Chicago law office shortly before his departure for Geneva, Richard S. Williamson, the U.S. ambassador to the Human Rights Commission, said, "It's our hope, going to Geneva, to have two or three working sessions of the Community of Democracies—the democracy caucus, if you will." Asked if the meetings would be simply organizational or social, as earlier ones have been, he said: "We want to move beyond that. We are hopeful there will be meetings to discuss particular agenda items at the commission meeting and seek to find a common approach to them." Losing no time, the democracy caucus convened over breakfast in Geneva on Wednesday. [...]

In 1996, a private group called the United Nations Association of the United States of America floated the idea of a caucus solely for democracies. With 120 or so nations (out of 191 U.N. members), such a caucus could serve as a powerful counterweight to the traditional caucuses.

Late in the second Clinton administration, with a push from the State Department, the democracies began to organize. In 2000, 106 democracies gathered for the first meeting of an informal group they called the Community of Democracies. It had no permanent staff or formal powers, but it did produce an endorsement, in principle, of a democracy caucus at the U.N., a stance that the community reaffirmed in a second meeting in 2002 and, most recently, at a U.N. meeting last fall.

The Bush State Department then began lobbying Community of Democracy nations in a series of diplomatic lunches. "And these lunches with ambassadors from all different geographical regions—but all democracies—talked about all kinds of ideas, including this one," Paula J. Dobriansky, the undersecretary of State for global affairs, said in an interview. "Overall, it was very clear that other democratic countries from various regions embrace this idea and feel it could be of great value at the U.N., that it can bring together and highlight issues relevant to democracy."

All of that was groundwork. What had yet to happen was for the caucus to meet at the U.N. to do actual business: devise common positions, advance resolutions, eventually vote as a bloc on nominations and policies. It is this operational coordination that the administration hopes will now begin in Geneva, under the leadership of Chile, which currently heads the Community of Democracies' steering group. [...]

[C]onsider the long-term potential. By the time the Community of Democracies becomes strong enough to act coherently inside the U.N., it will also be strong enough to act coherently outside the U.N. It will contain most of the world's countries, including most of the strong ones. It will be unencumbered by the vetoes of tin-pot tyrannies. As it gains confidence and skill, it will attract money and authority. It may sprout an aid budget, a relief program, a peacekeeping arm, perhaps treaty powers.

In other words, the Community of Democracies may begin as a voice within the U.N. but go on to become a competitor to the U.N. Perhaps—one can dream—it may someday be the U.N.'s successor.

This is a vital step in the transition from a world where power over a people lends a regime sovereignty to one in which the regime must prove its legitimacy, by gaining the consent of the governed, before it will be recognized as sovereign. The implications are massive. Consider only one: under this standard, the burden of proof would be on regimes like Saddam's, Kim Jong-il's, Castro's, etc, to show why they should not be toppled and replaced by legitimate governments, rather than the liberal democracies having to put on dog and pony shows featuring WMD.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:07 PM


Saddam, women's rights (Nat Hentoff, March 22, 2004, The Washington Times)

At the Brookings Institution in Washington on Feb. 25, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton charged that, with Saddam Hussein gone, there have been "pullbacks" in the rights Iraqi women enjoyed under his rule. Not even such bellicose critics of the war as Sen. Ted Kennedy have claimed that the regime change has cost women in Iraq the leading defender of their rights.

Mrs. Clinton did try to qualify her softening of the dictator's horrific image by noting that these women's rights were "on paper." However, she went on to give substance to the rights on paper: "They went to school; they participated in the professions. They participated in government and in business; as long as they stayed out of his way, they had considerable freedom of movement."

John Burns -- who reported for the New York Times from Iraq before, during the war and since -- wrote of a paramilitary group once led by Saddam's oldest (since forcibly deceased) son, Uday: "Masked and clad in black, (the men) make the women kneel in busy city squares, along crowded sidewalks, or in neighborhood plots, then behead them with swords." The women's crime, said their families, was having criticized Uday's benevolent father.

When the dictator's prisons were briefly opened before the war, Mr. Burns reported on the "raping of women in front of their husbands, from whom the torturers wanted to extract information."

Certainly looks like she wants on the Kerry ticket.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:59 PM


Kerry rebuffs Venezuela's Chavez (Reuters, 3/22/04)

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry has attacked Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as a dubious democrat hostile to U.S. interests, delivering a slap in the face to the leftist leader who had portrayed Kerry as a potential friend.

The Kerry statement on his Web site made front-page news in Venezuela on Monday, nearly two weeks after Chavez had publicly praised the Democrat contender, hailing his health care plans and likening him to assassinated U.S. President John Kennedy.

No word yet on whether Daniel Ortega is going to support Mr. Kerry as the Senator supported him in the 80s.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:43 PM


The Trial of John Kerry (William Rivers Pitt, 10 December 2003, t r u t h o u t)

There are but a few weeks to go before the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. Time has grown short. In an effort to galvanize the message Kerry wants to deliver in the time remaining, he convened a powerful roster of journalists and columnists in the New York City apartment of Al Franken last Thursday. The gathering could not properly be called a meeting or a luncheon. It was a trial. The journalists served as prosecuting attorneys, jury and judge. The crowd I joined in Franken's living room was comprised of:

     Al Franken and his wife Franni;
     Rick Hertzberg, senior editor for the New Yorker;
     David Remnick, editor for the New Yorker;
     Jim Kelly, managing editor for Time Magazine;
     Howard Fineman, chief political correspondent for Newsweek;
     Jeff Greenfield, senior correspondent and analyst for CNN;
     Frank Rich, columnist for the New York Times;
     Eric Alterman, author and columnist for MSNBC and the Nation;
     Art Spiegelman, Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist/author of "Maus";
     Richard Cohen, columnist for the Washington Post;
     Fred Kaplan, columnist for Slate;
     Jacob Weisberg, editor of Slate and author;
     Jonathan Alter, senior editor and columnist for Newsweek;
     Philip Gourevitch, columnist for the New Yorker;
     Calvin Trillin, freelance writer and author;
     Edward Jay Epstein, investigative reporter and author;
     Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., who needs no introduction.

We sat in a circle around Kerry and grilled him for two long hours. In an age of retail politicians who avoid substance the way vampires avoid sunlight, in an age when the sitting President flounders like a gaffed fish whenever he must speak to reporters without a script, Kerryís decision to open himself to the slings and arrows of this group was bold and impressive. He was fresh from two remarkable speeches -- one lambasting the PATRIOT Act, another outlining his foreign policy ideals while eviscerating the Bush record ñ and had his game face on. He needed it, because Eric Alterman lit into him immediately on the all-important issue of his vote for the Iraq War Resolution. The prosecution had begun.

Remember the outrage twenty years ago when George Will, a mere columnist, helped Ronald Reagan prepare for a debate with Jimmy Carter? Look at all the freakin' editors on this list.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:21 PM


Sexual Abuse by Educators Is Scrutinized (Caroline Hendrie, 3/10/04, Education Week)

A draft report commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education concludes that far too little is known about the prevalence of sexual misconduct by teachers or other school employees, but estimates that millions of children are being affected by it during their school-age years.

Written in response to a requirement in the federal No Child Left Behind Act, the report by a university-based expert on schoolhouse sexual misconduct concludes that the issue "is woefully understudied" and that solid national data on its prevalence are sorely needed.

Yet despite the limitations of the existing research base, the scope of the problem appears to far exceed the priest abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church, said Charol Shakeshaft, the Hofstra University scholar who prepared the report.

The best data available suggest that nearly 10 percent of American students are targets of unwanted sexual attention by public school employees—ranging from sexual comments to rape—at some point during their school-age years, Ms. Shakeshaft said.

"So we think the Catholic Church has a problem?" she said.

To support her contention that many more youngsters have been sexually mistreated by school employees than by priests, Ms. Shakeshaft pointed to research conducted for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and released late last month. That study found that from 1950 to 2002, 10,667 people made allegations that priests or deacons had sexually abused them as minors. ("Report Tallies Alleged Sexual Abuse by Priests," this issue.)

Extrapolating from data collected in a national survey for the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation in 2000, Ms. Shakeshaft estimated that roughly 290,000 students experienced some sort of physical sexual abuse by a public school employee from 1991 to 2000—a single decade, compared with the roughly five-decade period examined in the study of Catholic priests.

Those figures suggest that "the physical sexual abuse of students in schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests,"contended Ms. Shakeshaft, who is a professor of educational administration at Hofstra, in Hempstead, N.Y.

Much as folks wished it to be, the priest abuse scandals were not a function of Catholicism but of deviant men seeking access to boys. Gotta figure the other professions that offer access to children (girls as well as boys), but make far fewer demands upon practitioners, will have even bigger problems.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:16 PM


For Kurds, a day of bonfires, legends, and independence: During Newroz, a spring festival, Kurds commemorate the defeat of a tyrannical king. (Dan Murphy, 3/23/04, CS Monitor)

At first blush, the holiday looks similar to dozens of coming-of-spring festivals around the world. But for the Kurds, the day means far more - especially this year, the first after the fall of Saddam Hussein, with the Kurds having won a major political victory in the transitional constitution, which appears to guarantee the de facto autonomous status they've enjoyed since the US created the no-fly zone after the 1991 Gulf War.

In the 20th century, Newroz became an integral part of the Kurdish national myth. On the Kurdish calendar, the first day of spring is the first day of the year.

In the 1930s, the Kurdish poet Taufik Abdullah decided it was time for a Kurdish cultural revival, and struck on this ancient holiday as the key.

"It was a dying holiday but he revived it and remade it as a symbol of Kurdish national struggle,'' says Stran Abdullah, a Kurdish journalist. "It was to remind everyone and ourselves that we're different, a special people. The lighting of the fires became a symbol of freedom." [...]

Part of the reason that Kurdish national aspirations remain so strong is that Newroz came with a set of myths befitting a people who felt oppressed and robbed by history. Kurdish children are brought up on the legend of Kawa, a courageous blacksmith who lived 2,500 years ago under the tyranny of King Zuhak, a monster with two serpents growing from his shoulder who fed on the brains of small children. He was so evil that spring no longer came to Kurdistan.

One popular version of the myth has it that Kawa, asked to send his seventh and last child to Zuhak, hid his son in the mountains with other fleeing children. Over time, Kawa turned the children into an army and, on March 20, marched on the castle and smote the king dead with his hammer. Fires were lit on the hillsides to celebrate the victory, so the story goes, and spring at last returned the next day.

Over the past 30 years the Kurds came to see Hussein, particularly since the atrocities of the campaigns of the 1980s, which included the murder of 5,000 Kurds at Halabja, as a latter-day Zuhak.

"We're so happy Saddam is gone, we live in hope that our rights will be protected now,'' says Chi Bahaddin, a young wife decked out in a red-sequined dress. Still, she's not satisfied. "It would have been best for everybody if he had been killed with a hammer."

Regardless of what happens in the rest of Iraq, the creation of a free Kurdistan is a worthy accomplishment.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:09 PM


A Russian reform hits home: mortgages: For his second term, President Putin has made home ownership a priority. (Scott Peterson, 3/23/04, CS Monitor)

Part of Mr. Putin's campaign focused on mortgages, and the need for a "legislative package that could 'launch' an affordable housing market." The problems must be "addressed without delay" in the spring parliamentary session, Putin said, because "only a free man can ensure the state's prosperity."

The budding market has now loaned $400 million to $500 million by some counts, with an average mortgage of $18,000, paid back over seven to 15 years. The Association of Russian Banks, says Georgy Gangus, expects the market to quadruple during the next three years, toward a potential volume of $30 billion.

But bringing mortgages to Russia has not been easy. Though seeds of a mortgage system were sown in the late 1990s, legal and psychological hurdles persist. The law enabling lenders to foreclose on the property of defaulters remains untested, for example, so lending banks have been cautious.

And while most Soviet-era apartments were simply given to those who were resident in them when the communist regime fell apart, laws defining land ownership were only passed in 2001.

In a demand-driven real estate market - where prices in some better Moscow areas soared 40 percent last year - many families can't afford to move without a loan. Until recently, tax and finance laws were also in flux; often borrowers have little collateral other than their jobs.

"[Lending] is impeded by the fact that there are no credit histories in Russia, no credit rating agencies, and no credit bureaus," says Gerald Gaige, the head of Real Estate and Valuation Advisory at Ernst & Young, who has worked in Russia for 10 years.

Among the laws expected to be passed this spring is one that smooths the process now prohibiting banks and financial institutions from sharing credit information, Mr. Gaige says. Only now are assets such as buildings and property in Russia beginning to be valued and "monetized," he adds; new rules in the works will also create mortgage-backed securities, to make more cash available to lenders.

So far there are only "thousands, not millions" of mortgages in Russia, a figure that Gaige expects to "accelerate" since some 100 banks and institutions are already geared up to make such loans.

This is the most hopeful sign yet that Mr. Putin gets it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:46 PM


Terror suspects may have escaped through secret tunnel, officials say (Ahsanullah Wazir, 03/22/2004, Associated Press)

Top al-Qaida terrorists may have escaped a siege by thousands of Pakistani soldiers through several secret tunnels leading from mud fortresses to a dry mountain stream near the border with Afghanistan, a security chief said today.

The longest tunnel found so far was more than 1 mile long and led from the homes of two local men - Nek Mohammed and Sharif Khan - to a stream near the frontier, said Brig. Mahmood Shah, head of security for Pakistan's tribal regions. [...]

The militants may have used the tunnel to escape during the disastrous first day of the operation on Mar. 16, when at least 15 soldiers were killed in fierce fighting. Still, Lt. Gen. Safdar Hussain, the commander of the operation, said over the weekend that authorities believe an important terrorist remains inside, based on the level of resistance of the holdouts.

The important thing here is the Pakistani willingness to take casualties and keep fighting.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:38 PM


'You love life, we love death' (Spengler, 3/23/04, Asia Times)

Washington continues to underestimate its enemies. Who precisely loves life and who loves death? Al-Qaeda's taunt comes from a people with one of the highest birth rates in the world, namely the Arabs. It is directed at a people with one of the lowest birth rates in the world, namely the Spanish. One does not love "life" if one does not bother to have children. One loves rather one's own life, with its vacations, jamon serrano (cured ham), wines and siestas. Al-Qaeda is saying that the Spaniards are too soft to fight for their own future. Two generations ago, it was the arch-Catholic Spanish legionnaire General Millan Astray who raised the cry "Viva la muerte!" at the outset of the Civil War, by which he meant that death was preferable to defeat. [...]

Sacrifice is the universal means by which religions enable the faithful to come to grips with death. Christians take part vicariously in the self-sacrifice of their God; Muslims sacrifice themselves. Jewish sacrifice in pre-Christian times contained both a material side, that is, the elaborate animal and other food sacrifices performed at the temple, as well as a purely spiritual side ("a broken and contrite heart", Psalm 51:10). In post-temple times that peculiarly Jewish institution, the Sabbath, became a sacrifice of sorts; by doing no work of any kind on the Sabbath, "a foretaste of the world to come", the Jew sacrifices his ego, namely his impulse to act on and control the world. Only in a very specific sense was Ismail Hayina correct to say that the Jews love life more than anyone else. The Jewish concept of election, the notion that Israel is a divinely chosen and thus an eternal people, gives the Jews a special surety of eternal life. That is why, alone among the major religions, the Jews have no ascetic tradition.

All religion submerges the ego, in anticipation of the day when death will destroy the ego for all time. Sacrifice, namely giving up something of one's self, is the universal vehicle for reducing the ego. Sacrifice becomes terribly dangerous when the ego cannot re-emerge under the sun and sky of the real world. [...]

The longstanding Judeo-Christian objection to Islam lies in the notion that Allah's absolute power is not constrained by love. "The God of Mohammed is a creator who well might not have bothered to create. He displays his power like an Oriental potentate who rules by violence, not by acting according to necessity, not by authorizing the enactment of the law, but rather in his freedom to act arbitrarily," wrote the Jewish theologian Franz Rosenzweig. (See Asia Times Online, Oil on the flames of civilizational war, Dec 2, 2003). Whether the human ego can stand up to this absolute power is a different question; whether Islam has a propensity to produce a necrophiliac brand of radicalism is a question that the West will continue to ask. That issue is only tangential to the matter of al-Qaeda's challenge, which simply means, "Unlike us, you are unwilling to give your lives for your cause." Evidently that is true of the Spanish; if it becomes true of the West in general, radical Islam will win.

Al Qaeda is certainly right about Europe, but for these same reasons wrong about at least 60% of America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:05 PM


Are the Jacksonians Sated? (Michael J. Totten, 03/22/2004, Tech Central Station)

A curious thing seems to have happened since Saddam Hussein's regime was overthrown in Iraq. America no longer feels like a country at war. [...]
America's Jacksonians have been sated.
Who are the Jacksonians?
In 1999 Walter Russell Mead wrote a celebrated essay for The National Interest called The Jacksonian Tradition where he described what he calls the four foreign policy traditions in the United States; Jacksonian, Wilsonian, Hamiltonian, and Jeffersonian.
Jeffersonians are principled pacifists. Hamiltonians seek a stable and orderly world made secure for the global economy. Wilsonians build international institutions that promote freedom and human rights. They also fight for a world that's safe for democracy. And finally there are Jacksonians, who are isolationist in peace time and ruthless in war time.
Jacksonians, when roused, fight unflinchingly to the finish. The very idea of a limited war is anathema. They demanded the unconditional surrender of Germany and Japan in World War II, and they hardly blinked an eye at the nuclear annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Their complaint about the Vietnam War is that we didn't fight to win, not that we stayed on too long. When the first President Bush left Saddam Hussein in power after routing him in Kuwait, Americans of the Jacksonian persuasion were deeply unsatisfied.
After September 11, 2001, pin-point air strikes against terrorist camps in Afghanistan would have been woefully inadequate. Nothing short of the overthrow of the Taliban was acceptable. Though regime-change in Iraq was the brainchild of hawkish Wilsonian intellectuals, Jacksonians lent their support instinctively and overwhelmingly. They would no longer tolerate violations of the 1991 cease-fire they never thought Saddam deserved in the first place. [...]
President Bush's Middle East strategy is Wilsonian idealism in Jacksonian costume. Rhetorical flourishes like "good riddance" and "dead or alive" play well among Jacksonians, even as it drives more genteel Wilsonians and Jeffersonians to distraction.

Jacksonians are not "principled pacifists" but principled isolationists and theirs is the default position of America generally. Though they are ferocious once we're dragged into war, their attention span is rather brief and they tend to make us return to our splendid isolation before the underlying problems that caused war in the first place are dealt with.

Indeed, we can see in retrospect that those within the Administration who argued for doing Iraq in the immediate wake of 9-11 were probably right. By waiting until after Afghanistan they nearly didn't have enough backing to take out Saddam and folks just want it all to end now. (That's why leaving the al Qaeda elements in Pakistan was wise--no one will dispute going after them whenever.)

The great task before President Bush, the one that stands to make him a historic figure if he succeeds, is to convince the Jacksonians that his style of hawkish Wilsonianism is in America's (and their) best interest. The basic idea is that by hastening the End of History and pushing the world's most dysfunctional regions and states towards liberal democracy we can avoid getting pulled into their problems in the future. That is: it is always America that ends up dealing with the most pathological -isms; stopping genocides; intervening in civil wars; reversing invasions; etc.--why not act preemptively for once and settle these problems on our terms?

In trying to effect this revolution, Mr. Bush is squarely within the American rhetorical and intellectual tradition but running counter to the political tradition. If he pulls it off it will be an unparalleled achievement.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:35 PM


Sheik Was a Symbolic Figure Revered by Hamas Followers (CHRISTINE HAUSER, 3/22/04, NY Times)

[A]s the spiritual leader and man who helped found Hamas, Sheik Yassin is the most significant Palestinian militant killed by Israel so far. Sheik Yassin, a quadraplegic, was a symbolic figure for Palestinians to resistance against Israel.

He was revered by followers of Hamas, which is officially committed to Israel's destruction and has launched suicide attacks against Israelis in retaliation for what it calls Israel's crimes in the occupied territories and attacks on Palestinians.

His death came as Israeli forces have increased the pressure on militants in the Gaza Strip after two Palestinian suicide bombers from a refugee camp there blew themselves up eight days ago at the Israeli port of Ashdod, killing 10 Israelis. Hamas and Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades jointly claimed the attack.

Sheik Yassin has denied involvement in planning specific attacks against Israel, but Israeli officials say he is personally responsible.

In a statement that underscored the prospect of even more violence after his killing, Hamas's military wing said it was planning a "string of responses to this crime of assassination."

Yoram Schweitzer, an Israeli researcher in international terrorism at the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies in Tel Aviv, said that Sheik Yassin was of such symbolic importance to Palestinians there would likely be a new urgency for "spectacular attacks" to satiate Palestinian calls for revenge.

"We are already in a war with Hamas, Islamic Jihad and contingents of Fatah," Mr. Schweitzer said in a telephone interview, referring to other Palestinian groups that have carried out attacks.

"I don't think it is going to change anything for the time being."

Israel preparing for wave of terror (Herb Keinon, Mar. 21, 2004, Jerusalem Post)

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Monday that Israel will press ahead with a systematic campaign against Hamas, hours after an IAF air strike killed the founder of the Islamic terrorist group, Ahmed Yassin.

Yassin's "hands were soaked in the blood of Israeli children," Mofaz told reporters after appearing before parliament's Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee.

Yassin was directly responsible for attacks that killed hundreds of Israelis, Mofaz said.

"As part of our systematic operations against all the terror organizations, we are working on a large number of tracks, including striking against the terrorist leaders, activists, sources of money, (making) arrests and targeted killings," Mofaz said. "We shall continue this systematic policy against the terrorist organizations."

Mofaz said he was confident Hamas could be weakened ahead of a possible Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

The defense minister said Israel had taken possible Hamas reprisals into account. "We are prepared for a possible wave of terror in the coming weeks," he said.

The Defense Ministry is preparing a systematic war against Hamas, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told the cabinet Sunday, saying this is especially important as Israel moves toward disengagement from Gaza.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:31 PM


In Afghanistan, once a hotbed of Qaeda training and Taliban tyranny, nobody can deny we helped bring forth the beginnings of democratic government. Afghans, including newly liberated women, are helping track down fugitive killers. [...]

Nobody can be certain that Iraq will remain whole and free after we turn over sovereignty on June 30. But prospects look far better than predicted by defeatists who claimed a year ago that political freedom had no chance of taking root in hostile Arab soil. [...]

We are training a civilian defense corps, twice the size of a joint Shiite-Sunni-Kurdish army, to take over free Iraq's battle against the Ansar-Qaeda terrorists and Baathist diehards. With the transfer of political power to a transitional Iraqi government, public fury at the mortar and rocket attacks on "soft target" civilians will be a nationalizing, not a destabilizing, force — directed not at occupiers but against the terrorist invaders. [...]

From Kuwait to Qatar, the coalition's overthrow of Saddam has been a political tonic. Libya's dictator is making weaponry concessions lest his economy be wrecked and he be ousted. Repressive Iran is ripening for revolution. Egypt's boss and Saudi Arabia's princes are nervous because an arc of democracy bids fair to extend from Turkey through Iraq to Israel, with literate, enterprising populations blazing a path to liberating prosperity in the greater Middle East.

Syria's sullen Bashar al-Assad is feeling the heat. He benefited most from Saddam's corruption, probably provided a hiding place for Iraqi weapons and a route of entry into Iraq for Qaeda killers. His troops illegally occupy Lebanon; he supports Hezbollah and Hamas terrorists in rocket attacks and suicide bombings. His so-called intelligence sharing has been singularly unproductive.

Creeping? When else in history has democratization moved so fast?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:07 PM

JOHN WHO? (via mc):

Kerry unveils message ad, touts 'a new direction' (AP, 3/22/04)

John Kerry introduces himself to voters in a television ad unveiled Monday, promising "a new direction for America" from a war-tested Democrat.

Titled "Fought for America," the 30-second ad airing in 17 states beginning Tuesday says Kerry has "the military experience to defend America" and the policies to improve health care and the economy.

"We need to get some things done in this country: affordable health care, rolling back tax cuts for the wealthy, really investing in our kids. That's why I'm running for president," Kerry says in the commercial, which includes footage of him emerging from the jungles of Vietnam more than 30 years ago.

The four-term Massachusetts senator and decorated Vietnam veteran is trying to define himself before President Bush and his GOP allies do. The president is spending more than $6 million on broadcast TV alone to label Kerry a soft-on-terrorism, tax-raising, flip-flopping liberal. Kerry spent less than a third of that amount on his first commercial, accusing Bush of "misleading America" with negative ads. [...]

Kerry's latest commercial, his second, contains no direct criticism of Bush. His advisers, confined to a budget of more than $2 million for the new ad, are hoping that voters will reject the White House's negative spots and learn more about the Democratic challenger who came out of the primaries ill-defined and underfunded.

That doesn't mean Kerry or his staff have sworn off negative campaigning.

"This is our chance to say Americans have a real choice, and we don't have to define the president because the people have been living through his real and meaningful failures every day," campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill told The Associated Press.

Right general idea but way too half-measure. The entire ad needs to be just an introduction to a guy who most voters don't know. They seem to be assuming that folks are aware of his military background and just need a reminder. Likewise, they aren't spending enough on this ad buy to make a dent in the public perception. If this is all they do biography-wise and then go on the attack they're toast.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:00 PM


Kerry recruits former Mondale aide to lead search for running mate (Rob Hotakainen, 03/22/2004, Minneapolis Star Tribune)

When Jimmy Carter called Walter Mondale on July 15, 1976, asking him to join the Democratic ticket, Jim Johnson was in Mondale's room at the Carlyle Hotel in New York City.

In 1984, as Mondale's presidential campaign manager, Johnson oversaw the search that made history when Mondale chose the first woman, then-Rep. Geraldine Ferraro of New York, as his running mate.

As Johnson now takes charge of the vice presidential candidate search for Democratic Sen. John Kerry, his friends say the Minnesota native is well-suited for the job for one big reason: He can keep his mouth shut.

Makes sense because Mr. Kerry's candidacy is so deeply flawed that he has to try and find a VP who might help, rather than choosing someone competent to take over, as George W. Bush did. And there are only two options that could generate any excitement: Bill Richardson (first Hispanic) or a woman.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:55 PM

DISPOSABLE, BUT NOT REUSABLE (via Christopher Badeaux):

What’s morality got to do with it?: Some 55 million foetuses are aborted each year. Why, then, all the fuss about destroying embryos in the course of stem-cell research? (Mary Wakefield, 3/20/04, The Spectator)

Although ‘reproductive cloning’ is illegal in Britain, many people oppose cloning embryos on the grounds that scientists, once confronted with a blastocyst, will be unable to resist implanting it in a human womb. The resulting clone baby will then, they imagine, suffer hideous genetic defects and accelerated ageing in the manner of Dolly the sheep. ‘There is every reason to expect an expansion of the context of therapeutic cloning to include foetuses,’ says Dr Fleming, director of Southern Cross, an Australian bioethics think-tank. ‘Particularly given the fact that it would be much easier to allow organs to develop “naturally” in the cloned foetus before harvesting. There have, in fact, already been calls for the harvesting of organs from embryos and foetuses. If cloned foetuses were allowed to develop, the next “natural” consequence would be to allow cloned embryos to be implanted and develop until birth.’

It’s a horrible thought but I’m sure Dr Fleming is right. If it can happen, it will, and probably already has somewhere in an underground lab in Belgium. But here’s another horrible thought: isn’t the whole attempt to draw a wavy line between the sorts of embryocide we like and don’t like basically nonsense? Can we really persist in thinking that a tiny blastocyst has some sort of right to respect if we are in favour of aborting 24-week-old babies?

The government attempts to make sense of the issue by giving an embryo this ‘symbolic moral status’ — a term cooked up by the Warnock committee in 1990. ‘The special status of an embryo as a potential human being is accepted,’ says the Department of Health, ‘but the significance of the respect owed to developing human life is regarded as increasing in proportion to the degree of development of the embryo. At the very early stages of development, according to this view, it is morally justified to use embryos for research purposes in order to benefit others.’ It’s a comfort to think that the little blastocysts have some standing in the world even as the syringe approaches, but what exactly is a ‘symbolic moral status’? To what is an early embryo morally equivalent? A dog? You’d have the RSPCA in fits. An iguana? Perhaps something in-between a mouse and a skin cell? And what does its ‘special moral status’ entitle an embryo to, apart from the right to be scrutinised by the Human Embryology and Fertilisation Authority before it’s whacked?

Those who object to therapeutic cloning, but not to IVF or abortion, claim that there is a difference between creating an embryo just in order to nix it and killing it after an accidental pregnancy. But treating an embryo as a means to an end is only ethically problematic if it has human status. And if the intention of scientists doing the therapeutic cloning is to alleviate a considerable amount of suffering, then what’s the problem? Why is it better to abort a foetus for the sake of convenience than to kill a blastocyst in the interest of finding a cure for heart attacks, strokes, cancer, diabetes, liver failure, blindness, senile dementia, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s and arthritis?

Ms Wakefield is right, but begs the question. There is something deeply foolish about people who support abortion for the purpose of killing the child but oppose abortion to harvest tissue for "therapeutic" purposes. But the point is that both should be banned.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:39 PM


Ahab and Nemesis (A. J. Liebling, 1955-10-08, The New Yorker)

Back in 1922, the late Heywood Broun, who is not remembered primarily as a boxing writer, wrote a durable account of a combat between the late Benny Leonard and the late Rocky Kansas for the lightweight championship of the world. Leonard was the greatest practitioner of the era, Kansas just a rough, optimistic fellow. In the early rounds, Kansas messed Leonard about, and Broun was profoundly disturbed. A radical in politics, he was a conservative in the arts, and Kansas made him think of Gertrude Stein, les Six, and nonrepresentational painting, all of them novelties that irritated him.

“With the opening gong, Rocky Kansas tore into Leonard,” he wrote. “He was gauche and inaccurate, but terribly persistent.” The classic verities prevailed, however. After a few rounds, during which Broun continued to yearn for a return to a culture with fixed values, he was enabled to record: “The young child of nature who was challenging for the championship dropped his guard, and Leonard hooked a powerful and entirely orthodox blow to the conventional point of the jaw. Down went Rocky Kansas. His past life flashed before him during the nine seconds in which he remained on the floor, and he wished that he had been more faithful as a child in heeding the advice of his boxing teacher. After all, the old masters did know something. There is still a kick in style, and tradition carries a nasty wallop.”

I have often thought of Broun’s words in the three years since Rocky Marciano, the reigning heavyweight champion, scaled the fistic summits, as they say in Journal-Americanese, by beating a sly, powerful quadragenarian colored man named Jersey Joe Walcott. The current Rocky is gauche and inaccurate, but besides being persistent he is a dreadfully severe hitter with either hand. The predominative nature of this asset has been well stated by Pierce Egan, the Edward Gibbon and Sir Thomas Malory of the old London prize ring, who was less preoccupied than Broun with ultimate implications. Writing in 1821 of a “milling cove” named Bill Neat, the Bristol Butcher, Egan said, “He possesses a requisite above all the art that teaching can achieve for any boxer; namely, one hit from his right hand, given in proper distance, can gain a victory; but three of them are positively enough to dispose of a giant.” This is true not only of Marciano’s right hand but of his left hand, too—provided he doesn’t miss the giant entirely. Egan doubted the advisability of changing Neat’s style, and he would have approved of Marciano’s. The champion has an apparently unlimited absorptive capacity for percussion (Egan would have called him an “insatiable glutton”) and inexhaustible energy (“a prime bottom fighter”). “Shifting,” or moving to the side, and “milling in retreat,” or moving back, are innovations of the late eighteenth century that Rocky’s advisers have carefully kept from his knowledge, lest they spoil his natural prehistoric style. Egan excused these tactics only in boxers of feeble constitution. I imagine Broun would have had a hard time fitting Marciano anywhere into his frame of reference.

Archie Moore, the light-heavyweight champion of the world, who hibernates in San Diego, California, and estivates in Toledo, Ohio, is a Brounian rather than an Eganite in his thinking about style, but he naturally has to do more than think about it. Since the rise of Marciano, Moore, a cerebral and hyperexperienced light-colored pugilist who has been active since 1936, has suffered the pangs of a supreme exponent of bel canto who sees himself crowded out of the opera house by a guy who can only shout. As a sequel to a favorable review I wrote of one of his infrequent New York appearances a year ago, when his fee was restricted to a measly five figures, I received a sad little note signed “The most unappreciated fighter in the world, Archie Moore.” A fellow who has as much style as Moore tends to overestimate the intellect—he develops the kind of Faustian mind that will throw itself against the problem of perpetual motion, or of how to pick horses first, second, third, and fourth in every race. Archie’s note made it plain to me that he was honing his harpoon for the White Whale.

Archie Moore’s Remarkable Run at the Heavyweight Championship (B. R. Bearden, East Side Boxing)

It’s 1954 and Archie is making some noises towards a possible Marciano fight but nobody is listening. Not yet. [...]

In a campaign of harassment that would make a celebrity stalker proud, Moore goes after the heavyweight champion where it hurts the most; his pride. He takes out adds in papers calling for Rocky to fight him, he gives interviews where he outlines his strategy to defeat the Rock, he has wanted posters printed and placed where Marciano will see them, he sends him notes on the golf course, “Are you afraid to fight an old man?”. Even the Ring is suggesting Moore has a chance to dethrone the Rock “if Marciano gives him a shot”. Called out in such a sustained, public manner, Rocky shelves his retirement plans (which are unknown to the public or Moore) and agrees to answer the challenge of the Old Mongoose.

The resulting fight starts off as if Moore’s master plan were flawless. In the second round he drops Marciano with a perfect right for only the second time in the Rock’s career. For a brief moment, a twinkling in the eye of fate, it appears Archie will hold both the light heavyweight and the heavyweight belts. But the moment is a mere two seconds and Marciano is back on his feet, taking no count, and coming after Moore with a savagery he might not have unleashed on the amiable Moore otherwise. Archie later admits the mistake he made was to drop Marciano early, noting that the heavyweight champ was a slow starter and he meant to get the early rounds in the bank as Walcott had done. By dropping him in the second round, he’s roused the smoldering fire that always burned in Marciano and the result is a relentless, merciless assault. All Archie’s great boxing skill, his cross-arm defense, his feints and moves, can’t keep off him a man he would refer to later as “a bull with boxing gloves”. For eight rounds Moore takes a terrible beating, knocked down three times, saved by the bell in the eighth, and when he returns to his corner with the assist of a compassionate referee it’s obvious the end is near. Between rounds the referee comes to Moore’s corner and offers to stop the fight, the outcome of which is no longer in doubt, and Archie replies, “I too am a champion, and I want to go out like a champion.”

The courageous words of a great fighter, the final defiant gesture from a man who worked so hard for his shot at the heavyweight title. The ninth round starts, Marciano is a whirlwind of fury, and Archie is down for the fourth and last time. In defeat he is as endearing as in triumph; he says he hopes the fans felt they got their money’s worth and he thanks Marciano for giving him the shot.

Archie Moore would have one more shot at the title, fighting Floyd Patterson for Rocky’s vacated title. It is Marciano himself who names Patterson and Moore as the men most deserving to fight for the belt. Moore fights a torrid schedule leading up to the Patterson fight, eleven bouts in eight months, seven of them against heavyweights. It’s too much, and Archie isn’t in the shape for Patterson that he was for Marciano. The result is a 5th round KO and the end of Archie’s heavyweight championship dreams.

The incredible Archie Moore finished with a record of 183-24-10 with at least 141 KOs (some historians state it at 145, but either way it’s the most of any fighter in the history of gloved boxing). He fought 61 times against Top Ten fighters and 15 times against future Hall of Famers. Archie may not have grasped the golden ring he wanted so badly, but it wasn’t for lack of courage or the will to reach for it.

-Moore packed a lethal punch (Ron Flatter,

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:19 AM


AFTER MADRID (David Remnick, 2004-03-22, The New Yorker)

In recent years, Osama bin Laden has concealed his person from spies and Predator drones but has hidden his intentions and his sense of historical mission in plain sight. The recent bombings in Madrid are linked not only to the goals of undermining and unnerving states where secular pluralism reigns but also, by way of a kind of magical realism, to ancient resentments and fantasies, to bin Laden’s desire, expressed in videotaped speeches and declarations, that his followers reverse what Al Qaeda’s ideologist Ayman al-Zawahiri once called “the tragedy of Al-Andalus.” In the United States, “The Moor’s Last Sigh” is a novel by Salman Rushdie; for radical Islamists it is the memory of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella expelling Muslims from the Iberian peninsula and of King Boabdil fleeing Granada in tears while his mother says, “Do not weep like a woman for what you could not defend like a man.” That event, five centuries past, resonates in the fundamentalist imagination like the defeat of the Muslim armies in Vienna in 1683 and the end of the Ottoman caliphate in 1924. [...]

The problem of modern terror--terror that combines an apocalyptic ideology and a yearning for destruction--demands honesty with ourselves about the nature of the threat and honesty in politics. Capturing the top leaders of Al Qaeda is a necessity, but terror is not a threat that will end with decapitation. Nor will it end with the ordinary politics of negotiation and concession. The rebel cells of Madrid will not disperse with the pullout of Spanish troops from Iraq any more than the cells in this country dispersed with the American pullout of troops from Saudi Arabia. The old models do not apply. Groups like eta and the I.R.A. have committed acts of repugnant violence, but their aims have always been regional, limited in scope. The radical Islamists are at war with modernity itself. Their sense of difference is encapsulated in the declaration of an alleged Al Qaeda spokesman: “You love life, and we love death.” Transnational terror cannot be combatted in an atmosphere of international distrust. At the very least, the terrorists have proved themselves to be as good as their word. Governments that hope to resist them must be, too.

Why? If this is a war that has to be fought and in which nothing we can do, short of killing them, is going to affect the Islamicists, and if the Europeans will only participate if they are lied to, then why not lie to them? If the choice really was between the truth or Saddam's downfall, who would choose truth?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:09 AM


Neoconservatives and Trotskyism (Bill King, March 22, 2004, Enter Stage Right)

In one of the first in-depth studies written about neoconservatism in the 1970s, The Neoconservatives: The Men Who Are Changing America's Politics (1978), Peter Steinfels observed that it is impossible to understand the neoconservatives without understanding their history. Yet it is precisely the history of "the neocons" that is today being systematically distorted by paleoconservatives through the polemical campaign they are waging against leading neoconservative intellectuals and the foreign policy of the Bush administration.

As part of the two-decade old civil war within intellectual conservatism, paleoconservatives have forcefully asserted that neoconservatism is a descendant of American Trotskyism, and that neoconservatives continue to be influenced by the ideas of the exiled Soviet revolutionary in their view of foreign policy. In fact, in the period since the attacks of 9/11 the isolationist paleocons have made the "Trotskyist neocon" assertion one of their main weapons in the ongoing feud. Web sites such as The Center for Libertarian Studies' and, and magazines such as Pat Buchanan's American Conservative and the Rockford Institute's Chronicles, have all featured articles focusing on the supposed link between the neocons and Leon Trotsky. The most extreme paleocons, who flirt dangerously with outright anti-Semitism, claim not only that neoconservatism is derivative of Trotskyism but that a "cabal of Jewish neocons" is manipulating US foreign policy and actually implementing Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution from the White House.

While paleoconservatives usually have little impact outside of intellectual circles, their "Trotskyist neocon" assertion has rapidly entered mainstream political discussion. To a large degree this is due to the efforts of anti-neocon liberal pundits, such as Michael Lind and William Pfaff, who popularized the neoconservative-as-Trotskyist theme both before and during the initial ground war in Iraq. The assertion is now so widely accepted that a writer as far removed from paleoconservatism (or anti-neocon liberalism) as Vanity Fair's Sam Tanenhaus can claim that, "…a belated species of Trotskyism has at last established itself in the White House." Ostensibly serious discussions of neoconservative "Trotskyism" have also appeared in mainstream newspapers throughout the world, from Canada's National Post to Hong Kong's Asia Times Online. And even as respected a foreign policy commentator as Dimitri K. Simes, co-publisher of The National Interest, has joined the "Trotskyist neocon" chorus, writing recently in Foreign Affairs that the neoconservatives' belief in "permanent worldwide revolution" owes more to the founder of the Bolshevik Red Army than to "America's forefathers".

[Irving] Kristol never did join the "official" Trotskyists of the SWP, but rather the heretical offshoot led by Max Shachtman, the Workers' Party (WP), in 1940. More importantly, Kristol belonged to a small intra-party faction inside the WP known as the "Shermanites" which was led by future Sociologist Philip Selznick, and also included Lipset, Himmelfarb, and Diamond, i.e. the only other neoconservatives to have been associated with Trotskyism. What is key here, and what for the most part has been overlooked, is that the Shermanites considered not only Stalinism but Bolshevism, which in their context meant Trotskyism, to be "… bureaucratic, totalitarian, and undemocratic". Decisive to Kristol and the others' rejection of Marxism and Trotskyism was Robert Michels' Political Parties, which was introduced to the group by Selznick. This "premature" anti-communism was so anathema to Shachtman that after Kristol and the tiny band of Shermanites resigned from the Workers' Party in 1941, a mere one year after they had joined, they were then retroactively expelled. The journal that Kristol and the Shermanites briefly published after their expulsion from the Workers Party, Enquiry, far from providing "conventional Marxist fare" as has been claimed by one scholar, in fact consisted mainly of substantive critiques of Marxism, Leninism, and Trotskyism, all the more noteworthy for the youthfulness of those making them. [...]

The final variation of the "Trotskyist neocon" assertion is the one that received much attention during the debates over the war in Iraq, and which contributed the most to the assertion's current widespread popularity. It is also perhaps the most confused. The contention here, as ludicrous as it may seem, is that neoconservatives in the US Defense Department, such as Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and former Defense Policy Board chairman Richard Perle, are surreptitiously implementing Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution from the White House.

This charge is associated primarily with the liberal pundit Michael Lind, who in a much quoted article in the New Statesman from April of this year wrote that, "…neoconservative defence [sic] intellectuals…call their revolutionary ideology 'Wilsonianism' (after President Woodrow Wilson), but it is really Trotsky's theory of the permanent revolution mingled with the far-right Likud strain of Zionism". Even before Lind, however, the charge had already been made by Paris-based columnist William Pfaff, who had written in the International Herald Tribune in December of 2002 that, "The Bush administration's determination to deal with its problems through military means [….] seems a rightist version of Trotsky's "permanent revolution," destroying existing institutions and structures in the millenarian expectation that all this violence will come to an end in a better and happier world." As recently as this past August, Pfaff was still insisting in the IHT that neoconservatives, "…are influenced by the Trotskyist version of Marxist millenarianism that was the intellectual seedbed of the neoconservative movement."

Yet if anti-neocon liberals such as Lind and Pfaff -- together with an assortment of conspiracy theorists -- have done the most to popularize the idea that neoconservatives adhere to the theory of permanent revolution, it is again the paleoconservatives that deserve the credit for coining the idea -- or at least some of the credit, for the actual origins are more varied than one would imagine. Paleoconservative criticism of the aggressive internationalism championed by some neoconservatives dates back to the origins of their dispute in the early 1980s. But at that time, neoconservatives were only being accused of "neo-Wilsonianism". Explicitly equating the belief in promoting a "global democratic revolution" with Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution is a much more recent invention that started during the debates over how to respond to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 -- and it has some rather surprising roots.

In September of 2001, just a few weeks after the terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon, the paleoconservative author Joseph Stromberg devoted an article on the web site to attacking a piece by neoconservative scholar Michael Ledeen entitled "Creative Destruction: How to wage a revolutionary war". Ledeen's main argument was that it was "…time once again to export the democratic revolution" as the best way to defeat the terrorists. Polemicizing against this view, Stromberg questioned whether Ledeen's approach stemmed from "Schumpeter or Bakunin" and decided it was neither. Stromberg then quoted a Yugoslav bureaucrat from the 1960s, Edvard Kardelj, who at the height of the Soviet-Chinese dispute sought to discredit the "Chinese line of exporting the revolution by force" by labeling it as "Trotskyite". Stromberg, who at least gives credit to Commissar Kardelj, then went on to -- incredibly -- choose that very same label to smear Ledeen and the neoconservatives. Given these methods, one should perhaps refer to the paleocons as the "inverted Titoists" of conservatism!

In reality, while Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution can be called many things, including irrelevant, it has nothing whatsoever to do with exporting revolution. Much less does it extol upheaval for its own sake or the inherent virtues of violence and destruction -- something more akin to a blend of Georges Sorel and Frantz Fanon than to Trotskyism. As defined in its final form by Trotsky in the late 1920s, the theory of permanent revolution held that in third world countries, attempts to carry out the tasks of the "bourgeois-democratic" revolution, such as land reform and "authentic" national independence, would fail unless those attempts led to the seizure of power by the working class through a socialist revolution. Rather than a theory of "exporting revolution", Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution is above all a theory of the possibility of socialist revolution in the third world through combining and passing over the "historical stage" of a "bourgeois-democratic" revolution.

The claim that neoconservatives derive their view of foreign policy from an inversion of the American Trotskyists' call for permanent revolution in the 1930s and 40s is thus deeply flawed right from the start: Permanent revolution was never about using the Red Army to spread socialism. The Trotskyist movement's actual conceptual framework and political activity in the 1930s and early 40s consisted of trying to bring about world-wide revolutions "from below" as the way to break the Soviet Union out of its isolation and achieve world socialism. Calling for the Stalinist bureaucracy to export socialism by bayonet would not only have had nothing to do with permanent revolution, it would have been suicidal to boot! It was, after all, that same Stalinist bureaucracy that the Trotskyists were seeking to overthrow through "political revolution" in the USSR, and which was itself actively strangling revolutions and annihilating Trotskyists wherever it could, from Siberia to Spain to Vietnam.
The whole essay is well worth reading, but two things stand out: (1) Whatever happened to them all being the tools of the fascist svengali Leo Strauss? Do paleocons think any more people will know who Trotsky is than knew who Strauss was?; and (2) As we said yesterday, the Republic is Founded on the idea of permanent revolution. People aren't therefore required to support democratizing the whole world; but when they oppose it they are being literally un-American.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:23 AM


Acoustics Experiment Shows Why It's So Hard to Make Out the Heroine's Words at the Opera (Bertram Schwarzschild, PhysicsToday)

Vocal-tract resonances enhance the output of the vocal cords. They also create the distinctions between different vowels sounds. For sopranos singing high notes, the two functions come into conflict.

A frustrated listener might well define grand opera as musical theater where you have a hard time making out the words even when they're being sung in your own language. Conceding the point, many opera houses nowadays always flash surtitles above the proscenium. Comprehension is particularly difficult in the higher reaches of the soprano register. Hector Berlioz long ago warned composers not to put crucial words in the soprano's mouth at high notes.

A recent study at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, lays most of the blame on an inescapable tradeoff dictated by the physical acoustics of vowel differentiation and singing very high notes. Acoustical physicists John Smith and Joe Wolfe, working with physics undergraduate Elodie Joliveau, have carried out an experiment that demonstrates why different vowel sounds are almost impossible to distinguish when sopranos are singing in the highest octave of their range.

March 21, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:27 PM


Helicopters fire missiles at car of Hamas spiritual leader in Gaza (The Associated Press, 3/22/04)

Israel Air Force helicopters fired missiles at Hamas leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin as he left a mosque near his house at daybreak Monday, residents said, and Hamas officials and witnesses said he was killed.

Witnesses said Israeli helicopters fired three missiles at Yassin and two bodyguards as they left the mosque, killing them instantly. Hamas officials confirmed that he had been killed. Four people were killed and 12 wounded in the attack, witnesses said.

Yussef Haddad, 35, a taxi driver, said he saw the missiles hit and kill Yassin and the bodyguards. "Their bodies were shattered," he said.

Why not just do Arafat too and then pull out completely?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:24 PM


Holy War in Europe: Is al Qaeda a Eurocentric organization? (Reuel Marc Gerecht, 03/29/2004, Weekly Standard)

A small cadre of European scholars, mirrored by a small group of European internal-security and intelligence officials, have followed the growth of Islamic radicalism in Europe for nearly 20 years. They know, even if European politicians do not, that Europe's most fearsome Muslim true believers are not products of the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation, or the First Gulf War, or the American troop presence in Saudi Arabia after 1990, or the Algerian civil war, or the Bosnian war, or the strife in Chechnya, or the Hindu pillaging of mosques, or the war in Afghanistan, or the second American war against Saddam Hussein, or the globalization of American culture. These events are banners that men who are already converted to jihad wave as they march to give battle. The holy warriors in Europe do not want to see peace in Palestine any more than Hamas's spiritual chief Ahmad Yassin or Osama bin Laden or Iran's clerical guide Ali Khamenei wants to see Israelis and Palestinians solve their problems in two separate, peacefully coexisting states. They do not care about Israeli settlements.

Europe's jihadists are born from their imperfect assimilation into Western European societies, from the particular alienation that young Muslim males experience in Europe's post-Christian, devoutly secular societies. The phenomenon is vastly more common among Arabs than among African or Asian Muslims. The reasons why these young, predominantly Arab males are drawn to the most militant expressions of Islam are complex and always personal. But their journey--which they usually begin as highly Westernized, modern-educated youths of little Islamic faith and end as practitioners of bin Ladenism--is a thoroughly European experience.

The jihadists of Europe have drunk deeply from the virulently anti-American left-wing currents of Continental thought and mixed it with the Islamic emotions of 1,400 years of competition with the Christian West. It's a Molotov cocktail of the third-world socialist Frantz Fanon and the Muslim Brother Sayyid Qutb. Muslims elsewhere have gone through similar conversions--the United States, too, has had its Muslim jihadists and will, no doubt, produce more. And the globalization of this virulent strain of fundamentalist, usually Saudi-financed, Islam is real and probably getting worse. But the modern European experience seems much more likely to produce violent young Muslims than the American. Europe may be competitive with the worst breeding grounds in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan.

For Americans, after 9/11, this is obviously not just of academic interest. For the future of al Qaeda--if al Qaeda is to have a future where killing Americans en masse remains its transcendent raison d'être--is in Western Europe. [...]

President Bush has said that we, the West, are all in this together. But this simply isn't true. The néo-umma guerrière doesn't really want to strike Spain, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, Portugal, Italy, Austria, Germany, Poland, or even France as much as it wants to bomb the United States. It would be a delicious irony if small bands of Muslim holy warriors in the twenty-first century accomplished the opposite of what the Ottomans, the most powerful of Islam's empires, achieved in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The latter helped bring the West together; the former may help tear it apart.

This though fails to address the fundamental question: who cares? Why would we want to stay together with a post-Christian Europe? In the end, mightn't we find that we share more with an Islamic France than with the current wretched iteration?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:14 PM


What it means to be human: Roger Scruton tracks down the soul — the divine spark that distinguishes us from the rest of creation (Roger Scruton, 3/20/04, The Spectator)

Other animals are conscious, have thoughts, desires and emotions. But only we are self-conscious, able to address each other from ‘I’ to ‘I’ and to know ourselves in the first person, as subjects in a world of objects. As Kant plausibly argued, self-consciousness and freedom are two sides of a coin. It is I, not my body, who choose, and it is I who am praised or blamed, not my limbs, my feelings or my movements. There is a mystery here: how can I be both a free subject and a determined object, both the ‘I’ that decides and the body that carries the decision through? Kant argued that the understanding stops at the threshold of this mystery, and I suspect that he was right. It is precisely this mystery that religions try to normalise with the story of the soul.

The story varies from epoch to epoch and creed to creed. But it is never more simply put than in the language of the Koran, in which one word — nafs — means both ‘self’ and ‘soul’. This soul is raised in me: only by learning the ways of accountability do I rise to the condition of a free being, who realises his freedom in his deeds. Hence the soul can be corrupted. There is such a thing as the Devil’s work, which consists in undermining the self, tempting people to see themselves as objects, leading them to identify completely with their biological condition, to squander their selfhood in orgies of concupiscence and to refuse all accountability for what they are and do. The moral truth is conveyed with admirable simplicity in the great Sura of the Sun, Koran 91, which invokes the wonders of creation: sun and moon, day and night, heaven and earth, and finally ‘a soul, and what formed her, to which He revealed both right and wrong’. The Sura goes on to tell us that the one who safeguards the soul’s purity will prosper, while he who corrupts it is destroyed. It requires no metaphysics to understand the words ‘wa nafsin...’ — ‘and a soul...’. They are spoken in me and to me. The verse refers to the self that harbours knowledge of right and wrong, and it is just this that is the source of meaning in me.

Christians, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists have other ways of capturing this simple thought, but the fundamental observation is shared. Human beings stand out from the rest of creation. They are subjects in a world of objects, and as a result they judge and are judged. Hence they can be redeemed and corrupted. This work of redemption and corruption is neverending. We do not need a metaphysical doctrine of the soul to make sense of this; as we learn from the Koran, the reflexive pronoun is enough. Faith adds just one crucial detail: namely, that the reflexive pronoun is used also by God.

The fundamental amorality of materialism/sciencism/rationalism, whatever you care to call it, lies in its inability ever to render us more than objects.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:10 PM


The way forward: There is a long and hard road ahead if America and Britain are to begin to make amends with the Arab world (Yasir Suleiman, 3/21/04, Sunday Herald)

After decades of indifference and support for authoritarian rule in the Arab lands, US policy-makers have discovered democracy and embraced it as their ultimate goal for a future Middle East, which, it is hoped, will be more prosperous and more ready to interact peacefully with the West. The American administration has dubbed this vision its Greater Middle East policy, which it intends to present to the G8 summit of industrialised countries in the summer. Democratising the Arab world within a Middle East that has been geo-politically expanded to include Afghanistan and Pakistan is the topic of the hour for most Arabs.

There is no doubt that Arabs yearn for a genuine democracy in their countries, but they have responded to the American ideas on democracy, which have been met with traditional political acquiescence from Britain, with a massive dose of cynicism and an impressive array of conspiracy theories. Arabs ask how the Americans and British can be trusted with their future, considering their track record of false promises, brazen disregard for injustice and international legality in Palestine, lies over the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and support in the past for those countries whom they have now found wanting?

Mr. Suleiman seems to have entirely missed the point. We've only stepped in because it became blazingly obvious that the Arabs couldn't be trusted with their own future. Somewhat to our discredit, we preferred indifference...until the bombs started going off. Now we're there helping to democratize the region and asking nothing in return.

Beginning to Bloom: The British learned in the 1920s that growing democracy in Iraq takes time. But the U.S. effort there is already showing signs of success. (Joel Rayburn, March 21, 2004, LA Times)

A year ago, troops of the U.S.-led coalition moved into Iraq on their way to swiftly defeating Saddam Hussein's armies. Since then, Iraq's journey toward stability and democracy under U.S. tutelage has been painfully slow and difficult. So says a chorus of observers who reflexively transform not-unexpected obstacles to the establishment of an Iraqi government into major roadblocks. Typical was the New York Times' judgment, after reports of a delay in the signing of the interim Iraqi constitution, that the U.S. occupation had failed both to deliver Iraq from "pervasive insecurity" and to devise a "satisfactory formula … for creating the interim government due to assume power July 1." But although the problems confronting the United States and its coalition partners in Iraq are complex, they are not new. The good news is that when measured against the only previous attempt at Iraqi democracy-building — in the 1920s under the British — the current effort compares favorably in virtually every way. [...]

The U.S.-led democratization effort in Iraq, then, has been quite successful despite problems, risks and poorly handled situations. Even the Islamist terrorists seem to agree. In a way, their horrific surge of violent attacks against civilian targets last week, from the drive-by shooting of aid workers to the powerful car bomb in Baghdad, is a sign of their desperation and fear that democracy is taking root in Iraq, and that their window for destabilizing the country is closing. The goal of a stable, pluralistic democracy seems reachable — and we've been in Iraq only a year. If the pessimists read some history, they would learn that expectations of a swift conclusion to the Iraqi project are unrealistic and historically naive.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:44 PM


John Dean Kerry (David Hogberg, 3/17/2004, American Spectator)

Recently Juan Williams described Kerry as "someone who can take a punch and punch back on his way to a strong finish." Yet last week showed a Kerry who was punch drunk. The reason is that Kerry's campaign skills really haven't been tested. The only real challenge Kerry faced during the primary was revamping his campaign after he lost the lead in the polls to Howard Dean. Dean's implosion is what was primarily responsible for Kerry's wins in Iowa and New Hampshire. After the Granite State win had cemented his position as frontrunner, Kerry never really faced a serious attack. Gephardt and Lieberman were gone early, Clark was feckless, Dean was in disarray, and Edwards played too nice. Perhaps if Kerry had to defend his status as a frontrunner, it would have toughened him up, made him more careful in his remarks, and impressed upon him the difference between putting out fires and pouring gasoline on them.

Indeed, Kerry hasn't faced a tough challenge since his Senate race of 1996. (He ran unopposed in 2002.) And a closer look at that victory, over GOP Governor William Weld, suggests that Kerry's ability to best a tough opponent is suspect. Kerry beat Weld by only seven percentage points, despite outspending Weld by $4.6 million, and running in what was a good year for Democrats and during Bill Clinton's successful effort to make the unpopular Newt Gingrich the face of the Republican Party. As the Almanac of American Politics suggested, it "may simply have been a matter of Democrats coming home," as Clinton walloped Dole in Massachusetts 61-28%. Kerry didn't so much fight his way to the finish line as he was carried there on Clinton's coattails.

Last week Kerry demonstrated campaign skills that are very rusty, if they exist at all. Unless he makes big improvements quickly, he is headed for a meltdown. Since he is not given to impulsive primal screams à la Dean, it will not be sudden. Rather, it will draw out like a blade as he compounds one gaffe with another and another...

Math isn't a strong suit, so can someone correct me if those numbers don't indicate that the Senator ran 26% points behind Bill Clinton's margin?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:32 PM


The Liberty of Others (Carroll Andrew Morse, 03/18/2004, Tech Central Station)

They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security.

-- Benjamin Franklin [...]

The willingness of Spain to abandon the Iraqi people after the Madrid bombings demonstrates the existence of an option for trading liberty for security not anticipated by Franklin. Franklin assumed the existence a dangerous human inclination to sacrifice one's own liberty in pursuit of security. Over the past several decades, however, a different source of liberty that can be traded away has been discovered. The liberty of others has been identified as a tradable commodity. [...]

Alas, the option of destroying the terrorists' ability to wage war is too unsophisticated for the internationalists of Old Europe. By cutting and running from Iraq, the Zapatero government rejects the strategy of destroying of terror networks at their source and joins Old Europe in the search for a solution based upon multilateral agreements and international law. Despite what may be good intentions, Zapatero's withdrawal does not advance the rule of law. No just law requires individuals or nations to stand idly by while hundreds of thousands of people are tortured and murdered. On the contrary, abandoning Iraq and decrying its liberation as a mistake makes mockery of the rule of law.

Spain's March 11-based disengagement from Iraq most closely resembles the option of acceding to the demands of a foreign despot. It is more a bilateral deal with the terror masters than it is a principled stand to defend multilateralism and the rule of law. Here are the terms of the deal: Spain agrees to withdraw material support for operations against state sponsors of terror. Since the state sponsors of terrorism are also brutal dictatorships, Spain also turns its back on extending liberty to places of the world where its presence is lacking. In return for these self-imposed restraints, the Spanish government expects the terror masters to refrain from using their death squads against the people of Spain.

This is the type of deal that Benjamin Franklin warned against -- a trade of liberty for security. The acceptance of the inevitability of terrorism and the refusal to take the battle to the terrorists may well succeed in buying a little short-term security for the people of Spain; they may be spared further attacks while the terror masters seek to establish control of the foreign policy of other nations. Ultimately, in the long term, such arrangements never benefit anyone except terrorists and their leaders. At some point, the despots who give orders to the death squads will make further demands of Spain. And if Spain refuses to comply, the death squads will again be unleashed. There is no promise of security for Spain; there is only a promise of future opportunities to surrender more and more liberty.

Can't be tough on the Euros--after all not every nation commits itself to fighting despotism globally in its founding documents:
WHEN in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.

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. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security.

By its very terms the Declaration recognizes certain regimes to be illegitimate and makes it a duty to topple them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:47 PM


The Florida Chamber's Big Fish Tale (Paul Jacob, March 21, 2004, Townhall)

Cozying up to Florida legislators, the Florida Chamber of Commerce is agitating to take initiative rights away from Florida voters.

Otherwise, the Chamber warns, disaster is at hand. Those wild and crazy Florida voters will amend their state's constitution with such reckless abandon that businesses will flee, leaving Florida bankrupt. (Ignore all the people and businesses flocking to Florida these days. It spoils the Chamber's story.)

According to the Chamber, Florida voters should be put in their place, voting only for their betters, paying their taxes, keeping quiet.

Never mind hanging chads; the Chamber lobbyists are trying to hang the voters. Their rallying cry might as well be: "Disempower the voters now, before it's too late."

The Chamber of Commerce bemoans that Florida's state constitution has been amended 95 times since 1970.

Is this really appearing in a conservative publication? The initiative is an abomination, an instrument of exactly the kind of direct democracy that the Founders rightly abhorred.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:39 PM


Minnesota women blazing a new kind of political trail (Dane Smith, 03/21/2004, Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Whenever Minnesota's top elected officials gather these days, women are well represented -- not a terrible surprise in a state historically known for its liberalism.

What's unexpected is that Minnesota's female political powerhouses are mostly conservative Republicans.

The state's pace-setting Republican women include Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau, Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer, State Auditor Patricia Anderson and Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz. [...]

In the Legislature last year, both of the key sponsors of legislation that allowed more people to get permits to carry guns were Republican women: Sen. Pat Pariseau and Rep. Lynda Boudreau. This year, the lead authors of the bill for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage are again Republican women: Sen. Michele Bachman and Rep. Mary Liz Holberg.

The advances of conservative women extend into the realm of local government, interest groups and public-policy advocacy. Strong players in those fields include: Hennepin County Commissioner Penny Steele, a conservative voice in Minnesota's largest local government; Kersten, of the Center of the American Experiment, who is a frequent contributor to opinion pages and policy journals; Linda Runbeck, a top leader of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota; and Annette Meeks, public affairs director for the Center of the American Experiment and a member of the Metropolitan Council. [...]

Unlike many DFL women who jumped into politics in their 20s or 30s, Republican women tend to have raised their children first and been drawn into community affairs gradually, Molnau said.

"For whatever reason, there are some women driven to do what they think is right; they put in the extra time, they get active, and they are rewarded," Molnau said.

Kiffmeyer is an example of a lifelong party activist who didn't run for public office until she was a grandmother. And she marvels that she and other women managed without much difficulty to achieve statewide office without the quotas imposed by DFLers at almost every level of party organization.

"It's not like we were owed it," Kiffmeyer said. "We felt we had to earn it."

The key to long term dominance of a state's politics is a deep bench like this one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:16 PM


The Contentious 'No Child' Law II: Money Has Not Been Left Behind (Paul E. Peterson & Martin R. West, 3/17/04, Education Week

"An unfunded mandate," cry the critics of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. In the words of Sen. John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee: "By neglecting his promise to provide the funding necessary to help each student to reach high standards, George W. Bush has made a mockery of the phrase 'leave no child behind.'" Virginia's Republican-dominated legislature recently struck a similar chord, passing (on a vote of 98-1) a resolution complaining that the law will cost "literally millions of dollars that Virginia does not have."

A damning critique, if true. But consider the following:

The No Child Left Behind law is, intrinsically, an inexpensive school reform, a plan to get more bang from existing bucks, not a high-priced mandate. The costs of setting standards, testing students, and releasing results to the general public are trivial, compared to the cost of public schooling more generally.

Two Massachusetts officials, James Peyser and Robert Costrell, report in the current issue of our publication, Education Next, that accountability costs in their state run about $20 per student tested. Looking at 25 states, the Harvard University economist Caroline Hoxby found that the costs of accountability systems in place in the 2000-01 school year ranged from less than $2 per public school student in South Carolina to $34 per student in Delaware. Costs in the median state were just $15 per public school student. Meanwhile, average per-pupil costs in U.S. public schools now run approximately $10,000 a year.

In short, the true costs of the No Child Left Behind Act are no more than 0.2 percent of the total cost of public schooling. Would that all unfunded mandates were so cheap.

But if the mandate is cheap, the new federal bucks are plentiful. Historically, education has been a matter to be funded by state and local governments. But the federal role has been increasing rapidly under the Bush administration. Between 2000 and 2003, the U.S. Department of Education upped its contribution to elementary and secondary education by approximately $300 per pupil, from $23 billion to $36 billion dollars--15 times the cost of accountability.

NCLB is perhaps the
worst understood piece of major legislation of recent years. Widely misunderstood to be a classic case of throwing money at a problem, it instead imposes accountability on public schools and provides for vouchers when they fail, which the bill makes nearly inevitable. It's a huge win for conservatives which they whine about endlessly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:59 PM


Meet The Press (NBC, 3/21/04)

NBC'S TIM RUSSERT: "Was John Kerry wrong to vote authorization for war?"

SEN. TED KENNEDY (D-MA): "Look, he has explained his position. If John Kerry had been president of the United States with that vote, we never, I don't believe, gone to war, certainly not at that time. He would have worked through the inspection system. He would have worked through the international kinds of system, and I don't personally believe that we would have gone to war."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:35 PM


Mysteries of bog butter uncovered: Wax found in Celtic bogs is the remains of ancient meat and milk. (PHILIP BALL, 17 March 2004, Nature)

Those who live in the countryside of Ireland and Scotland and dig up chunks of peat for fuel have long been familiar with bog butter. While gathering the compressed plant matter, which can be burned in fires, diggers occasionally slice into a white substance with the appearance and texture of paraffin wax.

This is thought to be the remains of food once buried in the bog to preserve it. Waterlogged peat is cool and contains very little oxygen, so it can be used as a primitive kind of fridge.

The question is what type of food was buried in the peat. Local lore sometimes says that the waxy stuff is literally the remains of butter. For example, the seventeenth-century English writer Samuel Butler remarked in one of his famous poems that butter in Ireland "was seven years buried in a bog".

But there could be an alternative source for the waxy material: dead animals. In the eighteenth century, French chemists discovered that human corpses often contain adipocere, a substance also known as 'grave-wax'. So bog butter could be the remains of carcasses rather than dairy products.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:33 AM


In Memoriam A. H. H. (Alfred, Lord Tennyson )


Strong Son of God, immortal Love,
    Whom we, that have not seen thy face,
    By faith, and faith alone, embrace,
Believing where we cannot prove;

Thine are these orbs of light and shade;
    Thou madest Life in man and brute;
    Thou madest Death; and lo, thy foot
Is on the skull which thou hast made.

Thou wilt not leave us in the dust:
    Thou madest man, he knows not why,
    He thinks he was not made to die;
And thou hast made him: thou art just.

Thou seemest human and divine,
    The highest, holiest manhood, thou.
    Our wills are ours, we know not how;
Our wills are ours, to make them thine.

Our little systems have their day;
    They have their day and cease to be:
    They are but broken lights of thee,
And thou, O Lord, art more than they.

We have but faith: we cannot know;
    For knowledge is of things we see
    And yet we trust it comes from thee,
A beam in darkness: let it grow.

Let knowledge grow from more to more,
    But more of reverence in us dwell;
    That mind and soul, according well,
May make one music as before,

But vaster. We are fools and slight;
    We mock thee when we do not fear:
    But help thy foolish ones to bear;
Help thy vain worlds to bear thy light.

Forgive what seem'd my sin in me;
    What seem'd my worth since I began;
    For merit lives from man to man,
And not from man, O Lord, to thee.

Forgive my grief for one removed,
    Thy creature, whom I found so fair.
    I trust he lives in thee, and there
I find him worthier to be loved.

Forgive these wild and wandering cries,
    Confusions of a wasted youth;
    Forgive them where they fail in truth,
And in thy wisdom make me wise.



I held it truth, with him who sings
    To one clear harp in divers tones,
    That men may rise on stepping-stones
Of their dead selves to higher things.

But who shall so forecast the years
    And find in loss a gain to match?
    Or reach a hand thro' time to catch
The far-off interest of tears?

Let Love clasp Grief lest both be drown'd,
    Let darkness keep her raven gloss:
    Ah, sweeter to be drunk with loss,
To dance with death, to beat the ground,

Than that the victor Hours should scorn
    The long result of love, and boast,
    `Behold the man that loved and lost,
But all he was is overworn.'


Old Yew, which graspest at the stones
    That name the under-lying dead,
    Thy fibres net the dreamless head,
Thy roots are wrapt about the bones.

The seasons bring the flower again,
    And bring the firstling to the flock;
    And in the dusk of thee, the clock
Beats out the little lives of men.

O, not for thee the glow, the bloom,
    Who changest not in any gale,
    Nor branding summer suns avail
To touch thy thousand years of gloom:

And gazing on thee, sullen tree,
    Sick for thy stubborn hardihood,
    I seem to fail from out my blood
And grow incorporate into thee.


O Sorrow, cruel fellowship,
    O Priestess in the vaults of Death,
    O sweet and bitter in a breath,
What whispers from thy lying lip?

'The stars,' she whispers, `blindly run;
    A web is wov'n across the sky;
    From out waste places comes a cry,
And murmurs from the dying sun:

'And all the phantom, Nature, stands—
    With all the music in her tone,
    A hollow echo of my own,—
A hollow form with empty hands.'

And shall I take a thing so blind,
    Embrace her as my natural good;
    Or crush her, like a vice of blood,
Upon the threshold of the mind?


To Sleep I give my powers away;
    My will is bondsman to the dark;
    I sit within a helmless bark,
And with my heart I muse and say:

O heart, how fares it with thee now,
    That thou should'st fail from thy desire,
    Who scarcely darest to inquire,
'What is it makes me beat so low?'

Something it is which thou hast lost,
    Some pleasure from thine early years.
    Break, thou deep vase of chilling tears,
That grief hath shaken into frost!

Such clouds of nameless trouble cross
    All night below the darken'd eyes;
    With morning wakes the will, and cries,
'Thou shalt not be the fool of loss.'


I sometimes hold it half a sin
    To put in words the grief I feel;
    For words, like Nature, half reveal
And half conceal the Soul within.

But, for the unquiet heart and brain,
    A use in measured language lies;
    The sad mechanic exercise,
Like dull narcotics, numbing pain.

In words, like weeds, I'll wrap me o'er,
    Like coarsest clothes against the cold:
    But that large grief which these enfold
Is given in outline and no more.


One writes, that `Other friends remain,'
    That `Loss is common to the race'—
    And common is the commonplace,
And vacant chaff well meant for grain.

That loss is common would not make
    My own less bitter, rather more:
    Too common! Never morning wore
To evening, but some heart did break.

O father, wheresoe'er thou be,
    Who pledgest now thy gallant son;
    A shot, ere half thy draught be done,
Hath still'd the life that beat from thee.

O mother, praying God will save
    Thy sailor,—while thy head is bow'd,
    His heavy-shotted hammock-shroud
Drops in his vast and wandering grave.

Ye know no more than I who wrought
    At that last hour to please him well;
    Who mused on all I had to tell,
And something written, something thought;

Expecting still his advent home;
    And ever met him on his way
    With wishes, thinking, `here to-day,'
Or `here to-morrow will he come.'

O somewhere, meek, unconscious dove,
    That sittest ranging golden hair;
    And glad to find thyself so fair,
Poor child, that waitest for thy love!

For now her father's chimney glows
    In expectation of a guest;
    And thinking `this will please him best,'
She takes a riband or a rose;

For he will see them on to-night;
    And with the thought her colour burns;
    And, having left the glass, she turns
Once more to set a ringlet right;

And, even when she turn'd, the curse
    Had fallen, and her future Lord
    Was drown'd in passing thro' the ford,
Or kill'd in falling from his horse.

O what to her shall be the end?
    And what to me remains of good?
    To her, perpetual maidenhood,
And unto me no second friend.


Dark house, by which once more I stand
    Here in the long unlovely street,
    Doors, where my heart was used to beat
So quickly, waiting for a hand,

A hand that can be clasp'd no more—
    Behold me, for I cannot sleep,
    And like a guilty thing I creep
At earliest morning to the door.

He is not here; but far away
    The noise of life begins again,
    And ghastly thro' the drizzling rain
On the bald street breaks the blank day.


A happy lover who has come
    To look on her that loves him well,
    Who 'lights and rings the gateway bell,
And learns her gone and far from home;

He saddens, all the magic light
    Dies off at once from bower and hall,
    And all the place is dark, and all
The chambers emptied of delight:

So find I every pleasant spot
    In which we two were wont to meet,
    The field, the chamber, and the street,
For all is dark where thou art not.

Yet as that other, wandering there
    In those deserted walks, may find
    A flower beat with rain and wind,
Which once she foster'd up with care;

So seems it in my deep regret,
    O my forsaken heart, with thee
    And this poor flower of poesy
Which little cared for fades not yet.

But since it pleased a vanish'd eye,
    I go to plant it on his tomb,
    That if it can it there may bloom,
Or, dying, there at least may die.


Fair ship, that from the Italian shore
    Sailest the placid ocean-plains
    With my lost Arthur's loved remains,
Spread thy full wings, and waft him o'er.

So draw him home to those that mourn
    In vain; a favourable speed
    Ruffle thy mirror'd mast, and lead
Thro' prosperous floods his holy urn.

All night no ruder air perplex
    Thy sliding keel, till Phosphor, bright
    As our pure love, thro' early light
Shall glimmer on the dewy decks.

Sphere all your lights around, above;
    Sleep, gentle heavens, before the prow;
    Sleep, gentle winds, as he sleeps now,
My friend, the brother of my love;

My Arthur, whom I shall not see
    Till all my widow'd race be run;
    Dear as the mother to the son,
More than my brothers are to me.


I hear the noise about thy keel;
    I hear the bell struck in the night:
    I see the cabin-window bright;
I see the sailor at the wheel.

Thou bring'st the sailor to his wife,
    And travell'd men from foreign lands;
    And letters unto trembling hands;
And, thy dark freight, a vanish'd life.

So bring him; we have idle dreams:
    This look of quiet flatters thus
    Our home-bred fancies. O to us,
The fools of habit, sweeter seems

To rest beneath the clover sod,
    That takes the sunshine and the rains,
    Or where the kneeling hamlet drains
The chalice of the grapes of God;

Than if with thee the roaring wells
    Should gulf him fathom-deep in brine;
    And hands so often clasp'd in mine,
Should toss with tangle and with shells.

Posted by David Cohen at 10:56 AM


Kerry Faced Tight Campaign Finances (Sharon Theimer, AP, 3/21/04)

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry spent nearly as much as he raised last month and had little campaign cash left as March began, according to a report he filed Saturday.

The Massachusetts senator raised $8.4 million and spent nearly $8.3 million in February, beginning this month with $2.4 million in the bank, according to his monthly campaign finance report to the Federal Election Commission.

President Bush, facing no Republican opponent, started March with $160 million raised and $49 million spent. He had $110 million on hand to spend as Kerry emerged from this month's "Super Tuesday" primaries as the Democratic nominee-to-be.

There are about 23 weeks until the Republican Convention in New York City, at which point the President will have to have spent his $110 million, plus whatever additional funds he raises. So, week in and week out, the campaign must spend at least $5 million.

On the other hand, Kerry's campaign must raise every dollar it needs to spend between now and the Democratic convention in July, which might explain another reason for the president's campaign going right to ridicule. Are doners really going to reach deep into their pockets to fund a joke?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:02 AM


An Inspired Strategy: Is Religion a Tonic for Kids? You Better Believe It, Say Teens and Scholars (Laura Sessions Stepp, March 21, 2004, Washington Post)

Late last year, a commission convened by Dartmouth Medical School, among others, studied years of research on kids, including brain-imaging studies, and concluded that young people who are religious are better off in significant ways than their secular peers. They are less likely than nonbelievers to smoke and drink and more likely to eat well; less likely to commit crimes and more likely to wear seat belts; less likely to be depressed and more likely to be satisfied with their families and school.

"Religion has a unique net effect on adolescents above and beyond factors like race, parental education and family income," says Brad Wilcox, a University of Virginia sociologist and panel member. Poor children who are religious will do better than poor children who are not religious, he adds -- and in some cases better than nonreligious middle-class children.

Meanwhile, a social groundswell may be underway, as a larger proportion of teenagers than a decade ago say religion is important. In 2001, about three out of five teenagers said religion was "pretty important" or "very important" to them -- a significant increase, according to Child Trends, a research organization that analyzes federal data. The biggest jump occurred not among poor and unambitious teenagers -- the stereotyped believers -- but among young achievers who anticipated finishing four years of college. [...]

The commission members said that religious congregations benefit teenagers by affirming who they are, expecting a lot from them and giving them opportunities to show what they can do. These are not exactly earthshaking observations; as the panel noted, the same could be said of clubs, sports teams and other youth organizations (such as the YMCA, which helped fund the study). What sets religious groups apart, however -- and makes a surprisingly big difference to kids, according to the panel -- is that they promote a "direct personal relationship with the Divine." [...]

On Sundays you can find Kimbrey [Pierce, a Columbia high school senior,] and 100 or more young people hanging out at Glen Mar United Methodist Church, an Ellicott City congregation that doubled its membership in the 1980s and again in the 1990s and now counts 1,500 active members.

Senior pastor Anders Lunt realized long ago that the way to grow a church was to attract baby boomers and the way to attract boomers was through their kids. The church youth program took off six years ago when its first full-time youth director, D.C. Veale, was hired.

Veale, a bearded, Tolkienesque figure in his early thirties, recruited adults to help him with a struggling group of fewer than 20 regular members. Today he calls on about 30 adult volunteers to lead a youth choir, handbell choir and rock band, a video tech team, plays and scavenger hunts, Bible groups, community service projects and mission trips.

Youths also play major parts in more traditional worship, teaching Sunday school, reading scripture, and three times a year preaching sermons so popular that people squeeze in at the back of the sanctuary and spill out into the front hall.

Lunt has instructed his Howard County congregation that no place is off-limits to the young. When babies cry during a sermon, he has been known to stop mid-sentence to assure parents it's okay.

"I have been in churches where there are no children," the congenial, sandy-haired pastor will say, "and those are awful places."

The corollary, of course, is that in the secularized nations of Europe, people expect nothing of themselves, everything of government, and there are no children--those are increasingly awful places.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:40 AM


Software of Democracy (THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, 3/21/04, NY Times)

While India has the hardware of democracy — free elections — it still lacks a lot of the software — decent, responsive, transparent local government. While China has none of the hardware of democracy, in the form of free elections, its institutions have been better at building infrastructure and services for China's people and foreign investors.

When I was in Bangalore recently, my hotel room was across the hall from that of a visiting executive of a major U.S. multinational, which operates in India and China, and we used to chat. One day, in a whisper, he said to me that if he compared what China and India had done by way of building infrastructure in the last decade, India lost badly. Bangalore may be India's Silicon Valley, but its airport (finally being replaced) is like a seedy bus station with airplanes.

Few people in India with energy and smarts would think of going into politics. People don't expect or demand much from their representatives and therefore they are not interested in paying them much in taxes, so most local governments are starved of both revenues and talent.

Krishna Prasad, an editor for Outlook magazine and one of the brightest young journalists I met in India, said to me that criminalization and corruption, caste and communal differences have infected Indian politics to such a degree that it attracts all "the wrong kind of people." So India has a virtuous cycle working in economics and a vicious cycle working in politics. "Each time the government tries to put its foot in the door in IT [information technology]," he said, "the IT guys say: `Please stay away. We did this without you. We don't need you now to mess things up.' "

That attitude is not healthy, because you can't have a successful IT industry when every company has to build its own infrastructure. America's greatest competitive advantages are the flexibility of its economy and the quality of its infrastructure, rule of law and regulatory institutions. Knowledge workers are mobile and they like to live in nice, stable places. My hope is that the knowledge workers now spearheading India's economic revolution will feel compelled to spearhead a political revolution.

Ah, yes, infrastructure boondoggles as a sign of national health--one forgets that at the New York Times the New Deal worked. India's problems are significant, but falling behind China in the race to build highways to nowhere is not among them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:26 AM


The Kerry campaign would appear to have gone insane. Tim Russert is doing a number on the Senator's record and who do they have defending him?: Ted Kennedy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:23 AM

BIOGRAPHY FIRST (via Flag of the World):

An Eight-Month Run: Starring John Kerry in "Airplane" and George W. Bush in "The Happy Warrior." (Peggy Noonan, March 11, 2004, Wall Street Journal)

Mr. Kerry has a structural weakness on the stump. It's John Kerry. There he was this week on stage in shirtsleeves, with a handheld mike, riffing along. "I have news for George W. Bush . . ." "George Bush said he would be a uniter, but instead he is a divider . . ." "I used to do Elvis . . ." Raspy, pacing back and forth. He reminded me of someone, but I couldn't place it. The blank intensity, the conviction that what's on his mind is important, though he can't quite remember why . . .

And then I had it. Captain Rex Kramer in "Airplane," played by Robert Stack. At the end of the movie he's alone in the tower at the microphone, talking to an empty plane. "Do you know what it's like to fall in the mud and get kicked in the head with an iron boot? Of course you don't, no one does. It never happens. It's a dumb question. Skip it."

There's the same faintly disturbing aspect to his free associations. Mr. Kerry's voice is like Robert Stack's, the same studied actor's baritone. [...]

Right now the key to Mr. Bush's success in defining both himself and Mr. Kerry is joy. The joy of the battle. And what joyous battlers bring to the proceedings: humor and wit and grace.

The one thing cable TV can't resist, and can't ignore even if it comes from a Republican, is wit. Wit brightens their copy. They love humor and joy. They will use a pithy putdown over and over. That's why Mr. Bush got so much mileage out of even a wan joke about Mr. Kerry having been in Washington long enough to take two sides on every issue.

Mr. President, keep it up but do it better.

Don't make the country mad at John Kerry, make them laugh at John Kerry. And use wit not only for wit's sake but to make political and philosophical points.

This year comedy's a cannon. It's the only thing right now that will break through the media wall.

The other day I was thinking of the White House Correspondents Association Dinner a couple of years ago at which Ozzy Osbourne was the big attraction. He stood up when the president entered the room and gestured to his own long hair. He yelled out something like, "You should grow your hair too." Mr. Bush looked and laughed and shouted, "Second term, Ozzy!" That's the spirit.

A particular danger is lurking in front of Mr. Kerry and whether he stumbles into it or not will tell us something significant about not just what kind of candidate he'll be this year but what kind of president he'd make. The danger is the temptation to respond to Mr. Bush's jibes by going negative. The problem with this is that so few people still know who the Senator is and their first impressions of him would then be of a nobody going after a rather popular president. Mr. Kerry is not a likable man anyway, but introducing himself to the American people in such a fashion would make people really dislike him.

So, the question for the Kerry campaign is: are they realistic enough and is the candidate patient enough to start out with biography? Those of us who have been paying far too much attention are sick by now of hearing about the Senator's service in Vietnam, but perhaps 60% of the citizenry is either unaware that this Kerry guy served or else think he's the Senator Kerrey who dated Debra Winger. They need to find some imaginative ways to generate free media for awhile during which the candidate talks about himself and not politics: the late night talk show rounds, C-SPAN, Regis, the Today Show, Saturday Night Live, etc. But maybe Baseball Opening Day and a couple innings in the TV booth? Maybe an unannounced and relatively low key trip to a NASCAR race? Maybe a trip to Good Friday and Easter services? Maybe even one of those goforsaken bus trips across America? And, in the meantime, they need to be disciplined enough to spend some of the too little cash they have on hand to run those warm and fuzzy ads that make politicians seem like new and improved bathroom tissues. Hardest of all, they need to do all this with George Bush and Karl Rove just carving him up all the while and with the almost psychotically angry Democratic regulars screaming for him to return fire.

It's a tall order, but a good test. (Of course, it's only the second test--the first is retiring from the Senate.)

March 20, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:44 PM


Bush brands Kerry a serial tax-raiser, mocks Democrat's claim of foreign support (NANCY BENAC, March 20, 2004, Associated Press)

President Bush used the first rally of his re-election campaign to cast Democrat John Kerry on Saturday as a serial tax-raiser who has voted for tax increases 350 times. He also mocked Kerry's claims of support from undisclosed foreign leaders.

Bush took note of Kerry's proposals to expand health care, education and other domestic programs while still cutting in half the deficit. Kerry, the president, said, has promised more than he can pay for.

"He's going to have to pay for it somehow," Bush told thousands of cheering supporters at the Orange County Convention Center. "It's pretty clear how he's going to fill the tax gap -- he's going to tax all of you. Fortunately, you're not going to give him that chance."

Aides to Kerry, who was vacationing in Idaho... [...]

Bush used his speech to jab at Kerry on two other counts: his vote against an $87 billion aid plan for Iraq and Afghanistan, and his claim that some foreign leaders would prefer to see Kerry win the election.

On the foreign aid, Bush mocked Kerry's awkward explanation that "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it."

Bush read aloud the quote, then declared: "That sure clears things up, doesn't it?"

"His answers aren't always clear but the voters will have a very clear choice in this campaign."

As for Kerry's claim that foreign leaders would prefer a Kerry White House, the president told the crowd, "That's OK, I'm not too worried, because I'm going to keep my campaign right here in America."

As Morton Kondracke noted on Fox News Special Report the other night, Mr. Bush is doing something unique in American politics here: he's making the Senator a target of open ridicule. The campaign's message leap-frogged over negative and went straight to dismissive. Even more daring, it's the President himself taking the lead. The key to this will be to stay relatively light-handed and to avoid outright contempt. If they can do that and treat Mr. Kerry as an object of fun, it will be just devastating.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:31 PM


After 19 Years in Senate, Kerry of Today Is Far From Kerry of 1985 (KATHARINE Q. SEELYE, 3/20/04, NY Times)

When he first entered the Senate, in 1985, John Kerry was a proponent of a nuclear arms freeze and he joined other liberal Democrats in challenging numerous elements of President Ronald Reagan's military expansion. He called the build-up unnecessary and said some of the weapons systems were useless.

Mr. Reagan's military expansion was subsequently credited for helping hasten the collapse of the Soviet Union. And with the cold war ending, the world was suddenly a different place. The next president, George Bush, also a Republican, and his secretary of defense, Dick Cheney, began drawing down the armed forces and scaling back weapons systems, reaping the benefits of what was referred to as the peace dividend.

Mr. Kerry, like most of his colleagues, went along. But he also occasionally went further than the majority of his party.

In 1994 he proposed some cuts in military programs and intelligence services that even many Democrats rejected. Senator Dennis DeConcini, the Arizona Democrat who then headed the intelligence committee, had said, earlier cuts were "as deep as the intelligence community can withstand during its post-cold-war transition." [...]

More recently, Mr. Bush has ridiculed Mr. Kerry for initially supporting the use of force in Iraq, then campaigning against it.

In the heat of the Democratic primaries this year, after Howard Dean, the antiwar candidate, criticized his vote, Mr. Kerry said that he had merely voted for the president to "threaten" the use of force and that he had believed Mr. Bush would build an international coalition and go to war only as a last resort.

The Bush campaign is also emphasizing Mr. Kerry's subsequent vote against $87 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan and for more equipment for the troops.

Explaining his vote at the time, Mr. Kerry said: "The best way to support our troops and take the target off their backs is with a real strategy to win the peace in Iraq — not by throwing $87 billion at George Bush's failed policies."

He also said he wanted that $87 billion to come from rescinding part of Mr. Bush's tax cut and he voted for an amendment to do that. But it was rejected, so Mr. Kerry voted against the final measure.

In a scathing television commercial, the Bush campaign singles out items from that one vote to suggest that Mr. Kerry voted "no" several times against specific outlays like "funding our soldiers," "body armor for troops in combat" and "higher combat pay." The Bush campaign then remade the commercial and began running it on Thursday to further deride Mr. Kerry. It pointed to his recent explanation that "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it."

Wow, the transformation from opposing Vietnam to opposing the Cold War to opposing the war on terror is really startling, eh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:26 PM


Some Democrats Say Kerry Must Get Back on the Trail (DAVID M. HALBFINGERand ADAM NAGOURNEY, 3/21/04, NY Times)

[A]s Mr. Kerry disappeared to regroup on the slopes of Sun Valley this weekend, he left Democrats recoiling at the disparity between his campaign in the works and that of the White House, which has devoted six months to preparing for this moment.

As the White House greeted Mr. Kerry's claim on the Democratic nomination with an avalanche of advertisements and attacks, the challenger seemed at least a little spent as he faced the challenges of raising money, building a staff, responding to all of what his aides called the "incoming," and retooling his campaign to appeal to a general election audience.

Après ski, of course.

If nothing else, this vacation indicates the Democrats have written off the South and NASCAR dads.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:22 PM


A Bush Surprise: Fright-Wing Support (WARREN ST. JOHN, 3/21/04, NY Times)

With his mohawk, ratty fatigues, assorted chains and his menagerie of tattoos — swallows on each shoulder, a nautical star on his back and the logo of the Bouncing Souls, a New York City punk band, on his right leg — 22-year-old Nick Rizzuto is the very picture of counterculture alienation. But it's when he talks politics that Mr. Rizzuto sounds like a real radical, for a punk anyway. Mr. Rizzuto is adamantly in favor of lowering taxes and for school vouchers, and against campaign finance laws; his favorite Supreme Court justice is Clarence Thomas; he plans to vote for President Bush in November; and he's hard-core into capitalism.

"Punks will tell me, `Punk and capitalism don't go together,' " Mr. Rizzuto said. "I don't understand where they're coming from. The biggest punk scenes are in capitalist countries like the U.S., Canada and Japan. I haven't heard of any new North Korean punk bands coming out. There's no scene in Iran."

Mr. Rizzuto is the founder of Conservative Punk, one of a handful of Web sites and blogs that have sprung up recently as evidence of a heretofore latent political entity: Republican punks. With names like GOPunk, Anti-Anti-Flag and Punkvoter Lies, the sites are a curious blend of Karl Rove and Johnny Rotten, preaching personal responsibility and reflexive patriotism with the in-your-face zeal of a mosh pit. When he's not banging his head to the Misfits, the Vandals or the Bouncing Souls, for example, Mr. Rizzuto spends his time writing essays denouncing Michael Moore and "left-wing propaganda," and urging other conservative punks to join his cause.

"Punk has been hijacked by an extreme left-wing element," Mr. Rizzuto said. "It's blame America first. Everything is America's fault, and everything is Bush's fault." Mr. Rizzuto said his goal "is rallying conservative punks and getting people to vote."

Alone he keeps the wolves at bay...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:08 PM


Dogging Craze Has Brits in Heat (Leander Kahney, Mar. 19, 2004, Wired)

Giving new meaning to the term "flash mob," the British have invented a new sex craze called "dogging" that mixes sex, exhibitionism, mobs and the Internet.

Dogging combines technology with swinging, cruising and voyeurism. To wit: Crowds big and small watch exhibitionist couples who've met on the Net have sex in cars, and sometimes join in.

"Dogging is the broad term used to cover all the sexual outdoor activities that go on," says the dogging FAQ at Melanies UK Swingers, a popular dogging site. "This can be anything from putting on a show from your car, to a gangbang on a picnic table."

Dogging appears to be popular and widespread, attracting heterosexual couples and single men and women of all ages, income brackets and backgrounds. Not surprisingly, however, dogging meets tend to attract more men than women.

Dogging is most often practiced in cars at rural parks, lover's lanes and superstore parking lots. The term dogging has a number of suggested origins, but it probably refers to the "walking the dog" excuse proffered to spouses for an evening's absence.

Dogging sessions are usually organized through the dozens of dogging sites and message boards that have sprung up in the last couple of years. Photos are exchanged and meetings arranged by e-mail or mobile phone text message.

No wonder the Democrats think we still share values with the Europeans...

Time, at Last: Stay-at-home moms — DISCOVERED! (Rich Lowry, 3/19/04, National Review)

In a cover story headlined "The Case for Staying Home," [TIME] magazine reports, without sneering or condescension, the trend toward more new mothers leaving the work force. This is an important cultural benchmark, because until now, the media, feminist leaders and other opinion-makers have tended to portray stay-at-home moms as a regrettable throwback to what should be a long-gone era of child-rearing. Now, perhaps, we are ready to honor the full range of choices made by women struggling with how to balance career and family.

The workplace participation of married mothers with a child less than 1 year old has dropped for the first time ever, reversing a 30-year trend. It fell from 59 percent in 1997 to 53 percent in 2000. Women have realized that "having it all" — i.e., leaving their young kids with someone else all day long — is not as wondrously fulfilling as they were led to expect. "Common sense is winning out over the ideologies of the 1960s and 1970s," says family expert Allan Carlson. [...]

The option to stay at home shouldn't be a privilege of the well-credentialed few. Public policy needs to make it easier for families to choose whether to have mom, or dad, stay home, rather than forcing both parents into the work force. High taxes do just that. About half of married couples with children in the mid-1950s paid no federal income tax, thanks to a generous $3,000 personal exemption. If this exemption had kept up with inflation, it would be $10,000 today.

Although the steadily increasing child tax credit (now $1,000 per child) has eased the burden on families, more tax relief will make it still easier for them. Meanwhile, the tax code's dependent-care tax credit, which is only available for parents who go to licensed day-care providers, could be broadened to include parents who provide their own child care. The tax code could make it easier for moms and dads to maintain home offices as they search for creative ways to spend more time with their children while still working.

Posted by David Cohen at 6:51 PM


Too Quiet on the Home Front (David Brooks, New York Times, 3/20/04)

Compassionate conservatism never really had much of a life, but its collapse has had a debilitating effect on the Bush presidency.

Compassionate conservatism started out, remember, as a way to salvage the Republican Party from the wreckage of the Gingrich revolution. Newt Gingrich vowed to slash government, an approach that struck voters as entirely too negative. So Bush rejected "the destructive mind-set that if government would only get out of our way, all our problems would be solved."

Instead, compassionate conservatism was designed as a positive governing philosophy. It would revive responsible citizenship with more community and national service, more parental involvement in schools. Self-governing citizens would have greater incentives to give to charity.

Moreover, compassionate conservatism would get Republicans engaged in normally Democratic issues. The idea was to build trust across party lines and change the tone in Washington.

I've misunderstood any number of political programs. Where's my Times column?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:08 PM


Clinton Aides Plan to Tell Panel of Warning Bush Team on Qaeda (PHILIP SHENON, March 20, 2004, NY Times)

Senior Clinton administration officials called to testify next week before the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks say they are prepared to detail how they repeatedly warned their Bush administration counterparts in late 2000 that Al Qaeda posed the worst security threat facing the nation — and how the new administration was slow to act.

They said the warnings were delivered in urgent post-election intelligence briefings in December 2000 and January 2001 for Condoleezza Rice, who became Mr. Bush's national security adviser; Stephen Hadley, now Ms. Rice's deputy; and Philip D. Zelikow, a member of the Bush transition team, among others.

One official scheduled to testify, Richard A. Clarke, who was President Bill Clinton's counterterrorism coordinator, said in an interview that the warning about the Qaeda threat could not have been made more bluntly to the incoming Bush officials in intelligence briefings that he led.

At the time of the briefings, there was extensive evidence tying Al Qaeda to the bombing in Yemen two months earlier of an American warship, the Cole, in which 17 sailors were killed.

Okay, we'll bite: why didn't they do anything about it, since it was still their watch? It can't have been both so urgent that something needed to be done immediately and something that could be put off while a new administration found its sea legs, can it?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:11 PM


Gaffes and Senate Speak: Kerry’s political mistakes have allowed the Bush administration to cast the senator in a negative light—and deflect attention from its deception about the cost of its Medicare plan (Eleanor Clift, March  19, 2004, Newsweek)

This is a critical stage in the campaign. The voters barely know Kerry, and the Bush campaign is racing to define him in a negative way before he can define himself. A 30-second ad calling Kerry “wrong on defense” began airing this week. An earlier ad claimed Kerry would raise taxes by $900 billion. The Associated Press reported that Karl Rove—Bush’s campaign Svengali—boasted to a group of conservative activists meeting in Washington, “This is just a taste of what we’re going to give him.” 

Kerry knew this was coming. “Bring it on,” he said so often it became his battle cry. Well, now they’ve brought it on, and what is Kerry doing? He’s going on vacation in Idaho, leaving behind the festering story of his unholy bond with foreign leaders. “Before long they’ll be calling him Jacques Kerry,” says a Republican strategist. “It’s only a matter of time.”

The cable networks also had a grand time airing over and over Kerry’s response to the Bush attack that he didn’t support the troops in Iraq because he voted against the $87 billion the administration requested to reconstruction. “I actually did vote for the $87 billion, before I voted against it,” Kerry said. That’s Senate-speak, and Kerry better shed it if he wants to win the election. Voters can’t grasp the contortions of casting a preliminary vote conditioned on an amendment that would have paid for the war with Bush’s tax cut, however high-minded that might have been.

If the election is fought on national security, Bush has the edge. Even if events on the ground in Iraq are not going well, Republicans enjoy a 20-point advantage over Democrats when it comes to keeping the country safe. Kerry thinks his strong suit is foreign policy. But the Bush campaign is ready to pounce on any misstep. “I just want to shake [Kerry,]” says a Democratic Senate aide. “[He’s] got to be disciplined.”

One can almost feel sorry for Democrats who succumbed to a February fever dream that they could beat George Bush with an unlikable, liberal, sitting Senator. But, if they want to shake him now, they're going to want to Abner Louima him by this Summer.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:01 PM


By any means necessary: It is not simply Israel's current hardline government that is to blame for the subjugation of Palestinians, but Zionism itself (Ghada Karmi, March 18, 2004, The Guardian)

For those who have forgotten or never understood what Zionism meant in practice, the Israeli historian, Benny Morris's latest revelations and comments - published first in the Israeli daily Haaretz and then in the Guardian - make salutary reading. They have raised a storm of controversy that is still raging two months later, perhaps because they were too honest about an ideology that some would rather keep hidden. Morris, who first exposed the dark circumstances of Israel's creation in his groundbreaking 1988 book on the birth of the Palestinian refugee problem, explains the Israeli project with a brutal candour few Zionists have been prepared to display. [...]

"The right of [Palestinian] refugees to return ... seems natural and just," Morris says. "But this 'right of return' needs to be weighed against the right to life and wellbeing of the 5 million Jews who currently live in Israel." Apparently, Jewish self-determination is an imperative that supersedes the rights of the people at whose expense it was promulgated.

And in this he encapsulates the essence of Zionism. Though creating Israel entailed Palestinian suffering, Morris argues, it was for a noble aim. That is why Zionism is still a dangerous idea: at its root is a conviction of moral rightness that justifies almost any act deemed necessary to preserve the Jewish state. If that means massive military - including nuclear - force, unsavoury alliances, theft of others' resources, aggression and occupation, the brutal crushing of all resistance - then so be it. No one should be under any illusion that Zionism is a spent force, regardless of current discourse about "post-Zionism". That a benign Zionism, sympathetic to Palestinians, also exists means little while these basic tenets remain.

We must thank Morris for disabusing us of such notions. But a project that is morally one-sided and can only survive through force and xenophobia has no long-term future. As he himself says: "Destruction could be the end of this process."

How does Ms Karmi think the world works? The Indians have an equally just case for reclaiming America--think we're going to let them? Okay, what wouldn't we be prepared to do to them if they used Palestinian methods to try?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:53 PM


The Fog Of History Strikes Again CBBS News, 3/19/04)

Unemployment and outsourcing are big issues in Campaign 2004, but Democrats hoping to make political hay out of them might want to be a bit more original than Democrats of yesteryear.

They've traditionally been fond of pointing to the Republican Party as the party of Herbert Hoover, on whose watch the nation sunk into the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Hoover has in fact been mentioned repeatedly by the John Kerry campaign as the last president until George W. Bush to oversee a loss of jobs. But a national poll finds that most people don't connect the Hoover name with the presidency, the Depression (whose camps of suddenly homeless individuals were known as "Hoovervilles") or the 1929 stock market crash.

Just 43 percent of the 634 adults questioned by the University of Pennsylvania's National Annenberg Election Survey correctly identified Herbert Hoover. Twelve percent thought he was the director of the FBI, a post held for 48 years by J. Edgar Hoover. Four percent linked the name to the Hoover Dam, the Nevada-Arizona structure honoring the former president. Three percent thought Hoover had something to do with the vacuum cleaner invented in 1907 (by Ohio janitor James Spangler, whose cousin William H. Hoover became president of his company). [...]

The nation's touch of amnesia when it comes to history cuts both ways - politically, that is. [...]

Pollsters discovered that only one out of five people connected [Jane] Fonda - a two-time Oscar winner who continues to be politically active, although less controversially in recent years - with opposition to the Vietnam War.

Only 20 percent of those surveyed knew Fonda as a Vietnam War protester. Twice that many identified Fonda as an actress, 9 percent tied her to exercise videos, and 2 percent linked her name to either her father, the late Oscar-winning actor Henry Fonda, or to her ex-husband, maverick media mogul Ted Turner. Another 11 percent gave a variety of answers while 17 percent had no answer at all.

Come to think of it, when was the last time Ms Fonda was in a movie?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:31 PM


Imagining the Future (Yuval Levin, Winter 2004, The New Atlantis)

Put simply, those who imagine the future in terms of innovation tend to think of the future as something that will happen to us, and so as something to be judged and understood in terms of the interests of the free, rational, individual adult now living. That person is the basic unit of measurement in all of the theories of social life that inform the anthropology of innovation: the freely choosing individual of classic liberal democratic theory; the rational actor of free market capitalism; the consenting adult of libertarian cultural theories. All of these models and theories serve us well because enough of us do more or less answer that description much of the time.

But the future is populated by other people—people not yet born, who must enter the world and be initiated into the ways of our society, so that they might someday become rational consenting adults themselves. Strangely, what is missing from the view of the future grounded in innovation is the element of time, or at least its human consequent: the passing of generations. What is missing is the child—the actual bearer of the future of humanity—and the peculiar demands, conditions, and possibilities that the presence of children introduces into the life of our society and its future.

In part, children are absent from this vision of the future because the vocabulary of classical liberal and libertarian thinking leaves little room for them. The thought-experiment that is liberalism’s creation myth—that famous state of nature from which free and equal men enter together into society and government for the protection of their rights—holds out a timeless ideal. Government is legitimate because free individuals created it by choice and live under its rules in accordance with a kind of contract. But only the founding generation of any society can claim to have done that. The generations that follow did not freely create their regime. They were born into it, literally kicking and screaming. They enter a world formed by laws, arrangements, and institutions that were established by others, but which they have no real choice but to accept. They are also incapable, for about the first two decades of their lives, of fully exercising the rights of citizens. And yet every decision made by their society will directly affect them and those who will follow them. So by the logic of the theory, how can we take into account the needs and rights of future citizens who are not there to consent? How can we keep from treating them unjustly?

Liberal theorists have not been blind to this difficulty of course; and more importantly, like many things that occupy political philosophers, these concerns are really far more of a problem in theory than in practice. The theorists come up with complicated notions of implicit consent and implied participation, while in actual societies liberalism is suspended in the family, and parents are trusted to look out for the interests of their children.

Nonetheless, it matters that the theory of liberal society and the anthropology of innovation have serious trouble with children and with future generations. Our theories do shape our ideals and our actions, and affect our sense of what is legitimate and what is desirable.

The most common answer to the liberal difficulty with the child is to treat children as the charge and almost as the property of parents, and so to apply the language of rights to them second hand. This often makes good sense, but it also has the effect of subsuming the interests of the child within those of the parents, so that in principle our picture of the world can still consist purely of rational adults and their needs and wants. That way, we can continue to imagine the future without considering the distinctive challenges (and the peculiar promise and hope) that result from the presence of children in society.

But the absence of children in this vision of the future results from more than a gap in a theory. Even more important is the very practical way in which children pose a hindrance to any vision of progress. Regardless of how much intellectual and material progress any society may make, every new child entering that society will still enter with essentially the same native intellectual and material equipment as any other child born in any other place at any other time in the history of the human race. Raising such children to the level of their society is, to put it mildly, a distraction from the forward path. And a failure to initiate the next generation of children into the ways of civilization would not only delay or derail innovation, it would put into question the very continuity of that civilization.

The constant intrusion of children into our world reminds us that even as we blaze a trail into the new and unknown we are always at risk of reverting very far back into humanity’s barbarous origins, because we are always confronted with new human beings who have just come from there. We are, in a limited sense, always starting from scratch, and this means that we need more than innovation to secure and to better our future.

The anthropology of innovation would like to avoid or avert this complicated reality. It does so mostly by ignoring it, but at the edges of the party of innovation, we see genuine efforts to ward off the challenge of the child. In the “transhumanist” desire for eternal life is a desire to think of the future as belonging to us, and not to future generations. It is a desire to start not from scratch, but from individual, rational, freely choosing adults, and to progress only from there.

Indeed, it may be that in its fullness, this innovation-driven vision of the future almost has to exclude children. William Godwin, the eighteenth-century futurist and prophet of innovations of the human intellect, offers a sense of why that should be. In his future, free of “disease, anguish, melancholy [and] resentment,” when people might live nearly forever, progress would almost depend on the absence of children. “The whole will be a people of men, and not of children,” Godwin writes of his utopian ideal, “generation will not succeed generation, nor truth have, in a certain degree, to recommence her career every thirty years.”

This may be the only way in which the anthropology of innovation could be sufficient in itself as a vision of the future. But the fact that truth has, “in a certain degree, to recommence her career every thirty years,” or in other words that children enter the world knowing nothing of it, is a defining feature of the life of every human society. Children do not start where their parents left off. They start where their parents started, and where every human being has started, and society must meet them there, and rear them forward. That we are all born this way has everything to do with how the future happens.

Hannah Arendt, borrowing a term from the demographers, labeled this inescapable fact of life human “natality,” the counterpart of human mortality. A vision of the future that takes note of our natality will go about imagining in a profoundly different way.

The Anthropology of Generations

To imagine the future in terms of generations means, most fundamentally, to be concerned for continuity. The means of human biological continuity do not offer guarantees of human cultural continuity, because (at least for the time being) the intellectual and cultural progress we might make leaves no real mark on the biology of our descendents. They enter the world as we did, and as all human beings have before us: small, wrinkled, wet, screaming, helpless, and ignorant of just about everything. At this very moment, dozens of people are entering the world in just that condition—about 15,000 worldwide make their entrance every hour—and the future of the human race depends upon them. Contending with this constant onslaught and initiating these newcomers into the ways of our world is the never-ending and momentous challenge that always confronts every society.

At stake are both the achievements of the past and—most especially—the possibilities of the future. If the task of initiation and continuation fails in just one generation, then the chain is broken, the accomplishments of our past are lost and forgotten, and the potential for meaningful progress is forsaken. The barbarism of savage human nature, more than the prospect of a final human victory over natural limitations, is in this sense always just around the corner.

Indeed, what stands out about the anthropology of generations is not so much a desire to protect children from the dangers of the world—a desire shared by nearly everyone—but rather the related determination to protect the world from the dangerous consequences of failing to instruct the up-and-coming generation.

It's interesting that the Hawthorne story that Leon Kass had the Bioethics Commission read was The Birthmark, but the problem that Mr. Levin raises is actually treated in another of his stories, Earth's Holocaust.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:52 AM


Second Coming: Ralph Reed, now born again as a political strategist, has moved on from doing God's work to doing George W. Bush's (Joshua Green, April 2004, Atlantic Monthly)

ew figures in American politics seem more fixed in time and place than Ralph Reed. As the brash, boyish director of the Christian Coalition a decade ago, Reed personified the ascendant religious right: he was an articulate, media-savvy spokesman who put to rest the predominant stereotype of religious conservatives as fiery televangelists, and led them into the modern political era. An organizational genius, Reed transformed the remnants of Pat Robertson's failed 1988 presidential campaign into a potent political force, more than a million strong at its peak. The Christian Coalition was instrumental in shaping the Republican Party of the 1990s, and helped Newt Gingrich bring off the Republican revolution of 1994. For a time Reed appeared likely to be the power behind the curtain for years to come. In 1995 Time seemed only mildly hyperbolic when it extolled him on the cover as "the right hand of God."

The following year, however, the Republican Party of Gingrich and Reed seemed to expire after Bob Dole's defeat by Bill Clinton. Reed's aggressive style of conservatism alienated moderate voters. He left the Christian Coalition in 1997, just as its influence began to wane, and largely disappeared from the public eye.

But he did not abandon politics. Reed returned to Georgia, where he had been raised, and began anew as a secular political consultant. The return home could not have provided much professional solace: the governor's mansion was in the hands of a popular Democrat, and by 2000 both the state's Senate seats, too, were held by Democrats. The consulting firm that Reed founded, Century Strategies, had an inauspicious start when most of its clients, including Alabama Governor Fob James, lost their 1998 races. Nevertheless, over the next four years Reed helped do for the Georgia Republican Party something much like what he'd done for the Coalition—organizing and rebuilding it from the ground up. He was elected state party chairman in 2001, and in 2002 the Georgia Republicans won a historic upset. Sonny Perdue became the first Republican in thirty-nine gubernatorial elections to win, and a Republican congressman, Saxby Chambliss, defeated the Democratic senator Max Cleland. Georgia's other senator, Zell Miller, is a Democrat in name only, who has already endorsed George W. Bush—so in practical terms Georgia was fully Republican. "What happened in Georgia in 2002 was a once-in-a-decade performance," says the political analyst Charlie Cook.

Even if it had many causes (not least the tremendous appeal of the President, whose visits in behalf of Republican candidates Reed leveraged to maximum effect), this startling success testified to Reed's enduring skill as a political strategist. The Georgia resurgence went a long way toward detoxifying his image, proving that he could succeed outside the context of a politics whose very nature was implicitly rejected by his party's embrace of "compassionate" conservatism. The Bush Administration has acknowledged Reed's achievement by putting him in charge of the Southeast for the upcoming re-election campaign—recognition that confers high standing in the current Republican hierarchy. Beneath that very practical tribute lies a greater honor, and a challenge. Because most southeastern states are reliably Republican, Reed's true responsibility is to reprise his Georgia performance in the state that analysts of both parties believe could once again determine the next President: Florida.

Of course, the GOP has held the House since 1994 and, except for the Jeffords blip, the Senate as well. So, Mr. Reed's moment in time has lasted a decade so far.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:44 AM


Grateful Kurds in Iraq's north embrace Americans and their culture (Mariam Fam, 3/20/04, Associated Press)

At MaDonal, a restaurant with a familiar name, diners munch cheeseburgers and fries. U.S. troops open cans of Diet Coke. An American flag flies next to the sign that bears the internationally recognized trademark yellow M.

The scene reflects a fact of life in Iraq's north: Many Kurds are fascinated with the culture of the superpower that freed an oppressed people from brutal persecution by the ousted dictator.

''The people like the Americans,'' said Dana Mohammed, who works at MaDonal, named after McDonald's. ''They helped us get rid of the dictator, Saddam Hussein.''

In Saddam's Iraq, the United States was demonized and largely blamed for the country's woes. In the new Iraq, the U.S. presence gets mixed reviews at best. Many Arab Sunnis resent an occupation that has cost them their privileged status. Some majority Shiites, while grateful for the ouster of the dictator, think the Americans have overstayed their welcome.

In some moderate Middle Eastern countries where U.S. culture is popular, American restaurants and products are often threatened with boycotts. The U.S. flag is often burned by angry demonstrators.

But the situation in northern Iraq is different.

Many Kurds ethnically distinct from Arabs have no qualms about expressing their support for the United States.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:36 AM


Civil War Still Haunts Spanish Politics (ANTONIO FEROS, 3/20/04, NY Times)

That the civil war should remain a searing political reference point more than 25 years after democracy was established is not as odd as may at first seem. Some of Spain's main political parties, including the Socialist, the Communist and some nationalist parties, played substantial roles before and during the civil war, and analysts believe that their ideologies, tactics and goals have not changed substantially since then.

The Popular Party did not exist during the civil war, but it was originally founded in the late 1970's by Manuel Fraga Iribarne, a minister of Francisco Franco during the 1960's; and on occasion it has been regarded as the offspring of Francoist ideology and tactics. Therefore, to understand the real intentions of each political party, the argument goes, one must look at what happened before and during the civil war.

Yet just what happened during that period — when 300,000 people died in action, 400,000 were forced into exile and another 400,000 were imprisoned by Francoists during and after the war — has become the subject of increasingly bitter dispute.

Pío Moa, a journalist and historian, is probably the best known of the recent crop of revisionists. His several books on the Republic (1931-1936) and the civil war have been enormously popular. "Los Mitos de la Guerra Civil" ("The Myths of the Civil War"), published last year, sold more than 100,000 copies in a few months. In it Mr. Moa systematically questions the main thesis accepted by a majority of Spanish historians: that Franco overthrew the democratically elected government. In the words of Stanley Payne, a historian at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Mr. Moa disputes "the notion that leftist politics under the Republic were inherently democratic and constitutionalist and the idea that the civil war was the product of a long-standing conspiracy by wealthy reactionaries rather than a desperate response to stop a revolutionary process that had largely destroyed constitutional government."

In addition, Mr. Moa maintains that Franco's victory saved Spain from the trauma of revolution and territorial fragmentation, and that his regime — supported by a majority of Spaniards — helped modernize Spain and provided the conditions on which to build today's democratic system.

Isn't that obvious?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:29 AM


Buchanan's White Whale (Lawrence Auster, March 19, 2004,

In these intensely polarized and paranoid times, more than a few people are like the obsessed Captain Ahab in Moby Dick, of whom Melville wrote, in one of the supreme passages of American literature: "The White Whale swam before him as the monomaniac incarnation of all those malicious agencies which some deep men feel eating in them, till they are left living on with half a heart and half a lung.... All that most maddens and torments; ... all the subtle demonisms of life and thought; all evil, to crazy Ahab, were visibly personified, and made practically assailable in Moby Dick. He piled upon the whale's white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart's shell upon it."

Today, of course, we don't have whale hunters from Nantucket circumnavigating the globe, but we do have politics—an increasingly ugly, ideological politics in a country that seems to be splitting apart before our eyes. Unsurprisingly, we also have among us, on the both the left and the right, Ahab-style monomaniacs who throw away their reason and blame everything that has gone wrong in the world on a single, all-controlling, evil cause. Such fanatics tend to wrap every issue around the object of their particular rage, coming back again and again to the same complaint, the same burning grievance, the same satisfying theory that explains all of society's problems as stemming from the group they oppose.

For Patrick Buchanan, that White Whale is, of course, Israel, along with Israel's purported agents in America, the neoconservatives. As a sign of his obsession, at the very moment when America and its Coalition partners were launching the war against Iraq last year, and most Americans were focused on how to win this tremendous battle, Buchanan published a long diatribe in The American Conservative called "Whose War?", in which he charged that President Bush was in thrall to "the neoconservatives' agenda of endless wars on the Islamic world that serve only [emphasis added] the interests of a country other than the one he was elected to preserve and protect."

"We charge that a cabal of polemicists and public officials seek to ensnare our country in a series of wars that are not in America's interests. We charge them with colluding with Israel to ignite those wars and destroy the Oslo Accords. [Note how according to Buchanan, it is Israelis and American neoconservatives, not Palestinian terrorists, who destroyed the 'peace process.'] We charge them with deliberately damaging U.S. relations with every state in the Arab world that defies Israel or supports the Palestinian people's right to a homeland of their own. We charge that they have alienated friends and allies all over the Islamic and Western world through their arrogance, hubris, and bellicosity."

These charges of massive deception and at least quasi-treason are repeated in Buchanan's recent cover article in The American Conservative, in which he offers a critique of Richard Perle and David Frum's book, An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror. To be fair, the piece doesn't immediately come across as simply an anti-neocon screed. Buchanan starts out with some reasonable-sounding criticisms of what appear to him as the excesses of the book, in which Frum and Perle seem to propose a global war by the United States against all terrorists, everywhere, on behalf of all possible targets of terrorism, everywhere. At the very least, Perle and Frum should be censured for the book's overwrought title; the notion of "an end to evil" is as dangerously divorced from reality as Woodrow Wilson's "war to end all wars." Buchanan is especially put off by Perle's statement that "a radical strain within Islam ... seeks to overthrow our civilization and remake the nations of the West into Islamic societies, imposing on the whole world its religion and laws." Buchanan counters that Islamism does not present any particular danger to America, or at least not anything we need to worry about, and he advances several arguments to support this idea.

The most important thing for us to realize--though the paleocons, like the libertarians and the Left, seem incapable of grasping it--is that it is George W. Bush who has captured the neocons, not vice versa. After all--assuming we accept the idea, for the sake of argument if nothing else, that neoconservatism is to some considerable degree driven by Zionism--what conceivable Israeli interest is served by establishing a strong and vibrant Shi'ite republic in Iraq; or liberalizing Libya; or brokering peace between India and Pakistan; or confronting North Korea; or bringing democracy to Haiti; etc.; etc.; etc... In fact, the deeply ironic dynamic between George W. Bush and the neocons is that where they may be perceived as merely Zionist, his vision is truly Jewish.

The Evangelical Roots of American Unilateralism: The Christian Right's Influence and How to Counter It (Duane Oldfield, March 2004 , Foreign Policy In Focus)

That the administration of George W. Bush is pursuing a unilateralist foreign policy on issues ranging from the Iraq War to global warming to the International Criminal Court is obvious to observers at home and abroad. Also clear is the fact that the Bush policy, at least in its broad outlines, is very much in keeping with the preferences of the Christian right. As the second two quotes above indicate, the president, himself a born-again Christian, does not hesitate to use a moralistic, implicitly religious language in defense of his policies. [...]

Although the Christian right's unilateralism is not new, its proximity to power is. Three developments have helped make the Christian right a significant player in U.S. foreign policy: the election of a president with close ties to the movement, the growth of the Christian right's grassroots organizational strength, and the development of an alliance with neoconservatives, who have come to play a crucial role in the present administration.

The Christian right played a supporting role in the Reagan administration's war on Central America, particularly in funneling aid to the Nicaraguan contras (Diamond, 1989, chaps. 5 and 6). However, its activism in the 1980s was primarily on the domestic front. The administrations of George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton provided few opportunities for Christian right influence, at least at the presidential level. A committed multilateralist, Bush Sr. set off alarm bells in the Christian right with his talk of a “new world order.” For many elements of the Christian right, that phrase tapped into a long history of right-wing demonology, symbolizing a world government--perhaps Satanically inspired--threatening American sovereignty. And antagonism toward Bill Clinton was even stronger. Demonized by a Christian right that vigorously fought to have him impeached, Clinton had little incentive to grant its leaders access to foreign policy decisionmaking.

The disputed election of George W. Bush provided the Christian right with a far more sympathetic president. Bush's personal history helps cement his ties to the movement. Although his father was clearly uncomfortable with the movement's style of mixing religion and politics, the current president, saved from the sin of alcoholism by his own born-again experience, has long understood the nuances of the Christian right's religious constituency and speaks its language. Recognizing this back in 1988, Bush Sr. gave his son the task of reaching out to that constituency for him in his presidential campaign. Campaign aide Doug Wead worked with George W. Bush as part of an effective effort to woo evangelical leaders. George W. Bush's White House reflects its occupant's comfort with evangelicalism. The first words heard by Bush speechwriter David Frum when he arrived at the White House were “missed you at Bible study” (see Frum).

The personal inclinations of the current president are reenforced by the development of the Christian right's grassroots electoral capabilities. Prior to Pat Robertson's 1988 presidential campaign, the Christian right had very limited experience with precinct organizing. Robertson's nomination campaign failed in its immediate objective, but it laid the groundwork for the emergence of the Christian Coalition. That coalition's grassroots network, in turn, played a significant role in the Republican congressional victories of 1994. In the run-ups to the 1996 and 2000 campaigns, the Christian Coalition's annual convention became a required stop for GOP presidential aspirants. Early on, George W. Bush hired former Christian Coalition Director Ralph Reed as a consultant for his nomination campaign. After Bush lost the New Hampshire primary, strong support from the Christian Right, especially in South Carolina, helped him beat back a serious challenge from Senator John McCain.

With the Christian right now a central part of the Republican electoral coalition, presidents of that party must take the constituency's concerns into account. And the change goes even deeper than that. When Christian right activists entered party politics during the Robertson campaign in the late 1980s, the distinction between these activists and established Republicans was clear. For many party regulars, the Robertson activists were alien interlopers who had somehow descended on the party. In the words of the president's brother Neil Bush, they were “cockroaches” issuing “from the baseboards of the Bible-belt.” Though tension between the Christian right and other party factions continues, the Christian Right is now an established component, and in some areas even a dominant feature, of the party coalition. John Green provides an insightful analysis of the evolution of the “collective identity” of the Christian right: from sectarian religious identities in the early 1980s to a pro-family identity that helped unite Christian right members across religious lines to the current era of “evangelical Republicans,” in which partisanship is central to movement identity. Ralph Reed, former executive director of the Christian Coalition and now chair of the Georgia Republican Party, exemplifies this trend. As Christian rightists become party activists, Christian right organizations may suffer, as the Christian Coalition has since Reed's departure, but their influence within the party grows. In a Republican Party dominated by conservative Southerners such as George W. Bush, Tom Delay, and Dick Armey, Christian right activists are no longer interlopers; they are insiders.

Finally, the Christian right's access to power has been greatly aided by the ties it has developed with neoconservatives influential within the present administration. Neoconservative intellectuals, many of them Jewish, may seem unlikely allies for the Christian right, but this partnership has developed across several issue areas. The most important basis for this partnership is a common support for Israel or, to put it more accurately, for the Likud Party's vision of Israel's interests. The Christian right's support for Israel harks back to the movement's beginnings in the late 1970s, but it has risen to a higher level in the last few years. The 2002 annual convention of the Christian Coalition culminated in a rally for Israel, and Ralph Reed and Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein recently founded a new group, Stand for Israel. Meanwhile, throughout Christian right media, criticism of the Palestinians and support for hard-line Israeli policies has grown more intense.

The Christian right's support for Israel is closely interrelated with prophetic concerns discussed earlier in this essay. In the words of Christian right author John Hagee: “Israel is the only nation created by a sovereign act of God, and He has sworn by His holiness to defend Jerusalem, His Holy City. If God created and defends Israel, those nations that fight against it fight against God.” At a recent Christian Coalition gathering, a speaker even suggested that the September 11th attacks were God's punishment for America's insufficient support of Israel (Arab News, 2003).

Links with neoconservatives have also been forged around the issue of religious persecution. Michael Horowitz, a neoconservative senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, and Nina Shea of the Puebla Institute, were instrumental in mobilizing evangelicals around the issue of religious persecution. Elliott Abrams, then head of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, wrote extensively supporting the cause and, along with Nina Shea, was later appointed to the commission created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, eventually serving as its chair. Abrams has moved on to human rights and Middle East policy positions at the National Security Council.

In 1997, when the Project for the New American Century was born, it united conservative leaders around a call for a much more aggressive U.S. foreign policy (including forceful action against Iraq's Saddam Hussein). The group's Statement of Principles declared: “Such a Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity may not be fashionable today. But it is necessary if the United States is to build on the successes of this past century and to ensure our security and greatness in the next.” Among the 25 signatories were leading neoconservatives and future players in the Bush administration including Elliott Abrams, Dick Cheney, Frank Gaffney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz. Also on the list were Gary Bauer, long-time head of the Family Research Council, and author William Bennett.

A sympathetic president, grassroots electoral strength, and ties to influential neoconservatives have given the Christian right influence in American foreign policy, providing support for a militant unilateralism and unwavering backing for Israel . The Christian right has been rewarded with appointments on delegations to UN conferences and supportive administration action on its international social agenda (see Butler), and it has been heartened by the president's use of religious language to justify his policies. The religious right does not dominate foreign policymaking in the current administration; for example, it lacks key posts at the State and Defense departments. However, the Christian right has provided powerful grassroots support for the unilateralist forces that currently dominate American foreign policy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:01 AM


Hussein's Fall Leads Syrians to Test Government Limits (NEIL MacFARQUHAR, 3/20/04, NY Times)

A year ago, it would have been inconceivable for a citizen of Syria, run by the Baath Party of President Bashar al-Assad, to make a documentary film with the working title, "Fifteen Reasons Why I Hate the Baath."

Yet watching the overthrow of Saddam Hussein across the border in Iraq prompted Omar Amiralay to do just that. "It gave me the courage to do it," he said.

"When you see one of the two Baath parties broken, collapsing, you can only hope that it will be the turn of the Syrian Baath next," he added, having just completed the film, eventually called "A Flood in Baath Country," for a European arts channel. "The myth of having to live under despots for eternity collapsed."

When the Bush administration toppled the Baghdad government, it announced that it wanted to establish a democratic, free-market Iraq that would prove a contagious model for the region. The bloodshed there makes that a distant prospect, yet the very act of humiliating the worst Arab tyrant spawned a sort of "what if" process in Syria and across the region.

The Syrian Baath Party remains firmly in control, ruling through emergency laws that basically suspend all civil rights. The government says the laws are necessary as long as Israel occupies the Golan Heights, 40 miles from Damascus, and the two nations remain at war.

Yet subtle changes have begun, even if they amount to tiny fissures in a repressive state. Some Syrians are testing the limits, openly questioning government doctrine and challenging state oppression.

Syrians who oppose the government do so with some trepidation because it used ferocious violence in the past to silence any challenge. Yet the fall of Mr. Hussein changed something inside people.

"I think the image, the sense of terror, has evaporated," said Mr. Amiralay, the filmmaker.

This was precisely the premise of the Iraq war, an Islamic domino theory, if you will. It's interesting to note that Mr. Amiralay understands that the transformation is internal to the people of the region, who now see how hollow was the regime. President Bush would seem to have been just about the only political leader who understood that this would be the case, an understanding he shared with only a few neocon academics (like, most importantly, Paul Wolfowitz). The establishment believed that the Islamic world was impervious to liberalization, maybe even unfit for evolution towards democracy.

The situation calls to mind what Robert Kaplan wrote about Ronald Reagan, tongue deeply in cheek:

In perceiving the Soviet Union as permanent, orderly, and legitimate, [Henry] Kissinger shared a failure of analysis with the rest of the foreign-policy elite--notably excepting the scholar and former head of the State Department's policy-planning staff George Kennan, the Harvard historian Richard Pipes, the British scholar and journalist Bernard Levin, and the Eureka College graduate Ronald Reagan.

Missing from that list is only Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, whose 1975 assessment of the USSR--at the time when all but these few viewed it as permanent--applies just as well to the totalitarian regimes of the Islamic world:
Yes, yes, of course, we all know you cannot poke a stick through the walls of a concrete tower, but here's something to think about: what if the walls are only a painted backdrop?

In the Middle East today, thanks to George W. Bush, people have perceived that the walls surrounding them are merely a painted backdrop.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:44 AM


The evil that men do:
Theodore Dalrymple can find no better explanation for man’s wicked behaviour than the doctrine of Original Sin (Theodore Dalrymple, 3/20/04, The Spectator)

For personal reasons that it would be tedious to explain, my entire adult life, at least in its professional aspect, has been a search for the source of man’s evil. Besides this question, all other questions — at least those pertaining to mankind — seem to me almost trivial. But I cannot say that I have answered the question to my own satisfaction, let alone to anyone else’s. I am still mystified.

I do not mean that all men are evil; far from it. Most men are not, or at least not habitually. But all men are capable of evil. Evil is always lurking in the lair of man’s heart, including my own, awaiting its chance to pounce; and if man were a computer, which of course some believe that he is, I believe that his default setting, as it were, would be to evil rather than to good. [...]

The best way of understanding evil is by way of metaphor, the metaphor of Original Sin. I do not think that Adam actually existed as a historical figure, of course; yet the idea that death and sin came ineradicably into the world (ineradicable, that is, by man himself) with Adam’s first disobedience, the eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, is a metaphorically realistic account of the human condition — far more realistic, and hardly less conjectural, than any other that is supposedly more scientific. It explains why technical progress is not moral progress, and why utopian dreams are bound to fail. Imperfect beings cannot bring about perfection. [...]

Original Sin accounts for the manifest imperfectibility of man. No social arrangements, however civilised or compassionate, will ever result in the elimination of man’s desire to do evil: the best that can be hoped for is that they will limit the scope of its expression. There is, for example, so much domestic evil in this country for two reasons: because there is nothing to discourage it and because there is so little room for evil, at least of the cruder sort, in the public sphere. This is not to say that one day the opportunity to commit evil in a larger, public theatre and on a vastly larger scale will not arise; indeed I think it very likely that one day it will. Goodness is fragile because it requires self-restraint, but evil is strong because it requires self-expression.

You could say that modern Darwinism has a concept of Original Sin, that our genes endow us with certain ineradicable traits such as the drive for dominance, or (in the case of our weaker brethren) the resistance to dominance, that are akin to Original Sin. But Darwinist explanations of actual human conduct are as metaphorical as biblical ones, and no more illuminating: they explain some of the past all right, but never predict the future. They are always wise after the event.

It is, in large part, because of this metaphor of Original Sin--with its recognition of Man's imperfectability and the acknowledgement of Evil--that Judeo-Christianity is the foundation of a decent society. Remove the first element--our inherent imperfection--and you'll have a tendency towards too much government. Remove the second--the reality of Evil--and you'll tend toward too little restraint (internal and external) of personal impulse. Add to that the ideas that Man is endowed with dignity as a function of being Created and that he is bound by the morality handed down by that Creator and you've got the whole structure.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:32 AM


90-Day Media Strategy by Bush's Aides to Define Kerry (JIM RUTENBERG, 3/20/04, NY Times)

The goal, several campaign aides said, is to first strip Mr. Kerry of the positive image that he carried away from the Democratic primary contests and then to define him issue by issue in their own terms before the summer vacation season. The central thrusts will be national security and taxes, they said.

The aides said the strategy was planned weeks ago in coordination with Karl Rove, Mr. Bush's chief political aide, while Mr. Kerry was battling for his party's nomination.

The aides are following a tight timetable, they said, and they want to have defined Mr. Kerry on their terms between now and early June, when they expect voters to stop paying close attention to politics, at least for a time. In addition, Mr. Kerry will very likely have a much larger war chest with which to fight by then, reducing the effect of the Republican media blitz.

"We just see this as the greatest window of opportunity, not that there won't be others," said Mark McKinnon, Mr. Bush's head media strategist. "It's easiest to define somebody when they're ill-defined, and John Kerry's ill-defined."

The Bush aides pronounce their efforts a success so far, and point to polls showing that Mr. Kerry's ratings are dropping while Mr. Bush's are rising, a huge relief to a campaign that just a couple of weeks ago was criticized even by some Republicans as appearing flat-footed.

"If you look at the average balance of the public polls now, the president's either even, or up one or two points," said Matthew Dowd, the president's chief campaign strategist. "And two weeks ago he was down three or four."

This early drive by the Bush campaign is in marked contrast to the approach of the Kerry organization, whose strategists say they believe the period before June is important but not as crucial as Mr. Bush's team asserts. Calling the Bush campaign's depictions of their candidate "distortions," Mr. Kerry's strategists said the labels would not stick. Mr. Kerry is on vacation in Idaho this week.

It's awfully hard to believe that many Americans are paying attention now--as witness how low Mr. Kerry's Positives + Negatives remain in most polls--nevermind that they'll be paying attention for the next three months. But, what the hey, they've got all that money--gotta spend it somehow.

March 19, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:07 PM


Fukuyama in Tel Aviv: Benjamin Netanyahu, Shimon Peres, and Francis Fukuyama come together to discuss the end of history in Israel. (Peter Berkowitz, 03/19/2004, Weekly Standard)

Under the bright lights on the large auditorium stage, the diminutive professor held forth for 40 minutes. With his characteristic calm cogence, Fukuyama rehearsed the key elements of his argument: history displays a broad pattern of human progress; bourgeois civilization will not be transcended; history will terminate not in a socialist utopia but in liberal democracy and market capitalism; this conclusion is fortified by the empirical evidence of people around the world who have voted with their feet for freedom, democracy, and modernization; and it is further fortified by theoretical reflection on human nature which discloses the rationality of economic and political systems based on individual rights and the consent of the governed.

The key question thus far posed by the 21st century, Fukuyama observed, is whether there is a Muslim exception to the end of history. Fukuyama doubts it. He pointed out that the real democracy deficit is not in Muslim or predominantly Muslim countries but in Muslim Arab countries of the Middle East. And there the problem, he suggested, was not Islam, though he indicated it still awaits its Luther, but bad government and dismal economic prospects that produce an angry alienation on which purveyors of radical Islam prey. What is necessary on the part of the liberal democracies of the world, according to Fukuyama, is the right kind of politics, one that knows that individual freedom is the long term goal but which takes careful account of, and learns to work with, the distinctive culture of Arab and Muslim societies. [...]

Netanyahu began by explaining that he rejected the descriptive part of Fukuyama's thesis but embraced the prescriptive part. Never mind that the descriptive and prescriptive parts of Fukuyama's thesis--liberal democracy was in fact and appropriately triumphing around the world because it satisfied genuine and powerful human wants, needs, and desires--were inseparably connected. What Netanyahu really wanted to dwell upon was that terrorism is a monumental threat to liberal democracy, and while inflamed by poverty and oppression, it "is a product of the totalitarian mindset." In concluding that the issue in connection to Fukuyama is not whether he is right about the end of history but rather how we can insure that he is right, Netanyahu agreed with Fukuyama as well as Peres that the world's liberal democracies have a moral and strategic interest in the spread of liberal democracy.

Because Mr. Fukuyama's overarching thesis is correct, the war on terror truly doesn't matter much: the destiny of the Islamic world is liberal capitalist protestant democracy, regardless of anything we do. And, because of its resistance to that fact, the Middle East is so backwards that it doesn't offer any serious threat to our domestic security in the United States. Were we so inclined--were we French, German, Spanish, Canadian, Democrats, paleoconservatives, libertarians, etc.--we could sit back and wait for it to happen on its own.

The Bush revolution in foreign policy though--one echoed above by Mr. Netanyahu--consists in putting the full force of American military, economic, and moral power into an effort to hasten the End of History in those regions that are lagging. It is disingenuous to understate how radical is this transformation. It is obviously a reversal of America's traditional isolationism, but it is also a major departure from the containment policy that was used to fight the Cold War up until Ronald Reagan was elected and goes well beyond what even the Gipper did to win that war. (Mr. Bush can be bolder precisely because the dysfunctional culture in this case is so weak--there's no Mutual Assured Destruction in this confrontation.)

Indeed, while the President does sometimes dress up his policy in the garb of security, it is really much more a function of his (and our) religious faith:

Historians in the future will reflect on an extraordinary, undeniable fact: Over time, free nations grow stronger and dictatorships grow weaker. In the middle of the 20th century, some imagined that the central planning and social regimentation were a shortcut to national strength. In fact, the prosperity, and social vitality and technological progress of a people are directly determined by extent of their liberty. Freedom honors and unleashes human creativity -- and creativity determines the strength and wealth of nations. Liberty is both the plan of Heaven for humanity, and the best hope for progress here on Earth. [...]

Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe -- because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty. As long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment, and violence ready for export. And with the spread of weapons that can bring catastrophic harm to our country and to our friends, it would be reckless to accept the status quo.

Therefore, the United States has adopted a new policy, a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East. This strategy requires the same persistence and energy and idealism we have shown before. And it will yield the same results. As in Europe, as in Asia, as in every region of the world, the advance of freedom leads to peace.

The advance of freedom is the calling of our time; it is the calling of our country. From the Fourteen Points to the Four Freedoms, to the Speech at Westminster, America has put our power at the service of principle. We believe that liberty is the design of nature; we believe that liberty is the direction of history. We believe that human fulfillment and excellence come in the responsible exercise of liberty. And we believe that freedom -- the freedom we prize -- is not for us alone, it is the right and the capacity of all mankind.

Working for the spread of freedom can be hard. Yet, America has accomplished hard tasks before. Our nation is strong; we're strong of heart. And we're not alone. Freedom is finding allies in every country; freedom finds allies in every culture. And as we meet the terror and violence of the world, we can be certain the author of freedom is not indifferent to the fate of freedom.

With all the tests and all the challenges of our age, this is, above all, the age of liberty.

The implications of this are twofold: first, we can not be too surprised that the nations of Europe--which no longer share that faith--show so little interest in this crusade; and, second, given that the two political parties in America divide to a significant degree along a faultline of faith, we should not be too surprised that the Democrats wish to call the whole thing off.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:05 PM


Socialists: The zombies who won the Spanish election. (Chris Suellentrop, March 18, 2004, Slate)

Granted, the war in Iraq and the war against al-Qaida are the whole reason the world has been watching Spain so closely for the past week. But there's another reason for the conservative silence about Zapatero's economics: The socialist debate over what to do about capitalism—and the proletariat, and the theory of surplus value, and the ownership of the means of production—is largely over in Europe. If the old libel against American liberals is that they're socialists, the new European libel against socialists is that they're liberals—classical ones. Here are some of the economic promises on which Zapatero's Socialist Workers Party campaigned: lowering the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 30 percent, cutting income taxes, and reducing the value-added tax. Oh, and they're going to balance the budget and control inflation. The man expected to be the Socialist finance minister, Miguel Sebastian, is a U.S.-educated economist with a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. He's promising to put his faith in the Invisible Hand. "There will be a strict separation between politics and business," he told the Financial Times. "We will be a market-friendly government." These are socialists?

They're what's left of them. The 43-year-old Zapatero took the helm of the Socialist Workers Party in 2000, in the wake of a disastrous election for the party. That year, the Socialists allied themselves with the Communists, known as the United Left, but for the first time since Franco's death in 1975, the Socialists and the United Left together did not win a majority of Spanish votes. In the wake of that defeat, Zapatero pledged to follow a "Nueva Via," or New Way, rhetorically aligning himself with the "New Democrats" of Bill Clinton, the "Third Way" of Tony Blair, and the "New Middle" of Gerhard Schröder. He would navigate between market fundamentalism and state socialism. The clear message: The era of big socialism is over.

Gotta be tough for a European Leftist to acknowledge that you're a compassionate conservative and that when the End of History came it landed on the American square, not the Socialist one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 PM


Reactionary Prophet: Edmund Burke understood before anyone else that revolutions devour their young—and turn into their opposites: a review of Reflections On The Revolution In France: Edmund Burke, edited by Frank M. Turner (Christopher Hitchens, April 2004, The Atlantic Monthly)

[E]dmund Burke was neither an Englishman nor a Tory. He was an Irishman, probably a Catholic Irishman at that (even if perhaps a secret sympathizer), and for the greater part of his life he upheld the more liberal principles of the Whig faction. He was an advanced opponent of the slave trade, whose "Sketch of a Negro Code" was written in the early 1780s, and who before that had opposed the seating of American slaveholders at Westminster. His epic parliamentary campaign for the impeachment of Warren Hastings and the arraignment of the East India Company was the finest example in its day of a battle against pelf and perks and privilege. His writings on revolution and counter-revolution, and on empire, are ripe for a "Straussian" or Machiavellian reading that seeks to discover the arcane or occluded message contained within an ostensibly straightforward text.

This is most particularly true of his Reflections on the Revolution in France, which has seldom if ever been better analyzed and, so to speak, "decoded" than in this excellent companion edition. One might begin by giving this imperishable book its full name. The original 1790 title page read "Reflections on the Revolution in France, and on the Proceedings in Certain Societies in London Relative to That Event: In a Letter Intended to Have Been Sent to a Gentleman in Paris." The gentleman in question was Charles-Jean-François Depont, a young man of Burke's acquaintance who had become a member of the French National Assembly and had written to him in the fall of 1789. Burke owed him a reply, which turned into a very long letter indeed after its author had been further inspired to put pen to paper. The further inspiration was supplied by two meetings in London, of the Constitutional Society and of the Revolution Society, at which were passed warm resolutions welcoming the fall of the Bastille. It was, more than anything else, the alarm he felt at these latter developments that impelled Burke to his response. Please note, then, that Burke chose to stress not the French Revolution but "The Revolution in France." He seems to have intended, here, to speak of the phenomenon of revolution as it applied to French affairs, and as it might be made to apply to English ones. Hence the emphatic mention of "certain societies in London."

The Revolution Society was not as insurgent or incendiary as its name might suggest. It was a rather respectable sodality, dedicated to celebrating the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688, a relatively bloodless coup that installed William and Mary of the House of Orange on the English throne, and established Protestantism as the state religion. One of the society's leaders was the Reverend Richard Price, a great friend to the American Revolution and a staunch Unitarian clergyman. His resolution, carried by the same meeting that had forwarded a "Congratulatory Address" to the National Assembly in Paris, read in part, "This Society, sensible of the important advantages arising to this Country by its deliverance from Popery and Arbitrary Power ..."

It was made immediately plain to Burke that those who had enthused over revolution across the Channel were also interested in undermining and discrediting the same Church that he—an Irishman brought up under anti-Catholic penal laws—felt so obliged to defend. (This deep connection has been established by Conor Cruise O'Brien in a masterly series of studies that began with his own edition of the Reflections in 1968.) But the point is not a merely sectarian one. In 1780 London had been convulsed and shamed by the hysterical anti-Papist Gordon Riots, in which a crazed aristocratic demagogue had led a mob against supposedly subversive Catholics. (The best evocation of the fury and cruelty of that episode is to be found in Dickens's Barnaby Rudge.) This memory was very vivid in Burke's mind, and goes far to explain his visceral detestation of crowd violence. No less to the point, some emulators of Jacobinism—the United Irishmen, with many Protestants among their leaders—were at work in Ireland trying to bring off a rebellion that would compromise all parliamentary "moderates." And several of the pro-Jacobin activists and spokesmen in England, not excluding the rather humane Price himself, had had political connections with Lord George Gordon. As between the Jacobite and the Jacobin, Burke could not be neutral for an instant; he might give up the Jacobite cause out of loyalty to the British crown, but he was profoundly stirred when he saw old-fashioned anti-Catholicism renascent under potentially republican colors. So one does well to keep Barnaby Rudge in mind along with A Tale of Two Cities.

Three questions will occur to anybody reconsidering the Reflections today. Was it a grand and prophetic indictment of revolutionary excess? Was it the disdainful shudder of a man who despised or feared what at one stage he described as the "swinish multitude"? And did it contain what we would now term a "hidden agenda"? The answer to all three questions, it seems to me, is a firm yes. Let us take the two most celebrated excerpts of Burke's extraordinary prose. The first is the prescient one. [...]

If modern conservatism can be held to derive from Burke, it is not just because he appealed to property owners in behalf of stability but also because he appealed to an everyday interest in the preservation of the ancestral and the immemorial. And the abolition of memory, as we have come to know in our own time, is an aspect of the totalitarian that spares neither right nor left. In the cult of "now," just as in the making of Reason into an idol, the writhings of nihilism are to be detected.

It is vastly to the credit of Conor Cruise O'Brien that he still feels it necessary to defend Burke from the charge of being a "reactionary." It may not be feasible to make this extenuation a consistent one. Burke was strongly in favor of repressive measures at home, including the silencing of all dissent. In calling for an all-out war, he outdid William Pitt himself. He died before the worst of the Bonapartist project for Europe was revealed, and it cannot easily be said that his gravest fears in this respect did not materialize. But in his discussion of the French philosophes he declined even to cite any of their secular and rationalist critique, because, as he put it in a footnote to Reflections, "I do not choose to shock the feeling of the moral reader with any quotation of their vulgar, base, and profane language." That's Tory pomposity defined. Furthermore, and as Darrin McMahon points out in his chapter of this edition, Burke in the year of his death (1797) wrote to the exiled Abbé Barruel to thank him in the most profuse terms for a copy of his Mémoires pour servir à l'histoire du jacobinisme. This was a work, infamous in its time, of the most depraved and retrograde Jesuitism, which purported to find a grand conspiracy of Freemasons and other subversives in the overthrow of the Bourbons. Burke's letter was no mere courtesy; it lauded the abbé for his justice, regularity, and exactitude. This is the only charge against Burke that I cannot find mentioned or dealt with in Conor Cruise O'Brien's tremendous biography The Great Melody; but as O'Brien has observed in another context, those intellectuals who will not give up "civility" and "objectivity" for the cause of revolution have sometimes been observed to sacrifice these qualities for the sake of the counter-revolution. Clearly, Burke saw himself as willing to try all means and all alliances in order to "contain" revolutionary France, lest it pose a challenge similar to that presented by the Protestant Reformation, and then as far as possible to destroy it.

It's unclear why anyone would need to be defended against a charge of being a reactionary, especially one who was reacting against the French Revolution, but it's nice to see Mr. Hitchens continue his Rightward drift, which will end with his embracing Catholicism by decade's end.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:30 PM


H.D. Miller has a
great idea

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:50 PM


Pecan Scones (Domain Magazine, November/December 1989)

Buttery scones enriched with pecans and sour cream. Makes 24 to 28 Scones

4 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup coarsely ground pecans
1/2 pound butter, chilled and cut into cubes
1 cup sour cream
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.

Add sugar and pecans.

Cut in butter until mixture resembles bread crumbs.

Combine sour cream and milk, add to dry mixture, and stir just until mixed.

On well-floured board, divide dough into 6 balls, flatten each to 5/8-inch thickness, and cut into wedges or circles.

Bake at 375 degrees on ungreased sheet until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:22 PM


‘Reckless’ And ‘Irresponsible?’: 2003 Tape Shows Kerry Seemingly Backing $87 Billion In Iraq Funding He Voted Against (Jake Tapper, March 19, 2004,

In an interview several weeks before he voted against $87 billion in funding for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., seemed to argue that such a vote would be reckless, irresponsible, and tantamount to abandoning U.S. troops.

On the Sept. 14, 2003, edition of CBS's Face the Nation, Kerry spoke at length about an amendment he and Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., were offering which would have paid for the $87 billion by delaying some of the recent tax cuts.

Asked if he would vote against the $87 billion if his amendment did not pass, Kerry said, "I don't think any United States senator is going to abandon our troops and recklessly leave Iraq to whatever follows as a result of simply cutting and running. That's irresponsible."

Kerry argued that his amendment offered a way to do it properly, "but I don't think anyone in the Congress is going to not give our troops ammunition, not give our troops the ability to be able to defend themselves. We're not going to cut and run and not do the job."

Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said her boss' vote against the funding was a "protest vote." …

Bad enough to say it, but to say it on tape--which will certainly be appearing in the next GOP ad--is disastrous. Anyone taking bets on when he cuts this vacation short?

Kerry's 1994 effort to cut defense eyed (JOHN SOLOMON, 3/19/2004, The Associated Press)

When John Kerry offered a surprise plan to trim $43 billion in spending a decade ago, he encountered some harsh resistance: The cuts would threaten national security. U.S. fighter pilots would be endangered. And the battle against terrorism would be hampered, opponents charged.

And that's just what Kerry's fellow Democrats had to say.

"We are putting blindfolds over our pilots' eyes," Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, a decorated World War II veteran, said of the impact of Kerry's proposed intelligence cuts. Senators rejected Kerry's plan on a vote of 75-20. [...]

[S]everal of the Democrats' longest serving senators zeroed in immediately on the cuts Kerry proposed for military and intelligence.

"The amendment offered by the senator from Massachusetts would reduce the fiscal year 1994 budget for national defense by nearly $4 billion," said Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., then the powerful Appropriations Committee chairman. "We have already cut defense spending drastically. ... Cutting another $4 billion is simply unwise and insupportable."

Sen. Dennis DeConcini, D-Ariz., then the Intelligence Committee chairman, took Kerry to task at the time for reducing intelligence spending by $6 billion over six years, saying it would leave Americans vulnerable while facing problems such as the war in Bosnia, nuclear proliferation and terrorism.

"It makes no sense for us to close our eyes and ears to developments around the world," he said, wondering aloud why Kerry didn't raise the idea of his cuts with the committee first.

Inouye, who has supported Kerry's presidential campaign, rebuked Kerry for proposing military cuts without consulting Pentagon leaders. "This is clearly micromanaging the Defense Department without any input from our military commanders," the Hawaii Democrat said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:17 PM

TALK TO MY LAWYER (via John Resnick):

Teen's right to wear sweatshirt is restored: Denbigh High responds to letter threatening lawsuit (Angela Forest, March 19 2004, Hampton Roads Daily Press)

A Denbigh High School student prevented from wearing an anti-abortion sweatshirt in school last month by a school administrator now can wear it after a Michigan law center raised the possibility of a lawsuit.

An assistant principal told Daniel Goergen on Feb. 18 to remove the sweatshirt or turn it inside-out. Printed in white letters on the front of the black, hooded sweatshirt are the words "Abortion is homicide." The back reads "You will not silence my message / You will not mock my God / You will stop killing my generation."

"It was kind of irritating, it was bringing me down a little," Goergen said of the assistant principal's decision. "I respected (the assistant principal's) opinion and did what she said because she's an administrator. Then I got a lawyer to explain to her the right for me to wear it."

Many students at the school have shown support for his actions, he said.

In response to a letter from the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Chief Deputy City Attorney Leonard Wallin sent a letter March 12 informing Goergen's lawyers that he could wear the sweatshirt at school.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:07 PM


Unmasking Alger Hiss: a Review of Alger Hiss's Looking-Glass Wars: The Covert Life of a Soviet Spy (Ronald Radosh, 3/17/04, Hudson Institute)

What White accomplishes in this innovative and brilliant new book is not yet another attempt to show Hiss's guilt, but rather an examination of how Hiss managed to be both a gifted Soviet agent and "a successful publicizer of his innocence," able to convince so many people. Why, White asks, was Hiss seen as a sympathetic figure by so many who should have known better—and why did they ignore irrefutable evidence in order to go on believing him?

White starts from the premise that Hiss was both a dedicated Communist party member and an agent of Soviet military intelligence from 1934 to 1946, and then asks why Hiss lied about this so blatantly, for so long, and even enlisted friends and family in the lie. He had other options. He could—as his wife desired—have faded into the woodwork and led a private life. He could have admitted his guilt and sought to excuse his actions with the "idealistic" reasons that he thought at the time justified the betrayal of his own country—the rationale used today by left-wing historians to exonerate the Rosenbergs.

Instead, Hiss pursued a consistent path of categorically dissociating himself from the slightest connection with Communism, developing what White calls a false narrative that he would relate for the rest of his life. He was, he claimed, simply a loyal New Dealer and devotee of international peace, a man who was therefore accused by the New Deal's right-wing enemies for their own partisan purposes. He characterized those who accused him as liars and himself as their innocent and unwilling victim. Hiss's chosen narrative was nothing but a spy's cover story, repeated ad infinitum until many opinion makers chose to believe him. [...]

Hiss had a fanatical dedication to vindicating his reputation. One of the major themes of White's psychological portrait is of how Hiss brought his son Tony, who had been estranged from him since childhood, into active participation in his fraudulent effort. He mended his fences with Tony in adulthood, and gained the loyalty of a family member who would carry on the effort to vindicate him even after his death. In effect, he betrayed the trust of loyal friends and family members, including his own son, to pursue the goal of helping the Soviet Union.

What helped Hiss most was the changing moral and political climate. When he was imprisoned, most Americans undoubtedly believed in his guilt. But he maintained his charade long enough for the 1960s and Vietnam to come along and produce a new national climate, one in which many Americans came to believe the worst about their government—that, for example, the Justice Department and FBI would fabricate evidence to convict an innocent person. This skeptical climate enabled Hiss to gain near-vindication, as White puts it, "without his producing a shred of credible new evidence." His tale of partisan right-wingers and government officials orchestrating a frame-up won him fresh supporters among the emerging New Left.

Didn't help that one of the men who brought him down, Richard Nixon, self-destructed in the 70s.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:32 PM


Divide and Bicker: The Dean Campaign's Hip, High-Tech Image Hid a Nasty Civil War (Howard Kurtz, February 29, 2004, Washington Post)

In different conversations and in different ways, according to several people who worked with him, Dean said at the peak of his popularity late last year that he never expected to rise so high, that he didn't like the intense scrutiny, that he had just wanted to make a difference. "I don't care about being president," he said. Months earlier, as his candidacy was taking off, he told a colleague: "The problem is, I'm now afraid I might win."

As Dean was swallowed by the bubble that envelops every major candidate, he allowed his campaign to sink into a nasty civil war that crippled decision-making and devastated morale. In the end, say some of those who uprooted their lives for him, these tensions hastened the implosion that brought Dean down.

The polarization revolved around two people: Joe Trippi, the rumpled, passionate, sometimes headstrong campaign manager who drew rock-star coverage in the press, and Kate O'Connor, the quiet, shrewd, low-profile Vermont confidante who never left Dean's side. [...]

Every presidential campaign has an ambitious strategist, a James Carville or Karl Rove, pulling the strings back at headquarters, and an unassuming body man (or woman) traveling with the candidate, a loyalist who can read his moods, cater to his needs and watch his back. And there are often tensions between "the office" and "the road." For Trippi and O'Connor, the sparring began early and never let up.

When Dean, once dismissed as a gadfly candidate, was surging to the front of a crowded Democratic field in September, things came to a head.

O'Connor, according to a staffer who saw the e-mail, wrote a friend that she wanted to get rid of Trippi and that she felt like quitting herself except that she needed to protect Dean. This followed a clash in which Trippi and other top political advisers helped craft a major Boston speech in which Dean was to denounce special interests -- only to have him toss out most of the speech after O'Connor expressed her opposition.

O'Connor, who said she had "possibly" sent the e-mail but did not recall it, said Dean felt the speech wasn't suitable for a large rally. But she confirmed that she was "uncomfortable" with the campaign's move toward "harping on the special interests. . . . I thought it was not a message that was true to who Howard Dean was." While she offered her opinions, "the thought that I could manipulate him is just absurd."

In October, as much of the media and political establishment began to view the former governor as unstoppable, Trippi was so frustrated by the mounting strife that he threatened to resign, he and other officials confirmed. Trippi asked his campaign allies to join an "intervention" with Dean to get things changed, but they told him he was being unrealistic. Trippi's partner in a consulting firm, Steve McMahon, and Trippi's wife, Kathy Lash, a campaign aide, talked him out of quitting. But he made a pact with his wife that, win or lose, he would quit the day after the New Hampshire primary.

For all the low-level warfare between what was termed the "Washington faction" and the "Vermont faction," O'Connor does not believe the disagreements damaged Dean's effort. "Maybe I'm just naive," she said. "Maybe it did and I'm oblivious to the fact that it hurt the campaign." [...]

Even the highest-ranking advisers found Dean resistant to changing his approach. Dean strategists say campaign chairman Steve Grossman repeatedly urged the candidate to talk about treating patients as a physician and expressed frustration that Dean never took the advice.

"Unfortunately Howard never took advantage of that unique quality and experience he had, that of being a doctor," Grossman said. Had Dean used more "personal examples" involving patients, it "would have humanized him and created more of an emotional link between him and the voters."

Trippi dispatched various aides to accompany Dean and O'Connor on the road, but problems developed each time. One said he was viewed as "Trippi's spy." Another said O'Connor would "kill" people she viewed as insufficiently loyal. A third said staffers were frightened of "the wrath of Kate." As fundraising surged and the campaign was rapidly expanding, Trippi tried to hire several seasoned pros but told colleagues that O'Connor had blocked his efforts.

"Completely false," said O'Connor. "I didn't meddle in hiring." She said Trippi refused to hire some people suggested by Dean, which Trippi confirmed.

But O'Connor saw herself as standing up for Dean. "If Washington people wanted to change a position, Kate would be the first one to say no, because she knows how long and how adamantly the governor held a particular position," said Sue Allen, Dean's longtime Vermont spokeswoman.

"She had the thankless job of keeping him on message. He's the kind of guy who will chat with somebody and change his opinion. She would control access, and that angers people. . . . She's a handy scapegoat."

David Bender, the New York senior deputy campaign director, said that when O'Connor complained about exhaustion and he suggested some time off, "she looked at me with a ferocity in her manner and voice and said: 'I know they want to get rid of me. . . . I will do this job if I have to do it from a hospital bed hooked up to an IV because I'm the only one who protects Howard. Everyone else wants something from him.' " [...]

Kate O'Connor knew about the Al Gore endorsement. Joe Trippi didn't. He blamed O'Connor. He also blamed Howard Dean.

It was early December, and Dean and Gore had agreed to keep quiet about the former vice president's plan to announce his support within days, fearing a premature leak. Trippi grew suspicious when staffers were asked to charter a large plane to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He asked Dean, who said someone would be endorsing him but he couldn't tell Trippi who it was. Trippi reminded him that he was the campaign manager. But Dean wouldn't budge.

The larger message was that O'Connor had known and the Washington faction had not. O'Connor said she was simply doing what Dean and Gore wanted. What no one knew was that this would be the high point and that the corrosive sense of mistrust would eat away at the campaign at the worst possible time.

Over the next six weeks, Dean's rivals escalated their attacks on his fitness for the White House, and he was hit by an avalanche of negative headlines. "Every media organization and reporter went after us because, you know, take down the front-runner," he told CNN.

But Dean also started making high-profile mistakes. After the seizure of Saddam Hussein, Dean's top political aides scripted a San Francisco speech in which the candidate would say that although his opposition to the Iraq war was unchanged, the capture was a victory for the American military. At the last minute, Dean added a line that the country was no safer, sparking a new controversy.

It was during this period that some senior officials became convinced that Dean wasn't serious about doing what it takes to win the White House, especially when he refused repeated requests to ask his wife, Judith Steinberg Dean, to make even an occasional campaign appearance. Dean did not respond to an interview request, but O'Connor believes he never wavered in his desire to be president.

Still, she said, "he didn't expect to be there" as the front-runner, and they were surprised at the intensity of the media barrage. "We never anticipated the constant getting beaten up over something every single day," O'Connor said.

But others felt the campaign should have been better prepared to play defense and that this contributed to the daily drip of damaging stories.

Senior officials, for instance, said they had never been able to gain access to the boxes of Dean records in O'Connor's garage or the files kept in her car trunk. Enright had reviewed tapes of Dean's appearances on a Canadian talk show from 1996 to 2002, but there was one tape she never got -- and NBC triggered a flap by reporting that Dean on that tape had disparaged the Iowa caucuses as "dominated by the special interests." The staff blamed O'Connor, who said she had never seen that tape and that the material in her Ford Focus was just news clips from Dean's gubernatorial days.

Campaign officials said they also tried to get O'Connor to dig out old National Rifle Association questionnaires completed by Dean. Enright was blindsided when the New York Times obtained one from a rival campaign, showing that Dean had opposed restrictions on owning assault weapons -- a contradiction of his current position.

When Dean, despite raising $40 million, finished third in Iowa on Jan. 19, he ripped up his prepared remarks and started yelling on his campaign bus, officials said, proclaiming that the message of taking on Washington's entrenched interests hadn't worked, that the grass roots were a mirage and had let him down. [...]

The warfare continued over Dean's message, the outsider-against-Washington-special-interests pitch that Trippi had developed in a PowerPoint presentation, tested in polls and, despite O'Connor's concerns, used to sell the candidate to major labor unions.

Dean's policy director, Jeremy Ben-Ami, declared in an e-mail: "The message of the campaign is simply no longer our campaign vs. the special interests. This is not what the governor wants to be saying -- or frankly what he ever really wanted to be saying."

Joe Drymala, the chief speechwriter who received the e-mail, resigned in protest. "I refused to believe it because I didn't want to," he said. "To believe that was to believe that Howard Dean was a fraud."

This kind of infighting is indeed a staple of every campaign, but what exacerbated it in Mr. Dean's case was that he ran as something he isn't, just because it happened to be working. The Vermonters closest to him knew him to be a moderate, even conservative, Democrat, one who could run on his record as a governor. The Washingtonians wanted him to be the anti-Iraq war/pro-class warfare candidate who they trot out every four years. For the Vermonters he was Bill Clinton. To the Washingtonians he was Al Gore (2000 version). Unfortunately, Mr. Dean bought into the Washingtonian shtick when it moved him in the polls, but since that isn't who he is it appears to have brought on some kind of psychotic episode.

Now John Kerry has inherited the mantle and, though the anti-war half fits him to a tee, the rhetoric about special interests and fighting for the little guy rolls off his tongue like cinder blocks. It's always a bad idea to go before the American people and try to present yourself as something you manifestly aren't. How long before Mr. Kerry starts his own schizophrenic meltdown?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:06 PM


Bush Insults Kerry's Intelligence: The president's latest attack is even more dishonest than the last. (Fred Kaplan, March 9, 2004, Slate)

Yesterday, President Bush told a crowd of supporters in Houston that, back in 1995, two years after the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, Sen. John Kerry introduced legislation to cut the intelligence budget by $1.5 billion. "Once again, Sen. Kerry is trying to have it both ways," the president said. "He's for good intelligence; yet he was willing to gut the intelligence services. And that is no way to lead a nation in a time of war." Bush further charged that Kerry's bill was "so deeply irresponsible that he didn't have a single-co-sponsor in the United States Senate." [...]

One thing is true: Kerry did introduce a bill on Sept. 29, 1995—S. 1290—that, among many other things, would have cut the intelligence budget by $300 million per year over a five-year

So the only thing that's true is the fact, but Mr. Kaplan disagrees with the wisdom of the cuts? Shocking.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:58 PM


Remember the Misery Index?: Here's why the press doesn’t play this oldie anymore. (Jerry Bowyer, 3/18/04, National Review)

For those who only began following economic statistics within the past 10 years, a definition is in order. The misery index, as the name suggests, is designed to measure the amount of misery felt by ordinary people in the economy. Since fear of unemployment and loss of purchasing power through inflation have pervasive effects in the lives of ordinary Americans, the misery index is simply the unemployment rate added to the inflation rate. Unemployment is based on the (recently neglected) household survey of employment, compiled by the Labor Department. And the inflation rate is based on the annual change in the Consumer Price Index.

How does the current misery index stack up with earlier periods? You be the judge:

The ranking for the average misery index for given periods in descending order are as follows:

* George Herbert Walker's average misery index is a massively large 10.7 percent.

*The Post WWII period's average is a rather large 9.5 percent.

*The average for Clinton's first term weighs in at a moderate 8.8 percent.

*George W.'s current misery index is 7.6 percent.

*The average for Clinton's second term is 6.8 percent.

This means that George W.'s current misery index is roughly only two-thirds of his father's average. In other words, with the exception of the hyper-growth of Clinton's second term, the current misery index compares very favorably with every other time-period analyzed here.

Not to mention that the jobs number will just keep improving this year.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:32 PM


Poll Numbers Devastating for Chávez (Hispanic American Center for Economic Research)

Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez would be defeated by a wide margin in any election or any referendum on his mandate, according to two private polling firms that released their survey results here Wednesday.

Polls conducted in 64 cities and in rural areas show ''consistently since late 2001 that, at a ratio of around 70-30, the electorate would vote against Chávez,'' Luis León, director of the Datanálisis firm, told the foreign press.

In a potential referendum to revoke Chávez's mandate -- a vote that the opposition is seeking and which the Constitution allows as of August -- ''64 percent of the electorate would vote against Chávez and 34 percent in favor,'' said León. Saúl Cabrera, of Consultores 21 polling firm, told the press that ''in any election Chávez would lose.''

''It's what you could say about someone gravely ill with cancer: he is going to die in a month, six months or a year. But he is going to die,'' said the public opinion expert.

Not soon enough.

Posted by John Resnick at 3:15 PM


FCC to broadcasters: F-word is out of bounds (JONATHAN D. SALANT, 3/19/2003, AP)

The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday overruled its staff and declared that an expletive uttered by rock star Bono on NBC last year was both indecent and profane. The agency made it clear that virtually any use of the F-word was inappropriate for over-the-air radio and television.

"The 'F-word' is one of the most vulgar, graphic and explicit descriptions of sexual activity in the English language," the commission said Thursday. "The fact that the use of this word may have been unintentional is irrelevant; it still has the same effect of exposing children to indecent language."

Senator Kerry's list of Executive Orders to issue in the first 100 in office just got longer.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:24 PM


Reading the minds of Jewish voters: President Bush's policies toward Israel have been pretty favorable; Kerry has never been a leader on Israel-related issues. How will the Jews vote? (Mitchell G. Bard, March 19, 2004, Jewsweek)

In 1916, Republican presidential candidate Charles Evans Hughes won 45% of the Jewish vote, but lost the election. Four years later, Warren Harding won 43% of the Jewish vote and the presidency. Since then, Eisenhower (in 1956) is the only Republican who won as much as 40% of the Jewish vote. On average, Republicans have received less than 25% of Jewish votes since 1916. That could all change this year.

In 2000, George W. Bush received only 19% of the Jewish vote in large measure because Al Gore was viewed as a good friend of Israel and most Jews suspected Bush would inherit the policies of his father, which were widely regarded as the most hostile toward Israel since Eisenhower. Four years later, few Jews would question that President Bush's policies toward Israel have been, if not the most favorable in history, pretty darn close.

No one believes Bush will win a majority of the Jewish vote, but he has a good chance of reaching the levels achieved by Eisenhower, Harding, and Hughes. Jewish Republicans suggest there is a realignment taking place as Jews become more conservative, but Jews remain the most liberal group of voters other than African-Americans, and the constituency that is most likely to vote against its economic interests. Some of the data from the last midterm election supports the idea of a realignment, but it is too early to tell. If Bush does as well as many expect, it is less likely to be a result of a Jewish shift to the Republican Party, which still has social policies that do not sit well with most Jews, than because of their support for his approach to foreign policy and the lackluster Democratic alternatives. [...]

The truth is the Jewish vote does matter. Though the Jewish population in the United States is roughly six million (about 2.3% of the total U.S. population), roughly 89% live in 12 key electoral college states. These states alone are worth enough electoral votes to elect the president. Therefore, it can make a difference in the outcome if the Jewish vote shifts.

If only they were Zionists.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:14 PM

60-40 NATION:

The age of reverence: Once upon a time in nostalgia land, everybody was good and God-fearing. More recently, the fad has been all things irreverent. But is that changing, and what impact is religion having on our popular discourse?
(Benyamin Cohen, March 19, 2004, Jewsweek)

Media observers are sensing a change in the mood of America. People are fed up with the negative and want something uplifting instead. Even before the Super Bowl stunt, it seems, Americans were tired of indecency and looking for inspiration. It would seem that reverence is the new irreverence.

"People have been fed up for a long time," says film critic and observant Jew Michael Medved. "Four times the number of people go to church or synagogue every week as go to the movie theaters. It's taken a huge mega blockbuster like the Passion of the Christ before people have begun to understand that there is a religious audience out there and they are looking for more traditionalist, more uplifting fare."

And the proof is on the boob tube. Shows with positive religious overtones like Joan of Arcadia, 7th Heaven, and Wonderfalls are ratings hits and critical darlings. Jay Leno, late night's nice guy routinely beats his more acerbic competitor, David Letterman.

And throughout pop culture, a "kinder, gentler" image is taking shape. [...]

The source of this upturn in religious reverence is anybody's guess, but one good bet might be a response to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The truth is 9/11 changed more than just our airport security procedures. Rather, much has been said about how we as a people changed, how our predominant outlook on the world was shattered that day. But what about our pop culture? After all, if Janet Jackson's nipple can send TV censors scrambling, one would assume that 9/11 sent shockwaves through our collective unconscious.

Hard to believe that the persona of George W. Bush isn't pushing the trend too. A President who talks so openly about his faith and makes it so central to our public policy has opened the way for others to talk more openly about what they believe and to make demands upon the purveyors of pop culture.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:04 PM


Kerry not weak on defense, McCain says (Nancy Benac, 3/19/2004, Associated Press)

Asked on two morning television shows yesterday whether he thought Kerry was weak on defense, the Arizona senator was quick to bat down the suggestion. Furthermore, he chided both parties for waging such a "bitter and partisan" campaign.

"This kind of rhetoric, I think, is not helpful in educating and helping the American people make a choice," he said on "The Early Show" on CBS.

McCain said Kerry would have to explain his voting record, but also told NBC's "Today" show: "No, I do not believe that he is necessarily weak on defense. I don't agree with him on some issues clearly. But I decry this negativism that's going on on both sides."

There's your next ad--a vote by vote comparison of Kerry vs. McCain on issues from the Contras to the Iraq Supplemental, about which Mr. McCain had the following to say:
Mr. President, we have begun a debate that may ultimately be more consequential than the war debate we had in this chamber last October, which culminated in the votes of 77 Senators authorizing the President of the United States to go to war against Saddam Hussein s Iraq. A negative Senate vote last fall, before our country was committed to liberating and reconstructing Iraq, would have weakened the President s leadership and made America less secure. But a vote against reconstructing Iraq now, with 130,000 American forces on the ground, American credibility before friends and enemies at stake, and the enormous responsibility of helping the Iraqi people rebuild their country now on our shoulders, would doom Iraq's transformation to failure, with grave consequences for the entire Middle East, and devastate American leadership in a dangerous world.

In other words, Mr. McCain believes that John Kerry voted to doom Iraq's democratic transformation to failure and devastate U.S. leadership in the world.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:55 PM


Afghan offensive: Grand plans hit rugged reality (Syed Saleem Shahzad, 3/20/04, Asia Times)

The plan to eradicate the Afghan resistance was straightforward: US-led coalition forces would drive from inside Afghanistan into the last real sanctuary of the insurgents, and meet the Pakistani military driving from the opposite direction. There would then be no safe place left to hide for the Taliban and al-Qaeda remnants, or, presumably, for Osama bin Laden himself. The plan's implementation began with the launch of operation "Mountain Storm" around March 15.

But the insurgents have a plan of their own, which they have revealed to Asia Times Online. Conceived by foreign resistance fighters of Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Arab origin, it is a classic guerrilla stratagem that involves enmeshing the mighty military forces of the United States and its allies in numerous local conflicts, diverting them from their real goal and dissipating their strength.

The insurgents' plan, too, has been put into effect, and the fierce fighting in Pakistan's tribal agency of South Waziristan last Tuesday, when resistance fighters and their tribal sympathizers took on the Pakistani military and routed it, was an early manifestation. Now Pakistan must quell its own rebel tribespeople before it continues to help the US with Mountain Storm. Indeed, Pakistan is attempting just that, on Thursday launching a "full force" operation in South Waziristan, using artillery and helicopter gunships. At the same time, tribal opposition to the Pakistani military has spread to North Waziristan - all according to plan, it seems.

Boy, these guys just don't get it. The whole reason that this action had to come after Iraq and that we continue to support General Musharraf is because this is the necessary quagmire. It is not sufficient to round-up a few al Qaeda types in a police action--the region has to be dealt with semi-permanently. This is where the war ends.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:46 PM


Just Browsing: Living Room Film Club, a Click Away (WILLIAM GRIMES, March 19, 2004, NY Times)

Netflix, founded in 1998, is an online movie-rental company that could be described as the anti-Blockbuster. It deals only in DVD's, and customers pay a flat monthly fee of $19.95 to rent an unlimited number of films with no late fees. The sole restriction is that subscribers may keep only three movies out at a time. (The company also offers more expensive five-film and eight-film plans.)

As each movie is returned in its self-addressed, prepaid envelope, Netflix sends out the next film on a list that the subscriber maintains online. Since the company has 23 regional distribution centers, most movies arrive the day after they are sent out. In theory a fanatic customer watching three films a day could go through several hundred DVD's each year, whittling down the per-film rental cost to a dollar or less. In practice the average user watches about six movies a month. [...]

There are two other weaknesses in the Netflix system, one unavoidable, the other understandable. First, the company does not rent videocassettes, so its library does not include thousands of films, some of them obscure, but many of them recognized classics. Anyone hoping to binge on Barbara Stanwyck will have to do without "Ball of Fire." Preston Sturges fans will look in vain for "Easy Living."

It's a godsend, especially if you don't have a wide range of rental places in your area.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:47 PM


Remarks by the President on Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom (The East Room, 3/19/04)

The murders in Madrid are a reminder that the civilized world is at war. And in this new kind of war, civilians find themselves suddenly on the front lines. In recent years, terrorists have struck from Spain, to Russia, to Israel, to East Africa, to Morocco, to the Philippines, and to America. They've targeted Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Yemen. They have attacked Muslims in Indonesia, Turkey, Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan. No nation or region is exempt from the terrorists' campaign of violence.

Each of these attacks on the innocent is a shock, and a tragedy, and a test of our will. Each attack is designed to demoralize our people and divide us from one another. And each attack must be answered, not only with sorrow, but with greater determination, deeper resolve, and bolder action against the killers. It is the interest of every country, and the duty of every government, to fight and destroy this threat to our people.

There is [a] dividing line -- there is a dividing line in our world, not between nations, and not between religions or cultures, but a dividing line separating two visions of justice and the value of life. On a tape claiming responsibility for the atrocities in Madrid, a man is heard to say, "We choose death, while you choose life." We don't know if this is the voice of the actual killers, but we do know it expresses the creed of the enemy. It is a mind set that rejoices in suicide, incites murder, and celebrates every death we mourn. And we who stand on the other side of the line must be equally clear and certain of our convictions. We do love live, the life given to us and to all. We believe in the values that uphold the dignity of life, tolerance, and freedom, and the right of conscience. And we know that this way of life is worth defending. There is no neutral ground -- no neutral ground -- in the fight between civilization and terror, because there is no neutral ground between good and evil, freedom and slavery, and life and death.

The war on terror is not a figure of speech. It is an inescapable calling of our generation. The terrorists are offended not merely by our policies -- they are offended by our existence as free nations. No concession will appease their hatred. No accommodation will satisfy their endless demands. Their ultimate ambitions are to control the peoples of the Middle East, and to blackmail the rest of the world with weapons of mass terror. There can be no separate peace with the terrorist enemy. Any sign of weakness or retreat simply validates terrorist violence, and invites more violence for all nations. The only certain way to protect our people is by early, united, and decisive action.

In this contest of will and purpose, not every nation joins every mission, or participates in the same way. Yet, every nation makes a vital contribution, and America is proud to stand with all of you as we pursue a broad strategy in the war against terror.

We are using every tool of finance, intelligence, law enforcement and military power to break terror networks, to deny them refuge, and to find their leaders. Over the past 30 months, we have frozen or seized nearly $200 million in assets of terror networks. We have captured or killed some two-thirds of al Qaeda's known leaders, as well as many of al Qaeda's associates countries like the United States, or Germany, or Pakistan, or Saudi Arabia, or Thailand. We are taking the fight to al Qaeda allies, such as Ansar-al-Islam in Iraq, Jemaah Islamiya in Indonesia, and Southeast Asia. Our coalition is sending an unmistakable message to the terrorists, including those who struck in Madrid: These killers will be tracked down and found, they will face their day of justice.

Our coalition is taking urgent action to stop the transfer of deadly weapon and materials. America and the nations of Australia, and France, and Germany, and Italy, and Japan, and the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, Canada, Singapore, and Norway have joined in the Proliferation Security Initiative all aimed to bind together, to interdict lethal materials transported by air or sea or land. Many governments have cooperated to expose and dismantle the network of A.Q. Khan, which sold nuclear secrets to Libya, Iran and North Korea. By all these efforts, we are determined to prevent catastrophic technologies from falling into the hands of an embittered few.

Our coalition is also confronting the dangerous combination of outlaw states, terrorist groups, and weapons of mass destruction. For years, the Taliban made Afghanistan the home base of al Qaeda. And so we gave the Taliban a choice: to abandon forever their support for terror, or face the destruction of their regime. Because the Taliban chose defiance, our coalition acted to remove this threat. And now the terror camps are closed, and the government of a free Afghanistan is represented here today as an active partner in the war on terror.

The people of Afghanistan are a world away from the nightmare of the Taliban. Citizens of Afghanistan have adopted a new constitution, guaranteeing free elections and full participation by women. The new Afghan army is becoming a vital force of stability in that country. Businesses are opening, health care centers are being established, and the children of Afghanistan are back in school, boys and girls.

This progress is a tribute to the brave Afghan people, and to the efforts of many nations. NATO -- including forces from Canada, France, Germany, and other nations -- is leading the effort to provide security. Japan and Saudi Arabia have helped to complete the highway from Kabul to Kandahar, which is furthering commerce and unifying the country. Italy is working with Afghans to reform their legal system, and strengthening an independent judiciary. Three years ago, the people of Afghanistan were oppressed and isolated from the world by a terrorist regime. Today, that nation has a democratic government and many allies -- and all of us are proud to be friends of the Afghan people.

Many countries represented here today also acted to liberate the people of Iraq. One year ago, military forces of a strong coalition entered Iraq to enforce United Nations demands, to defend our security, and to liberate that country from the rule of a tyrant. For Iraq, it was a day of deliverance. For the nations of our coalition, it was the moment when years of demands and pledges turned to decisive action. Today, as Iraqis join the free peoples of the world, we mark a turning point for the Middle East, and a crucial advance for human liberty.

There have been disagreements in this matter, among old and valued friends. Those differences belong to the past. All of us can now agree that the fall of the Iraqi dictator has removed a source of violence, aggression, and instability in the Middle East. It's a good thing that the demands of the United Nations were enforced, not ignored with impunity. It is a good thing that years of illicit weapons development by the dictator have come to the end. It is a good thing that the Iraqi people are now receiving aid, instead of suffering under sanctions. And it is a good thing that the men and women across the Middle East, looking to Iraq, are getting a glimpse of what life in a free country can be like.

There are still violent thugs and murderers in Iraq, and we're dealing with them. But no one can argue that the Iraqi people would be better off with the thugs and murderers back in the palaces. Who would prefer that Saddam's torture chambers still be open? Who would wish that more mass graves were still being filled? Who would begrudge the Iraqi people their long-awaited liberation? On year after the armies of liberation arrived, every soldier who has fought, every aid worker who has served, every Iraqi who has joined in their country's defense can look with pride on a brave and historic achievement. They've served freedom's cause, and that is a privilege.

Today in Iraq, a British-led division is securing the southern city of Basra. Poland continues to lead a multinational division in south-central Iraq. Japan and the Republic of Korea -- of South Korea have made historic commitments of troops to help bring peace to Iraq. Special forces from El Salvador, Macedonia, and other nations are helping to find and defeat Baathist and terrorist killers. Military engineers from Kazakhstan have cleared more than a half a million explosive devices from Iraq. Turkey is helping to resupply coalition forces. All of these nations, and many others, are meeting their responsibilities to the people of Iraq.

Whatever their past views, every nation now has an interest in a free, successful, stable Iraq. And the terrorists understand their own interest in the fate of that country. For them, the connection between Iraq's future and the course of the war on terror is very clear. They understand that a free Iraq will be a devastating setback to their ambitions of tyranny over the Middle East. And they have made the failure of democracy in Iraq one of their primary objectives.

By attacking coalition forces -- by targeting innocent Iraqis and foreign civilians for murder -- the terrorists are trying to weaken our will. Instead of weakness, they're finding resolve. Not long ago, we intercepted a planning document being sent to leaders of al Qaeda by one of their associates, a man named Zarqawi. Along with the usual threats, he had a complaint: "Our enemy," said Zarqawi, "is growing stronger and his intelligence data are increasing day by day -- this is suffocation." Zarqawi is getting the idea. We will never turn over Iraq to terrorists who intend our own destruction. We will not fail the Iraqi people, who have placed their trust in us. Whatever it takes, we will fight and work to assure the success of freedom in Iraq.

Many coalition countries have sacrificed in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Among the fallen soldiers and civilians are sons and daughters of Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. We honor their courage, we pray for the comfort of their families. We will uphold the cause they served.

The rise of democratic institutions in Afghanistan and Iraq is a great step toward a goal of lasting importance to the world. We have set out to encourage reform and democracy in the greater Middle East as the alternatives to fanaticism, resentment, and terror. We've set out to break the cycle of bitterness and radicalism that has brought stagnation to a vital region, and destruction to cities in America and Europe and around the world. This task is historic, and difficult; this task is necessary and worthy of our efforts.

In the 1970s, the advance of democracy in Lisbon and Madrid inspired democratic change in Latin America. In the 1980s, the example of Poland ignited a fire of freedom in all of Eastern Europe. With Afghanistan and Iraq showing the way, we are confident that freedom will lift the sights and hopes of millions in the greater Middle East.

One man who believed in our cause was a Japanese diplomat named Katsuhiko Oku. He worked for the Coalition Provision Authority in Iraq. Mr. Oku was killed when his car was ambushed. In his diary he described his pride in the cause he had joined. "The free people of Iraq," he wrote, "are now making steady progress in reconstructing their country -- while also fighting against the threat of terrorism. We must join hands with the Iraqi people in their effort to prevent Iraq from falling into the hands of terrorists." This good, decent man concluded, "This is also our fight to defend freedom."

Ladies and gentlemen, this good man from Japan was right. The establishment of a free Iraq is our fight. The success of a free Afghanistan is our fight. The war on terror is our fight. All of us are called to share the blessings of liberty, and to be strong and steady in freedom's defense. It will surely be said of our times that we lived with great challenges. Let it also be said of our times that we understood our great duties, and met them in full.

May God bless our efforts.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:29 PM



Senator Kerry of Massachusetts yesterday retreated from his earlier steadfast denials that he attended a meeting of Vietnam Veterans Against the War at which a plan to assassinate U.S. Senators was debated.

The reversal came as new evidence, including reports from FBI informants, emerged that contradicted Mr. Kerry’s previous statements about the gathering, which was held in Kansas City, Mo. in November 1971.

“John Kerry had no personal recollection of this meeting 33 years ago,” a Kerry campaign spokesman, David Wade, said in a statement e-mailed last night from Idaho, where Mr. Kerry is on vacation.

Mr. Wade said Mr. Kerry does remember “disagreements with elements of VVAW leadership” that led to his resignation, but the statement did not specify what the disagreements were.

“If there are valid FBI surveillance reports from credible sources that place some of those disagreements in Kansas City, we accept that historical footnote in the account of his work to end the difficult and divisive war,” the statement said.

It did not address the murder plot, though as recently as Wednesday a top aide to Mr. Kerry said that the Massachusetts senator and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee was “absolutely certain” he was not present when the assassination plan, known as the “Phoenix Project,” was discussed.

The New York Sun first reported last week that other anti-war activists placed Mr. Kerry at the Kansas City meeting. A total of six people have now said publicly that they remember seeing Mr. Kerry there.

His failure to report the plot to authorities would seem tough to explain away.

Posted by David Cohen at 12:29 PM


Reggie and the red balloons (John Mercurio, CNN Political Unit, 3/19/04)

Reggie the Republican registration rig will be in Orlando tomorrow. So will the Blue Dog Democrats and their budget-busting red balloons. . . .

The Republican National Committee is parking its 56-foot 18-wheeler inside the convention center, allowing hundreds of volunteers to fan out after the rally for a massive voter-registration blitz. This grass-roots effort to help mobilize the GOP vote is part of the RNC's "unprecedented" commitment to register 3 million new voters by November.

Also on hand, we hear, will be a large number of red balloons, which conservative Blue Dog Democrats plan to use to remind voters of the "ballooning" federal budget deficit that the president has created since 2001. Even though the aforementioned "dogs" are "blue," the balloons are red, presumably to represent the budget's "red ink."

I can't figure out any way to work Eric and Julia Roberts into this post. Oh. Hey! Trifecta.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:53 AM


Amid Natural Splendor in Idaho, a Weary Kerry Gets Away From It All (DAVID M. HALBFINGER, March 19, 2004, NY Times)

His getaway came at a particularly rough time for the senator, the expected Democratic presidential nominee. For more than a week, he has had to defend himself from an onslaught of attacks by President Bush and millions of dollars in negative advertising, while taking criticism for calling Republicans "crooked" and "lying" and claiming to have the support of leaders whom he has not named. Moreover, a New York Times/CBS News poll indicated that many Americans were beginning to see him as the kind of politician who says what he thinks people want to hear.

Several Democrats and Kerry aides said some of his missteps were a result of exhaustion. They and some of the senator's friends said the vacation could not have come too soon. "He needed it about as badly as anybody could need it," said Sam Grossman, a real estate developer who has skied with Ms. Heinz Kerry here for decades, and with Mr. Kerry for years. "The best thing that can happen is he'll sleep, relax, eat some good food, and then, in a couple of days, he'll be back firing again."

Another reminder of how badly Mr. Kerry needed a break was provided by the Bush campaign, which released a commercial skewering him for saying Tuesday that he had voted both for and against the $87 billion appropriation for military operations and reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan. "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it," he said, referring to an amendment he favored that would have rescinded some tax cuts to help finance the Iraq war.

Mr. Kerry's staff back in Washington was working in overdrive, meanwhile, marshaling surrogates to defend him and punch back at Mr. Bush. They were also compelled, however, to reject an endorsement from one foreign leader: Mahathir Mohamad, former Malaysian prime minister — "an avowed anti-Semite whose views are totally deplorable," Rand Beers, a foreign policy adviser, said in a statement.

But Mr. Beers added that Mr. Kerry would shun as inappropriate the endorsement of any foreign leader at all.

You have to be deeply delusional in order to believe that the Senator makes better decisions about what foreign leaders he beds down with when he's well rested.

He's been wrong on every foreign policy question for thirty years and they think a couple naps will help?

MORE (via Tom Corcoran):
The Treason Temptation: In their growing disdain for their own country Democrats increasingly rely on foreign opinion -- and think this won't cost them politically. (George Neumayr, 3/18/04, American Spectator)

Democrats bristle at the suggestion that they are out of touch with mainstream America. But their rhetorical reliance on opinion from outside the country -- whether it is John Kerry citing support from foreign leaders or Democratic activists citing Scandinavian jurisprudence as they try to topple marriage -- proves it. The more they alienate themselves from mainstream America, the more they rely on foreign cultural currents to push their agenda.

Modern Democrats are peculiar in American political history in that they actually brag about non-American support. This is a political boast the Founding Fathers and early Federalists would find puzzling if not shocking. Independence from foreign opinion and influence is one of the founding marks of America. The Federalist Papers contain chapters entitled "Concerning Dangers From Foreign Force and Influence." John Kerry's foreign-leaders-are-pulling-for-me talk would sound to the American founders like the beginnings of treason.

Democrats loudly emphasize their foreign support, then wonder why they are caricatured as the party that tends toward anti-Americanism. After it turns out that an accused traitor, Susan Lindauer, was a serial employee for Democrats -- hopping from the office of Rep. Peter Defazio to Rep. Ron Wyden's to Senator Carol Moseley Braun's to Rep. Zoe Lofgren's -- one would think the Democrats might show some reluctance to hawk foreign endorsements. But they don't. They consider them useful political props.

They rush to defend the veracity of Kerry's declaration of foreign support, as if the political problem is that it might be false when the real political problem is that it is true. Dem diplomat Richard Holbrooke's defense of Kerry -- "In the last six or seven months, I've been in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Europe. I've met with leaders in all of those regions, and they have overwhelmingly -- not unanimously but overwhelmingly -- said that they hope that there's a change in leadership" -- supplies Americans with an urgent reason not to vote for Kerry. He is more in tune with the views of foreign leaders than with mainstream America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:04 AM


 Iraq-al Qaeda link (Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough, March 19, 2004, Washington Times)

We have obtained a document discovered in Iraq from the files of the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS). The report provides new evidence of links between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

The 1993 document, in Arabic, bears the logo of the Iraqi intelligence agency and is labeled "top secret" on each of its 20 pages.

The report is a list of IIS agents who are described as "collaborators."

On page 14, the report states that among the collaborators is "the Saudi Osama bin Laden."

The document states that bin Laden is a "Saudi businessman and is in charge of the Saudi opposition in Afghanistan."

"And he is in good relationship with our section in Syria," the document states, under the signature "Jabar."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:11 AM


Taiwanese president, vice president shot but survive (AP, 3/19/04)

President Chen Shui-bian and his vice president were wounded Friday when shots were fired into their motorcade on the final day of campaigning for a landmark election and referendum that could be a turning point in Taiwan's tense relationship with China.

Presumably, though, the Taiwanese aren't as pusillanimous as Europeans.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:22 AM


Statement from Kerry Foreign Policy Advisor Rand Beers on the former Malaysian Prime Minister

“John Kerry rejects any association with former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, an avowed anti-Semite whose views are totally deplorable. The world needs leaders who seek to bring people together, not drive them apart with hateful and divisive rhetoric.

“This election will be decided by the American people, and the American people alone. It is simply not appropriate for any foreign leader to endorse a candidate in America’s presidential election. John Kerry does not seek, and will not accept, any such endorsements.”

Former Malaysian Leader Endorses Kerry (AP, March 18, 2004)
Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad endorsed Democratic contender John Kerry in the U.S. presidential race Thursday, saying he would keep the world safer than President Bush.

"I think Kerry would be much more willing to listen to the voices of people and of the rest of the world,'' Mahathir, who retired in October after 22 years in power, told The Associated Press in an interview.

"But in the U.S., the Jewish lobby is very strong, and any American who wants to become president cannot change the policy toward Palestine radically,'' he said.

Surely the Senator isn't such a dupe that he thinks the other leaders who are endorsing him have the best interests of the United States and the cause of freedom at heart?

Posted by Paul Jaminet at 12:00 AM


Look what the church dragged in (Miami Herald, 8/9/2003; via Curt Jester)

Rover, of course, needs his run in the park. But what about his spiritual needs?

All Saints Episcopal Church in Fort Lauderdale wants to meet those needs ...

The church just started monthly services for pets and their loved ones, even providing doggie treats for Rover at communion time.

Houses of Worship Are Reaching Out To a Flock of Pets (WSJ, 3/10/2004)
For the first time in 10 years, Mary Wilkinson went to church one Sunday in January. She sat in a back pew at St. Francis Episcopal Church in Stamford, Conn., flipping through a prayer book and listening intently to the priest's sermon.

What drew Ms. Wilkinson back into the fold was a new monthly program the church introduced -- Holy Communion for pets. As part of the service, the 59-year-old retired portfolio manager carried her 17-year-old tiger cat to the altar, waited in line behind three panting dogs to receive the host ...

As a Catholic, I'm more pleased than ever that we're not in communion with the Episcopal Church.

March 18, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:55 PM


Kerry's Uncommon Touch: Besides the flip-flops, John Kerry has another big problem: how his life in the Senate has prepared him for connecting with ordinary Americans. (Hugh Hewitt, 03/18/2004, Weekly Standard)

JOHN KERRY presented President Bush with a St. Patrick's Day gift via the Wednesday morning New York Times. Responding to a new Bush ad reminding voters that Kerry had voted against last year's $87 billion dollar appropriation to support the troops deployed in Iraq, Kerry responded: "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it."

This beautiful bit of nonsense from the nominee followed Sunday's Miami Herald piece on Kerry's many positions on Cuba and Cuba-related issues. The choice paragraphs from among many:

"Asked in the Herald interview last year about sending Elián back to Cuba, Kerry was blunt: 'I didn't agree with that.'"

"But when he was asked to elaborate, Kerry acknowledged that he agreed the boy should have been with his father."

"So what didn't he agree with?"

"'I didn't like the way they did it. I thought the process was butchered,' he said." [...]

KERRY had his first rotten week last week, with his venomous outburst about the "crooked" and lying GOP, his declaration that he wanted to be the nation's second black president, and his assertion that he's spoken with foreign leaders who want him to win in November. Pressed to name these Harvey-the-Rabbit leaders, Kerry dodged and darted, and found himself snarling at Cedric Brown, a signmaker from Pennsylvania. Kerry told Brown that it wasn't any of his business who these pro-Kerry leaders are, and followed that up by bullying Brown into admitting that he had voted for Bush, which led to boos from the pro-Kerry crowd.

As a caller to my show put it: Doesn't Kerry want to win any of the votes that went to Bush in 2000?

We're big fans of Mr. Hewitt, but the comparison of John Kerry to Elwood P. Dowd is a slander upon Jimmy Stewart.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:43 PM


Spain's Next Prime Minister Says U.S. Should Dump Bush (Keith B. Richburg, March 18, 2004, Washington Post)

Prime Minister-elect Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero on Wednesday described the U.S. occupation of Iraq as "a fiasco" and suggested American voters should follow the example set by Spain and change their leadership by supporting Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts for president in November.

"I said during the campaign I hoped Spain and the Spaniards would be ahead of the Americans for once," Zapatero said in an interview on Onda Cero radio. "First we win here, we change this government, and then the Americans will do it, if things continue as they are in Kerry's favor."

Spain, making the world safe for Socialist appeasers...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:09 PM

MAD MACS (via Tom Morin):

Mel's New Testament Profits: Gibson Could Earn $500 Million From His Leap of Faith (Anne Thompson, March 18, 2004, The Washington Post)

Only one man has ever taken hundreds of millions out of the Hollywood studio system: George Lucas. He socked his "Star Wars" millions into his Bay Area empire Lucasfilm Ltd. and now funds his own movies and reaps the rewards.

Gibson now has the same kind of freedom. Speculation abounds on what he will do with his half-billion.

Asked whether Gibson will donate some of the money from the film to charity, his spokesman Alan Nierob said: "It would be out of character for Mel to publicize his private donations."

He's most likely, sources close to him say, to put money into more religious-themed films. He's scheduled to do another "Mad Max" movie, though those close to Gibson find it hard to imagine him now wanting to do that or make another "Lethal Weapon" sequel.

This much we do know. On Tuesday, Gibson told ABC Radio that there were several "R-rated" Old Testament stories that "fired his imagination," most notably the tale of the Maccabees, who overthrew an idol-worshiping Syrian king in 164 B.C. "They stood up for their beliefs and made war and came out winning," Gibson said. "It's like a western, you know."

Now that would truly be anti-Semitic--Rabbi Foxman's head will explode just at the thought of a supposed Jew-hater turning them into pop heroes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:42 PM


School Strips Teen's Pro-Life Tee-Shirt; Attorney Demands Redress (Jim Brown, March 17, 2004, AgapePress)

A Virginia public high school is being threatened with a lawsuit for telling a student that his pro-life T-shirt is equivalent to profanity.

For the past two and a half years at Denbigh High School in Newport News the student has been wearing a sweatshirt that says "Abortion is Homicide. You will not silence my message. You will not mock my God. You will stop killing my generation. Rock For Life."

But the school's assistant principal told the pro-life teen the message on his shirt violated a school rule that prohibits students from using obscene or profane language. He was told not to wear it to school again, even though he had been doing so without incident going on three years.

Nice pun though.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:33 PM


A new swing vote: Alliance of Jews & Evangelicals could tip the election (Zev Chafets, March 17, 2004, NY Daily News)

[Yechiel] Eckstein is an unorthodox Orthodox rabbi from Chicago who recently moved to Israel. He wears a baseball hat for a skull cap, and he looks more like an ex-jock than a practicing clergyman. His congregation isn't what you'd expect, either. He is the founder and leader of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, a group linked to 20,000 Evangelical and Pentecostal churches.

Eckstein raises money from Christians and gives it to Jews. Last year alone, he took in around $40 million. Most of it was disbursed in the Holy Land. That's enough to make the Fellowship of Christians and Jews Israel's biggest philanthropic foundation - and Eckstein a very influential figure in his new country.

The rabbi's real power base, though, is still the United States. A close associate of Ralph Reed, Pat Robertson, Gary Bauer and Tom DeLay, Eckstein is at the epicenter of the rapidly developing Jewish-Evangelical political connection.

The fellowship is officially nonpartisan, but there is no question that the partnership Eckstein is building will help the Republicans this year and beyond. For that reason, it is highly controversial in the Jewish establishment. Historically, American Jews have distrusted and disliked Evangelical Christians. Since FDR, they have voted overwhelmingly Democratic in every national election except 1980, when upward of a third cast ballots for Ronald Reagan over the born-again Jimmy Carter.

George W. Bush is born-again, too, but he also is the most pro-Israel President in history. Eckstein believes President Bush will get a significant Jewish vote, perhaps enough to make a difference in electoral battleground states like Illinois, Pennsylvania and, especially, Florida.

The tough part is prying the folks in Florida away from Pat Buchanan.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:26 PM


Spain Will Legalise Gay 'Marriages' - Zapatero (Reuters, 3/18/04)

Spain will legalize gay unions, although it may not call them marriages, incoming prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said on Thursday, but he did not set a time-frame for the move.

Where have you gone, Generalissimo...

Posted by John Resnick at 5:05 PM


Flip Side (Noam Scheiber, 3/18/2004, TNR Online)

Kerry sympathizers will respond that this kind of analysis reads way too much into what was, after all, only one week. Would that they were right. But a simple look at some recent polling data suggests that's unlikely. Several weeks of favorable coverage during the Democratic primaries and a couple of months of White House missteps had conspired to give Kerry a statistically significant lead over Bush in most polls by late February. This week, a New York Times/CBS poll showed Kerry suffering a 10-point net reversal in his favorable/unfavorable ratings since that time. Maybe that's the kind of thing that happens even to fundamentally strong candidates when they suffer a couple of bad days. But, given the speed and size of the turnaround, the numbers seem far more likely to suggest that Kerry is settling into his natural equilibrium. Unfortunately for Democrats, that's not the one that has him winning in November.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:57 PM


Bush Uses Kerry's Words in Campaign Ad (RON FOURNIER, 3/18/04, AP)

John Kerry's words are being used against him in President Bush's new television ad, which accuses the presumptive Democratic nominee of waffling on military issues.

Airing nationally on cable TV, the commercial borrows heavily from an ad Bush is airing in West Virginia this week criticizing Kerry for voting against an $87 billion aid package for Iraq and Afghanistan last year.

Campaigning in West Virginia Tuesday, Kerry responded to the ad, saying he voted against the $87 billion bill because he did not support the president's military and reconstruction plans. The Democrat explained that he supported a failed amendment that would have paid for the Iraq and Afghanistan programs by repealing Bush's tax cuts.

"I actually did vote for his $87 billion, before I voted against it," Kerry said.

Bush's campaign tacked that quote to the end of the West Virginia ad, which was edited slightly to make room for Kerry's have-it-both-ways response. The new ad was released Thursday.

By the time Karl Rove is done with him, the Senator won't be able to get elected president of IHOP.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:56 PM


House Iraq Resolution Turns Into Debate (JIM ABRAMS, 3/17/04, Associated Press)

The House on Wednesday approved a simple four-point resolution praising U.S. troops and the Iraqi people on the first anniversary of the war in Iraq, but only after a raucous debate over whether the war was warranted and had made the world a safer place.

Democrats said the Republican-written measure was aimed at endorsing President Bush's flawed policies, while Republicans said the removal of Saddam Hussein was an unequivocal victory in the war against terrorism.

The measure passed 327-93...

Next they'll be a filibuster over National Turnip Day.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:43 PM


Terror 'Threat' Names Targets (CBS News, March 18, 2004)

The Islamic militant group that claimed responsibility for last week's Madrid train bombings has warned that its next targets could be the United States, Japan, Italy, Britain or Australia, an Arabic newspaper reported Thursday.

The London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi said on its Web site that it had received a statement from "The Brigade of Abu Hafs al-Masri (al Qaeda)" in which the group reiterated its claim of responsibility for the March 11 attacks that killed more than 200 people and wounded 1,600.

"Our brigades are getting ready now for the coming strike," said the statement dated March 15. "Whose turn will it be next? Is it Japan, America, Italy, Britain, Saudi Arabia or Australia?"

The statement warned these countries that "the brigades of death are at your doors," adding that they would strike "with an iron hand at the right time and place."

Are these the foreigners John Kerry says support his election?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:38 PM


Pakistan: Qaeda No. 2 Surrounded (CBS News, March 18, 2004)

Pakistani officials said Thursday they believe al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri is surrounded near the Afghan border.

No other details were available.

Pakistani troops and paramilitary forces using artillery and helicopter gunships had launched a new assault Thursday against al Qaeda and Taliban suspects in a tribal region near Afghanistan, two days after a fierce assault that left dozens dead.

The new push began in Azam Warsak, Shin Warsak and Kaloosha villages in South Waziristan, the tribal region that borders Afghanistan, said Brig. Mahmood Shah, the chief of security for the area. Army spokesman Gen. Shaukat Sultan said there have been casualties in the new offensive, but he had no details of how many or on which side.

The operation follows a clash between security forces and suspected Taliban and al Qaeda holdouts in a fortress-like compound in the village of Kaloosha, just miles from the border. Some 41 people — including 15 troops and 26 militants, died in the raid on Tuesday, the military said Thursday. Eighteen other suspects were captured.

A military statement said most of those killed Tuesday were foreigners, but it gave no details of nationalities and acknowledged that only two of the bodies had been recovered. No senior al Qaeda figures are believed to have been among those killed or captured.

One of the two dead militants whose bodies were recovered was a Chechen and the other was believed to be of Middle Eastern origin, a military official said on condition of anonymity.

Given the likelihood that Osama is, and has been, dead, this'd be huge.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:34 PM


Cops: 'Hate Crime' A Hoax (CBS/AP, 3/18/04)

A professor who claimed she was targeted in a hate crime that stirred student protests at the Claremont Colleges is suspected of staging the vandalism herself, police said Wednesday.

Kerri F. Dunn's car was vandalized and covered with racist, anti-Semitic and sexist epithets on March 9, while she spoke at a forum on racism.

The incident prompted faculty to cancel classes and students to stage rallies the following day.

Two witnesses interviewed by police investigators allegedly saw Dunn, a visiting professor of psychology at Claremont McKenna College, commit the vandalism, police said in a statement.

Is there such thing as a psychologist/psychiatrist who isn't a nutbag?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:30 PM


Costello plays safe in abortion debate: The Health Minister, Tony Abbott, has put himself at odds with the Treasurer, Peter Costello, in leaving open the possibility of future moves to discourage abortions (Mark Metherell and Alexandra Smith, March 18, 2004, The Sydney Morning Herald)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:26 AM


Churches Burn as NATO Boosts Kosovo Peace Force (Shaban Buza, Mar 18, 2004, Reuters)

Albanians set fire to Serb Orthodox churches in Kosovo on Thursday as NATO scrambled to deploy up to 1,000 more troops to stifle an explosion of ethnic violence.

A church was torched in the flashpoint town of Mitrovica despite the efforts of French NATO peacekeepers, who fired teargas and rubber bullets to drive off the mob.

Gunshots were heard, but it was not clear where from.

A Serb church and Serb homes were also set ablaze in the central town of Obilic, near the provincial capital Pristina.

Reports from Obilic said NATO peacekeepers had evacuated about 100 Serbs because it could not guarantee their safety -- as happened on Wednesday night in the capital, Pristina.

NATO summoned reinforcements after 22 people were killed in the worst ethnic clashes in Kosovo since the allies and the United Nations took control of the province from Serbia in 1999. Some 500 have been injured, of whom 20 were in intensive care.

Remind us again why we went to war against instead of with the Serbs?

Meanwhile, pompous ass Richard Holbrooke was on Chris Matthews last night criticizing the Bush administrations nation building record--anyone want to compare Afghanistan and Iraq to Haiti, Yugoslavia and Somalia?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:12 AM


St. Patrick's Day at Riley's (Paul Greenberg, March 17, 2004, Townhall)

With sincere apologies to, and selective quotations from, Finley Peter Dunne, creator of the immortal Mister Dooley, the Irish barkeep and political sage who first noted that politics ain't beanbag.

J. Aloysius Hennessey looked even more confused than usual as he came through the swinging doors of Riley's Royal I.R.A. Vegetable Bar Grill at the corner of Broadway and Apocrypha. He headed straight for the bar at the back - as if he were late for an appointment.

Hennessey would have taken off his coat if he'd had one, and plunked down a dollar if he had one. Instead, he raised a forefinger straight up to indicate his order: One Cold One.

Mr. Riley calmly took the dishrag he usually wore casually draped over his left shoulder, leisurely dusted off the free lunch, nodded sagely (he couldn't nod any other way, being a sage), and raised his own forefinger to point out the Past Due list taped to barroom mirror. Hennessey's name led all the rest.

"I'm confused," Hennessey confessed.

"As if I'd ever seen you whin ye weren't," said Mr. Riley.

"It's this prezydential iliction, donnybrook, lollypaloooza and general foofaraw and brouhaha," explained Hennessey. "Here 'tis only Saint Paddy's Day and th' two distinguished candydates is already debatin' the issues iv th' day by throwin' chairs at one anwather. 'Tis worse thin me last family reunion. Just when did this campaign start, anyway?"

"It started, Hennessey, th' day th' the last prezydential iliction ended. And it'll be over shortly befure th' ides iv November, which is whin th' next one starts. The Missus Clinton is already gearin' op fir that wan. Aught-eight is her year. She's joost waitin' fir a clear field, like a filly in th' Irish Sweepstakes. And it'll shure be a race t'see!"

"I'll dhrink to that," said Hennessey.

One doubts you could get away with doing minstrel show dialect today.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:01 AM


Your Place or Mine?: Telecommuting can produce real savings, but employees are now reluctant to cut the cord. Should companies do it for them? (Doug Bartholomew, March 15, 2004, CFO)

As a CFO in these still uncertain economic times, imagine saving $3,000 per employee per year. And lopping $71 million off your real estate bill. Oh, and how about a 4 to 12 percent boost in employee productivity?

Sound good? Those are some figures thrown around by advocates of telecommuting, or, as some prefer to call it, teleworking. While the numbers may be optimistic, they do suggest that working from home isn't just good for commute-weary employees but for employers as well. But properly equipping a remote employee is more complicated than you might think, as is deciding whether the investment truly pays off. More vexing still may be the issue of who should take the lead in pushing for—or pushing back on—work-from-home arrangements. [...]

However these workers are defined, their numbers are increasing, at least by some measures (as with the total population, growth rates vary depending on how teleworker is defined). To be effective from home, they typically rely on a computer, often a laptop that travels back and forth from home to office; an Internet connection, preferably broadband and not dial-up; a telephone; maybe a fax machine; and, increasingly, a growing range of corporate-based software applications that can be accessed from home.

Also close at hand, of course, are family members, pets, and maybe the plumber, coming sometime between 10 and noon. With distractions, obligations, and temptations in abundance, productivity is bound to suffer. Isn't it?

Not necessarily. Most corporations with large numbers of teleworkers report productivity increases, not declines. "A number of companies fear their workers will be at home with their feet up in front of the TV, and that's just not the case," says IDC analyst Merle Sandler. "You can put measures in place to see if employees are actually producing what they are expected to produce."

Realistically, folks don't do more than a few of hours of truly productive work even if they're in the office, so why not make it so they can put in those hours at their convenience.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 AM


Both of them are fairly unreadable nowadays, but here are consecurtive entries in the NY Times newsletter today:

Axis of Appeasement
The notion that Spain can separate itself from Al Qaeda's
onslaught on Western civilization by pulling its troops
from Iraq is a fantasy.

Pride and Prejudice
The Republicans prefer to paint our old ally as craven
rather than accept the Spanish people's judgment ˜ that the
Iraq takeover had nothing to do with the war on terror.
Kind of cruel of the editors to juxtapose Ms Dowd, their resident expert on Sex and the City and such pop trivialities, with their foreign policy guru.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:44 AM


Blacks Shift to the Center: Why the Democrats are losing their hammerlock on this constituency. (John H. McWhorter, 3/18/04, FrontPage)

There are no indications that voting Republican will become the norm among blacks any time soon — and a good thing, too, because being a slam-dunk voting bloc for a single party means that neither party has any reason to court your vote with meaningful proposals. But more and more, black politics are moving to a constructive center, wary of sad realities but open to the fact that change does happen.

In a poll conducted by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in 2000, for example, 74% of blacks were registered as Democrats. By 2002, that number had fallen to 63%, with about one in four blacks — many of them younger voters — registered as independents.

In a 1995 Gallup poll, almost all blacks favored affirmative action in the form of outreach to minorities, but 78% were opposed to hiring minority applicants when they were less qualified than white ones. [...]

Of course, most of us still know a black person or two who bring to mind Homey the Clown from the television variety classic "In Living Color," painting life as a black person in the U.S. as an endless battle against racist abuse. This ideology, increasingly difficult to square with reality, is a legacy of a stain that the past left on the African American self-image.

In his 1951 classic, "The True Believer," Eric Hoffer noted that fanatic movements attracted people who found a balm for their insecurity by folding themselves into movements that stressed unquestioning allegiance. Forging true progress means engaging with the complexities of the real world, but this requires individual initiative. Therefore, fanatic movements sidestep logical engagement in favor of mythologies and recreational fury. Post-civil rights blacks have been ripe for such ideologies: Left with a sense that one is inferior, nothing could be more soothing than a new identity based on resenting a morally inferior enemy.

For the true believer, a paradisiacal future is the focus, which requires that the present be remorselessly condemned regardless of actual conditions. Hence the black "victicrat's" insistence year after year that "most" black Americans remain mired in misery.

Homey the Clown and Eric Hoffer--now there's a parlay. Meanwhile, we'll withhold judgment on whether black America is moderating until we see if George W. Bush gets back up to at least Reaganesque levels of support in 2004.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 AM


Census projects more diversity (Haya El Nasser, 3/18/04, USA TODAY)

The oldest baby boomers will turn 65 in 2011. By 2030, 20% of Americans will be 65 or older, up from 12% in 2000.

The profound demographic shifts promise to redefine American society at every level — from the ethnic make-up of suburban neighborhoods to public education, elderly care and national voting patterns.

Economists say that as the U.S. population ages, the increase in the working-age population will help pay for Social Security, Medicare and other government benefits for seniors.

The population increase also will fuel the housing market. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has cited the increase in the population for helping to keep the housing industry humming.

While far lower than the 86% population increase from 1950 to 2000, the projected 49% growth by 2050 contrasts sharply with forecasts for most European countries. Germany and Italy, for example, are on the brink of population declines because of low fertility rates.

The projections suggest that whites who are not Hispanic — the dominant population group since the nation was founded in 1776 — will see their share of the population drop from 69% in 2000 to 50% in 2050.

Immigration is all well and good, but the task now is to get those of us who are already here to boost fertility rates.

March 17, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 PM


12 Kurds Killed in More Clashes with Syrian Police (Kerry Sheridan, 17 Mar 2004, Voice of America)

At least 12 Kurds have been killed in northern Syria, in the latest in a series of clashes with police that began last Friday.

Several people were shot to death in northeastern Syria on Tuesday, when security forces fired at Kurdish demonstrators. Hundreds had gathered to mark the anniversary of the devastating chemical attacks that Saddam Hussein launched against Kurds in northern Iraq 16 years ago.

The deaths followed several days of violence between Kurds and Syrian police, which began when fighting broke out between Arabs and Kurds at a football game last week. [...]

Ms. Harris said the unrest is the most serious in recent history, and is escalating. She said Kurds from Turkey have tried to cross the border into Syria to show their solidarity, but have been blocked by Turkish army forces. Kurdish groups in Iran and Belgium have held demonstrations to protest the treatment of Kurds in Syria.

You'd think Baby Assad would prefer the Qaddafi model to Saddam's fate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:23 PM


US vs. Europe: two views of terror: White House sees a war; European allies focus on police work. (Howard LaFranchi, 3/18/04, CS Monitor)

With President Bush set to emphasize in a speech Friday that the war in Iraq is a cornerstone of his war on terrorism, the White House is leaving no doubt about its view that the battle against terror, as practiced in this century, is indeed a war. But that view has not caught on with America's European allies - and has only met with more vehement rejection as the Bush administration has equated the terror war with the Iraq war.

After decades of battling terrorism on their own soil, Europeans continue to believe that the best counterterrorism work is done through police intelligence and cooperation. And they believe that characterizing the fight as a "war" only antagonizes the populations that have produced terrorist groups and makes it harder to address the root causes of terrorism.

What may have changed now is the arrival of the same kind of terrorism in the heart of Europe that prompted America's sense of urgency, some experts say. But they add that transatlantic cooperation will be enhanced only if the US dictates less what Europe's response should be, and instead sits down to more fully understand Europe's sense of facing a new threat.

If the root cause of Islamicist terror is the complete failure of the states in the Islamic world to provide decent living standards for their people and remain competitive with the West, then how can you mount an effective counterterrorism effort without destabilizing the region and replacing regimes and the governing ideology?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:11 PM


In fast-growing Texas, businesses aid schools (Kris Axtman, 3/18/04, CS Monitor)

The classrooms are filled with new learning tools, walls are freshly painted, inside and out, and new playground equipment gleams in the late winter sun.

These recent improvements to His Place Day Care Center on the city's heavily Hispanic east side have come despite statewide education cutbacks. Where public funding is failing to support struggling preschools and kindergartens, local branches of companies such as Baker Hughes, ExxonMobil, and IBM are making a much needed entrance in this land of sandboxes and pint-size desks.

It's part of a growing realization by businesses that investment and involvement in early childhood development is crucial to their own success. The flurry of public-private cooperation is especially welcome in states with fast-growing young populations - of which Texas is the leader.

"It's just wonderful," says Hattie Robinson White, the day care's executive director. His Place Day Care Center has received more than $60,000 through an ExxonMobile program and volunteers from Baker Hughes pitched in to help paint the school. "More and more, we need corporate America to step up and say, 'We want to make an investment in the lives of children,' because they are going to be paying on one end or the other. This is their future workforce."

Democrats can keep arguing that the GOP only supports private remedies for education because of ideology, but businesses--which have to hire the products of public schools-- recognize that the system is failing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:28 PM


Jewish Americans wary of Bush evangelical base (Ralph Z. Hallow, March 17, 2004, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

[J]ewish leaders say President Bush's gains among heavily Democratic Jewish voters for his support of Israel and the Iraq war could be offset by policy initiatives influenced by evangelical Christians, who many Jews think are anti-Semitic despite their support of Israel.

"Jews are generally turned off by the views that his administration has taken on a host of issues -- including stem cell research, the faith-based initiative, a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, abortion rights -- that are very popular with the president's evangelical base," said Ira Forman, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, which raises money and support for Democratic candidates.

Christian conservatives have been especially supportive of Israel, but many Jewish Americans think the majority of Israel's supporters on the religious right are anti-Semitic, said David Twersky, international affairs director of the American Jewish Congress.

A January poll sponsored by the American Jewish Committee shows that 20 percent of Jewish Americans think most Christian conservatives are anti-Semitic and another 21 percent say many are. Even though those numbers have dipped, nearly 50 percent predict bias against Jews will grow in America.

It is a strange world we live in when you can be that bigoted but still think yourself the victim of bias.

-Kerry Camp Moving To Calm Jewish Fears: One-on-one confabs for big givers, secret conference calls may be paying off. (James D. Besser, 3/19/04, The Jewish Week)

Faced with reports that some big Jewish contributors are still wary of the John Kerry presidential campaign, and with even stronger concerns that Republican charges of Kerry's Mideast flip-flops were starting to stick, the campaign is moving aggressively to firm up Jewish financial support.

In numerous one-on-one conversations with Kerry backers and in secret conference calls, potential contributors are being reassured that the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee will be a strong candidate against President George W. Bush, and that he will be a strong supporter of Israel.

Those efforts seem to be paying off.

Top Kerry supporters report that many Jewish givers, the financial backbone of the Democratic Party, are plunging in even as some have expressed concerns about Kerryís statements on Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat and Israelís security fence.

-Jews Choose: Will George W. Bush get their vote come November? (Carl Schrag, Feb. 10, 2004, Slate)
Matthew Brooks, the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, has been riding high lately. Who can blame him? After toiling away as the leading spokesman of Jewish Republicans for more than a dozen years, he's finally starting to see signs that the tiny interest group might be growing.

When the American Jewish Committee released a poll last month showing that as many as 31 percent of American Jews would vote for President Bush if presidential elections were held today, Brooks could hardly contain his glee. In fact, he didn't seem to try at all.

"It [is] now undeniable that there is a major shift taking place among Jewish voters," Brooks trumpeted in a press release commenting on the poll.

Considering that Bush drew just 19 percent of the Jewish vote in 2000, it wouldn't take much of a shift for the numbers to rise. But the RJC shouldn't pop the champagne corks prematurely; Jews may have some very good reasons to shift their allegiances, but they also have strong motivation to stay within the Democratic fold. November is a long way off, and there's plenty of time for people to think and rethink the question of which candidate to choose.

A few days ago, I spoke with a woman in Chicago who could have been speaking for many Jews I know. "What am I supposed to do in November?" she asked. "Bush has been so good for Israel, and that's so important to me."

"So, what's the problem?" I asked, even though I knew exactly what her problem was. I hear it every day.

"I'm a lifelong Democrat," she said. "How can I vote for Bush?" She is gratified by Bush's support for Israel in the post-9/11 era, and she believes he's right to pursue the war on terror. But she disagrees with just about every plank of his domestic agenda, and she can't conceive of casting a vote that might mean further weakening the separation of church and state or an end to Roe v. Wade.

Good on Israel, bad on baby-killing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:53 PM


Remarks by the Vice President at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum (3/17/04)

The President's conduct in leading America through a time of unprecedented danger - his ability to make decisions and stand by them - is a measure that must be applied to the candidate who now opposes him in the election of 2004.

In one of Senator Kerry's recent observations about foreign policy, he informed his listeners that his ideas have gained strong support, at least among unnamed foreigners he's been spending time with. (Laughter.) Senator Kerry said that he has met with foreign leaders, and I quote, " who can't go out and say this publicly, but boy they look at you and say, 'You've got to win this, you've got to beat this guy, we need a new policy,' things like that." End quote.

A few days ago in Pennsylvania, a voter asked Senator Kerry directly who these foreign leaders are. Senator Kerry said, "That's none of your business." (Laughter.) But it is our business when a candidate for President claims the political endorsement of foreign leaders. At the very least, we have a right to know what he is saying to foreign leaders that makes them so supportive of his candidacy. American voters are the ones charged with determining the outcome of this election - not unnamed foreign leaders. (Applause.)

Senator Kerry's voting record on national security raises some important questions all by itself. Let's begin with the matter of how Iraq and Saddam Hussein should have been dealt with. Senator Kerry was in the minority of senators who voted against the Persian Gulf War in 1991. At the time, he expressed the view that our international coalition consisted of " shadow battlefield allies who barely carry a burden." Last year, as we prepared to liberate Iraq, he recalled the Persian Gulf coalition a little differently. He said it was a "strong coalition," and a model to be followed.

Six years after the Gulf War, in 1997, Saddam Hussein was still defying the terms of the cease-fire. And as President Bill Clinton considered military action against Iraq, he found a true believer in John Kerry. The Senator from Massachusetts said, quote, "Should the resolve of our allies wane, the United States must not lose its resolve to take action." He further warned that if Saddam Hussein were not held to account for violation of U.N. resolutions, some future conflict would have " greater consequence." In 1998, Senator Kerry indicated his support for regime change, with ground troops if necessary. And, of course, when Congress voted in October of 2002, Senator Kerry voted to authorize military action if Saddam refused to comply with U.N. demands.

A neutral observer, looking at these elements of Senator Kerry's record, would assume that Senator Kerry supported military action against Saddam Hussein. The Senator himself now tells us otherwise. In January he was asked on TV if he was, quote, "one of the anti-war candidates." He replied, "I am." He now says he was voting only to, quote, "threaten the use of force," not actually to use force.

Even if we set aside these inconsistencies and changing rationales, at least this much is clear: Had the decision belonged to Senator Kerry, Saddam Hussein would still be in power, today, in Iraq. In fact, Saddam Hussein would almost certainly still be in control of Kuwait. (Laughter.)

Senator Kerry speaks often about the need for international cooperation, and has vowed to usher in a "golden age of American diplomacy." He is fond of mentioning that some countries did not support America's actions in Iraq. Yet of the many nations that have joined our coalition - allies and friends of the United States - Senator Kerry speaks with open contempt. Great Britain, Australia, Italy, Spain, Poland, and more than 20 other nations have contributed and sacrificed for the freedom of the Iraqi people. Senator Kerry calls these countries, quote, "window dressing." They are, in his words, "a coalition of the coerced and the bribed."

Many questions come to mind, but the first is this: How would Senator Kerry describe Great Britain - coerced, or bribed? Or Italy - which recently lost 19 citizens, killed by terrorists in Najaf - was Italy's contribution just window dressing? If such dismissive terms are the vernacular of the golden age of diplomacy Senator Kerry promises, we are left to wonder which nations would care to join any future coalition. He speaks as if only those who openly oppose America's objectives have a chance of earning his respect. Senator Kerry's characterization of our good allies is ungrateful to nations that have withstood danger, hardship, and insult for standing with America in the cause of freedom.

Senator Kerry has also had a few things to say about support for our troops now on the ground in Iraq. Among other criticisms, he has asserted that those troops are not receiving the materiel support they need. Just this morning, he again gave the example of body armor, which he said our administration failed to supply. May I remind the Senator that last November, at the President's request, Congress passed an $87 billion supplemental appropriation. This legislation was essential to our ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan - providing funding for body armor and other vital equipment; hazard pay; health benefits; ammunition; fuel, and spare parts for our military. The legislation passed overwhelmingly, with a vote in the Senate of 87 to 12. Senator Kerry voted no. I note that yesterday, attempting to clarify the matter, Senator Kerry said, quote, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it." (Laughter.) It's a true fact. (Laughter.)

On national security, the Senator has shown at least one measure of consistency. Over the years, he has repeatedly voted against weapons systems for the military. He voted against the Apache helicopter, against the Tomahawk cruise missile, against even the Bradley Fighting Vehicle. He has also been a reliable vote against military pay increases - opposing them no fewer than 12 times.

Many of these very weapons systems have been used by our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, and are proving to be valuable assets in the war on terror. In his defense, of course, Senator Kerry has questioned whether the war on terror is really a war at all. Recently he said, and I quote, "I don't want to use that terminology." In his view, opposing terrorism is far less of a military operation and far more of an intelligence-gathering, law enforcement operation. As we have seen, however, that approach was tried before, and proved entirely inadequate to protecting the American people from the terrorists who are quite certain they are at war with us - and are comfortable using that terminology.

I leave it for Senator Kerry to explain, or explain away his votes and his statements about the war on terror, our cause in Iraq, the allies who serve with us, and the needs of our military. Whatever the explanation, whatever nuances he might fault us for neglecting, it is not an impressive record for someone who aspires to become Commander-in-Chief in this time of testing for our country. In his years in Washington, Senator Kerry has been one vote of a hundred in the United States Senate - and fortunately on matters of national security, he was very often in the minority. But the presidency is an entirely different proposition. The President always casts the deciding vote. And the Senator from Massachusetts has given us ample doubts about his judgment and the attitude he brings to bear on vital issues of national security.

The American people will have a clear choice in the election of 2004, at least as clear as any since the election of 1984. In more than three years as President, George W. Bush has built a national security record of his own. America has come to know the President after one of the worst days in our history. He saw America through tragedy. He has kept the nation's enemies in desperate flight, and under his leadership, our country has once again led the armies of liberation, freeing 50 million souls from tyranny, and making our nation and the world more secure.

All Americans, regardless of political party, can be proud of what our nation has achieved in this historic time, when so many depended on us, and all the world was watching. And I have been very proud to work with a President who - like other Presidents we have known - has shown, in his own conduct, the optimism, and strength, and decency of the great nation he serves.

Thank you very much.

John Kerry's such an easy target he made Dick Cheney sound like James Carville.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:32 PM

CAN'T BUY THEIR LOVE (via ef brown):

Poll Finds Hostility Hardening Toward U.S. Policies (SUSAN SACHS, 3/17/04, NY Times)

In some predominantly Muslim countries, where negative attitudes toward American policy have prevailed for years, disapproval of the United States persisted over the past year, although at a less intense level that Mr. Kohut described as anger rather than hatred.

Still, the survey found, people in Jordan, Pakistan and Morocco tended to view other outsiders with almost the same degree of ill will and distrust as they did the United States. Opinions about the European Union and the United Nations were generally unfavorable or ambivalent at best, a sharp contrast to opinion in Europe and Russia where attitudes toward those institutions were positive. [...]

Turkish attitudes toward the United States improved during the past year, possibly a reflection of satisfaction that post-war Iraq has not descended into a civil war that might threaten or destabilize Turkey. This year, 30 percent of Turks rated the United States favorably, compared with 12 percent last year.

Europe's not going to get on their good side by getting on our bad.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:22 PM


US stalls on Iranian offer of reform deal (Guy Dinmore, March 16 2004, Financial Times)

The US has for 10 months been stalling over an Iranian offer of landmark talks that would see the Islamic republic address Washington's concerns on nuclear weapons, terrorism and Israel - because of divisions within the Bush administration. [...]

What has become known in diplomatic circles as Iran's "grand bargain" was first communicated to the US State Department through the "Swiss channel" on May 4 last year. Switzerland represents US interests in Iran. The communication quoted a senior Iranian official as laying out a "road map" to normalise relations, which have been hostile since the Iranian revolution of 1979.

Under the plan, Iran would address US concerns over nuclear weapons and terrorism, co-ordinate policy on Iraq and consider a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In return, Iran expected a lifting of sanctions, recognition of its security interests, dropping of "regime change" from the official US lexicon and eventual re-establishment of relations. "There was a lot of detail to be worked out," said one American familiar with the proposal. "They proposed concrete steps on how to work on this. The substance of the agenda was pretty reasonable."

However, Washington has given no formal response to the offer. Instead, the Swiss foreign ministry received a rebuke from the US for "overstepping" its mandate.

Why would we cut a deal with the totalitarians in a place where a significant internal reform movement already exists and the regime is so embattled?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:26 AM


Killing Iraq With Kindness: Imposing "universal values" by force just doesn't work. (IAN BURUMA, 3/17/04, NY Times)

Once again a nation with a universalist mission to liberate the world is creating dangerous enemies (and once again Jews are being blamed). This is not necessarily because the Islamic world hates democracy, but because the use of armed force — combined with the hypocrisy of going after one dictator while coddling others, the arrogant zealotry of some American ideologues and the failures of a ham-handed occupation — are giving America's democratic mission a bad name.

One problem with American troops' liberating the Middle East is that it confirms the opinions of both Muslims and Westerners who see the Iraq war as part of a religious war, a "clash of civilizations" in the phrase of the Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington. On the face of it, this would seem an unlikely proposition. Saddam Hussein did not rule over an Islamic state. Far from it; he killed large numbers of Muslims. Whatever his values are, it would be an insult to claim they represent Arab civilization. And although Tony Blair (also a fan of the phrase "universal values") and George W. Bush are Christians, religion does not appear to have played a major part in their war aims.

Yet to many Arab Muslims inside and outside Iraq, this does indeed look like a war unleashed by "Zionists and Crusaders" to keep the Muslims down, or worse, impose a foreign civilization on an Arab nation. This is certainly the way Islamist extemists see it. But then, they always were believers in Mr. Huntington's thesis.

Islamists, however, do not represent Muslim or Arab civilization — any more than the Christian Coalition, let alone "Zionists," represents the West. Iraq is a perfect example of how ethnic, religious and cultural fault lines run inside national borders. The future of Iraq is not being forged out of a battle between West and East, or between Muslims and Christians, but between Shiites and Sunnis, Kurds and Arabs, Baathists and democrats. The main fault line crossing most Muslim societies isn't even between secularists and religionists, but between Muslims with different ideas about the proper role of religion.

Islamists of the kind represented by Al Qaeda are religious revolutionaries. But it is perfectly possible for a practicing Muslim to be against United States intervention, free-market capitalism, sexual freedom and the importing of Hollywood movies without being a theocratic revolutionary. Such a person may be a moderate reformer who believes, as did many Europeans until just a few decades ago, that democratic politics is best organized along religious lines.

The real question for the Western universalists, then, is whether the cause of moderate Muslims is helped by the revolutionary war that has been set off by the American and British armies. For that is what the war in Iraq is: not a clash of civilizations, but a revolution unleashed through outside force.

That does state the case well. This is in fact a religious crusade on the part of the United States because the universalist values it is promoting, unlike the rationalist ones of Napoleon and the French, derive from Judeo-Christianity. That seems to be why the secularists of the American Left and Europe so passionately oppose Iraq's liberation.

Unfortunately for folks like Mr. Buruma, the answer to his question is the precise opposite of what he thinks it is. Obviously Iraqis (especially Kurds and Shi'ites) are better off today than they were a year ago, and state this themselves. But, in addition, the Sau'dis are starting to tamp down Wahabbism themselves; Syrians have begun protesting their Ba'athist regime for the first time; Colonel Qaddaffi has radically realigned his nation towards the West; Sudan is taking tentative steps towards peace; Hizbullah is moving towards politics rather than terror; King Mohammed VI is democratizing Morocco rather rapidly; Irans clerics were forced to so damage their own republic, in order to stop true liberal reform, that they've lost all legitimacy; smaller Gulf States like the UAE are really trailblazing; etc.; etc.; etc.

Indeed, any honest assessment of the President's revolutionary project in the Islamic world would have to conclude that it could hardly be going better. The issue for folks like Mr. Buruma then--what we might call, as Michael Walzer has, the Decent Left--is whether they are forced to oppose a successful policy of democratic liberalization just because they oppose its religious sources and leader.

Our Union’s Jewish State (David Klinghoffer, 3/17/04, The Forward)

If anyone else has pointed out what a Jewish piece of oratory the recent State of the Union address was, I’m not aware of it. The ethos, the whole moral outlook, was Jewish, and this observation raises a question: How did America come to be the most Judaic country on earth, a country where one could plausibly say such a thing about the principal yearly address given by an American president? [...]

An amazingly observant and prescient writer, [the sainted Reform rabbi Leo Baeck (1873-1956)] understood Judaism’s daughter religion as being in a constant state of war with her own Jewish soul. In certain periods of Christian history, he explained, the Judaic heritage — what he called "classical” religion — was dominant: an emphasis on ethics, on commandments. In other periods, this Jewish side of Christianity was submerged under a "romantic” tendency that revered not ethical action but emotional experience, that gauzy, swooning sensation of feeling and glorying in being personally "saved.”

This essentially aesthetic, passive version of religion loves sacred music and wafting incense, but can look with indifference on injustice and tyranny. By contrast, the Jewish "classical” counter-tendency thinks less about the self and more about the wrongs done by human beings and directs a focused passion to setting things right on earth. This leads to a messianic longing for a final redemption of all people, as well as to a certain missionary instinct to share your ethical vision with others. [...]

Back to the State of the Union. One is struck by the heartfelt piety, entirely compatible with the Hebrew Bible, accompanied by the moral impulse and the will to defeat systematized injustice: in Baeck’s terms, by the ethical and the messianic.

The president advocates "confidence and faith” because "The momentum of freedom in our world is unmistakable — and it is not carried forward by our power alone. We can trust in that greater power who guides the unfolding of the years. And in all that is to come, we can know that His purposes are just and true.” [...]

Nothing like this is to be found in Europe — where sexual decadence is smiled upon, where it was thought that leaving Iraqis to suffer under their horrendous dictator was the most reasonable course of action. Lofty or comical, it’s something for which we Jews should not forget to thank our Maker. Which reminds me: Thank you, God, for making me an American.

Amen, brother.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:26 AM


Chinese, French warships stage joint 'non-conventional security' drill (AFP, Mar 16, 2004)

Chinese and French warships carried out a joint exercise Tuesday, marking the largest naval drill China has ever conducted with a foreign country, state media and officials said.

The exercise, coming at the end of a five-day visit by French naval vessels to China, was aimed at improving capabilities in the field of "non-conventional security," according to the Chinese foreign ministry.

"In recent years, the development of the relations between the two countries and the two militaries has been growing smoothly," ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told a regular briefing.

The exercise came just four days ahead of crucial presidential elections on Taiwan, watched carefully by China which is in constant fear of separatist sentiments on the island.

One advantage of extending a nuclear guarantee to Taiwan is that if Chine made a move we could nuke its ally France.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 AM


John Kerry's attention deficit disorder (Orrin Judd. March 15, 2004, Enter Stage Right)

As a threshold matter, the image of Mr. Kerry that is already beginning to gel, and which will solidify quickly as Karl Rove begins to spend his millions, is of a hyper-cautious flip-flopper, slow to make a decision and then prone to second-guess himself, even to switch to the opposite position. Nor is it just the GOP driving this meme. Even the New York Times's February 26th endorsement of him, for the New York State primary, was as tentative as a kiss for a sister:

"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. [...]

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."

If that's the most passion his amen corner can muster, he's in trouble already.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:22 AM


Courier, 11, seen as pawn in Mideast terror: Boy was unaware he carried bomb (Charles A. Radin, 3/17/2004, Boston Globe)

Israeli military and intelligence analysts were reexamining unsolved terror bombing cases yesterday, after an 11-year-old boy was stopped at a checkpoint with a 20-pound, nail-reinforced bomb in a backpack. Israeli and Palestinian officials said the boy did not know what he was carrying.

Investigators said they were looking into whether this method could have been used in previous cases in which the route of bombs from their makers to their users was never discovered. The incident, the first time a child was found carrying a bomb unknowingly, seems likely to revive long-standing concerns on both sides about the willingness of Palestinian terrorists to involve children in their operations.


March 16, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:27 PM


Some Dems to run away from Kerry (Hans Nichols, 3/17/04, The Hill)

A handful of House Democrats who look vulnerable in November’s election, plan to run away from their party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), and will not endorse him.

The holdouts are a minority of the 17 “frontliners” selected by the party leadership for member-to-member cash infusions, but their attitude reflects varying levels of comfort with how the New England senator will play in their districts.

A majority of frontliners, including those who are from conservative districts carried by President Bush in 2000, and have slim majorities, plan to campaign with and for Kerry.

But, regardless of their formal position on Kerry, most vow to run “independent campaigns.”

Several lawmakers, including Reps. Rodney Alexander (D-La.), Allen Boyd (D-Fla.), Jim Marshall (D-Ga.), Jim Matheson (D-Utah) and Dennis Moore (D-Kan.) have told The Hill they do not currently plan to endorse Kerry.

Alexander, who late last week denied he was considering switching parties, wrote to union supporters, stating: “I’d like to clarify. I will not be endorsing any candidate, including President Bush.”

Moore said he is leaning against endorsing Kerry, although he does not expect the presidential circus to run through Kansas, which Bush won overwhelmingly.

“I don’t suspect that I am going to run my campaign in accordance with the Democratic nominee,” Moore said. “I am going to run my campaign without regard to what the nominee does. They don’t have long coattails in Kansas.”

Boyd’s Florida district, which Bush carried with 53 percent, is expected to see some of the heaviest presidential traffic in the country. But the fourth-term lawmaker told The Hill that he remains undecided about endorsing Kerry. “At some point, we’ll meet individually,” said Boyd.

“You would want to get an assurance personally on how he’s going to run,” he added.

Through spokesmen, Marshall and Matheson said they have no plans to endorse Kerry. Both Georgia and Utah are expected to vote heavily for Bush.

Keeping in mind that this is John Kerry's high-water mark, it still seems possible that at least one of the Senate Democrats will endorse President Bush, maybe even one of those being mentioned as a possible vice presidential running mate (their being mentioned indicating just how far to the Right they are within the Party).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:12 PM


State Sen. Obama wins Democratic Senate primary in Ill.; millionaire Ryan wins on GOP side (MIKE ROBINSON, March 16, 2004, Associated Press)

State Sen. Barack Obama, a former civil rights lawyer seeking to become just the third black U.S. senator in a century, easily won the Democratic primary Tuesday, setting up a November contest that is key to the party's bid to regain control of the closely divided Senate.

Millionaire Jack Ryan defeated a crowded field to capture the Republican nomination. With 70 percent of the votes counted, Ryan had 130,713 votes, or 36 percent. Dairy owner Jim Oberweis had 87,007 votes, or 24 percent, and state Sen. Steve Rauchenberger had 76,187 votes, or 21 percent.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:00 PM


Nation's Direction Prompts Voters' Concern, Poll Finds (ADAM NAGOURNEY and JANET ELDER, March 16, 2004, NY Times)

The Times/CBS News poll offered the latest evidence that the race for president was as tight as has long been predicted. Even after two weeks in which Mr. Bush has run televised advertisements promoting himself and attacking Mr. Kerry, and in which Mr. Kerry has enjoyed the glow of favorable coverage that greeted his near-sweep of Democratic primaries, the two men are effectively tied, with 46 percent of voters saying they supported Mr. Bush and 43 percent backing Mr. Kerry.

The candidacy of Ralph Nader looms as a potentially lethal threat to Democratic hopes of regaining the White House: With Mr. Nader in the race, Mr. Bush leads Mr. Kerry by 46 percent to 38 percent, with Mr. Nader drawing 7 percent of the votes. In a sign of the polarized electorate Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry are facing, three-quarters of supporters of each candidate asserted they would not change their mind before the election.

Even by the rapidly descending standards of the Times this is a disturbing instance of partisan reporting as they do not mention the President's 8 point lead and John Kerry being under 40% until the 9th freakin' paragraph.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:48 PM


Bush's openness about religion connects with American youth (DAVID TARRANT, Mar. 16, 2004, The Dallas Morning News)

Today, as he campaigns for a second term, the president's unabashed candor about his faith is hitting the mark among an emerging group of voters: young conservative Christians. [...]

When it comes to their faith, "a lot of people are uncomfortable talking about it. President Bush has broken that barrier by not being afraid in a public setting to talk about how a higher being has affected his life," said Shelby Ricketts, also a member of the local Young Republicans. "That makes him attractive to a lot of young people."

Indeed, studies and polls show that a substantial number of college students are expressing strong interest in religion, along with a more socially conservative outlook.

Enrollment at conservative Christian colleges and universities is growing rapidly. Even on secular campuses, membership in religious clubs has skyrocketed.

At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, "On Thursday nights, you can't find a large lecture hall that doesn't have a religious group using it," said Dr. Christian Smith, a sociologist and director of the National Study of Youth and Religion.

Campus Crusade for Christ has chapters on more than 1,000 campuses - up from about 300 in the early 1990s, said Nathan Dunn, the group's communications director. There are 200 chapters in Texas. InterVarsity Christian Fellowship has chapters on 560 college campuses, including about two dozen schools in Texas.

What this generation of students wants, Dunn said, is "authenticity in every area of their lives. They're looking for what's real and what's true."

They look for genuine qualities in their leaders, he said.

"They want to be able to trust who they're putting their faith in," he said, "and they are drawn to leaders who are not hesitant to talk about what they believe."

John Kerry's not hesitant to talk about what he believes, once he's seen the polling data that tells what that

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:39 PM

JOHNNY CAN YOU HEAR ME? (via John Resnick):

John Kerry, Bush's Advisor On Iraq (David Freddoso, Mar 16, 2004, Human Events)

Sen. John Kerry (D.-Mass.) has been all over the map on the topic of the Iraq War. In October 2002, he voted for the Iraq war resolution. Later, assaulted from his left on the campaign trail, he changed his mind, declaring that the U.S. should not have invaded Iraq, even stating that Bush "rushed to war against our warnings."

When confronted with his vote in favor of the war, Kerry has flip-flopped back, retreating to this position, which he gave this month to a reporter from Time: "I might have gone to war but not the way the President did."

Is that so? It sounds reasonable enough. But in fact we don’t have to rely on any such guesswork: we have a way of knowing exactly what Kerry would have done, had he been president.

On September 6, 2002, Kerry laid out a very specific plan for dealing with Iraq in an op-ed in the New York Times. And looking back now at that op-ed, it almost appears that Bush took his advice, step by step, through the entire process.

It is not unfair to hold Kerry to what he said, especially considering his comments to Time Magazine this month: “I refuse ever to accept the notion that anything I've suggested with respect to Iraq was nuanced. It was clear. It was precise. It was, in fact, prescient. It was ahead of the curve about what the difficulties were. And that is precisely what a President is supposed to be. I think I was right, 100% correct, about how you should have done Iraq.”

So what did Kerry suggest?

We Still Have a Choice on Iraq (JOHN F. KERRY, September 6, 2002, NY Times)
The question is not whether we should care if Saddam Hussein remains openly scornful of international standards of behavior that he agreed to live up to. The question is how we secure our rights with respect to that agreement and the legitimacy it establishes for the actions we may have to take. We are at a strange moment in history when an American administration has to be persuaded of the virtue of utilizing the procedures of international law and community - institutions American presidents from across the ideological spectrum have insisted on as essential to global security.

For the sake of our country, the legitimacy of our cause and our ultimate success in Iraq, the administration must seek advice and approval from Congress, laying out the evidence and making the case. Then, in concert with our allies, it must seek full enforcement of the existing cease-fire agreement from the United Nations Security Council. We should at the same time offer a clear ultimatum to Iraq before the world: Accept rigorous inspections without negotiation or compromise. Some in the administration actually seem to fear that such an ultimatum might frighten Saddam Hussein into cooperating. If Saddam Hussein is unwilling to bend to the international community's already existing order, then he will have invited enforcement, even if that enforcement is mostly at the hands of the United States, a right we retain even if the Security Council fails to act. But until we have properly laid the groundwork and proved to our fellow citizens and our allies that we really have no other choice, we are not yet at the moment of unilateral decision-making in going to war against Iraq.

Less than one week later, President Bush addressed the UN General Assembly and in a speech notably devoid of emphasis on the mere existence of WMD, but heavy on Saddam's continuing refusal to abide by UN resolutions, not least among them the resolution requiring him to liberalize the regime, laid out the case for enforcing the stated will of the international community, Remarks by the President in Address to the United Nations General Assembly (9/12/02, New York, New York):
Twelve years ago, Iraq invaded Kuwait without provocation. And the regime's forces were poised to continue their march to seize other countries and their resources. Had Saddam Hussein been appeased instead of stopped, he would have endangered the peace and stability of the world. Yet this aggression was stopped -- by the might of coalition forces and the will of the United Nations.

To suspend hostilities, to spare himself, Iraq's dictator accepted a series of commitments. The terms were clear, to him and to all. And he agreed to prove he is complying with every one of those obligations.

He has proven instead only his contempt for the United Nations, and for all his pledges. By breaking every pledge -- by his deceptions, and by his cruelties -- Saddam Hussein has made the case against himself.

In 1991, Security Council Resolution 688 demanded that the Iraqi regime cease at once the repression of its own people, including the systematic repression of minorities -- which the Council said, threatened international peace and security in the region. This demand goes ignored.

Last year, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights found that Iraq continues to commit extremely grave violations of human rights, and that the regime's repression is all pervasive. Tens of thousands of political opponents and ordinary citizens have been subjected to arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, summary execution, and torture by beating and burning, electric shock, starvation, mutilation, and rape. Wives are tortured in front of their husbands, children in the presence of their parents -- and all of these horrors concealed from the world by the apparatus of a totalitarian state.

In 1991, the U.N. Security Council, through Resolutions 686 and 687, demanded that Iraq return all prisoners from Kuwait and other lands. Iraq's regime agreed. It broke its promise. Last year the Secretary General's high-level coordinator for this issue reported that Kuwait, Saudi, Indian, Syrian, Lebanese, Iranian, Egyptian, Bahraini, and Omani nationals remain unaccounted for -- more than 600 people. One American pilot is among them.

In 1991, the U.N. Security Council, through Resolution 687, demanded that Iraq renounce all involvement with terrorism, and permit no terrorist organizations to operate in Iraq. Iraq's regime agreed. It broke this promise. In violation of Security Council Resolution 1373, Iraq continues to shelter and support terrorist organizations that direct violence against Iran, Israel, and Western governments. Iraqi dissidents abroad are targeted for murder. In 1993, Iraq attempted to assassinate the Emir of Kuwait and a former American President. Iraq's government openly praised the attacks of September the 11th. And al Qaeda terrorists escaped from Afghanistan and are known to be in Iraq.

In 1991, the Iraqi regime agreed to destroy and stop developing all weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles, and to prove to the world it has done so by complying with rigorous inspections. Iraq has broken every aspect of this fundamental pledge.

From 1991 to 1995, the Iraqi regime said it had no biological weapons. After a senior official in its weapons program defected and exposed this lie, the regime admitted to producing tens of thousands of liters of anthrax and other deadly biological agents for use with Scud warheads, aerial bombs, and aircraft spray tanks. U.N. inspectors believe Iraq has produced two to four times the amount of biological agents it declared, and has failed to account for more than three metric tons of material that could be used to produce biological weapons. Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons.

United Nations' inspections also revealed that Iraq likely maintains stockpiles of VX, mustard and other chemical agents, and that the regime is rebuilding and expanding facilities capable of producing chemical weapons.

And in 1995, after four years of deception, Iraq finally admitted it had a crash nuclear weapons program prior to the Gulf War. We know now, were it not for that war, the regime in Iraq would likely have possessed a nuclear weapon no later than 1993.

Today, Iraq continues to withhold important information about its nuclear program -- weapons design, procurement logs, experiment data, an accounting of nuclear materials and documentation of foreign assistance. Iraq employs capable nuclear scientists and technicians. It retains physical infrastructure needed to build a nuclear weapon. Iraq has made several attempts to buy high-strength aluminum tubes used to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon. Should Iraq acquire fissile material, it would be able to build a nuclear weapon within a year. And Iraq's state-controlled media has reported numerous meetings between Saddam Hussein and his nuclear scientists, leaving little doubt about his continued appetite for these weapons.

Iraq also possesses a force of Scud-type missiles with ranges beyond the 150 kilometers permitted by the U.N. Work at testing and production facilities shows that Iraq is building more long-range missiles that it can inflict mass death throughout the region.

In 1990, after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, the world imposed economic sanctions on Iraq. Those sanctions were maintained after the war to compel the regime's compliance with Security Council resolutions. In time, Iraq was allowed to use oil revenues to buy food. Saddam Hussein has subverted this program, working around the sanctions to buy missile technology and military materials. He blames the suffering of Iraq's people on the United Nations, even as he uses his oil wealth to build lavish palaces for himself, and to buy arms for his country. By refusing to comply with his own agreements, he bears full guilt for the hunger and misery of innocent Iraqi citizens.

In 1991, Iraq promised U.N. inspectors immediate and unrestricted access to verify Iraq's commitment to rid itself of weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles. Iraq broke this promise, spending seven years deceiving, evading, and harassing U.N. inspectors before ceasing cooperation entirely. Just months after the 1991 cease-fire, the Security Council twice renewed its demand that the Iraqi regime cooperate fully with inspectors, condemning Iraq's serious violations of its obligations. The Security Council again renewed that demand in 1994, and twice more in 1996, deploring Iraq's clear violations of its obligations. The Security Council renewed its demand three more times in 1997, citing flagrant violations; and three more times in 1998, calling Iraq's behavior totally unacceptable. And in 1999, the demand was renewed yet again.

As we meet today, it's been almost four years since the last U.N. inspectors set foot in Iraq, four years for the Iraqi regime to plan, and to build, and to test behind the cloak of secrecy.

We know that Saddam Hussein pursued weapons of mass murder even when inspectors were in his country. Are we to assume that he stopped when they left? The history, the logic, and the facts lead to one conclusion: Saddam Hussein's regime is a grave and gathering danger. To suggest otherwise is to hope against the evidence. To assume this regime's good faith is to bet the lives of millions and the peace of the world in a reckless gamble. And this is a risk we must not take.

Delegates to the General Assembly, we have been more than patient. We've tried sanctions. We've tried the carrot of oil for food, and the stick of coalition military strikes. But Saddam Hussein has defied all these efforts and continues to develop weapons of mass destruction. The first time we may be completely certain he has a -- nuclear weapons is when, God forbids, he uses one. We owe it to all our citizens to do everything in our power to prevent that day from coming.

The conduct of the Iraqi regime is a threat to the authority of the United Nations, and a threat to peace. Iraq has answered a decade of U.N. demands with a decade of defiance. All the world now faces a test, and the United Nations a difficult and defining moment. Are Security Council resolutions to be honored and enforced, or cast aside without consequence? Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding, or will it be irrelevant?

The United States helped found the United Nations. We want the United Nations to be effective, and respectful, and successful. We want the resolutions of the world's most important multilateral body to be enforced. And right now those resolutions are being unilaterally subverted by the Iraqi regime. Our partnership of nations can meet the test before us, by making clear what we now expect of the Iraqi regime.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately and unconditionally forswear, disclose, and remove or destroy all weapons of mass destruction, long-range missiles, and all related material.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately end all support for terrorism and act to suppress it, as all states are required to do by U.N. Security Council resolutions.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will cease persecution of its civilian population, including Shi'a, Sunnis, Kurds, Turkomans, and others, again as required by Security Council resolutions.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will release or account for all Gulf War personnel whose fate is still unknown. It will return the remains of any who are deceased, return stolen property, accept liability for losses resulting from the invasion of Kuwait, and fully cooperate with international efforts to resolve these issues, as required by Security Council resolutions.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately end all illicit trade outside the oil-for-food program. It will accept U.N. administration of funds from that program, to ensure that the money is used fairly and promptly for the benefit of the Iraqi people.

If all these steps are taken, it will signal a new openness and accountability in Iraq. And it could open the prospect of the United Nations helping to build a government that represents all Iraqis -- a government based on respect for human rights, economic liberty, and internationally supervised elections.

The United States has no quarrel with the Iraqi people; they've suffered too long in silent captivity. Liberty for the Iraqi people is a great moral cause, and a great strategic goal. The people of Iraq deserve it; the security of all nations requires it. Free societies do not intimidate through cruelty and conquest, and open societies do not threaten the world with mass murder. The United States supports political and economic liberty in a unified Iraq.

It's interesting to note that President Bush and his critics were already at cross purposes, as we see Mr. Kerry focussed solely on weapons and seemingly willing to countenance the continuation of Saddam's regime and all the other violations of UN resolutions, while President Bush already considers Ba'athism a dead letter, the only question being whether they remove themselves from power or we do.

This seems to be yet another--and perhaps the most important--example of Mr. Bush creating confusion by stating precisely what he thinks and what he means to do about it. WMD never mattered to him--democracy and the rule of law did.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:53 PM


Manifesto for a Capitalist Revolution (Stephen Schwartz, 03/16/2004, Tech Central Station)

How can anyone believe that Islamic countries will forever elude the global impetus that has swept through such formerly impoverished nations as South Korea, Taiwan, and Malaysia (the latter, by the away, about as Muslim as a country can get)? The information revolution and such items as satellite communications have contributed enormously to the advance of financial and political accountability. A little more than a century ago Friedrich Engels, the confrere of Karl Marx, wrote of the "invading socialist society," referring to an inevitable and observable transformation of capitalism from within, by which the goals of the old socialism -- greater prosperity and equality of access to it, and a general sense of common purpose throughout society, would be realized. [...]

A Marxist colleague of mine has observed, somewhat sourly, that rather than a decline in the rate of capitalist development, we are now in a period of accelerated capitalist development. Let me state the case rather more directly: the past century and a half have seen a speedup in the rate at which countries become stable, prosperous, democracies. It took 150 years for Spain, once the richest country in Europe thanks to the gold and silver of the New World, to become what it is today, and the true "new Spain" did not emerge, bright and beautiful, until the death of Franco in 1975. Germany required 75 years, from 1880 to 1955, and the presence of American troops; Japan needed 60, from 1900 to 1960, also with direct American help. But for South Korea the process took only 30 years, from 1953 to 1983, and suddenly the country was ripe for transformation into the democratic state we see today. In 15 years from Pinochet's seizure of power to his resignation, in 1998, Chile was equally transformed. And in Zizek's Slovenia, the years from the end of Titoite dependency to economic success were so short they are difficult to measure. The country came out of Yugoslavia in 1991, ready to bloom.

I will not deny that bloodshed accompanied all these processes: Spain suffered two civil wars and countless rebellions, over two centuries, and Germany and Japan fought in both world wars; South Korea was devastated by aggression from its northern neighbor; Pinochet was hardly an admirable figure, and, yes, 70 people died when Slovenia decided to go its own way. Yet the worldwide capitalist revolution continues, and produces positive results, with America in its vanguard. And it will end up victorious in Iraq and elsewhere a Muslim majority resides, from Morocco to Indonesia, from Albania to Tanzania. The terrorism of al-Qaida and other Islamist reactionaries cannot stop it; nor can window-breaking by anarchist teenagers at Starbucks or McDonalds; nor the reactionary leftism of a Chavez in Venezuela; nor the irritable wit of intellectuals like Slavoj Zizek. As for the enthusiasts of sociological film criticism, I recommend putting The Searchers aside, and watching My Darling Clementine (1946) and High Noon (1952). Sometimes, even in the real world, the good guys win.

It's an interesting thing though, in those movies there's always a single man or a small group who end up having to act unilaterally against evil for the good of folks who generally won't lift a finger to help.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 PM


Stability under a strongman (The Japan Times, March 17, 2004)

As expected, Russian President Vladimir Putin was re-elected by a landslide in Sunday's presidential election. His leadership now seems almost unchallenged. Opposition parties are weak. Parliament is obedient. Key government posts are held by Putin loyalists. Mr. Putin's tightened grip on power may bolster political stability, but his authoritarian instinct is raising concerns about the future of Russia's fledgling democracy.

President Putin need not worry much about the legislature, in which the pro-Putin ruling bloc commands an absolute majority. Nor does he face any significant criticism from within the government. Immediately before Sunday's election, he dismissed Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, a one-time loyalist to former President Boris Yeltsin. Mr. Putin's victory is a prelude to a more assertive second term. The key word here is stability, though perhaps a better word would be domination. Indeed, the political situation in Russia appears to be revolving around a sole strongman. On his watch the Russian administration is likely to enjoy a spell of "superstability."

Mr. Putin deserves his victory. The election showed most Russians to be more or less satisfied with his performance in his first term. His vigorous economic and foreign policy has received a solid vote of confidence. In his second term he is likely to even more actively pursue his "strong Russia" agenda for doubling the country's economic output and for playing a larger role on the world stage.

For Japan, a strong Russian presidency will be welcome if it can jump-start stalled diplomatic negotiations on pending issues left over from World War II, notably the dispute over the Northern Territories, a group of islands northeast of Hokkaido. Commenting on Mr. Putin's re-election, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said it is "desirable in terms of the consistency of negotiations for a peace treaty," which is tied to a territorial settlement.

A period of authoritarian stability is precisely what the country needed, but now it's up to Mr. Putin to use it wisely, something all too few men ever have--Franco, Pinochet, & Trujillo come to mind. If he works to establish property rights, the rule of law, an independent judiciary, military, church, and civil society, he could be Russia's salvation. If he's in it just for the power and futile dreams of empire, then it's hard to see any future at all for Russia.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 PM


Kerry takes on GOP head-on in swing through pivotal Va. (Ken Fireman, March 17, 2004, Newsday)

John Kerry took his presidential campaign to the small but potentially pivotal state of West Virginia yesterday -- and the Republicans were waiting.

Before Kerry even arrived in Charleston, W.Va., for an event showcasing his support for veterans, President George W. Bush had unveiled a new ad on local TV accusing him of undercutting U.S. troops in Iraq by voting against war funding.

"John Kerry: Wrong on defense," said the ad, which focused on the presumptive Democratic nominee's 2003 vote against an $87 billion appropriations bill to fund military operations in Iraq.

Kerry reacted with asperity. "The Republican attack machine has welcomed me to West Virginia today with another distortion," the Massachusetts senator told the veterans, adding that he voted against the bill because Bush refused to pay for it by rescinding some of his tax cuts.

Can't find it in a print story yet, but Carl Cameron played the tape on Fox News Special Report and Senator Kerry, in defending himself, said: "I voted for this bill...before voting against it."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:53 PM


One Bold Thinker Among the Democrats (David S. Broder, March 14, 2004, Washington Post)

Why is this boom leaving so many worse off? Frank's catalogue of causes is a familiar one: globalization and its handmaiden, the outsourcing of jobs to low-wage countries; the weakening of unions; the tilt of the tax system in favor of the wealthy investor. And Frank endorses the regular catalogue of remedies urged by Kerry and other mainstream Democrats. They include tougher trade rules, restoration of union organizing and bargaining rights and steps to make the tax system more progressive. Like everyone else, including Bush, he says education, innovation and skills training are the keys to a healthy long-term economic future.

But unlike others, Frank does not stop at that point. Just as he is bold in diagnosing the cause of the problem -- a private economy geared to producing wealth, not jobs -- he is equally daring in his remedies.

Toward the end of his speech, Frank uttered a sentence one can hardly imagine coming from the mouth of a 21st-century American politician. "Our problem today," he said, "is too little government."

When I asked him in an interview Thursday if he was sending a message to Kerry, Frank said, "It's a message for all Democrats. What I'm saying is we're in a situation now where we need the government, and where is it? We've cut taxes, we've criticized bureaucracy, we've almost condemned the public sector. I'm saying it's time to talk positively about government and use it to do what the private economy is no longer doing."

His proposal is to tax some of the wealth the private sector is now producing so abundantly -- "a fairly small percentage," he said, without being specific -- "and use it to employ people on socially useful purposes."

Frank urges that we "take some of the wealth that is being created by this wonderful thing, this increased productivity, this new technology and the ways of using it, and all this innovation, and let us use it for our own undisputed public purposes. Let us give cities and states more money so they can have more people policing, fighting fires, cleaning up the environment, repairing facilities that need to be repaired, enhancing train transportation, building highways, helping construct affordable housing in places where that is a crisis, helping pay for higher education for students."

As Frank acknowledged, this whole approach smacks "to some extent [of] the New Deal philosophy." And that is why no one, including the Democratic presidential candidate, is likely to endorse it wholesale.

What could better summarize the utter vacuity of the Left than to advocate a New Deal "solution" to an economy with stable prices, low unemployment and strong growth? Mr. Frank's prescription is bold in much the way that giving a healthy person preventive chemotherapy would be.

Smile, these are good times. Truly: Anxiety is turning to paranoia about jobs. Take a deep breath: most Americans have rarely had it better (The Economist, Mar 11th 2004)

Waiting for the job recovery might be a good time to take a broader measure of the material well-being of Americans. Their condition is widely held to be perilous. The economy, it is said, is being “hollowed out” by international competition and the connivance of business and political elites, creating “two Americas”, one rich, one poor. Median income of American households, commentators often say, has been stagnant, though census figures give a rise of one-fifth since 1980. Lou Dobbs, on CNN's “Lou Dobbs Tonight”, is just one media fabulist who makes his living by claiming that, as America is being “exported”, so the well-being of middle Americans is in a parlous state.

It is a good story, but false on many levels. For a start, this slow growth in median income overlaps with a scale of immigration into America outpacing all immigration in the rest of the world put together. Many immigrants have come precisely to take up the lowest-paid jobs. As a result, in the 20 years to 1999 some 5m immigrant households were added to those defined as below the poverty level. Yet among native-born Americans, poverty rates have declined steadily since the 1960s. In the case of black families, median incomes have recently been rising at twice the pace for the country as a whole.

Strip out immigrants, and the picture of stagnant median incomes vanishes. Indeed, for the nine-tenths of the population that is native-born, middle-income trends continue their improvement of the 1950s and 1960s. For these people, inequality is not rising, but falling. Gregg Easterbrook cheekily points out in his excellent recent book, “The Progress Paradox” (Random House), that if left-leaning Americans seriously want better statistics about middle-income gains, then they should simply close their borders.

Mr Easterbrook points to something else about the figures for median household income. A quarter-century ago a typical household had three members. Today, it has just 2.6 members. Simply by this effect, median households have seen their real incomes rise by a half.

Another measure of improved well-being is increased access to jobs. Between 1980 and 2002 Americans in work rose by over 40%, a far brisker pace than the 26% growth in the population. Some three-quarters of the adult population are now in work, close to a record and some ten percentage points higher than in Europe. [...]

Of course, many American households struggle to survive on minimum-wage jobs with employers who do them few favours. We will look at low-paid work in a future week. What this piece attempts to argue is that the middle is far from being hollowed out. As Mr Easterbrook emphasises, most Americans have at least two cars and their own house, and they send their children to college. Certainly a bigger share of household income is being spent on things that did not feature 50 years ago, such as high-tech health care. But it has brought the benefit of a longer and better life, and not just for the old: since 1980, infant mortality has fallen by 45%.

At the end of last year, America's household wealth, at $44 trillion, passed the previous peak set in early 2000. With Americans wealthier than ever, why are many so anxious?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:10 PM


One nation under God: The US is powerful and religious; the EU is weak and secular. Mark Steyn wonders whether it is any coincidence (Mark Steyn, 3/15/04, The Spectator)

Last year, I had a long talk with a ‘senior EU official’ and I was amazed at the way, quite unprompted, he used the phrase ‘Europe’s post-Christian future’, presuming that I would agree with him that this was a condition to aspire to. Europe’s quite post-Christian enough, and most of the horrors of our time came about through the most prominent expressions of its post-Christian state, Nazism and Communism. And yet faith in secularism is indestructible. The other day a correspondent emailed a swipe at me by the Independent’s Johann Hari in a vain effort to goad me into swiping back. Mr Hari was discussing the term ‘Islamofascism’: ‘It has been picked up by some people, like the vile Mark Steyn, who seem to think that all Islam is evil. I dislike all religions and would happily see the whittling away of every last church and mosque, but to imply that all Islam is on a par with al-Qa’eda is grotesque.’

I certainly don’t think ‘all Islam is evil’, though much of it is problematic for a liberal, Western, pluralist society. But I love the way that, even as he’s slurring me as anti-Islam, Johann Hari casually reveals that he’d like to see the end of ‘every last church and mosque’. Surely Islamophobia isn’t any more politically correct for being subsumed within theophobia, is it? The assumption of virtue by radical secularists comes so easily you wonder whether they ever stop to think it through.

For example, it is a fact that the most religious nation in the West is also the most powerful militarily, economically and culturally. Is that a coincidence? It could be. To suggest otherwise would be to claim the ‘special relationship with God’ that so distresses Max Hastings. So let’s look at it the other way: what happens when you opt for the ‘post-Christian future’?

Take my beloved Quebec. As recently as 1960, the birth rate in the province was an average of four children per couple. (Jean Chrétien, the recently retired Canadian prime minister, was the 18th of 19 children of a Quebec mill worker.) But then came the so-called ‘Quiet Revolution’, determined to free the people not just from the House of Windsor but from the Church of Rome, too. There’s a fine scene in Denys Arcand’s Barbarian Invasions in which a sad Catholic priest in Montreal explains to an art appraiser from London that one month in the Sixties the churches simply emptied out and the people never came back.

Fast forward to 1995, and Quebec’s referendum on ‘sovereignty’. Lucien Bouchard, the separatist leader of Her Majesty’s loyal opposition, wanders off-message in one speech and urges the women of the province to have more children because they have one of the lowest fertility rates of any ‘white race’ on the planet. Immediately, all the bien pensant types berate him for his faux pas. But the thing is, he wasn’t wrong. A couple of weeks later, his side narrowly lost the referendum, by a few thousand votes. Given that young Francophones tend to be separatist, had Quebec Catholics of the mid-Seventies had children at the same rate as their parents, M. Bouchard would now have his glorious république. Now he never will. Quebec couples have an average of 1.4 children, and their shrivelled fertility rate has cost them their country.

In the space of a generation, a Catholic backwater became the most militantly secularist jurisdiction in North America. [...]

Maybe the collapse of the church and the looming demographic disaster facing Quebec and most of Catholic Europe is just another coincidence. But, for whatever reason, Europeans have less and less interest in God’s first injunction, to ‘go forth and multiply’. And, as a consequence, they’ll enjoy their post-Christian EUtopia, but only for the two or three generations it lasts. Russia is headed for the same fate. China, where Christianity is booming, seems unlikely to make the same mistake.

Though, predictably, they don't seem to be enjoying it much.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:54 PM


Survey finds hope in occupied Iraq (BBC, 3/16/04)

The survey, carried out for the BBC and other broadcasters, also suggests many are optimistic about the next 12 months and opposed to violence.

But of the 2,500 people questioned, 85% said the restoration of public security must be a major priority.

Opinion was split about who should be responsible, with an Iraqi government scoring highest. [...]

Seventy per cent of people said that things were going well or quite well in their lives, while only 29% felt things were bad.

And 56% said that things were better now than they were before the war.

John Kerry thinks Saddam should still be governing them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:50 PM


Boxer says Jones out of touch with voters (AP, March 16, 2004)
Sen. Barbara Boxer kicked off her re-election campaign Tuesday by casting the race as a choice between positive, family friendly values she said she represents and extremist positions she said her opponent holds on such issues as the environment, abortion rights and gun control.
And Pol Pot was intellectual-friendly...

Posted by John Resnick at 4:17 PM


Manpower 2Q04 Employment Outlook Survey (Manpower, Inc., .PDF format via

The results of the Manpower Employment Outlook Survey in the United States include Puerto Rico. Nearly 16,000 interviews have been conducted with employers across the United States to measure anticipated employment trends between April and June 2004. All participants were asked, "How do you anticipate total employment at your location to change in the three months to the end of June 2004 as compared to the current quarter?" Of the US employers that were surveyed, 28% expect an increase in hiring in the second quarter, while 6% plan to decrease staff levels.

This creates a Net Employment Outlook of 22%. Sixty-two percent of the
employers polled anticipate no change in hiring activity, and 4% are uncertain of the job outlook at their companies. The employment outlook has not been this promising since the first quarter of 2001, according to the seasonally adjusted survey results. The job forecast for the second quarter is a steady improvement from the first quarter of 2004 and is nearly twice as strong as it was last year at this time.

Of course, this data is still subject to the half empty/half full pundits on either side. On CNBC this morning, Manpower's CEO (Jeff Joerres) went on to discuss something I've thought for months now: there's concurrently a significant boom in self employment, Subchapter S Corp. formation and LLC's. He said they expect some of that Labor to be eventually pulled back into the corporate realm as demand warrants, thereby bolstering the more traditional metrics of "job growth." Granted, many of those little businesses will simply fail as they're statistically prone to do. But the Fed and the Government's role should be to get out of the way and let capital formation and labor association work itself out in a trying economy. The private sector will inevitably create jobs at a rate the Governement could only dream of if they'd quit meddling.

As to the historical comparison with 2001, which most will agree in hindsight was a waining period, bear in mind that 1Q01 was the END of a string (some 6-8 quarters?) worth of similar levels. Mr. Joerres also reiterated how Manpower has backtested their survey vs. subsequent government payroll reports and it proves to be a highly-correlated leading indicator.

Hiring managers' propensity to hire now seems tempered by two remaining hurdles: 1) FIRING is always easier and actually substantially less risky than hiring - particularly for smaller companies where the bulk of new jobs are created. 2) Given the events of the last 3 years and the implied instability in the future status of tax laws, longer range planning is still murky enough to prompt extra cautiousness.

In any event, comparing the current job growth rate to historical rates which were neither sustainable nor ultimately prudent is like wishing the NASDAQ would hit a 5,100 high next week. Today one wonders how many of the "jobs" along with the other 3,100 index points never really existed in the first place.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:34 PM


A BAD THING: Why did Martha Stewart lose? (JEFFREY TOOBIN, 2004-03-15, The New Yorker)

Peter Bacanovic, Stewart’s broker at Merrill Lynch, was, like almost everyone else, just trying to keep Martha Stewart happy. On December 27, 2001, while he was on vacation in Florida, he heard from his assistant, Douglas Faneuil, that another of his clients, Sam Waksal, the chairman of ImClone, was trying to get rid of virtually all his own and his family’s stock in the company. Bacanovic knew that Stewart owned ImClone stock—Stewart and Waksal were close friends—and he told Faneuil to call her and let her know. [...]

Stewart’s trades that day were small compared with Sam Waksal’s. After learning that the Food and Drug Administration was going to reject ImClone’s most important product, a cancer drug called Erbitux, Waksal tried to move 79,797 shares to his daughter Aliza’s account through Bacanovic; Aliza herself sold 39,472 shares; his other daughter, Elana, sold 3,014. Waksal’s father sold 135,000 shares, and his sister sold 1,336. Not surprisingly, in light of the F.D.A.’s decision, which was announced the following day, the Waksals’ sales drew the attention of an internal auditor at Merrill Lynch, who asked to see Bacanovic as soon as he got back from Florida.The auditor, Brian Schimpfhauser, also noticed Stewart’s sale of ImClone, and, he later testified, “that made me kind of suspicious.”

A small problem now started to get bigger. Bacanovic had to come up with an explanation for why Stewart had sold at the same time as the Waksals. When Faneuil saw him after the New Year, Bacanovic first said that Stewart had sold ImClone as part of an end-of-year practice called “tax loss selling.” But that made no sense, because she had sold at a profit. So Bacanovic decided to tell the investigators that he and Stewart had a preëxisting agreement to sell her ImClone stock when the price reached sixty dollars a share, which it did on December 27th.

For a while, it looked as though this story might hold. Merrill Lynch had referred the Waksal case to the S.E.C., and the government’s investigators were putting together an easy insider-trading case against him. Because of the focus on the Waksal case, investigators were most concerned with whether he had tipped Stewart or anyone else about the imminent F.D.A. decision on Erbitux. Since Waksal himself hadn’t told Stewart, she had every reason to think she had no problem. On January 16, 2002, Bacanovic and Stewart met for breakfast, and it’s probable that they discussed the burgeoning investigation of the ImClone sales—and their possible culpability. Within a week, Stewart had decided to hire a criminal-defense attorney.

When Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia went public, in 1999, the company used the law firm of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz for corporate work. Wachtell, Lipton is smaller than many of the better-known firms in the city, but it has the highest profits per partner of any law firm in the nation—on average, more than three million dollars a year. Lawyers there tend to be brilliant and arrogant; typical among them is John Savarese, the lawyer whom Stewart hired in January, 2002. Like Bacanovic, Savarese is good-looking and socially prominent. He had earlier been a prosecutor in Manhattan, and in 1986 he helped convict the reigning bosses of the city’s five Mafia families. (Just before that trial, I worked for him as a summer intern.)

On January 25th, Michael Schachter, the Assistant U.S. Attorney in charge of the Waksal investigation, spoke to Savarese and asked to interview Stewart about the ImClone sale. Savarese had to evaluate this request in a transformed legal landscape of white-collar criminal law. Even before the Enron scandal, which was just then unfolding, the Justice Department and the S.E.C. had been placing tremendous pressure on corporate executives to coöperate with their investigations. The S.E.C., and even private auditors, might hesitate to certify the financial statements of a company headed by someone who wouldn’t coöperate. A directive to prosecutors from Deputy Attorney General Larry D. Thompson suggested that companies should pressure senior employees to testify rather than refuse to answer on Fifth Amendment grounds.

Stewart was travelling a lot in late January, so there wasn’t much time for her to talk to Savarese, but she seemed nonchalant about the prospect of sitting down with Schachter and his colleagues. She and Savarese tentatively agreed to meet with the prosecutors on February 4th. “There was a lot of pressure, including from Martha, that she go in there and show she had nothing to hide,” one person close to the Stewart camp says. “All she thought they wanted to talk about was whether Waksal himself had tipped her about the F.D.A. decision. She knew she was in the clear on that one.”

On January 31st, something happened that should have signalled the magnitude of the risk of letting the government question Stewart. Around five in the afternoon, Stewart and Savarese spoke for half an hour on the telephone. When Stewart hung up, she asked her secretary, Ann Armstrong, to call up her computer’s phone log for December 26th through January 7th. As Armstrong later testified at Stewart’s trial, Stewart examined the messages and noted the one from Bacanovic on December 27th, which read, “Peter Bacanovic thinks ImClone is going to start trading downward.” Armstrong described what happened next: “Martha saw the message from Peter, and she instantly took the mouse and she put the cursor at the end of the sentence, and she highlighted it back up to the end of Peter’s name, and then she started typing over it.” She changed the message to “Peter Bacanovic re imclone.”

Stewart then had second thoughts, Armstrong continued. “She instantly stood up, and still standing at my desk, she told me to put it back. ‘Put it back the way it was.’ She walked back to her office door, and by the time she got to her office door she asked me to get her son-in-law on the phone.” Alexis’s husband, John Cuti, was a litigator who sometimes worked for Stewart and her company. He said to Armstrong, who became increasingly upset, “Stop in your tracks,” and told her not to change anything else. When Armstrong got home that evening, Stewart called and asked if she had been able to restore the message. Ultimately, with the help of a friend, Armstrong was able to find the original message and fax a copy to Savarese. The next morning, Stewart left for a quick trip to Germany, which would get her back just before her interview at the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Cuti told Savarese about the altering of the document, which suggested that Stewart was worried about the appearance, at least, of the ImClone transaction, if not the legality of her actions. But she was out of the country, and there was no way to get her ready for the interview. To make matters worse, Savarese had not gone over her phone logs with her.

Savarese could have delayed Stewart’s appearance. He could have gathered all the relevant documents and forced her to test her recollections against the physical evidence. “It’s not easy telling someone like Martha Stewart to take the Fifth,” a lawyer inside the Stewart camp says. “She would have gone ballistic.” Instead, Savarese sent into the hands of prosecutors an underprepared witness, who may not have told him the whole story, and who had already tried to doctor evidence in the case. “What Savarese did was an unbelievable disaster,” another person in the defense camp told me.

It just doesn't seem like that hard a principle to grasp that you aren't allowed to tamper with evidence and lie to authorities.

MORE: (Joan Didion, 2000-02-21, The New Yorker)

According to “The Web Guide to Martha Stewart—The unofficial Site!,” which was created by a former graduate student named Kerry Ogata as “a thesis procrastination technique” and then passed on to those who now maintain it, the fifty-eight-year-old chairman and C.E.O. of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia L.L.C. (“MSO” on the New York Stock Exchange) needs only four hours of sleep a night, utilizes the saved hours by grooming her six cats and gardening by flashlight, prefers Macs in the office and a PowerBook for herself, commutes between her house in Westport and her two houses in East Hampton and her Manhattan apartment in a G.M.C. Suburban (“with chauffeur”) or a Jaguar XJ6 (“she drives herself”), was raised the second-oldest of six children in a Polish-American family in Nutley, New Jersey, has one daughter, Alexis, and survived “a non-amicable divorce” from her husband of twenty-six years, Andrew Stewart (“Andy” on the site), who then “married Martha’s former assistant who is 21 years younger than he is.”

Contributors to the site’s “Opinions” page, like good friends everywhere, have mixed feelings about Andy’s defection, which occurred in 1987, while Martha was on the road promoting “Martha Stewart Weddings,” the preface to which offered a possibly prescient view of her own 1961 wedding. “I was a naïve nineteen-year-old, still a student at Barnard, and Andy was beginning Yale Law School, so it seemed appropriate to be married in St. Paul’s Chapel at Columbia in an Episcopalian service, mainly because we didn’t have anyplace else to go,” she wrote, and included a photograph showing the wedding dress she and her mother had made of embroidered Swiss organdy bought on West Thirty-eighth Street.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:15 PM


DON’T LOOK BACK: a review of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. (ANTHONY LANE, 2004-03-15, The New Yorker)

Do you feel clever, punk? Well, do you? Because that’s the only way to get your head around the latest Charlie Kaufman flick. “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” is written by Kaufman, directed by Michel Gondry, and set in the kind of weather that makes you pray for five minutes of sunshine, never mind the eternal variety. On a biting Valentine’s Day, Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) calls in sick and sneaks off to the beach—a glum arena for the battle of sand and snow, and as vacant as the moon until the arrival of a snuffling figure in flame red. This is Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet), and she and Joel are strangers. Or, to be accurate, they have met before, on this same bleak strand, and spent the night together, and tumbled into love, and split in some distress. But today, unbeknownst to each other, they are starting from scratch.

The premise of “Eternal Sunshine” is that scratch is a pretty radical place to be. Kaufman, as he showed with “Being John Malkovich” and “Adaptation,” is not so much a conjurer with a trick up his sleeve as a guy madly sewing extra sleeves onto his jacket, and this mischievous new movie cannot restrain itself from pouring forth conceits. The two big ideas are as follows. First, the story runs backward, yanking us from the lovers on the frozen shore, through the fall and rise of their affair, and so on, until their original meeting. Second, both Clementine and Joel call on Dr. Howard Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson), who runs a sleazy little operation called Lacuna. There, with help from his assistants, Stan (Mark Ruffalo) and Patrick (Elijah Wood), Dr. Mierzwiak will take your money and blow your mind. Specifically, he will put you to sleep, set up a brain scan, and blow away portions of your mind, like cobwebs or particles of dirt, leaving you with a nice clean space where a memory used to be. Thus, one mournful lady sits in the waiting room with a dog’s bowl and bone, unable to bear the loss of her late Buster. She will presumably hand over his effects and then, after a blast from the Lacuna zapper, forget that the poor pooch ever existed. And so it is with Joel and Clementine: each deletes all traces of the other.

This is, of course, unrefined sci-fi, but one of the virtues of “Eternal Sunshine” is that, thanks to some careful roughening from Michel Gondry, it maintains the beautiful illusion of looking like [scatological reference deleted].

Okay, The New Yorker can be, or has been in the past, almost unbearably staid, but is it really improved by such totally gratuitous foul-mouthedness? David Remnick should be ashamed of himself.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:35 PM


Is the Tide Turning on Torts? (Michael B. McClellan, 03/16/2004, Tech Central Station)

The US Chamber of Commerce and the American Tort Reform Association are now fully engaged in the nation-wide legislative battle to statutorily limit the structural incentives encouraging the litigation deluge. Similarly the American Medical Association has made reforming the medical liability system its number one legislative priority. Such organizations and others have accumulated powerful empirical data to support the reform cause.

The macroscopic evidence for reform is damning -- revealing massive costs and gross inefficiency. The overall costs of the tort system are rising dramatically, and given the expenses of legal representation and contingency fees, the majority of the money is not going to remedy plaintiffs' injuries. While US tort costs have risen a staggering 125% over the last decade, the system returns less than 25 cents on the dollar to compensate plaintiffs' economic loss. At 2.2% of GDP, the US tort system is the most costly of any in the industrialized world.

Anecdotally, this trend in tort law was wonderfully illustrated by well-known legal reform advocate Philip K. Howard at a recent meeting of the Federalist Society. He recalled that during his law school days in the early 1970s, a one million dollar jury verdict was so extraordinary that it made the front page of the Miami Herald. Today, a $100 million verdict barely makes the tenth page. "This is not due to inflation," he said.

Given such trends, it is unsurprising that in a 2003 Gallup Poll, 72% of Americans favored capping non-economic damages in medical liability cases.

So popular opinion-makers are speaking out, beleaguered professional and business groups are organizing, and the public is responding, but such does not necessarily equate to reform. Cynics invoke the political clout of trial lawyers as an impenetrable roadblock to meaningful reform. Trial lawyers are indeed among the most generous contributors to the Democratic Party, and the second leading candidate for the Party's Presidential nomination hails from among their ranks.

The GOP could do worse than run an ad campaign saying "We're the doctors' party--the Democrats are the lawyers' party."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:27 PM


President Bush’s Muddled Policy on Taiwan (Ted Galen Carpenter, 3/15/04, Cato)

The Bush administration has gone from one extreme to the other with regard to U.S. policy on Taiwan. During the early months of his administration, the president gave a seemingly unconditional pledge to defend Taiwan from attack by mainland China— going significantly further than his predecessors had. He followed that assurance by approving the largest arms sales package to Taiwan in nearly a decade. In marked contrast to the Clinton years, high-profile visits by Taiwanese leaders to the United States have been encouraged, despite Beijing's protests.

That pro-Taiwan stance appeared to change dramatically in December 2003 during a visit by Chinese premier Wen Jiabao. President Bush publicly admonished Taiwanese president Chen Shuibian for seeking to change the political status of the island unilaterally and emphasized Washington's opposition to any unilateral actions. At issue is the Taiwanese government's intent to hold referenda on sensitive issues, which Beijing believes is the latest installment in an ongoing campaign to achieve independence.

Neither the earlier pro-Taiwan policy nor the latest pro-Beijing posture serves the best interests of the United States. It is not America's proper role to take a position on Taiwan's independence or other issues involving relations between Taipei and Beijing. Taiwan is a vibrant democracy, and the United States should respect that society's democratic prerogatives. At the same time, U.S. leaders should make it clear that Taiwan must bear all of the risks entailed in whatever policies it adopts. In particular, Washington should state that it will not intervene if an armed conflict breaks out between Taiwan and mainland China.

This is one area where criticism of the President's recent policy is well deserved. We should have long ago switched to a many China policy--starting with independence for Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Tibet--and in the case of Taiwan we should make it clear that we would be willing to use nuclear weapons if China attacks. Mr. Carpenter's notion that we should leave a vibrant democracy and steadfast ally to fend for itself is craven libertarian-isolationism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:36 AM


Second black seat test uneasy coalition (JAMES CAMPBELL, 3/14/04, Houston Chronicle)

Ousted state Rep. Ron Wilson claims he fell on his sword for the greater good of creating a second African-American congressional seat for Houston. Noble ...

Wilson was the only black state lawmaker to vote for a Republican-backed congressional redistricting plan that is expected to change Texas' congressional delegation from 16-16 to about 22 Republicans and 10 Democrats. For that, Wilson accused "white liberals" of undermining his bid to be re-elected to the District 131 seat he held for 27 years.

"Because I didn't do what white, liberal, extremist Democratic leaders wanted me to do, they're trying to punish me. It's a racist attitude. They think they ought to control the minds and hearts of every black in the Democratic Party, and if you don't do what they say, they're going to try to drag you back to the plantation like a runaway slave," Wilson said in a Houston Chronicle story. [...]

"To simply win an additional seat -- if you're in the minority party at this immediate juncture -- does not empower the greater (black) community," said Texas Southern University political science professor Franklin Jones.

The larger question that stemmed from the contentious race between Bell and Green is whether it created an irreparable schism between blacks and moderate whites in the Democratic Party? And, if so, what must both sides do to repair their uneasy coalition?

At least in the GOP you get to work in the big house.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:08 AM


It's the heart versus the Bible (Dennis Prager, March 16, 2004, Townhall)

With the decline of Judeo-Christian religions, the heart, shaped by what the eye sees (hence the power of television), has become the source of people's moral decisions.

This is a potentially fatal problem for our civilization. As beautiful as the heart might be, it is neither intellectually nor morally profound.

It is therefore frightening that hundreds of millions of people find no problem in acknowledging that their heart is the source of their values. Their heart knows better than thousands of years of accumulated wisdom; better than religions shaped by most of the finest thinkers of our civilization (and, to the believer, by God); and better than the book that has guided our society -- from the Founders of our uniquely successful society to the foes of slavery to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and most of the leaders of the struggle for racial equality.

This elevation of one's heart is well beyond self-confidence -- it is self-deification.

As Reinhold Niebuhr said:
[W]e may well designate the moral cynics, who know no law beyond their will and interest, with a scriptural designation of "children of this world" or "children of darkness." Those who believe that self-interest should be brought under the discipline of a higher law could then be termed "the children of light."

Every man would naturally like to be a god, but only the self-absorbed succumb to the temptation. The tragedy is that our culture has come to so celebrate the self that it is a breeding ground for narcissism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:04 AM


From Bat to Verse: With training camps in full swing, it's time for an ode to the joys, and boys, of spring (Steve Rushin, February 26, 2003, Sports Illustrated)

Spring, for fans, has finally sprang:
We've seen Joe Torre's (Chien-Ming) Wang.
But will Bob Melvin have the guts
To pull his pitcher, J.J. Putz?
(No, these men are not impostors:
All are on spring training rosters.)
Pasqual Coco? Cesar Crespo?
How, again, does "Let's Go Mets" go?
And will those Mets, before too long,
Light up Atlanta's (young Jung) Bong?
These, and countless other questions
(And Fenway Frank-based indigestions)
Lay all winter, hibernating
In my head, like Zimmer's plating.

Birds return (to batting practice).
Nature blooms (with Grapefruit, Cactus).
Buds are opening (and Bud Lights)
And squads, like Pavarotti's tights,
Are split (by Solomonic skips).
And somewhere, warming up her lips,
Sits Morganna, aging kisser.
This year's Red Sox? Wicked pissah!
(That is, if the disabled list
Treads not on Nomar's fabled wrist.)
Dodgers fans, meanwhile, conjecture
That -- per New Age architecture --
Teammates Chin-Feng Chen, Paul Shuey
Give L.A. a good Feng Shuey.

Neil Diamond's words last year rang true
'Cause Expos pitcher Seung Song blew.
(Pity this Van Lingle Mungo
Shagging a bilingual fungo
In Quebec or Puerto Rico.
Bon voyage. Godspeed, amigo.)
Teams like Peter Angelos's
Stink like camel halitosis.
Spring, however, keeps us hopeful.
Faithwise, Cubs fans have a Popeful.
(To Sosa's gin, add this tonic:
Hee Seop Choi and Grudzielanek.)
Comiskey renamed for a phone?
It stinks, so Sox now wear Colon.

No apter name hath baseball wrought
Than Tampa pitcher Nick Bierbrodt.
For beer and brats -- like Kaats and Otts
Or, on the scoreboard, racing dots --
Somehow feel like baseball totems,
Like Ruth's nickname. Or John Odom's.
Melvin Mora, Alex Cora:
Hail the Latin diaspora,
Which now gives us once a week a
Name like Hiram Bocachica.
(Or, recast by Kurosawa:
Shigetoshi Hasegawa.)
Worst pitcher's name? Grant Balfour,
The Mariners have Heaverlo.

Which reminds us of the immortal tune, Van Lingle Mungo (David Frishberg, 1970)





Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:53 AM

START THE CAR THELMA (via Brian Hoffman):

Spain's elections show why radical Islam can win (Spengler, 3/16/04, Asia Times)

Socialist voters may not have worked out the arithmetic; Jose Zapatero's supporter in the street simply does not want to be burdened with America's distant wars, especially if they draw fire at home. It all amounts to the same thing. Countries too lazy to produce their next generation will not fight. Who will lay down his life for future generations when the future generations simply will not be there?

Like other former strongholds of Catholicism, Spain has made an abrupt and terrible shift away from traditional family life toward egregious hedonism. Alone among Europe's great powers, Spain nipped Protestantism in the bud, avoiding the terrible religious wars that ravaged France during the 16th century, and killed off perhaps half the German population during the 17th century. By expelling its Jews, its Inquisition cut off access to the Hebrew language and Bible translation. By burning several thousand heretics in public, it offered a terrible object lesson to prospective dissenters. Not until 1936, when Catholic generals rose to overthrow the communist-tinged republic, did Spain finally have its religious war, with half a million deaths, of which one-quarter were from executions.

The victorious General Francisco Franco kept Spain firmly in the Catholic fold until his death in 1975, after which Catholicism shriveled in Spain like a vampire exposed to the light of day. Along with church attendance, the birthrate fell from one of the highest to one of the lowest in the world. That already has been the fate of other Catholic strongholds, such as Canada's province of Quebec. There the fertility rate dropped from 4.95 children per woman in 1961 to 1.57 in 1996.

Old Europe's people, religion, culture and fighting mettle have imploded together. The Europeans are not so much defeatist as resigned to extinction.

The problem is not that Spain is withdrawing from the war on terror--it has, as Spengler points out, been fairly adept at isolating itself from the worst of international ideological battle over the centuries. Rather, the problem is that, for the first time, the domestic government during that isolation will be of the Left rather than the Right. The real enemy, as always, is within. There is simply no chance that Socialists will address the myriad trends (secularization, declining fertility, etc.) that are destroying Spanish civilization--indeed, they'll embrace them in a deathgrip. Surrendering to al Qaeda is just a manifestation of the unwillingness to defend Western values.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:34 AM


Change in Spain (NY Times, 3/16/04)

The terrorist bombings in Madrid last week were undoubtedly the main factor in Sunday's upset of the incumbent Popular Party, which supported the American invasion and occupation of Iraq. The victorious Socialists, like most Spaniards, did not. If Al Qaeda organized the bombings, as now seems to be the case, the outcome may be seen by some as a win for the terrorists. We disagree.

Nor was the U.S. withdrawal from South Vietnam a win for the Communists.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:22 AM

IDEALLY (via The Other Brother):

If you build it they will come: Blogging and the new citizenship (Tim Dunlop, 6/17/03, EVATT)

[T]hat's the image you should hold in your head: a group of people sitting at their computers, scouring the news of the day, reading everything from The New York Times (online, of course) to other people's blogs, and writing their own responses and interpretations of whatever grabs their attention. It's somewhere between an online academic seminar and Friday night at the pub.

Blogging does not (and should not) try and emulate the sophistication of, say, an academic presentation or paper. It shouldn't even try and emulate the precision of a news report, though paradoxically, as I've said, one its best functions is to fact-check such news reports. The attraction and strength of blogging is that it is informal, first draftish, and more than a little breathless.

For the individual blogger, or even for the reader who decides to leave a comment, there is a real blowtorch-to-the-belly aspect to blogging in that, by engaging in political debate in such a public way, people often move beyond their own knowledge horizon, or come up against peo