April 30, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:50 PM


Islam 'should talk to the West' (Heba Saleh, 4/24/04, BBC News)

Delegates from 65 Islamic countries are meeting in Cairo for the start of a conference on tolerance in Islam.

The Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, called on the participants to initiate a dialogue between the Islamic world and followers of other religions.

They should work together to refute the false allegations against Islam in the West, he said.

Many Islamic scholars have felt that their religion has come under attack since the 11 September 2001 attacks.

Mr Mubarak said they should maintain an open dialogue with followers of other religions, in order to demonstrate that Islam promotes peace and brotherhood between people.

The Cairo conference groups together ministers of religious affairs and other officials from Islamic countries.

It is an annual event, but this year it is focusing on the theme of tolerance in Islamic civilisation.

A more important dialogue would be with their adherents.

Posted by Paul Jaminet at 7:24 PM


Strikes in France and the Netherlands; A Comparison of Labour Market Institutions (Professors den Butter and Koppes, Faculty of Economics, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)

Abstract: Strikes as a consequence of labour conflicts occur about 28 times as much in France as in the Netherlands.... Our empirical analysis shows that strike activity is high in France if workers were successful in obtaining relatively high wage increases in collective labour agreements in the previous year, whereas strike activity is high in the Netherlands if, in the preceding year, real wage increases were relatively low as compared to productivity increases.

Yet more evidence that appeasing the wicked escalates conflict.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:54 PM


Canadian economy flat (TERRY WEBER, 4/30/04, Globe and Mail)

The Canadian economy again missed its mark in February, recording no growth in what one analyst described as a "shockingly weak" showing likely to cast doubt on the future direction of interest rates in this country.

In a report Friday, Statistics Canada said February gross domestic product growth remained stagnant, surprising economists who had been looking for a rebound in the neighbourhood of 0.4 per cent for the month.

Equally disappointing was a downward revision to January's GDP number, showing that the economy shrank by 0.2 per cent rather than the 0.1 per cent originally reported a month ago.

The news sent the Canadian dollar — already under pressure this week — lower. The loonie closed down 0.09 of a cent at 72.88 cents (U.S.).

"It's a shockingly weak number," Toronto-Dominion Bank senior economist Marc Lévesque said moments after the release of the report.

Dying nations don't sustain growing economies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:48 PM


This Moment in Iraq is a Moment of Truth: Remarks of Senator John Kerry (April 30, 2004, Westminster College - Fulton, Missouri)

The coalition should endorse the Brahimi plan for an interim Iraqi government, it should propose an international High Commissioner to work with the Iraqi authorities on the political transition, and it should organize an expanded international security force, preferably with NATO, but clearly under US command.

It's the Bush policy but with an extra from a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:31 PM


Vietnam's Hero Still Grateful to Anti-War Americans (Christina Toh-Pantin, 4/30/04, Reuters)

Twenty-nine years after the end of the Vietnam war, communist military mastermind General Vo Nguyen Giap remains grateful to the Americans who opposed it.

The Vietnam War, known in Vietnam as the American War, has become a hot issue in the U.S. presidential race with Democrat John Kerry drawing attention to his service and President Bush's Republicans disparaging Kerry's later anti-war stand.

"I would like to thank them," the 93-year-old veteran said on Friday of those Americans who opposed the war.

Well, Mr. Kerry seems to have locked up the totalitarian endorsement race.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:25 PM


Book Names Iraqi in Alleged '99 Bid to Buy Uranium (Susan Schmidt, April 30, 2004, Washington Post)

It was Saddam Hussein's information minister, Mohammed Saeed Sahhaf, often referred to in the Western press as "Baghdad Bob," who approached an official of the African nation of Niger in 1999 to discuss trade -- an overture the official saw as a possible effort to buy uranium.

That's according to a new book Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former ambassador who was sent to Niger by the CIA in 2002 to investigate reports that Iraq had been trying to buy enriched "yellowcake" uranium. Wilson wrote that he did not learn the identity of the Iraqi official until this January, when he talked again with his Niger source.

Maybe he'd have learned it if he ever left the hotel bar? But then the point of choosing him in the first place was that he not learn anything, wasn't it?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:19 PM


Despite hoopla, most Californians oppose gay marriage (Dan Walters, April 30, 2004, Sacramento Bee)

When the Assembly Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would have granted full marriage rights to same-sex couples on an 8-3 vote, absolutely no one in the Capitol was surprised.

The eight Democrats who voted for the bill in committee are - like most of the Legislature's Democrats - unabashed liberals, and gay rights is a bedrock tenet of the California Democratic Party. Given its makeup, it would have been surprising only if the committee hadn't backed the measure.

The Los Angeles Times' chief pollster, however, read something into the vote that no one else saw. "This action shows just how more tolerant Californians are in supporting gay issues and more specifically, same-sex marriage, as compared to the rest of the country," Times pollster Susan Pinkus said in an analysis of the committee vote and a concurrent poll of Californians on the issue.

It was a completely fact-free conclusion, as demonstrated by the Times poll's own numbers. The survey found that just 31 percent of Californians favored gay marriage and while that number is marginally higher than the national support for gay marriage (about 25 percent in a previous Times poll), it's a long way from a majority. Indeed, were the Judiciary Committee representing popular will, it would have reversed itself and voted against San Francisco Assemblyman Mark Leno's bill by the same 8-3 margin.

The Times poll's latest findings, moreover, do not show any popular improvement for gay marriage advocates since a 2000 election in which California voters approved a measure that denies official recognition to same-sex weddings. The measure, sponsored by Republican Sen. Pete Knight, garnered 61.4 percent of the vote, while 38.6 percent of voters opposed it; one could even conclude, in fact, that the pro-gay marriage position has lost ground since 2000.

Those are the political numbers and they appear to be immutable; Californians, by a wide margin, still oppose the concept of allowing same-sex couples to marry. Whether that's the correct position is an entirely different issue. One could muster a strong argument for gay marriage on grounds of simple logic and equity, and popular sentiment may well change in the years ahead, but politics happen in real time and are not grounded in philosophical theory. And by pushing the issue, gay rights advocates and their political allies may be setting themselves up for a big backlash.

Can't talk about 9-11 or the war or the economy and moral issues are poison--how's John Kerry lookin'?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:31 PM



In a stunning snub, two Democrats on the 9/11 commission yesterday abruptly walked out in the middle of the Oval Office interview with President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

Both early-departing panelists, former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey and ex-Indiana Rep. Lee Hamilton, insisted they had prior commitments - but their sudden slip out the side door of the White House left Washington and some fellow commission members in shock.

Kerrey dashed to handle a private business matter - lobbying Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) for more money for his employer, the New School University in Manhattan.

Hamilton bolted so that he could introduce the Canadian prime minister at a ceremonial event at the Woodrow Wilson Center, which employs Hamilton as its director.

"I was surprised," fellow commission member James Thompson told The Post.

The sudden walkouts while Bush and Cheney were still testifying are all the more surprising because the commission had lobbied for months for unlimited time with the president with all 10 commissioners able to participate.

On the one hand, that's as much attention as their work deserves. On the other, neither man could be bothered to examine any of the evidence that was collected for the Clinton impeachment.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:26 PM


GOP boosts number of legislative candidates (Yvonne Abraham, April 30, 2004, Boston Globe)

The state GOP said yesterday that 133 Republican hopefuls filed papers to run for legislative offices this week, making good on Governor Mitt Romney's pledge to recruit candidates to run against Democratic incumbents, who dominate Beacon Hill.

The party expects that those 133 Republicans will be running in roughly 130 districts this November. That total, which includes the 25 GOP incumbents running for reelection in the Senate and the House, is the highest tally of Republican candidates since 1990, said state Republican Party executive director Dominick Ianno. Candidate signatures have yet to be certified, and some hopefuls may not qualify for the ballot. Still, fully six months before a ballot is cast, Ianno claimed a victory yesterday for Romney.

"There are a lot of people running, and we're still compiling them, there are so many," Ianno said. "We have a strong leader, and a strong message of reform. We went out and talked to hundreds and hundreds of potential candidates. We talked to people who have been involved in politics and who haven't been involved in politics. We were able to convince people we need reform, and people were willing to sign on, and run under the banner of the reform team."

In some cases, Romney called potential candidates personally to persuade them to run.

"He really did a good job of closing the deal," Ianno said of the governor. [...]

The party threw its weight behind Representative Scott P. Brown in a recent special election to succeed Senator Cheryl Jacques, a Needham Democrat, raising more than $100,000 for the Wrentham Republican. Romney appeared with Brown in the district several times, and the party has seen Brown's victory in that race as a sign of things to come.

Rob Cunningham, who managed Brown's campaign, and who is now managing the Senate campaign of Falmouth lawyer Tim Duncan, said his new candidate expects plenty of help. Duncan, a former volunteer on Romney's gubernatorial campaign, will be making his first run for office, against Senate Ways and Means chairwoman Therese Murray.

Bad enough when Al Gore was reduced to campaigning in TN (and lost), but consider that the Democrats will have to put effort into MA while the GOP is picking up numerous House seats effortlessly in TX.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:19 PM


Guns and Butter (Daily MoJo, April 29, 2004)

John Kerry wrapped up a three-day tour of industrial communities through the Rust Belt--West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan, crucial swing states all--promising policies to revitalize the hard-hit manufacturing sector. Kerry’s strategists warn that he needs to keep the focus on the economy, not Iraq, because Kerry, for all his military credentials, has yet to pass a threshold of credibility on national security. As one put it, "No matter how bad Bush does on the war and 9/11, just having voters think about it kills us."

One has to be especially out of touch to think that having them focus on a booming economy is more helpful. What Mr. Kerry needs is for voters to focus on a hypnotist who will dissuade them of reality.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:54 AM

CONSISTENT? (via Tom Morin):


Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the House Minority Leader, took issue today with those Catholics who are calling for sanctions against Catholic public officials who vote in favor of abortion rights. Pelosi, who is a staunch advocate of abortion rights, defended herself as follows: “I believe that my position on choice is one that is consistent with my Catholic upbringing, which said that every person has a free will and has the responsibility to live their own lives in a way that they would have to account for in the end.”

Pelosi, a California Democrat, also criticized those who differ with her position: “I’m certainly concerned when the church comes together and says it’s going to sanction people in public office for speaking their conscience and what they believe.”

If every person has free will and a right to their own life then how can it be okay to kill them?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:48 AM


Kerry, Bush Campaigns Shadow Each Other (TOM RAUM, 4/30/04, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

When Democrat John Kerry visits a battleground state, he's far from alone.

It's a sure bet that supporters and surrogates of President Bush are already there and ready to talk in public in an effort to steal, or at least divert, the spotlight.

Ahead of Kerry's visit Thursday to Harrisburg, Pa., for instance, state GOP Chairman Alan Novak told residents of central Pennsylvania "to be on the lookout for a flip-flopping presidential candidate from Massachusetts."

It's a political technique known as bracketing. Both parties do it, but the Bush-Cheney team has far more resources at its command - more than $185 million raised for the campaign and the power of incumbency. Recent Democratic fund-raising has started to narrow the gap; but the Republicans still hold a big dollar advantage.

Prominent Republicans are dispatched to appear before and after appearances by the Massachusetts senator. The GOP circulates talking points. Conference calls are arranged with members of Congress and local officials on the day of Kerry's visit. Campaign ads are unveiled. Senior administration and campaign officials suddenly become available for local media interviews. Cabinet members drop in for visits. [...]

Bruce Buchanan, a University of Texas political scientist and longtime Bush watcher, said the Bush campaign's tactics began as an attempt to neutralize "Kerry's use of the daily headlines to frame his attacks on the president."

"They are recognizing that they're in a fight, and using rapid response technology," Buchanan said.

Campaign officials actively reach out to local and regional media.

When they spotted remarks by Kerry on oil in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, the comments were quickly passed to Bush surrogates in Louisiana and Arkansas, both oil states.

"That black stuff is hurting us," Kerry was quoted as saying, noting links between the burning of fossil fuels and global warning and respiratory diseases.

Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a leader of the Bush-Cheney campaign in Arkansas, issued a news release accusing Kerry of being "anti-job, anti-oil." Local media picked up the remarks.

"Here's the governor of Arkansas talking about how Kerry's one statement on oil will hurt south Arkansas," said Ark Monroe III of Little Rock, Ark., a former state insurance commissioner and friend of Bill Clinton. "Now, that's effective. It does energize the base and say this guy really can't be trusted. That to me is how thorough they are."

Being the tallest dwarf doesn't make you tall.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:02 AM


Bush, Kerry Avoid Domestic Issue No. 1: Boomer Retirement (Mort Kondracke, April 30, 2004, Real Clear Politics)

The Bush and Kerry campaigns are playing the public for fools, avoiding one of the biggest questions in America's future: how to finance the retirement of the baby boom generation.

It's a monstrous problem that will either break the American economy or - if addressed creatively and soon - revitalize it. Demographically, there is no avoiding the crisis, even if current politicians are scared to death about tackling it.

The boomers, 77 million of them, will begin retiring in just six years, drawing huge Medicare and Social Security benefits. Right now, the taxes of just three workers support the benefits payable to each current retiree, compared to 16 workers back in 1950. When most of the boomers are retired, the burden will be carried by just two workers.

The choice is simple. Cut the benefits, tax the hell out of the boomers' children - or figure out better ways of sharing the burden.

In fact, some good (if controversial) ideas have been proposed, many at the New America Foundation, a independent centrist think tank. They include lifetime savings accounts, means-tested Medicare, a policy of stimulating healthier lifestyles and less-costly but better-quality medicine, and efforts to encourage greater birth rates and higher immigration levels to grow the nation's population.

Mr. Kondracke is a nice enough fellow, but one of those mysteriously unable to comprehend the revolutionary nature of the Bush presidency:
Gathering Forces for Historic Reform (Peter Ferrara, January 21, 2004, Townhall)
President Bush last night put personal accounts for Social Security on the top shelf of the national agenda.  Few people now recognize how enormous this initiative can be, with powerfully beneficial effects reverberating throughout our economy and society.

But the incredible historic opportunity now on the horizon is recognized by a new coalition of conservative and progressive leaders to be announced today.

 The President in his speech made clear that he believes the looming problems of Social Security must be addressed now, not put off to just get worse and worse.  Moreover, the President said, he means to solve the problems through the positive approach of a personal account option, and all of its advantages for working people, rather than the negatives of tax increases and benefit cuts.

The President emphasized some of these positive themes, pointing out that a major personal account initiative would greatly expand and broaden wealth ownership, as well as freedom of choice and control.  He also made absolutely clear that the reform would involve no change for todayís seniors, or anyone anywhere near retirement.  The point of the reform is to improve the future for todayís younger workers, who suffer the prospects of a sharply deteriorating Social Security program.

Health Savings Accounts great plan for health care (Terry Savage, January 22, 2004, Chicago Sun-Times)
The Health Savings Account was hidden away in the prescription drug bill passed by Congress last December. But unlike the seriously flawed drug plan, the Health Savings Account is an exciting concept that could make health insurance available -- affordable -- for millions of Americans who aren't covered by an employer plan.

Remarks by the President on Immigration Policy (The East Room, 1/07/04):
our country has always benefited from the dreams that others have brought here. By working hard for a better life, immigrants contribute to the life of our nation. The temporary worker program I am proposing today represents the best tradition of our society, a society that honors the law, and welcomes the newcomer. This plan will help return order and fairness to our immigration system, and in so doing we will honor our values, by showing our respect for those who work hard and share in the ideals of America.

President Bush Signs Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003  (The Ronald Reagan Building, Washington, D.C., 11/05/03)
America stands for liberty, for the pursuit of happiness and for the unalienable right of life. And the most basic duty of government is to defend the life of the innocent. Every person, however frail or vulnerable, has a place and a purpose in this world. Every person has a special dignity. This right to life cannot be granted or denied by government, because it does not come from government, it comes from the Creator of life. (Applause.)

In the debate about the rights of the unborn, we are asked to broaden the circle of our moral concern. We're asked to live out our calling as Americans. We're asked to honor our own standards, announced on the day of our founding in the Declaration of Independence. We're asked by our convictions and tradition and compassion to build a culture of life, and make this a more just and welcoming society.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:35 AM


-REVIEW: of BOBBY JONES: STROKE OF GENIUS (ROGER EBERT, April 30, 2004, Chicago Sun-Times)

Bobby Jones (1902-1971) was perhaps the greatest golfer who ever lived. Not even Tiger Woods has equaled Jones' triumph in 1930, when he became the only player to win the U.S. Open, the British Open, the U.S. Amateur and the British Amateur in the same year. Then he retired from competition -- still only 28. Odds are good no golfer will ever equal that record -- if only because no golfer good enough to do it will be an amateur. Jones also won seven U.S. titles in a row, an achievement that may be unmatchable.

Jones was not only an amateur, but an amateur who had to earn a living, so that he couldn't play golf every day and mostly played only in championship-level tournaments. This makes him sound like a man who played simply for love of the game, but "Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius" shows us a man who seems driven to play, a man obsessed; there seems less joy than compulsion in his career, and the movie contrasts him with the era's top professional, Walter Hagen (Jeremy Northam), who seems to enjoy himself a lot more.

Jim Caviezel ("The Passion of the Christ") plays Jones as an adult, after childhood scenes showing a young boy who becomes fascinated by the game and watches great players while hiding in the rough. He comes from a family dominated by a strict puritanical grandfather, but Jones' father, "Big Bob" (Brett Rice) is supportive. Not so Jones' wife Mary (Claire Forlani), who plays a role that has become standard in the biographies of great men -- the woman who wishes her man would give up his dream and spend more time at home with her and the children.

Of course, Mary sees a side of Bobby that's invisible to the world. The man is tortured. He feels he must enter tournaments and win them, to prove something he can never quite articulate, to show "them" without being sure who they are. And he is often in physical pain. After a sickly childhood, he grows up into a reed-thin man with a tense face, and doctors have only to look at him to prescribe rest. His stomach starts to hurt at about the same time he begins to drink and smoke, and although the movie does not portray him as an alcoholic, we hold that as a hypothesis until we find the pain is caused by syringomyelia, a spinal disease that would cripple him later in life.

Mr. Caviezel runs the risk of being type-cast as a god.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:19 AM


20 horses, 8 real threats at Derby (JIM O'DONNELL, April 30, 2004, Chicago Sun-Times)

It is a handicapper's PlayStation. Even the most opinionated experts seem to acknowledge that at least two-thirds of the starting lineup could make it to the winner's circle. Further complicating matters is the fact Kentuckiana weather forecasters are calling for a 70 percent chance of afternoon thunderstorms on Derby Day. There has not been a Derby run in the slop since 1994. [...]

Still, someone will win, and figuring out who that will be is a major preoccupation of speculators from Antigua to Emerald Downs this weekend. So once again, Team Sun-Times will winnow possibilities through the sieve of Odage.

Odage is the handicapping helper that has eliminated two-thirds of all Derby starters from serious consideration, dating back to 1996, based on three simple past-performance guidelines. A horse can win the Kentucky Derby only if:

1) It finished first or second in its last race.

2) It ran a Beyer Speed Figure of at least 100 in its last race.

3) The forward variance of its last two Beyers is no worse than minus-2.

Since 1996, all eight Derby champions have been Odage qualifiers. Last May, only six of the 16 eventual starters qualified, including the three who ran 1-2-3: Funny Cide, Empire Maker and Peace Rules.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:13 AM


The Divine is present where He is welcomed (Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, 4/30/04, Jewish World Review)

Committing a sin is not necessarily a denial or rejection of G-d. A person may simply have been overwhelmed by an urge that he did not suppress, or may not have realized that a sin causes him to be distant from G-d. However, a vain, egotistical person is one who is his own G-d. Inasmuch as there cannot be two G-ds, if a person thinks himself to be G-d, he cannot believe in the true G-d. There is no form of idolatry as absolute as the person who worships himself.

In my writings on self-esteem, I suggested that vanity and conceit are desperate defenses whereby a person tries to cope with a sense of unworthiness. I was thrilled to find that no less an authority than Rabbeinu Yonah validates this concept. ''The vain person seeks to compensate for his feeling of defectiveness by means of grandiosity'' (Rabbeinu Yonah al HaTorah, p. 156). A person with healthy self-esteem does not seek the praise and recognition of others to remind him that he has value.

If a person truly believes that he possesses a Divine neshamah (soul), he will realize that he has great worth, and even if he may have gone astray in his behavior, he is nevertheless worthy by virtue of his Divine neshamah. Anyone with a profound feeling of unworthiness must be in denial that he has within himself the breath of G-d.

That psychological abnormality is why atheists deserve pity and love rather than anger or hatred.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:02 AM


Some Blacks and Hispanics Criticize Kerry on Outreach (JODI WILGOREN, April 30, 2004, NY Times)

For weeks, Senator John Kerry savored a Democratic Party that was unified in rallying behind his presidential candidacy. But in recent days, influential black and Hispanic political leaders whom the campaign had counted on for support have been openly complaining that Mr. Kerry's organization lacks diversity and is failing to appeal directly to minority voters.

Even as Mr. Kerry spoke here on Thursday to the National Conference of Black Mayors — an appearance his community outreach team viewed as critical to building a network of minority support — two influential Latino leaders circulated harsh letters expressing concern about the campaign's dealings with minorities.

And in interviews over the last week, more than a dozen minority elected officials and political strategists voiced concerns about what they said was the dearth of representation in Mr. Kerry's inner circle and worried that he was taking black and Hispanic votes for granted.

"The reality is that we're entering May and the Kerry campaign has no message out there to the Hispanic community nor has there been any inkling of any reach-out effort in any state to the Hispanic electorate, at least with any perceivable sustainable strategy in mind," Alvaro Cifuentes, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee's Hispanic Caucus, said in an e-mail message to party leaders provided by a recipient who insisted on anonymity. "It is no secret that the word of mouth in the Beltway and beyond is not that he does not get it, it is that he does not care."

The difference between a respectable loss (45-6%) and the Apocalypse (40-42%) for Mr. Kerry lies wholly in the turnout of core constituencies. When it became obvious that Bob Dole couldn't beat Bill Clinton he did the righteous thing and ran as a conservative to make sure his pals in Congress didn't get drubbed. Considering that he's surrounded himself with Kennedyite true believers, one wonders if Mr. Kerry is capable of an equally selfless decision.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:35 AM


Catch as catch can (The Tipsheet, April 30, 2004, The Hill e-News)

Sen. John Kerry's (D-Mass.) presidential campaign is assembling a "Team B" group of advisors to craft a political strategy for catastrophic events, such as a terrorist attack on the United States before the election, the capture of Osama bin Laden, a vast improvement in the economy, or any other event that could alter the political zeitgeist in 2004.

You can just see the Kerry team sacrificing chickens to get Baal to keep the economy from improving or Osama's corpse from being located.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:20 AM


Despite civil rights complaints, President Bush still has some Muslim support (RACHEL ZOLL, 4/29/04, The Associated Press)

It was just a throwaway line, an aside in a speech to some fellow American Muslims that Muqtedar Khan considered a surefire crowd-pleaser. But when he criticized President Bush over the war on Iraq, Khan was surprised by the response.

"I was booed. They were shouting and booing at me," said Khan, a political scientist at Adrian College in Michigan. "A man came and told me, `If you think the war in Iraq is not moral then I'm sorry to say you have no idea what morality is."'

As Khan saw that day, the president still enjoys pockets of strong support among America's Muslims, despite deep resentment over scrutiny of their community following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

And while Democrats outnumber Republicans among U.S. Muslims, there is a sense that presumptive Democratic nominee John Kerry has done relatively little to reach out to the community.

Among Bush's supporters are Iraqi-Americans and others grateful that Saddam Hussein was ousted, giving their fellow Shiias a chance to govern in that country after decades of oppression.

Others are wealthy, immigrant businessmen loyal to the Republican Party. They can be found among the Bush campaign's Pioneers and Rangers, who have raised tens of thousands of dollars for his re-election.

More votes could come from socially conservative Muslims, drawn into the Republican camp because of its opposition to gay marriage. "We are working hard to maintain and build upon the support for the president," said Scott Stanzel, a Bush campaign spokesman. [...]

John Kerry's campaign has been less aggressive in reaching out to Muslims, said Al-Marayati and other Islamic leaders.

There's no end of groups that vote against their own self-interest, but given that Senator Kerry can't allow any wiggle room between himself and the President on Israel or the war on terror but is much less interested in democratizing the Middle East, Reforming Islam, and remoralizing American culture, why wouldn't a Muslim vote Republican?

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:51 AM


U.N. Oil Papers vanish (Niles Lathem, N.Y. Post, 29/04/04)

The vast majority of the United Nations' oil-for-food contracts in Iraq have mysteriously vanished, crippling investigators trying to uncover fraud in the program, a government report charged yesterday.

The General Accounting Office report, presented at a congressional hearing into the scandal-plagued program, determined that 80 percent of U.N. records had not been turned over.

The world body claims it transferred all information it had - including 3,059 contracts worth about $6.2 billion for delivery of food and other civilian goods to the post-Saddam governing body, the Coalition Provisional Authority.

But the GAO report also found that a database the U.N. transferred to the authority was "unreliable because it contained mathematical and currency errors in calculation of contract costs," the report found.

The GAO findings, which were aired at a hearing of the House International Relations Committee, raise new questions about corruption and mismanagement in the biggest-ever U.N. aid program - and what has been called the biggest financial scandal in history. An earlier GAO report said Saddam ripped off over $10 billion.

Committee Chairman Henry Hyde said the report raised serious concerns - and could have "a potential impact on the reputation and credibility of the United Nations."

"If these charges prove true, some of the obvious victims are those Iraqis who failed to receive needed assistance," Hyde (R-Ill.) said. [...]

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan fired back.

"If you read the reports, it looks as if the Saddam regime had nothing to do with it. They did nothing wrong - it was all the U.N.," Annan said.

With all due respect to Congressman Hyde, the looming issue is not whether long-suffering Iraqis were victimized yet again by being deprived of food, but whether the UN itself, several European countries and numerous politicians and luminaries were bankrolled by Saddam to oppose the U.S. and Britain and led him to believe he was untouchable. If even half true, that would make hundreds of dead American and British soldiers and thousands of dead Iraqis the victims.

Expect the Left to go to herculean lengths to ignore, bury and obfuscate, accuse conservatives of bad faith and perhaps throw up a UN bureaucrat or two as sacrificial lambs to keep this story under wraps. Expect many "realists" on the Right to enable them. Like the truth about communism, this story has the potential to be too earth-shaking in its implications and too threatening to too many people to be digested fully in this generation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:23 AM


Moderate Muslims March in Phoenix: A patriotic Islamic group organizes a rally against terrorism -- and an anti-war demonstration breaks out. (Daniel Pipes, 4/30/04, FrontPage)

When the American Islamic Forum for Democracy organized "A Rally against Terror" on April 25 in Phoenix, its head, an Arizona physician named Zuhdi Jasser, said his goal was to give Muslim moderates "an opportunity to speak out publicly." And Jasser presented the rally as a robust response to the many criticisms that American Muslims had not produced a "groundswell of condemnation" against terrorism. In fact, he asserted,

The killing of innocent people out of revenge, out of hate or out of retribution is against the absolute laws of Islam. Suicide is against the absolute laws of Islam. People can justify their actions all day long, but we as Muslims are here to say clearly their actions are against everything we believe.

Jasser wrote an oped in the Arizona Republic where, as a Muslim, he took responsibility for the mistrust directed toward American Muslims, rather than merely blow this off as prejudice:

It is impossible as an American not to feel the growing palpable distrust toward the Muslim community. With attacks targeting innocent civilians across the globe, it has sadly at this time gone far beyond the initial prideful question of "Why are Muslims being singled out?" It is time now only to rally and provide an unmistakable resounding reply. 

With this in mind, he set out two goals for the rally:

We want to reassure the American public that the great majority of Muslims condemn the targeting of innocents by virtue of the tenets of our faith. We also want to give hope and inspiration to faithful Muslims all over the country that this type of rally is possible.

Jasser found support for his efforts as close as the Arizona Republic, which correctly judged this event to be "the nationís first Muslim rally against terrorism," and as far away as the country's capital, where a Washington Times editorial ended with, "We salute Dr. Jasser, American patriot."
The Muslim community of Phoenix is estimated at 50,000 persons; Jasser worked strenuously to reach out to the Valley Council of Imams, Valley mosques and major Valley Islamic organizations; and the Arizona Republic, the leading newspaper of Phoenix, gave the rally its full-fledged support. A head of steam behind him, Jasser optimistically predicted that 500 to 1,000 people would attend the event.

But then the event was held and reality set in.

You ever been to an anti-terror march?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 AM


When everybody sounds like Tony Soprano: Expletives are fine, if used sparingly. But overuse has reduced them to little more than "you knows." (Theodore Roszak, 4/30/04, CS Monitor)

When the new HBO series "Deadwood" premiered, I was delightfully surprised to hear a TV critic on National Public Radio make a point of knocking its wildly excessive use of obscenities - even before he got around to offering the show a positive review. At last, I thought, a display of good critical judgment.

Don't mistake me. I write in defense of the expletive. Every language needs its dirty words. They are the cayenne pepper of speech, available to communicate uncontrollable fury, irreverence, or vulgar insolence. But the undeleted F-expletive is the most obvious literary vice of our day.

I'm sure social authenticity would be the justification offered by filmmakers for drowning their audience in dirty words. Martin Scorsese, whose 1990 "Goodfellas" raised expletive usage to new levels, would no doubt insist that movies about gangsters or prizefighters simply wouldn't sound real without salty language. Poor excuse. There is a name for work that indulges in mind-numbing and predictable repetition, whether the words are clean or dirty. We call it "bad writing."

Good writing sparkles, even when it gives voice to characters who are grossly inarticulate. There is a well-developed body of work that does a brilliant job of injecting wit into degraded English. The warriors who fill Shakespeare's history plays were doubtlessly as foul-mouthed as soldiers and gangsters in our time, but the bard didn't need to wallow in obscenity to make them come alive. And think of Charles Dickens, Ring Lardner, or even David Mamet - before he, too, joined the smut parade.

Today it doesn't matter who's talking: Everybody sounds like Tony Soprano.

We don't have many rules for our comments sections, but there's one we do try to enforce strictly: no profanity. People who know us find this odd, because, like any sons of a clergyman, the Brothers Judd are as profane as longshoremen. However--and maybe this is delusional--it seems that written swearing is less excusable than oral, if for no other reason than that you've time and chance to erase the words that make you sound like an ass.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 AM


Would you believe it?: As Georges Simenon's centenary approaches, Mark Lawson unravels clues to the life of the Belgian thriller-writer and discovers a mysterious character who could write a book in 11 days and claimed to have had 10,000 lovers (Mark Lawson, November 23, 2002, The Guardian)

A remarkably prolific novelist, Simenon was also an astonishingly gushing lover. In old age, he claimed to have had sex with 10,000 women and, while all claims of erotic prowess are subject to a certain rounding-up, it's clear he used prostitutes at the rate Parisians get through Gitanes.

Beyond these enigmas involving his imagination and his penis, there are other mysteries to be considered by any writer investigating him, as I have for a Radio 4 play marking his centenary. Part of the reason this Belgian, whose most famous character was French, spent the last 40 years of his life in America and Switzerland was the accusation that he had collaborated with the Vichy regime during the second world war. There is also the question of why his daughter killed herself.

The main biographers - Pierre Assouline (1997), Patrick Marnham (1992), Stanley Eskins (1987) and Fenton Bresler (1983) - frequently disagree on details of the author's life but they are more often contradicted by the more than 20 volumes of autobiography which Simenon himself published. That torrent of autobiography is not even internally consistent. For example, he gives several different accounts of the genesis of his signature character, Superintendent Maigret.

A man who had published at least 400 novels under his own name and a variety of others would frequently lament to interviewers that he had always been incapable of making anything up. Certainly, he transferred a number of people, names and places wholesale from his research to the novels and, in consequence, suffered a number of libel suits. More gravely, when his 25-year-old daughter, Marie-Jo, decided to shoot herself in 1978, she was able to get the name and address of a reputable Parisian gunsmith from one of the Maigret stories.

Reluctant to admit fiction to his novels, Simenon was unusually inventive in real life. It is still, for instance, widely claimed in literary histories that the young Simenon once wrote a novel in public in 24 hours, while sitting in a glass cage in Paris, accepting character and plot suggestions from a gawping audience. The author did not discourage this legend and it became a perfect metaphor for both his exhibitionism and his profligacy. However, his biographers have proved that Simenon never in fact became a literary sea-lion in this way. He signed a contract for the transparent composition but cancelled the happening after being warned by friends that it would wreck his artistic reputation. As with his birth certificate, the misunderstanding seems appropriate.

Apart from the personal memories that went through more drafts than a Hollywood screenplay, he had what might be taken as a novelist's habit of renaming key players in his life, so that his first wife, Regine, was rechristened "Tigy", while her maid Henriette, with whom the libidinous Simenon had an inevitable affair, was asked to answer to "Boule". The second wife, Denise, seems to have held on to what she got at the font although, in an intriguing psychological sideswipe, she began to spell herself Denyse after their marriage ended.

During the 1950s, when Simenon was living in magnificence by Lake Geneva, one of his neighbours was Carl Jung. The crime writer was keen for a meeting and an appointment was made but was cancelled by the psychologist's death. Yet a session with Sigmund Freud would probably have been more appropriate. The more you learn about the author, the more you conclude that his childhood damaged him profoundly.

In the classic no-win of parenting, his father loved Georges too much, his mother too little. His father, Desire, died at only 44 from a heart ailment he had concealed from his wife, who had come to the alternative diagnosis of laziness. Shortly before dying, Simenon Sr gave his son a pocket-watch, which he later used as payment in a brothel. These events gave Georges three obsessions - with early death, timepieces and his mother's cruelty - which became driving forces in his writing.

Henriette - the target of a bitter, late non-fiction book, Letter To My Mother - distanced herself from Simenon not only by her alleged part in hounding his sainted father to an early grave. Most shockingly, when Georges's brother was killed, she complained to her surviving son: "Why did it have to be him? Why couldn't it have been you?"

There's a popular psychological theory that men who are rejected by their mothers often become obsessive copulators, seeking vaginal acceptance, the compensating embrace.

And vice versa.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:59 AM


CUT RUSSIA SOME SLACK: THE ALARM AND DISMAY ARE MISPLACED: Russia isn't as much of a mess as critics would have you think. Its economy is making progress, and its political system is probably not much less democratic than, say, Italy's. (Clive Crook, 4/28/04, Atlantic Monthly)

I was in Moscow and St. Petersburg recently, attending conferences organized by Washington's Cato Institute. It was my first visit to Russia for a few years, and what I saw surprised me: an economy poor by Western standards, to be sure, yet plainly making rapid progress; and a political system that, while messy and no doubt corrupt by the standards of the rich West, gives voice to dissent and is probably not much less democratic than, say, Italy's. The picture drawn by most Western commentators—of a kind of criminal anarchy seething beneath a top layer of sham constitutional government—just does not square with what one sees, or, for that matter, with the facts. [...]

The mistaken idea that Russia was a strong economy in 1990 and the eagerness to see capitalism fail go a long way to explain the current widespread misconceptions. Shleifer and Treisman argue that if one thinks of Russia as a middle-income developing country—which it was, in terms of per capita income, even in 1990—then its present difficulties look much more normal. Yes, Russia is far poorer than the United States is. It always was. At the moment, nonetheless, it ranks among the most promising middle-income developing countries. The answer to the question "Who lost Russia?" is not the International Monetary Fund, or the Clinton administration, or Boris Yeltsin's reckless economic reformers. Nobody lost it, unless you count the Communists.

If Russia's economy is doing better than readers of American and European newspapers might think, what about the country's politics? Again, by rich-country standards, things look bad. By developing-country standards, on the other hand, they seem about average. It is true that the government exercises influence or outright control over much of the media, and that Vladimir Putin has moved to strengthen the government's hand still further. This kind of sway would be regarded as outrageous in most Western countries (though not all: Italy's leader, Silvio Berlusconi, owns or controls the main television stations and much of the press). In many middle-income countries, ownership of industry, including the media, is concentrated in relatively few hands, and the families in charge take care to have friendly relations with politicians.

Putin's government does have an authoritarian cast, and things could deteriorate further. On the other hand, the popularity of his regime seems genuine: Nobody is claiming that the elections that recently entrenched his power were fixed, and it should come as no surprise that a recovering economy and Putin's emphasis on security are a hit with voters.

One thing that's kind of worrisome is the thought that: if the press, pundits and pols get this hysterical about an ally who's pretty clearly dragging his country forward, even if by means we'd not accept here, then how are they going to react to the unique political configurations that emerging Islamic democracies adopt? As Iraq and Iran and the rest liberalize they aren't going to have republics just like ours, but so what?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:59 AM


THE UPRISING: Shia and Sunnis put aside their differences. (JON LEE ANDERSON, 2004-05-03, The New Yorker)

The American plan to install friendly Shiite former exiles in positions of power in Iraq began to go wrong early on, most spectacularly on April 10th last year, the day after Baghdad fell, when Abdel Majid al-Khoei, a member of an important clerical family, was murdered near the Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf, one of the holiest Shiite shrines. Khoei had been flown into Najaf in early April, and Ayad Jamaluddin met him there. They were staying with American military forces on the outskirts of the city. Ahmad Chalabi, the Pentagon’s primary Shiite candidate for a leadership position, was bivouacked a hundred and forty miles south, in Nasiriyah, with his little band of Free Iraqi Fighters.

Jamaluddin had not been in Najaf for more than twenty years. Khoei had left in 1992, in the aftermath of the Shiite uprising against Saddam following the Gulf War. His father, a Grand Ayatollah who was Sistani’s immediate predecessor, died under house arrest in Najaf soon afterward. In 1994, his older brother was hit by a truck on the road between Najaf and Karbala. Abdel Majid al-Khoei and his wife and four children lived in London, where he ran the Al Khoei Foundation, a well-endowed charitable organization. His principal American contacts were with the C.I.A., which disapproved of Chalabi, whom it believed to be untenable as a future leader.

Jamaluddin said that he and Khoei found themselves in circumstances that were unfamiliar and disorienting for two urbane sons of the upper class. “The place where we were was dusty, and it was exhausting,” he said. “It was not very suitable for us, but our sublime purpose in being there, which we were both anticipating, was the liberation of the Iraqi people. It was a meeting in a place for which we both felt a great responsibility.” They went to Ayatollah Sistani’s house with specific requests in mind. “My aim was to secure his protection and that of the holy shrines,” Jamaluddin said. “I learned afterward that Abdel Majid”—Khoei—“was seeking Sistani’s legal approval—a fatwa—for the U.S. military forces to be in Najaf.” The city was by no means secure then, but there were only a few young guards at Sistani’s house, and his son told them that the Ayatollah had gone somewhere else, for protection. When Khoei asked about Sistani’s position regarding the American forces, the son said that his father didn’t get involved in such matters. According to Jamaluddin, this made Khoei angry, and he said, “Then the people must find a new religious authority,” and he left. Jamaluddin was more sanguine. “The whole city was in a panic,” he said. No one knew for sure that Saddam was really out of power.

Jamaluddin shared a room with Khoei in those early, tumultuous days, and says that he warned him that he had heard people speaking against him. There are many factions among the clerics in Najaf, and it is easy to imagine that the resident clerics would be threatened by the newcomers, especially since they arrived with American soldiers and a great deal of money to distribute. Jamaluddin left for Kuwait on the evening of April 8th, and his brother Qusay, who is a doctor, and several of their friends stayed with Khoei. On the morning of the tenth, Khoei went to the mosque with the official custodian, Haidar Raifee, who was generally disliked because he was suspected of stealing from the shrine and diverting funds to Saddam and the Baath Party. Jamaluddin says that people began gathering around the men, demanding Haidar’s ouster, but that Khoei spoke of reconciliation and tried to calm things down. “Then the people became violent, breaking glass and pulling knives,” Jamaluddin said. His brother told him that Khoei pulled out a gun and fired it in the air. “Suddenly, everyone had pulled out guns—pistols and Kalashnikovs—and started shooting.” Three of Khoei’s fingers were blown off. “Then they tied him up and took him out of the mosque and began attacking him and Sayyid Haidar with knives,” Jamaluddin said. Haidar was killed at the gate of the mosque. Khoei “had on a flak jacket and so the knives were not so effective, but he was bleeding. About a hundred metres from the mosque, he found a shop and asked the shop owner to kill him”—to put him out of his misery. “The shop owner said he couldn’t, but gave him water. Then people came and got him again, and one man, using a sword, stabbed him in the neck. But he was not dead yet. Then they dragged his body perhaps ten metres in the street, and he was stabbed until he died. My brother called me from his cell phone and told me what was happening. He was too upset to describe it in detail, but he did later, and another friend who was there said the same thing.”

Jamaluddin’s account corresponds in general to the report from an Iraqi judge that led to the arrest warrant for Moqtada al-Sadr, the extremist Shiite leader who has been more or less at war with the Coalition for the past several weeks. Eyewitnesses said that Sadr’s men killed Khoei. On April 3rd this year, nearly a year after the murder, the Coalition arrested Mustafa Yaqoubi, Sadr’s deputy, as an accomplice. [...]

Early in April, I had sent a message to James Steele, Paul Bremer’s Counselor for Iraqi Security Forces, asking if we could talk. [...]

Steele advocates robust military action, “combined with the right political moves,” to quell the insurgencies. “In Fallujah, a heavy hand makes sense,” he said. “That’s the only thing some of those guys will understand. Down south, too. We can’t be seen as weak. Otherwise, this kind of thing can happen everywhere.” He said that the problem in Najaf was strategically more important than the one in Fallujah: “We can’t afford to miscalculate with the Shia. Most of them are in our corner and do not support Sadr, and we can’t lose them.” He hoped that, once Sadr was “neutralized,” his organization would fall apart, although “Sadr’s got something going for him now, in that he is playing to the underlying resentment against us. There’s a lot of people who don’t want us here. At some level, people feel pride when they see Sadr thumbing his nose at us. They think to themselves, You tell ’em! But if Sadr can be discredited, then his followers, many of whom are uneducated and without jobs, will probably back down again. Sad as it is to say, they’re used to being defeated here.” [...]

“Sadr’s followers are simple people,” a Shiite friend of mine said recently. “They are easily led by someone who says he is defending their interests. They listen to him because there have been so few visible reforms in the last year. The Iraqis suffered terribly under Saddam, and yet not one of the war criminals from his regime has been put on trial. None of the people who found relatives in mass graves have received compensation. The garbage in Sadr City is symptomatic of the bad conditions they live in. That’s the kind of thing that makes people join a mob.” [...]

Now, as Salaam and I drove up to the mosque, we saw a couple of large dump trucks being loaded with sacks of flour and boxes of cooking oil and bags of rice. The provisions were being transferred from small pickups that arrived in a steady stream. One of the pickups flew two black flags, Shia flags, like battle standards. An Iraqi man who was standing near me commented, in good English, “You see that. It’s from a Shiite mosque.” He said that mosques all over Baghdad were accepting donations from people and dispatching them to be sent on to Fallujah. “Before, there was no common ground between Sunni and Shia,” he said, “but now there is. The reason is because the Iraqi people are tired of the occupation and the humiliation of soldiers pushing in their doors and stealing from them and bothering their women and sticking guns in their faces.”

The conclusion of the article seems odd because after delineating what an aberration al-Sadr is among the Shi'a, that he is in fact at war with his fellow Shi'ites, Mr. Anderson asks us to accept that some signs that al-Sadr is supporting the Sunni, who also oppose the Shi'a generally, indicates that there's now a unified front of all Iraqis. The reality is that if the Shi'a and Sunni did join forces we'd have no choice but to kill 23 million people or leave. Instead the low levels of violence show how limited is support for the resistance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 AM


Scientists Announce Cosmic Ray Theory Breakthrough (SPX, Apr 30, 2004)

University of California scientists working at Los Alamos National Laboratory have proposed a new theory to explain the movement of vast energy fields in giant radio galaxies (GRGs). The theory could be the basis for a whole new understanding of the ways in which cosmic rays - and their signature radio waves - propagate and travel through intergalactic space.

In a paper published this month in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, the scientists explain how magnetic field reconnection may be responsible for the acceleration of relativistic electrons within large intergalactic volumes. That is, the movement of charged particles in space that are originally energized by massive black holes.

"If our understanding of this process is correct," says Los Alamos astrophysicist Philipp Kronberg, "it could be a paradigm shift in current thinking about the nature of GRGs and cosmic rays."

Researchers still do not fully understand why magnetic field reconnection occurs, but this much is known: a deeper understanding of the mechanism could have important applications here on Earth, such as the creation of a system of magnetic confinement for fusion energy reactors.

If the Los Alamos scientists' theory is correct, the discovery also has wide-ranging astrophysical consequences. It implies that magnetic field reconnection or some other highly efficient field-to-particle energy conversion process could be a principal source of all extragalactic radio sources, and possibly also the mysterious "Ultra High Energy Cosmic Ray particles".

Giant radio galaxies are vast celestial objects that emit a continuum of radio wavelengths detectable with radio telescopes like those at the Very Large Array in Socorro, N.M. Using comprehensive data on seven of the largest radio galaxies in the Universe gathered over the past two decades, the researchers were able to study cosmic ray energy fields that are expelled from the GRGs centers - which are almost certain to contain supermassive black holes - outward as much as a few millions of light years into intergalactic space (1 light year = 5,900,000,000,000 miles).

What the Los Alamos researchers concluded was that the high energy content of these giant radio galaxies, their large ordered magnetic field structures, the absence of strong large-scale shocks and very low internal gas densities point to a direct and efficient conversion of the magnetic field to particle energy in a process that astrophysicists call magnetic field reconnection. Magnetic field reconnection is a process where the lines of a magnetic field connect and vanish, converting the field's energy into particle energy. Reconnection is considered a key process in the sun's corona for the production of solar flares and in fusion experiment devices called tokamaks. It also occurs in the interaction between the solar wind and the Earth's magnetic field and is considered a principal cause of magnetospheric storms.

Cosmic rays will also eventually turn out to be the main force driving evolution.

April 29, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:34 PM


'Invisible army' key in GOP matchup: Schaffer has loyalty now, but voters could turn to Coors (M.E. Sprengelmeyer And Dick Foster, April 29, 2004, Rocky Mountain News)

There's an "invisible army" mobilizing in the Republican U.S. Senate contest, and where it lines up could influence the race between Pete Coors and Bob Schaffer.

Their ranks are thousands strong, hunkered at dining-room tables reading books, conjugating verbs, doing math and science lessons with their children.

They're home- schoolers - predominantly Republican parents, often religiously motivated, with their own special interest in politicians who shape the nation's education policy.

It may take some sort of secret weapon if former congressman Schaffer is to beat the better- known, better-bankrolled beer baron Coors.

Schaffer's camp includes many committed supporters who are familiar with his work in the state legislature, Congress and at a think tank that promotes home schools and private-school vouchers.

The question for Schaffer's campaign is whether they will stick with him in large enough numbers once Coors' education platform becomes as well known as his family name.

As it stands now, Schaffer shows signs of strength among school- choice supporters - a key GOP constituency that is highly motivated to get to the polls.

Doesn't seem like an issue where Mr. Coors will leave room to his Right.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:15 PM


3rd Adult Movie Performer Tests for HIV (AP, 4/29/04)

A third adult movie performer tested positive Thursday for the virus that causes AIDS (news - web sites) in the midst of an HIV (news - web sites) outbreak that has halted most production, according to the director of an AIDS testing service.

"This is not over," said Sharon Mitchell, executive director of the nonprofit Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation, which screens performers for sexually transmitted diseases.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:51 PM


Being a Saudi political activist means learning to do jail time: Despite government constraints tied to his release, Mohammad Saeed Tayeb still dreams of democratic reform. (Faiza Saleh Ambah, 4/30/04, CS Monitor)

Shortly after noon prayers men in long white Saudi thobes and headdresses trickle into the living room, greeting [Mohammad Saeed] Tayeb with kisses and hugs. "Welcome back, father of Shaimaa [his eldest daughter]. Thank God for your safe return." Two Filipino waiters walk around the long rectangular room carrying trays filled with steaming glasses of red and green tea and Arabic coffee.

Tayeb's cellphone continuously interrupts the buzz of conversation. He fields calls from the BBC and Radio Sawa, the American-sponsored station. "We welcome you as a pleasant addition to the region's media," Tayeb tells the Sawa correspondent. "But I'm sorry, I'm not at liberty to speak to the press. I've been asked not to. Yes, you can say I said that."

The arrest of Tayeb along with about a dozen other pro-democracy activists last month has stalled the reform movement in Saudi Arabia, the most serious in the country's recent history. Most activists have been released on condition they stop organizing public events and don't talk to the press. Three who refuse to cooperate without a lawyer are still in detention.

At an age when most men are thinking about retirement, Tayeb is a central figure in a group of some 50 political activists. The group includes liberals from the Red Sea coast city of Jeddah, Islamists from the capital Riyadh, and Shiites from the Eastern province. They have been working together for the first time, gathering signatures for petitions asking for a constitution, economic and political accountability from the royal family and government, and more rights for women.

"Under the guidance of Mohammad Saeed Tayeb, Matrouk al-Faleh and Abdullah al-Hamid [Al Faleh and Al Hamid are still being detained], Saudi reformists were more active in the past three years than in the previous four decades," says Saudi writer and reformist Ahmad Adnan. The reason, says Mr. Adnan, is a political environment altered by the Sept. 11 attacks, terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia, the US-led war in neighboring Iraq, and calls for reform by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.

Over the past year, the reformists have gathered more than 850 signatures in several petitions calling for reforms, talked openly in newspapers and on TV satellite channels about the urgent need for change in the kingdom, and held a public meeting in Riyadh, the first of its kind.

But the reform-minded Prince Abdullah has been silent since the arrests March 16, leading many to suspect that his powerful half-brothers, Interior Minister Prince Nayef and Defense Minister Prince Sultan, engineered the arrests without his approval.

It's an especially delightful irony that one of the results of 9-11 will be the more rapid liberalization of Saud'i Arabia.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:31 PM


AUDIO INTERVIEW: Moor History in Spain (Kojo Nnamdi Show, 4/29/04, WAMU)

Recent news reports mention the Moors in Spain. Find out more about the legacy of the Moors, including a golden century when Jews and Christians lived together in peace under Islamic rule.

Lourdes Maria Alvarez, Assistant Professor of Spanish, Catholic University

Howard D. Miller, assistant professor of history, Jacksonville State University, Alabama

Some of you might more easily recognize him as our friend H.D. Miller at Travelling Shoes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:12 PM


62% Say World Better If More Like USA: 64% Say American Society Generally Fair and Decent (Rasmussen Reports, April 27, 2004)

More than six-out-of-ten American voters believe the USA is a good role model for the rest of the world.

A Rasmussen Reports survey found that 64% of voters believe that American society is generally fair and decent. Additionally, 62% believe the world would be a better place if other countries became more like the United States.

However, while a solid majority views the nation in this way, there are significant differences of opinion among partisan, ideological, and political fault lines.

Among Bush voters, 83% say that American society is generally fair and decent. Just 7% say it is basically unfair and discriminatory.

While Bush voters are united behind this perception, Kerry voters are divided--46% say fair and decent while 37% say unfair and discriminatory.

Eighty-one percent (81%) of Bush voters also believe the world would be better if other nations were more like the United States. This view is shared by just 48% of Kerry voters.

From an ideological perspective, 74% of conservatives say the world would be better if other nations were more like ours. Just 15% of conservatives believe it would be worse.

However, among self-identified liberals, the numbers are 49% better and 37% worse. A plurality of those who say they are very liberal believe the world would be in worse shape if other nations were more like ours.

Moderate voters, by a 3-to-1 margin think that having other nation's more like us would create a better world.

If you caught the excellent Frontline on the President's faith tonight, there was a hilarious bit with Jim Wallis of Sojourners fretting about Mr. Bush referring to terrorists as "evil." Here's the essay he more or less reiterated, Dangerous Religion: George W. Bush's theology of empire. (Jim Wallis, September-October 2003, Sojourners):
Since Sept. 11, President Bush has turned the White House "bully pulpit" into a pulpit indeed, replete with "calls" and "missions" and "charges to keep" regarding America's role in the world. George Bush is convinced that we are engaged in a moral battle between good and evil, and that those who are not with us are on the wrong side in that divine confrontation.

But who is "we," and does no evil reside with "us"? The problem of evil is a classic one in Christian theology. Indeed, anyone who cannot see the real face of evil in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, is suffering from a bad case of postmodern relativism. To fail to speak of evil in the world today is to engage in bad theology. But to speak of "they" being evil and "we" being good, to say that evil is all out there and that in the warfare between good and evil others are either with us or against us—that is also bad theology. Unfortunately, it has become the Bush theology.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, the White House carefully scripted the religious service in which the president declared war on terrorism from the pulpit of the National Cathedral. The president declared to the nation, "Our responsibility to history is already clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil." With most every member of the Cabinet and the Congress present, along with the nation's religious leaders, it became a televised national liturgy affirming the divine character of the nation's new war against terrorism, ending triumphantly with the "Battle Hymn of the Republic." War against evil would confer moral legitimacy on the nation's foreign policy and even on a contested presidency.

What is most missing in the Bush theology is acknowledgement of the truth of this passage from the gospel of Matthew: "Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' while the log is in your eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's eye." A simplistic "we are right and they are wrong" theology rules out self-reflection and correction. It also covers over the crimes America has committed, which lead to widespread global resentment against us.

Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote that every nation, political system, and politician falls short of God's justice, because we are all sinners. He specifically argued that even Adolf Hitler—to whom Saddam Hussein was often compared by Bush—did not embody absolute evil any more than the Allies represented absolute good. Niebuhr's sense of ambiguity and irony in history does not preclude action but counsels the recognition of limitations and prescribes both humility and self-reflection.

And what of Bush's tendency to go it alone, even against the expressed will of much of the world? A foreign government leader said to me at the beginning of the Iraq war, "The world is waiting to see if America will listen to the rest of us, or if we will all just have to listen to America." American unilateralism is not just bad political policy, it is bad theology as well. C.S. Lewis wrote that he supported democracy not because people were good, but rather because they often were not. Democracy provides a system of checks and balances against any human beings getting too much power. If that is true of nations, it must also be true of international relations. The vital questions of diplomacy, intervention, war, and peace are, in this theological view, best left to the collective judgment of many nations, not just one—especially not the richest and most powerful one.

In Christian theology, it is not nations that rid the world of evil—they are too often caught up in complicated webs of political power, economic interests, cultural clashes, and nationalist dreams. The confrontation with evil is a role reserved for God, and for the people of God when they faithfully exercise moral conscience. But God has not given the responsibility for overcoming evil to a nation-state, much less to a superpower with enormous wealth and particular national interests. To confuse the role of God with that of the American nation, as George Bush seems to do, is a serious theological error that some might say borders on idolatry or blasphemy.

It is, of course, nonsense to pretend that George Bush does not recognize evil in himself or his nation--the reason he talks about the need to create a Culture of Life is obviously because we currently have one that is too much of Death. Meanwhile, the idea that there's something theologically unsound about using whatever resources you have at hand to fight evil is just risible. We recently reviewed a terrific novel about Esther and here's what Mordechai told her when she tried to beg off coming to the assistance of her people:
For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

We can't know if we were put here at this moment in time to fight the evil of radical Islamic terror, but we also can't weasel out of it and hope the fight and the evil pass us by.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:29 PM


Wilson Names Three Possible CIA Leakers (AP, Apr 29, 2004)

Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, has been pegged as a possible leaker of the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame to a syndicated columnist, according to accounts in a book by former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, Plame's husband.

In "The Politics of Truth," to be published Friday, Wilson says Libby is "quite possibly the person who exposed my wife's identity," according to The Washington Post, which obtained an early copy.

The vice president's office did not immediately respond Thursday to a request for comment.

Wilson writes that a "workup" of his background was done by the White House in March 2003, after his public criticism of the administration's Iraq policy.

"The other name that has most often been repeated to me in connection with the inquiry and disclosure into my background and Valerie's is that of Elliott Abrams, who gained infamy in the Iran-Contra scandal," he writes.

Infamy? Elliott Abrams has helped liberate Nicaragua and Iraq. What did Joe Wilson ever do of comparable worth?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:19 PM


Kerry campaign lacks diversity at top: Mostly white inner circle worries some observers (The Associated Press, April 29, 2004)

A lack of minority representation at the upper levels of John Kerry’s presidential campaign threatens to weaken enthusiasm among black and Hispanic voters, two core constituencies, some Democrats and advocacy groups say.

Kerry’s inner circle — the dozen or so advisers who participate in the campaign’s most important decisions — is mostly white. [...]

Census Bureau estimates show that in 2002, 81 percent of Massachusetts residents were white, 7 percent were Hispanic and 5 percent were black. Nationally, the population is about 68 percent white, 14 percent Hispanic and 12 percent black.

The problem isn't that they're too white; it's that they're too liberal. But anticipate a quota hire by next week. "Donna Brazile, please report to the office, Donna Brazile..."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:27 PM


9/11 panel interviews Bush, Cheney (Associated Press, April 29, 2004)

President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney spent more than three hours behind closed doors Thursday with the Sept. 11 commission charged with finding ways to prevent a repeat of the worst terrorist attack in American history. ``I answered every question they asked,'' Bush said.

Bush declined to disclose details of the Oval Office discussion, saying the commissioners would incorporate his and Cheney's comments in their final report, set for release about three months before the November election.

But the president, who described the meeting as "very cordial,'' said the commissioners were ``very interested in the recommendations that they're going to lay out, and I'm interested in those as well.''

If he weren't a moron that phrasing would seem an exquisite barb.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:24 PM


Specter victory credited to Bush (MICHAEL P. BUFFER, April 29, 2004, The Express-Times)

When U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter was giving his primary election victory speech about 1 a.m. Wednesday, several supporters of Lehigh Valley Congressman Pat Toomey watched Specter on a TV set in a lobby at the Holiday Inn in Fogelsville.

One upset Toomey supporter said something like this: President Bush dragged Specter's lousy rear-end across the finish line. His remark was a little less family friendly.

"It's not arguable that Specter owes his victory to President Bush," Franklin & Marshall College pollster G. Terry Madonna said. "His appearance with Specter (in Pittsburgh on April 19) was noticeable. We caught it in our polling. Wayward Republican voters came around to Specter. The appeal that the party needs you, the president needs you, proved to be the difference."

Once again the President put his own political capital and credibility on the line for the sake of the Party and once again he won. You'd have to assume that the next time he really needs the vote of Senator Specter or another congressman in a similar situation he'll have it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:40 PM


Mystery group wage war on Sadr's militia (COLIN FREEMAN, 4/29/04, The Scotsman)

FOR the past month they have been the rude young pretenders, a rag-tag slum army ruffling the quiet dignity of Iraq’s holiest city.

For every day that the United States army fails to act on its threat to crush them, the Shiite militiamen of the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have grown in confidence in their stronghold in Najaf.

Now, however, a shadowy resistance movement within might be about to succeed where the 2,500 US marines outside the city have failed.

In a deadly expression of feelings that until now were kept quiet, a group representing local residents is said to have killed at least five militiamen in the last four days.

The murders are the first sign of organised Iraqi opposition to Sadr’s presence and come amid simmering discontent at the havoc their lawless presence has wreaked.

The group calls itself the Thulfiqar Army, after a twin-bladed sword said to be used by the Shiite martyr Imam Ali, to whom Najaf’s vast central mosque is dedicated. [...]

[W]hile Iraq’s leading Shiite moderate cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has warned the US that the city border was an uncrossable "red line", he is known to share the anger of many Shiites about Sadr’s use of a holy place as a sanctuary.

Local residents, moreover, are deeply angry at how his revolt has robbed them of their livelihoods in recent weeks.

Since Sadr’s forces drove out Spanish troops this month, the tens of thousands of Shiite pilgrims who keep the city’s hoteliers, taxi drivers and restaurateurs in business have become a mere trickle.

During a visit to the city by The Scotsman last week, some residents branded Sadr "the second Saddam", claiming his followers regularly intimidate locals who speak against him.

So we should probably prepare for the flood of apologies from the ignorant folk whose feverous imaginations mistakenly perceived Sadr as leading a popular Shi'a uprising, right?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:31 PM


McDermott omits 'God' from Pledge (Amy Fagan, April 28, 2004, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Rep. Jim McDermott, Washington Democrat, yesterday did not say the words "under God" as he led the House in its daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Rep. Pete Sessions, Texas Republican, accused Mr. McDermott of "embarrassing the House" and proving that "he and those like him stand more for the liberal left than they do for our friends and neighbors."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:15 PM


  'Frontline' explores Bush's religious bent (Sandi Dolbee, April 29, 2004, San Diego Union-Tribune)

Public television tonight takes a look at "the most openly religious president in recent times."

But don't expect an hour of diatribes against President George W. Bush and his blending of faith and politics. What you'll see tonight on "Frontline," which airs at 9 p.m. on KPBS/Channel 15 with some repeats, is an evenhanded, even cautious, examination of the former Texas governor who years ago told a group of people, "I believe that God wants me to be president."

The timing of "Frontline's" documentary, titled The Jesus Factor, is compelling.

It comes just two weeks after Bush ratcheted up his religious language in a nationally televised conference and on the heels of journalist Bob Woodward's new book, which describes the president as "casting his mission and that of the country in the grand vision of God's master plan." (Not to mention Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's contention that religion should not be an issue.)

And while the show doesn't get into these most-recent forays, it does a very good job of reminding us that the president's convictions did not begin in the White House – nor did his commitment to a particular brand of Christianity.

Once you comprehend the degree to which his views and policies are shaped by his Christianity and his governing style influenced by his business background, George Bush's presidency becomes entirely predictable and obviously revolutionary.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:56 PM


Poll: Iraqis Split Over Whether Iraq Is Better Off (Reuters, April 28, 2004)

Most Iraqis believe the ouster of Saddam Hussein was "worth" the hardships they have endured since the U.S.-led invasion, but Iraqis are sharply divided over whether the country is better off, according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released on Wednesday.

Forty-two percent of Iraqis said they believe their country is better off since the invasion launched more than a year ago, while 46 percent said the war has done "more harm than good," the poll found.

The poll, with a sampling error of 1.7 percentage points, was conducted among 3,444 Iraqis throughout the country in late March and early April before the latest upsurge of violence.

In the age of 24 hour news and instant communication you don't get years to run an occupied nation, as we did after WWII.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 1:10 PM


Nortel clears decks for admiral (Mark Evans and Wojtek Dabrowski, National Post, 29/04/04)

Nortel Networks Corp. shares tumbled almost 31% yesterday after the embattled telecom equipment maker fired chief executive officer Frank Dunn and two other senior executives -- a move the company said is "particularly difficult but ... the right decision."

The surprise announcement is the latest fallout of an accounting controversy that has damaged Nortel's credibility and scuttled the positive momentum generated by the company's painful restructuring.

It also raises the possibility that after earnings are restated to wipe out a profit in the first half of 2003, the executives dismissed yesterday will have to return tens of millions of dollars in paid-out bonuses.

Mr. Dunn, chief financial officer Doug Beatty and controller Michael Gollogly were "terminated for cause." Nortel chairman Lynton Wilson would not provide specific reasons why the three executives were fired. He said Mr. Dunn's termination was "about accountability for financial accounting. That is the concern, that is the issue."[...]

William Owens, who has been a member of Nortel's board since 2002, was named Mr. Dunn's successor. Bill Kerr has been named CFO while MaryAnne Pahapill was appointed controller.

Mr. Owens, who had been vice-chairman and co-CEO with satellite operator Teledesic LLC, has an extensive military background.

The 63-year-old was vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the second-ranking military officer in the U.S. From 1990 to 1991, he served as commander of the U.S. Sixth Fleet.

One of the great things about being Canadian is you know the U.S. military will be there to fix any serious mess you get yourself into.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:44 AM


Israeli chess team invited to Libya (Ellis Shuman April 29, 2004, Israeli Insider)

Libya opened its World Chess Championship next month to "all qualified participants," including Israeli chess grandmasters. The Israeli Chess Federation is now waiting for Foreign Ministry approval to enable the Israelis to participate.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's son, Saadi, who serves as president of his country's Olympic Committee, confirmed yesterday that "all necessary organizational and security measures" would be taken at the chess championships, which will be held between June 18 and July 13 in Tripoli.

Originally the World Chess Federation (FIDE) knockout world championship was scheduled to be staged in two locations, Libya and Malta. This was mainly to accommodate Israeli players, who are not allowed to enter Libya, FIDE said.

The Libyan Olympic Committee (LOC), the local organizing body of the event, issued a press release yesterday guaranteeing entry visas to all the 128 qualified participants of the championship. Libya is sponsoring the chess championship and is putting up $1.5 million in prize money.

"This is a huge diplomatic achievement," said Israeli Chess Federation spokesman Yerach Tal following the Libyan announcement.

Saadi is a bit of an oddball--The odd case of Saadi Qaddafi and the question: Why? (Frank Bruni, November 7, 2003, NY Times)--but is very much engaged with the outside world.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:52 AM


Hooking the Gullible: Fish researchers analyze the science of a lure (Sid Perkins, 4/24/04, Science News Online)

Just about everywhere you go in the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum in Hayward, Wis., you'll find lures. On the walls and in display cases, vast arrays of fishing lures dominate the exhibits. Many of the baits mimic a fish's natural prey, such as insects, small fish, and frogs. One lure appears to be a creature straight from the Star Wars cantina. Another looks like a Ping-Pong ball–size Pacman with froglike eyes and Andy Rooney's eyebrows. Another resembles a hockey puck with an airbrushed paint job that would look at home on a 1970s muscle car. Yet another lure has the size, shape, and maybe even the hydrodynamic characteristics of a shoehorn.

"I think you could put a hook on almost anything and catch fish," says Ted Dzialo, the hall of fame's executive director.

As it turns out, hunger is only one of the factors that drives a fish to lunge for a lure. Research into fish behavior has been revealing other cues that fish find hard to resist, clues that lure designers might use to blind a fish to the sharp truth about what really awaits it on the end of a monofilament line. As for understanding what goes on in anglers' minds when they're choosing lures . . . . Well, that's another story.

The first U.S. patent for an artificial lure was issued in 1852 to Julio T. Buel. While taking a lunch break on his boat one day, Buel accidentally dropped his spoon overboard. As the shiny utensil fluttered toward the lake bottom, the Vermont angler saw a huge fish zoom from the depths and repeatedly strike at it. Buel went home, chopped up his silverware, added a few hooks, and spawned America's fishing lure industry—or so the fish tale goes.

Lures? You should see how many surface if you toss in a stick of dynamite.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:47 AM


The Torricelli Option: Will Dems dump Kerry? (High Hewitt, April 28, 2004, WorldNetDaily.com)

Don't bother looking up the rules governing nominations. There were rules in Florida, and the Florida Supreme Court tore those up when Gore needed help. There were rules in New Jersey, but when Torricelli flamed, the New Jersey Supreme Court tossed those aside. There were rules in California, and three judges ordered a halt to the recall that only went forward because the luck of an en banc draw brought sanity to the review panel.

No, the rules won't stop Kerry's recall. Only Teddy can, and the weight of the senior senator from Massachusetts shouldn't be underestimated. The Kerry campaign is his last hurrah, and the convention's in Boston, for goodness sake. What kind of a reception would follow a party that tossed Kerry onto the tracks?

Does Daschle care? Does Patty Murray? Barbara Boxer? Any of a half-dozen endangered Dem incumbents in the Senate and a score in the House? So the receiving committee is a littlie frosty and Teddy dumps them from the Christmas card list – they'll still have jobs. [....]

Bill Clinton just announced the publication date of his new memoir: Late June. How unfortunate for Kerry – Bill has to do a book tour for the month running up to the convention, sucking the air right out of an already spent balloon. Sorry, couldn't be avoided. Publisher deadlines and all.

So as Kerry melts away, there – on every television screen in the land – will be Saturday Night Bill, playing his sax, blowing his own horn, saying stuff. All sorts of stuff. Looking incredibly large, opposite the incredibly small Kerry.

Tick, tick, tick. The Torricelli Option. Coming to theaters near you this summer.

Why do we get the feeling that instead of funny straw hats the folks at the Democratic Convention will mostly be wearing black arm-bands?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:39 AM


Bing Crosby: Singer of the Century (Thomas Sowell, April 29, 2004, Jewish World Review)

May 2, 2004 will mark the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Bing Crosby, whose recorded voice continues to sing "White Christmas" every Yuletide.

Other singers who came after him, including Sinatra and Elvis, had their day but it was Bing Crosby who first put American popular songs on the map around the world. At one time, more people had heard the voice of Bing Crosby than that of any other human being.

Part of this was due to the times but much of it was due to the man himself. Bing Crosby came of age just when radio, recorded music, and motion pictures were coming of age during the 1920s and 1930s. Though he was one of many entertainers of that era, Crosby clearly became Number One — and remained so for years.

Bing Crosby's casual, even breezy, style of singing was part of the reason for his great popularity — and it influenced later singers who followed in his wake. It was a kind of singing that seemed as if anyone, amateur or professional, could do.

That was part of the greatness of his art, that it looked like it wasn't art. He didn't make a fuss about it but he made history with it. It was a little like the way Joe DiMaggio played centerfield, making it look easy, even when it was superb.

One of the great things about the trend-sucking dilettantism of popular tastes (or lack of any) in our mass culture is that the best art is generally available rather cheap. So you can probably pop into K-Mart or Wal-Mart and find a phenomenal Bing Crosby cd and a Hope and Crosby "Road" movie for a total of $15 or less. The most amusing thing about the films is that these two conventional conservatives exhausted the postmodernist/metafictional bag of tricks years before academics stumbled onto them and thought they were launching a revolution.

-INTERVIEW: Gary Giddins conversation on Bing Crosby (Jerry Jazz Musician, March 2001)
-INTERVIEW: Gary Giddins (Andrew Ford, 10/05/2003, The Music Show)
-AUDIO INTERVIEW: Jazz Critic and Writer Gary Giddins (Fresh Air, May 27, 2003)
-REVIEW: of A Pocketful of Dreams by Gary Giddins (David Hajdu, The Village Voice)
-REVIEW: of A Pocketful of Dreams by Gary Giddins (Chris Morris, LA Weekly)
-REVIEW: of A Pocketful of Dreams by Gary Giddins (Benjamin Ivry, The Christian Science Monitor)
-REVIEW: of A Pocketful of Dreams by Gary Giddins (Allen Barra, Salon)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:55 AM


Muslims for the War (Stephen Schwartz, April 29, 2004, New York Post)

[One of the New York area's most prominent Shi'a intellectuals, Dr. Masood Ali] Mirza noted his own victimization under Saddam: "I was held hostage together with my wife and daughter, and made a 'human shield' by Saddam Hussein during the first Gulf War. Thanks to President Bush and Prime Minister Blair and the brave soldiers of the Coalition forces, Iraq finally got rid of Saddam. Eradication of terrorism from the world has begun and the center stage for it is in Iraq."

Mirza described Sadr as "a hot-headed, illiterate hoodlum, despised both by the revered ayatollahs of Iraq and by more than 200 million Shi'as worldwide."

But he also touchingly related the killing of some Americans in Iraq to the deaths that began the epic struggle of Shi'a Islam 1,300 years ago: "The murder and desecration of the four civilian contractors hung from the bridge over the Euphrates River was committed in the spirit of those who ruthlessly murdered the Prophet Muhammad's grandson Imam Hussain, and his family, on the banks of the same river."

New energies are visible and audible in Shi'a Islam. They support the Coalition. It only requires a commitment to truth and the ability of politicians and media to listen for them to be understood and for their aid to be appreciated.

The fanciful notion of Sunni and Shi'a banding together against George Bush makes for happier reading in our newsrooms.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:46 AM


Material grabs more sun (Kimberly Patch, April 21/28, 2004, Technology Research News)

One way to make solar cells more efficient is to find a material that will capture energy from a large portion of the spectrum of sunlight -- from infrared to visible light to ultraviolet.

Energy transfers from photons to a photovoltaic material when the material absorbs lightwaves that contain the same amount of energy as its bandgap. A bandgap is the energy required to push an electron from a material's valence band to the conduction band where electrons are free to flow.

The trouble is, most photovoltaic materials absorb a relatively narrow range of light energy. The most efficient silicon solar cells capture about 25 percent of the sun's energy. Multijunction solar cells combine several materials to capture multiple bands of photonic energy. Today's most efficient combination -- germanium, gallium arsenide and gallium indium phosphide -- boosts efficiency to 36 percent, but is relatively difficult to make and therefore expensive.

Researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the University of California, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have engineered a single material that contains three bandgaps. The material is capable of capturing more than 50 percent of the sun's energy, said Wladek Walukiewicz, a senior staff scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The material could lead to relatively inexpensive, highly-efficient solar cells.

April 28, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:30 PM


The Population Implosion: Can America be saved? (NICHOLAS EBERSTADT, April 28, 2004, Wall Street Journal)

Both Europe and Japan...entered into "subreplacement" childbearing patterns over a generation ago and are poised for prolonged depopulation. In most developing countries, birthrates are plummeting. China's fertility is now at subreplacement levels, partly because of Beijing's antibirth programs. Other Third World countries without coercive population policies are veering toward subreplacement, too--Brazil and Iran, for example.

Elsewhere, "population explosion" stereotypes are fading. Among Arab societies--supposed "holdouts" for high-birth norms--Tunisia and Lebanon have already fallen to replacement fertility, or below. And while Paul Ehrlich may have used a taxi ride through teeming Delhi to illustrate his theme in "The Population Bomb" (1968), today's New Delhi, like most other big cities in India, no longer generates enough local births to sustain its current population numbers over the long term.

With world fertility levels down by nearly half since the early 1950s--and no end to the drop in sight--the 21st century may turn out to be an era of population decline. Curiously enough, few scholars or writers have contemplated the prospect. Now, however, Phillip Longman offers us a view of the depopulationist future--and he is alarmed by what he sees.

"The global fall in fertility," he warns in "The Empty Cradle," "is creating a world for which few individuals, and no nations, are prepared. Simply stated, this is because population growth and the human capital it creates are part of the foundation upon which modern economies, as well as modern welfare states, are built." It is true, he notes, that "the engine that created today's affluent societies" might work without population growth. But making that happen "will require thorough reengineering, and not just of the formal economy, but of the family as well." [...]

Despite its idiosyncracies, "The Empty Cradle" is an intelligent, well-researched and compelling read, if not always a persuasive one. Like the late Christopher Lasch and his communitarian devotees, Mr. Longman seeks to revitalize the family in America without recourse to patriotism or religious values. A challenging task indeed...

The culture has to go backwards if the country is to go forwards. There's no hope for Europe, but we still seem to have a pretty good chance of pulling it off.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:20 PM


Cruel Detentions: The Supreme Court considers whether the president can throw away the key. (Dahlia Lithwick, April 28, 2004, Slate)

How you feel about the indefinite military detentions of Yaser Esam Hamdi and Jose Padilla will turn largely on what you think life will look like when it starts. By "it," I mean the moment at which fundamental liberties are curtailed by well-meaning governments and the legal system becomes unable to offer relief. Never having seen "it" happen in my lifetime, I'm hardly an expert. German Jews who survived the Holocaust will tell you that it's hard to know at exactly which instant you've crossed the line into "it." Fred Korematsu, a Japanese American detained during World War II, knows what "it" looks like, and he says it looks a bit like this. Professor Jennifer Martinez, Padilla's oral advocate at the Supreme Court this morning, says we are at the line separating "it" from "not it" right now, today—as the court stands poised to decide whether "the government can take citizens off the street and lock them up in jail forever."

The detention of Japanese-Americans was a mistake because they represented no threat and were targeted merely because of FDR's racism. Had there been a serious threat of widespread sabotage in that community or had there been specific allegations and evidence against individuals, then it would have been entirely proper to round folks up. But what's most interesting about the detention is that it signaled almost nothing wider about civil liberties. It did not begin a descent into tyranny--it stands out precisely because it was an aberration.

If the Dahlia Lithwick's of the world are looking for a comparison from WWII to the current detention of enemy combatants--both these clowns and the guys at Guantanamo--they'd be more honest if they chose German,Japanese, and Confederate POWs. It seems rather unlikely that they were allowed access to the American criminal system to argue that their detentions were unjust and to the best of our knowledge not a soul has ever complained about that not to this day thinks it transgressed civil liberties.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:07 PM


Kerry's Cuban Problem: How the Democratic nominee is blowing Florida. (Ann Louise Bardach, April 26, 2004, Slate)

John Kerry looks terrified when he talks about Florida—and not without cause. The state remains firmly in the hands of a Republican governor who happens to be the president's brother, an autocratic Republican legislature, and a new secretary of state who may prove more partisan than Katharine Harris.

But what Kerry should be most worried about is the Cuban vote. If he handles his Florida campaign right, Kerry could win a much larger share of this exile constituency than the paltry 18 percent Gore won in 2000 and do as well as Clinton's 39 percent, which would make victory in the state likely. But if he keeps going the way he has been, Kerry will get fewer Cuban votes even than Gore did and in all likelihood lose the state.

Kerry's approach so far has been pandering to hard-line Cuban exiles—ineptly. In March, Kerry told a Miami TV reporter that he had voted for Helms-Burton, the 1996 legislation that further tightened the U.S. embargo on Cuba. In fact, he had voted against it. [...]

Last Sunday, on his third trip to the state, Kerry used Miami as the backdrop for his appearance on Meet the Press. Tim Russert lost no time reminding him that in 2000 he had said that the United States' Cuba policy was the woeful result "of the power of the Cuban-American lobby." Quoting Kerry, Russert said, "We have a frozen, stalemated counterproductive policy. … There's just a complete and total contradiction between the way we deal with China, the way we deal with Russia, the way we have been dealing with Cuba. … The only reason we don't re-evaluate the policy is the politics of Florida."

Mr. Kerry is an inept candidate, but he was never going to beat George Bush in any state south of Maryland.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:47 PM


Specter dodges a bullet - and so does Bush: Pennsylvania incumbent's primary win leaves wounds but bolsters GOP hopes of holding Senate. (Gail Russell Chaddock, 4/29/04, CS Monitor)

In the final hours of this race, the endorsement of the White House played heavily in the minds of Republican voters, say independent pollsters. "The national side of this race is clear: President Bush's endorsement and his visit helped turn the tide," says G. Terry Madonna of the Keystone poll at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster County.

It's possible to have honest disagreement about whether George W. Bush has a coherent policy vision that he's implementing--as we believe to be the case--but no one can argue with the fact that he is determined to make the GOP a permanent majority again. No president, at least in modern memory, has worked so assiduously to influence the party's choice of nominees in various races nor campaigned as hard for them once chosen. It is this aspect of his ambitions that makes it seem profoundly unlikely that he'll pass up the opportunity to put his own likely successor in the vice-presidential slot in 2004.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:36 PM

TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING (via Matthew Cohen & John D. Hendershot):

Miller: Legislatures Should Pick Senators (JEFFREY McMURRAY, 4/28/04, Associated Press)

Zell Miller, Georgia's maverick Democratic senator, says the nation ought to return to having senators appointed by legislatures rather than elected by voters.

Miller, who is retiring in January, was first appointed to his post in 2000 after the death of Paul Coverdell. He said Wednesday that rescinding the 17th Amendment, which declared that senators should be elected, would increase the power of state governments and reduce the influence of Washington special interests.

"The individuals are not so much at fault as the rotten and decaying foundation of what is no longer a republic," Miller said on the Senate floor. "It is the system that stinks. And it's only going to get worse because that perfect balance our brilliant Founding Fathers put in place in 1787 no longer exists."

The Constitution called for voters to directly elect members to the U.S. House but empowered state legislatures to pick senators. The aim was to create a bicameral Congress that sought to balance not only the influence of small and large states but also the influence of state and federal governments.

Miller said that balance was destroyed in 1913 with the ratification of the 17th Amendment. He has introduced a resolution, which he acknowledges has no chance of passage, to repeal the 17th Amendment and again let state legislatures pick senators.

Along with all the other Progressive initiatives tending towards more direct democracy--recall, initiative and proposition, banning of poll taxes, female suffrage--the 17th should be repealed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:24 PM


What? Morals in 'South Park'? (VIRGINIA HEFFERNAN, 4/28/04, NY Times)

[T]he real strength of "South Park" is that it flatters freethinkers by mocking Christians and Jews, including Jesus himself (a resident), along with the stand-out holy figures Buddha, Muhammad, Krishna and Laotzu. (They form a clique called Super Best Friends.)

But that stylized freethinking carries, of course, some dogma of its own. True, the boys of "South Park" — Cartman and Kyle, together with a schmo called Stan Marsh and some hangers-on — are unaffected by whatever spiritual troubles used to depress the "Peanuts" gang.

They have a more specific problem: American hypocrisy, the combination of greed and sanctimony that lets religion and would-be spirituality provide cover for rapacity. Where the "Peanuts" children were sad, the kids in "South Park" are furious and vengeful.

No wonder. They're surrounded by frauds. Cartman has a doting single mother, a Christian and hermaphrodite, who sleeps around for favors. She's indulgent and ineffectual. ("Eric is still supposed to be grounded for trying to exterminate the Jews two weeks ago.") Kyle's mother is carping, anxious, lethally meddlesome; she takes a stand to raise awareness of conjoined twins, which seems intended just to mortify the person it's supposed to help, a school nurse who has a dead fetus attached to her head. Bland Stan has a grandfather who is presented as the picture of happy longevity but begs Stan to kill him.

"South Park" consolidates the rage and humor of preadolescents, kissing up to them with gags about gas, fat and vomit. (And jokes about jokes about gas, as on "Terrance and Phillip," the long-running show within a show.) Then, armed with little more than judiciously applied censor's bleeps, permissible words like sphincter and anus and a willingness to look into digestion, the show musters an air of anarchy. Perfect for the young at heart: anarchy — but a jolly cartoon — and on basic cable.

Formerly rebellious adults may be the biggest fans of "South Park," which is predicated on the hope that it continues to offend someone, somewhere. Really to savor the show, it still helps to imagine joyless souls — repressive parents or balky advertisers, stupefied by political correctness or Christian moralism — tsk-tsk-ing in a distant living room. (Advertisers have stood by the show, even when it pushes decency standards, and parents have never mounted a serious campaign against it.) As much as it offers new jokes, "South Park" also offers a chance to defy those fantasy scolds one more time.

But in spite of this pose, "South Park" does not lay claim to bad-boy television's principle of "no learning, no hugs," the mandate Larry David laid out for "Seinfeld." "South Park" can even be overtly pious. Theology may come off as myth on it, and bigotry and self-righteousness as broadly terrible, but religion here is also a decent sweetener and civilizer.

What's more, a chord of uplift sounds at the end of many episodes. The creators, Mr. Parker and Mr. Stone, are regularly identified as libertarians and consider themselves singularly in touch with the wickedness of boyhood. But let's face it: there's learning, even hugs, on "South Park."

It's surprising, in fact, that in almost seven years viewers haven't bridled at the show's pedantry. In an episode this season crusaders in South Park lost sight of real danger when they focused on a trivial Janet Jackson-like flashing crisis. The show spelled it out: people get hung up on phony sex scandals and ignore the real problem of violence.

Two weeks ago a pedophile pop star named Michael Jefferson, who has a son named Blanket, came around to taking fatherhood seriously.

"I've been so obsessed with my childhood that I've forgotten about his," he says. "I thought having lots of rides and toys was enough, but Blanket doesn't need a playmate. He needs a father, and a normal life."

This sounds almost ingratiatingly sane. If "South Park" is one of television's great comedies, it's not great for being reckless; it's great for being a series of funny, topical parables.

Not parables but jeremiads, summoning the faithful back to the true ideals of the religion.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:16 PM

GO GIPPERS! (via Tom Morin):

Supporters Push Ronald Reagan University (T.R. Reid, April 28, 2004, Washington Post)

On the silver screen, he was a college football hero and a cheerleader. He played cadets at two different military academies. He appeared as a zoology professor in the Hollywood classic "Bedtime for Bonzo." But now America's only movie-star-turned-president may have another dramatic role in higher education: as the namesake and inspiration for Ronald Reagan University.

Backers of the ambitious plan to build a private university outside Denver that would focus on the former president's economic and diplomatic principles asked the Colorado legislature this week to endorse the idea. With a 200-acre campus site donated by a prominent Colorado Republican, the plans call for construction to begin next year and a student body of 10,000 to be in classes before the end of the decade.

"We have worked with an architect, and we think we're looking at an $850 million construction budget," said Terry Walker, a former professor and administrator at the University of Louisiana who is serving as founding president of the proposed school. "We are planning for a full-scale university, with a law school, business school and a graduate school of foreign affairs and public policy. We also want a performing arts school, to reflect the president's long movie career."

Looks like I'll be getting an MBA, honey!

Posted by Peter Burnet at 2:15 PM


I may back terror again, says Gaddafi (Robin Gedye, The Telegraph, 28/04/04)

The Libyan leader, Col Muammar Gaddafi, dented his return from pariah status on his first visit to Europe yesterday in 15 years by warning the European Union that he hoped Libya would never have to go back to supporting terrorism.

In a 45-minute harangue in Brussels, flanked by a group of photogenic women bodyguards, he will have caused anxiety to those who have welcomed him back to the fold.

"I hope that we shall not be prompted or obliged by any evil to go back or to look backwards," he said after defending his past support for militant third world freedom fighters.

"We do hope that we shall not be obliged or forced one day to go back to those days when we bombed our cars or put explosive belts around our beds and around our women so that we will not be searched and not be harassed in our bedrooms and in our homes, as it is taking place now in Iraq and in Palestine."[...]

Col Gaddafi, wearing a fez and a grey-green robe, clearly revelled in all the attention as he waved and smiled at more than 200 dancing supporters when he arrived at the commission building. After talks and lunch with Mr Prodi and a meeting with Guy Verhofstadt, the Belgian prime minister, he was to spend the night in a black Bedouin tent, complete with satellite dish, pitched in the grounds of a Belgian government residence.

When fighting to bring freedom and democracy to the Middle East, it helps to keep a long term perspective.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:06 PM


AUDIO INTERVIEW: with Thomas P. M. Barnett (Diane Rehm Show, 4/28/04)

Steve Roberts, sitting in for Ms Rehm, conducted an interview today that was as good an hour of radio as you'll ever hear. Thomas P. M. Barnett was on discussing his book The Pentagon's New Map, which essentially argues that:

Show me where globalization is thick with network connectivity, financial transactions, liberal media flows, and collective security, and I will show you regions featuring stable governments, rising standards of living, and more deaths by suicide than murder. These parts of the world I call the Functioning Core, or Core. But show me where globalization is thinning or just plain absent, and I will show you regions plagued by politically repressive regimes, widespread poverty and disease, routine mass murder, and—most important—the chronic conflicts that incubate the next generation of global terrorists. These parts of the world I call the Non-Integrating Gap, or Gap.

This simple way of looking at the war on terror--that there are Gap states that have to be integrated into the Core--helps to clarify greatly what we are about and let's us see just how doable a task it is. The combination of internal reform in the Islamic world, military intervention by the United States and the inexorable pressures if globalization should serve to fill the Gap far faster than most imagine possible. This is not to say that it will be easy or bloodless, only that it is a manageable project. Unfortunately, there is zero reason to believe that any democratic people has the patience to see such a project through. So we'll most likely be left reacting to discrete blow ups in individual nations once the window of opportunity that the President has wisely exploited slams shut.

-Thomas P. M. Barnett: Weblog
-ESSAY: The 'Core' And The 'Gap': Defining rules in a dangerous world (Thomas P. M. Barnett, November 7, 2002, Providence Journal-Bulletin)

LET ME TELL YOU why military engagement with Saddam Hussein’s regime in Baghdad is not only necessary and inevitable, but good.

When the United States finally goes to war again in the Persian Gulf, it will not constitute a settling of old scores, or just an enforced disarmament of illegal weapons, or a distraction in the war on terror. Our next war in the Gulf will mark a historical tipping point—the moment when Washington takes real ownership of strategic security in the age of globalization.

That is why the public debate about this war has been so important: It forces Americans to come to terms with I believe is the new security paradigm that shapes this age, namely, Disconnectedness defines danger. Saddam Hussein’s outlaw regime is dangerously disconnected from the globalizing world, from its rule sets, its norms, and all the ties that bind countries together in mutually assured dependence.

The problem with most discussion of globalization is that too many experts treat it as a binary outcome: Either it is great and sweeping the planet, or it is horrid and failing humanity everywhere. Neither view really works, because globalization as a historical process is simply too big and too complex for such summary judgments. Instead, this new world must be defined by where globalization has truly taken root and where it has not.

Show me where globalization is thick with network connectivity, financial transactions, liberal media flows, and collective security, and I will show you regions featuring stable governments, rising standards of living, and more deaths by suicide than murder. These parts of the world I call the Functioning Core, or Core. But show me where globalization is thinning or just plain absent, and I will show you regions plagued by politically repressive regimes, widespread poverty and disease, routine mass murder, and—most important—the chronic conflicts that incubate the next generation of global terrorists. These parts of the world I call the Non-Integrating Gap, or Gap.

Globalization’s “ozone hole” may have been out of sight and out of mind prior to September 11, 2001, but it has been hard to miss ever since. And measuring the reach of globalization is not an academic exercise to an eighteen-year-old marine sinking tent poles on its far side. So where do we schedule the U.S. military’s next round of away games? The pattern that has emerged since the end of the cold war suggests a simple answer: in the Gap.

-ESSAY: Forget Europe. How About These Allies? (Thomas P.M. Barnett, April 11, 2004, Washington Post)
-ESSAY: Global Transaction Strategy: Operation Iraqi Freedom could be a first step toward a larger goal: true globalization. (Thomas P.M. Barnett and Henry H. Gaffney Jr.)
-INTERVIEW: The U.S. Challenge in the Middle East with Thomas Barnett (The Globalist, April 26, 2004)
-ESSAY: The End of the “End of History”: 9/11 beginnings. (Mackubin Thomas Owens, September 11, 2003, National Review)
-ESSAY: Pentagon moving swiftly to become ‘GloboCop’ (Jim Lobe, Asheville Global Report)

Posted by David Cohen at 10:56 AM


Looking Through Keyholes (David Brooks, New York Times, 4/27/04)

These are the crucial months in Iraq. The events in Najaf and Falluja will largely determine whether Iraq will move toward normalcy or slide into chaos.

So how is Washington responding during this pivotal time? Well, for about three weeks the political class was obsessed by Richard Clarke and the hearings of the 9/11 commission, and, therefore, events that occurred between 1992 and 2001. Najaf was exploding, and Condoleezza Rice had to spend the week preparing for testimony about what may or may not have taken place during the presidential transition. . . .

Some people in other places may like to look through keyholes to see women in their underwear. We here in the political class like to look through keyholes to see what happens when a bunch of alpha males (and females) with the jobs we wish we held sit around a table and curse about people not in the room. After two years of Iraq obsession, many of us couldn't tell you what the Dawa Islamic Party stood for if our kids' Sidwell admissions depended upon it, but the frisson we feel hearing the nasty words Colin Powell said behind the back of Douglas Feith! C'est délicieux! . . .

Meanwhile out in the world, the American people have decided they at least are going to be serious. While we capital Clios are lost in the quagmires of ostentatious parlor game parallelism (Is Iraq Vietnam or the intifada? Is 2004 1920 all over again?), many Americans have decided that it's time to persevere and win. The number of Americans who want to increase troop levels has tripled. Many people want to stick it out, and judging by President Bush's jumping poll numbers, they seem to admire his decision not to engage with us Beltway types.

My first reaction to this column was that it is the best David Brooks column I've read in 20 years. My second reaction is that an article about how bolixed up the Washington process is, is still an article about the Washington process.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:33 AM


Why the Palestinians are in such a state: The only way the Palestinians will get any kind of state is if Israel and America inflict it on them. (Mark Steyn, 4/28/04, Jewish World Review)

[I]f Bush did "take my job", it's because [Saeb] Erekat is not up to it. For 10 years, the world has been trying to give a state to the Palestinians and the Palestinians keep tossing obstacles in their path. The latest innovation was a suicide-bomber arrested with explosives bearing HIV-infected blood, the thinking being that anyone who survived would get Aids. Unfortunately, the heat of the explosion kills the virus. But, in his combination of depravity and incompetence, the "Aids bomber" neatly encapsulates the present state of Palestinian "nationalism". The only way the Palestinians will get any kind of state is if Israel and America inflict it on them and eliminate such lethargic middle-men as Mr. Erekat.

So Sharon is withdrawing from Gaza, abandoning the settlements and building a wall. This is bad news for those Palestinians who take a more nuanced approach to Jews - who think that, if you accidentally infect yourself while strapping on the HIV bomb, you should have the right to state-of-the-art treatment from an Israeli hospital. But they'll have to make the best of it. Israel has concluded that, if you can't "live in peace" with your neighbor, the priority is to live.

What a strange world the Middle East is. For 10 years, in northern Iraq, the Kurds have run a pleasant, civilized, pluralist, democratic de facto state, but external realities require them to be denied one de jure. For the same period, in the West Bank and Gaza the Palestinian Authority's thugs, incompetents and bespoke apologists have been lavished with EU aid and transformed their land into an ugly, bankrupt Arafatist squat. But external realities require the world to defer to the "Chairman" as a de jure head of state, lacking merely a state to head.

One of the things that's most notable about this current period is just how quiet Palestine has been. The Palestinian people would certainly appear to be ready to accept a state and get on with life, even if their "leaders" aren't. They don't even seem much bothered by the assassinations of Hamas terror-mongers and one doubts they'll much mind when Sharon assassinates Arafat on Israel's way out the door.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:23 AM


Justices seem reluctant to lift veil on energy panel (GINA HOLLAND, April 28, 2004, Chicago Sun-Times)

The Supreme Court appeared troubled Tuesday by the prospect of letting the public have a look into private White House policy meetings, a hopeful sign for the Bush administration's aggressive defense of secrecy in the case of Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force.

The court is the latest stop in a nearly three-year fight over access to records of the task force that prepared a national energy strategy. The president put Cheney, a former energy industry executive, in charge and the group's recommendations were friendly to industries. Most stalled in Congress.

Raising the gravest concerns about unnecessary snooping into the executive branch was Justice Antonin Scalia, who stayed in the case despite conflict-of-interest questions relating to his friendship with Cheney. He said a president has broad authority to keep matters private.

''He has the power as an independent branch to say, 'No, this intrudes too much upon my powers. I will not do it,''' Scalia said.

Other justices also expressed concerns about a ruling that would disrupt the government's behind-the-scenes work.

At the same time, the court could disappoint the administration by deciding that the case is premature for a ruling because the lower court that ruled against the Bush administration had not worked out exactly which documents should be released. Several justices, including Sandra Day O'Connor, hinted at the possibility of such an outcome.

It's a simple separation of powers question--the Administration shouldn't even have sent anyone to argue the case, just ignored the courts. All you really need to know about this notion that private deliberations are public business is that the Justices then adjourned to a secret chamber to discuss it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:42 AM


The great divide: Can western Canada and Ottawa learn to love each other? (The Economist, Apr 1st 2004)

WHEN British Columbia joined the new Dominion of Canada in 1871, it was promised a transcontinental rail link to the Atlantic by 1883. The railway was built late, and only after the territory threatened to secede. Ever since, western Canada has tended to regard itself as a resource-rich colony, exploited by the more developed and populous east: over-taxed, and neglected by the federal parliament and its spending programmes. Notwithstanding the contempt with which westerners have historically viewed his Liberal Party, Paul Martin, prime minister since December, has vowed to address this rancour across the Rockies. Unfortunately for him, a scandal has endorsed the worst western fears about eastern politicians.

Easterners like Mr Martin often dismiss western grievances as the grumbling of fat-cat British Columbians and Albertans, or of glum Saskatchewan and Manitoba farmers. But the evidence for what sociologists call “western alienation” is compelling. The Canada West Foundation (CWF), a think-tank, last year reported a “deep-seated belief” among westerners that “the government of Canada doesn't listen [to them], doesn't understand, and doesn't care.” Last month a CWF poll found that 64.7% of westerners felt their province's interests were poorly or very poorly represented at the federal level.

Unusually for a Canadian prime minister, Mr Martin acknowledges that the syndrome exists.

How hard is the choice between being Ottawa's red-headed stepchild or New Hampshire's brother?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:16 AM


Kerry's fatal flaw (Tony Blankley, April 28, 2004, Townhall)

It would appear that John Kerry is running for president for the same reason that chickens cross to the other side of the street: Just to get there. Can anyone, including Mr. Kerry, state in one sentence why he wants to be president?

So that George Bush won't be.

That alone gets you 40% of the vote most cycles, but the presence of Ralph Nader may make it hard to get any more than that.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:10 AM


Bob Woodward's Washington: The books come and go, but the plot is always the same--vanity, duplicity, flattery, and guile. (Andrew Ferguson, 05/03/2004, Weekly Standard)

"We're urging people to buy the book," said the White House communications director, Dan Bartlett. "What this book does is show a president who was asking the right questions and showing prudence as well as resolve during very difficult times. This book undermines a lot of the critics' charges."

Well, maybe it does, but the sight of a White House humping a Woodward book is an interesting development all by itself. I'm showing my age, but I remember when Republicans hated Bob Woodward. It all began with Watergate, of course, when Woodward and his partner Carl Bernstein dragged the bloodied body of Richard Nixon from the White House and martyred him on the front page of the Post. Hostilities intensified with a book about the Iran-contra scandal, Veil, in which Woodward claimed to have snagged a deathbed interview with William Casey, Ronald Reagan's director of central intelligence. Though few people could translate Casey's mumbles even when he was healthy, Woodward said he palavered with the old spook as he lay in a hospital room, wreathed in tubes and half-paralyzed from a stroke. By his account, Woodward asked Casey why he had orchestrated the scandal, and (said Woodward) Casey said: "I believed."

Republicans didn't. By the late 1980s, in that pitiless, binary ledger kept by Washington's professional conservatives, Woodward was the enemy.

Then, suddenly, it appeared that Woodward was becoming more--um, objective. The Commanders, Woodward's behind-the-scenes account of the Gulf War, showed a masterly George H.W. Bush manipulating the geopolitical map like Kasparov at a chessboard, faithfully attended by Powell, Dick Cheney, and America's Metternich, James Baker III. In The Man Who Would be President, Woodward teamed up with David Broder to sketch a portrait of Dan Quayle as a Hoosier Pericles. Really, Dan Quayle. The Choice and The Agenda, Woodward's backstage peeks at Bill Clinton's White House, did as much as any piece of Gingrichian agitprop to solidify that administration's reputation as a clownshow of fops and incompetents.

Hey, thought Republicans: Maybe we've been a little hard on old Bob. And of course they had.

In fact, Bob Woodward will likely be seen in retrospect as one of the most important conservatives of the pasty few decades.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM


U.N. Envoy Seeks New Iraq Council by Close of May (WARREN HOGE, 4/28/04, NY Times)

The special United Nations envoy for Iraq, offering a speeded-up timetable for the selection of a caretaker government in Baghdad, said Tuesday that the new government should be chosen a full month before sovereignty is transferred on June 30 to give it time to define its authority.

Addressing the Security Council, the envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, said the month would be necessary for the transitional leaders to reach "crystal-clear understandings" of their relationship to the occupation authority they would replace and to the American military commanders who are to remain in charge of Iraqi security forces.

In his first extensive public comments since outlining his plans for an interim government earlier this month, Mr. Brahimi also said the occupants of the government's top posts should insulate themselves from partisan activity by agreeing not to be candidates in national elections next year.

Although he did not say so specifically, that seemed to rule out a role in the caretaker government for prominent Iraqis now in the American-picked Iraqi Governing Council, including the heads of political parties who are expected to contest the June 2005 elections.

Though the Left and the neocons want to slow the process and keep us there until November or forever, respectively, the process should instead be speeded up.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:07 AM


Specter ekes out win in Pa. Senate race (AP, 4/27/04)

Moderate Republican Sen. Arlen Specter beat back a tough primary threat, barely defeating a conservative congressman who lacked support from party leaders but gained momentum by casting the four-term incumbent as too liberal.

The full-moon Right takes one on the chin.

April 27, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:54 PM


The Muslim Renovatio and U.S. Strategy (Michael Vlahos, 04/27/2004, Tech Central Station)

[T]here is a third explanatory model, and it exposes what is wrong with the two prevailing frameworks. This model describes neither terrorism nor civil war, but rather a "world-historical" movement of Islamic revival. Terrorism in this reality-framework is an expression neither of criminal evil nor of an evil vision. Rather, violent radical elements are only a small part of a much broader movement for Islamic restoration, or in the traditional sense inherited from Late Antiquity, of renovatio. Renovatio, or another Roman favorite, reparatio, speaks more directly to Islamist visions than words like "revival," which in the Western consciousness at least refer more narrowly to simpler religious "awakenings." For Muslims at least, their vision is one of an entire order restored, of not simply religion but of an entire, "rightly guided" way of life brought back as it should be. For a generation and more the drive for this Islamic restoration has been gathering strength and asserting itself.

This alternative model suggests that terrorism cannot be truly abstracted as a separate phenomenon within the Muslim World, but instead must be seen as part of a bigger change movement within that world. Likewise, there is no civil war between mythical "moderates" - meaning "reasonable" Muslims who just want to live and let live - and wild-eyed "radicals" who would burn it all down. In contrast the larger Islamist restoration movement seeks to purify the Muslim World of corrupt and apostate tyrants. The movement has many elements and agendas, and thus many paths to this goal. Like many broad movements with revolutionary goals, most are non-violent. The example of Islamists in Egypt and Turkey suggests that the majority of Islamists seek their goals through peaceful means, and the world they would create is couched in surprisingly moderate and tolerant terms.

But the goal shared by all Islamists is nonetheless a radical goal. The restoration of Islam would mean an end to Western style secular civil society in the Muslim World, even if it led to an Islamic civil society that Westerners might not find uncomfortable.

If this model is closer to actual "reality" in the Muslim World than the two frameworks currently underpinning US strategy and policy, it suggests strongly a rethinking of both strategy and policy. If the Islamist restoration movement is the core dynamic of change within the Muslim World, and truly of world-historical proportions, this suggests a very changed world, admittedly over the historical long term. [...]

[H]ow can we know whether the Islamist renovatio is truly the core dynamic of change in the Muslim World, as opposed to either terrorism - a criminal assault on the Muslim establishment - or civil war - the vision of radical Islam versus the life of "regular" Muslim societies?[iv] This alternative model must be more deliberately explored before it can openly compete with our current explanatory frameworks. This cannot be done in a single paper or through simple argument. Instead it is proposed here that to test this third model, we should ask four questions:

* What is the Islamist movement - and what is its political strength?
* What is the role of fighting groups in a broader Islamist movement?
* What is the historical trajectory of the Islamist movement?
* What is the role of the United States in this prospective big change?

What follows then is a suggestion of how we might go about thinking through these questions, if not actually "answering" them. Think of it as a critical hypothesis to be tested. [...]

In Iran the revolution slowly lost the fervent support, and then even the loyalty of its own people. Islam can perhaps best be understood - in contrast to religious life in the modern West - as a complete "blueprint for life." Thus its success both for the individual and society depends on inner motivation and collective participation. The Islamic Republic of Iran, Abdo argues, reduced Islam to mere ideology, a set of rules enforced from above by the state. Rather than a way of life shared by all, and defended by all, Islam became just another recipe for state tyranny.

Thus radical Islam failed to take formal control in the Muslim World; and where it did, including places like Afghanistan, it failed effectively to lead. Thus commentators like Judith Miller declared Islamism in steep decline at century's end.

But there was another quieter brand of Islamist making real headway at the same time. These are non-violent Islamists, what some call "moderate Islamists," but whose beliefs and goals might be better served by Raymond Baker's term, "New Islamists." The success of the New Islamist movement in Egypt suggests a strong alternative path - for an Islamic renovatio achieved without violent struggle. This path may be important now more than ever, given the failure of radical Islamist struggles.

Egypt is important because it represents the heart of the Arab-Sunni World. It is also at the core of Islamism. Radical Islamists attempted to overthrow the regime in the 1990s and were contained. But Islamist thinkers - like Qtub - who themselves were non-violent were also imprisoned and even executed, as though they were radical fighters.

Yet Islamists in Egypt have still managed to bring the rest of society to their vision. Even if the corrupt Mubarak regime still rules, the heart of the people is with the Islamists. The regime acknowledges this in its genuflection to the Islamist message.

But one of the most telling aspects of this evolution in Egyptian society is not so much that the New Islamists succeeded where the radicals had failed, but rather that both the radicals and the state unconsciously conspired to solidify and legitimate the New Islamists. On one hand, the radicals alienated Muslim society through the viciousness of their violence, which at the same time exposed their inability to topple the state. But the state, for its part, showed itself to be incapable of addressing the urgent needs of society that had given the radicals their authority - among the people - to make change in the first place.

This is a prevailing theme in Islamic tradition, and one apropos to the possibility of Islamism as a world-historical movement. The state in Islam traditionally was never vested with the responsibility for regulating and sustaining civil society. Rather, Islam itself through the Ulama took on that role. In Egypt today it is the New Islamists that have come to represent the leadership of society.

In contrast to Iran, this is an Islamic revolution from the bottom up and achieved without violent insurgency. The New Islamists may not yet wield formal political power, but their aims certainly follow that trajectory. [...]

[A]s a hypothetical excursion, let us say that Islamism - the prospect of an Islamic renovatio - is assured. If this, then, represents the future to be, what would that tell us about what we are experiencing today?

Looking back it would suggest that what is happening today - including the specter of terrorism - is part of an unfolding grand narrative. Of course this is not a story that anyone in the West can accept. It is however exactly what Muslims everywhere - whether or not they support radical violence - look to as the future. The compelling question for us: who is right?

Even if this war comes to form a "grand narrative" its outcome will undoubtedly in the end please no one. Yet it may be useful to posit a grand narrative, in the sense of a big historical story full of upheaval and change. After all there are some well-known examples of historical big change, full of people and ideas in conflict.

There is in fact a favorite comparison already: the Protestant Reformation. "Islam has not yet had its Reformation," we all declare. [...]

Of course this comparison suggests that big change in Islam is only beginning. And also, it elides the fact that the good changes - like modern democracy - came only after a century and more of bitter war.[...]

[P]uritanical (or fundamentalist or radical) Islamism may succeed even if, or perhaps even because it is defeated. It will succeed if it opens up space for creative change within Islam, and if it prevents the imposition of Western values on the Muslim World. Likewise, American success in the mid-term in bringing democratic change to Islam may in fact be the catalyst for renewed resistance - and resistance not confined simply to radical groups, but a universal rising against us. It was after all Hapsburg-Catholic success in the Counter-Reformation that ultimately forced the new Protestant North to come together, that brought conflict to a head and insured the survival of the very cause it sought so strenuously to eradicate. [...]

If US war aims seek to create a democratic consensus in the Muslim World, there is little room in this vision even for the New Islamist. The current US paradigm of democracy demands the creation of a secular civil society in the American manner. There is absolutely no room in US Iraq planning for an Islamic Republic, even along the relatively tolerant and pluralistic lines of New Islamist thought.

Furthermore, current US policy seems unaware that its secular democratic paradigm is unacceptable to Islamists. To them it represents a form of religious conversion and threatens the very possibility of achieving a "rightly guided" Islamic way of life in Muslim societies. To the contrary, American policymakers and strategists tend to see all Islamists as unreconstructed medieval men. What is missing is an ability to properly differentiate between fiery radicals and very much more thoughtful New Islamists.

This is an exceptionally good essay that we excerpt at greater length than our usual policy to get some sense of its fullness, but be sure to follow the link and read the whole thing.

Perhaps the most interesting way to approach the argument here is to reverse the entire thing and look at the Renavatio in the West. Well, really it's just in America, but that's the point. Just as the kind of totalitarianism that Islam has tended to require inevitably fails, so too does secularism as excessive as that adopted by most of our allies--and nearly by us, until the reversal came in 1980. What the conservative movement in America has been about for some time now and what has been greatly accelerated by President Bush is the project to diminish the state and restore the centrality of civil society--and with it the domination of daily life by religion.

Critics who perceive some inkling of this grand project will sometimes worry that it is an attempt to move America towards theocracy--nothing could be farther from the truth. It is a far more radical endeavor, seeking not to gain access to state powers but to remove power from the State. Thus creation of a "culture of life" to restore the rights that pre-exist the State; tax cuts to bleed the State of revenue; an Opportunity Society to make men independent of government as regards health and retirement; school vouchers to break the State monopoly on education; the Faith-Based Initiative to return the provision of social services back to churches and charities; etc.; etc.; etc...

In effect, conservatism in America is attempting something not too different from what Mr. Vlahos credits New Islamists with attempting. The question as regards Islam is: do the New Islamists understand that it is best for them to eschew governmental power and allow both government and economics to be relatively secular and quite free? Or are they destined to establish totalitarianism? The rapidity with which the Iranian experiment with totalitarianism collapsed would seem to give us some reason to hope that its example can generally be avoided in the future.

The question as regards America is: can the secular State, once created, successfully have its powers devolved back to civil society? Or are we destined to keep sliding into the same kind of suicidal secular decline that we see in Europe? The coming election will go some considerable distance to determining whether the counter-revolution will continue.

What both groups are groping towards is pretty much the republicanism of the Founders, with a fairly minimalist, somewhat liberal, kind of democratic central government but then a tightly knit civil society that depends for its continued health on the virtue of its citizenry. It may be that this is too high a wire for men to walk, too fine a balance to strike, but we've seen that the alternative extremes are disastrous, so what other choice do we really have but to try to make the American experiment work?

Horror and humiliation in Fallujah (Spengler, 4/27/04, Asia Times)

Analysts unfriendly to the Muslim world speak of a "pride-and-honor culture", in which the prickliness of the Arab street regarding the Palestine issue and so-called honor killings are supposed manifestations of the same social traits. There is another way to look at the matter. Among the world's religions Christianity and Islam alone have the capacity for mass absorption of converts from different races and ethnic groups. It is hard to tell which of the two is growing faster. One of them will be the world's dominant religion in the 21st century. There is a radical difference between Islamic and Christian conversion. Both seek to supercede Judaism, but in different ways. Christianity offers a New Israel, called out from among the nations by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Because God's love for mankind is the premise of the New Israel, there is a limit to Christian tolerance for bloodshed. To propose open genocide, the Nazis had to repudiate Christianity and embrace paganism only.

The Christian's participation in the vicarious sacrifice of the Cross offers salvation at the end of the soul's journey. Christian practice puts enormous effort into sustaining the conviction of the promise of the Kingdom of Heaven: prayers, hymns, cathedrals, paintings, and so forth. No such concept of individual spiritual transformation exists in mainstream Islam. The individual submits wholly to Allah, who controls all things without qualification. That is Islam's enormous strength; the individual believer can leave behind the carping self-doubt of the Christians. For the same reason, however, setbacks to the Ummah are a challenge to the faith of every believer, for all events are in the hands of Allah, not those who have submitted to His will. Success therefore is a theological necessity for Islam. Humiliation for Jews and Christians is a chastisement from God; did not Christ accept His humiliation on the cross? For Islam, humiliation is a refutation of the faith itself.

For a generation, Western policy towards the Muslim world has emphasized deference towards Muslim sensibilities, the Bush White House emphatically included. It does not occur to Muslim radicals that their enhanced status in the Islamic world might prompt the West to undertake the opposite, namely to humiliate some aspects and some leaders of Islam, if not the religion itself. The Islamists' vision of the future is audacious, as Dr Mansoor recounts:

Irrespective of their color, religion, or culture, we can see that their foothold and leadership methods are taking hold. This has been transferred across the world to China, South America, the Middle East, the Far East, South Asia, as well as the Central Asian republics. The general dismay coupled with the dividing lines of rich and poor in the world and the complexities of culture and capitalism are allowing their message to gain ground steadily. This means more recruits, more audacious plans in the pipeline, and even more difficulty in using third generation forces to counter fourth generation asymmetric threats which appear and disappear like ghosts. The question for me is not the method of implementation, widely regarded as terrorism, throughout the world. This has always been in existence. The question for me is the message and why it is so blindingly powerful. The message provides the impetus to the heart, and perception drives the mind into the court of the Islamist.

Again, the opposite may be the case. Muslims of different ethnicity and sect are more likely to fall out when the credibility of the Islamists suffers a reverse. During the past week, the United States has for the first time humiliated the Islamic world openly and without compunction, in the small matter of the West Bank settlements. If it continues in this direction, Dr Mansoor's scenario may not work out as he expects.

The temptation to apocalyptic thinking is always a danger. It's really a sign of our own desire for self-importance: sure there are billions of us and I'm just a cipher, but I was there when we blew the joint up. Behind the hysterical fears of nuclear holocaust during the Cold War was a devout wish for it to happen and give our lives significance, however briefly. Likewise, folks now want a final showdown between the West and Islam.

The reality is far more mundane, a certainty that Islam will evolve towards the model of liberal democracy, because that is the only system that allows enough freedom in economics and politics for affluence to develop and people to be financially secure. In this regard Islam is just like the other universalist ideologies that Mr. Spengler ignores--communism, Nazism, socialism, secularism--which have failed so spectacularly and been forced either out of existence or to the brink. The difference is that Islam can remain a perfectly valid set of beliefs around which to arrange the rest of society.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:28 PM


Hillary Blasts Bush in Arab Press (NewsMax, April 27, 2004)

Sen. Clinton delivered the unprecedented attack in an interview with the London-based Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat on Monday, with newspapers from Tehran to Islamabad picking up her harsh words almost immediately.

Typical was the coverage by Tehran's news agency Mehr, which quoted Clinton as saying that "the U.S. is trapped in the quagmire of Iraq."

"Referring to the Bush Administration policies as arrogant and insolent," Mehr said, "the wife of the former U.S. president further added that Bush is not willing to admit his mistakes in Iraq, the grave mistakes that have endangered the lives of both the Iraqi people and the U.S. servicemen alike."

Well, that seems ill-advised.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 9:31 PM


UN apologists remain silent on oil scandal (James Morrow, The Australian, 28/04/04)

The editorial decision to turn a blind eye to the story puts the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) in good company with other Western news outlets, most of which have taken a see-no-evil approach to one of the biggest corruption scandals in modern history: the systematic purchasing of friends and allies by the Iraqi dictator.

The scheme was elegant in its simplicity, but huge in scale. From 1996 to 2003, Iraq's government was allowed to sell some of its oil through a UN program and, theoretically, buy food and medicine for its citizens.

But any humanitarian goods that were purchased with this money were doled out to Baath party supporters, while the rest of the cash went to building Saddam's lavish palaces and maintaining his terrifying security apparatus.

Far worse was the abuse of oil given to "non-end users" (that is, not sold to refineries and petroleum companies). Documents found in Iraq's old ministry of oil reveal that hundreds of prominent individuals received vouchers to buy Iraqi oil at cut-rate prices and sell it on the open market -- at tremendous, often seven-figure, profits.

Those named include not just Sevan but a vast array of Russian politicians, close friends of French President Jacques Chirac (including France's former minister of the interior), British Labour MP George Galloway, former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter and, closer to home, Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri. [...]

But by far the biggest recipient of Saddam's largesse was the UN. During the program's existence, more than $US1 billion was kept by the organisation as a fee for administering the program. As one senior UN diplomat recently told London's Daily Telegraph: "The UN was not doing this work just for the good of Iraq. Cash from Saddam's government was keeping the UN going for a few years."

Amazingly, though, it has taken an incredible amount of time for this story to get what little traction it has so far gained in the media. (Certainly the anti-war Left, which is happy to believe that George W. Bush toppled Saddam to kick a few contracts to Dick Cheney's old pals at Halliburton, has been deafeningly silent on the topic.)

Perhaps because of all the DIY international lawyering engaged in by the world press corps in the run-up to Iraq's invasion, many journalists are reluctant to admit that the UN they put so much faith in was many times more corrupt than they could imagine the Bush White House being.

Or maybe they just don't want to admit that so many of the anti-war voices they used to support their stories were bought and paid for with money belonging to the long-suffering, if little-mentioned, Iraqi people.

But the naive belief among journalists with little or no international law background that no military action is legitimate without the UN's seal of approval is one thing. The continued fetishistic belief of politicians and opinion-makers in the supposed good intentions of the UN is another -- and it is something that needs to end immediately.

The Left did say that it was all about oil.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:23 PM


Melting pot stirred in land of Betty Crocker: As a wave of Hmong refugees heads for St. Paul, their predecessors prepare to help them adjust. (Amanda Paulson, 4/28/04, CS Monitor)

Outside states with significant Hmong populations - California, Wisconsin, and North Carolina, along with Minnesota - few Americans know of the group. But in the annals of refugee stories, theirs is particularly compelling.

Originally from China, most Hmong migrated to Laos nearly 300 years ago. During the Vietnam War, many worked for the CIA to fight the communists who had taken control of Laos. After the war, they fled, often hiding for years in the jungles. Talk to any Hmong over age 40, and you are likely to hear stories of jungle battles, desperate trips across the Mekong, and relatives who died along the way. Since the first wave of refugees arrived in 1976, perhaps 150,000 have come here. Those left behind were often afraid to come, or hoped they'd return to their home.

Today, St. Paul's University Avenue is lined with Hmong restaurants, grocery stores, and gift shops. There are Hmong representatives on the school board and in the state legislature. But the assimilation hasn't been easy. Many are illiterate; their language didn't exist in written form until a few decades ago. Even Xiong, who owns several businesses and four buildings, has never learned to read or write. Polygamy, common among Hmong, was a challenge, and authorities decided to break up some families. And the Hmong have higher poverty and unemployment rates than other Southeast Asian minorities.

Some experts worry that next wave of immigrants will face still more challenges. Years in a camp with no UN presence has meant little or no healthcare. More than half the camp's population is 14 or younger, and many have never been to school. Without formal residency status, few have been able to work, beyond making crafts to sell to relatives in America.

There's no doubt that their arrival will put a strain on city services, acknowledges St. Paul Mayor Randy Kelly. "It really couldn't come at a worse time for local government, because of the downturn in the economy. With state budget deficits and the cutback in local government aid, local governments are stretched pretty thin."

Mayor Kelly has heard from a lot of unhappy residents, but he's also accepted what is ultimately a federal decision - while actively lobbying for federal assistance. Housing will be especially tough, he says, but he hopes the fact that nearly half of established Hmong own homes - more than any other minority - will provide some relief.

Having betrayed them we hardly deserve to have them come here, but we're lucky they do.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:58 PM


Jordan Airs Confessions of Al-Qaida Suspects Who Allegedly Planned Bomb and Poison Gas Attacks (Jamal Halaby, 4/26/04, Associated Press)

Al-Qaida plotted bombings and poison gas attacks against the U.S. Embassy and other targets in Jordan, two conspirators said in a confession aired Monday on Jordanian state television.

Azmi al-Jayousi, identified as the head of the Jordanian cell of al-Qaida, appeared Monday in a 20-minute taped program and described meeting Jordanian militant Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi in neighboring Iraq to plan the foiled plot. [...]

"I have pledged loyalty to Abu-Musab to fully be obedient and listen to him without discussion," al-Jayousi said in the Jordanian television segment. He said he first met al-Zarqawi in Afghanistan, where al-Jayousi said he studied explosives, "before Afghanistan fell." He said he later met al-Zarqawi in Iraq, but was not specific about when.

We've been rather skeptical about the purported direct ties between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, but no one even denies that al-Zargawi was in Baghdad in May 2002. If the two stories join up at that point then one more objection to the war goes down the tubes.

Saddam's WMD Have Been Found (Kenneth R. Timmerman, April 26, 2004, Insight)

New evidence out of Iraq suggests that the U.S. effort to track down Saddam Hussein's missing weapons of mass destruction (WMD) is having better success than is being reported. Key assertions by the intelligence community that were widely judged in the media and by critics of President George W. Bush as having been false are turning out to have been true after all. But this stunning news has received little attention from the major media, and the president's critics continue to insist that "no weapons" have been found.

In virtually every case - chemical, biological, nuclear and ballistic missiles - the United States has found the weapons and the programs that the Iraqi dictator successfully concealed for 12 years from U.N. weapons inspectors.

The Iraq Survey Group (ISG), whose intelligence analysts are managed by Charles Duelfer, a former State Department official and deputy chief of the U.N.-led arms-inspection teams, has found "hundreds of cases of activities that were prohibited" under U.N. Security Council resolutions, a senior administration official tells Insight. "There is a long list of charges made by the U.S. that have been confirmed, but none of this seems to mean anything because the weapons that were unaccounted for by the United Nations remain unaccounted for."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:35 PM


"A reactionary king of Piedmont-Sardinia became almost a figure of fun by wandering about mumbling pathetically the word 'ottantott,' Italian for '88. Thereby he meant to say: all problems would vanish if only the world turned its clock back to 1788, the year before the [French] Revolution."
-Peter Viereck (1916-), Conservatism: from John Adams to Churchill (1956)

-POEM: Kilroy (Peter Viereck)
-POEM: Unthings (Peter Viereck)
-EXCERPTS: from The Unadjusted Man: A New Hero for the Americans: Reflections on the Distinction between Conforming and Conserving (Peter Viereck)
-ESSAY: Peter Viereck: Reconciliation and Beyond (Michael A. Weinstein, 1997, HUMANITAS)
-ESSAY: George Sylvester Viereck: Poet and Propagandist (NIEL M. JOHNSON, November 1968, Books at Iowa)
-REVIEW: of Tide and Continuities: Last and First Poems 1995-1938, by Peter Viereck (Michael A. Weinstein, HUMANITAS)

The liberal sees outer, removable institutions as the ultimate source of evil; sees man’s social task as creating a world in which evil will disappear. His tools for this task are progress and enlightenment. The conservative sees the inner unremovable nature of man as the ultimate source of evil; sees man’s social task as coming to terms with a world in which evil is perpetual and in which justice and compassion will both be perpetually necessary. His tools for this task are the maintenance of ethical restraints inside the individual and the maintenance of unbroken, continuous social patterns inside the given culture as a whole. Hence, the conservative distrusts direct democracy, unrestrained and unpatterned.
-Peter Viereck, The Unadjusted Man: A New Hero for Americans (1956)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:06 PM

THE DRAFT DODGER (via Bruce Cleaver):

John Kerry Must Go: Note to Democrats: it's not too late to draft someone-anyone-else (James Ridgeway , April 27th, 2004, Village Voice)

With the air gushing out of John Kerry's balloon, it may be only a matter of time until political insiders in Washington face the dread reality that the junior senator from Massachusetts doesn't have what it takes to win and has got to go. As arrogant and out of it as the Democratic political establishment is, even these pols know the party's got to have someone to run against George Bush. They can't exactly expect the president to self-destruct into thin air. [...]

What to do? Look for the Dem biggies, whoever they are these days, to sit down with the rich and arrogant presumptive nominee and try to persuade him to take a hike. Then they can return to business as usual--resurrecting John Edwards, who is still hanging around, or staging an open convention in Boston, or both.

Well, it can't be any worse for Bob Shrum than having to withdraw New Coke.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:18 PM


Kerry rejects medals dispute: Challenges Bush on Guard record (Patrick Healy, 4/27/04, Boston Globe)

Even his endorsement by the United Mine Workers of America, outside a coal mine near Wheeling, W.Va., was overshadowed by his appearance on ABC after ''Good Morning America" aired the 1971 footage. Kerry appeared on the program from the mine site, scrapping tensely with interviewer Charlie Gibson, who at one point intimated that the medals controversy might derail Kerry's presidential bid. When the segment was over, Kerry turned to two aides and complained, "God, they're doing the bidding of the Republican National Committee."

Kerry appeared a little reserved as he shook hands with mine workers and accepted a gift, a gold-colored "safety lamp" that miners use to determine whether there is enough oxygen in a mine.

When Ronald Reagan got busted by an open mike he was doing exactly what you'd think he might: joking about nuking Russia.

When George Bush and Dick Cheney got busted, they too sounded like their public personae: exchanging locker room humor about a Timesman.

John Kerry has been busted twice now and in both instances has been whining like a girl.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 4:01 PM


Bring back DDT: Eco-imperialism is killing African children (Margaret Wente, Globe and Mail, 27/04/04)

Who could possibly object to Earth Day, that benign occasion on which we are encouraged to throw away our pesticides, clean up our environment, and contemplate the damage we have done to Mother Earth?

Niger Innis, for one.

Mr. Innis is neither a shill for industry nor a raging neo-con. He is the spokesman for the Congress of Racial Equality, a leading African-American advocacy group, and last week he and other black activists got together to explain exactly what is wrong with Earth Day.

"We must stop trying to protect our planet from every imaginable, exaggerated or imaginary risk. And we must stop trying to protect it on the backs, and the graves, of the nation's and world's most powerless and impoverished people," he said.

Perhaps you didn't notice, but hard on the heels of Earth Day came Africa Malaria Day. Earth Day got more coverage, and that's a shame, because malaria is as big a scourge as AIDS, maybe worse. Malaria kills two million people a year and ravages economies. In Africa, a child dies of malaria every 30 seconds, and many who don't die suffer brain damage.

But we've been blinded by environmental paternalism. And so we're standing back and watching.

The problem is our irrational aversion to DDT, which, in the popular imagination, is the most toxic pesticide known to man. So allergic are we to DDT that the World Health Organization will not fund its use, and most agencies are pushing for a ban worldwide. This, despite massive evidence that DDT as it is used today does no harm to people or the environment -- and saves lives.

"Our position is that DDT is perhaps the most effective, inexpensive way to wipe out malaria," Mr. Innis told me. "What's outrageous to us is that African countries aren't even being allowed to have the option of using it."[...]

Black leaders say that our prejudice against DDT amounts to ecological imperialism. But this brand of imperialism is even more insidious than the old kind, because it's done in the name of the weak. As Mr. Innis puts it, First World environmentalists have saddled the Third World with debt and death.

Foreign aid, socialist planning, drought relief, land reform, sex education and environmentalism. How much more Western charity can Africans take before the last one is killed off in agonized gratitude?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:12 PM


Attacked, Expelled, Ignored (NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF, 4/25/04, NY Times Magazine)

The Darfur region of western Sudan is one of the most remote and inhospitable places on earth, which makes it an ideal place to get away with ethnic cleansing. Since late last year, an Arab militia called the Janjaweed has killed thousands of darker-skinned non-Arabs and driven about one million from their homes. Most of the refugees are still in Sudan, many of them in squalid camps, the children dying of malnutrition and measles. An additional 110,000 refugees have crossed into Chad. Even there they are not safe: the Janjaweed regularly raid across the border.

The killing here is not about religion, as it is elsewhere in Sudan. It is largely about race and ethnicity -- and the age-old tension between nomadic herdsmen and settled farmers.

As always, racism is a far more powerful impulse to kill than religion is a restraint.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:06 PM


Fresh threats in 'al-Qaeda' tape (Paul Wood, 4/27/04, BBC)

A message claiming to be from al-Qaeda says it is not to blame for a suicide car bomb attack in Riyadh last week.

The tape does however warn of "fierce" attacks in 2004 against American and other western targets.

The tape, which can be heard on an Islamist website, says the attack on a police centre was a consequence of the Saudi rulers' "infidel policies.

Last week was the first time that the Saudi state has been directly targeted as opposed to a foreign target.

The tape says the Saudi royal family and its alliances with Christians and Jews was the reason for the attack.

Americans, Jews and "Crusaders", as western troops are called, will continue to be targeted by al-Qaeda, the tape says.

"This year, God willing, will be fiercer and harsher for them," it concludes.

Why is it that if it looks like America is going to war all these human shields turn up and offer their services to the dicators but when the West is threatened with murderous attacks the same peace activists are nowhere to be found? Why don't liberal clergymen surround our embassies all over the world to shield them from attack?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:00 PM


U.S. Troops, Insurgents Battle Near Najaf: Bulk of 64 Dead Are Militiamen Loyal to Moqtada Sadr (Karl Vick and Fred Barbash, April 27, 2004, Washington Post)

U.S. troops killed more than 60 insurgents in an overnight battle near Najaf but steered well clear of the city itself, avoiding a perilous confrontation in a stronghold of Iraq's militant Shiite rebels.

Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the chief U.S. military spokesman, took pains to note that early reports of the fighting had "mischaracterized" it as being in the city, parts of which are considered sacred to Shiite Muslims across the globe.

Most of the dead, he said, were militiamen loyal to Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr, who has taken refuge in Najaf, 90 miles south of Baghdad. But American troops never crossed the Euphrates River into Najaf, he stressed.

For ease of identification later, the Mahdi Army, before going into battle, rather than put on dog tags, should tie on toe tags.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:42 PM


Bush-League Lysenkoism: The White House bends science to its will (The Editors, 4/26/04)

Starting in the 1930s, the Soviets spurned genetics in favor of Lysenkoism, a fraudulent theory of heredity inspired by Communist ideology. Doing so crippled agriculture in the U.S.S.R. for decades. You would think that bad precedent would have taught President George W. Bush something. But perhaps he is no better at history than at science.

In February his White House received failing marks in a statement signed by 62 leading scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, 19 recipients of the National Medal of Science, and advisers to the Eisenhower and Nixon administrations. It begins, "Successful application of science has played a large part in the policies that have made the United States of America the world's most powerful nation and its citizens increasingly prosperous and healthy. Although scientific input to the government is rarely the only factor in public policy decisions, this input should always be weighed from an objective and impartial perspective to avoid perilous consequences.... The administration of George W. Bush has, however, disregarded this principle."

Just in case you thought science wasn't a religion, here's a special pleading that it be treated like an Orthodox Church of America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:36 PM


The Myth of the Beginning of Time (Gabriele Veneziano, 4/26/04, ScientificAmerican.com)

The unavoidable singularity poses serious problems for cosmologists. In particular, it sits uneasily with the high degree of homogeneity and isotropy that the universe exhibits on large scales. For the cosmos to look broadly the same everywhere, some kind of communication had to pass among distant regions of space, coordinating their properties. But the idea of such communication contradicts the old cosmological paradigm.

To be specific, consider what has happened over the 13.7 billion years since the release of the cosmic microwave background radiation. The distance between galaxies has grown by a factor of about 1,000 (because of the expansion), while the radius of the observable universe has grown by the much larger factor of about 100,000 (because light outpaces the expansion). We see parts of the universe today that we could not have seen 13.7 billion years ago. Indeed, this is the first time in cosmic history that light from the most distant galaxies has reached the Milky Way.

Nevertheless, the properties of the Milky Way are basically the same as those of distant galaxies. It is as though you showed up at a party only to find you were wearing exactly the same clothes as a dozen of your closest friends. If just two of you were dressed the same, it might be explained away as coincidence, but a dozen suggests that the partygoers had coordinated their attire in advance. In cosmology, the number is not a dozen but tens of thousands--the number of independent yet statistically identical patches of sky in the microwave background.

In the beginning was the word...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:28 PM


(via Kevin Whited):
A Need to Act on Burma (John McCain and Madeleine Albright, April 27, 2004, Washington Post)

The world's democracies have a common moral obligation to promote justice and freedom. In few places is this obligation more acute than in Burma, a country in which a band of thugs, led by Gen. Than Shwe, controls the population through violence and terror. The regime has a record of unchecked repression. It has murdered political opponents, used child soldiers and forced labor, and employed rape as a weapon of war. Nearly one year ago the Burmese military junta launched an orchestrated, violent attack against democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and hundreds of her supporters. Since then the regime has kept more than 1,000 political activists imprisoned, including elected members of parliament. It recently sentenced three Burmese citizens to death for contacting representatives of the International Labor Organization.

The Burmese junta, with the cynical support of neighboring governments, has announced a "road map to democracy," beginning with a constitutional convention in May. The convention is expected to be stage-managed by the junta, which has offered no meaningful participation to Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, no timetable for progress toward a political transition, no release of political prisoners and no guarantee that the military will cede control to democratically elected leaders. Instead, the junta's proposals seem designed to institutionalize military control by creating a veneer of civilian authority, while meeting only the minimum expectations of Western democracies in order to avoid further sanctions.

The past several decades have taught us one lesson--over and over and over again--cynical attempts to create a veneer of democracy inevitably lead people to demand genuine democracy and the leadership that has made it a mantra ends up succumbing whether that was their original intent or not. We need not think that Franco, Pinochet, Marcos, Trujillo, the Afrikaaners, etc., really meant what they said about preserving and fostering democratic institutions, the reality is that they ended up leaving behind them liberal democratic societies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:18 PM


Job Outlook Beefs Up Consumer Confidence (Amanda Cooper, 4/27/04, Reuters)

Americans were more upbeat in April about finding a job than they have been in almost 18 months, causing markets to quickly shift focus to next week's influential report on the U.S. employment situation.

Also consumers bought a near-record number of homes last month, adding to views the U.S. economy now might finally be in a bonafide expansion since it began its choppy recovery from recession in 2001.

Optimism among manufacturers about the economy and the business outlook is also near record levels another report from the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) showed on Tuesday.

The positive news about jobs seemed to more than offset economists' concerns that soaring gasoline prices, bloodshed in Iraq and a recent pull-back in share prices might dent consumer confidence.

The Conference Board, a business group based in New York, said on Tuesday its index of consumer confidence rose to 92.9 in April from 88.3 in March, its highest since January.

More to the point, the jobs-hard-to-get index within the group's survey fell to 27.6 in April from 29.9 in the month before, its lowest since November 2002.

If this election were a Little League game they'd stop it. This is just going to be humiliating.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:11 PM

PAPER DRAGON (via Jeff Guinn):

A Dangerous Surplus of Sons?: Two political scientists warn that Asia's lopsided sex ratios threaten world peace (DAVID GLENN, 4/30/04, Chronicle of Higher Education)

The reasons for the persistence of offspring sex selection, and the exact numbers of pregnancies involved, have been hotly debated since the early 1990s, when the economist Amartya Sen called attention to the phenomenon of "missing women." By some social scientists' measure, more than 100 million females are now missing from the populations of India and China. Mr. Sen and others have argued that sex selection both reflects and reinforces women's low social status, which -- beyond its intrinsic cruelty -- impedes the development of democracy and prosperity in male-skewed nations. Scholars and feminist organizations in both Asia and the West have produced many volumes of often conflicting advice about how to combat the practice.

Now two political scientists have joined the fray with an ominous argument: Offspring sex selection could soon lead to war.

In a new book, Bare Branches: Security Implications of Asia's Surplus Male Population (MIT Press), Valerie M. Hudson and Andrea M. den Boer warn that the spread of sex selection is giving rise to a generation of restless young men who will not find mates. History, biology, and sociology all suggest that these "surplus males" will generate high levels of crime and social disorder, the authors say. Even worse, they continue, is the possibility that the governments of India and China will build up huge armies in order to provide a safety valve for the young men's aggressive energies.

"In 2020 it may seem to China that it would be worth it to have a very bloody battle in which a lot of their young men could die in some glorious cause," says Ms. Hudson, a professor of political science at Brigham Young University.

Those apocalyptic forecasts garnered a great deal of attention when the scholars first presented them, in the journal International Security, in 2002. "The thing that excites me about this research is how fundamental demography is," says David T. Courtwright, a professor of history at the University of North Florida and author of Violent Land: Single Men and Social Disorder From the Frontier to the Inner City (Harvard University Press, 1996), a study of sex ratios and murder rates in American history. "The basic idea that they have, that in some sense demography is social destiny -- that's a very powerful idea."

But other experts are unpersuaded. They say that Ms. Hudson and Ms. den Boer's argument rests too heavily on a few isolated historical cases, and that the authors have failed to establish a systematic correlation between sex ratios and violence. Critics also suggest that the argument promotes false stereotypes of men and masculinity, and that the authors do not offer detailed knowledge of Asian societies and political systems. Offspring sex selection is indeed a serious problem, the critics say, but to treat it as a problem of international security is an unwarranted distraction. [...]

Mr. Goldstein and Ms. Parikh also worry that the Bare Branches argument leans too heavily on what they regard as crude evolutionary models of male behavior. "The authors seem to completely lack empathy for these low-status rootless men," says Ms. Parikh. "These guys are the victims of development, and they call them criminals and potential criminals. This is so appalling." For instance, contrary to the book's suggestion, she says, most migrant workers in Asia maintain strong kinship ties with their home villages, send money home every month, and are nothing like the untethered marauders pictured in the authors' warnings.

The term "surplus males," Mr. Goldstein says, "is offensive, and for lack of a better term, sexist. They're making a very conservative argument, which is sort of wrapped up in a feminist skin." It is a mistake, he says, to draw easy lessons from the finding that unmarried men tend to have higher testosterone levels than do their married peers. [...]

The argument presented in Bare Branches is akin to one developed in the late 1990s by the Canadian psychologists Neil I. Wiener and Christian G. Mesquida. They argued that violence and conflict are tightly correlated with a given society's "male age ratio," the ratio of men age 15 to 29 to men age 30 and older. If there is a relatively high proportion of young men, they say, a society is much more prone to violence. In Mr. Wiener and Mr. Mesquida's framework, young men are hard-wired for "coalitional aggression" as they fight for resources and potential mates.

The upshot of that argument is optimistic: The two psychologists predict that war and conflict will diminish during the 21st century, as the world's median age rises and the male age ratio improves. (Mr. Goldstein finds their optimism comically overdrawn, noting that the York University alumni magazine has quoted Mr. Mesquida as flatly declaring, "Right now we don't have to worry about Russia because their population is static.")

Mr. Wiener is enthusiastic about Ms. Hudson and Ms. den Boer's work, and says they are asking exactly the right questions about Asia's future. "Males cause trouble," he says. The prospect of tens of millions of unmarried men "is potentially extremely disruptive for these societies."

See? It's an easy enough problem not to worry about if you just deny human nature.

A war between India and China that was mainly driven by the need to exterminate excess males though would call to mind the quote from our war against the Iraqis:

This is the Perfect War. They want to die, and we want to kill them.
-Sgt. Major Henry Bergeron, 1st Marine Division

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:31 AM


JOHN KERRY'S QUIET COLLAPSE (John Podhoretz, April 27, 2004, NY POst)

THE conventional wisdom is that the presidential election will be close. It's a 50-50 country, so the CW goes, just as it was in the year 2000.

The problem is that the conventional wisdom hasn't taken a proper accounting of John Kerry. Here's the truth that Democrats don't want to admit and that Republicans are fearful of speaking openly because they don't want to jinx things:

Kerry is a terrible, terrible, terrible candidate. [...]

Kerry mentioned Bush's National Guard service not once, but twice, during his five minutes with Charlie Gibson. So now we have the Democratic candidate for president himself making the accusation that the president of the United States was a deserter.

You don't have to be a Bush fan to think this is spectacularly stupid. The issue isn't Bush or his campaign. The issue is Kerry and a series of statements he made on the record in the media dating back more than 30 years. Trying to change the topic to Bush's service simply smacks of cornered desperation.

And that is Kerry's great weakness as a candidate - a weakness that will be hard for him to overcome, because it appears to be a character trait. The man who said "I voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it" is a man filled with the conviction that he can talk himself out of a tough situation.

Sometimes, it's better just to be silent, take the hit and move on. But Kerry seems constitutionally incapable of doing that.

Kerry has been the presumptive Democratic nominee for two months now. Ask yourself: Aside from fund-raising success, has he had a good day? Has he come up with a winning soundbite? Has he made a policy proposal you've heard people talking about?

Bush has had about as bad a time as he could have had these past two months, and he's not only still standing, but doing better than he was a month ago. And why? Because when he takes center stage, as he did in the press conference last week, he usually helps himself.

Not so for Kerry.

Mr. Kerry's problem is actually the opposite of a quiet collapse--it is that he keeps talking. He should really take several months off before people get totally sick of him. There's no shame in losing to a popular incumbent with a booming economy, but at the rate he's going he risks being a James Buchanan or Herbert Hoover who ushers the other party into seven decades of power.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:38 AM


The Vanishing Young Kerry Voter (Newsweek, 4/22/04)

Sen. John Kerry, who once held a commanding, double-digit advantage over President George W. Bush among young Americans, now finds himself in a statistical dead heat with the president among voters aged 18-29, according to the latest NEWSWEEK/GENEXT poll. While Kerry currently leads Bush within the margin of error, 45 percent to 42 percent, back in February 56 percent of 18-29 year-olds said they supported the senator versus 42 percent who said they would vote for Bush. advertisement
The decline for Kerry among young voters comes as the candidate appears to be losing ground overall. An AP/Ipsos poll of registered voters taken at the time of the GENEXT poll showed Bush leading Kerry within the margin of error, 45 percent to 44 percent. Eight weeks ago, Kerry led Bush 48 percent to 45 percent in a NEWSWEEK poll. [...]

Clearly, some young voters have turned away from Kerry for the same reasons as older citizens. But the GENEXT poll indicates that the presumptive Democratic candidate’s strength among the youth vote has been disproportionately dissipated by the entrance of independent Ralph Nader into the presidential race. In the latest GENEXT poll, the consumer advocate earns 11 percent of the under-30 vote. While Nader’s showing is down 1 point from a month earlier, it still is nearly double the 6 percent of voters who said they would vote for him in the AP/Ipsos poll of all voters.

Nader says his main appeal lies with voters who the major political parties have previously turned off. And 29 percent of respondents in the GENEXT poll who said they were likely to vote for Nader said they wouldn’t vote at all if he had not entered the race. Still, 49 percent of GENEXT Nader voters said they would vote for Kerry if they didn’t vote for Nader, compared to only 20 percent who said they would vote for Bush.

President Bush would be crazy to debate Senator Kerry without Ralph Nader being invited.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:31 AM


A Vision of Power (PAUL KRUGMAN, 4/27/04, NY Times)

There's a deep mystery surrounding Dick Cheney's energy task force, but it's not about what happened back in 2001. Clearly, energy industry executives dictated the content of a report that served their interests.

The real mystery is why the Bush administration has engaged in a three-year fight — which reaches the Supreme Court today — to hide the details of a story whose broad outline we already know.

One possibility is that there is some kind of incriminating evidence in the task force's records. Another is that the administration fears that full disclosure will highlight its chummy relationship with the energy industry. But there's a third possibility: that the administration is really taking a stand on principle. And that's what scares me. [...]

What Mr. Cheney is defending, in other words, is a doctrine that makes the United States a sort of elected dictatorship: a system in which the president, once in office, can do whatever he likes, and isn't obliged to consult or inform either Congress or the public.

They had private meeting to formulate public policy--that's dictatorship? Well, this is a guy who thinks Bushonomics has caused a Second Great Depression...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM


China Bars Steps by Hong Kong Toward More Democratic Voting (KEITH BRADSHER, 4/27/04, NY Times)

Beijing on Monday barred popular elections for Hong Kong's chief executive in 2007 and ruled out any expanded voting by the general public for the legislature in 2008, in the latest in a series of moves to restrict democracy here.

The decision angered democracy advocates here, who promised street demonstrations, and drew sharp criticism from the United States and Britain, which said Beijing was eroding the autonomy of Hong Kong that it had pledged to preserve.

Beijing has been intervening increasingly in the territory's political affairs. It has now made clear that it intends to give Hong Kong's people a very junior role in decisions about how to open the electoral system in the future.

Bill Rammell, the British foreign office minister for China and Hong Kong, called in China's ambassador in London to complain about the move, saying in a statement that it was "inconsistent with the `high degree of autonomy' which Hong Kong is guaranteed under the Joint Declaration." The declaration, by Britain and China in 1984, cleared the way for Hong Kong's transfer to Chinese rule.

China's leaders are tightening controls here after a series of developments that began with a march by 500,000 people last July 1 to protest stringent internal-security legislation.

In November elections for neighborhood councils, pro-Beijing parties were trounced by pro-democracy parties, suggesting a grim future at the polls for Beijing's allies. Finally, Taiwan's politicians moved further toward independence, making Hong Kong less useful as an example of how Taiwan might someday be reunited politically with the mainland.

The Meaning of the American Revolution: A letter to H. Niles (John Adams, 13 February 1818):
The American Revolution was not a common event. Its effects and consequences have already been awful over a great part of the globe. And when and where are they to cease?

But what do we mean by the American Revolution? Do we mean the American war? The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations. While the king, and all in authority under him, were believed to govern in justice and mercy, according to the laws and constitution derived to them from the God of nature and transmitted to them by their ancestors, they thought themselves bound to pray for the king and queen and all the royal family, and all in authority under them, as ministers ordained of God for their good; but when they saw those powers renouncing all the principles of authority, and bent upon the destruction of all the securities of their lives, liberties, and properties, they thought it their duty to pray for the continental congress and all the thirteen State congresses, &c.

From Palestine to Kurdistan to Taiwan to Hong Kong, folks are having trouble learning the simple lesson that John Adams teaches: a people who begin thinking of themselves as a nation have already effected the Revolution and they will have an independent state.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 AM


Waiting for Change in Najaf, Preparing to Force It in Falluja: Differences between the two cities help explain why the U.S. military appears to be taking a softer line in Najaf than in Falluja. (THOM SHANKER, 4/27/04, NY Times)

When American commanders on the outskirts of Najaf and Falluja peer into the two troubled Iraqi cities, they see very different problems. Each place has its own culture, each harbors a different enemy, and each offers its own potential allies to help calm a volatile situation.

Those differences help explain why the American military appears to be taking a softer line in Najaf than in Falluja, where the threat of an outright assault is never more than a day or two away.

Najaf is home to the Shrine of Ali, one of the most sacred pilgrimage sites for Shiite Muslims. Moktada al-Sadr, the leader of the rebellious Mahdi Army militia, remains entrenched there. But American military officials have stopped proclaiming that they will capture or kill him, despite the fact that his fighters continue to confront occupying forces there and in a slum of Baghdad.

Senior Pentagon and military officials said Monday that they had no intention of sending American forces into the center of Najaf, near the holy sites. Even though officials said Mr. Sadr's militia must immediately stop stockpiling weapons in shrines and mosques there, they seem to have accepted that any attack could inspire riotous demonstrations throughout the Shiite world.

That stance contrasts starkly to the one adopted by American commanders at Falluja, a bastion of Sunni support for Saddam Hussein west of Baghdad where marines are poised for an offensive against entrenched urban guerrillas should no political solution be reached. There, the marines on Monday blasted away the minaret of a mosque being used as a sniper nest by insurgents. [...]

Pentagon officials, of course, say that no options can be ruled out should the situation in Najaf flare out of control at Mr. Sadr's bidding. But the strategy to isolate and marginalize the cleric is specifically intended to sap his strength.

"Sadr gains his power by confronting the United States," one senior Pentagon official said Monday. "We do not intend to let him grow in power. We will deny him the opportunity to confront us."

While American forces are isolating Mr. Sadr in Najaf, they are looking to mainstream Shiite clerics and political parties to marginalize him. These local leaders have their own reasons to eliminate Mr. Sadr as a rival for the majority Shiite vote in the new Iraqi government, although they must be careful not to appear to be working on behalf of the widely unpopular American occupation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:03 AM


Democrats to Target Cheney: Attacks on Vice President Aimed at Eroding Confidence in Bush (Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei, April 26, 2004, Washington Post)

Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and the Democratic Party will open a week-long assault on Vice President Cheney today in hopes that tarring him as promoting secrecy and controversial policies will erode confidence in President Bush.

Cheney is less popular than Bush in polls, and Democratic strategists said they need to further inhibit the vice president's effectiveness as Bush's attack messenger.

Here's the mark of an undisciplined campaign--just because you're in the midst of picking your own doesn't mean that anyone cares about the vice-presidential running mate. All it does is deflect you from your main purpose.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:53 AM


Kerry defends Vietnam record (Jill Lawrence, 4/27/2004, USA TODAY)

Democrat John Kerry battled back Monday against a Republican offensive designed to erode one of his biggest assets as a presidential candidate: his credentials as a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War.

Kerry responded testily when asked in several TV interviews whether he had changed his story about throwing combat ribbons or medals over a fence at the Capitol in an anti-war protest in 1971. For the first time, he also cited President Bush's spotty attendance in the National Guard. (Related story: Questions raised over Kerry account of '71 protest)

Kerry called the medals issue "a distraction" and a campaign tactic. "It's coming from a president who can't even prove that he showed up for duty in the National Guard," he said in an interview with WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh.

Senator Kerry, who served in Vietnam, may be right that issues surrounding his and George Bush's service to their country thirty years ago is a distraction--maybe he shouldn't bring it up so often?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:50 AM


Sadr the agitator: like father, like son: Militant cleric Moqtada al-Sadr builds on his father's fame and has eclipsed many moderates. (Dan Murphy, 4/27/04, CS Monitor)

While Moqtada's religious credentials are weak, his family's political standing is as deep as the modern history of Iraq. His grandfather was the prime minister in 1932. And this young, militant cleric didn't spontaneously emerge after the fall of Saddam Hussein. US forces now entering the city of Najaf, are up against a man who has donned the well-cultivated mantle of his father, the leading Shiite thorn in the side of the Hussein regime in the 1990s.

Today, the younger Sadr has built on his father's popularity and created a militant Shiite movement that has eclipsed many in the more moderate Shiite majority, who have remained largely silent.

For the moment, his movement is stalled. The uprising he sparked across southern Iraq in early April has failed. [...]

For his supporters, the stand-off with the Americans is evidence that he's on the right path. "The tyrants always fear the ones who are most just, must good,'' says Ali Yassawi, sitting in the movement's main office in Sadr City, the sprawling Baghdad public housing quarter that is a hot-bed of Saddriyun, or Sadr supporters. "At first I wasn't sure about Moqtada, but just like the father, our enemies are fighting against him. This proves he's on the right path."

Fighting and dying for near hopeless causes inspires almost mystical reverence within the Shiite community, going back to the beginnings of the Sunni- Shiite split in the 7th century. When Imam Ali was assassinated after leaving the mosque in Kufa where he had set up a rival caliphate, his son Hussein later led 72 men into battle against an army of 4,000 opponents. Hussein's defeat at Karbala cemented the schism.

Moqtada refers to the US as "Yazid," the name of the Ummayid Caliph whose men killed Imam Hussein, and talks about the martyrdom of both his own father and his uncle, the prominent Ayatollah and philosopher Mohammed Bakr al-Sadr, killed by the Hussein regime in 1980. His framing of the conflict in these terms has made it difficult for the US to deal with Sadr, a man US officials have charged with murder.

"The idea of martyrdom and persecution does resonate throughout the Shiite world,'' says David Patel, a PhD candidate at Stanford University in California who's studying Shiite political movements in modern Iraq. "The average Shiite is unlikely to empathize with Moqtada's plight, probably thinking he brought it on himself." But Patel says that if US forces move on Najaf, Sadr's support could blossom.

Shutting down his newspaper was foolish and it would be best now to completely marginalize and minimize him. Let Ayatollah al-Sistani and company deal with him when we're gone.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:13 AM


Pickering's reputation restored (Nat Hentoff, April 26, 2004, Jewish World Review)

For two years, Federal District Court Judge Charles Pickering, a Mississippi Republican, has suffered continuous character assassination by Senate Democrats who have filibustered his nomination by President Bush to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. He is on that bench now only because of a temporary recess appointment.

The assaults on the judge have been led by Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, who has accused him of "glaring racial insensitivity." And NAACP National Chairman Julian Bond proclaimed that "a vote for Pickering is a vote against civil rights."

Most damaging has been the charge — carelessly circulated nationwide by many in the media — that Pickering went to extraordinary lengths 10 years ago to lessen the sentence for one of three white men who burned a cross at the home of an interracial couple in Mississippi. But, at last, in a March 28 "60 Minutes" segment, Mike Wallace restored Pickering's reputation in a report from Mississippi showing 16 million CBS viewers the actual facts of Pickering's record — on and off the bench. [...]

Also on "60 Minutes," Mike Wallace emphasized that, "many black attorneys who practice before him say Pickering is fair and first-rate." One of them, Deborah Gambrell, a Democrat, said she has appeared before him year after year, including representing the NAACP in a case, and was "shocked and appalled" at the charges that Pickering is "insensitive on racial issues."

Pickering told Wallace that "To accuse a white southerner of being a racist is about the worst thing you can do. I have worked for more than three decades trying to provide better relations between the races, trying to protect equal rights. That's my core being. And they've attacked that."

His is one of the appointments that will be made permanent in January 2005.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:12 AM


DEALING WITH THE BACKLASH AGAINST INTELLIGENT DESIGN (William A. Dembski, April 14, 2004, Design Inference)

Ten years ago, the Quarterly Review of Biology (December 1995) gave the following plug to the book Darwinism: Science or Philosophy?
The editors deserve credit for a very fair book. Without editorializing or bias, the book lets everyone have their say... In fact, it has a nice tone of “give and take,” mostly polite, but in places amusingly peppery.... Moreover, the book is a readable primer on scientific philosophy, and provides a relatively sophisticated and invigorating philosophical challenge.
It is a measure of the success of our movement that no biology journal would give our books such respectful treatment any longer.
Why is that? The stakes are now considerably higher. Darwinism: Science or Philosophy? is the proceedings of a symposium that took place at Southern Methodist University in the spring of 1992. The focus of that symposium was Phillip Johnson’s then recently published book Darwin on Trial. At the time, Johnson was a novelty -- a respected professor of criminal law at Cal Berkeley who was raising doubts about evolution. All harmless, good fun, no doubt. And Berkeley has an illustrious history of harboring eccentrics, kooks, and oddballs.
Ten years later, any amusement about Johnson’s critique of Darwinism has long since vanished. All sides now realize that Johnson was, from the start, deadly earnest, not content merely to tweak Darwin’s nose but intent, rather, on knocking him down for the ten-count. Johnson is, after all, a lawyer, and lawyers think contests are not simply to be enjoyed but also to be won.
This has not set well with the academic community, which thrives on irresolution. I once discussed with some philosophers the difference between mathematics and philosophy. One philosopher remarked that whereas in mathematics one finds a problem and solves it, in philosophy one finds an itch and scratches it. It would have been one thing if Johnson had raised doubts about Darwinism and then gestured at some ways of supplementing or reinterpreting evolutionary theory to take the materialist edge off. But Johnson was convinced that Darwinism had become a corrupt ideology that was being enforced by a dogmatic and authoritarian scientific elite, and that the proper course of treatment for Darwinism was not refurbishment or reformation but removal and replacement.
Thanks to Johnson, we now have a cultural, intellectual, and scientific movement that gives voice in the academic world to multiple millions of people who find it plausible, or even self-evident, that the world and its living forms were brought about by a designing intelligence. That movement is now so effective that evolutionists have to spend a lot of time writing articles and even whole books attacking intelligent design (and, in some cases, like Robert Pennock, they even make an academic career attacking it).
In contrast to the respectful review of Darwinism: Science or Philosophy? a decade ago, we now face an academic and scientific world that is increasingly hostile to intelligent design and that seeks to crush it rather than engage it as a serious intellectual project. This may seem unfair and mean-spirited, but let’s admit that our aim, as proponents of intelligent design, is to beat naturalistic evolution, and the scientific materialism that undergirds it, back to the Stone Age. Our opponents, therefore, are merely returning the favor.
We have this going for us, however, which the evolutionary naturalists don’t, namely, the evidence and arguments are on our side. It’s therefore to our advantage to discuss intelligent design and naturalistic evolution on their merits. Conversely, the other side needs to delegitimate the debate between intelligent design and naturalistic evolution, casting intelligent design as a pseudoscience and characterizing its significance purely in political and religious terms. As a consequence, critics of intelligent design engage in all forms of character assassination, ad hominem attacks, guilt by association, and demonization.

Darwinists increasingly act like folks under whom the paradigm is shifting.

April 26, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:42 PM


Democracy spreads across Africa: Ten years after apartheid, political freedom faces new pressures. (Abraham McLaughlin, 4/27/04, CS Monitor)

Forty-three of the 48 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have held at least one multiparty election during the past decade, compared with 1990, when just three were solidly democratic.

Yet outside pressures threaten to derail or even reverse this progress. The geopolitical profile of Africa is rising as a key source of oil - it will soon export more oil to the United States than Saudi Arabia - and as a potential terrorism incubator. And some observers worry that the US, a longtime backer of democracy here, may increasingly push for political stability over democracy in order to protect oil outflows and prevent terrorism. [...]

Several new US initiatives, in the Sahel Desert, and in East and West Africa, aim to bolster counterterrorism skills. They appear to be useful: Last month, for instance, Chad's military, with help from a US Navy plane, reportedly killed 42 Islamic fighters from Algeria who may have had Al Qaeda ties.

Given this shift, South Africa, the continent's economic and political powerhouse, may be key to shaping Africa's democratic future. Its just-reelected president, Thabo Mbeki, is a champion of "good governance" across Africa. Two initiatives he's pushing hard are the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) and the African Union. Both reward good government and democratic stand-outs - and punish slackers.

"This begins to shift the balance in inter-African politics toward better-governed countries," says Francis Kornegay, a columnist for several South African papers. [...]

"If there's the faintest trade-off between democratization and oil, oil will win," says Steven Friedman of the Centre for Policy Studies here.

Or consider 10 major hot spots for US counterterrorism efforts, including Somalia, Djibouti, Niger, Chad, and Kenya. Three of them are "not free." Six are "partly free." One - Mali - is "free."

There is a strong debate about how the US should tackle the war on terror in Africa. It could aim for stability by helping states gain strong antiterror military capability - even if this means supporting dictators, as during the cold war.

Or it could take a more democracy-friendly approach. "If you're going to really deal with the threat of terror, you need politically capable states" that bolster citizens' rights - thus preventing the disaffection that can breed anger, argues John Stremlau, head of international relations at the University of the Witwatersrand here. And, he says, you don't get that "by putting boots on the ground. You need ballots in the box" - democracy.

Indeed, the US has started to attach good-governance strings to its aid through the Millennium Challenge Account, a new program started by the Bush White House.

Africa's tilt toward democracy is evident from a more-nuanced Freedom House measurement of political rights and civil liberties in each country. In 2002, the 48 countries in sub-Saharan Africa racked up a total score of 417 points. In 2003, it was 407. In 2004, 403. The lower the score, the more freedom.

A further demonstration of why we need to break our oil dependency. Fortunately, the Bush Administration seems to take the task of improving the lives of Africans seriously.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:39 PM


Thousands protest legalizing same-sex marriage: Asian Americans, Christians rally in Sunset District (Ulysses Torassa, April 26, 2004, San Francisco Chronicle)

A largely Asian American and Christian crowd of more than 7,000 rallied Sunday in San Francisco's Sunset District to protest the legalization of same-sex marriage, saying it goes against the Bible and threatens the future of families and society.

Most were dressed in identical red T-shirts with the slogan, "Marriage/1 man + 1 woman" in English and Chinese. Protesters fanned out along 19th Avenue, between Quintara Street and Holloway Avenue, asking motorists to honk in favor of keeping marriage exclusively for heterosexual couples. Many did, but most just drove by.

"We're not here today to antagonize or to hate people, we're here with true love and true concern," Thomas Wang, of the Great Commission Center International, a South San Francisco missionary organization, said to the sun- soaked crowd at Larsen Park. "God created one man and one woman -- Adam and Eve. They became husband and wife and the first human family began. ... We believe any deviation from it will bring disastrous results.'' [...]

Billed as a rally to showcase support among Christians in all ethnic communities, most of the organizers and the majority of participants were Chinese Americans. The instructions were written in Chinese and English and the crowd was addressed in English, Mandarin and Cantonese. Organizers said the event drew members of more than 150 Bay Area churches.

Organizers said they wanted to emphasize a positive message in favor of traditional marriage and asked participants to refer all reporters' questions to official spokespeople. Joy Kao of San Francisco's Chinatown, who was with a group from the Chinatown Presbyterian Church, said, "We don't feel (same-sex marriage) is a threat, we're just here to voice our opinion," she said. "It's not good as an example for the children.''

Asian Americans represent a socially conservative community in which the GOP should be able to make inroads.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:06 PM


Jordan says major al Qaeda plot disrupted: Authorities: Chemical cloud would have been released in Amman (CNN, April 26, 2004)

Jordanian authorities said Monday they have broken up an alleged al Qaeda plot that would have unleashed a deadly cloud of chemicals in the heart of Jordan's capital, Amman.

The plot would have been more deadly than anything al Qaeda has done before, including the September 11 attacks, according to the Jordanian government. [...]

In a nighttime raid in Amman, Jordanian security forces moved in on the terrorist cell. After the shooting stopped, four men were dead. Jordanian authorities said. They said at least three others were arrested, including Azmi Jayyousi, the cell's suspected ringleader, whom Jordanian intelligence alleges was responsible for planning and recruiting.

On a confession shown on state-run Jordanian television, Jayyousi said he took orders from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a suspected terrorist leader who has been linked to al Qaeda and whom U.S. officials have said is behind some attacks in Iraq.

"I took explosives courses, poisons high level, then I pledged allegiance to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, to obey him without any questioning," Jayyousi said.
Jordanian authorities said Azmi Jayyousi was the suspected ringleader in an alleged al Qaeda plot.

Jordanian intelligence suspects Jayyousi returned from Iraq in January after a meeting with al-Zarqawi in which they allegedly plotted to hit the three targets in Amman.

In a series of raids, the Jordanians said, they seized 20 tons of chemicals and numerous explosives. Also seized were three trucks equipped with specially modified plows, apparently designed to crash through security barricades.

The first alleged target was the Jordanian intelligence headquarters. The alleged blast was intended to be a big one.

"According to my experience as an explosives expert, the whole of the Intelligence Department will be destroyed, and nothing of it will remain, nor anything surrounding it," Jayyousi said.

Details of the alleged plot were shown Monday on Jordanian television, including graphics of how the cell apparently intended to carry out the attack.

In an videotape shown on Jordanian TV, Hussein Sharif said Jayyousi recruited him as a suicide bomber.

"The aim, Azmi told me, was to execute an operation to strike Jordan and the Hashemite Royal family, a war against the crusaders and infidels," Sharif said. "Azmi told me that this will be the first chemical attack that al Qaeda will execute."

That would seem to betray a willingness to kill an awful lot of fellow Muslims just to maybe get a few Hashemites, no?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:58 PM


Battleground states in play for Bush camp (Donald Lambro, April 26, 2004, Washington Times)

Sen. John Kerry is trailing or tied with President Bush in many of the battleground states Democrats won in 2000 and that will likely decide the outcome of this year's elections, according to a survey of polls across the country by The Washington Times.

With six months to go before the November election, Mr. Bush is surprising political pundits and Democratic strategists in key Democratic-leaning states in the Northeast and Midwest. [...]

• Pennsylvania (21 electoral votes): An April 13-19 Quinnipiac University poll of 769 registered voters showed Mr. Bush leading Mr. Kerry 46 percent to 42 percent, with 7 percent undecided. When consumer crusader Ralph Nader is included, Mr. Bush leads 45 percent to 39 percent, with 8 percent for Mr. Nader. The margin of error was 3.5 percentage points. [...]

• New Jersey (15 electoral votes): Mr. Gore carried this state by 16 points in 2000. But a Fairleigh Dickinson University poll taken April 3 to 10 found the two rivals in a close race -- 47 percent for the president versus 48 percent for Mr. Kerry, a surprising development in a heavily Democratic state that was thought to be solidly in Kerry's column. The poll's margin of error was 3.5 percentage points.

• Michigan (17 electoral votes): An EPIC/MRA poll taken at the beginning of this month put the race in a close race -- 47 percent for Mr. Kerry to 45 percent for Mr. Bush. The two-point gap was well within the poll's margin of error. An earlier survey by Michigan pollster Steve Mitchell for the Detroit News in March had Mr. Bush leading 46 percent to 42 percent. [...]

• Iowa (7 electoral votes): An American Research Group poll of 600 likely voters, conducted April 18 to 21, showed Mr. Bush trailing Mr. Kerry by a single point, 47 percent to 46 percent, with Mr. Nader at 3 percent and 4 percent of respondents undecided. The poll's margin of error was four percentage points.

• Florida (27 electoral votes): A Mason-Dixon poll completed April 1 showed Mr. Bush leading Mr. Kerry 51 percent to 43 percent. More recent polls show the president holding a smaller lead in a state where unemployment is a low 4 percent and where Mr. Bush has made numerous trips over the past three years. The poll's margin of error was four percentage points.

• Even in reliably Democratic Maryland (10 electoral votes), Mr. Bush has begun to cut into Mr. Kerry's numbers. Mr. Gore carried the state by 17 points, but a recent survey by Maryland pollster Patrick Gonzales gives Mr. Kerry only a five-point edge.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:04 PM


Realistpolitik: Finally, some foreign-policy conservatives get fed up with Bush. (Danny Postel, 05.07.04, American Prospect)

John Mearsheimer, one of the pre-eminent representatives of the realist school of international relations, voted for George W. Bush in 2000. But not this time. Come November, he's not only voting for John Kerry but
"will do so with enthusiasm."

As a realist, the University of Chicago political scientist liked Bush's
anti-nation-building rhetoric during the 2000 debates, and was
displeased by Al Gore's support for the humanitarian interventions of
the 1990s. But Bush's handling of foreign policy -- particularly the
Iraq War -- has turned Mearsheimer and other realists into some of the
administration's sharpest critics. "[T]he more time goes by," he says,
"the more Bush makes [Bill] Clinton look like a genius in both domestic
and foreign policy."

Indeed, not only is the American right a house divided on Iraq but over
the intensifying imperialist drift of U.S. foreign policy more broadly.
A convergence of realists, libertarians, and traditionalists (or
"paleocons") has taken shape in opposition to the neoconservative
foreign-policy agenda. In October, they came together to form the
Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy, which holds that "the move
toward empire must be halted immediately."

Spearheaded by Christopher Preble, director of foreign-policy studies at
the Cato Institute, the coalition's signatories include Mearsheimer and
fellow realist Stephen Walt of Harvard; Andrew Bacevich, author of
American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of U.S. Diplomacy; Ted
Galen Carpenter and Charles Peña of Cato; John Hulsman of The Heritage
Foundation; Christopher Layne and Scott McConnell of Pat Buchanan's
magazine, The American Conservative; and Jon Utley of the organization
Americans Against World Empire. A handful of left-of-center types are
also onboard, among them Blowback and Sorrows of Empire author Chalmers
Johnson, Anatol Lieven of the Carnegie Endowment for International
Peace, and former Colorado Senator Gary Hart.

Here's all you really need to know about Realism in foreign policy, the two pre-eminent proponents of the doctrine in American history were Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger. As Robert Kaplan has written, in a generally positive profile of the arch-realist Kissinger:
In perceiving the Soviet Union as permanent, orderly, and legitimate, 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.

In other words, on the central judgment about humanity and politics in the 20th Century, the realists were wrong. Reality isn't Realist.

What is perhaps most interesting about the unrealism of the realists is that they were wrong then for many of the same reasons they are wrong now. Those of you of a certain age will recall hearing it explained that Slavs--"who are practically an Asiatic people after all"--were unsuited to democracy and therefore generally satisfied with more strong-handed governments than we in the West might prefer. Their satisfaction was, of course, demonstrated by their failure to rise up or to flee in considerable numbers. Indeed, if the governments of the East had chosen to have elections the totalitarian Communists probably would have won them anyway. Just substitute Muslims, Arabs, and Islamicism in there and you have the realist view of the Islamic world--only the names of those incapable of democracy have been changed.

Over and against the Realists you had the utterly unrealistic, thoroughly idealistic view of Ronald Reagan, who even at the high water mark of the Soviet Union--when Jimmy Carter had either stood by or helped as the Sadinistas took Nicaragua, the Ayatollah took Iran and the Soviets invaded Afghanistan just years after Nixon, Ford, and Congressional Democrats sold out South Vietnam--had the foresight to declare that Communism was doomed and could never satisfy the peoples it oppressed. In 1982, in a speech influenced by the aforementioned Mr. Pipes, President Reagan put it thus:

If history teaches anything it teaches self-delusion in the face of unpleasant facts is folly. We see around us today the marks of our terrible dilemma -- predictions of doomsday, antinuclear demonstrations, an arms race in which the West must, for its own protection, be an unwilling participant. At the same time we see totalitarian forces in the world who seek subversion and conflict around the globe to further their barbarous assault on the human spirit. What, then, is our course? Must civilization perish in a hail of fiery atoms? Must freedom wither in a quiet, deadening accommodation with totalitarian evil?

Sir Winston Churchill refused to accept the inevitability of war or even that it was imminent. He said, ``I do not believe that Soviet Russia desires war. What they desire is the fruits of war and the indefinite expansion of their power and doctrines. But what we have to consider here today while time remains is the permanent prevention of war and the establishment of conditions of freedom and democracy as rapidly as possible in all countries.''

Well, this is precisely our mission today: to preserve freedom as well as peace. It may not be easy to see; but I believe we live now at a turning point.

In an ironic sense Karl Marx was right. We are witnessing today a great revolutionary crisis, a crisis where the demands of the economic order are conflicting directly with those of the political order. But the crisis is happening not in the free, non-Marxist West, but in the home of Marxist-Leninism, the Soviet Union. It is the Soviet Union that runs against the tide of history by denying human freedom and human dignity to its citizens. It also is in deep economic difficulty. The rate of growth in the national product has been steadily declining since the fifties and is less than half of what it was then.

The dimensions of this failure are astounding: A country which employs one-fifth of its population in agriculture is unable to feed its own people. Were it not for the private sector, the tiny private sector tolerated in Soviet agriculture, the country might be on the brink of famine. These private plots occupy a bare 3 percent of the arable land but account for nearly one-quarter of Soviet farm output and nearly one-third of meat products and vegetables. Overcentralized, with little or no incentives, year after year the Soviet system pours its best resource into the making of instruments of destruction. The constant shrinkage of economic growth combined with the growth of military production is putting a heavy strain on the Soviet people. What we see here is a political structure that no longer corresponds to its economic base, a society where productive forces are hampered by political ones.

Here too you can substitute Arab, Muslim, and Islam and give pretty much the same speech, as President Bush has several times.

Essentially though, what Realists want is stability, even a stability where every nation was totalitarian would be preferable to one in which the struggle between the free and the dominated risked bringing war. They'd rather have the Taliban and Saddam running countries because they'll generally keep them quiet. Mr. Mearshimer describes himself why Realism is so antithetical to Americanism:

Realism has two real problems with it for most Americans. First of all, Realism has a very pessimistic view of international politics. It says there has always been conflict, there is conflict today, and there always will be conflict, and there's not much you can do about it. This is what I call the "tragedy of great power politics," which is the title of my book.

The second point that Realists make that most Americans find repugnant is the idea that you can't discriminate between morally virtuous states and malign states in the international system. For Realists, all states are basically black boxes that behave the same way. If the United States has to be ruthless, the United States will be ruthless. That's the argument that Realists make. Now, Americans are fundamentally liberals at heart. They believe in progress, they're products of the Enlightenment, they are people who believe that through hard thinking and skillful policies, it's possible to solve the world's problems; that somewhere out there in the future (it's hard to say when), we can create a more peaceful world. That is in contrast to the pessimism of Realists. And American liberals -- and when we talk about American liberals, we're talking about the vast majority of Americans -- therefore, dislike Realism for that reason.

The other point that Americans believe in is the idea that our country, the United States, is a highly moral country, that we behave according to a different code of conduct than most other states. In the Cold War, for example, there were good guys and bad guys -- we were the good guys and the Soviets were the bad guys. Realists, on the other hand, don't discriminate between good states and bad states, they're just states. And a Realist explanation of the Cold War would say that the United States and the Soviet Union were both equals, and they behaved according to the same rules, because the structure of the system left them with no choice. That's a perspective that most Americans recoil at.

That's why they find it so easy to make common cause with the America-hating Left. If you too find yourself confused about whether we are the good guys or the North Koreans are, then you too may be either a Realist or a liberal and you should definitely vote for John Kerry, who thought North Vietnam morally superior to the United States.

President Bush follows in the footsteps of Ronald Reagan and understands the American cause of extending liberty and democracy universally to be not only good but Godly:

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.

The Realists may be indifferent to totalitarianism--God is not. And therefore Americans can not be. Realists probably should have figured that out by now.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:01 PM


Remembering an Earlier War in America's Streets (Joe Guzzardi, April 26, 2004, ChronWatch)

In the spring of 1970, I worked for Merrill Lynch on Wall Street as an investment banker.

By 1970, the Vietnam War had split American into two factions—the pro-war and the anti-war.

And few demonstrated tolerance towards anyone whose view was different from theirs.

Most afternoons, my friends and I took our brown bag lunches down to Battery Park to watch the Hawks and the Doves argue over what course in Southeast Asia the Nixon administration should take.

What we didn’t realize was that those super-heated, in your face disputes would boil over into one of America’s ugliest street brawls during an era when violent demonstrations were commonplace.

Within the Hawks and the Doves were two subgroups: the Hard Hats, over-the-top patriotic construction workers who supported escalating the war and the Peaceniks, student groups who favored a complete and immediate withdrawal from Southeast Asia. [...]

The first bloodshed came on May 6.  Medical students from the Whitehall Medical Center ripped down an American flag on a Broad Street construction job.  Several of the students were beaten up. 

But on May 8, everything exploded.  A major peace rally scheduled for noon on Wall Street drew a big crowd.  Everyone expected trouble but we had no idea just how much raw violence we were about to witness.

Shortly after 12:00, the first wave of 200 construction workers arrived at the corner of Wall and Broad. Waving American flags, they all shouted, ''America, love it or leave it'' and ''All the way, U.S.A.''

My friends and I could sense what was coming.  The Hard Hats pushed their way past a police line that offered no resistance, grabbed the demonstrators and started to pound on them.  They hit them with helmets, pliers and wrenches.

It was pretty nearly the only good day between the Mets winning the World Series in October '69 and the US Hockey team beating the Soviets in February 1980.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:35 PM

60-40 NATION:

New Poll: Majority of Americans, Blacks, Students Pro-Life on Abortion (Steven Ertelt, April 26, 2004, (LifeNews.com)

While abortion advocates marched in Washington on Sunday, pro-life groups were touting the results of a new poll showing that a majority of Americans, including African Americans and students, are pro-life on abortion.

In a poll released Friday by Zogby International, a respected polling firm, a total of 56 percent agreed with one of the following pro-life views: abortion should never be legal (18 percent), legal only when the life of the mother is in danger (15 percent) or legal only when the life of the mother is in danger or in cases of rape or incest (23 percent).

Since abortions in cases of rape or incest or those necessary to save the life of the mother are extremely rare, that means a majority of Americans oppose approximately 96 percent of all abortions.

Only 42 percent of those surveyed agreed with one of the following statements supporting abortion: abortion should be legal for any reason in the first 3 months (25 percent), legal for any reason during the first 6 months (4 percent) or legal for any reason at any time during the woman's pregnancy (13 percent).

Given that 13% would apparently support abortion during the birth, it would be interesting to poll on Peter Singer's idea of a six month test drive, duuring which infanticide would be allowed.

White House to pull support for conference (Charles Hurt, April 26, 2004, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

The Bush administration is scrapping plans to sponsor a major global health and reproductive rights conference that features liberal advocacy groups, including several pro-choice organizations and MoveOn.org, which is spending millions of dollars on negative ads to defeat President Bush.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will withdraw its support today, according to a senior government official.

"We expect they will be notified officially" today, a senior government official said of USAID's decision to withdraw from the June gathering in Washington.

Happy Death March Day.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:24 PM


The Know-It-All Neighbour: When it comes to America, writes JONATHON GATEHOUSE, we have all the answers (JONATHON GATEHOUSE, May 03, 2004, MacLean's)

No matter how the election-bound Liberals try to spin it, things have gone sour between old allies, and it has happened during their watch. It's more than the deep divisions over Iraq, or the Canadian public's palpable distaste for a Yalie cowboy and his conservative politics. Suddenly, there's a meanness to our day-to-day interactions. We harass American flag-waving school kids, and boo their national anthem at hockey games. Promises to stand "shoulder to shoulder" after the Sept. 11 attacks have been overshadowed by epithets like "moron" and "bastards." Symptoms of a declining friendship are everywhere you look.

Our unsolicited advice to Washington about the war on terror goes mostly unheeded, our small military contributions largely unappreciated. And far from our cherished self-image as the world's "helpful fixer," a sort of moral superpower, both Democrats and Republicans have come to view us as unhelpful nixers. Like the know-it-all neighbour who never misses a chance to bend your ear over the back fence or critique your yardwork, Canada has become the block bore. The "special" status that we once took for granted, able to withstand even the frankest disagreements, seems in doubt. Things between our countries are apparently getting worse all the time. And, the evidence suggests, the attitude problem is almost entirely our own.

An exclusive new Maclean's poll probing what Canadians and Americans really think of each other shows this new sense of animus is disproportionately centred north of the border. Sixty-eight per cent of Canadians say the U.S.'s global reputation has worsened over the last decade, while 38 per cent of us say we feel more negatively about America since Sept. 11 (the biggest reasons cited -- the Iraq war and George W. Bush). Asked to pick the word that best describes our neighbours to the south, the No. 1 response was "arrogant," with "patriotic" (not necessarily a compliment) close behind. More of us say Americans are "dangerous" than "compassionate." And even though a majority would be willing to immediately commit Canadian troops to defend the U.S. in the event of another attack, only 44 per cent of us "strongly support" the idea.

On the flip side, most Americans remain indifferent to the insults and jibes floating across the border.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:12 PM

PAGING DR. SMITH (via mc):

Out of pocket costs may soar (Julie Appleby, 4/25/2004, USA TODAY)

Sharply higher health insurance deductibles may hit workers in the next two years as employers embrace newly created tax-free Health Savings Accounts.

Nearly three-quarters (73%) of employers asked by Mercer Human Resource Consulting said they were likely to offer the new accounts to their workers by 2006, according to a survey to be released this week.

"We're looking at a major market change," says Linda Havlin, Mercer's Midwest health care practice leader, noting that a 73% interest in adopting a new program within two years "is unprecedented."

The interest reflects employers' frustration with double-digit increases in health care costs and a dearth of new ideas for dealing with those costs.

The accounts, known as HSAs, enable employers to shift some of the cost of health care to workers and may also result in lower insurance premiums. HSAs, approved by Congress last year as part of the Medicare reform legislation, let policyholders set aside money tax free to cover health care costs.

Unspent money earns interest and can be rolled over, but the accounts must be coupled with insurance policies with annual deductibles of at least $1,000 for individuals and $2,000 for families.

Widespread adoption of the plans could drive up the average annual deductible paid by workers, which is now about $300 for single employees and $600 for families, according to data from Mercer and the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Mercer's survey of 991 employers found that 61% would set the individual annual deductible for an HSA plan at $1,000. But 17% chose $1,500, 11% said $2,000 and 10% were above $2,000.

As conservative cry-babies sleep through the revolution their President is winning for them....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:19 PM


Wanted: Veep Who Can Carry Iowa and Ohio (Dotty Lynch, Douglas Kiker, Beth Lester, Clothilde Ewing and Jessica Shyu, 4/26/04, CBS News)

As John Kerry travels the country looking for votes and donations, his team of VP vetters, led by Jim Johnson, is looking for the perfect running mate. And while the vetting process has been very quiet, this week's flavors include politicians who can carry Ohio and Iowa. Kerry traveled to Iowa on Sunday, fueling "speculation of a Kerry-Vilsack ticket," reports the Des Moines Register. Sen. Tom Harkin, who endorsed Howard Dean in the primaries but stood at Kerry's side on Sunday, alluded to former President Franklin Roosevelt choice of Iowan Henry Wallace and said of Roosevelt, "When he was looking for a vice president, he came to Iowa. My friends, it's the same today." Vilsack himself was more reserved, saying only that "It is up to us to get this good man elected."

Moving east from Iowa, Ohio is looming large in the minds of many VP prognosticators. In Roll Call, Stuart Rothenberg says that Democrats must win in Ohio and that neighboring Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana may be the man to help them do so. Passing over home-state pols, Rothenberg also skips Dick Gephardt and John Edwards, settling on Bayh as "a former two-term governor and true moderate Democrat who has been successful among voters not unlike the kind found in south and central Ohio."

Hard to know which is sillier, a guy who you'd compare to Henry Wallace or one whose Senate seat they'd then lose to the GOP.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:01 PM


Iraq could be Kerry's quagmire, not Bush's (G. Pascal Zachary, April 25, 2004, San Francisco Chronicle)

The conventional wisdom would have you think Iraq is turning into George Bush's quagmire, his Vietnam.

Well, as the war gets worse, Bush's popularity remains steady and even nudges up a bit, and at least his bedrock supporters seem prepared to stick with him no matter what happens in Iraq.

Democrats and independents may not be as understanding of John Kerry. And so the war threatens to become his albatross, not George Bush's.

The perils for Kerry were revealed last week when Ralph Nader, who may have cost Al Gore the 2000 presidential election, described Kerry as "stuck in the Iraq quagmire the way Bush is."

Nader is no saint. His run for president this year destroys for many nearly all his well-earned credibility as a conscience of America.

But Nader now has a rationale for his campaign. While the antiwar wing is small, it is large enough, if it goes for Nader, to tip the vote Bush's way in a few swing states.

If by "swing" you mean CA...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:30 PM


US troops threaten to cross Shia 'red line' to enter Najaf (Patrick Cockburn, 26 April 2004, The Independent)

American troops will enter parts of the holy city of Najaf to crush the radical Shia cleric Muqtada Sadr but will avoid its sacred sites, a US general said yesterday.

Shia leaders have warned there will be an explosion of anger among the 15 to 16 million Iraqi Shia if US soldiers enter Najaf, where Imam Ali, the founder of their faith, is buried in a golden-domed shrine.

"We're going to drive this guy [Mr. Sadr] into the dirt," said Brigadier General Mark Hertling, the deputy commander of the 1st Armoured Division. "Either he tells his militia to put down their arms, form a political party and fight with ideas not guns, or he's going to find a lot of them killed."

General Hertling is practically a poster boy for Victor Davis's Hanson's argument about the uniquely liberationist ethos of democratic warriors.

Posted by David Cohen at 12:03 PM


Our Hidden WMD Program: Why Bush is spending so much on nuclear weapons (Fred Kaplan, Slate, 4/23/04)

The budget is busted; American soldiers need more armor; they're running out of supplies. Yet the Department of Energy is spending an astonishing $6.5 billion on nuclear weapons this year, and President Bush is requesting $6.8 billion more for next year and a total of $30 billion over the following four years. This does not include his much-cherished missile-defense program, by the way. This is simply for the maintenance, modernization, development, and production of nuclear bombs and warheads. . . .

There is no nuclear arms race going on now. The world no longer offers many suitable nuclear targets. President Bush is trying to persuade other nations—especially "rogue regimes"—to forgo their nuclear ambitions. Yet he is shoveling money to U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories as if the Soviet Union still existed and the Cold War still raged.

These articles must just write themselves: we spend lots of money on something useless; any idiot should realize that it's useless; hey, look, isn't it ironic that we're doing things we don't want other nations doing. The rebuttals flow just as easily: this is less than three-tenths of one percent of the federal budget; reasonable people can disagree about whether today's world presents attractive targets for nuclear weapons; and most Americans insist on the admittedly parochial distinction between Libya, Iraq and North Korea, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, us. For that matter, we're not even asking the French to disarm, suggesting that we can still see a sliver of light between Jacques Chirac and Saddam Hussein.

But we shouldn't complain about the Fred Kaplans of the world. They do us the indispensible service of helping to convince the rest of the world that the President, and by extension the entire country, really is willing to nuke someone we find sufficiently annoying. We really, really are.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:16 AM

50-0 FILES:

U.S. March New Home Sales Rise to a Record 1.228 Million Rate (Bloomberg, 4/26/04)

U.S. sales of new homes rose to a record 1.228 million annual rate in March, exceeding forecasts, as cheap financing and an improving job market persuaded Americans to invest in real estate.

Single-family home sales rose 8.9 percent from a revised 1.128 million annual pace in February, the Commerce Department said in Washington. New home sales reached an all-time high of 1.085 million in 2003.

Mortgage interest rates last month approached four-decade lows and companies added the most workers to their payrolls than at any time in almost four years. Builders such as Centex Corp. and D.R. Horton Inc. are confident rising employment will underpin sales, boosting the economy. A measure of the supply of homes for sale fell to the lowest since August.

Heard the Democrats refer to Bushonomics recently?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:50 AM


Mideast instability? Bring it on (Mark Steyn, 4/26/04, Jewish World Review)

In the summer of 2002, Amr Moussa, secretary-general of the Arab League, issued a stern warning to the BBC: a US invasion of Iraq would "threaten the whole stability of the Middle East." As I wrote at the time, "He's missing the point: that's the reason it's such a great idea." [...]

Ariel Sharon has decided that one cannot negotiate with a void, a nullity — and even sentimental European Yasserphiles might, in their more honest moments, acknowledge that the only way the Palestinians are ever going to get a state is if they're cut out of the process. So the Israelis are building their wall, and what's left over on the other side will either be a new state, the present decayed Arafatist squat, or an ever more frustrated self-detonation academy. But it will be up to the Palestinians to choose because they'll be the ones living with the consequences.

BUSH HAS gone along with Sharon because it accords with his post-9/11 assessment of the Middle East: The biggest gamble can't be worse than Moussa's stability. Indeed, the Israeli government's new Hamas Assassination-of-the-Month program usefully clarifies the bottom line: A high rotation of thugs is better than the same thug decade in, decade out. Poor Rantissi, killed this weekend, seems unlikely to get the glowing send-off from European obituarists they gave to his predecessor, the "revered quadriplegic spiritual leader," Sheikh Yassin. Already, bigshot terrorists in Gaza are said to be reconsidering their applications for next month's vacancy.

That's the bottom line elsewhere, too. If all else fails, then a modified Sam Goldwyn philosophy will do: I'm sick of the old despots, bring me some new despots.

But it won't come to that. In Iraq, Libya, Iran, Syria, and elsewhere, the old Middle East is dying, and what replaces it can only be better.

Folk seem to have forgotten the level of instability and the volume of slaughter that was required as the West reformed from totalitarianism (pretty much from Germany all the way East) to the Bering Sea. Thus far the reform of Islam has been comparatively easy, quick, cheap, and bloodless.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:23 AM


Kerry faces PR fight over foreign policy (Farah Stockman, April 26, 2004, Boston Globe)

In a presidential race dominated by national security issues, Kerry's success may hinge on whether voters are convinced that his ability to forge ties with allies can make America safer than President Bush's more unilateral approach. Lately, the differences between the candidates have sometimes been hard to detect.

But in public opinion surveys, Bush trumps the Massachusetts senator on those issues. A USA Today/ CNN/ Gallup poll released last week indicated that 41 percent of respondents said they thought ''only Bush" would do a good job handling terrorism, while 20 percent said ''only Kerry" would. On the situation in Iraq, 40 percent indicated ''only Bush," while 26 percent indicated Kerry. Those numbers come in one of the most troublesome news cycles for the Bush administration, as the Sept. 11 commission hearings and the rising violence in Iraq have raised questions about Bush's conduct on both issues.

The poll numbers also come as Bush and Kerry have increasingly echoed each other's statements on foreign policy, complicating Kerry's struggle to distinguish himself in voters' minds and maintain the support of antiwar Democrats.

Bush is beginning to adopt measures that Kerry has long advocated: giving the United Nations a far greater role in Iraq, emphasizing the importance of welcoming NATO to Iraq, and beefing up the number of US troops in Iraq.

The president's moves have generated a mixed reaction among Kerry's advisers, some of whom have urged him to take credit for the change.

''It is the greatest form of flattery in a sense, isn't it?" Beers said.

But others see a danger for Kerry in Bush's new pronouncements.

''The nightmare for Kerry is that all of his criticisms become moot, except the woulda-shoulda-coulda criticism about the war," said Walter Russell Mead, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. ''In this sense, voters are going to say to themselves: 'What's the difference? If I vote for Kerry, I will get a war in Iraq and someone who doesn't believe in the war but is going to have to fight it anyway. If I vote for Bush, I get a war in Iraq, fought by somebody who believes in the war.' "

Kerry also has appeared to take on positions more associated with Bush, and in recent weeks has endorsed Bush's foreign policy decisions more than once. When Bush lauded the plan by Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon, to withdraw from Gaza and keep some settlements in the West Bank, Kerry agreed. He also agreed that Palestinians should not expect to gain the right to return to Israel, and he suggested that Israel has a right to defend itself by killing leaders of the Islamic militant group Hamas. In recent weeks, Kerry also has said that he would act alone, if necessary, to protect America's interests -- a hallmark of Bush's presidency -- and that he would stay in Iraq as long as necessary to bring stability to the country.

''I think they are moving toward a merge," Mead said. ''Most of the people I talk to don't think there's going to be that much difference between them, in substance, because the options are so limited. I think in a second term, the Bush administration would try to get more foreign support, and a Kerry administration would sometimes have to go it alone."

Foreign policy will only be an issue in this election to the extent that it enables Ralph Nader to siphon off some of the lunatic Left.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM


Politics of Patriot Act Turn Right for Bush (Peter Wallsten, April 25, 2004, LA Times)

Only months ago, Democrats were targeting the controversial USA Patriot Act as an ideal issue to use in their campaign against President Bush, assailing the law as an intrusion on civil rights. But in a turnabout, the act has suddenly emerged as a cornerstone of Bush's reelection campaign, while Democratic rival Sen. John F. Kerry and others have toned down their criticism.

The Patriot Act is proving to be more popular in opinion polls than once expected, given its diverse range of critics. Also, both Democratic and Republican strategists now believe that public debate over the Patriot Act and other aspects of the nation's response to terrorism only enhance Bush's national security credentials, while threatening to paint Kerry as soft on terrorism.

The result is that the Democrats have lost what once seemed like a useful tool for rallying opposition to the president.

"There's a dangerous trap here for Democrats," said Jim Mulhall, a Democratic strategist working with independent groups targeting Bush. "It's a terribly unfair characterization, but … if Democrats are not careful, they will sound more like they're worried about technical concerns than they are about locking up terrorists."

Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has recently been couching his positions on the law as "fixes," whereas in December the Massachusetts senator called for "replacing the Patriot Act with a new law that protects our people and our liberties at the same time." Kerry has even argued that his ideas would make the law, bashed repeatedly last year by nearly all the Democratic presidential contenders, tougher than it is currently.

There's a name for a party that's as out of touch with the American people as are the Democrats: the Whigs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:38 AM


THE RADICAL: Why do editors keep throwing “The Boondocks” off the funnies page? (BEN McGRATH, 2004-04-12, The New Yorker)

On the day of Saddam Hussein’s capture, last December, the left-leaning political weekly The Nation celebrated its hundred-and-thirty-eighth birthday. It was a Sunday night, and the weather was dreadful—forbiddingly cold and wet, heavy snow giving way to sleet—but three hundred people could not be deterred from dropping five hundred dollars a plate for roast chicken amid the marble-and-velvet splendor of the Metropolitan Club, on Fifth Avenue. Jean Stein, a veteran of the liberal party circuit and the mother of Katrina vanden Heuvel, The Nation’s editor, was there, as were E. L. Doctorow, John Waters, Charlie Rose, and even John McEnroe. Robert Byrd, the senior senator from West Virginia, was an honored guest; Amtrak had been advised of his itinerary, and, despite service delays all weekend, the train got him there on time. Joseph Wilson, the former Ambassador to Gabon, riding a wave of liberal good will since the politically motivated outing of his wife, the C.I.A. operative Valerie Plame, attended as well, by special invitation.

Byrd spoke first, and he delivered a generous helping of full-throated Southern oratory. Yes, it was good to see Saddam gone, Byrd said, but he was ever more convinced, what with a “swashbuckling, ‘High Noon’” kind of President in office, that Iraq was the wrong war at the wrong time. “Thank God for courageous institutions like this one,” he said, “which are willing to stand up to the tide of popular convention.” He recited the closing lines of Tennyson’s “Ulysses,” and then, finishing up, invoked “the spirit of Longfellow.” Standing ovation.

Toward the dessert (chocolate torte) portion of the evening, Uma Thurman rose to introduce a special guest: Aaron McGruder, the creator of the popular and subversive comic strip “The Boondocks,” who, as it happens, had travelled farther than anyone else to be there, all the way from Los Angeles. McGruder, one of only a few prominent African-American cartoonists, had been making waves in all the right ways, poking conspicuous fun at Trent Lott, the N.R.A., the war effort. An exhibition of his comic strips—characters with Afros and dreadlocks drawn in a style borrowing heavily from Japanese manga,with accentuatedforeheads and eyes—was on display in the Metropolitan Club’s Great Hall. It seemed to be, as a Nation contributor said later, “his coronation as our kind of guy.”

But what McGruder saw when he looked around at his approving audience was this: a lot of old, white faces. What followed was not quite a coronation. McGruder, who rarely prepares notes or speeches for events like this, began by thanking Thurman, “the most ass-kicking woman in America.” Then he lowered the boom. He was a twenty-nine-year-old black man, he said, who got invited to such functions all the time, so you could imagine how bored he was. He proceeded to ramble, at considerable length, and in a tone, as one listener put it, of “militant cynicism,” with a recurring theme: that the folks in the room (“courageous”? Please) were a sorry lot.

He told the guests that he’d called Condoleezza Rice, the national-security adviser, a mass murderer to her face; what had they ever done? (The Rice exchange occurred in 2002, at the N.A.A.C.P. Image Awards, where McGruder was given the Chairman’s Award; Rice requested that he write her into his strip.) He recounted a lunch meeting with Fidel Castro. (He had been invited to Cuba by the California congresswoman Barbara Lee, who is one of the few politicians McGruder has praised in “The Boondocks.”) He said that noble failure was not acceptable. But the last straw came when he “dropped the N-word,” as one amused observer recalled. He said—bragged, even—that he’d voted for Nader in 2000. At that point, according to Hamilton Fish, the host of the party, “it got interactive.”

Eric Alterman, a columnist for The Nation, was sitting in the back of the room, next to Joe Wilson, the Ambassador. He shouted out, “Thanks for Bush!” Exactly what happened next is unclear. Alterman recalls that McGruder responded by grabbing his crotch and saying, “Try these nuts.” Jack Newfield, the longtime Village Voice writer, says that McGruder simply dared Alterman to remove him from the podium. When asked about this incident later, McGruder said, “I ain’t no punk. I ain’t gonna let someone shout and not go back at him.”

Alterman walked out. “I turned to Joe and said, ‘I can’t listen to this crap anymore,’” he remembers. “I went out into the Metropolitan Club lobby—it’s a nice lobby—and I worked on my manuscript.”

Newfield joined in the heckling, as did Stephen Cohen, a historian and the husband of Katrina vanden Heuvel. “It was like watching LeRoi Jones try to Mau-Mau a guilty white liberal in the sixties,” Newfield says. “It was out of a time warp. Who is he to insult people who have been putting their careers and lives on the line for equal rights since before he was born?”

By the time McGruder had finished, and a tipsy Joe Wilson took the microphone to deliver his New Year’s Resolutions, perhaps half the guests had excused themselves to join Alterman in the lobby. A Nation contributor estimated that McGruder had offended eighty per cent of the audience. “Some people still haven’t recovered,” he said, sounding thrilled.

“At a certain point, I just got the uncomfortable feeling that this was a bunch of people who were feeling a little too good about themselves,” McGruder said afterward. “These are the big, rich white leftists who are going to carry the fight to George Bush, and the best they can do is blame Nader?”

It's as if Tom Wolfe wrote a screenplay for a Fellini movie...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:05 AM


While Europe is a eunuch, America is our only shield: We can't walk away from Bush's follies without a credible military alternative (Max Hastings, April 26, 2004, The Guardian)

[E]ven the French and Germans recognise that no responsible nation can simply turn its back on the US. The strange part is that America's critics refuse to take the obvious step further: to recognise that Europe could only afford entirely to distance itself from US policy if it possessed the military means to manage its own security.

Terror within the Ministry of Defence about a breach with Washington reflects our dependence on security and, above all, intelligence cooperation with Washington. European disenchantment with Bush's foreign policy is not reflected in willingness to adopt the obvious remedy: that of creating armed forces capable of acting effectively without the US.

Britain's defence policy today rests on the avowed presumption that we shall never have to engage in conflict without the Americans. This may represent reality, but it is also a huge European abdication of responsibility. If we are really fed up with Bush, if we recognise that no future US president is likely be entirely to our taste, we should surely get on with creating credible European armed forces. As it is, no European nation - with the possible exception of France - shows the smallest interest in spending money or displaying spine for this purpose.

Until we address this, and against the background of a struggle against international terrorism that is likely to grow more alarming rather than less, America remains the indispensable ally and shield. That means George Bush. At the very moment when most of us feel surfeited with the president's vacuous grin and impregnable moral conceit, we cannot walk away from his follies unless or until Europe makes itself something quite different from the eunuch it is today.

Poor Mr. Hastings, doesn't he realize that Europeans will never transfer money from their welfare programs to a develop a significant military and that even if they did spend the money they don't have the young men to staff it nor to build the equipment they'd need? Nor would such a multinational/multilingual/multicultural force ever be even remotely coherent and credible. No transplant is possible for the eunuch.

Here's all you really have to know about Europe's military future: the lingua franca of its young men is Arabic.

Fragmented Europe Invites Terrorism (Sebastian Rotella, April 26, 2004, LA Times)

Despite round-the-clock teamwork by European anti-terrorism agencies in the wake of last month's train bombings here, persistent barriers to cooperation and coordination make Europe vulnerable to attack, senior European and U.S. police officials, prosecutors and other experts say.

Justice systems clash, policing styles diverge, and open borders allow terrorists far more mobility than their pursuers. For years, the Al Qaeda terrorist network has taken full advantage of these factors — and Europe's democratic, tolerant environment — using the continent as a base for recruitment, logistics and plotting attacks elsewhere.

The Madrid attacks, which killed 191 people, showed how Al Qaeda used that infrastructure to carry out its first successful strike in a Western Europe that was caught off guard, investigators say.

"There's a lack of trust among security services and among countries," said Baltasar Garzon, Spain's best-known anti-terrorism magistrate. "There's a lack of solidarity. Self-interest dominates. What we need is a European intelligence community. We are straitjacketed by absurd formalities that distract from what should be essential."

Investigative cooperation depends largely on political dynamics and personal chemistry among Europe's counter-terrorism magistrates, prosecutors, police and spies. Europe wants to build regional justice and policing systems one day, but governments find it hard to relinquish the national security powers that are the core of their sovereignty.

April 25, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:45 PM


1971 Tape Adds to Debate Over Kerry's Medal Protest (JIM RUTENBERG and JAMES DAO, April 26, 2004, NY Times)

Throughout much of his political career, Senator John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, has faced questions about a singular event that took place 33 years ago last week: he and fellow veterans discarded medals in Washington to protest the war in Vietnam.

The Kerry campaign Web site says it is "right-wing fiction" that he "threw away his medals during a Vietnam War protest."

Rather, the Web site says, "John Kerry threw away his ribbons and the medals of two veterans who could not attend the event."

But the issue is not so cut and dried. A television interview Mr. Kerry gave in November 1971 shows that Mr. Kerry himself fed the confusion from early on. The New York Times obtained a videotape of the interview late last week.

The interview was shown on the Washington television station WRC, archived by President Richard M. Nixon's communications office and held by the National Archives.

On the program, an interviewer asked Mr. Kerry to explain what was happening in a photograph of a man hurling a medal, apparently during a protest. Mr. Kerry responded that the veterans had decided that the best way to "wake the country up" about the war was to "renounce the symbols which this country gives, which supposedly reinforces all the things that they have done, and that was the medals themselves."

"And so they decided to give them back to their country," he added.

Mr. Kerry said they had decided to do so as "a last resort."

When the interviewer asked, "How many did you give back, John?" he answered, "I gave back, I can't remember, six, seven, eight, nine."

When the interviewer pointed out that Mr. Kerry had won the Bronze and Silver Stars and three Purple Hearts, Mr. Kerry added, "Well, and above that, I gave back my others."

Strange that they think there's a way to spin this that doesn't make him unfit to lead our nation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:35 PM


Koizumi Leaving His Mark on Japan After Three Years in Office (Audrey McAvoy, Apr 25, 2004, Associated Press)

As he enters his fourth year in power on Monday - a milestone achieved by only five of Japan's 26 postwar premiers - [Prime Minister Junichiro] Koizumi has wrought dramatic changes in defense policy and broken with conventions in the way Cabinet members are chosen. [...]

Japan began refueling and supplying warships of the U.S.-led coalition in the Indian Ocean to support the war on terror in Afghanistan - the first in a series of decisions by Koizumi that have tested the limits of the nation's pacifist constitution.

Koizumi has tirelessly championed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and pushed special legislation through Parliament to send troops to Iraq on a humanitarian mission, the country's first military deployment to a combat zone since 1945.

The missions in Afghanistan and Iraq broke new ground for Japan's military, which has been severely restricted by a public skeptical of military might and a pacifist constitution drafted by U.S. occupiers after Japan's defeat in World War II.

"He's a different type of character - for better or for worse - and this has enabled him to implement such policies," said Masato Ushio, an assistant professor at Seigakuin University.

The importance for Koizumi of close ties with the United States has also helped this process, he said.

With his preference for popular music and permed silver hair, Koizumi flew in the face of Japan's typically ultraconservative politicians when he was elected three years ago. He was famously called a "weirdo" by his then most-ardent supporter, politician Akiko Tanaka.

He has consolidated decision-making under his office and grabbed the right to make his own Cabinet appointments, a privilege once shared by power brokers in his Liberal Democratic Party.

Still, he has yet to take a hatchet to heavily protected industries and public services to ignite an economic recovery that would lift Japan out of its decade-long slump.

Hard to have any hope for a nation where you can represent a radical break with transition without so much as addressing any of the country's fundamental problems.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:29 PM


Open verdict in death of Holmes expert (Jamie Wilson, April 24, 2004, The Guardian)

The world's foremost expert on Sherlock Holmes was found garrotted in his bed surrounded by cuddly toys and a bottle of gin, an inquest heard yesterday.

Richard Lancelyn Green, 50, had become paranoid in the days before his death, telling friends and relatives that his home was bugged and that a mysterious American was out to besmirch his reputation.

He died from asphyxiation after a garrotte was tightened around his neck.

Yesterday coroner Paul Knapman called it a "very unusual death" and recorded an open verdict. He said there was insufficient evidence to rule whether it was suicide, murder or a deviant sexual act taken too far that had caused the death of the former chairman of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London.

The court heard talk of the "curse of Conan Doyle", where people connected with the creator of Sherlock Holmes seem unusually predisposed to unexpected death, breakdown or unpleasant conflict.

Mr Green was found dead on March 27 in bed at his multimillion pound home in Kensington. A pathologist said the form of his death was so unusual he had come across only one other such case in 30 years.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:26 PM


The Tale of the Toaster, or How Trade Deficits Are Good (BEN STEIN, 4/25/04, NY Times)

SEE that Chinese-made toaster on the shelf at Wal-Mart that sells for $6.87, while the one made in America, on sale at your local kitchen and wine shop, costs $49.99? There is a story there, and it's not a bad story at all - or at least not an all-bad story.

Plug in the toaster, slide in an English muffin and pay attention. By the time the muffin is crisp, you will have learned something.

If you are a factory worker whose job has just been sent to Guangdong, you probably do not have kind feelings about Chinese manufacturers. If you are an automobile assembly line worker (as my grandfather was) whose factory is on shaky ground because of the torrent of Japanese imports, you may not feel madly in love with the Japanese. Few people want to lose their jobs. But if you are an ordinary American consumer or investor, you may want to connect the dots and see just what it means that the United States imports so incredibly much from China and Japan and how, in many ways, it is a substantial benefit to the American consumer and especially to the investor - at least in the short run.

As everyone knows, the United States runs very large trade deficits with many countries, but let's focus on China and Japan. The trade deficits mean that the Chinese and the Japanese collect a vast hoard of dollars by selling us toasters and other products, but that they do not spend nearly as much here buying cow hides, lumber, wheat and whatnot. They take these unspent dollars, turn them in to the central banks of their countries and get their local currencies to pay their workers and pay their mortgages.

The central banks then take all those dollars, or a lot of them, and buy Treasury securities in the United States. Japan loves Treasuries: in the last year, it has been buying those bonds at a rate of about $20 billion a month. To be sure, part of this has been to keep the dollar high and thus encourage additional American purchases of Japanese goods, but much of the reason is that Treasuries are a remarkably safe investment in terms of return of principal.

Japan now holds roughly one-sixth of all Treasury debt, or more than $600 billion of it. China has bought much less but still owns about $170 billion of the stuff and is adding a few billion dollars a month. (I am indebted to my statistician friend, Phil DeMuth, head of Conservative Wealth Management, for this data.)

This may seem scary, and, in a way, it is. It means that we citizens are paying a good chunk of our income tax each year for interest on debt owned by the Chinese and the Japanese.

But there are legions of positive effects from their bond buying and the large trade surpluses that their countries are running with the United States - and will continue to run, even if their commodities prices rise, because their labor costs will remain less.

If you're betting on the future, which is what investors do, you buy American debt.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:12 PM


Stop with the Hindsight ... Or Should We Rerun All Our Wars? (Thomas Fleming, 4-19-04, History News Network)

World War I began with a presidential assumption that made Lincoln's 90-days-to-victory look owlishly wise. President Woodrow Wilson called on America to declare war on Germany presuming that he would not have to send a single American soldier to France. Brainwashed by British propaganda, he thought the war was as good as won. His army chief of staff put a memo in the files to this effect, a month after Congress voted for war. The Democratic leader of the Senate, questioning the reason for an emergency appropriation of $3 billion, said to the Army's spokesman: "Good lord, you're not going to send soldiers over there, are you?"

Add to this fiasco the arrival of British and French military missions who cried: "We want men, men, men!" and admitted the Germans were winning the war. Throw in a conference with British foreign secretary, Arthur Balfour, who told Wilson about the secret treaties the Allies had signed, dividing up Germany's African colonies and Turkey's Middle Eastern provinces and you have a benumbed president realizing his crusade to make the world safe for democracy was just another war to make the battered globe safer for imperialism. The eventual death toll was 50,300 dead in a mere five months of fighting on the western front.

On the eve of World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had long since shed Wilson's idealistic illusions. But he clung to some fairly serious unrealities of his own. One was the racist conviction that the Japanese were terrible pilots and mediocre sailors. It was their bad eyesight and monkey-like forebrains, don't you know? Desperate to stop Adolf Hitler's rampage through Russia, FDR cut off Japan's flow of oil from the United States to provoke a clash that would get the U.S. into the war against Tokyo's ally through "the back door," as Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes called it.

We all know what happened next: The December 7, 1941, Japanese assault that sank battleships and destroyers in Pearl Harbor and killed 3200 American sailors. Talk about embarrassment! It was especially acute, when we factor in President Roosevelt's knowledge that the Japanese were going to attack us somewhere. We had broken their codes and knew they were committed to war. Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox visited FDR in the White House at 1 p.m. on December 7. "He was white as a sheet," Knox later told his naval aide. "He expected to get hit but not hurt."

Whatever other crimes folk may want to lay at George Bush's door they can't claim he went looking for a 9-11.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:12 PM


Bicycling to War (Richard Cohen, April 20, 2004, Washington Post)

Old joke: A man repeatedly rides a bike across the Mexican-U.S. border. Each time, he's stopped by Customs and the bike is taken apart. Nothing is found. Finally, one day a Customs official offers the man immunity from prosecution if only he will tell what he's smuggling. The man pauses for a second, shrugs and says, "Bicycles."

I offer you this because I have just finished Bob Woodward's compelling new book, "Plan of Attack," and while it contains several gasps per chapter -- more reasons why George Tenet should be fired, more proof that Condi Rice is in over her head and more reasons that Dick Cheney should be medicated -- the stunning disclosure that I expected is simply not there. I thought Woodward would reveal the real reason George Bush went to war in Iraq. It turns out we already knew.

The "bicycle" in this case has been in plain sight: Bush's conviction that he is a servant of God and history, chosen to liberate Iraq, bring democracy to the Middle East and make sure the United States is safe from terrorism.

Again we ask: has any president ever confused his foes and friends more by simply being transparent and straightforward?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 PM


The `fatal conceit' of Kyoto (KEN GREEN, Apr. 25, 2004, Toronto Star)

A suppressed report by the federal government evaluating the effectiveness of spending $500 million since the year 2000 to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases has shown — surprise! — that the spending was largely wasted, producing neither a reduction in gas emissions, nor the development of new "cleaner" technologies.

An anonymous source that participated in the mid-term review is quoted in the Star, saying, "We seriously underestimated the difficulty of getting reductions and overestimated the payoff from new technologies."

How did the government manage to blow $500 million of taxpayer money?

It put it into "Action Plan 2000," which committed $210 million to promote technologies that reduced greenhouse gas emissions in industry and transportation; it gave $125 million to cities to encourage them to use the non-existent new technologies.

And another $100 million was spent on promoting foreign demand for the non-existent new technologies.

The lack of value Canadians received for their half-a-billion dollars should come as a surprise to ... well, nobody.

Governments are notoriously bad at "inspiring" development of new technologies and encouraging their adoption.

The idea that government can inspire the development of new, beneficial technologies is an example of "industrial policy," a type of governmental steering of industrial development thoroughly discredited outside the halls of Ottawa.

Industrial policy relies on what the Nobel Prize-winning economist Frederick Hayek called "the fatal conceit," that somehow, government planners have special knowledge that markets, investors, and industry lack.

There but for the GOP landslide of '94 go we.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:24 PM


US tips toward restraint in Fallujah: Over the weekend, US forces around the insurgent city held off from assault in favor of more pinpointed security measures. (Scott Peterson, 4/26/04, The Christian Science Monitor)

The US Marine sniper hadn't slept all night, but it was hard to tell under the layers of camouflage face paint.

He was back at home base after a night battle that left some 30 insurgents dead. "Recon found [the insurgents], they were engaged, and then Specter gunships let loose," said the sniper. "They are no more."

The sniper is at the sharp end of an increasingly successful hunt for guerrillas that is giving US Marines pause as they weigh the possibility of an all-out assault on Fallujah.

Tuesday, US troops will begin joint patrols with Iraqi security forces inside Fallujah in an attempt to gradually restore control over the insurgent stronghold without a major attack. Fallujah presents US officials with a difficult nut to crack. They cannot cede control of the city to the 2,000 or so insurgents now there. But a full-scale assault - accompanied by likely civilian casualties - could turn large segments of the Iraqi population against the US, and derail plans to construct a democratic stronghold in the Middle East.

Tough threats from US commanders that insurgents in Fallujah had just "days not weeks" to hand in their weapons gave way over the weekend to a less strident tone.

"If we don't do this absolutely correctly, we will incur damage to the end state we seek," warns Col. John Coleman, chief of staff of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force that controls western Iraq.

Instead of bringing enough stability to hand over control to a future Iraqi government, he says the stand-off over Fallujah is a very complex "small war" and "we're deep in it."

Better to kill them than just collect their weapons.

Falluja truce has 'weakened resistance' (aljazeera.net, 04/25/2004)

The ceasefire brokered by Iraqi mediators in the Iraqi city of Falluja appears to have weakened the fighters battling US marines while also creating divisions within the Sunni Muslim community.

The fighters have been trapped by the US siege in the flashpoint city west of Baghdad for the past three weeks, after having initially succeeded in winning national support for their cause.

"The city has been completely surrounded for the past 10 days and the fighters are trapped inside and cannot leave," said one local tribal chief, Mansur al-Hadithi, who is sympathetic to the resistance.

"Most of these fighters are from Falluja and determined to defend their city in case of an attack," he said.

The Islamic Party and the Association of Muslim Scholars, composed of top Sunni clerics, which helped broker the truce, have now come under fire from within the Sunni minority over their mediation.

A communique signed by the "Iraqi resistance in Falluja" said the truce was "an inspiration from Satan because it shifted the balance power in favour of the occupation forces."

"Our mujahideen had the situation under control, and the truce weakened them," said the statement. A nationalist leader accused the Islamic Party of campaigning for a truce from the first week of fighting "to extricate the Americans from the Falluja quagmire."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:58 AM


Why Did Bush Take My Job? (Saeb Erekat, April 25, 2004, Washington Post)

Because you wouldn't do it?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:54 AM



One question that is seldom asked is: Why did the Muslim world witness the demise of the Taliban and the Iraqi Ba'ath with indifference verging on disdain? To be sure, many Muslims felt humiliated because the two beastly regimes were overthrown by non-Muslim powers, not by liberating forces from within Islam. But there is no sign that any substantial body of opinion within the Muslim world regrets the collapse of the Taliban and the Ba'ath.

What interests a growing number of Muslims is to find out why were the Taliban and the Ba'ath such easy pushovers.

A few persist in asserting that neither stood any chance against the might of the world's only superpower. This may well be true, but does not answer another important question: Why did the Taliban and the Ba'ath lead their nations into conflict in the first place?

Others argue that the Taliban and the Ba'ath were programmed to run into conflict with the Western world because of policies that excluded the Afghan and Iraqi peoples from the decision-making process while making conflict with the West inevitable. Both collapses showed that, contrary to claims by some "Islamologists," the overwhelming majority of Muslims do not love despots and are not prepared to fight for them.

This was made clear in recent conferences of Muslim democrats in Istanbul and Alexandria. In each case, the subtext was that democracies can't be led into deadly conflict without majority consent. We know that no such consent was given or even sought in either Afghanistan or Iraq.

There is a growing sentiment in the Muslim world that their political systems have reached a dead end, with some form of democratization as the only way out. The old debate on whether Islam is compatible with democracy is hardly engaged these days. The issue now is the necessity of democracy for Muslims rather than its compatibility with Islam. Even the most conservative of Muslim regimes are now committed to the creation of elected organs of government.

History Ended, the reform of Islam is just a detail.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:43 AM


Put-up or shut-up time (Bill Shipp, April 25, 2004, Gwinnett Daily Post)

Will U.S. Rep. Denise Majette abandon her seat in the House to mount a no-chance Democratic bid for the U.S. Senate? Will outrageous ex-Rep. Cynthia McKinney try to make a comeback? Can Gov. Sonny Perdue recruit a viable candidate to challenge state Supreme Court Justice Leah Sears? Will the greatest Irish baritone in the history of Georgia government return to the state Legislature to make us weep one more time with “Danny Boy?”

We shall soon know. Put-up-or-shut-up time begins Monday at 9 a.m. and ends Friday at noon. Those dates and times signify the start and finish of candidate-qualifying season in Georgia. They also likely mark the beginning and end of numerous political careers across the state. [...]

Can a rich black owner of a chain of pizza parlors influence the outcome of the GOP primary for the U.S. Senate? The pizza guy is Republican senatorial candidate Herman Cain. The two mainstream candidates are U.S. Reps. Johnny Isakson and Mac Collins. Conventional wisdom holds that either Isakson or Collins will win the nomination and ultimately the seat now held by the Bush administration’s pet Democrat, Zell Miller. Don’t bet on it. The fight between Isakson and Collins is expected to turn into a mudslinging match. Even before qualifying starts, Collins already is warning Georgia voters against choosing a “moderate” (meaning Isakson) in such perilous times. Cain could become the “neither of the above” candidate and walk away as the nominee. 

Will Democrats find a competitive candidate for the U.S. Senate? Or will the party’s leaders watch helplessly as Majette, millionaire Cliff Oxford, political activist Leigh Baer and several other faceless souls try to win the Democratic Senate nomination — a prize that may turn out to be worthless in the November election?

If Mr. Cain is the nominee he gets a primetime speaking slot at the Convention.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:01 AM


Wallowing in nuance, Dems lack resolve (Mark Steyn, April 25, 2004, Chicago Sun-Times)

It's a good rule of thumb that so-called moderate opinion is several degrees to the left of popular opinion. You can test this for yourself easily enough: pick a subject such as, say, illegal immigration and compare the position of every Democratic senator, the majority of Republican senators and 90 percent of the media with the position of the American people.

That's why the press were befuddled by last week's polls. A month of Richard Clarke, the 9/11 Commission, Bob Woodward, Muqtada al-Sadr, Fallujah and Basra, and a constant drip-drip-drip of conventional wisdom on the president's "vulnerability" from the Beltway to Hollywood to the Ivy League to that brave radio station in Plattsburgh, N.Y., that's now the flagship of Al Franken's Air America ''network'' -- and what happens? Bush's numbers go up and Kerry's go down.

Another six weeks of Dick Clarke's book tour, of snotty network reporters condescending to the president at his press conference, of the sneering Richard Ben Veniste and emotionally unhinged Bob Kerrey badgering Condi Rice at their hack hearings, of Bob Woodward and his unreadable book filling up slabs of CNN's prime time every night with irrelevant arcana about what did Prince Bandar know and when did he tell Woodward he knew it, another six weeks of things that make Bush ''vulnerable,'' and he'd be heading for a 49-state blowout over Kerry. [...]

[T]he problem for John Kerry is that he and the networks and the New York Times are finding it all but impossible to make any dent in the Bush half. If it is a 50/50 nation, one side's 50 percent is pretty solid and the other's a lot softer.

How can this be? Well, let's turn to our senior political analyst, the late Osama bin Laden. In his final video appearance 2-1/2 years ago, Osama observed that, when people have a choice between a strong horse and a weak horse, they go with the strong horse. But, to take that a stage further, the strong horse doesn't have to be that strong when the other fellow's flogging a dead horse.

Except that Mr. Bush will carry the Republican state of MA.

The Strong Horse?: Failing to stay the course in Iraq would be a provocation for bin Laden. (JAMES SCHLESINGER, April 25, 2004, Wall Street Journal)

Let me underscore why it is that the U.S. is so deeply engaged in the Middle East and what is at stake in Iraq--for I fear that there is some public uncertainty regarding these issues. For that purpose, I recommend a rereading of Osama bin Ladin's "Declaration of War Against the Americans," in which he states that "the Defense Secretary of the Crusading Americans had said that the explosions at Riyadh and Al-Khobar had taught him one lesson: that is not to withdraw when attacked by cowardly terrorists." (I should point out that in 1998 the defense secretary in question was not Donald Rumsfeld but rather William Cohen.)

Bin Laden continues: "We say to the Defense Secretary that his talk could induce a grieving mother to laughter! And it shows the fears that have enveloped you all. . . . When tens of your soldiers were killed in minor battles and one American Pilot was dragged in the street of Mogadishu, you left the area in disappointment, humiliation and defeat, carrying your dead with you. Clinton appeared in front of the whole world threatening and promising revenge, but these threats were merely a preparation for withdrawal. You had been disgraced by Allah and you withdrew; the extent of your impotence and weaknesses became very clear."

Bin Laden and his ilk may be fanatics, but they are deadly serious and thoroughly persistent. We must anticipate, therefore, a conflict that will continue for many years.

Osama himself has opined that "when the people see a strong horse and a weak horse, they naturally gravitate toward the strong horse." Consequently, this country must conclusively demonstrate that we are not the weak horse.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:40 AM


Saudis were secret U.S. allies on Iraq (JOHN SOLOMON, April 25, 2004, Chicago Sun Times)

Saudi Arabia secretly helped the United States far more than has been acknowledged in the Iraq war, allowing operations from at least three air bases, permitting Special Forces to stage attacks from Saudi soil and providing cheap fuel, U.S. and Saudi officials say.

The American air campaign against Iraq essentially was managed from inside Saudi borders, where military leaders operated an air command center and launched refueling tankers, F-16 fighter jets, and sophisticated intelligence gathering flights, the officials said.

Much of the assistance has been kept quiet for more than a year by both countries for fear it would add to instability inside the kingdom.

Which is why George W. Bush runs the country, not pundits and bloggers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:19 AM


Early results on 'No Child': progress (ROSALIND ROSSI, April 25, 2004, Chicago Sun-Times)

Kids who won highly prized transfers out of failing Chicago public schools averaged much better reading and math gains during the first year in their new schools --just as drafters of the federal No Child Left Behind Law envisioned, an exclusive analysis indicates.

And, contrary to some predictions, moving low-scoring kids to better-performing schools didn't seem to slow the progress of students in those higher-achieving schools.

Even kids "left behind'' in struggling schools generally posted better gains in state tests once their peers transferred elsewhere.

"It's a win-win-win,'' said Chicago Schools CEO Arne Duncan. "I couldn't have asked for better results.''

Opposition to vouchers is opposition to educating poor kids. The only folks who oppose it are those who are irretrievably wedded to the idea that government is efficient, those who seek to prop up union boondoggle jobs, those who fear having black kids in their children's classes, and those who despise religion so much they'd rather see kids remain ignorant than see religious institutions provide educations. Unfortunately, that's pretty much a majority.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:12 AM


The Multilevel Marketing of the President (MATT BAI, 4/25/04, NY Times Magazine)

For Karl Rove, the president's chief political adviser, and the rest of the Bush team, Ohio is beginning to look a lot like Florida without the oranges. The most recent polls show Bush and Kerry essentially tied there; according to the University of Cincinnati's Ohio Poll, Bush's approval rating in the state has dropped from a record 76 percent a year ago to 46 percent now. And it would be hard to imagine a world in which Bush could win the White House without winning Ohio (a feat, in fact, that no Republican has ever accomplished). As the election grows closer, the two sides, armed with hundreds of millions of dollars, will unleash a storm in Ohio so intense -- ads on every channel, knocks on every door, mailboxes and in-boxes overflowing -- that it could inspire a horror movie. Rove and his associates are known as a controlling bunch, and it has to be frustrating for them to know that so much of what could ultimately decide the race -- an ambush in Iraq, a spike in gas prices -- is entirely beyond their control. They crave something more empirical, some new formula with which to guarantee victory in November. And they think they've found it in the reassuringly hard data of street-level politics.

Traditionally, it was the Democrats who went door-to-door, registering voters while the G.O.P., pressing its significant financial advantage, relied on 30-second ads and paid mailings. But Rove came away from the 2000 election convinced that Bush would have won by a comfortable margin had it not been for Democratic ground forces. (Although Bush won Ohio, his commanding lead in the polls -- 10 points on the final weekend -- drained away to a margin of fewer than 4 points on Election Day, when Democrats turned out in force.) During the midterm elections of 2002, Republicans successfully tested their own turnout strategy, which they called the 72-Hour Project. For 2004, Rove's team has devised the most ambitious grass-roots model in the party's history.

Up close, what Bush is assembling on the local level looks less like a political campaign than what is known in business as a multilevel marketing scheme. In an MLM, like Mary Kay Cosmetics or Tupperware, each independent entrepreneur who joins the sales force -- a Betty Kitchen, say -- also becomes a recruiter who is responsible for bringing in several new entrepreneurs underneath her. The result is a pyramid-like sales structure that broadens to include more and more recruits with each descending level.

The notion of translating the MLM concept into politics is visionary -- and also a little disquieting. Pyramid-based companies have proved amazingly successful at raising up armies of enterprising Americans; Amway, the world's most successful MLM, has more than 3.6 million distributors. But some MLM's thrive by imposing their own strange and insular cultures on their recruits, and while they offer the illusion of self-employment, those at the top of the pyramid often demand a rigid kind of uniformity and loyalty. Amway has often been compared to a cult -- so often, in fact, that on its own Web site the company feels the need to answer such frequently asked questions as ''I've heard rumors that Amway is a cult; is this true?'' and ''Why do Amway meetings appear to some people like a cult?'' When I met with Ken Mehlman, Bush's campaign manager, in suburban Washington, and suggested that the Bush campaign could fairly be compared to Amway in its approach, he agreed without hesitation. ''Amway, no question,'' he said.

By descending the levels of this newly created Bush pyramid, from its headquarters in Washington down to the doorsteps of the exurban town houses sprouting up all over Ohio, you can see not just the outlines of the 2004 campaign taking shape but also the emerging portrait of politics in a new century. As steel and coal have faded, so, too, have the great political machines those industries created in Ohio's cities. These urban strongholds, hit hardest by job losses, are the places where Democrats have long ruled the streets. But Republicans believe they can control a new, more promising demographic: the fast-growing, conservative communities just beyond the suburban sprawl, where tony malls are rising almost monthly out of fields and farmland. For Republicans, this means a whole new market of potential entrepreneurs to enlist and mobilize. If Bush can harness the power of the exurbs, he can create a kind of organization the country has not yet witnessed -- a political machine for the new economy.

Ohio is the Democrats' black hole, a place they can't win but are likely to contest, leading to losses (including Senate seats) in states they could have held. Every dollar and minute spent in OH puts places like CA, HI, IL, etc. at risk.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:06 AM


Abortion's Opponents Claim the Middle Ground (ROBIN TONER, 4/25/04, NY Times)

Today, as [abortion rights supporters] assemble on the Washington Mall, the movement faces a far more complicated and in some ways more challenging political landscape. The anti-abortion movement is more confident, more sophisticated and far more ensconced in the government, with allies now in control of the House, the Senate and the White House.

Its legislative goals are incremental, careful and popular with Americans who would oppose an outright ban on abortion, even if this agenda is considered by its opponents to be a stealthy chipping away of rights. The anti-abortion movement has, in many ways, become part of the establishment.

Nobody has made a serious effort to push a constitutional ban on abortion through Congress in many years. The Republican Party platform still calls for such a ban, as it has since the ascendancy of the Reaganites, and that plank is expected to be reaffirmed this year.

But President Bush, who opposes abortion except in cases of rape and incest and to protect the life of the woman, tried to defuse the fears of moderate voters early on. He said that he did not believe the country was ready for a ban, and talks more generally about creating a "culture of life."

Anna Greenberg, a Democratic pollster who also works for Naral Pro-Choice America, said her research showed that Mr. Bush rarely even used the word "abortion" for months at a time.

The current Congressional agenda of the anti-abortion movement is a series of steps aimed at restricting abortion and recognizing the "personhood" of the fetus. Legislation already passed includes the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, aimed at a procedure performed in the second or third trimester, and the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which makes it a separate offense to harm a fetus in a federal crime committed against a pregnant woman.

A quintessential conservative revolution--step by step...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:39 AM


The Lord of the 'Rings' at the Met (DAVID POGUE, April 25, 2004, NY Times)

AS he strolls backstage, joking with the stagehands, you wouldn't peg the 57-year-old Joe Clark as the technical director of the Metropolitan Opera. With his neatly trimmed mustache, mild manner, dress shirt and tie, he looks more like a visiting college professor than the man ultimately responsible for the sets, lights, sound, special effects, props, costumes and titles, and even the auditorium seats, at the most famous American opera house.

He's got just five minutes before the final dress rehearsal for the Met's production of "Die Walküre," the second installment of its complete staging of Wagner's 17-hour, four-opera "Ring" cycle. This will be the only chance Mr. Clark's 100-man stage crew will have to run the show without breaks before opening night. Yet Mr. Clark professes to be unconcerned.

"We've done this before," he says.

Playing down the stakes — and his own importance — is typical of the man who has been responsible for, in his words, "everything you see" at the Met for 24 years. It doesn't seem to faze Mr. Clark that this production of the "Ring" is one of the most eagerly anticipated events in the opera world, that it was sold out within weeks of its announcement (orchestra seats: $1,500 for the four operas) or that the 125 tons of moving sets could squash Plácido Domingo, one of the stars, in the space of a sixteenth note.

This presentation of the "Ring" is the Met's sixth in the Otto Schenk production from 1988, and Mr. Clark has overseen all six stagings. But even for an old hand, the Met poses formidable challenges. Its stage is five times as large as that of a Broadway theater, demanding much larger forces: a chorus of 110, for example, in "Götterdämmerung," the fourth "Ring" opera. The sets and props for the "Ring" fill 28 40-foot shipping containers. (Between "Ring" years, they join the Met's 775 other containers of scenery in a New Jersey storage yard.)

If you've never seen the Ring it's well worth the investment of time--though perhaps not $1500--just don't go when the Seventh Day Adventists are in town.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:32 AM


The Issue That Never Went Away: After 12 years, abortion rights are on trial again. (WILLIAM SALETAN, 4/25/04, NY Times)

The purpose of these inquiries is to try to prove that the so-called partial-birth procedure is never medically necessary, because that's what Congress asserts and the plaintiffs deny. But once this question is resolved, the next round of subpoenas will have a different purpose. It won't be to determine whether partial-birth abortion is ever necessary. It will be to determine whether each partial-birth abortion was necessary.

If the ban is upheld, any doctor found to have performed the procedure will be subject to a two-year prison term unless he or she can prove that the procedure was "necessary to save the life of a mother whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury." To settle that question, the court will need details about the patient.

Alternatively, if the ban is struck down, Congress will have to add to it what the Supreme Court demanded four years ago: a clause allowing the procedure when necessary to protect the woman's health. That, too, will require details about the patient.

As Mr. Ashcroft puts it, "If the central issue in the case, an issue raised by those who brought the case, is medical necessity, we need to look at medical records to find out if indeed there was medical necessity." That's why the government subpoenaed the records of the doctors who challenged the law. And that's why the government will subpoena the records of any doctor who, having been charged with performing a partial-birth abortion, argues that the procedure was medically necessary. This is what it takes to enforce an abortion ban.

That's the lesson of these trials. For years, Republicans have used Congress and the White House to showcase the ugliness of late-term abortions. The public, naturally repelled, endorsed the so-called partial-birth ban, and Congress enacted it.

But an abortion ban isn't just a moral statement. It's a pledge to prosecute, and prosecution introduces a different kind of ugliness: the public investigation of personal tragedies. That's the ugliness that lies ahead. If Americans won't take that warning from today's marchers, maybe they'll take it from John Ashcroft.

Incest investigations tend to violate the privacy of perpetrators and reveal tragedies too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:26 AM


9/11: SAVE SOME BLAME FOR COURTS THAT CREATED THE 'WALL': Let's take a break from the Clinton-Bush blame game for long enough to revisit how the wall between intelligence agents and criminal investigators was built and why it was torn down. (Stuart Taylor Jr., 4/21/04, Atlantic)

The so-called wall originated in a succession of federal court decisions interpreting—or misinterpreting, it now appears—the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, and seeking to avoid any conflict between FISA and the Fourth Amendment. Presidents had previously claimed inherent authority to use warrantless wiretaps in investigations of suspected foreign-intelligence agents and terrorists. FISA required the Justice Department to seek special judicial warrants. At the same time, the law made such warrants somewhat easier to obtain and longer-lasting than ordinary criminal warrants.

A FISA warrant application must show "probable cause" to believe that the target is a foreign "agent," defined to include U.S. citizens only if there is evidence implicating them in "sabotage or international terrorism," which are crimes; activities "in preparation therefor"; or "clandestine intelligence-gathering activities [that] involve or may involve a [criminal] violation." Ordinary criminal warrants require probable cause that actual criminal activity has occurred. FISA also created the highly secretive FISA court, which now has 11 judges, to handle Justice Department applications for FISA warrants; and the three-judge Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, known as the FISA review court, to hear any government appeals.

In the 1980s and 1990s, several other federal courts around the country, and eventually the FISA court, ruled that the government could not seek FISA wiretaps primarily for the purpose of prosecution, even for crimes of espionage or terrorism. The Justice Department adopted this interpretation in the 1980s. The court decisions presented Justice with a dilemma: While FISA's stated purpose was to "protect against" foreign spies, the most direct way to do that—locking them up on criminal charges—risked judicial rebuke. And even agents whose primary purpose in seeking a warrant was not prosecution could be mistakenly accused of having concealed such a purpose if they later came across evidence of crime and turned it over to prosecutors.

It was to guide investigators through this judicially created maze, and to avoid running afoul of the courts, that in 1995, Gorelick developed highly detailed curbs on contacts between intelligence and law enforcement officials. These instructions, portions of which the FISA court incorporated into some of its rulings, were enforced quite strictly by the career Justice Department officials who handled FISA warrant applications. Thus had the wall become a formidable barrier to coordination between intelligence and law enforcement officials.

[I]n November 2002, the FISA review court tore down both the wall and the legal analyses on which it was based.

The review court ruled that the government can seek FISA warrants regardless of whether its primary purpose is gathering pure intelligence or obtaining evidence for criminal prosecutions, as long as the alleged crimes are related to terrorism or espionage. The court acknowledged that this holding was not clearly supported by the Supreme Court's Fourth Amendment precedents, some of which suggest that any search or wiretap for which the primary purpose is prosecution must be based on probable cause to suspect that an actual crime has been committed. But the court concluded, quite persuasively, that using FISA's somewhat lower standard in cases that may "involve the most serious threat our country faces" was "reasonable" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.

Some of the same people who have deplored the lack of coordination between terrorism investigators were quick to attack the FISA review court's decision as a "misguided" grant to the government of "broad new authority ... to wiretap phone calls, intercept mail, and spy on Internet use of ordinary Americans," as The New York Times editorialized. The American Civil Liberties Union added that it would "affect every American's privacy rights."

Such are the alarums of those who have not learned from the past. Let's hope they are not condemned to repeat it.

"Liberties" aren't much use if you have no physical security.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:16 AM


All The President’s Men: Bob Woodward’s explosive account of the run-up to invasion of Iraq reveals how President George Bush’s administration conspired to pursue military action … and how Tony Blair declined every chance to opt out (Ian Bell, 25 April 2004, Sunday Herald)

ON page 161 of Bob Woodward’s book Plan Of Attack there is an arresting passage. In August 2002, as America moved closer to a war its president had been planning long before weapons inspections had been given a chance, Colin Powell, the US secretary of state, was holding a private meeting at his Long Island home with Jack Straw, Britain’s foreign secretary. According to Woodward, the pair had “some of the same concerns” about the unfolding scheme for an assault on Iraq. Straw had come with the message that Britain could not join the adventure “unless you go to the United Nations”. This, it seems, was useful to Powell in his attempts to restrain George W Bush because the President “absolutely had to have Blair on board”.

Later, with war looming, Prime Minister and President had an astounding conversation. Bush was concerned that Blair’s government could fall because of its allegiance to America. “We don’t want that to happen under any circumstances,” he is recalled as saying. Then the reactionary who had dreamed up every pretext for war, who would wait nervously for the decision of the Westminster parliament, so much did he need British “cover”, offered Blair a way out.

“If it would help, Bush said, he would let Blair drop out of the coalition and they would find some other way for Britain to participate.” Put aside the revealing suggestion that the United States might “let” its little ally do something, and you come to the most remarkable of Woodward’s claims, at least for British readers: Bush didn’t simply offer to excuse Blair from service, he made the offer three times in succession. We could have been “peacekeepers or something”, not the country whose participation in the war was Bush’s clinching excuse for invasion.

Hard to believe that Mr. Bell could biff this story so badly when Mr. Bush was obviously offering a friend a way out precisely because we didn't need the British and were going ahead regardless of their decision. We all know, of course, that Mr. Bush is too stupid to say what he means and to insecure to do anything on his own, but you'd think Mr. Bell would at least have noticed that the identical sentiment came from one of the President's secret cabal of puppeteers:
At a Pentagon news conference Tuesday, Rumsfeld was asked how the U.S. would proceed against Iraq if Blair were forced by domestic political pressures to withdraw British troops from participating.

"That is an issue that the president will be addressing in the days ahead, one would assume," Rumsfeld said.

"What will ultimately be decided is unclear as to their role; that is to say, their role in the event a decision is made to use force," Rumsfeld added. "To the extent they're not [able to participate], there are work-arounds, and they would not be involved, at least in that phase of it."

Mr. Blair had no power over Mr. Bush except for that of friendship. This won him a chance to convince the UN to go along, but not to stop the war.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:56 AM


Europe or Bust: He told us he has no reverse gear, that the EU constitution changes were simply tinkering, and that he, not Rupert Murdoch, runs the country. Really? The Sunday Herald trawls through the wreckage . James Cusick, 25 April 2004, Sunday Herald)

Although Blair’s Easter recess Bermuda break was described by Number 10 as a “well-deserved holiday” it was not the usual get-away-from-it-all package you can buy from Elegant Resorts or Kuoni. Blair was carrying heavy baggage with him: the right-wing free enterprise economist Irwin Stelzer, a close business associate of Rupert Murdoch, had dined in Downing Street just before parliament broke up.

Stelzer’s table talk is said to have been blunt and clear. Murdoch wants a referendum on the draft constitution and effectively warned Blair that the continued support of The Times and The Sun was conditional on that. Given the current level of public support and scepticism over the idea of a European constitution, Downing Street also knows Murdoch wants a referendum for one reason and one reason only – because the government will lose.

And Blair and his Cabinet colleagues do not want to lose either a referendum or the next general election. But on how such objectives will be achieved there is no consensus.

Blair took with him to Bermuda the advice of key colleagues. As one adviser puts it: “Let’s get this clear, there was no marching into Blair’s office to get things clear on the Europe problem. There was no Thatcher-style moment where doves turned into hawks and boldly told it to Tony straight. Whoever the hell is putting this about is living in a fantasy land.”

But what there was, was almost a collegiate offering of opinions that may have persuaded Blair of what he was already beginning to feel. Bottom line? He’d got it wrong on his blanket refusal to hold a referendum and unless he confessed to the misjudgement and changed direction quickly, accepting the political fallout and short-term embarrassment, an opportunity would be gone.

The opportunity is the window between now and the European elections in June. But as well as the Stelzer “ultimatum” meeting, Blair was also recently briefed by his private polling experts. The forecasts for Labour’s predicted performance made grim reading, even for the Downing Street advisers who knew the European poll was a key date for voters to give the government a mid-term black eye on everything from Iraq to tuition fees. Blair’s falling trust quotient, factored into everything else, pointed to the lowest turn-out recorded in a national poll, with Labour not expected to pass the 50% of those who bothered to vote. That kind of support – perhaps as low as one in 10 of the entire electorate – would cloud everything the government did between June and the expected general election in May next year.

Those in the Cabinet who offered their view are said to have focused on one potential pathway through the electoral mire: disarm the more confident Conservative Party. Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, is said to have recently reconvened a fading friendship with the Chancellor, Gordon Brown. Straw, an almost time-served Eurosceptic, according to some close associates in the Foreign Office, has apparently had a rethink on Europe. His tone in discussions with Brown were described as “almost confessional”. The thinking is that Michael Howard needs to be disarmed of the referendum weapon and by Labour pro-actively calling for the referendum, it would remove the constant accusation of running scared. It would also re-ignite the entire “in” or “out” of Europe debate – likely to cause more splits in Tory ranks than among the Labour benches – and it would remove with a scalpel efficiency, the foundation Howard was building on which to fight both the European and general elections.

Now the Tories have to summon the courage to admit that they were wrong and Margaret Thatcher was right. If they wage the next election as the anti-European party they'll win. But Mr. Blair's calculation that they don't have the guts to is likely accurate.

Blair’s gamble plays into the hands of Eurosceptics … and ‘old Europe’ (Angus Roxburgh, 4/25/04, Sunday Herald)

Europeans – in the sense of those who support “the European project” – have reacted with astonishment and dismay to Tony Blair’s U-turn on holding a referendum on the EU’s constitution. Astonishment because there is no EU requirement for the constitution to be approved by referendum and everyone accepted Blair’s previous insistence that such matters were dealt with in the UK by parliament, as they are in several other countries. Dismay because a referendum on Europe in the continent’s most Eurosceptical country looks like dangerous folly, risking the destruction not just of a treaty but of the EU itself. Dismay, too, because some other countries which didn’t really want to hold a referendum (such as France and Sweden) may now feel under pressure to do so.

One German newspaper predicted that the EU now faced a rocky period after which “the dream of a unified larger union will be over”. Britain would be more isolated than ever, and Germany and France would be at the heart of a “core Europe”. The stakes are very high.

Isolated from a dying Europe but at the heart of the Anglosphere and the Axis of Good.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:43 AM


Privacy of Wife's Fortune Casts a Shadow Over Kerry: Senator John Kerry's campaign is bracing for a battle over whether to disclose his wife's tax returns. (KATHARINE Q. SEELYE and DAVID E. ROSENBAUM, 4/25/04, NY Times)

Now that Senator John Kerry has made his military records public, his presidential campaign is bracing for an even bigger battle over whether to disclose his wife's tax returns, a highly charged issue that pits the privacy of his wife and her children against the political exigencies of his candidacy.

But Mr. Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry — whose personal wealth, estimated at more than $500 million dollars, derives from the family fortune of her late husband — said this week that she would not release her returns because her finances were deeply entwined with those of her three adult children and she wanted to protect their privacy.

Two of her sons are active in the campaign while the third lives an intensely private life.

"What I have and what I receive is not just mine, it is also my children's, and I don't know that I have the right to make public what is theirs," Mrs. Heinz Kerry told reporters. "If I could separate it, I would have no problem."

But citing history and the demands for candidates to release information about their finances, several political analysts said disclosure seemed inevitable.

There's a simple way to keep your private life private: don't run.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:12 AM


A Chronicle of Courage (Jeff Jacoby, Boston Globe, 20/04/04)

In October 1941, "one of the respected members of the community" asked Rabbi Oshry if he could commit suicide. His wife and children had been seized by the Nazis, and he knew that their murder was imminent. He also knew that the Nazis would most likely force him to watch as his family was killed, and the prospect of witnessing their deaths was a horror he couldn't bear to face. He begged for permission to take his own life and avoid seeing his loved ones die.

Later that month, the head of another household came to Rabbi Oshry "with tears of anguish on his face." His children were starving to death and he was desperate to find food for them. His query was about a bit of property that had been left behind by the family in the next apartment. The entire family had been butchered a few days earlier, and there were no surviving relatives. Under Jewish law, could he take what remained of their belongings and sell them to raise cash for food?

Next to such questions, answers seem almost superfluous. (The rabbi did not permit the suicide; he allowed the neighbors' property to be taken.) What is stunning is that men and women in the throes of such suffering and brutality were still concerned about adhering to Jewish law. In the lowest depths of the Nazi hell, in a place of terror that most of us cannot fathom, here were human beings who refused to relinquish their faith -- who refused even to violate a precept without first asking if it was allowed.

Violence, humiliation, and hunger will reduce some people to animals willing to do anything to survive. The Jews who sought out Rabbi Oshry -- like Jews in so many other corners of Nazi Europe -- were not reduced but elevated, reinforced in their belief, determined against crushing odds to walk in the ways of their fathers.

Some Jews fought the Nazis with guns and sabotage, Rabbi Oshry would later say; others fought by persisting in Jewish life. In the end, "Responsa from the Holocaust" is a chronicle of courage and resistance -- and a profound inspiration to believers of every faith.

One wonders how they would have behaved if they thought life was a series of random, purposeless accidents and only a 1.6% gene differential separated them from the animals.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:56 AM


I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross. The only God I believe in is the one Nietzsche ridiculed as "God on the Cross." In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples and stood respectfully before the statue of Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time after a while I have had to turn away. And in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in God-forsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us.
-John Stott

April 24, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:33 PM


Judaism's Pro-Death Penalty Tradition (Steven Plaut, April 23, 2004, JewishPress.com)

The Bible makes it crystal clear that the way one acknowledges that human souls are created in God's image and deserving of respect and dignity is through capital punishment. Just read Genesis 9:6: "A man who spills human blood, his own blood shall be spilled by man because God made man in His own Image." Not just among Jews, by the way, but among all sons of Noah.

In other words, the preservation of human dignity requires capital punishment of convicted murderers. The position of Judaism is the opposite of the position espoused by liberals. It is precisely because of man's creation in God's image that capital punishment is declared justified and necessary. Human dignity requires execution of murderers, not compassion for their souls.

Moreover, capital punishment is regarded by Judaism as a favor for the capital sinner, a form of atonement and redemption. Ordinary murderers are allowed to achieve atonement for their souls in their execution. Only especially vile murderers -- such as a false witness whose lies are discovered after the person who was framed has been executed, or a man who sacrifices both his son and his daughter to the pagan god Molokh -- are denied execution because they are regarded as beyond redemption through capital punishment. Again, execution preserves human dignity, it does not defile it.

It is this command too that makes war against dictators like Saddam Hussein not merely just but an obligation of decent men.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:24 PM


Bush Campaign Readies New Advertisements Attacking Kerry on National Security Issues (JIM RUTENBERG and ADAM NAGOURNEY, 4/25/04, NY Times)

The Bush advertisements open at a military staging ground somewhere in the desert, teeming with tanks, fighter jets and soldiers. But the matériel begins to vanish from the screen as an announcer ominously lists the military spending cuts Mr. Kerry supported.

"John Kerry has repeatedly opposed weapons vital to winning the war on terror," the announcer says.

Strategists from both parties said that national security remained the threshold issue for Mr. Kerry, meaning he must establish his credibility as a potential commander in chief before undecided voters will listen to his appeal on other issues. From the moment Mr. Kerry first began running for president, he argued to Democrats that he could at least neutralize the president's advantage on foreign policy because of his status as a decorated Vietnam veteran and his years in the Senate.

But even some Democrats say Mr. Kerry has yet to accomplish that. Jim Gerstein, the executive director of Democracy Corps, a Democratic research organization, said focus groups by his organization had found that Mr. Kerry has yet to break that barrier, though he said that television advertisements Mr. Kerry began broadcasting last week would help him.

"The role of commander in chief is a bigger part of this election than it has been, and because of that there's a higher threshold to pass," he said. "If you don't pass that threshold they won't consider you as president."

His lack of credibility won't help any, but it's the economy that makes the election unwinnable for Mr. Kerry. National security is a sideshow and will fade even further into the background over the course of the Summer, disappearing from the campaign by Fall.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:17 PM


Only Bush can save Europe: the US President’s ‘transformational’ response to Muslim fundamentalism can save the Old World; European ‘managerialism’ can’t (Mark Steyn, 4/24/04, The Spectator)

Most European politicians see Islamist terrorism as a managerial problem. After September 11th, George W. Bush opted to approach it transformationally. Around the world Islam is expanding, and around the Islamic world a radicalised form of Islam is expanding. Bush determined to tackle the problem at source: he decided — as I heard Condi Rice say last week at the US Naval Academy — to turn the map of the Middle East ‘upside down’. He would bring liberty to a region that had never known it. [...]

National Review’s John Derbyshire wrote last week about a ‘1945 solution’ for Iraq. This is shorthand for the bombing of Dresden, the nuking of Hiroshima, etc. — the sort of stern measures that let an enemy know he’s well and truly whipped. But, as Mr Derbyshire points out, war abroad is determined by culture at home, and if we were fighting the second world war today, we wouldn’t nuke Hiroshima or even intern Japanese-Americans: the culture will not permit it. Nor will it permit old-school imperialism. Culturally sensitive nation-building is as aggressive as you can get these days. So Bush has gone for the only big-picture scenario available.
The Bush ‘transformational’ approach to terrorism may fail. The EU ‘managerial’ approach certainly will. It’s fine for small, contained, stable populations like Ulster, Corsica or the Basque country. But not for the primal demographic forces sweeping the Continent.

Last week Niall Ferguson called me ‘the Pangloss of Republican humourists’. I wish I was. But I’m not at all Panglossian these days, and I was interested to see that Ferguson, in a recent speech, has become a somewhat belated convert to the Eurabian scenario I’ve been peddling in these pages for a couple of years now. Perhaps he’ll have better luck with it than I’ve had. Meanwhile, in the current issue of Fortune, Philip Longman, author of The Empty Cradle, is even more apocalyptic: ‘So where will the children of the future come from? Increasingly they will come from people who are at odds with the modern world,’ he writes. ‘Such a trend, if sustained, could drive human culture off its current market-driven, individualistic, modernist course, gradually creating an antimarket culture dominated by fundamentalism — a new Dark Ages.’ That ten-year-old girl could have a lot more to worry about than gloomy Blair speeches.

‘What do you leave behind?’ asked the Prime Minister. There will only be very few and very old ethnic Germans and French and Italians by the mid-point of this century. What will they leave behind? Territories that happen to bear their names and keep up some of the old buildings, in the way that the great cathedral of St Sophia in Constantinople is now a museum run by the Turkish government? Or will the dying European races understand that the only legacy that matters is whether the peoples who will live in those lands after them are reconciled to pluralist, liberal democracy? The Bush vision is the best shot.

The hardest truth for many ion the West to bear is that in the long run Islam affords a better basis for the future of mankind than does Europe's secularism.

-Which Nations Will Go Forth and Multiply?: Declines in fertility have spread to every corner of the globe. (Phillip Longman, April 5, 2004, FORTUNE)

When asked how long it will take for the world's population to double, nearly half of all Americans say 20 years or less. That's hardly surprising, given the crowding many of us encounter in everyday life and the reports we hear of teeming Third World megacities. Yet forecasts by the United Nations and others show that world population, currently at a little over six billion, is unlikely to double—ever. Indeed, demographers at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, a nongovernmental research organization in Laxenburg, Austria, predict that world population will peak at nine billion within the lifetime of today's Gen Xers and then start shrinking. Meanwhile, the average age of the world's citizens will advance dramatically. This aging will happen fastest not in the developed world, where we are used to fretting about the graying of society, but, astonishingly, in the Middle East and other underdeveloped regions. By the end of this century, even sub-Saharan Africa will probably grow older than Europe is today.

These predictions come with considerable certainty. The primary reason, confirmed in late March by a U.S. Census Bureau report, is a fall in fertility rates over the last generation that is spreading to every corner of the globe. In nations rich and poor, under all forms of government, a broad social trend is absolutely clear: As more and more of the population moves to urban areas in which children offer little or no economic reward to their parents, and as women gain in economic opportunity and reproductive control, people are producing fewer and fewer children. [...]

The implications for world economic growth are stark. Japan developed its export-driven economy at a time when the number of consumers in Western Europe and the U.S. was still growing robustly. By contrast, when today's developing nations look for long-term export markets, they find most rich countries on the brink of absolute population decline and deeply encumbered by the cost of their health and pension programs. We may all be facing a diminished old age.

Even more sobering are the implications for modern civilization's values. As urbanization and globalization continue to create a human environment in which children become costly impediments to material success, people who are well adapted to this environment will tend not to reproduce. Many others who are not so successful will imitate them. So where will the children of the future come from? Increasingly they will come from people who are at odds with the modern world—who either "don't get" the new rules of the game that make reproduction an economic liability, or who believe they are (or who in fact are) commanded by a higher power to procreate.

Such a higher power might be God, speaking through Abraham, Jesus, Mohammed, or some latter-day saint, or it might be a totalitarian state. Either way, such a trend, if sustained, could drive human culture off its current market-driven, individualistic, modernist course, gradually creating an antimarket culture dominated by fundamentalism—a new dark ages. History records a similar shift in third-century Rome, when pagan fertility collapsed, while that of early Christians did not. If modern secular societies are to survive, they must somehow enable parents to enjoy more of the economic value they produce for everyone when they sacrifice to create and educate the next generation.

Which somehow manages to miss the point entirely: secular society can not and should not be preserved. It is anti-human.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:48 PM


Swelled Heads (Jim Holt, April 25, 2004, NY Times Magazine)

Did a jaw mutation really ''cause'' the enlarged brains that make us human? Darwin himself, curiously enough, suggested just the opposite: first we acquired our bigger brains, then our smaller jaws. The expansion of the brain, he theorized, occurred in tandem with the spread of hunting and tool-making. After all, a meal of meat takes intelligence to obtain, and it also provides rich protein for hungry brain tissue. And once we became meat eaters, we could afford smaller jaws, since meat needs less chewing than nuts and plants, especially if you're clever enough to tenderize it over a fire and cut it with a blade. Moreover, a knack for fashioning weapons makes a powerful muzzle less important. As our ancestors ''gradually acquired the habit of using stones, clubs or other weapons for fighting with their enemies,'' Darwin observed in ''The Descent of Man,'' ''they would use their jaws and teeth less and less. In this case, the jaws, together with the teeth, would become reduced in size.''

Since those words were written, evolutionary theorists have come up with a bewildering variety of explanations for how natural selection might have produced human intelligence. Steven Pinker agrees with Darwin that hunting and tool-making had a lot to do with it, but he also cites the fact that our hominid ancestors were social creatures. Living in groups, they had to compete with one another with increasing shrewdness to further their interests. Such competition, the idea goes, might have set off a ''cognitive arms race'' that led to rapid growth in brain size. Another view, advanced by Geoffrey Miller, is that sexual selection explains the evolutionary push toward intelligence. The human brain, according to this hypothesis, is rather like the peacock's tail: a courtship device to attract and retain sexual mates. Wit, virtuosity and inventiveness are turn-ons, and those that have them end up producing more offspring.

The late Stephen Jay Gould, by contrast, said he believed that our lurch into intelligence wasn't really driven by anything at all. He held that random genetic drift caused a slowing-down in the emergence of adult features in each individual. In fact, humans, with their relatively big brain cases, small jaws and hairless skin, look like baby apes. The prolonged period of development before adulthood gives our brains a chance to grow to three times the size of an ape's. Much of this growth necessarily takes place outside the womb, since the female pelvis can barely accommodate the newborn's enormous head as it is. (The pain women undergo in childbirth is part of the price we pay for our big brains.)

The great mystery about all these competing mechanisms is why they should have worked only for humans. We are hardly unique in being a social species; bumblebees, parrots, dolphins, elephants and wolves also live in groups, but none of them have participated in cognitive arms races. We are not the only hunting species; lions show tremendous cunning when hunting zebras, but that cunning has not evolved into all-purpose intelligence. [...]

However we humans shimmered onto the scene, it seems important to our self-image that the appearance of Homo sapiens was somehow cosmically decreed -- either by divine will or as the inevitable culmination of a stately natural process. The very idea that we owe our existence as a species to a hitherto unnoticed mutation that need never have happened (and a mutation that weakened something, at that) might seem a blow to our dignity. But if we're a fluke, at least we're unique. Let the other apes gnash their powerful teeth in envy.

One of the innumerable similarities between Creationists and Darwinists is that genuine randomness is unacceptable to both. Evolution must have a purpose--God's, Nature's or both.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:18 PM


French snub outrages British intelligence (Colin Brown, 25/04/2004, Sunday Telegraph)

British intelligence agencies are furious with their French counterparts after being refused assistance in their efforts to track terrorists in this country linked to the Madrid bombers.

The row has led to the worst rift between British and French intelligence agencies for years and is hindering attempts to trace connections between Moroccans involved in the Madrid bombs and Islamic militants in Britain. A senior Home Office official said: "We are getting very good co-operation from the Moroccans and the Spanish but there appears to be a hiccup with the French."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:08 PM


Suited to Guerrillas, a Dusty Town Poses Tricky Perils (THOM SHANKER and JOHN KIFNER, 4/24/04, NY Times)

If the Pentagon could build a training ground that would incorporate all the perils of urban warfare, it would look very much like the city the marines may have to invade: Falluja.

Falluja offers urban guerrillas the combat terrain they would desire. The city has nearly 300,000 residents, a complex mix of boulevards, narrow streets and many back alleys. Apartment buildings are mostly of two, three and four stories, with porches well suited to snipers. Every neighborhood has a mosque, a clinic, schools and markets, where an errant shell from the Americans could carry a high cost in civilian lives, and therefore a great risk of angering Iraqis about the occupation.

The marines encircling Falluja have logistical advantages, too.

The city is flanked to the north by one of the military's favorite geographic features, a highway, in this case the expressway linking Baghdad to Jordan. America and its allies operate from bases around Falluja that have been functioning for almost a year. They control all of the airfields in the region, and their reconnaissance planes, which have thoroughly mapped Falluja, patrol high above the range of shoulder-fired missiles.

Military officers warn that Falluja's insurgents are tunneling between buildings, linking cellars throughout the neighborhoods they control so they can pop from one building to ambush advancing American forces, then vanish underground where they cannot be tracked by helicopter or Predator surveillance drones.

Into this sand-colored and dusty community along the Euphrates River, American forces, if ordered in, would hope to attack insurgent leaders and their gunmen in a series of lightning, precise raids backed by helicopters and flying AC-130 gunships, according to Pentagon and military officials.

"That doesn't mean that we have to fight a protracted, block-to-block urban warfare," Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the deputy director of operations for the military coalition in Iraq, said in a telephone interview on Saturday.

Under the military's new tactics for urban warfare, there is no boundary-to-boundary invasion of a city, but precisely focused attacks. Rather than going block by block and kicking down doors, which are often booby-trapped, troops may punch holes in the walls of buildings. A new generation of explosives is designed to open the wall, but not to blast through the building, collapse it or hit what lies beyond. Soldiers also may penetrate a building from above, deposited on roofs by ropes slung from helicopters, whose firepower would be bolstered by AC-130 gunships.

Those gunships, which already have been used to fight insurgents in Falluja, carry cannon and heavy machine guns aloft and are equipped with such sensitive surveillance equipment that crews circling a target can pick out individual adversaries.

Although the military in Iraq would draw on new technologies and new tactics to dislodge the insurgents from Falluja, "This is the most difficult of all types of situations you enter in warfare," one senior Pentagon official said this weekend.

The continued fractiousness of the Sunni Triangle affords a second opportunity to decimate that portion of the population that is most opposed to liberal government.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:04 PM


Pete Coors puts his cash where his sentiments lie: Millions of family dollars have gone to support conservative campaigns and candidates (Jim Tankersley And Gwen Florio, April 24, 2004, Rocky Mountain News)

Unlike his two major opponents for Senate - Democratic Attorney General Ken Salazar and former Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Schaffer - Pete Coors doesn't have a voting record. But his extensive political contributions show which candidates and causes are most important to him.

"I'm like everybody else," when donating to politicians, Coors said. "I look at how I think they will represent things that I think are important, how they'll vote on issues that are important to me."

His donations, Coors said, "would certainly give people an indication" of where he stands.

Coors' contributions trend toward the Republican Party and its candidates. He donated $65,300 to GOP committees, including $25,000 to the Colorado Republican Committee on Sept. 11, 2002.

Allard is his favorite candidate - he's given $34,250 to the senator's various campaign committees. He donated to George W. Bush but not to George H. W. Bush.

He's given thousands to Reps. Scott McInnis, Tom Tancredo and Marilyn Musgrave; less to Rep. Bob Beauprez (and former Rep. Schaffer) and none to Rep. Joel Hefley.

Coors and his relatives often back the same people. They also share an affinity for the Free Congress Foundation, whose focus on the culture wars is credited with indirectly helping conservative members of Congress get elected or retain their seats.

But Coors hasn't contributed to some polarizing groups, as other family members have.

Coors' mother, Holly Coors, for example, donated $5,000 to the political arm of Moral Majority, a group of fundamentalist Christians led by the Rev. Jerry Falwell.

Pete Coors says his family agrees on a core set of values that drive their donations: less government, lower taxes. But he says it's wrong to lump any family member in with the individual contributions made by other family members.

Larry J. Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, agrees that it's not fair to judge Pete Coors by his family's donations. "But politics isn't fair," he continued. "It's the least fair part of life . . . Anything you or your family or your associates have touched is fair game. That's the way the system works."

Pete Coors traces his political donations to the dinner table, growing up, when his parents would talk current affairs with their kids.

Both parents were outspoken conservatives: Joseph Coors kick-started the Heritage Foundation with a $250,000 grant. Holly organized several Republican women's groups. Both were longtime friends of Ronald Reagan.

"It just seemed like it was part of your duty as a citizen to vote and to be active in politics," he said. "So it was natural for me to be a Republican and to support Republican candidates."

He's not going to have trouble explaining that he supports conservative causes and candidates.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:59 PM


Brother Cohen has made some idle threats in the past about attempting a film discussion here on weekends. Having finally gotten to see Master and Commander, I thought perhaps we could have a test run with this superb and profoundly conservative film.

Here's what David wrote, back in November:

Starting with the movie as a movie, Weir has created a masterpiece. Though mostly scrubbed of gore, the scenes of 19th century war are convincing. Almost as good are the scenes of Surprise rounding the Horn. In this, and in showing the crowding of almost 200 souls aboard a small frigate, the movie succeeds in outdoing O'Brian in showing what life was like on a man-of-war at sea. Though the movie is not at all a slavish adaptation of the novel (among other things, major parts of four of the books find their way into the movie), a number of O'Brian's major themes are sounded and a number of lines and sights are thrown in for no other reason than to please those who have read the novel.

Weir's riskiest choice succeeds brilliantly. Rather than "opening up" the novel, Weir closes in on the Surprise and her crew. This is as non-commercial a choice as could be made. Rather than introducing a Hollywood romance, making the entire war depend upon catching the Acheron, or introducing the 19th century equivalent of a red timer ticking down to zero, Weir tosses out source material that might broaden the movie's appeal. O'Brian's The Far Side Of The World includes an adulterous love triangle on board between Hollum, the gunner's wife (who was one of several women on board) and the gunner, who kills the lovers, Higgens the surgeon's mate (who botches an abortion Stephen refuses to perform) and then goes mad and hangs himself. Instead, Weir focuses claustrophobically on the Surprise, the seamen and her Captain. This focus brings the audience to the final battle as a part of the crew, which is now a coherent unit.

Weir's real triumph is the choreography and filming of the battle scenes, which are done as well as any I've ever seen. Filming a general melee of three hundred men fighting for their lives with one-shot pistols, swords, pikes and knives in a confined space, Weir manages to present three or four themes in such a way that the viewer always can follow the action and tell what is happening to whom. At the same time, the audience feels the confusion and violence that the characters are feeling.

This triumph allows Weir to return to themes he has dealt with before, as early as Gallipoli, when he presented the insanity of World War I trench warfare as seen by Australian troops. This link comes through most clearly during the speech Jack Aubrey gives (most uncharacteristically) before the Surprise surprises the Acheron. Jack says that the Surprise is England and family and that the men will fight bravely for country and family, which of course they do. The Australians, on the other hand, were fighting and dying in an "European" war and, although they fought bravely, were fighting in the end only for each other. Weir presents their deaths as tragic and odd, where the deaths on the Surprise are presented as worthy, though also tragic. This comes through in the choice of identifiable characters who die on the Acheron, Nagle, Allen and Calamy. Nagle and Allen are not sympathetic characters. Calamy we are not allowed to know, though we are meant to like and admire him, but his death (which is Weir's invention, not O'Brian's) is presented as coming during an opportunity he greatly desired and is the most bitterly regretted death in the movie. Soon after, the Surprise moves on and so do we.

In an interview about Gallipoli, Weir once said the following:

Our first approach was to tell the whole story from enlistment in 1914 through to the evacuation of Gallipoli at the end of 1915, but we were not getting at what this thing was, the burning center that had made Gallipoli a legend. I could never find the answers in any books and it certainly wasn't evolving in any of our drafts, so we put the legend to one side and simply made up a story about two young men, really got to know them, where they came from, what happened to them along the way, spent more time getting to the battle and less time on the battlefield.

The draft fell into place. By approaching the subject obliquely, I think we had come as close to touching the source of the myth as we could. I think there's a Chinese proverb - it's not the arriving at one's destination but the journey that matters. Gallipoli is about two young men on the road to adventure, how they crossed continents and great oceans, climbed the pyramids and walked through the ancient sands of Egypt, and the deserts of the outback, to their appointment with destiny at Gallipoli.

The end of the film is really all about that appointment and how they coped with it. I don't think we could have sat down in the early stages and got this - it took years of talking, writing, arguing, to finally get back to something incredibly simple.

The similarities with Master & Commander are clear. The differences are those between a younger man and an older man looking at life. Now the friendship at the heart of the movie is less important to the characters and the audience than the war in which they have chosen to fight.

But still, the theme from O'Brian's novel that comes through most strongly in the film is the conflict between the high Tory Aubrey and the liberal Maturin. Jack believes in the higher discipline; that men must be led both in order to accomplish anything worthwhile and for their own happiness. Stephen rejects this idea of man as a yoked beast, though more because of its effect on the leader than on the men. Stephen believes, that is, that power corrupts, and that's a shame for the powerful. The resolution of this dispute is perhaps the most disappointing part of the movie. Although Jack's idea of discipline wins out in the end, it does so only because he gives up the pursuit of the Acheron to save his friend's life. I think we are meant to see the need to blend the two philosophies in order to succeed (Jack and Stephen complete each other, blah, blah, blah), but we don't, because the Acheron reappears as a deus ex machina, with no connection to Jack's supposed sacrifice.

But perhaps this is the message, after all. The movie is almost entirely free of post-modern irony (the only exception, in which Jack wonders at this "modern age we're living in", is one of the movie's few clunkers). This earnestness leads to the movie's greatest surprise. Weir's movie is significantly more Christian -- at least, more explicitly Christian -- than O'Brian's novel. We are hit over the head with this at the end, with perhaps the only non-ironic, earnest Christian service I've ever seen in a major motion picture. Weir might think that Jack, as a Christian hero, is rewarded for his works, but actually he was rewarded out of grace.

I was struck even more forcefully than David by the degree to which Maturin and Aubrey are presented as opposites, with Aubrey having faith in the service, his nation, patriotism, order, God, etc., and Maturin openly scoffing at the ship, Lord Nelson, disciplining a mutinous crewman, etc. Especially devastating are the scenes where Aubrey barks out that they don't have time for Maturin's "hobbies" and where he tells Maturin: "You've come to the wrong ship for anarchy, Brother."

It makes the film extraordinarily pertinent to our own times, with Maturin the kind of fey intellectual who barely has a side in the war vs. Aubrey the duty-bound man of action who cares utterly about England (and himself, of course) winning.

In this regard, Christopher Hitchens, for one, seems to have completely missed the point of the adaptation, Empire Falls: How Master and Commander gets Patrick O'Brian wrong. (Christopher Hitchens, Nov. 14, 2003, Slate):

Unlike Forester, O'Brian set himself not just to show broadsides and cutlass work and flogging and the centrality of sea power, but to re-create all of the ambiguities and contradictions of England's long war against revolutionary and Napoleonic France. (This, I argue, was the true and real "First World War," because it extended itself to every ocean and almost every nation, not exempting this one.) The summa of O'Brian's genius was the invention of Dr. Stephen Maturin. He is the ship's gifted surgeon, but he is also a scientist, an espionage agent for the Admiralty, a man of part Irish and part Catalan birth—and a revolutionary. He joins the British side, having earlier fought against it, because of his hatred for Bonaparte's betrayal of the principles of 1789—principles that are perfectly obscure to bluff Capt. Jack Aubrey. Any cinematic adaptation of O'Brian must stand or fall by its success in representing this figure.

On this the film doesn't even fall, let alone stand. It skips the whole project. As played by the admittedly handsome and intriguing Paul Bettany, Maturin is no more than a good doctor with finer feelings and a passion for natural history. At one point he is made to say in an English accent that he is Irish—but that's the only hint we get. In the books, for example, he quarrels badly with Aubrey about Lord Nelson's support for slavery. But here a superficial buddy movie is born out of one of the subtlest and richest and most paradoxical male relationships since Holmes and Watson.

A former pro-Soviet Marxist, Mr. Hitchens is understandably loathe to learn the lesson of modernity and apply it to Maturin and himself, but surely the rest of us can see that the great heroes of our history are the men--Aubrey, Burke, Churchill, Solzhenitsyn, Reagan, etc.--who are not seduced by the Revolution of the day, only to find themselves "betrayed" by its inevitable course. The Maturin's, George Orwell's, Whittaker Chambers's, Christopher Hitchens's are welcome to join the side of the righteous once they come to their senses, but are not to be lightly forgiven their original treason's nor allowed to whitewash their past's. The problem with the French Revolution was not Napoleon taking it over any more than the problem of the Bolshevik Revolution was Stalin taking it over. The Revolutions were themselves evil from their inception.

What Mr. Weir has achieved is to demonstrate the education of Stephen Maturin in just the one film. Were Jack Aubrey--and England--to run the navy and fight the war in the Frenchified manner that Maturin begins by insisting upon they would surely lose. But Aubrey harbors no such delusions and if he does have some doubts is nonetheless faithful to the ideals and traditions that have made him love King, country, and navy in the first place. Maturin is a fine friend and good company--so long as you just want to play the fiddle or discuss a book, but taking his counsel in a time of war would be disastrous. Because the French must be defeated, it is Maturin who bends to Aubrey's will (to the British way), not Aubrey who yields to "Reason".

As David mentions in his review, the movie includes, near its end, one of the most affecting religious scenes ever committed to film. What's so remarkable is that it makes vivid the Lord's Prayer that we've all repeated so many times that we may have stopped listening to what we're saying. It recaptures its power here because we recognize the degree to which it commits us to a faith in Providence and just how antirational it is: "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done." The deaths suffered in battle may be tragic, but they are not senseless.

It is no coincidence that America is today being led in war by a President who shares this view of History, a vision which intellectuals think antiquated, Providence and the President: George W. Bush's theory of history. (James W. Ceaser, 03/10/2003, Weekly Standard):

GEORGE W. BUSH is the product, far more than his father, of the modern conservative movement. Like Ronald Reagan, he is a self-described optimist who once went so far as to chastise a conservative intellectual for the sin of pessimism. What Bush has added to the mainstream of conservatism is a religious dimension, which in the case of the question of History includes the theme of Providence.

Providence is one of the richest and most complex--and therefore one of the most variously interpreted--of all religious ideas. For many, of course, the mere mention of a religious term is sufficient to provoke Pavlovian accusations of political messianism; any idea of religious pedigree (other than the message of peace) is devoid of all sense. Yet those willing to consider the matter more deeply will find that traditionally, Providence has had a reasonably determinate meaning. One of its central themes is that the course of history, from a human standpoint, is unfathomable: "The Almighty has His own purposes." One conviction, however, remains supreme: While the path of events before us can never be fully known, and while there will always be difficulty and pain, Providence offers a basis for hope and a ground for avoiding despair. Yet it disclaims any pretension to know the future and offers no assurance of divine reward for our action in this world. At the practical level of human affairs, the focus remains on human responsibility and choice.

The most sublime evocation of the "providence of God" in political rhetoric appears as the central theme of Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural. This speech carries a message of ultimate hope without any guarantee of immediate reward. It keeps the focus in the political realm on duty, on the need to do right "as God gives us to see the right." These aspects of this great speech are well known, but less known, perhaps, are two other things. The first is that Lincoln's recourse to Providence was a response to the nineteenth-century precursor to the Doctrine of History that had circulated before the war and that taught, in the words of the historian George Bancroft, that "everything is in motion for the better. . . . The last political state of the world likewise is ever more excellent than the old." Standing where he did in 1865, after experiencing all of the agony and turns of fortune of the Civil War, Lincoln had come to know the centrality of political choice and to experience pathos. The second thing was that no sooner did Lincoln give the speech than he was widely criticized for not invoking God more directly on his side and for not promising a swift and certain reward. In one of his last letters, Lincoln explained that such a wish was contrary to the idea of Providence and unsuited to the education of a great people.

Although no one at this point can claim to know administration "policy" on Providence, President Bush's comments have followed in the Lincolnian mold. As he observed in his State of the Union address: "We do not know--we do not claim to know all the ways of Providence, yet we can trust in them, placing our confidence in the loving God behind all of life, and all of history." Without taking anything away from a practical kind of optimism, the theme of Providence seems to have separated the president from the embrace of anything like a Doctrine of History. The focus has been on duty. Perhaps this language, suitably developed and elaborated, provides the best framework for conservatives both to express and reconcile their hopes and fears about history.

Presidents, it hardly needs to be said, are not philosophers. Yet in their responsibility to act, it happens that their words sometimes open a dimension of theoretical insight that more abstract thought misses. Modern man is growing ever more impressed with his supposed mastery of the physical environment. By contrast, it is obvious that the course of history can never be brought under his complete control. There will always be shocks, surprises, and events. So long as this fact does not lead to skepticism and paralysis, it can serve as a salutary reminder of the intrinsic limits of the human situation. It bids us open our thoughts, in a spirit of wonder and awe, to something much larger than ourselves. And this too is a part of the conservative message.

The movie that Peter Weir made is not the movie that Christopher Hitchens wanted but the world we live in is not the world that Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Maturin dream of. We live in the world and the culture of Jack Aubrey and George W. Bush, >President's Remarks at National Prayer Breakfast (Washington Hilton Hotel, Washington, D.C., 2/07/02):
Faith gives the assurance that our lives and our history have a moral design. As individuals, we know that suffering is temporary, and hope is eternal. As a nation, we know that the ruthless will not inherit the Earth. Faith teaches humility, and with it, tolerance. Once we have recognized God's image in ourselves, we must recognize it in every human being.

Respect for the dignity of others can be found outside of religion, just as intolerance is sometimes found within it. Yet for millions of Americans, the practice of tolerance is a command of faith. When our country was attacked, Americans did not respond with bigotry. People from other countries and cultures have been treated with respect. And this is one victory in the war against terror.

At the same time, faith shows us the reality of good, and the reality of evil. Some acts and choices in this world have eternal consequences. It is always, and everywhere, wrong to target and kill the innocent. It is always, and everywhere, wrong to be cruel and hateful, to enslave and oppress. It is always, and everywhere, right to be kind and just, to protect the lives of others, and to lay down your life for a friend.

The men and women who charged into burning buildings to save others, those who fought the hijackers, were not confused about the difference between right and wrong. They knew the difference. They knew their duty. And we know their sacrifice was not in vain.

Faith shows us the way to self-giving, to love our neighbor as we would want to be loved ourselves. In service to others, we find deep human fulfillment. And as acts of service are multiplied, our nation becomes a more welcoming place for the weak, and a better place for those who suffer and grieve.

For half a century now, the National Prayer Breakfast has been a symbol of the vital place of faith in the life of our nation. You've reminded generations of leaders of a purpose and a power greater than their own. In times of calm, and in times of crisis, you've called us to prayer.

In this time of testing for our nation, my family and I have been blessed by the prayers of countless of Americans. We have felt their sustaining power and we're incredibly grateful. Tremendous challenges await this nation, and there will be hardships ahead. Faith will not make our path easy, but it will give us strength for the journey.

The promise of faith is not the absence of suffering, it is the presence of grace. And at ever step we are secure in knowing that suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance produces character, and character produces hope -- and hope does not disappoint.

-INFO: Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003) (Imdb.com)
-FILMOGRAPHY: Peter Weir (Imdb.com)
-REVIEW ARCHIVES: Master and Commander (MRQE.com)
-ESSAY: Empire Falls: How Master and Commander gets Patrick O'Brian wrong. (Christopher Hitchens, Nov. 14, 2003, Slate)

Unlike Forester, O'Brian set himself not just to show broadsides and cutlass work and flogging and the centrality of sea power, but to re-create all of the ambiguities and contradictions of England's long war against revolutionary and Napoleonic France. (This, I argue, was the true and real "First World War," because it extended itself to every ocean and almost every nation, not exempting this one.) The summa of O'Brian's genius was the invention of Dr. Stephen Maturin. He is the ship's gifted surgeon, but he is also a scientist, an espionage agent for the Admiralty, a man of part Irish and part Catalan birth—and a revolutionary. He joins the British side, having earlier fought against it, because of his hatred for Bonaparte's betrayal of the principles of 1789—principles that are perfectly obscure to bluff Capt. Jack Aubrey. Any cinematic adaptation of O'Brian must stand or fall by its success in representing this figure.

On this the film doesn't even fall, let alone stand. It skips the whole project. As played by the admittedly handsome and intriguing Paul Bettany, Maturin is no more than a good doctor with finer feelings and a passion for natural history. At one point he is made to say in an English accent that he is Irish—but that's the only hint we get. In the books, for example, he quarrels badly with Aubrey about Lord Nelson's support for slavery. But here a superficial buddy movie is born out of one of the subtlest and richest and most paradoxical male relationships since Holmes and Watson.

-REVIEW ESSAY: O'Brian's Great Voyage (Christopher Hitchens, March 9, 2000, NY Review of Books)
-REVIEW: of Master and Commander (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times)

-ESSAY: A High-Risk Film on the High Seas: Every once in a while a Hollywood studio throws out the hit-formula playbook and bets that smart moviegoers will go along for the ride. "Master and Commander" is that rare

case. (ANNE THOMPSON, 11/13/03, NY Times)

-ESSAY: Happily seduced (William F. Buckley, November 12, 2003, Townhall)

-ESSAY: "Master and Commander": Success On the High Seas (Charles Krauthammer, Jewish World Review)

-REVIEW: of Master and Commander (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times)

-REVIEW: of Master and Commander (A.O. Scott, NY Times)

-REVIEW: of Master and Commander (Ella Taylor , LA Weekly)

-REVIEW: of Master and Commander (GREGORY WEINKAUF, Dallas Observer)

-REVIEW: of Master and Commander (Stephen Hunter, Washington Post)

-REVIEW: of Master and Commander (Desson Howe, Washington Post)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:55 PM


Bush's strength surprises some pollsters: Even in solidly Democratic states, challenger appears weak (The Associated Press, April 23, 2004)

In Maryland, pollster Patrick Gonzales is surprised that Democrat John Kerry isn't farther ahead in such a solidly Democratic state. In New Hampshire, Republican Tom Rath is encouraged that President Bush has retained his footing in a state where he was pummeled relentlessly during the Democratic primaries.

Bush can tick off a number of states where polls now show him to be on better footing than he was at the end of his November 2000 showdown with Al Gore.

The most interesting question that remains to be answered about election 2004 is the same as it was at the start of primary season: can the Democratic candidate carry Washington, DC?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:18 AM

CRANK UP THE VCR's (via Mike Daley):

C-SPAN 2 is re-airing Professor Allan Guelzo's Ashbrook Colloquium on his recently published book, Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America, on Saturday, April 24, at 11:30 a.m. (Eastern).

Posted by Peter Burnet at 10:15 AM


'Farting Dog' teaches tolerance: author (CBC Art News, 23/04/04)

Humour and the "f-word" -- fart-- may initially attract children to the Walter the Farting Dog books, but the co-author of the best-selling series believes there's more to it.

"Kids love scatological detail and bodily functions," Murray admitted. "But Walter has an extra charm, I think, and a message of acceptance and tolerance and making the best of a bad situation."

Murray, a Fredericton-based writer and educational technology supervisor, co-authored Walter the Farting Dog and its follow-up Walter the Farting Dog: Trouble at the Yard Sale with his friend William Kotzwinkle, a writer based in Maine.

The books tell the story of the titular pooch and the troubles he gets into because of his uncontrollable and unpleasant bodily function. In the end, however, Walter always saves the day.

I warned everyone that Captain Underpants was a dangerous slippery slope, but did they listen? So I am giving up and retiring to write the tale of how Herman the Belching Pig promotes human rights.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:19 AM


THE PARTY OF THE PEOPLE: "Love guns and hate gays? Bush is your kind of populist. Low taxes? Bush has relieved the tax burden on working Americans; Clinton promised to, but failed to deliver." The Republicans, unlike the Democrats, have delivered what their constituency wants. (Jack Beatty, 4/22/04, The Atlantic)

The Shanksvilles of America have been tricked by the Republicans, Thomas Frank writes in the April issue of Harpers.

The trick never ages, the illusion never wears off. Vote to stop abortion; receive a rollback in capital-gains taxes. Vote to make our country strong again; receive deindustrialization. Vote to screw those politically correct college professors; receive electricity deregulation. Vote to get government off our backs; receive conglomeration and monopoly everywhere from media to meatpacking.

But these trends and measures are not Republican swindles on credulity. They are the priorities of the funders of both parties, and Bill Clinton advanced and presided over them. Clinton promised "people who work hard and play by the rules" greater economic security; they got de-industrialization with NAFTA, the WTO, and the normalization of trade with China—and greater economic insecurity. Senator Ernest Hollings (D, S.C.) called the anti-trust division of the Clinton justice department "the anti-anti-trust division" for its benign attitude toward conglomeration. Clinton promised a tax cut for the middle class but delivered a cut in capital gains.

And the Republicans "values" agenda is not a con. Bush signed a ban on late-term abortions vetoed by Clinton. He curtailed stem-cell research. He ended abortion counseling in U.S.-funded clinics in the Third World. And Bush has made the White House God's temple. The first words the speechwriter David Frum heard upon entering the Bush White House were, "Missed you at Bible study.

Love guns and hate gays? Bush is your kind of populist. Low taxes? Bush has relieved the tax burden on working Americans; Clinton promised to, but failed to deliver. Has Bush made America stronger? Almost certainly weaker, as Richard Clarke argues, by subordinating the war on terror to the obsession with Iraq. But he talks strength, and believes in force. He has, after all, liberated thousands of Iraqis and Afghans from life under tyranny to death under American bombs—i.e. "freedom." Bush thinks the whole world deserves "freedom," and if he has to fill graveyards "changing the world," as he declared at his recent press conference, well, at least people will know that when America says it will do something, it will follow through no matter how counter-productive the effort or how many Red (and Blue) State kids die along the way. The GOP "strong on defense" mantra is no con. Bush's foreign policy is war.

The Red State electorate is not fooled. They may not know the details of Bush's crony-capitalist raid on the treasury but would they reject the GOP if they did? They vote for values, strength, guns, and righteous ferocity abroad—and the GOP delivers. The rest comes under the heading of keeping government off our backs.

What have the Democrats delivered?

It's a sad day when Jack Beatty has to defend the American people from the charge that they're being duped. Over the next 6 months, as John Kerry's candidacy descends from farce into tragedy, expect to see more essays like Mr. Frank's than like Mr. Beatty's.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:00 AM


U.S. Soldiers Re - Enlist in Strong Numbers (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 4/24/04)

Despite the shrapnel wounds Staff Sgt. William Pinkley suffered during his tour in Iraq, the 26-year-old is joining other soldiers who are re-enlisting at rates that exceed the retention goals set by the Pentagon.

As of March 31 -- halfway through the Army's fiscal year -- 28,406 soldiers had signed on for another tour of duty, topping the six-month goal of 28,377. The Army's goal is to re-enlist 56,100 soldiers by the end of September.

Another hope of the Left shattered.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:56 AM


Senate Beckons a Coors From Beer to Political Ads: Through philanthropy, conservative politics and, of course, beer, the Coors family helped shape Colorado. Now the Coors name is hanging over a key Senate race. (KIRK JOHNSON, 4/24/04, NY Times)

"I don't think things are as dire for the Republicans as it seemed when Campbell got out," said Jennifer E. Duffy, the Senate editor at the Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan newsletter in Washington. "But I'd be surprised to see it move out of the toss-up category — it's one of these races that's there for the duration."

Here in Colorado, many people say the biggest presence in the race is a man who is not running — Mr. Coor's father, Joseph. The elder Mr. Coors emerged in the 1960's as a spokesman and financial backer of the conservative agenda that politicians like Barry Goldwater of Arizona and Ronald Reagan were creating. He later helped to found the Heritage Foundation in Washington, which has since become a bulwark of conservative research and thought.

It was during that period that that Mr. Coors became a political totem for the left as well, as labor and liberal groups organized a beer boycott that lasted well into the 1980's.

"My sense is that they've tried to package Pete as Coors light — that he's a Coors, but not like his parents with the Heritage Foundation and the hard-right crowd," said Chris Gates, the state Democratic chairman.

Mr. Coors's campaign manager, Sean Tonner, said his candidate's political views were in fact quite similar to those of his father, but with one major difference.

"Pete always realizes there needs to be compromise in order to move forward," Mr. Tonner said. "He's very much his own man."

Dan Baum, a journalist and author who has closely studied the Coors family, said he thought Mr. Coors's biggest problem could be the rigidly hierarchical, publicity-shy traditions that for generations have dictated how members of the Coors family are expected to behave.

"He's the least-suited person I can think of to endure a campaign," said Mr. Baum, a former Wall Street Journal reporter and author of "Citizen Coors — A Grand Family Saga of Business, Politics and Beer" (HarperCollins, 2000). "Like everybody else in the family, he's incredibly private and very thin-skinned."

But he is also unquestionably familiar. For years, he has been his company's spokesman on television commercials, extolling the virtues of clean water or responsible drinking. The beer commercials featuring Mr. Coors stopped running in Colorado the day before his Senate announcement, a campaign spokesman said, but will continue to run outside the state.

"hanging over"?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:32 AM


Germany to allow privates on parade (Kate Connolly, 22/04/2004, Daily Telegraph)

German soldiers who are in relationships with each other will be able to sleep together in barracks and on foreign missions.

Peter Struck, the defence minister, said the new guidelines applied to homosexual as well as heterosexual couples. They were necessary to reflect "social normality".

Until now, sex between married or cohabiting servicemen has been forbidden in barracks and on operations at home and abroad.

The change was announced after protests from several Social Democrat MPs who said that the ban on cohabitation in barracks was putting women off becoming soldiers.

There was also growing criticism in military circles that the ban on sexual relations, which was imposed to safeguard order and discipline, was "hostile to life".

Well, had the policy been in effect ninety years ago there would never have been a Third Reich.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:31 AM


Radical Cleric Is Unwanted by His Neighbors (ABDUL RAZZAQ AL-SAEIDY and EDWARD WONG, 4/24/04, NY Times)

The black-turbaned imam sounded ready for martyrdom.

Standing in the courtyard of the golden-domed Shrine of Ali on Friday, staring at 2,500 worshipers seated on rugs, the imam, Sadr al-Din al-Kubanchi, hurled words as sharp as scimitars at the army that had invaded this holy city.

But the soldiers he denounced were not Americans but members of the ragtag Shiite militia known as the Mahdi Army. Dozens of them, bristling with Kalashnikovs and grenade belts, surrounded the shrine even as Mr. Kubanchi spoke.

They and their young spiritual leader, Moktada al-Sadr, had brought their war with the Americans to Najaf nearly three weeks ago, when they retreated here after a short-lived revolt against the occupation forces. More than 2,500 American soldiers have encircled the city in an attempt to flush out Mr. Sadr — and the residents here are caught in the middle.

"It's not brave to take refuge in the house or the mosque or the markets and use women and children as human shields," Mr. Kubanchi said of the Mahdi Army. "They are people who are trying to cheat you, and they are people from the regime of Saddam Hussein, former intelligence officers. They want to drag you into battle to be destroyed. If that happens, the soldiers will attack Najaf, and our enemies will happily see our blood flow."

The standoff in Najaf has turned into a showdown between the clerics of the city and Mr. Sadr, as the religious and tribal leaders here try to nudge their unwanted neighbor out of town.

They are men of the book rather than of the bullet, so they are seeking to pry Mr. Sadr loose through their powers of rhetoric.

They know that the hopes of a majority of Shiites of overcoming the long-running domination of Sunni Muslims rest with the success of the Americans' efforts to establish a largely democratic Iraq. They know, as well, that by advocating armed rebellion, Mr. Sadr's forces play into the hands of the violent Iraqi insurgents who seek to drive the United States out and reassert Sunni dominance.

Gingerly, since Mr. Sadr now runs the city, they have handed out flyers and given speeches urging the Mahdi Army to take its fight elsewhere. They have done so while their mosques and homes are surrounded by undisciplined militiamen.

The bad behavior of one rather minor cleric has been one of the most misreported stories to come out of an Iraq where the Shi'ites remain our de facto allies.

The Sunni are not, U.S. Issues Blunt Warning to Besieged Falluja Rebels: American authorities warned that if the insurgents did not lay down their arms, U.S. soldiers would attack within days. (IAN FISHER and STEVEN R. WEISMAN, 4/24/04, NY Times)

The American authorities increased the pressure on besieged insurgents in the Sunni Muslim stronghold of Falluja on Friday with a series of blunt warnings that if they did not lay down their arms, United States soldiers would attack within days.

A senior Bush administration official in Washington said that although a decision had not been made to attack pending a final round of negotiations, "there isn't much time left." He said the administration felt a sense of urgency because the insurgents had turned over only outdated weapons and because Falluja faced an imminent human crisis, with residents in dire need of food and medicine.

"Our patience is not eternal," said Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the chief spokesman for the American-led military command in Baghdad.

Crush Fallujah, spare Najaf.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:26 AM


Sniffing out the reasons for Kerry's April slide (David Broder, 4/24/04, Washington Post

If you watched Kerry on "Meet the Press," you saw many examples of dodginess on his part. At the very start, moderator Tim Russert asked for a "yes or no answer" to the question, "Do you believe the war in Iraq was a mistake?" Kerry's response was: "I think the way the president went to war was a mistake." By restating the question, he left the fundamental issue unanswered.

Over the course of the hour, Kerry struggled to explain why he had once (decades ago) advocated placing U.S. forces under the direction of the United Nations, why he had said in 2000 that America's effort to isolate Cuba was a "frozen, stalemated, unproductive policy," why he had voted in 2002 for the resolution authorizing the use of force against Saddam Hussein and why he now criticizes that policy after promising he would not do so "once the shooting starts."

This is not a new problem for Kerry. As Boston Globe reporters Michael Kranish, Brian Mooney and Nina Easton write in their newly published biography of the senator, despite instances where Kerry showed himself "a lawmaker willing to stand up to prevailing political winds ... he is trailed by a reputation for political opportunism. ... Unlike many who are driven to succeed in public life by a core belief system, the arc of Kerry's political career is defined by a restless search for the issues, individuals and causes to fulfill a nearly lifelong ambition" for the White House.

The election is still six months away. But Kerry's reputation has been built over 40 years. And the voters seem to be sniffing it out.

April 24: Broder bails.

-Kerry's 1971 testimony on Vietnam reverberates: Vivid words alleged atrocities by soldiers (Candy Crowley, 4/23/04, CNN)

"I think the way I characterized it at that time was mostly the voice of a young, angry person who wanted to end the war," Kerry told CNN's Candy Crowley in an interview broadcast on Thursday's anniversary of his Senate testimony.

"I regret any feeling that anybody had that I somehow didn't embrace the quality of the service. But I have always said how nobly I think every veteran served."

The senator concedes he wouldn't say the same things in the same way today, that talk of "atrocities" back then was over the top. Yet, he insists he's still proud he stood up against the war. While he has regret for the words he chose, he defends the legitimacy of the sentiment he so starkly articulated.

"They were honest expressions of the passion that we brought to the cause," said Kerry. "I'm older, I'm wiser. I'm farther from it. But they were the words that came out of my gut at that time, based on the anger and frustration that I felt back when it was happening."

He also told Crowley, "I'm not going to back down one inch on what I've fought for and what I've stood for all of these years."

Such qualified regret doesn't go far enough for some Vietnam veterans, who can't forgive the stigma they still see attached to those long-ago words.

A bigger problem even than the despicable things he said and did is that so few believe that's how he really felt. Being anti-war was just good politics in MA so he was.
-Kerry Role in Antiwar Veterans Is Delicate Issue in His Campaign: Senator John Kerry's antiwar past, after he returned from five months of combat in Vietnam, is coming under new scrutiny. (DAVID M. HALBFINGER, 4/24/04, NY Times)
When questions were raised last month about whether a 27-year-old John Kerry had attended a Kansas City meeting of Vietnam Veterans Against the War where the assassination of senators was discussed, the Kerry presidential campaign went into action.

It accepted the resignation of a campaign volunteer in Florida, Scott Camil, the member of the antiwar group who raised the idea in November 1971 of killing politicians who backed the war. The campaign pressed other veterans who were in Kansas City, Mo., 33 years ago to re-examine their hazy memories while assuring them that Mr. Kerry was sure he had not been there.

John Musgrave, a disabled ex-marine from Baldwin City, Kan., who told The Kansas City Star that Mr. Kerry was at the meeting, said he got a call from John Hurley, the Kerry campaign's veterans coordinator.

"He said, `I'd like you to refresh your memory,' " Mr. Musgrave, 55, recounted in an interview, confirming an account he had given to The New York Sun. "He said it twice. `And call that reporter back and say you were mistaken about John Kerry being there.' "

Such little-noticed moments in Mr. Kerry's past — including his decision at age 26 to meet the Vietcong emissaries to the Paris peace talks — are coming under new scrutiny now, as Mr. Kerry finally makes the presidential run that his comrades in arms, and in the antiwar movement, half-mockingly predicted decades ago.

In an interview about his antiwar activities, Mr. Kerry said that he knew nothing of attempts by his campaign to tinker with the past and that he disapproved.

As the old saw goes: those who are on the wrong side of history are condemned to rewrite it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:08 AM


Europe to become Giant Theme Park! (www.weeklyworldnews.com, April 24, 2004)

Member nations of the European Union have announced plans to discontinue their status as individual countries in order to merge into one giant theme park!

The new park will be called EuroWorld and will cover the entire continent of what is now known as Europe. The decision was made by the EU countries in response to their collective realization that no one in Europe has had an innovative idea in well over a century.

With nothing new to offer visitors, the European countries decided to stop pretending they were still relevant, and to start celebrating their colorful pasts.

"Our stagnant continent has been a virtual museum for decades," explains an unnamed EU representative. "Many could argue that we already were nothing more than an amusement park. The decision to legally become a large theme park is really only a formality."

Each country will now be an exhibit within the park. For example, what was once known as Germany will now be the Germanland exhibit. Only traditional German foods such as bratwurst, sauerkraut and beer will be permitted in Germanland.

The citizens of each European country will now be considered "Euro hosts." The Euro hosts will be required to dress in traditional ethnic outfits from their respective homelands to better entertain visitors.

Thus, Germans must wear lederhosen at all times, Scots must wear kilts, and so forth.

"It's better this way. I remember vacationing a few years ago in Holland and nobody was wearing wooden shoes. And very few of them lived in windmills. I was outraged and demanded my money back from my travel agent," comments sociologist Alan Kennedy, a consultant to the EU for the theme park initiative.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:29 AM


The outsiders (The Age, April 19, 2004)

[T]he reality is that Europe's estimated 12.5 million Muslims are feeling less welcome in the countries that once provided shelter, jobs and the chance of a better future. A continent that once exported its ideas of freedom and democracy to the world is now, Muslims say, showing it how to quietly victimise its own citizens. "When I go on the Metro with my headscarf on, people stare at me," says Leila Horr, a 17-year-old Paris high school student. "The big controversy about the veil is creating more problems than there were before. It's creating a gulf between the community and the rest of France."

But the veil, which will be banned from state schools in France from September, is not the only ideological flashpoint. Other hot issues include asylum, immigration, racism and crime -- all driving a wedge between Muslims and non-Muslims and, even within the Islamic community whose members come from a range of practices, traditions and cultures.

Many Muslims are, for the first time, facing a clear choice of becoming either less integrated -- and more ghettoised -- or standing up and demanding their rights. A warped minority is making a further choice: to join the worldwide jihad against the West, in its own backyard. They grab the headlines as the war on terror rages across Paris, London, Rome and countless other European cities and towns; the vast majority quietly fume, abide by the law and pray for deliverance.

In The Hague, where almost half of inner-city residents are Muslim, Arif Potmis, 42, an adviser to the local Islamic organisation, sees his community being made to feel like second-class citizens. A moderate man by nature and political inclination, he spends his days talking to younger Muslims about the need to engage with the broader Dutch society rather than look inwards and to radicalised versions of Islamic teaching. Potmis doesn't readily buy into conspiracy theories, but concedes it is hard to win the argument when Muslims are denied access to city facilities (and Jewish groups aren't) as happened at the end of last year's Ramadan.

It seems unlikely that the Decline and Fall of Europe will produce a Gibbon, though it will warrant one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:25 AM


What the Right Does Right: I may not agree with all their values, but at least they have them. (Knute Berger, 4/24/04, Seattle Weekly)

Virtually all of our most powerful elective leaders—Democrat and Republican alike—supported the recent multibillion-dollar Boeing giveaway. Of the major candidates for governor, only Democrat Phil Talmadge has come out swinging against the Boeing deal. But it’s interesting to me that the major player in Olympia demanding accountability was Bob Williams and his conservative government watchdog group, the Evergreen Freedom Foundation. It led the way in getting the state to more fully disclose what we taxpayers are on the hook for, and how the deal came together. While I may not agree with the free-market philosophy of this group, their insistence on disclosure was a public service. And their doggedness grew out of a long-standing skepticism about public spending, tax policy, and the fundamental honesty of government—skepticism that is not misplaced and ought to be thoroughly bipartisan.

Education is another arena where conservatives are helping push the envelope. My children—both doing well in college—were homeschooled after grade school. That kind of education might not have been possible in this state were it not for the Christian right’s activism in getting our homeschooling laws liberalized and helping citizens regain the right to educate their own children. For that, I am grateful. The far right has also been active in fighting the proliferation of drugs like Ritalin in public schools. We’ve turned our schools into medicine cabinets, a trend that is symptomatic of an increasingly pharmacologically dependent society where drugs are prescribed by authority figures to regulate behavior in controlled settings (getting us ready for the chronic depression induced by the typical workplace, no doubt). One of the leading crusaders against the drugging of America’s youth has been cultural conservative columnist Phyllis Schlafly. More recently, conservatives have helped to keep the pressure on for charter schools that, I believe, have the potential to demonstrate important reforms for the rest of public edu-cation. Instead of fighting them, the state’s teachers ought to be embracing charters and the kinds of freedom, energy, and experimentation they represent. Their resistance is a result, I think, of the fact that they, too, are victims of a sick system.

Such grudging admiration is largely a function of how reactionary the American Left is become. All of the energy and ideas for improving American life now come from the Right, while the Left has nothing to say but: "Let's keep doing what we're doing but spend more money on it."

ALL QUIET ON THE HOME FRONT: The Democrats' focus on appearing 'electable' has
stopped them from winning arguments. (Alex Gourevitch, 4/22/04, sp!ked-politics)

principled consistency is out of temper with contemporary politics. Immediately after Dean's so-called screaming fit in the Iowa caucuses, his electoral fortunes took a turn for the worse. It seems that what he was really punished for was appearing to care enough about an issue to look like a zealot. In an odd way, Dean shares with Bush what seems to disconcert a lot of people: they are both accused of coming across as 'fundamentalists'. Bush has been criticised for being a 'crusader' or, as Kerry and many Democrats put it, 'arrogant'.

While people may find the Kerry's placid and empathetic style of politics more comforting, it is also a self-constraining and apolitical approach. (Even the 'Anybody But Bush' opposition has been criticised for appearing to express 'hatred' rather than the ostensibly more acceptable 'dislike'.)
When political passion is considered pathological, it is impossible to sustain a real political debate. After all, there is nothing reassuring or pleasing about principled politics - in opposition or otherwise. Moreover, masking true opinions behind a politically correct style means that even when you are right, you cannot take advantage of it. The more contemporary politicians line up behind today's 'anti-fundamentalist' ethos, the more difficult it is to know where they stand.

The irony is, what seems to be a strategy for making Kerry 'electable' prevents him from developing any coherent and consistent critique of Bush, or fully exploiting the many openings Bush's hapless presidency has left. That Bush felt the need to hold only the third press conference of his entire presidency last week was a clear sign that the administration knows something is amiss, and feels a need to try and reassure the public. Despite a poor performance, the tactic may have worked, if for no other reason than that it exposed once again the fact that the opposition had no meaningful alternative around which a public debate could polarise. After a month of chaos in Iraq, the opposition should have more to say about the current situation than that Bush is arrogant.

Nor can Kerry justify his strategy by hiding behind public fear and caution. Political leaders are supposed to do just that - lead. Appealing to the public's powers of reason and respect for principle by arguing steadfastly for one's own position would surely be more attractive than a campaign carefully tailored not to offend anybody. And people respond to what's put before them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:24 AM


From the Murky Depths: Fathoming the lasting appeal of Saint-Exupéry and "The Little Prince." (BENJAMIN IVRY, April 15, 2004, Wall Street Journal)

Sampling the readers' opinions of his books on amazon.com, one finds admirers hardly less passionate and devout than readers of the Bible and "Das Kapital." After all, the story of a Little Prince from another planet who enlightens a downed pilot about the real meaning of life is in the domain of spiritual philosophy, however blatantly expressed, belying "The Little Prince's" perplexing reputation as a book for children.

Saint-Exupéry's popularity is based on swimmingly vague musings like the ones above, and most elements of his life remain vague as well. We may never know just why his plane crashed, and theories ranging from suicide to accident remain equally plausible. Even biographical facts are oddly insubstantial, like a broken engagement with the French writer Louise de Vilmorin, described as enchantingly irresistible by biographers. Never mind that Evelyn Waugh, who knew de Vilmorin well, described her in a letter to Nancy Mitford as "an egocentric maniac with the eyes of a witch. She is the spirit of France. How I hate the French." To which Ms. Mitford replied, "Oh how glad I am you feel this about Lulu--I can't sit in a room with her she makes me so nervous."

The Little Prince couldn't be a more straightforward Christian allegory.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:01 AM


Why is Evolution Believed in More Firmly than the Evidence Warrants? (J. P. Moreland, April 2004, Boundless)

[S]cientific naturalism includes three claims. First, scientific knowledge is vastly superior to all other forms of knowledge. Second, the scientifically authorized story of how all things came about revolves around the atomic theory of matter and evolutionary theory. According to the atomic theory of matter, all chemical change is the result of the rearrangement of tiny little parts — protons, neutrons and electrons. According to evolutionary theory, random mutations are largely responsible for providing an organism with a change in characteristics; some of those changes provide the organism with a survival advantage over other members of its species; as a result, the organism’s new traits eventually become the norm for all members of the species. The important thing about naturalism’s second claim is that its creation story is a purely mechanical, physical story with no need or room for miraculous divine activity. Third, the picture of reality that results from this creation story (which is, in turn, the only story alleged to have the support of scientific ways of knowing) is physicalism: the belief that the physical, material cosmos is all there is, was or ever will be.

It is important to note the relationship between these three claims: Most naturalists believe that the physical cosmos is all there is, was or ever will be because their creation story allows no room for miraculous divine activity. And most naturalists believe in a creation story with no room for divine activity because (a) their theory of knowledge says that it’s irrational to believe in things that can’t be tested scientifically with the five senses, and (b) because they believe that divine activity can’t be so tested. Thus most naturalists believe Claim Three because they believe Claim Two, and they believe Claim Two because they believe Claim One.

Curiously, naturalism’s theory of knowledge (i.e., Claim One, according to which a belief is rational only if it is scientifically testable) is not itself scientifically testable. Thus the naturalist’s theory of knowledge fails to pass its own standard of acceptability and refutes itself. But this leaves many naturalists without any basis for believing Claim Two and, therefore, without any basis for believing Claim Three either.

With this background in mind, let us recall that our present question is not about the scientific evidence for evolution. I think this evidence is quite meager. In any case, even if we grant (for the sake of argument) that there is a decent amount of evidence for evolution, the degree of certainty claimed on its behalf and the widespread negative attitude toward creationists are quite beyond what is warranted by the evidence alone. What is going on here? [...]

Evolution functions as a myth for secularists. By “myth” I do not mean something false (though I believe evolution to be that) but, rather, a story of who we are and how we got here that serves as a guide for life. Evolutionist Richard Dawkins said that evolution made the world safe for atheists because it supposedly did away with the design argument for God’s existence. In graduate school, I once had a professor say that evolution was a view he embraced religiously because it implied for him that he could do anything he wanted. Why? Given that there is no God and that evolution is how we got here, there is no set purpose for life, no objective right and wrong, no punishment after death, so one can live for himself in this life anyway he wants. Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer made the same statement on national TV. Dahmer said that naturalistic evolution implied that we all came from slime and will return to slime. So why should he resist deeply felt tendencies to kill, given that we have no objective purpose or value and there is no punishment after death? I am not here arguing that secularists cannot find grounds for objective purpose and value in their naturalistic worldview, though I believe that to be the case. I am simply pointing out that evolution functions as an egoistic myth for many intellectuals who have absolutized freedom, understood as the right to do anything one wants. Philosophical naturalists want evolution to be true because it provides justification for their lifestyle choices.

You can hardly begrudge people the need for a religious myth--we all share that. The problem is the indecent purposes to which they seek to put theirs.

April 23, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:04 PM


First-quarter GDP another scorcher (Rex Nutting, April 23, 2004, CBS.MarketWatch.com)

For the third quarter in a row, U.S. economic growth has exceeded all expectations.

Following a blowout third quarter and a very strong fourth quarter, most economists expected the economy to pause just a bit in the first three months of 2004.

Instead, growth apparently accelerated, boosted by consumer spending, business investment, housing and inventory stocking.

The first estimate of first-quarter growth will be released by the Commerce Department on Thursday morning. The report is the highlight of another fairly busy week on the economic calendar.

Economists surveyed by CBS MarketWatch expect, on average, annualized growth of 5 percent in the first quarter after 4.1 percent growth in the fourth quarter and 8.2 percent in the third.

It would be the first time in 10 years that growth exceeded 4 percent for three straight quarters.

Harold Stassen could win this election for the GOP.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:49 PM


'IT'S STIFLING, THAT FEELING OF FALSENESS': Ricky Gervais talks to Ed Barrett about The Office and offices. (Ed Barrett, 4/22/04, sp!ked-culture)

One striking thing about the paper merchants in The Office is that nobody actually mentions paper, unless the subject is unavoidable. 'Nobody cares!' laughs Gervais. 'You never talk about the product, or how proud you are of your work, you talk about people: "You'll never believe what that Pete Gibbons said to me last night - idiot!" or "So-and-so's got a pay rise!".'

Although offices are changing, they are still places where people of different types and ages are thrown together - unlike pubs and other institutions, which are becoming increasingly segmented. [...]

Even the open-plan office itself, that symbol of openness and team-building has been divided up into personal territories, each customised with pictures, novelty mouse mats, charity stick-bugs, trinkets and, of course, ersatz barriers like the wall of box files that is erected between desks in one episode of The Office. 'I'm not an anthropologist or sociologist', admits Gervais, 'but I don't think open plan offices are natural. I imagine that the first thing you do when you're thrown together with 30 people that you might not care for, is build a wall.'

Gervais was drawn to the subject of offices by precisely this random - and frankly misanthropic - way in which they draw together people of different ages who have nothing in common. Yet for all their personal quirks, there is something instantly recognisable about the dramatis personae of The Office. This is entirely intentional, as they were deliberately typecast. ('It was a case of: "You know those type of people that...."') [...]

Mustn't grumble. That's an order, by the way - the great unwritten rule of office life. Criticise the job too much and, by implication, you criticise your colleagues as well. Complaint may be expressed only in coded form, via the strained jocularity of the novelty sign or the humorous email circular with its jokey complaints about the drinks machine that's never fixed or the ever-diminishing lunch 'hour'. Timid, cringing, and, let's face it, pathetic.

There's nothing wrong with having a laugh, but this isn't really a laugh at all. 'It's stifling, that feeling of claustrophobia and falseness', muses Gervais. 'When they start teaching people how to enjoy life, there's something a little bit odd about that.' And official fun invariably has a coercive element, as Brent's laugh-a-minute tyranny shows. It reminds everyone who's in charge. Jokes are barbed with references to lateness, or light-hearted threats of the sack. It can go further, with the management-led pillorying of those deemed not to be pulling their weight through 'Wally of the Week' boards, dunce's hats and 'humorous' forfeits.

Joking can be a serious matter. In one episode of The Office, a full-scale investigation is launched when a pornographic picture featuring David Brent is emailed around the office. No wonder he is careful to point out that his officially sanctioned material is kosher. ('"Does my bum look big in this?"' he chuckles, reading a cartoon on the wall: 'It's OK, it's not sexist - it's the bloke saying it.') Politically correct codes of conduct keep everyone walking on eggshells: anyone could take offence at anything, and someone usually does. And when they do, there's no sorting it out between yourselves: it's straight off to personnel for an official warning.

Seemingly reliable folks who've seen it swear it's funny.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:38 PM


Blair's EU-turn: British politics all at sea (Mick Hume, 4/21/04, Spiked)

This surprising and messy turn of events reveals something about the true state of contemporary political life. Without the sort of anchors that can be provided by principled beliefs and ideologies, politics seems to have become a more arbitrary affair - unpredictable, unstable, adrift and out of control.

The European debate in Britain has always been shaped more by domestic political concerns than by the details of what goes on in the smokeless committee rooms of the EU. Thus the Tory Party's very public divisions over Europe in the 1980s and 90s were not principally about the European treaties and exchange rate mechanisms on which they focused. The underlying tensions had far more to do with the advancing identity crisis of traditional Toryism. In a similar vein, the current chaotic debate over Europe says rather less about the obscure provisions of a draft EU document than it does about the crisis of authority afflicting the British government and the political system.

The Cabinet's flip-flop on the referendum reveals the profound insecurity of the rudderless New Labour 'project' today. Terrified of being exposed as 'out of touch' with the public, an isolated political elite has buckled once again under a bit of pressure from sections of the media (not from any popular movement). That this is due more to a loss of nerve than a change of heart was clear to anybody watching Blair in parliament. He stumbled and bumbled his way through arguing the case for a referendum that neither he nor many close supporters wants, so shaken that he was unable even to bring himself to use the 'r' word.

The move to support a referendum also looks like a typically nervous New Labour twitch: announcing a 'decision', in order to put off doing anything decisive. It is clear that Blair wants any referendum postponed until after the next general election, effectively kicking it into the long grass while he seeks re-election. Expect a drawn-out process of announcements, consultations, proposals and, possibly, judicial hearings before anything actually happens.

The Tories appear cock-a-hoop at the sight of Blair's discomfort. Yet they too must be concerned at how the European campaign could expose the extent to which they remain tied to their discredited past. There would be no automatic gain for the Tories from an anti-European vote that was based on a general cynicism about political institutions. It was not so long ago, remember, that campaigners against Britain adopting the euro decided to distance their cause from the Conservatives, because the link was costing them support.

We are left with a situation where the only certainty is that anything could happen - although the paralysis of our fearful politicians means that nothing frequently does. (We can also be pretty sure that the EU constitution debate is not about to spark a popular revolution.) The arbitrary character of politics today stems from the lack of any clear divide between alternative visions of society, the absence of defining principles on all sides. Even on Europe, there is a far narrower political division today than during the referendum of 30 years ago, when the public and the political class were split over the fundamental issue of whether Britain should join the European Community at all. That is why a prime minister who laughably claims to be a 'conviction politician' can switch his convictions on an issue like this apparently overnight, without even acknowledging that he has done so.

To see where an arbitrary system of politics can end up, look to Spain. The recent shock election result, in which the ruling Popular Party (PP) was beaten by the unfancied Socialists, was shaped by immediate reactions to the Madrid bombings. But it also revealed the broader problem of fickle, knee-jerk politics in which 'loyalties' are based on little more than an emotional spasm.

For the first time that I can recall, a major Western nation elected a government that even the voters did not think was the best bet to run the country. The Socialists were not elected because of their policies, or even because of the policies of the PP government. They won because people were angry with the government over the bombings of just a few days earlier. If the elections had been held a week later, the results may well have been different. That is no way to run a political contest, or a country.

In a Europe that no longer has any core values, what are you left with but your self and your emotions?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:09 PM


A Face of Armstrong, but Not the Image (TERRY TEACHOUT, JUL 29, 2001, NY Times)

Granted that serious jazz scholarship is a comparatively young field, it is still decidedly odd that so many scholars and critics have been so slow -- if not positively reluctant -- to grapple with the sometimes uncomfortable implications of what Armstrong wrote about his life and work, which does not always mesh neatly with his good- humored public image. One who has done so is Dan Morgenstern, who wrote the introduction to the 1986 paperback reissue of "Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans." In it he shrewdly observed that while Armstrong "doesn't pass judgment on the `gamblers, hustlers, cheap pimps, thieves [and] prostitutes' among whom he was raised, it is clear throughout this book that his values, from a very early age on, differ from theirs."

"He was different from most of them, and the key difference was character," Mr. Morgenstern wrote.

Again, most people know in a general way that Armstrong grew up poor, but the devil is in the details. He was the illegitimate son of a 15-year- old part-time prostitute from the poorest quarter of New Orleans, abandoned at birth by his natural father and sentenced at the age of 11 to the Colored Waif's Home, an orphanage-like reform school, for the crime of firing a revolver into the air to celebrate the Fourth of July. It was the first time his name appeared in print, and by all rights it should have been the last, save perhaps for a final entry on a police blotter; instead, he wrote himself indelibly into the history of Western music. Yet his genius alone was not powerful enough to pull him out of the gutter. That took something more, and he knew it.

Why did Armstrong spend so much of his spare time hunched over a typewriter? Partly because he was a gregarious soul who loved to send letters to his friends, but also because he thought he had important things to say. Armstrong's autobiographical writings "can be seen as a series of moral lessons," Mr. Bergreen argues, and, like Mr. Morgenstern, he got it right on the nose. Armstrong wanted to teach his fellow men a lesson, which can be summed up in six words: You get what you work for. Having been born desperately poor, he worked desperately hard, first as a boy and then as a man. In this respect, he had much in common with Ragged Dick, Horatio Alger's plucky bootblack, whose burning desire to "grow up 'spectable" propelled him into the ranks of the middle class. Self-discipline, self- improvement, self-reliance: these were Armstrong's lifelong watchwords, and no Alger hero could have improved on his iron determination to get ahead in the world. Once he did so, he felt an obligation to tell others how to do the same thing.

"I don't want anyone to feel I'm posing as a plaster saint," he wrote in "Satchmo." "Like everyone I have my faults, but I always have believed in making an honest living. I was determined to play my horn against all odds, and I had to sacrifice a whole lot of pleasure to do so."

This aspect of Armstrong is no longer fashionable, to put it mildly, and even in his lifetime, long before the 19th-century work ethic of individual responsibility and deferred gratification had become politically controversial, progressive-minded intellectuals were starting to have trouble with it. Around the time that Armstrong was sent to the Colored Waif's Home, George Bernard Shaw was writing "Pygmalion," in which Eliza Doolittle's father savagely mocks the accepted distinction between the "deserving" and "undeserving" poor:

"I don't need less than a deserving man: I need more. I don't eat less hearty than him; and I drink a lot more . . . What is middle class morality? Just an excuse for never giving me anything."

A true child of his time, Armstrong would have found such talk absurd at best, pernicious at worst. He smoked marijuana every day and cheated happily on all four of his wives, but when it came to poverty, he was a perfect Victorian, certain that work was the only path to salvation and that those unwilling to follow it earned their dire fate. "The Negroes always wanted pity," he recalled in his 1969 reminiscence of life in New Orleans. "They did that in place of going to work . . . they were in an alley or in the street corner shooting dice for nickels and dimes, etc. (mere pittances) trying to win the little money from his Soul Brothers who might be gambling off the money [they] should take home to feed their starving children or pay their small rents, or very important needs, etc." The note of anger -- of contempt -- is unmistakable.

In a recent review of "Louis Armstrong, in His Own Words" and "The Louis Armstrong Companion," Brian Harker, an assistant professor of music at Brigham Young University, remarked that Armstrong was "a product of turn-of-the-century African-American ideology, especially that of Booker T. Washington."

"Like Washington," Mr. Harker added, "Armstrong was an accommodationist, determined to play -- and win -- by the rules of the white majority." This is true as far as it goes, but it overlooks the fact that most jazz musicians, black and white alike, come from middle-class backgrounds, while most of those who are born poor strive mightily -- and more often than not successfully -- to join the ranks of the middle class. Anyone who doubts that Armstrong filled the latter bill need only visit his home, some seven blocks from Shea Stadium in a shabby but respectable part of Queens. (It will open as a museum in 2003.) It is a modest three-story frame house whose elaborate interior is uncannily reminiscent of Graceland, Elvis Presley's gaudy Memphis mansion. From the Jetsons-style kitchen-of-the-future to the silver wallpaper and golden faucets of the master bathroom, the Armstrong house looks exactly like what it is: the residence of a poor Southern boy who grew up and made good.

Unlike Graceland, though, it is neither oppressive nor embarrassing. As one stands in Armstrong's smallish study (whose decorations include, among other things, a portrait of the trumpeter painted by Tony Bennett), it is impossible not to be touched to the heart by the aspiration that is visible wherever you look. This, you sense, was the home of a working man, one bursting with a pride that came not from what he had but from what he did. "I never want to be anything more than I am, what I don't have I don't need," Armstrong wrote. Referring to his fourth wife, he added, "My home with Lucille is good, but you don't see me in no big estates and yachts, that ain't gonna play your horn for you. When the guys come from taking a walk around the estate they ain't got no breath to blow that horn." Is it any wonder that it enraged him to be branded an Uncle Tom? As far as he was concerned, working hard was not "acting white": it was acting human.

A writer misuses the great Louis Armstrong (Stanley Crouch, August 3, 2001, J ewish World Review)
LOUIS ARMSTRONG was perhaps the greatest single innovator in the history of original American music, but he was often dismissed as an exploited Uncle Tom because of his equal emphasis on art and entertainment.

But Armstrong was never exploited in such a brazen manner as he was by Terry Teachout in Sunday's New York Times Arts & Leisure section. By stressing Armstrong's belief in "self-discipline, self-improvement, self-reliance," and through the selective use of quotes, Teachout sets Armstrong in conflict with his own people. He makes him appear to be a Negro-hating Negro.

Bitter Armstrong letters are quoted from 1969, when black power had subverted the civil rights movement and people of his generation were being dismissed or insulted.

Teachout ignores this context and gives the impression that Armstrong hated his own ethnic group. But Teachout is after more than name-calling. His point is that the problems experienced by black people were not attributable to racism, institutional and otherwise. No, their unwillingness to work hard or take responsibility for their fates or to help the ambitious among them is why those destined to succeed must count on the kindness of white people.

Did Mr. Crouch even read the column in question?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:34 PM


Kerry: Religion Shouldn't Mix With Politics (NEDRA PICKLER, 4/23/04, AP)

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's campaign said Friday that religion should not be an issue in U.S. politics after a top Vatican official said Catholic politicians who support abortion rights should be denied Communion.

Cardinal Francis Arinze would not comment on whether it was right to give Communion to Kerry, who is Catholic and supports abortion rights. Arinze spoke to reporters Friday while issuing a Vatican directive, commissioned by Pope John Paul II, that clamps down on liturgical abuses in Mass. The 71-page document does not address the question of pro-choice politicians, an issue reporters raised with the cardinal.

When asked in general about "unambiguously pro-abortion" Catholic politicians, Arinze said such a politician "is not fit" to receive Communion. "If they should not receive, then they should not be given," he said.

Kerry spokesman David Wade would not respond directly to Arinze, but he reiterated Kerry's position on the separation of church and state that "helped make religious affiliation a nonissue in American politics."

"The decisions he will make as president will be guided by his obligation to all the people of our country and to the Constitution of the United States," Wade said in the statement. "Every American - whether they be Jewish, Catholic, Protestant or any other faith - must believe their president is representing them."

If he'll violate his obligation to the tenets of his religion for political convenience then why would he trust anything he says to us?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:27 PM


Basra arrest bolsters revenge theory: Evidence suggests homegrown terrorists - not al-Qaida - carried out bombings in response to attack on Falluja (Luke Harding and Mohammad Haider, April 23, 2004, The Guardian)

An Iraqi suspected of involvement in Wednesday's devastating bomb attacks in Basra came from the Sunni city of Falluja, Iraqi officials said yesterday, suggesting that the blasts may not have been the work of al-Qaida but an act of revenge for the US's brutal offensive in the city.

According to British officials, Basra's governor, Wael Abdullatif, told colleagues on Wednesday night that an Iraqi caught running away from the scene of one of the explosions had travelled to southern Iraq from Falluja.

He was detained outside the police academy in Zubayr, 15 miles south of Basra, which was the scene of two of Wednesday's car bomb attacks.

As the death toll from the explosions rose to 74 yesterday, with 160 injured, Mr Abdullatif said the Iraqi authorities were pursuing several leads and expected to make more arrests shortly.

He gave no further details of the man in custody, but Iraqi officials said "seven or eight" Iraqis from the mainly Sunni town of Zubayr had been killed in the US military's offensive against Falluja.

It appears to be entirely predictable Sunni violence directed at Shi'ites, having little or nothing to do with the U.S., except that we're delaying the final conflict between the two groups.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:19 PM


Musharraf whipping Pakistan into (US) line (Syed Saleem Shahzad, 4/22/04, Asia Times)

[M]usharraf will retain his grip at the helm, and will continue in reshaping Pakistan-Afghanistan and Pakistan-Indian relations in line with US interests.

To achieve this, Musharraf will have to win over large sections of the grass-root electorate. Already, the powerful rural base of Punjab (the largest province) , which used to be the source of power of the ruling PML - Nawaz group, has been won over to the PML - Quaid-i-Azam group, a pro-Musharraf party. The remaining power pillars of Punjab and North West Frontier Province are dominated by the Pakistan People's Party led by former premier Benazir Bhutto, now organized under the Patroit group and the Sherpao group, both pro-Musharraf parties. All independent "feudal lords" who once dominated national politics, like former president Farooq Laghari and former interim prime minister Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, have been united under the National Alliance, a pro-Musharraf group. And all these will be gathered under the umbrella of the PML, whose leadership will eventually go to Musharraf. [...]

Analysts also believe that in the coming months there will be more army reshuffles to flush out those who cling to traditional beliefs - such as anti-India and pro-Taliban.

If all of these changes are effected, Pakistan could be in a position to strongly continue on its present course of appeasement with India, and a serious clampdown on radicals, even if Musharraf is not at the helm.

The funny thing is how many in the West are in denial about the General.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:47 PM

FOOTBALL HERO (via Matthew Cohen):

Tillman killed while serving as Army Ranger (ESPN.com news services, 4/23/04)

Pat Tillman was killed in Afghanistan after walking away from a multimillion-dollar NFL contract to join the Army Rangers, U.S. officials said Friday.

He was 27.

The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said a formal announcement was expected later in the day. Spokesmen at the Pentagon and U.S. Army declined comment.

Tillman was killed in direct action during a firefight in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday, Pentagon sources told ABCNEWS.

A Pentagon source said that Tillman was killed when his Rangers patrol was attacked by small arms fire and mortars during a coordinated ambush.

Two U.S. soldiers were wounded and one enemy combatant was killed during the ambush. Tillman was the only U.S. soldier killed, Pentagon sources told ABCNEWS. His brother Kevin is in the same platoon.

Pat Tillman's battalion was involved in "Operation Mountain Storm," part of the U.S. campaign against Taliban and al-Qaida groups along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, military officials said.

Just reading Rick Atkinson's new book on the Iraq War and he refers to Michael Kelly's death as senseless. Jackass.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:59 AM


For Kim and North Korea, a sign of mortality (David Scofield, 4/24/04, Asia Times)

Disaster of enormous but still unknown proportions struck North Korea nine hours after Kim Jong-il's heavily guarded train re-entered the Hermit Kingdom and passed through Ryongchon station, 20 kilometers south of the Chinese border. The Dear Leader had returned from "secret" talks with China on defusing the Pyongyang nuclear crisis, gradually giving up his weapons of mass destruction in exchange for massive economic and food aid, clean energy and a better life for his people. The outcome of the talks was not known.

Then, it happened: Two trains (some say a train and a truck) laden with fuel, oil and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) collided and exploded. First reports said as many as 3,000 people were killed or injured in the densely populated town. The Red Cross later said at least 54 were killed and more than 1,200 injured - the full scope of the disaster was yet to emerge. As of Friday afternoon, North Korean officials had not acknowledged the tragedy, and international phone services had been cut, making it difficult to gather information. 

Speculation abounds, but none has been verified. Some suggest the explosions were intended to kill Kim but were badly timed - South Korean experts dismiss that speculation.

having left the Communists in control of the North, the least could do is send in a Predator to get rid of him for them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:38 AM


The secrets of ‘Ein Keloh-enu’: At first blush, one of Judaism's most and popular liturgical songs, dealing with greatness of the Divine, seems illogical. But study its words and get a crash course in Judaism's philosophical underpinnings (Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo, April 23, 2004, Jewish World Review)

Commentators have noted that the sequence of the famous song-prayer "Ein Keloh-enu" ("Nobody is like our G-d") sang at the end of the morning service is somehow odd.

In this prayer we first state that there is nobody like our G-d and then continue and ask "Mi-Keloh-enu" ("Who is like our G-d?"). Would it not be more logical first to ask who is like our G-d and afterwards continue to state that nobody is like Him?

Even more surprising is the fact that the song does not answer its own question. Nowhere throughout the song is there any answer to "Mi- Keloh-enu" ("Who is like our G-d?") All what one could argue is that the song answers its own question ("There is nobody like our G-d") before the question is posed! It seems that it is not the answer, but the question that counts.

By reversing the obvious order and refusing to answer its own question, Judaism wants to make the point that the recognition of G-d is first of all an act of faith and only in the second place an act of philosophical inquiry. This is not because reason has no place within Judaism, but because faith is more than reason.

A people doesn't endure for thousands of years unless it has its priorities straight, nu?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:04 AM


Reading Your Mind: How our brains help us understand other people (Rebecca Saxe, Boston Review)

Children's early understanding of what makes people do the things they do appears to develop in two stages. In the first stage, children understand that people act in order to get the things they want: that human beings are agents whose actions are directed to goals. At 18 months, a child already understands that different people can have different desires or preferences—that for instance an adult experimenter may prefer broccoli to crackers, even though the infant herself much prefers crackers. Toddlers not yet two years old talk spontaneously about the contrast between what they wanted and what happened. Even nine-month-old infants expect an adult to reach for an object at which she had previously looked and smiled.

Children in the first stage are missing something very specific: the notion of belief. Until sometime between their third and fourth birthdays, young children seem not to understand that the relationship between a person's goals and her actions depends on the person's beliefs about the current state of the world. Two-year-olds really do not understand why, if Sally wants the ball, she goes to the basket, even though the ball is in the box. They do not talk spontaneously about thoughts or beliefs, and have trouble understanding that two people could ever have different beliefs. Similarly, while a five-year-old knows that she has to see a ball to be able to tell whether its red, a three-year-old believes he could tell if the ball is red just by feeling it. In the first stage, children think that the mind has direct access to the way the world is; they have no room in their conception for the way a person just believes it to be.

The limitations of a stage-one understanding of the mind apply even to the child's own past or future beliefs. If you show a child a crayon box and ask her what she thinks is inside, all children will say that the box contains crayons. But if you open the box to show that it actually contains ribbons, re-close the box, and then ask the child what she thought was in the box before it was opened, the three-year-old children claim they thought all along that the box contained ribbons.

An impressive conceptual change occurs in the three- or four-year-old child. From American and Japanese urban centers to an African hunter-gatherer society, children make a similar transition from the first stage of reasoning about human behavior, based mainly on goals or desires, to the richer second stage, based on both desires and beliefs. What explains the change? How do children acquire the idea that people have beliefs about the world, that some of the beliefs are false, and that different people have different beliefs about the same world? Between three and five, children mature in so many ways: their vocabulary increases by orders of magnitude, their memory improves, they just know more facts about the world. Each of these changes might account for the advantages of a five-year-old over a three-year-old in solving the false-belief task.

But more than just an accumulation of knowledge is at issue. Rather, we seem to be equipped by evolution with a special mental mechanism—a special faculty or module in our minds—dedicated to understanding why people do the things they do. The maturation of this special mechanism between three and four, in addition to all the other changes happening around the same time, makes the difference between a child who simply doesn't get Romeo's decision and one who does. [...]

So far, we have avoided the questions about whether the capacity to reason about other minds is innate, universal (common to all members of the human species), and specific to the human species. But the very idea of an evolved special mechanism of the mind implies that this mechanism is part of the human genetic endowment, universal within our species and possibly unique to it. So troubles with any of these three ideas may mean trouble for the idea of a mental faculty dedicated to reasoning about other minds. And each of these three is the subject of intense current debate.

Rather than try to do justice to the enormous range and subtlety of these debates, I will defend just the possibility that the capacity to use attributed beliefs to explain and predict behavior is innate, universal, and species-specific by answering three narrower questions: (1) How can a capacity be innate if that capacity only begins to operate three to five years after birth? (2) How can we say that reasoning about other minds is universal, when the very notion of a mind changes dramatically across cultures and across time? (3) Based on what evidence do we accord or deny to other species the ability to reason about other minds? [...]

What is still missing is definitive evidence that any non-human animal has ever gone beyond stage one, to make the three-year-old's impressive transition into a world of beliefs: a transition that enables us to predict one another's conduct, coordinate for the common good, and suffer the sorrows of Romeo and Juliet when we get things wrong.

What's most interesting about this is that modern liberalism--of the Left and of the libertarian Right--is then in a precise sense anti-human:
[T]he new social fact here analysed is this: European history reveals itself, for the first time, as handed over to the decisions of the ordinary man as such. Or to turn it into the active voice: the ordinary man, hitherto guided by others, has resolved to govern the world himself. This decision to advance to the social foreground has been brought about in him automatically, when the new type of man he represents had barely arrived at maturity. If from the view-point of what concerns public life, the psychological structure of this new type of mass-man be studied, what we find is as follows: (1) An inborn, root-impression that life is easy, plentiful, without any grave limitations; consequently, each average man finds within himself a sensation of power and triumph which, (2) invites him to stand up for himself as he is, to look upon his moral and intellectual endowment as excellent, complete. This contentment with himself leads him to shut himself off from any external court of appeal; not to listen, not to submit his opinions to judgment, not to consider others' existence. His intimate feeling of power urges him always to exercise predominance. He will act then as if he and his like were the only beings existing in the world and, consequently, (3) will intervene in all matters, imposing his own vulgar views without respect or regard for others, without limit or reserve, that is to say, in accordance with a system of 'direct action.'
-Jose Ortega y Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses

Indeed, Man would appear to have evolved towards (or been Created for, or both) Judeo-Christianity:
In the first place, Christianity places duties to God and duties to one's neighbor before individual rights and cannot easily accept the proposition that people have the right to pursue happiness as they see fit, especially if that right leads to societies that are indifferent to God. Second, Christianity's foundation on divine revelation implies a duty to accept transcendent truth as well as authoritative pronouncements about truth by a hierarchical church rather than to accept the dictates of individual conscience wherever they might lead. Third, the Christian notion of original sin implies distrust of weak and fallible human beings to use rights properly; it instills a keen sense of how freedom can go awry and ultimately must view political freedom as a conditional rather than an absolute good. Fourth, Christianity puts the common good above the rights of individuals, and its emphasis on the family and man's social nature conflicts with the individualism and privacy of rights. Fifth, the Christian teaching about charity--whose essence is sacrificial love--makes the whole notion of rights seem selfish, as if the world owes something to me when I declare, 'I have my rights!' Ultimately, of course, Christians cannot accept the premise of human autonomy or the natural freedom of the autonomous self that underlies most doctrines of rights.
-Robert P. Kraynak,

The very essence of being human would seem to be that we consider one another.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:21 AM

BLUE STATE FUN (via David Hill, The Bronx)

ONLY IN NEW YORK (http://1010wins.com/, Apr 23, 2004)

Two gay lovers -- a man in a black dress and a boy in only a pair of shorts -- protested their families' lack of understanding for their relationship by climbing a Central Park tree on Thursday, stripping, performing lewd acts in front of onlookers and refusing to come down for hours.

The lovers, ages 32 and 17, scaled the 55-foot larch tree next to the Chess and Checkers House around 4 p.m., said Detective John Sweeney, a police department spokesman.

The couple had told the boy's parents about their relationship and been rebuked, police said.

The man played on branches near the top of the tree and waved at onlookers while the boy sat quietly a few feet below him. Police said the man later performed oral sex on the boy and stripped down to a thong to taunt them.

Silly parents, it seems like a perfectly natural relationship...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:14 AM


Asians bumped from contract set-aside plan (FRAN SPIELMAN, April 23, 2004, Chicago Sun-Times)

Asian-American contractors will no longer be automatically included in Chicago's construction set-aside program under a watered-down re-write unveiled Thursday to satisfy a federal judge.

Instead of rolling the dice and taking the chance the entire minority set-aside ordinance could be overturned, a mayoral task force held its nose and followed U.S. District Judge James Moran's roadmap to the letter.

Task force members proposed an ordinance that nobody seems particularly thrilled about, but everybody agrees can be legally defended.

Asian-Americans will no longer be included automatically in a "presumptively socially disadvantaged" group that includes African-Americans, Hispanics and women. They'll have to apply individually and sign affidavits documenting past discrimination.

The redrawn ordinance also includes a five-year sunset provision; an economic cap that amounts to a personal net worth of $750,000 -- not counting the owner's equity in a personal residence or the business seeking certification, and revised set-aside levels of 24 percent for minority contractors and 4 percent for women, down from 25 percent and 5 percent.

A groundbreaking "Target Market" program that allows minorities to compete against each other for the more lucrative role of prime contractor will be revised to include all small businesses, including whites. The economic cut-off has not yet been established.

"This is as good as we can get without jeopardizing everything. You don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater," said Ald. William Beavers (7th), chairman of the City Council's Budget Committee who presided over the rewrite.

"We did exactly what the judge wanted us to do. We're not taking any chances. . . . White folks ain't going to give up. We expect them to come back with another lawsuit. We want to be prepared and be able to justify this ordinance."

Asian-American contractors reacted angrily to the changes, arguing there has been just as much discrimination against Asians as there has been against blacks, Hispanics and women.

"We're serving as a scapegoat. In order to save the program, they're willing to toss Asian contractors overboard," said Ernest Wong, president of Site Design Group Ltd., a landscape architecture firm.

So does Liberalism descend into lunacy...

You can see in a case like this one though why the Democratic coalition can not hold--too many groups have interests antithetical to each other and the only thing holding them together at all is the prospect of government benefits.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:09 AM


Comrades laugh (John McCaslin, April 22, 2004, TownHall)

President Bush didn't come right out and call the nation's top newspaper editors a bunch of communists Wednesday, but he came pretty close.

"Thank you for having me here, members of the Politburo," Bush deadpanned to newspaper executives at the head table of a gathering of the Newspaper Association of America, the American Society of Newspaper Editors and the Associated Press. "I mean, my fellow Americans."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:47 AM


Budget squeezes DNC's shindig (Yvonne Abraham, April 23, 2004, Boston Globe)

To the delegation from Des Moines and the contingent from Cincinnati: Forget the lobster tails and caviar.

The city's host committee hasn't got the cash to shower you with such extravagances when you come to town for the Democratic National Convention in July. Sure, you, like every other state delegation, will be feted at one of the 32 cocktail parties being held around town to welcome you and showcase Boston on Sunday, July 25. But there will be no blowouts.

Party planners who were given the nod to plan the delegation receptions were informed this week that the budget for said shindigs will be exactly $100 per person. That C-note has to stretch an awfully long way, they say: burgundy and bourbon for delegates in the mood for a party; substantial hors d'oeuvre; flowers, and lighting, and linens, and live bands.

Some party planners, used to more highfalutin affairs, said yesterday they are bowing out of the delegate party game.

"We were offered a couple [of parties],' said Ellen Burnett, president of Best of Boston event planners. "We just determined it was not in our best interests to do them. In general, that is not a figure that one normally applies to an elegant event in Boston."

Burnett and other planners said they would normally budget well over $100 per person for the kinds of parties the host committee is asking them to organize: two-hour receptions with open bars, plenty of finger food, flowers and entertainment. Particularly since some of those parties, held all over the city, including Franklin Park Zoo and the L Street Bath House, might require extras, like tents and portable bathrooms. Some planners submitted proposals well over the host committee's newly-disclosed limit, more than $200 per person in some cases.

"All civic pride notwithstanding, a tent rental company is not going to give me a $10,000 tent for $2,000," said Dusty Rhodes, head of Conventures, Inc. "We all want to live up to our civic pride, but even if we do an event pro bono, perhaps there should be a little bit more money to spend on the delegates."

The dozen or so planners given preliminary approval to produce the parties will not be working pro bono: their fees will be 15 percent of the events' total cost. With a deadline today to submit proposals that conform to the budget limits, some planners complained privately yesterday that the smaller parties, those for fewer than 100 guests for example, would hardly be worth their time. Some said those parties, with their budgetary constraints, would not be good for their images.

Terry McAuliffe is, without a doubt, the greatest party chairman in the history of the Republican Party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:38 AM


Why the Race is Looking so Good for Bush: From 9/11 panel to Kerry's manner, here are 9 reasons (Howard Fineman, 4/22/04, Newsweek)

Sen. John Kerry's spin doctors claim that they haven't lost ground to George Bush in recent weeks, and they are staging what they insist is the "launch" of his general election campaign this week with new TV ads airing and a trip next week to the Midwest. But the fact is that Kerry has lost ground—ground he has to make up if he hopes to win in November. The more interesting question is why? My reasons: [...]

“Resolve.” In politics, you can’t beat something with nothing. Bush has a plan and a vision: His goal is to protect the American homeland by spreading democracy (by military force if necessary) to the cockpit of Islamic fundamentalism. This idea strikes many serious people as naïve and grandiose at best, dangerously imperious and counter-productive at worst. But what, precisely, is the better idea? Kerry certainly hasn’t made that clear. “Winning hearts and minds” sounds nice, but how do you do that these days? Relying on the United Nations sounds good, too, except that the U.N. has little real credibility. Reinventing the CIA clearly is necessary, but it will take America years if not decades to approach the sophistication of the British—and even they are eyeless in Gaza. Polls show that voters still think it was a good idea to go to Iraq, though they think that by an ever-dwindling margin. But they probably won’t abandon that belief—or Bush—until they can clearly see an alternative answer. Indeed, in most important ways, Kerry seems to basically agree with Bush on the goals and current strategies in Iraq. [...]

Tony & Trump. Let’s face it, as a people we tend to like simple answers and strong leaders who propound them. That may be especially true in these, the early years of what is likely to be a long, twilight struggle against terrorism. The “Sopranos” were popular before 9/11, but even more so now. In these parlous times, Tony Soprano is the king of cable, Donald Trump the king of broadcast TV. There is a full-speed-ahead, damn-the-consequences aura to them both. An oversimplification, for sure:  I’m obviously not proposing moral equivalence between a mob boss and the estimable real estate developer. But this is a time, it seems, when we are enamored of harsh methods. “Bring it on!”

Fifty million bucks worth of ads. The Bush campaign has been nothing if not methodical. They laid out their program in February, adapted it to Kerry late that month, and have been playing out the plan since: starting with “positives” about Bush and 9/11 (the controversial “firefighter” ad); then a series on taxes and the economy timed to the approach of Tax Day; now, since April 15, going at Kerry full bore for his vote against the $87 billion funding for the war. [...]

Kerry told financial supporters in New York the other week that his objective, for now, was to “preserve my acceptability.” That’s a pretty low standard—but one he won’t meet if that is his only goal. So far, his strategy has amounted mostly to: Vote for me, I’m not Bush. That’s not enough, especially if Kerry is seen by most voters the way the BC04 ad portrays him: as a flip-flopping manipulative insider.

Mr. Kerry is at least on to something there. He can't win, but he has to remain at least acceptable so that Democrats can turn their attention to the states where they'll lose Senate seats if there's a landslide. Seemingly unwinnable races for the GOP--CA, HI, IN, WI, VT, OR, MD, ND--could come into play if the Kerry campaign is both auguring into the ground and still pumping money into the supposed "battleground" states.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:17 AM

WHICH WITCH (via Bruce Cleaver):

THE OPPENHEIMER RIDDLE: New evidence of Communist membership debated by scholars of Berkeley scientist (Charles Burress, April 23, 2004, San Francisco Chronicle)

A UC professor says he's solved one of the darkest mysteries in U.S. history: Was J. Robert Oppenheimer, the brilliant Berkeley scientist known as "the father of the atomic bomb," a secret member of the Communist Party?

Recently uncovered documents show that Oppenheimer belonged to a hidden Communist Party cell of professionals in Berkeley, according to UC Merced history Professor Gregg Herken.

Charges of Communist associations led to Oppenheimer's downfall during the McCarthyist hysteria of the early 1950s, and he became, in the words of the Encyclopedia Britannica, "the victim of a witch hunt."

The central fact of every witch hunt is that the accused really are witches.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:13 AM


Kerry adrift (Charles Krauthammer, 4/23/04, Jewish World Review)

"If I'm president," John Kerry said, "I will not only personally go to the U.N., I will go to other capitals." For Kerry, showing up at Kofi Annan's doorstep and sweeping through allied capitals is no rhetorical flourish, no strategic sideshow. It is the essence of his Iraq plan: "Within weeks of being inaugurated, I will return to the U.N. and I will literally, formally rejoin the community of nations and turn over a proud new chapter in America's relationship with the world."

This is an Iraq policy? Never has a more serious question received a more feckless answer. Going back to the U.N.: What does that mean? It cannot mean the General Assembly, which decides nothing. It must mean going back to the Security Council.

There are five permanent members. We are one. The British are already with us. So that leaves China, indifferent at best to our Middle East adventure, though generally hostile, and Russia, which has opposed the war from the very beginning. Moscow was so wedded to Saddam Hussein that it was doing everything it could to prevent an impartial Paul Volcker commission from investigating the corrupt oil-for-food program that enriched Hussein and, through kickbacks, hundreds of others in dozens of countries, including Russia.

That leaves . . . France. What does Kerry think France will do for us? Perhaps he sees himself and Teresa descending on Paris like Jack and Jackie in Camelot days. Does he really believe that if he grovels before Jacques Chirac in well-accented French, France will join us in a war that it has opposed from the beginning, that is now going badly, and that has moved Iraq out of the French sphere of influence and into the American?

The idea is so absurd that when Tim Russert interviewed Kerry and quoted Democratic foreign policy adviser Ivo Daalder as saying that handing political and military responsibility to the United Nations and other countries is not realistic, Kerry simply dodged the question. There was nothing to say.

Why not just appoint Mr. Kerry UN Ambassador? Then he'd get to hang with his French buddies and the Security Council would like us again.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:50 AM


Kerry faces battle for antiwar bloc's vote (Brian C. Mooney, April 23, 2004, Boston Globe)

Senator John F. Kerry may have won the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination, but he still faces a fight for the hearts and minds of the party's antiwar wing.

With violence surging in Iraq, voters who want a quick end to the US-led occupation are shaping up as a potentially critical constituency, and Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader is making a direct pitch for their support in November.

[P]olls indicated Nader is in mid-range single digits nationally. In 2000, when he received less than 3 percent of the total vote, the margin between Bush and Democrat Al Gore was less than half of 1 percent in five states -- Florida, New Mexico, Iowa, Oregon, and Wisconsin.

"A few percent in certain states, and he could turn the whole thing," said Don Kusler, spokesman for Americans for Democratic Action, a liberal advocacy group with 65,000 members. "He has the potential to have an enormous impact. It really depends on where the damage is done."

Nader is unfazed by Democratic critics who say that he was a spoiler four years ago when he ran under the Green Party banner and that he could be one in the election this year.

On Iraq, Nader told the Globe that Kerry's position is "the exact position needed not to get any votes on the issue." He added: "It's fuzzed. It's good he's saying we should go to the United Nations for authority . . . but by asking for more troops, he's basically validating Bush's occupation."

It's been obvious since Howard Dean collapsed that there was room in the general election for an overtly anti-war candidate. Given that opposition to the war on terror is the single most important issue to a significant portion of the Left, Mr. Nader should run ahead of where he did last time.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:43 AM


Founders Quote Daily (The Federalist)

[N]either the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will
secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are
universally corrupt.
-Samuel Adams

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 AM

50-0 FILES:

Why Bush Will Win (Rob Norton, May/June 2004, Corporate Board Member)

If you're interested in who's going to win the presidential election in November...[s]imply consult what may be the most accurate predictor of presidential election outcomes ever devised--the Presidential Vote Equation, an econometric model developed over the past 25 years by Yale economics professor Ray Fair. It has been predicting since late 2003 that President Bush will win big-time and that practically nothing that could conceivably happen between now and Election Day is likely to change the outcome. Fair's approach is described in detail on his website, and also in his book Predicting Presidential Elections and Other Things. [...]

He uses three simple variables: gross domestic product growth, inflation, and the number of "good news quarters" leading up to the election--quarters in which GDP grows at more than 3.2%. To these he adds a variable for whether one of the candidates is the incumbent president, and another for how long the incumbent party has been in power.

The equation has been impressively accurate. It predicted the popular-vote winner in all but two of the 22 presidential elections from 1916 to 2000, and got the last election's popular vote right, though it miscalled the actual victor. (Remember Florida?)

The big miss: In 1992, Fair's model anticipated that George H. W. Bush would beat Bill Clinton with 50.9% of the vote, instead of losing with 46.5%.

As of February the equation was saying that George W. Bush will end up with a robust 58.7% of the two-party vote. Nothing less than an economic collapse of unprecedented suddenness and severity would change the prediction. [...]

Even if you posit GDP growth of only 2%, a 3% inflation rate, and no "good news quarters" come Election Day, Bush still wins with 54.6% of the vote. The equation's variables for incumbency add weight to its prediction: Bush enjoys the best possible situation, according to Fair. The four previous contests in which a Republican won reelection after one term of party control were 1984, when Reagan got 59.2% of the vote; 1972 (Nixon, 61.8%); 1956 (Eisenhower, 57.8%); and 1924 (Coolidge, 58.2%).

Of course, George H. W. Bush would have won had Ross Perot not developed some kind of weird Fatal Attraction-type obsession with him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:23 AM

60-40 NATION:

72% Voters Know Where Bush Stands (RasmussenReports.com, April 22, 2004)

While many pundits are dismissive of the President's communications skills, 72% of Americans say they have a "clear idea of where he stands on the key issues facing the nation today." Just 14% say they do not.

These figures include 84% of Republicans, 63% of Democrats, and 71% of unaffiliated voters.

As for Senator John Kerry, just 47% say they have a clear idea of where he stands on key issues. Thirty-four percent do not.

Just 58% of Democrats say they have a clear idea of where Kerry stands along with 36% of Republicans and 46% of unaffiliated voters.

The fact that Senator Kerry is competitive with President Bush while fewer than half the voters have a clear idea where he stands reinforces the notion that the election is a referendum on the incumbent.

This suggests that Kerry's best position is to try and keep the spotlight on President Bush. Democrats are united in their desire for victory, but are divided when it comes to America's role in the world and other key issues. As Senator Kerry's views become clear to more voters, he runs the risk of alienating some who support him now.

The Rasmussen Reports survey also found that 47% of voters believe President Bush is more conservative than they are. A similar number, 51%, say that Senator Kerry is more liberal. Thirty-five percent (35%) say that Bush is generally close to their views while 27% say the same of Kerry.

In the primaries, being a blank slate was a boon to the Senator, who became the repository of Democrat dreams for beating George Bush. But now Karl Rove has the chalk.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 AM

23-5 (via About Last Night) (via Caterina.net):

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 23.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.

Society and conversation, therefore. are the most powerful remedies for restoring the mind to its tranquility, if, at any time, it has unfortunately lost it; as well as the best preservatives of that equal and happy temper, which is so necessary to self-satisfaction and enjoyment.

Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:31 AM


Image mirrors reality (Razi Azmi, April 2004, Pakistan Daily Times)

A good object will always sell itself, while a bad product will flop even with the best packaging and the finest advertising. Image is always a reflection of substance, however distorted or imperfect
Muslims of all hues and lands protest their so-called image problem, blaming it not on themselves, but on their detractors and perceived enemies, specifically the much-maligned Western media. It does not occur to them that their negative image could, by and large, be a reflection of reality. They should know from daily experience that a good object will always sell itself, while a bad product will flop even with the best packaging and the finest advertising. Image is always a reflection of substance, however distorted or imperfect. Why blame CNN, BBC, New York Times or Le Monde? One only needs to read a Pakistani newspaper on any given day, or the editorials on March 23 or August 14, to get Pakistani perspectives on the state of the nation. I mention Pakistan because it is one of the few Muslim countries with a relatively free press.

Take the most recent example of the image problem, although I doubt that Muslims would have seen it in this light: armed Iraqis holding daggers and knives to the throats of three abducted Japanese civilians, including a woman who went there to help Baghdad’s homeless children, and threatening to slit their throats amid cries of “Allah-o-Akbar.” It was no figment of the “infidel” West’s imagination, the film having been made by the abductors themselves and proudly passed on by its producers to the Arab Al-Jazeera television to be shown to the world. Ten thousand speeches about peace and tolerance in Islam will not be able to undo the damage done by this odious sight projected worldwide as wished by its Muslim producers. [...]

No, the negative image of Muslims is not the result of malicious Western propaganda against Islam. On the country, all the documentaries concerning Islam and Muslim lands shown on the mainstream western television channels — and there have been many in the last two years — present a very sympathetic picture of Islam as a religion and of Muslims as people. The image Muslims find unflattering reflects the larger reality of the Muslim world, steeped in dictatorship, corruption, ignorance and illiteracy, and characterised by the repression of women, honour killings, child abuse, sectarian and religious violence, persecution of minorities and a general and pervasive denial of basic freedoms and human rights.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:07 AM


It’s Time!: Bush-Cheney rolls out the big guns. (Robert Moran, 4/22/04, National Review)

The latest Bush-Cheney ad, "Doublespeak," is, in a word, magnificent.

This new ad is, as they say, "gonna leave a mark." Contrary to what many believe, people don't actually learn from history. Senators make awful presidential candidates. The Democrats are going to re-learn this hard lesson.

Sure, the Bush campaign hit Kerry on his gas-tax scheme, taxes, and on Iraq funding. And, it worked. Polling shows Bush survived several awful weeks and defined Kerry in no small measure as a waffler and someone who takes three sides of an issue. In fact, I can vouch for the success of this effort. In focus groups I conducted for an association in St. Louis, Missouri, and Columbus, Ohio participants joked about Kerry's "flexibility" on the issues.

Team Kerry has been giving us the line that the Bush camp took their best shot and missed in its opening salvo. But that's all hopeful spin. The Bush camp landed a direct hit with those ads and set the stage for the ideological contrast they're going to begin drawing.

Most of the folks I have talked too in the consulting community have kept asking when the Bush camp would roll out the really tough ideological attacks.

This new ad answers that question. It uses several newspaper quotes to reinvigorate the image of Kerry as waffler and panderer, but it closes with a clear ideological assault: "And the non-partisan National Journal magazine ranks Kerry the most liberal member of the Senate — more liberal than Hillary Clinton or Ted Kennedy"

When even the focus groups are busting on him, the Senator has officially become a mere object of ridicule.

April 22, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:56 PM


Kerry Says His 'Family' Owns SUV, Not He (AP, April 23, 2004)

Does John Kerry, who supports higher automobile fuel economy standards, own a gas-guzzling SUV? He does, but says it belongs to the family, not to him.

During a conference call Thursday with reporters to discuss his upcoming jobs tour through West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan, the Democratic presidential candidate was asked whether he owned a Chevrolet Suburban. [...]

Kerry thought for a second when asked whether his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, had a Suburban at their Ketchum, Idaho, home. Kerry said he owns and drives a Dodge 600 and recently bought a Chrysler 300M. He said his wife owns the Chevrolet SUV.

"The family has it. I don't have it,'' he said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:34 PM


Cyprus still split over split: Saturday Cypriots vote on reunification. The Turkish side is poised to vote 'yes,' the Greek side is likely to vote 'no.' (Michael Theodoulou, 4/23/04, The Christian Science Monitor)

Mr. Vrachimis is one of 167,000 Greek Cypriots who were displaced when Turkish troops invaded northern Cyprus in 1974 after a short-lived coup in Nicosia, the capital. Forty thousand Turkish Cypriots were also displaced.

Until last year, when limited access was allowed across the divide, the two communities on the Mediterranean island had lived apart, separated by barbed wire and minefields along a buffer zone patrolled by one of the world's longest-serving United Nations peacekeeping forces.

But Saturday both sides will vote in separate referendums on whether to accept a comprehensive UN settlement plan that would enable a reunited Cyprus to join the European Union on May 1. Right now the referendum looks destined to fail; Saturday, the Greek Cypriots' biggest political party came out against the plan. If either side votes no, EU membership will effectively embrace only the prosperous Greek Cypriot community, which represents the island internationally.

The plan is strongly backed by the EU and the US. A settlement would save the EU from taking in a divided country. It would also bolster relations between NATO members Greece and Turkey and smooth Turkey's own EU accession course. Mediators insist that, most of all, it will benefit the people of Cyprus. The plan addresses the key concerns on both sides and is the "best and fairest chance for peace, prosperity, and stability that is ever likely to be on offer," said Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general. [...]

Polls indicate, however, that the Greek side will reject the UN plan, while the Turkish side will endorse it. [...]

Turkey, for its part, insists it will implement the deal. Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, has set his sights on EU membership and overrode strong opposition at home to back the UN plan.

Its endorsement by Turkish Cypriots on Saturday is likely to secure Ankara a date to begin its own EU accession talks. The EU has also made clear it will move to overcome the economic isolation of the Turkish Cypriots, if a Greek Cypriot "no" prevents them entering the bloc.

Oh, those unreasonable Turks...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:25 PM


The Bible college that leads to the White House: The campus is immaculate, everyone is clean-cut and cheerful. But just what are they teaching at Patrick Henry College? And why do so many students end up working for George Bush? (Andrew Buncombe, 21 April 2004, The Independent)

It is worth making clear from the outset that Patrick Henry College in rural Virginia is not your average American university. At Patrick Henry, the students - about 75 per cent of whom have been taught at home rather than in schools - are required to sign a statement of faith before they arrive, confirming (among other things) that they have a literal belief in the teachings of the Bible. At Patrick Henry, students must obey a curfew. They must wear their hair neatly and dress "modestly".

Students must also obey a rule stating that if they wish to hold hands with a member of the opposite sex, they must do so while walking: standing while holding hands is not permitted. And at Patrick Henry, students must sign an honour pledge that bans them from drinking alcohol unless under parental supervision.

Yet these things alone do not make the college special. There are, after all, a number of Christian establishments across the United States that enforce such a strict fundamentalist code for their students.

No, what makes Patrick Henry unique is the increasingly close - critics say alarmingly close - links this recently established, right-wing Christian college has with the Bush administration and the Republican establishment as a whole. This spring, of the almost 100 interns working in the White House, seven are from Patrick Henry. Another intern works for the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign, while another works for President George Bush's senior political adviser, Karl Rove. Yet another works for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad. Over the past four years, 22 conservative members of Congress have employed one or more Patrick Henry interns. Janet Ashcroft, the wife of Bush's Bible-thumping Attorney General, is one of the college's trustees.

And this is no coincidence. Rather, it is the very point. Students at Patrick Henry are on a mission to change the world: indeed, to lead the world. When, after four years or so of study, they leave their neatly-kept campus with its close-mown lawns, they do so with a drive and commitment to reshape their new environments according to the fundamentalist, right-wing vision of their college.

Critics say that Patrick Henry's system cannot help but produce narrow-minded students with extremist views, but the college's openly stated aim is to train young men and women "who will lead our nation and shape our culture with timeless biblical values".

Nancy Keenan, of the liberal campaign group People for the American Way, says: "The number of interns [from Patrick Henry] going into the White House scares me to death. People have a right to choose [where their children are educated], but we are concerned that they are not exposed to the kind of diversity this country has. They are training people with a very limited ideological and political view. If these young people are going into positions of power, they have to govern with all people in mind, not just a limited number."

It is also worth making clear that the staff and students at Patrick Henry College are extraordinarily pleasant.

What kind of world will it be if these people go out and make their environs pleasant places too? Sickos...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:51 PM


Prodigal Son: Tonight's Frontline documentary, "Son of al Qaeda," provides a chilling glimpse into the minds of militant Islamists (Michael Goldfarb, 04/22/2004, Weekly Standard)

AIRING TONIGHT on PBS is the latest installment of Frontline, featuring an hour-long interview with Abdurahman Khan, a self-proclaimed "Son of Al Qaeda."

Abdhurahman, 21, was born in Canada to Ahmed Said Khadr, an Egyptian born engineer who had emigrated to Canada only a few years earlier, and Maha, a Palestinian woman who had been raised in Ottawa. When Abdurahman was 11, he and his family, six siblings in all, moved to Afghanistan. There his father was deeply involved in charity work, feeding and schooling some of the many children who had been orphaned by that country's decade-long struggle against the Soviet Union. In addition, he and his associates--bin Laden among them--were plotting the murder of Americans under the cover of their charity work. It is in Afghanistan that Abdurahman's bizarre story of treachery and betrayal begins.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:33 PM


Mrs. Kerry's secrecy (Robert Novak, April 22, 2004, Townhall)

John Kerry, after more than 10 years in the Senate, was nearly broke in May 1995, facing a daunting 1996 election test against popular Republican Gov. William Weld when he married the widow of the richest U.S. senator. The late Republican Sen. John Heinz of Pennsylvania left his wife, Teresa, $600 million. Kerry's net worth, according to his official disclosure submitted in 1995, ranged from a plus-$34,995 down to a minus-$130,000.

In January 1995, Mrs. Heinz paid $1.7 million cash for the shell of a town house on Boston's tony Beacon Hill, and restoration brought its value to nearly $3 million (though that figure is much higher today). She then transferred ownership of half the house to her new husband, and the mansion became the engine financing Kerry's campaigns.

Running behind Weld in 1996, Kerry loaned his campaign $900,000 by mortgaging the house. By Election Day, he had loaned it $1.7 million and was $2.1 million personally in debt. That began a laborious process of paying off his debt, including the 1996 mortgage, which was completed in 1999. Kerry was then positioned to dip into the Beacon Hill mansion for a future attempt to be president.

In December of last year, Kerry's campaign treasury was empty and his candidacy going nowhere. He then loaned his campaign $6.4 million by mortgaging his one-half share of the Boston home. Without that, Kerry's presidential bid probably could not have been revived.

They're not called cabana boys because they own cabanas.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:02 PM


Israel, US alliance leaves PA in disarray: 'We have leaders, but no leadership' (Majeda El Batsch, April 23, 2004, Agence France Presse)

"The Palestinian leadership finds itself in a position where it is at the mercy of events," leading independent MP Hanan Ashrawi said.

The one-time peace negotiator said the Palestinians had to tidy up their own house if they really wanted the help of the international community in the face of Sharon's plans.

"We cannot appeal to the world while our internal situation is chaotic. We must implement a program of reforms and rectify the disfunctioning of our institutions," she said.

"We cannot begin a diplomatic campaign in the absence of a vision and of a clear strategy. We must draw up plans which can actually be implemented rather than just repeating generalities and slogans, and the Palestinian leadership must assume its responsibilities in this area ... The reality is that we have leaders but no leadership," she added. "The Palestinian people are downcast and have become resigned to defeat."

Which is exactly the point of imposing statehood. The struggle is over. Get on with your own lives and forget about Israel.

Posted by David Cohen at 5:13 PM


Kerry Criticizes Bush on Saudi Meeting (Mike Glover, AP, 4/22/04)

"I believe the American people deserve a president who just isn't going to have a friendly talk, but who is going to fight to guarantee that we lower prices for Americans," Kerry said.

Kerry used an Earth Day speech to criticize a meeting in which, according to a broadcast report, Bush and Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sulton discussed increasing oil production to drive down prices as the election nears.

"I don't know if it was a deal, I don't know if it was a secret pledge, I don't know if it was just a friendly conversation among friends," Kerry said. "The fact remains that whatever it was, the American people are getting a bad deal today."

Speaking to more than 2,000 people at the University of Houston, Kerry said Bush broke a 2000 campaign pledge to put pressure on oil-producing nations to increase production and to "jawbone" OPEC nations to that end.

"I'm here today to say if there was no deal, if there was no agreement, then stand up today and jawbone OPEC to lower the price," Kerry said. "They could up that production tomorrow. We need to have them answer why they won't do that."

This may be the only Kerry speech, and the only Earth Day speech, that I've ever agreed with. Drive through the Environment today; new low oil prices brought to you by John Kerry and OPEC!!!

Posted by Peter Burnet at 3:25 PM


The U.S. doesn't care about Palestinians (Walter Russell Mead ,International Herald Tribune, 22/04/04)

For the last five weeks I have been traveling through the Middle East, meeting diplomats, officials, policy experts, military leaders, students and ordinary citizens.

I learned something very important: The greatest single cause of anti-Americanism in the Middle East today is not the war in Iraq; more surprisingly, it is not even American support for Israel, per se. Rather, it is a widespread belief that the United States simply does not care about the rights or needs of the Palestinian people. "The Palestinian issue is really what discredits the United States throughout the region," a senior Western diplomat with years of experience in the Middle East told me. Or, as one student after another put it after one of the university lectures I conducted across the region: "Why do Americans have to be so biased?"

In Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and other countries, the large majority of people I spoke with are ready to tolerate the Jewish state - most even understand that the final boundaries of Israel will include some of the heavily settled areas beyond the pre-1967 borders. They also understand that few if any Palestinians will return to the homes they lost after the war that erupted when Israel declared its independence in 1948. And they are prepared to accept, though not to relish, America's close relations with Israel. Beyond that, they want increased American support for their domestic political reforms and for initiatives to enhance regional cooperation for economic growth and fighting terrorism.

But one thing sticks in their craw: Why doesn't America care more about the Palestinians' future?

They have a point. America's Middle East policy is unnecessarily zero-sum. We can be more pro-Palestinian without being less pro-Israeli. Indeed, to the degree that American policies help create support for compromise among Palestinians, pro-Palestinian initiatives can help Israel too. Take compensation. United Nations resolutions call for financial compensation for Palestinians who cannot return to their family homes in Israel. Israel's position that it cannot accept millions of refugees and their descendants is reasonable enough, and the Bush administration's support of it is nothing new. But we should be equally clear about compensation. Many questions need answering: Where can Palestinians go to have their claims for lost property adjudicated and certified? What tribunal will hear these claims? What principles will guide its deliberations? Where will the money come from to pay the claims? The United States can and should take the lead in building an international consensus on the compensation issue and, working with allies in Europe and elsewhere, help raise money to ensure that it is more than a pious wish...

Taking the lead on these and other issues vital to the Palestinians wouldn't bring quick progress toward peace in the region, nor would it undo overnight the consequences of decades of suspicion and resentment. But it would help to reduce anti-Americanism in the Muslim world and beyond, as well as to advance the cause of peace.

It is hard to believe Mr. Read is a distinguished expert in foreign policy. He sounds like a first time tourist returning from overseas and gushing about how nice the people were. Not only has he found a heretofore hidden Arab silent majority that exudes compromise and reasonableness, he argues, after all the world has lived through in recent years, that a U.S. sponsored Palestinian Displacement Compensation Program will lead to a new era of philo-Americanism in the Muslim world and overall peace in the Middle East.

As non-American writers like Paul Johnson, Christopher Hitchens and Jean-Francois Revel show, anti-Americanism is mainly an organic condition that provides a shield behind which elites the world over, both left and right, hide from their incompetence, impotence and fear of democracy. It does not wax and wane with changes in strategic policy or new aid initiatives. There is little historical evidence that a caring and compassionate approach to foreign policy wins the U.S. friends, or helps it or anyone else. Indeed, most of the evidence points the other way. Nor, as many seem to believe, is anti-Americanism a post-Vietnam or post Cold War phenomenon. It has been a prominent feature of international relations since the U.S. rose to great power status in the late 19th century, particularly in Europe and Latin America, and there were plenty of examples even before then. In World War 11, the European left was delighting in it even before the Nazi guns were silenced.

Charity is a virtue and it is always wise to listen to the counsel of friends. But it is hard to think of a scarier thought than that future American foreign policy may be fueled primarily by a quest for global affection or the approval of symbolic allies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:12 PM


Wisconsin Governor Vetos Pro-Life Bill Protecting Health Care Workers (Steven Ertelt,April 21, 2004, LifeNews.com)

As expected, Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle (D) vetoed a pro-life conscience clause bill that would have protected the rights of health care workers to refuse to participate in objectionable activities such as abortion, assisted suicide, euthanasia and research involving the destruction of human embryos.

The legislation, AB 67, would have prevented employers from firing or discriminating against employees who wanted to opt out of participating in such life-taking activities.

How do even supposedly moderate Democrats keep getting themselves on the extremist side of such issues?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:40 PM


Kerry's UN fetish (Jeff Jacoby, April 22, 2004, Boston Globe)

On "Meet the Press" this week, NBC's Tim Russert pressed Kerry to spell out just what it is he hopes to accomplish in Iraq. Among his questions: Do you believe the war in Iraq was a mistake? Do you have a plan to deal with Iraq? If you are elected, will there be 100,000 US troops in Iraq a year from now? Why do you say the UN and NATO should take over when they don't have the troops or the desire to do so?

Here are some representative excerpts from Kerry's replies:

"We need a new president . . . to reestablish credibility with the rest of the world. . . . Here is the bottom line: Number one, you cannot bring other nations to the table through the back door. You cannot have America run the occupation, make all the reconstruction decisions, make the decisions of the kind of government that will emerge, and pretend to bring other nations to the table.

"Now, finally, George Bush is doing what I . . . have recommended. . . In effect, he's transferred to the UN the decision about what government we'll turn it over to. But he won't transfer to the UN the real authority for determining how the government emerges, how we will do the reconstruction of Iraq. . . .

"If I'm president, I will not only personally go to the UN, I will go to other capitals. . . . I will immediately reach out to other nations in a very different way from this administration. Within weeks of being inaugurated, I will return to the UN and I will literally, formally rejoin the community of nations and turn over a proud new chapter in America's relationship with the world."

Oil-for-food 'made Saddam $10bn' (BBC, 4/22/04)
Saddam Hussein's regime made billions of dollars more than previously thought from the United Nations oil-for-food programme, US officials have said.

Established to help ordinary Iraqis during 12 years of sanctions, the programme was the highest-spending project ever undertaken by the UN.

But the US Treasury estimates $10bn of illicit gains were made between 1997 and 2002 from the scheme, up from $6bn. [...]

There are also allegations that UN staff reaped money from the programme, and that oil money was used to bribe UN employees to back Saddam Hussein, according to reports.

Who besides Bob Shrum thinks that pledging that you'll crawl to the UN and grovel before them is good politics in America?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:27 PM


Saudi Cleric Denounces Suicide Bombing (ADNAN MALIK, 4/22/04, Associated Press)

Saudi Arabia's top cleric on Thursday condemned a suicide bombing that gutted a national police building in the capital as "one of the greatest sins."

Five people, including two senior police officers and an 11-year-old girl, were killed in addition to the bomber, and 148 were injured in the attack Wednesday on the seven-story General Security building, the Interior Ministry said.

The toll increased Friday after a police captain died in the hospital from his wounds. Officials from three hospitals said four other poeple may have died, citing the number of body parts recovered from the scene.

After special prayers for the dead in a Riyadh mosque, hundreds of mourners chanted slogans denouncing terrorism while marching behind the bodies of four victims, wrapped in brown and white sheets, as they were carried to their burials. [...]

Grand Mufti Abdul-Aziz al-Sheik, the kingdom's highest religious authority, denounced the bombing in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

"God revealed the criminality of this wayward group, which harms Islam and the nation," al-Sheik said. "Instead, it aims at destabilizing security, terrorizing the people and killing Muslims."

"Whoever kills an (Islamic) believer on purpose will be punished by being burned in hell, punished by God's anger and will be cursed and suffer great pain," he said.

While visiting the wounded in a hospital, Interior Minister Prince Nayef said the "terrorists are not targeting foreigners; they are targeting the nation," adding that Saudis should not cooperate or sympathize with militants "because those who do will be considered criminals."

As the Saudis helped to create the ideology of the militants so too must they help lead the effort to stamp it out. Happily, al Qaeda is giving them ample cause to do so.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:04 PM

50-0 FILES:

Bush leads Kerry in Pa. poll (AP, 4/21/04)

President Bush has edged ahead of Democrat John Kerry in Pennsylvania, according to a poll of voters in the critical swing state won by Al Gore in 2000.

In a three-way race, Republican Bush is supported by 45% of the state's voters, compared with 39% for Democrat Kerry and 8% for independent candidate Ralph Nader, according to the poll released Wednesday by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. The rest were undecided.

Without Nader in the race, Bush still holds a slight 46-42 lead over Kerry, according to the Connecticut-based institute.

Pocketbook juices flowing (Donald Lambro, 4/22/04, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)
Among the latest signs of a turnaround in public opinion: In a recent Associated Press poll, only 18 percent of those surveyed mentioned the economy as their chief worry, down from 31 percent a year ago. [...]

[I]t isn't just economists who think the economy is now on a roll that shows no sign of slowing down. Democratic Party officials acknowledge this, too.

"Missouri's economy has actually improved," state Democratic chairman Joe Carmichael told me. "The number of jobs created last month was a good number, the greatest number for any month in the past 20 years. Things seem to be turning around."

The battleground states in '04 are CA, HI, MA, NY & DC. And the battle is to see if Mr. Kerry wins one.

In Search of the Elusive Swing Voter: It almost doesn't matter who the Democratic candidate is. In terms of strategy, the road map for the coming presidential campaign was set long before the primaries—and it runs straight through the handful of states with the largest numbers of independent voters. Any candidate needs to hunt them down (Joshua Green, January/February 2004, The Atlantic Monthly)

All told, twelve states in the previous presidential election were decided by fewer than five percentage points. Along with two or three other states where demographic changes portend a similar closeness, they make up the battleground this year. The most significant states are scattered across the Pacific Northwest (Oregon, Washington), the Southwest (Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico), and the Rust Belt (Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia), with outliers on the East Coast (Florida and New Hampshire) and others along a lengthy stretch of the Mississippi River, from Minnesota and Wisconsin down to Arkansas and Missouri. The next Democratic campaign will closely follow this map.

Only WA is even in play.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 2:03 PM


Blair throws EU into a spin (John Vinocur, International Herald Tribune, 22/04/04)

With the promise of a yes-or-no choice for British voters on a new European Union constitution, Tony Blair has pushed the EU to a new level of unclarity about its future as a unified force. The message got through in Paris and Berlin.

On Wednesday, the lead headline in Handelsblatt, the German financial newspaper said, "EU Constitution Threatened with K.O." Le Figaro seized the point, too. "Europe Taken Hostage, Draft Text in Peril," it said.

An article accompanying the French newspaper's headline suggested that Blair, plotting his own election strategy for a third term, might be sealing both the end of an integrationist vision of a United Europe while setting himself up as the EU's only major leader democratically daring enough to throw the institution's future to his country's voters...

All in all, to Europe's legislative foot soldiers and civil servants, there appeared to be no immediately graspable way out of a predicament that had its base in a seemingly democratic decision by Blair that Matthias Wittmann, the Christian Democratic chairman of the Bundestag's Europe Commission, called an election "trick." Jean-Bourlanges, a French centrist member of the European Parliament, complained Blair risked "steering Europe into an institutional impasse." Another European legislator, Klaus Häänsch, a German Social Democrat, insisted that the logical consequence of a British rejection of the constitution should be British exclusion from the EU. And in a response that fit into the classic EU world of making an exception to get around another exception, the chairman of the Parliament's conservative grouping, Hans-Gert Pööttering, a German Christian Democrat, pointed to using a clause in the constitutional draft that would allow some movement without total ratification by the member states.

Maybe they could just get the European Court of Justice to rule that democracy violates human rights.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:50 PM


Kerry's Missing Message . . . (Richard Cohen, April 22, 2004, Washington Post)

In the past month or so, everything has gone wrong for George W. Bush. He has been criticized at hearings of the Sept. 11 commission for being lackadaisical about terrorism. Richard Clarke accused him of being weirdly obsessed with Iraq. More than 100 Americans have been killed there in the past 30 days, and Bush was so inarticulate in his recent news conference that you could say he violated the standards of his own "No Child Left Behind" policy. Still, if this keeps up, he'll win reelection in a landslide.

That, at least, is the forgivable conclusion you can draw from the Washington Post-ABC News poll released this week. It had Bush ahead of John Kerry, the Democrats' presumptive nominee, by 48 percent to 43 percent, with most of the rest (6 percent) going to someone named Nader. What's particularly telling is that Bush and Kerry have traded places on two key issues -- national security and the economy. Where Bush once lagged, he is now in the lead.

Polls are snapshots, and we are cautioned not to make too much of them. The only poll that counts, or so the cliche goes, is the one conducted on Election Day, and the Kerry people would like to add one more banality: The campaign has just begun. Maybe, but it looks to me like it may be over.

Why? Well, in the first place, it's hard to envisage things getting even worse for Bush. The past month should have been ruinous, and yet the president not only survived, he thrived.

One problem with the race being over by Memorial Day is that it means a whole Summer of columnists wondering why the rest of us are so stupid.

Posted by David Cohen at 1:43 PM


Ditching Diversity: Will elites return to racism? (John Derbyshire, National Review Online, 4/22/04)

And then there is the fact, not quite respectable to mention in polite company, but indubitable none the less, that quite a number of our cognitive elites are Jewish. American Jews have been great supporters of multiculturalism, for reasons perfectly easy to understand. If Jews collectively learned a lesson from the 20th century, it was the terrible danger inherent in being the one conspicuously successful minority in an otherwise-homogenous society. So: The less homogenous the better! Bring on multiculturalism! Unfortunately, if you open the doors of your nation to all the cultures of the world in the early 21st century, and invite them to "celebrate their diversity" on your soil, you might find that an alarmingly high proportion of them are Muslims with viciously antisemitic opinions. Multiculturalism? Hmm, let's rethink this...
Now, this is a fascinating theory: the aim of Jewish political activism for some time has been to arrange the country so that Jews don't stick out. Once suggested, supporting evidence jumps out at us. Jewish worship has become more like American standard worship. Jewish dress has become American standard dress (watch "The Chosen" to be jarred by this change). Jews have moved into mainstream, albeit "cognitive", professions. Jews have helped shape popular culture and mid-brow bourgeois culture. In fact, Jews more or less define the American bourgeois class.

At the same time, the culture has moved (been moved) to blur those distinctions that would make Jews stand out. We're all Judeo-Christian now. We all support Israel (in fact, some Christians more so than many Jews). We all agree that religion should play no part in a person's success or failure -- even in public service. Planes serve kosher meals, while on Sunday night you have a better chance of finding a minyin at any Chinese restaurant than at Temple. Our intellectual elite, made up notes Mr. Derbyshire disproportionately of Jews, has pushed multi-culti political correctness right through judgmentalism, on through tolerance, into the territory of moral paralysis.

As with everything that benefits the Jews, which is still a pretty small subset of everything, it is too easy and mostly wrong to assume that there has been any concerted effort to arrange things thusly. It's hard to disintinguish all this from plain old assimilation. In fact, if one spent much time at Georgetown or Boston College, one would probably say similar things about the Irish. It is nonetheless a fact that Jewish Americans and Christian Americans, along with all other Americans, now have a common enemy wishing us all ill. Among some Americans, Jewish and not, the temptation is to blame our relationship with Israel for the enmity we are facing from Islamism. This is wrong, though. The Islamists would hate Christendom with or without Israel. At worst, Israel's existence brought the collision forward, which is probably to our benefit.

But, looking forward, isn't the question whether Jews are content with the status quo? If so, look for them to start voting Republican.

Posted by David Cohen at 12:33 PM


Is 'Friends' the end? (Bill Keveney, USA Today, 4/22/04)

It's impossible to predict what fall will bring; comedy pilots are still being taped and evaluated. But some candidates [to be the next big comedy] already are drawing attention. . . .

NBC also has invested heavily in Father of the Pride, DreamWorks' animated look at a family of white lions working for Siegfried & Roy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:27 PM


A Call to Arms by Abortion Rights Groups (ROBIN TONER, 4/22/04, NY Times)

For the first time in 12 years, a coalition of abortion rights advocates will hold what they hope will be a major march in Washington on Sunday, trying to return the issue to the forefront of American politics...

Memo to the Death Lobby: just because you're losing doesn't mean an issue isn't front and center.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:10 PM


Sharon's changing Mideast his way (Richard Z. Chesnoff, April 22, 2004, New York Daily News)

Sharon's plan is brilliant in its simplicity - a sort of uncontestable, one-way divorce. Unwilling to wait any longer for the Palestinians to stop terror and negotiate peace seriously, Sharon plans single-handedly to disengage Israeli forces from Gaza, withdraw the 7,000 Jewish settlers who currently live there, turn control of the desert strip over to the Palestinians and begin to do the same in the West Bank by dismantling some Israeli settlements there as well. [...]

And then there is the most important of all declarations: America is backing the Israelis on their position that the so-called right of return is valid only for entry into a future Palestinian state and not to the Jewish state, thus thwarting the Arab attempt to destroy Israel by cramming millions of so-called Palestinian refugees down its throat.

The Palestinians have a long history of rejecting Israeli offers, only to see the dream of peace, prosperity and their own state recede farther over the horizon. This time, they should accept Sharon's plan not as an outrageous insult but as a great opportunity.

Above all, they should remember that next time, the chances are that they'll be offered even less.

The Accidental Radical (Jonathan Rauch, August 6, 2003, National Journal)
The Middle East. Beginning with a speech on June 24 of last year, Bush likewise upended five decades of Middle East policy. Since the 1940s, the United States had refrained from calling for a Palestinian state and had accepted Arab authoritarianism as a given. Bush not only reversed both policies but yoked the two reversals together by conditioning Palestinian independence on Palestinian democratization. "Throwing out the rule book," is how Daniel Pipes, a prominent Middle East scholar, described Bush's actions, in a recent New York Post article. "It could well be the most surprising and daring step of his presidency," wrote Pipesóa step, he added, that did not emerge from the usual process of consensus-building in Washington but that instead "reflects the president's personal vision."

Underlying all of Bush's foreign-policy departures is a little-noted shift that may be the most fundamental of the bunch. Unlike foreign-policy realists (including his father), Bush does not believe that states should be regarded as legitimate just because they are stable and can be dealt with. And unlike internationalists (including his predecessor), he does not believe that states should be regarded as legitimate just because they are internationally recognized. He believes that legitimacy comes only from popular sovereignty and civilized behavior.
President Reagan horrified realists and internationalists alike by declaring that the Soviet Union was not a legitimate state. He would deal with the Soviet regime but never accept it. He aimed at regime change. Realists argued that Reagan's naivete would destabilize the world order, and internationalists feared that it would threaten hard-won human-rights agreements, but Reagan insistedóperhaps not so naivelyóthat only freedom could produce stability and protect human rights.

Bush embraces Reagan's notion and extends it worldwide. He will deal with Saddam Hussein's Iraq, or Kim Jong Il's North Korea, or Yasir Arafat's Palestinian Authority, or Charles Taylor's Liberia, if he must, but he will not accept such a regime as entitled to exist and, one way or another, he will try to change it. Against such regimes, the use of force may be impractical or unwise, but it is certainly not illegitimate. Indeed, for Bush, the real puzzle is why anyone would object, in principle, to the toppling of a regime such as Saddam Hussein's, or why anyone would regard the United Nations, which no one ever voted for, as morally relevant.

And so Bush, like Reagan but more so, does not accept the world as he finds it. He regards the existing world order as unacceptably dangerous. The existing world order, returning the compliment, regards him the same way.

To understand George W. Bush's foreign policy it is only necessary to grasy one thing: no regime that is not liberal is legitimate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:16 AM


Keeping Close Eye on Senator, Clinton-Watchers Increasingly See a Hawk (RAYMOND HERNANDEZ, 4/23/04, NY Times)

Even as the war in Iraq proves unpopular with her core base of liberal supporters, not to mention some mainstream Democrats, Mrs. Clinton has emerged as one of the most prominent Democratic backers of the military activities. In recent months, in speeches and interviews, she has defended her vote authorizing the Republican president to wage war, argued for more troops in Iraq and sided with President Bush's contention that Saddam Hussein was, as she put it, "a potential threat'' who "was seeking weapons of mass destruction, whether or not he actually had them.''

Last week, with violence surging in Iraq, she stood by her decision to approve a Congressional resolution permitting military action there, though she did accuse the president of failing to build sufficient international support for the war and failing to plan adequately for the aftermath of Mr. Hussein's downfall. And she appeared to agree with President Bush's contention that the conflict in Iraq was part of the broader fight against terror, indicating that global threats like Mr. Hussein took on greater urgency in a post-Sept. 11 world. "After 9/11, a lot of threats had to be looked at with fresh eyes,'' she said in the interview.

Mrs. Clinton surprised even some of her closest advisers by taking a seat on the Senate Armed Services Committee early last year, becoming the first New York senator, Republican or Democrat, to serve on the panel. She has used her spot on the committee to advance the kind of agenda commonly associated with lawmakers from conservative districts with military bases and large populations of veterans: seeking better pay and other benefits for soldiers, visiting troops abroad and arguing forcefully against military base closings. Her office says she has "voted for every defense appropriations bill since she entered the Senate."

Her motives have become a matter of conjecture within political circles. While she said last week that she was not interested in a place on the Democratic ticket this year, some think she may be burnishing her military credentials in preparation for a national candidacy in 2008.

Others suggest her actions reflect the true convictions of a woman who is no longer overshadowed by the presidency of her husband, Bill Clinton, who had a strained relationship with the Pentagon.

Whatever her motives, Mrs. Clinton's actions have prompted Democrats and Republicans to view her in a different light, according to interviews with lawmakers and political strategists in both parties.

She has by all accounts been a hard-working and collegial Senator and certainly no more liberal than one should expect of a Democrat from NY. If she's content to carve a career there she could become a player. But, if she wants to run for president it's kind of silly to think people will base their opinions of her on such inside baseball stuff. In the media and the public mind she'd revert right back to the Hillary of the 90s and she would face all the same problems as John Kerry has defending Senate votes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:56 AM

IT'S WHAT'S COOKING (via Mike Daley):

First, skin your squirrel...: Philosopher and farmer Roger Scruton explains why the best way to dispose of many country pests is simply to eat them (Roger Scruton, April 14, 2004, The Guardian)

The best answer to a pest is to encourage the predator that will eat it. And the most efficient predator is man. The way to re-establish ecological balance, therefore, is to acquire the habit of eating your competitors. There was a time when the government offered a shilling for every grey squirrel pelt. Now the business of controlling the invader is left to private enterprise. The endangered red squirrel has a foul gland next to the kidney which ruins its taste. The greys, however, are sweet and succulent. You need four per person - not because they are particularly small, but because they are surpassingly delicious, redder and more gamey than rabbit, but less pungent than muntjac or hare.

The squirrel should be skinned and eviscerated. You should leave the head on, not only because the cheeks are a special delicacy, but also because it serves the same ornamental function as the head of a sea bass or a woodcock. Don't take out the eyes, but leave them to cloud over like opals in the heat of the fire. Marinate the squirrel for a few hours in olive oil, with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice; then skewer the length of its body and grill on both sides.

Best if you don't have oaks in the yard and put out sunflower seeds for awhile before harvesting them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:53 AM


'Built This City' Tops Worst Songs List (AP, Apr 21, 2004)

Starship may have built this city on rock and roll, but Blender magazine is tearing it down, naming the band's "We Built This City" as the worst song ever.

Some tunes on the "50 Worst Songs Ever!" list were selected for their melodies, others "are wretchedly performed" and "quite a few don't make sense whatsoever," the magazine said.

The list, which appears in the May issue, includes songs by New Kids on the Block, Meat Loaf, The Doors, Lionel Richie (news), Hammer and The Beach Boys, among others.

Blender describes 1985's "We Built This City" as "the truly horrible sound of a band taking the corporate dollar while sneering at those who take the corporate dollar."

Not even freakin' close to the worst song of all time. There is one song that is so awful, so excrutiating, so murderous to the spirit of man that it used to be the Other Brother's secret weapon. When we were kids you were required to stay at the dinner table until everyone was done. Our father though had a series of borderline psychotic food fetishes and would seldom be done salting and peppering the food that he'd divided into perfectly symmetrical piles by the time we were finished. So the little rapscallion would start singing what came to be known simply as "the Song" and when I would vault across the table to strangle him we'd be sent to our rooms. It did get us out of having to watch the Rain Man dine though.

Posted by David Cohen at 9:17 AM


Censorship in arts 'healthy,' Boone says (Steve Miller, The Washington Times, 4/22/04)

"I don't think censorship is a bad word, but it has become a bad word because everybody associates it with some kind of restriction on liberty," said Mr. Boone, who is in Washington making the rounds as the national spokesman for the 60-Plus Association, a conservative senior citizen lobby. . . .

When Mr. Boone was invited to appear on Mr. Stern's radio show several years ago, the singer agreed, but with a simple stipulation.

"I said that I will if Howard will give me just a gentleman's promise that he will not say anything filthy about my wife or my daughter Debbie then I'll come on. He wouldn't even do that, so I did not go on. I said that if I did go on and he said scandalous things about my family I would be forced to walk out or punch him in his big nose." . . .

[Later, Boone was invited to a private screening of "The Passion Of The Christ."] "I consider it the most important film ever made. It is a film that is not only of gigantic proportion but one that changes life, that affects people's eternal destiny."

Not that Stern shouldn't be punched on his big nose.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:12 AM


Rainbow Coalitions: African American, Hispanic pastors lead the charge against gay marriage. (Tony Carnes, 4/22/04, Christianity Today)

Bishop Roderick Caesar, 53, thinks he was 17 or 18 when a friend confessed, "I am in the life," meaning he was homosexual. Caesar sat with his friend and prayed. "I told him I would be his friend until the day he died. I also told him I would pray that he would not find happiness."

Caesar, pastor of Bethel Gospel Tabernacle in Jamaica, Queens, helped organize a rally against gay marriage at City Hall on March 29 with the 400-church City Covenant Coalition, led by Puerto Rican-Italian Joseph Mattera. Earlier, on March 14, more than 8,000 Hispanic evangelicals converged in the Bronx for the nation's largest rally to date against gay marriage. One of the speakers was a white Assemblies of God pastor.

In New York City and elsewhere, African American and Hispanic pastors are facing off against a large homosexual-rights contingent over the issue of gay marriage. For Christian leaders steeped in personal compassion, the confrontation is full of anguish, fear, and anger.

When the Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts ordered gay marriage to become state law this month, local black and Hispanic clergy associations quickly joined in protest (CT, April, p. 90). A month later, African American pastors, organized by the Los Angeles– based Coalition on Urban Renewal and Education (CURE), and in association with the Family Research Council, came from across the country to support their beleaguered colleagues.

"This is a line in the sand for black churches across the nation," said CURE founder Star Parker.

The Alliance for Marriage (AFM), which advocates a constitutional amendment to protect marriage, released a poll on March 4 showing that 63 percent of Hispanics and 62 percent of African Americans support an amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. AFM has broad support among minorities. "Concern for stronger families trumps jobs," said founder Matt Daniels. "It trumps the environment for all voter groups."

The problem with John Judis's Emerging Democratic Majority thesis was always pretty obvious: the Party is a coalition of groups whose interests are diametrically opposed to each other and whose loyalties can only be purchased when you are in power. If Democrats can't write them government checks then blacks and Latinos are likely to gravitate towards the party that shares their values: the GOP.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:11 AM


A Texas Bid to Shift School Finances to 'Sin Taxes' (DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, April 20, 2004, NY Times)

How much money Texas spends to teach children reading, writing and arithmetic may soon depend in part on how successful women like Vanity, Destiny and Rio of the Yellow Rose, a topless bar in this state capital, are in attracting customers.

Gov. Rick Perry called the Legislature into special session Tuesday to change the way public education is financed in Texas. He wants to give billions of dollars in property tax reductions to the most affluent homeowners while making up part of the revenue loss through a vast expansion of legal gambling, increasing cigarette taxes by $1 a pack, raising taxes on alcoholic drinks and collecting a tax of at least $5 each time a patron enters a topless bar.

The governor's plan faces an uncertain future, but it seems likely that Texas will adopt at least some of his "sin tax" proposals. Mr. Perry is a Republican, and Republicans have comfortable majorities in both houses of the Legislature.

The idea that the education of future generations should depend on increasing sin taxes is not unique to Texas. Across the country, politicians, eager to avoid anything that looks like a tax increase, are turning to levies on what Governor Perry calls "unhealthy behaviors" to finance education.

Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Tennessee, Utah and West Virginia are among the states that have shifted part of the cost of schooling from income, sales and property taxes to levies on gambling and nude or topless dances in the last few years.

Other states are considering such plans, including New York, where Gov. George E. Pataki is promoting more gambling to raise $2 billion annually for public schools, like making video lottery terminals more widely available.

"What we are seeing is renewed interest across the states in taxing vices," said Bert Waisanen, a tax policy specialist at the National Conference of State Legislatures.

It's better to ban most such vices, but if you're going to allow them then by all means tax the heck out of them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 AM


Married With Children (Shelby Steele, 04.14.04, New Republic)

[Andrew] Sullivan disagrees with my contention that gay marriage is not really a civil rights issue by referring to the famous Loving v Virginia miscegenation case in which Earl Warren says, "Marriage is one of the basic civil rights of man." Sullivan then adds an addendum of his own: "The right to marry whomever you wish is a fundamental civil right." This, of course, is simply not true and in no way reflects Warren's meaning. You may not marry your sister or your pet even if you wish to, and this bar to your wishes is not considered a denial of civil rights. Because marriage is defined as a heterosexual institution, its exclusion of gay unions doesn't really qualify as a denial of rights. Gays have the same right to marry as heterosexuals as long as they marry the opposite gender--as many do. If the gay marriage movement succeeds in expanding the definition of marriage to include gay unions, and if gays are then still prohibited from marrying, then we would have a clear civil rights issue. As things stand there really is no precedent or "jurisprudence" on the side of gay marriage, only on the right of all citizens to heterosexual marriage. The Loving case only made the point that interracial marriage is no bar to this right.

Sullivan then compares the old arguments against interracial marriage to my argument against gay marriage. And this points to an important theme of my argument: Racial difference is an innocuous human difference that in no way redefines the heterosexual nature of marriage or effects its procreative function. Interracial marriage has no effect on the institution of marriage. But when marriage is redefined to include homosexuality, it ends the heterosexual definition of marriage and moves marriage farther away from its grounding in procreation. It effectively makes marriage an institution more purely devoted to romantic love and adult fulfillment than to the heavier and more selfless responsibilities surrounding procreation. Of course, adult love and the responsibilities surrounding procreation are not mutually exclusive, but the gravity of marriage as an institution comes from its demand that love be negotiated through these larger responsibilities.

To be sure, there are childless heterosexual couples and homosexual couples with children. But to define an institution as important to society as marriage by exceptions to the norms of both sexual orientations--rather than by the norms themselves--makes little sense. It could be argued that marriage is quite literally an outgrowth of heterosexuality itself, an institution that follows from nature's requirement that men and women sexually merge to perpetuate the human species.

Sullivan argues that marriage encourages "stability, fidelity, and family among homosexuals." I don't know. It is certainly doing less and less of this among heterosexuals. But, in any case, the stabilizing features of marriage have evolved over the millennia to protect children and procreation from the vicissitudes of adult love. How many 50's style marriages found stability only for "the sake of the children"? How many 70's, 80's, and 90's marriages ended because children and procreation became secondary to adult fulfillment? The point is that marriage offers the features Sullivan wants for homosexuals only when it is very narrowly--often repressively--grounded in heterosexuality, procreation, and the socialization of children. When it is defined, as Sullivan says he would have it be, around "the unifying experience of love," it becomes nearly as fickle as love itself--a nasty fight, a single betrayal away from dissolution. Marriage brings "stability" to love by humbling it, by making it often less important than the responsibilities to family and community.

When love and fulfillment are of first importance, marriage weakens as an institution, as the high divorce rates of recent decades illustrate. Homosexual unions are, by nature's grace, naturally less burdened by the very responsibilities that heterosexuals have been running from in marriage for decades now. The truth is that heterosexuals have been moving marriage toward the more exclusively adult-focused relationships that gays have always had--relationships that turn more narrowly on love, attraction, and fulfillment. Cohabitation is now virtually a norm among young heterosexuals, and adult happiness is more the test of marriages today than family stability. So the conundrum for the gay marriage movement is that marriage has already declined from its more selfless and stable era into something very much like what gays already have.

That is certainly the basic argument of most advocates: the institution of marriage is already so damaged you might as well let us drive the last nail into the coffin. Perhaps the better idea is to refurbish the institution.

April 21, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:51 PM


Mexican tamale vendor arrested after mutilated body found in his home (April 21, 2004, Associated Press)

A tamale vendor in western Mexico was arrested after police discovered a carved-up body in his home, a spokeswoman for state prosecutors said Wednesday. The vendor denied using human flesh in his food.

The vendor, who sold tamales from a cart in the city of Morelia in Michoacan state, was arrested Tuesday after police received an anonymous tip that he had a dismembered body in his house, said Lorena Cortes, a spokeswoman for Michoacan state prosecutors.

Police entered the home and found body parts, some of which appeared to have been boiled with herbs. A daylong analysis of the tamales found in the house revealed that they were free of human flesh, Cortes said.

Thus the Time Zone Rule.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:44 PM


OFF THE AIR (LA City Beat, 4/22/04)

The radio was going to be more interesting this year. Air America Radio was to be a gift and a cause for anyone who has maybe already heard too much Rush Limbaugh in the morning.

Sadly that turns out to be not enough people to fill a phone booth.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:37 PM


IMF Boosts Economic Outlook for U.S. and Global Economies (Martin Crutsinger, 4/21/04, The Associated Press)

The global economy, after being battered by recession, terrorist attacks and war, should grow strongly this year and next with growth in the United States hitting the fastest pace in 20 years, the International Monetary Fund predicted Wednesday. [...]

The IMF predicted the global economy would expand by 4.6 percent this year after growing by 3.9 percent in 2003. Those growth rates are 0.6 percentage point higher than the IMF's last global forecast made in September.

For 2005, the IMF sees continued strong global output of 4.4 percent.

For the United States, the IMF predicted growth this year of 4.6 percent, which if it comes true, would be the fastest growth rate since the U.S. economy expanded by 7.2 percent in 1984. That represented a 0.7 percentage point increase in the IMF's September forecast. [...]

However, the IMF downgraded its forecast for a number of countries in Europe which have been struggling to find the right mix of policies to bolster lagging growth. Countries using the euro, which has hit record highs recently against the falling dollar, will see growth of just 1.7 percent this year as the weaker dollar boosts the competitiveness of U.S. exports against European products.

The IMF gave credit to President Bush's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts and low interest rates engineered by the Federal Reserve for fueling this year's economic rebound.

Apparently when the Democrats refer to President Bush as another Hoover they mean that he's generating so much economic growth that he's sucking up the rest of the world (except Old Europe, which is terminal) in his draft.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:29 PM


Fenced in, frustrated Arafat speaks out: Palestinian leader talks to The Monitor about Bush, Sharon, and the
struggle for peace. (Jane Lampman, 4/22/04, CS Monitor)

In a tumultuous 40-year odyssey, Arafat has gone from armed revolutionary steeped in a violent struggle against Israel; to found Fatah, a militantly nationalist Palestinian organization, in the early 1960s; to peacemaker and 1994 Nobel Prizewinner; to the first elected Palestinian president; and now, to semisidelined leader.

A decade ago, Israel and the US considered him a terrorist who was trying to reform and lead his people to statehood. Now they consider him a failure in that, and blame him for igniting and fueling the intifada that broke out in 2000. Israel insists he is directly involved in terrorist actions, unable or unwilling to stem violence that has killed more than 900 Israelis and more than 2,000 Palestinians over the past four years.

An October 2003 poll by Palestinian researchers found that a majority of Palestinians said that they do "not feel the presence of the PA after three years of Israeli reoccupation of most of the West Bank and Gaza Strip." When asked to evaluate the performance of the PA, 61.4 percent said it was bad to very bad.

Indeed, since the second intifada, the suicide bomber, considered a martyr in Palestinian society, has challenged Arafat as the ultimate representation of the Palestinian people.

A society that considers the suicide bomber the ultimate representation of its people is truly deranged. It badly needs shock therapy.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 10:01 PM


Get Out Now
(John Pilger, New Statesman, 19/04/04)

Four years ago, I travelled the length of Iraq, from the hills where St Matthew is buried in the Kurdish north to the heartland of Mesopotamia, and Baghdad, and the Shia south. I have seldom felt as safe in any country. Once, in the Edwardian colonnade of Baghdad's book market, a young man shouted something at me about the hardship his family had been forced to endure under the embargo imposed by America and Britain. What happened next was typical of Iraqis; a passer-by calmed the man, putting his arm around his shoulder, while another was quickly at my side. "Forgive him," he said reassuringly. "We do not connect the people of the west with the actions of their governments. You are welcome."

At one of the melancholy evening auctions where Iraqis come to sell their most intimate possessions out of urgent need, a woman with two infants watched as their pushchairs went for pennies, and a man who had collected doves since he was 15 came with his last bird and its cage; and yet people said to me: "You are welcome." Such grace and dignity were often expressed by those Iraqi exiles who loathed Saddam Hussein and opposed both the economic siege and the Anglo-American assault on their homeland; thousands of these anti-Saddamites marched against the war in London last year, to the chagrin of the warmongers, who never understood the dichotomy of their principled stand.

Were I to undertake the same journey in Iraq today, I might not return alive. Foreign terrorists have ensured that. With the most lethal weapons that billions of dollars can buy, and the threats of their cowboy generals and the panic-stricken brutality of their foot soldiers, more than 120,000 of these invaders have ripped up the fabric of a nation that survived the years of Saddam Hussein, just as they oversaw the destruction of its artefacts. They have brought to Iraq a daily, murderous violence which surpasses that of a tyrant who never promised a fake democracy...

Even now, as the uprising spreads, there is only cryptic gesturing at the obvious: that this is a war of national liberation and that the enemy is "us".

Wow. He sold his last dove just before the foreign terrorists invaded. Top that, Jane Fonda!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:08 PM


The Netflix Neurosis (Gabriel Sherman, April 21, 2004, NY Observer)

When Kurt Andersen wandered into the living room at a recent Manhattan dinner party and noticed a stack of firehouse-red Netflix DVD envelopes sitting on the coffee table, he felt an instant sense of belonging. "It's become this tiny badge of cultural brotherhood," said Mr. Andersen, who's been making his way through Netflixís vast catalog of independent and foreign films for two years. "It's one of those things that, when you meet someone whoís into it, itís like, "Whoa--you're a Netflix subscriber, too?"

In the mental iconography of the New York culture junkie, the Netflix queue has joined the line of must-have life accouterments. The kind of person who fixates on arranging just the right titles on his built-in bookcases or artfully stacking back issues of Granta and The New York Review of Books now spends countless hours searching the Netflix Web site. His Netflix neuroses requires him to add to his queue all the high-end movies that he never got around to catching at the theateróif not necessarily to watch them.

The queue itself, according to many Netflix addicts, has its own existential pleasure. Sure, you can only have up to eight Netflix DVDís out at onceóbut with more than 18,000 movies beckoning you to click your mouse and virtually no limit to the number you can keep in your online queue, itís not hard to see why Netflix has inspired a citywide frenzy of cinematic aspiration. Never mind the mundane reality of actually finding the time to watch them.

"Itís just so easy to keep a constant Netflix queue running in your head," said Jodi Kantor, the New York Times Arts and Leisure editor. "All day long at work, I hear about movies I want to seeósome of them are new, though some of them are older, and I'm constantly going back to my computer to add yet another title to my Netflix queue."

Netflix also gives its cinephile subscribers the luxury of never setting foot in a Blockbuster again.

Those of you who enjoyed Master and Commander might like Damn the Defiant! Anybody seen anything unusual that's worth watching?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:59 PM


The Negroponte nomination: a warning to the people of Iraq (Bill Van Auken, 21 April 2004, World Socialist Web Site)

[N]egroponte will unquestionably play a pivotal role in the elaboration and execution of US policy in Iraq. He brings to his job no direct experience in the Middle East, and, while he reportedly speaks five languages, they do not include Arabic.

The experience he does have, however, prepares him for directing the suppression of the growing Iraqi resistance to US occupation. He has an intimate familiarity with mass killing, covert operations and death squads. Negroponte’s “experience and skill” lie not in spreading “freedom and peace,” as Bush piously declared, but rather in organizing bloody repression—from Vietnam to Central America and elsewhere.

Some of the media reports have stated that among Negroponte’s qualifications is his experience in “running a large embassy.” The most formative experience in this regard was his role as head of the US Embassy in Tegucigalpa, Honduras at the height of the dirty wars waged by the Reagan administration against the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua and the popular insurgency in El Salvador.

As a stereotypical, Washington-dominated “banana republic,” Honduras had been ruled throughout the 20th century by an alliance between the United Fruit Company, the country’s military and the US embassy.

However, in the 1980s, under Negroponte’s stewardship, the situation shifted dramatically, with Honduras becoming a giant base of operations for the CIA-organized Contra war against the Sandinistas, which was to claim some 50,000 lives.

From 1981 to 1985, Negroponte was the US ambassador in Honduras, overseeing operations that included the illegal funding of the Contra mercenaries and a massive buildup of the Honduran armed forces, including the construction of bases, air fields and supply dumps throughout the country.

Among these facilities was the El Aguacate air base, built on the pretext of providing a temporary facility for the thousands of US troops that were rotated through Honduras on “training” exercises. In reality, it was used to provide a permanent facility for the Contras and to funnel aid to these right-wing mercenaries in violation of restrictions imposed by the US Congress.

In 1999, mass graves were discovered at the site, along with blood-stained jail cells.

While he was ambassador to Honduras, Negroponte supervised a 20-fold increase in US military aid to the country, which he aggressively defended as a model of democracy in Central America.

His predecessor as US ambassador warned him that the Honduran security forces were resorting to “extralegal tactics—disappearances and apparently physical eliminations to control a perceived subversive threat,” according to a briefing book obtained by the Baltimore Sun for a detailed investigation it produced in 1995.

Negroponte, however, systematically suppressed any reporting of the human rights violations that escalated substantially after he assumed control of the US embassy. He issued report after report claiming that the country had no political prisoners, torture or extra-judicial executions, and that “student, worker, peasant and other interest groups have full freedom to organize...”

During this same period, hundreds of people were kidnapped and “disappeared,” including a number of union leaders, student organizers and other opponents of the military-dominated regime. Prisoners were routinely tortured on the direct orders of the chief of the Honduran armed forces.

Much of this dirty work was carried out by a unit known as Battalion 316, whose members were trained in the United States and “advised” by the CIA in Honduras. While issuing his glowing endorsements of the Honduran regime’s human rights record, Negroponte was intimately familiar with the grisly work of these killers.

He worked to silence reports of the killings and torture, threatening dissenting Honduran officials by accusing them of aiding “communism.” When the head of Honduran military intelligence fled into exile and publicly warned about the “death squad” activities of Battalion 316, Negroponte dismissed his testimony as unfounded.

At the time of his nomination as US ambassador to the United Nations, Negroponte gave an interview to CNN, in which he said, “Some of these regimes, to the outside observer, may not have been as savory as Americans would have liked; they may have been dictators, or likely to [become] dictators, when you would have been wanting to support democracy in the area. But with the turmoil that [was there], it was perhaps not possible to do that.”

The “turmoil” in Iraq will doubtlessly justify support for similar and even less “savory” measures, under Negroponte’s supervision.

Not even the most enthusiastic supporters of the new Iraqi state imagine that Mr. Negroponte will have as much success as he did in Honduras. That would require, for instance, that the new state be used as a staging ground for a victorious insurgency against Syria's Ba'ath regime and a counterinsurgency that helps Israel to destroy the PLO/Hamas. Then, just twenty years down the road it would be a stable and liberalizing democracy. Those are all worthy goals but too much to ask.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 PM


Latham plagiarised Clinton, says PM (Steve Lewis and wires, April 22, 2004, news.com.au)

JOHN Howard last night accused Mark Latham of stealing former US president Bill Clinton's ideas and language, calling on the Labor Leader to apologise to the Australian people.

The Prime Minister's call came after it was revealed the Opposition Leader's speech this week on the Australian character mirrored Mr Clinton's 1997 State of the Union address.

In the most direct attack yet by Mr Howard on Mr Latham's political honesty, The Prime Minister said: "Mark Latham owes the Australian people a proper explanation for appearing to have stolen not only the ideas but also the words of another politician".

Channel 9 earlier broadcast a comparison of the Clinton speech and the one Mr Latham gave to a business audience in Sydney on Tuesday, highlighting the similar language adopted by the two leaders in extolling the virtue of lifelong learning. There were subtle changes, however.

While Mr Latham insisted every 10-year-old must be able to log on to the internet, Mr Clinton suggested that 12-year-olds should be net-savvy, and Mr Latham pinpointed that as a key difference today.

How hard up could this guy be that he'd steal from a Clinton speech? The former President gave not a single memorable speech in his whole career.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:08 PM


Gay Day of Silence (Malcolm A. Kline, April 20, 2004, Campus Report)

Students from grade school through college who refuse to respond to their teachers’ questions Wednesday are not necessarily staying mute because they haven’t done their homework and don’t know the answer.

Homosexual activist leaders have signed up thousands of students to participate in a nationwide Day of Silence on April 21. Still, their numbers look inflated and many scholars and religious leaders question their cause.

On the Day of Silence, students who sympathize with the gay rights movement are advised to present their teachers with a card written by the writers at the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Educational Network (GLSEN). “Please understand my reasons for not speaking today,” the card reads.

“I am participating in the Day of Silence, a national youth movement protesting the silence faced by lesbian, gay and transgender people and their allies. My deliberate silence echoes that silence, which is caused by harassment, prejudice, and discrimination. I believe that ending that silence is the first step toward fighting these injustices. Think about the voices you are not hearing today. What are you going to do to end the silence?”

A day is a good start but they could demonstrate their seriousness by taking a lifetime vow of silence. Then just keep giving us all cards and we'll tell them when we want them to start yapping again.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:39 PM


Al Qaeda Disrupted in Pakistani Tribal Areas, General Says (CARLOTTA GALL, 4/20/04, NY Times)

The commander of American-led forces in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. David Barno, said Monday that Pakistan had successfully disrupted the Qaeda network in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan and had significantly affected its ability to support a suspected Taliban insurgency across the border in Afghanistan.

In an interview in Kabul, the Afghan capital, General Barno commended the Pakistani military for its "bold moves" against foreign fighters in the Pakistani tribal area of South Waziristan in March. He said it had so far prevented an anticipated offensive this spring in Afghanistan by the remnants of Taliban fighters who are suspected to have taken refuge across the Pakistani border in tribal areas.

"There have been some tough fights, so I give them great credit for making some bold moves over there," he said. The Pakistani operation since January has been larger and more intense than the previous level of enforcement in the border area, he said. He added that it appears to have disrupted what had been a very stable area for Al Qaeda's foreign fighters and senior leadership, where they are believed to have lived and operated for two years.

"That has had a significant unsettling effect on their organization over there and to some degree on their ability to support the Taliban as well," he said of Al Qaeda. "But clearly they are concerned about what is going on over there."

Imagine the coverage and hysterical hand-wringing a Taliban Spring offensive would have produced? We'd be hip-deep in quagmirism. But prevent those attacks and turn it into a Spring defensive and it is a non-story.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:15 PM


Administration Takes Friendly Fire at Hearing: Wolfowitz tells a Senate panel about Hussein's atrocities, but offers little about what might happen after the June 30 transfer of sovereignty. (Mary Curtius And Janet Hook, April 21, 2004, LA Times)

[D]eputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, used the friendly forum to focus on the atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein before the U.S. invasion, not on the challenges ahead or at hand.

He offered only sparse details on the question of what sort of government the administration thought would emerge in Iraq, or what relationship the U.S. military would have with the Iraqi government after the transition.
"I cannot sit here today and predict the exact form of the permanent government," Wolfowitz said, "but even an imperfect Iraqi democracy will be an improvement light years beyond what that country has endured for the past 35 years." [...]

Wolfowitz's testimony drew a sharp response from Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), one of the administration's harshest critics on Iraq. "Your presentation is somewhat disingenuous," Kennedy snapped at Wolfowitz. "Everyone knows Saddam Hussein was a brute, was despicable," Kennedy said, adding, "there wasn't a word in this presentation about weapons of mass destruction."

Geez, even Senatror Kennedy has figured out the war had nothing to do with WMD.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:23 AM

LEI's VS. LIES (via Mike Daley):

2004 Index of Leading Environmental Indicators (Steven F. Hayward, April 14, 2004, AEI-Pacific Research Institute) [The full text of this book is available in Adobe Acrobat PDF format.]

The 2004 Index of Leading Environmental Indicators examines government data on numerous environmental conditions, most of which show consistent improvement. This year's edition devotes special attention to troublesome quirks in air quality and the stewardship of public lands. For the first time, the Index will have a special section comparing U.S. environmental trends with trends in European Union nations.

The ninth annual Index of Leading Environmental Indicators shows that the environment continues to be Americaís single greatest policy success.  Environmental quality has improved so much, in fact, that it is nearly impossible to paint a grim, gloom-and-doom picture anymore.

Environmental quality is improving steadily and in some cases dramatically in key areas:

* Average vehicle emissions are dropping about 10 percent per year as the fleet turns over to inherently cleaner vehicles, including modern SUVs. 

* Ninety-four percent of the population is served by water systems that have reported no violations of any health-based standards.

* There has been a 55-percent decline in toxic releases since 1988, even while total output of the industries covered by this measurement has increased 40 percent.

* Despite most popular assumptions, U.S. air quality trends are found to be at least equal, if not slightly better, than in Europe. [...]

There have also been notable improvements in government reporting, with the EPAís first-ever composite on national trends and state-based initiatives to improve water-quality monitoring.

Private conservation efforts, such as Ducks Unlimited and the Peregrine Fund, and private water trusts have been highly successful.
And recent findings in climate-change science also give reason for hope.  Because the climate models have been based on flawed economic assumptions, there is even greater uncertainty now in the range of CO2 emissions projections.  This means the prognosis is probably not as grim as conventional wisdom would have us believe. 
The Index shows that one of the few areas to show a decline in quality is that of public lands.  While funding and land allotments have increased, quality has deteriorated by most significant measures.  The root of the problem is an excess of political management, and the answer can be found in innovative solutions such as land trusts and resource leases.

Realistically, how clean could European air be--after all, the French exhale.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:17 AM

SUPERFREAKINCOOL (via John Resnick):

Money that grows on crops (Jen Ross, 4/15/04, The Christian Science Monitor)

He can't quite make money grow from trees, but a New Zealand scientist has devised a way to harvest gold from plants.

The idea: Use common crops to soak up contaminants in soil from gold-mining sites and return the areas to productive agriculture. The gold harvested from the process pays for the cleanup - with money left over for training in sustainable agriculture.

"We get the plants to do the hard work, and then we basically harvest the plants and extract the metal," says Christopher Anderson, an environmental geologist from Massey University in Palmerston North, New Zealand. "So we farm mercury and gold." [...]

Mercury, for example, is one of the most toxic contaminants for humans and animals, and one of the most difficult and costly to clean up. But using regular corn and canola plants, Anderson has found that this can be done at almost no cost, and with benefits to the environment and local community.

The process is called phyto- remediation. First, he treats the contaminated soil with chemicals that break the gold down into water-soluble particles. Then he introduces the crops.

"Basically a plant will take up anything that's in the soil," he says. Corn and canola have a natural ability to take up huge amounts of metal.

Of course, the crops aren't eaten because they're full of toxic metals.

Instead, Anderson harvests them for their minerals as they begin to die. He estimates he can recover 1 kilogram of gold per hectare (14 ounces an acre) and about half as much mercury through this process. Then the gold is used to pay for the cleanup and to educate locals about sustainable agriculture.

During the metal-harvesting, his team trains local people in farming techniques, so once the land is clean, they can reclaim it and use it for subsistence farming. "It's turning waste into a resource," says Anderson. "We're looking to create an alternative lifestyle for these artisanal miners to help them escape the poverty."

Can you use the corn byproduct for ethanol?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:10 AM


Kerry's 'Misery Index' Is Just Sad (Amity Shlaes, April 19, 2004, LA Times)

The Kerry version tracks seven factors to evaluate the quality of middle-class life: Healthcare costs, gas prices, college tuition, median wage, homeownership rate, bankruptcy rate and private-sector job growth. Up is good. Down is bad. Under Bill Clinton things were up spectacularly; George W. Bush's rating shows him erasing Clinton's gains. [...]

As the nonpartisan website fact check.org points out, today the original misery index stands at 7.4, less than half of what it was in Carter's last year in office. The measure is only a smidgen worse than where it stood during Clinton's second term. This despite a recession and 9/11. [...]

The last problem with the Kerry index is more subtle. The old 1970s index had only two components. They were, arguably, about freedom and individual responsibility: the freedom to work and to trade in a relatively stable currency. Gas prices, for example, were not included, even though they were the great shock of the decade. Kerry's seven-category index represents a proliferation of wants. It says, essentially, that it used to take two things to make me happy, but now it takes seven.

It also suggests that government should have a role in satisfying those wants. What's more, many of the items in the Kerry index are about affordability — the right to, say, cheap healthcare — which is not the same as an outright entitlement but is close to it.

In short, the new JFK is saying government owes the people more. "Ask not what your country can do for you," indeed.

The only misery index that anyone from Boston should be concerned about stands at -.5

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:53 AM


Florida poll favors Bush (Dr. David Hill, 4/21/04, The Hill)

Most of Florida’s prestigious newspapers have accepted Mason-Dixon’s dominance and subscribe to its results — so when Coker’s latest survey of 625 Florida voters taken at the beginning of this month showed Bush beating Kerry 51 percent to 43 percent, Republicans had a strong justification for joy.

Sen. Kerry (D-Mass.) himself provided the poll’s most encouraging results. His unfavorable name recognition has risen to 42 percent in Florida, twice what it was last November, the last time Mason-Dixon polled, and several points higher than President Bush’s negatives.

The poll’s cross-tabs showed that Kerry has several notable problems. First, he’s losing 18 percent of the state’s Democrats to Bush. By comparison, Bush is losing only 7 percent of Republicans. Kerry’s problem with his base is also evident in the minority community, where 11 percent of blacks said they plan to vote for Bush.

This above-average defection of African-Americans to a Republican in Florida refutes the notion being pushed by some black leaders that their community is eager to nail Bush come November.

But the most encouraging minority result is for Hispanic voters. Only 36 percent of Cubans and other Hispanics plan to vote for Kerry. Should former Bush administration Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez win his U.S. Senate primary to join Bush on the ticket this November, Kerry could lose even more Hispanic support.

And that's before Condo Rice replaces Dick Cheney.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:49 AM


Bush team confident in steady poll results (Anne E. Kornblut, April 21, 2004, Boston Globe)

Campaign advisers are so convinced that national security issues play to Bush's strength that they have posted a link on the Bush-Cheney reelection website to the new book by Bob Woodward, ''Plan of Attack," despite several disputes they have over facts and a portrayal of Bush as driven to war by an unrelenting Vice President Dick Cheney without input from Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:43 AM

ALLIES (via mc):

Blair Steady in Support: 'I'm There to the Very End,' Prime Minister Told Bush (Bob Woodward, April 21, 2004, Washington Post)

On March 12, three days after he had declined Bush's offer for Britain to not use its troops in combat, Blair called Bush for an update on where things stood in the Security Council.

"If we don't have the votes," Bush said, "pull it down. We're through." He had had it with the resolutions.

"Would you try one more time?" Blair asked, referring to the key votes of Mexican President Vicente Fox and Chilean President Ricardo Lagos.

"Of course," Bush said. "I'd be glad to do that."

Bush called Fox. "Vicente, I'm insisting there be a vote tomorrow in the U.N. Can we count on your vote?"

"Exactly what's the language like in the resolution?" Fox asked.

"Vicente, we've debated this issue long enough. The security of the United States is on the line. I want your vote."

Fox said he would get back to Bush. Later, during dinner, Rice called Bush to say she had received a phone call saying that Luis Ernesto Derbez, Mexico's foreign minister, was now in charge of the Mexican policy because Fox had to go into the hospital for back surgery.

"Interesting," Bush said. He called Lagos -- a distinguished leader in Bush's view, so he was polite. No threats.

"Can we count on your vote?" Bush asked the 65-year-old Socialist leader.

"Are you sure it's time to bring up the vote?"

"It's time to bring up the vote, Ricardo. We've had this debate too long."

"But we're making progress," Lagos replied.

"That's only because we've got a couple of hundred thousand troops. If those troops weren't there, there'd be even less progress diplomatically. And Saddam Hussein could care less. Any progress you think is being made is illusionary." Bush then stated his predicament clearly. "And I'm not going to leave our troops there. They're either going to go in, and remove him, or they're coming home, Ricardo."

This was a sobering thought. For both practical and political reasons, bringing the troops home without solving the Hussein problem was unthinkable for Bush. It was similar to the position his father had found himself in during January 1991 with 500,000 military men and women in the Middle East. "We have to have a war," President George H.W. Bush had told his advisers several weeks before launching the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Once again a President Bush, this time with more than 200,000 troops in the Middle East, had put himself into the position where he had to have a war.

Bush asked Lagos, "Ricardo, what's your vote?"

No, the Chilean president replied.

"Thank you very much," Bush said.

Bush called Blair and described his talks with Fox and Lagos. "You have to consider these two conversations," Bush said. "This is not positive news. It's over."

The next day Bush told his advisers he wanted to have a summit with Blair to show solidarity. In part it was to fill the void. War was certain, but the diplomatic circus hadn't ended. What could he do? He did not want to just sit around. But Blair's people were concerned about the prime minister leaving the country for even eight hours because of the Margaret Thatcher precedent: In 1990, she went abroad to a conference and was ousted as party leader when she returned. Blair didn't want Bush to give a speech or issue an ultimatum. He, Blair, had to pick the right moment to call for a parliamentary vote. It was Thursday, and any speech from Bush had to wait until at least Monday.

Whatever would serve the British, Bush decided. And on Friday there was another concession to Blair -- an announcement in the Rose Garden of a "road map" for peace in the Middle East that Blair thought should not be delayed until after the Iraq issue was resolved.

The White House proposed a meeting on Bermuda. But that was too far for Blair and too close to the United States. Another White House proposal was for Bush to go to London. Blair's aides balked -- the American president in London at that time would have been a provocation for massive protests. They finally settled on the Azores, a group of Portuguese islands in the North Atlantic closer to London than to Washington.

The summit's purpose, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said, was "to review this diplomacy as it's brought to its conclusion." It began on Sunday, March 16, and included Bush, Blair, Spanish President Jose Maria Aznar and Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barraso -- all supporters of a war.

In a closed-door session, Bush told the others that he was going to give a speech giving an ultimatum to Hussein to get out of Iraq with his sons within 48 hours. "That's what I'm going to do, okay?" Bush said. He wasn't consulting. He was informing. "So everybody knows," he added. [...]

The diplomatic planning was over. "You know," Bush said, "we're going to, we have to keep planning for a future postwar Iraq, and we all agree on the five basic principles. Territorial integrity has to remain. We need immediate, we need to be ready with humanitarian aid to get it in there immediately to head off any food or displaced-persons crisis."

The United Nations would continue its oil-for-food program, Bush said. "We have to build an international consensus for Iraq, a new Iraq, at peace with its neighbors, and we'll go back to the U.N. for another resolution after the war. The U.N. can help with many issues but should not run the country."

He made it clear that the coalition would be in charge.

When the meeting broke up, Rice saw chief White House speechwriter Michael Gerson, who had come with Bush on the 4,600-mile round trip to the Azores so they could work on the ultimatum speech. "Do you have a copy of the speech?" Rice asked, and she handed it to Blair.

Gerson was a little bug-eyed. It was about as closely held a document as there might be. At the same time, Gerson realized that it could have a tremendous impact not only on American politics but also on the course of British politics because of the impending vote of confidence in Parliament. Gerson noticed that Campbell, Blair's communications and strategy adviser, was reading the copy and jotting notes.

The British wanted the speech to be more conditional, with the phrase or concept "if war comes" liberally sprinkled throughout. Though it implied war, it should not be a war speech. A kernel of hope for a peaceful solution had to remain.

Blair had to get home to tend to the politics of war and rebellion in his party. White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. noted that Blair had been filled with both resolve and angst. It wasn't confident resolve. Rice thought it was very much touch-and-go about Blair's future. As she stood watching the British depart, she said, "Gee, I hope this isn't the last time we see them."

On Air Force One, Bush and Rice agreed it was now just a matter of managing the politics of the United Nations and not pulling the plug before Blair had his vote in Parliament. Karen Hughes and Dan Bartlett, the former and current communications directors, joined them, and they went over the speech draft line by line. The British suggestions were acceptable, and Gerson went back on one of the plane's computers and carefully put in the changes. [...]

Finally, at 5:15 p.m. -- 10:15 p.m. London time -- Parliament voted. Blair won by 396 to 217. Though he had lost a full third of his own party's vote, the Tories -- and Britain -- had voted for war.

In November 1942, FDR launched the pointless but deadly invasion of North Africa in order to appease the monstrous Joseph Stalin. In Fall 2002, George W. Bush allowed Colin Powell to use the WMD issue to try and get a UN resolution backing the Iraq War in order to aid our friend Tony Blair with his own domestic political situation. The latter was at least a worthwhile sideshow.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:30 AM


John Kerry's Foreign Friends: Why cowards, appeaseniks, Communists and Jew-haters love the senator from Massachusetts. (Mark Landsbaum, 4/21/04, Front Page)

if these are the stripe of foreigners attracted to John Kerry, who then is repulsed by him? In Kerry's 1997 book The New War, he even referred to Yasser Arafat as a "statesman."

All this calls into question Kerryís moral authority, and how others would perceive it. In short, if Kerry is admired by those who retreat from evil, those who threaten the U.S. with nuclear weapons and those who hate Jews, can Kerry be right for America? As columnist Joel Mowbray has noted, "Kerry expresses a sincere belief that terrorists can change their stripes, if only they have a positive role model."

Kerry's view of reality is consistent with that which has steered the Democratic Party since at least the presidency of Jimmy Carter. It is a worldview that refuses to acknowledge the existence of evil in the world, preferring instead to imagine there are only people and nations with differing interests. Consequently, Kerry and his ilk opt for the Rodney King approach to international relations: "Can't we all just get along?"

The danger in this is that evildoers recognize it for what it is: appeasement. The even greater danger is that terrorists will interpret it for what it often signals: weakness. Enemies of the United States always will be attracted to Americans who make their job easier. Terrorists, Communists and anti-Semites are never won over by negotiation or by feeling their pain. They correctly interpret such naive olive branches as signs of weakness, and can be counted on to press for more of what they want. As Chamberlain learned the hard way with Nazi Germany, going wobbly in the face of evil is no solution.

It is not possible to imagine another Western nation in which the contest for leadership of the nation would be so clearly between Faith and Reason as the one between President Bush and Mr. Kerry.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:05 AM


The Party of Liberation: At his recent press conference, President Bush has returned the GOP to its historic mission of liberating captives -- this time, in the Islamist world. (Stephen Schwartz, 4/21/04, Tech Central Station)

Isolationists, Islamist extremists, and "intellectuals" -- and other types beginning with the letter "i," who will be left unnamed in the interest of civility -- have sneered at the awkward eloquence of President George W. Bush, embodied in his press conference on the evening of April 13.

"Awkward eloquence" is not an oxymoron, for those who express themselves with some difficulty, or when struggling with emotion, may yet speak more powerfully than those whose orations are brilliantly-crafted, and well-practiced. Moses, the prophet of freedom, was afflicted with a stammer, and the prophet Muhammad was an illiterate. Neither of them would have had a chance on most of today's television talk shows, yet they moved the world.

I did not sneer at the President's words. And I believe there are others who, like me, were moved, even to tears, by his statements:

"Freedom is not this country's gift to the world. Freedom is the Almighty's gift to every man and woman in this world. And as the greatest power on the face of the earth, we have an obligation to help the spread of freedom… We have an obligation to work toward a more free world."

The Chief Executive of these United States sought, at times haltingly, to explain to the American people that "it's important for us to spread freedom throughout the Middle East."

Not for many decades, for even a century, has an American statesman so simply and necessarily defined our place in world history. As I explained to my son, other admirable American leaders fought to defend our freedoms -- only rarely, and at great risk, did they commit our nation to the defense, nay, the extension of freedom far from our borders, in places where most of us would never set foot. [...]

President George W. Bush has clearly seen in the Arab and Islamic world an equivalent, for him, of what the Soviet empire represented for Reagan -- a part of the world that must inevitably also share the benefits of capitalism, democracy, prosperity, and peace. As he said on April 13, "Free societies are hopeful societies. A hopeful society is one more likely to be able to deal with the frustrations of those who are willing to commit suicide in order to represent a false ideology. A free society is a society in which somebody is more likely to be able to make a living. A free society is a society in which someone is more likely to be able to raise their child in a comfortable environment and see to it that child gets an education."

These simple phrases were not scripted. They were spontaneous, in reply to questions from reporters. And they speak to the responsibility that was always our American mission, when heroes like Kossuth looked to us for hope, and when our leaders, exemplified above all by Abraham Lincoln, proclaimed "a new birth of freedom" to the globe.

The task President Bush has assumed is an immense one, and is not without risk. When Reagan called on Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall, Sovietism was moribund. By contrast, the Wahhabi ideology of al-Qaeda, the brutalizing brainwashing that led to horrors like the mutilations of Americans in Fallujah, remains volatile.

But I have said before, and will write now, and will argue again, that President Bush has restored to the Republican party its rightful legacy as a party of liberation. Those who, in the President's words, "don't believe Iraq can be free; that if you're Muslim, or perhaps brown-skinned, you can't be self-governing or free," will be proven wrong.

The walls that separate the Muslim world from the planetary realm of light will crumble. Iraq will not be President Bush's Vietnam, but his Berlin Wall.

That's not just the legacy of the Party but of America. It just so happens that only one party believes in it any more, and not all of that party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:34 AM


Mr. Kerry Revises (Washington Post, April 21, 2004)

Mr. Kerry contends that he has not shifted his public position. But there are major differences between what he said in December -- right after Saddam Hussein's capture, when Mr. Kerry was seeking to discredit dovish Democratic challenger Howard Dean -- and his remarks last week, which followed several weeks of bad news from Iraq and growing public disenchantment with the course of the war. Where once he named democracy as a task to be completed, and the alternative to "cutting and running" or a "false success," Mr. Kerry now says democracy is optional. Where once he warned against setting the conditions for an early but irresponsible withdrawal of U.S. forces, now he does so himself by defining the exit standard as "stability," a term that could describe Saudi Arabia or Iran -- or the Iraq of Saddam Hussein.

In December Mr. Kerry's Iraq policy differed with that of President Bush not in its goals but in its tactics. Mr. Kerry rightly insisted, and still does, that the United States cannot succeed without greater international collaboration and reliance on the United Nations. Now he differs with Mr. Bush on the crucial issue of what the United States must achieve in Iraq before it can safely end its mission. "Iraq," Mr. Bush said at his news conference last week, "will either be a peaceful democratic country or it will again be a source of violence, a haven for terrorists, and a threat to America and to the world."

Mr. Kerry now argues that there is a third option. But what would that be? "I can't tell you what it's going to be," he said to reporters covering his campaign. [...]

We believe a successful political outcome is still possible; others disagree. But Mr. Kerry's shift on such a basic question after just a few months is troubling and mistaken.

...like his nomination.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:29 AM


The Nicest Terrorist I Ever Met (DAVID MARGOLICK, 4/21/04, NY Times)

When I interviewed Abdel Aziz Rantisi a year and a half ago in Gaza, the interpreter who accompanied me made one request: that our cab remain parked conspicuously in front of his apartment, in a quiet and pleasant residential neighborhood there. That way, she figured, the pilots of any Israeli helicopters hovering nearby would see there were journalists visiting, and would hold off killing Dr. Rantisi, then the chief spokesman for the militant group Hamas, at least until we'd left. [...]

For all of Dr. Rantisi's incendiary rhetoric, there was a surprising serenity to him, the serenity of fatalism and faith. His security was lax. The helicopters could come any moment, he said, but he'd not changed his life; he still lectured every week at the local university, still had his grandchildren staying with him. Shortly after our meeting, as the Israelis started going after members of Hamas' political wing, he, too, went underground and had already survived one assassination attempt when his time finally came. A small crater in a Gazan street undoubtedly marks the spot where he was hit. He managed to reach a hospital before dying.

Entering Dr. Rantisi's home that day, I wondered how I would feel shaking the hand of someone who blew up Jewish children. I wondered, too, how he would feel about giving yet another interview to yet another American Jew, whose objectivity he surely questioned. But even killers can be charming, and reporters are disconcertingly adaptable. There was a gentle affability to Dr. Rantisi. The interpreter quickly became superfluous. He spoke English softly, musically, imperfectly but painstakingly. Though our talk was of targeted killings, he sometimes even laughed.

He described the degradation of occupation: the loss of lives and dignity, the dead Palestinian children, the uprooted trees, the bulldozed land, the desecrated holy places. The "martyrdom bombings" were retaliatory, he insisted, responses to Israeli murders and massacres. He spoke the language of the freedom fighter. "We are doing the same now that the French did to the Germans, and the Algerians to resist the French, and Vietnam to resist the Americans," he said. Taken in a vacuum, his reasoning was seductive. One could see how he charmed left-wing European journalists, including a crew of Englishmen there with us. [...]

"The history will write Sharon is the first one who started destroying Israel," he told me. "And if you will live — I hope so — for 120 years, you will see that." As he spoke to me, he laughed almost affectionately, as if he really meant it. Imagine that: the future head of Hamas wishing me a long life. All I had to do was to stay off the wrong Israeli bus.

Not many people know it, but the Fuhrer was a terrific dancer.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:17 AM


The Lost Father: A new generation of battle-scarred children are doomed to spend their lifetimes asking, wasn't there any better way? (KAREN SPEARS ZACHARIAS, 4/21/04, NY Times)

I can remember what my father smelled like — sweat and sun-dried T-shirts — but I can no longer recall the timbre of his voice or the warmth of his embrace. Photos and memories are all I have left of him.

He went away in December 1965. "President Johnson has asked me to go to South Vietnam," he said.

"What are you going to do there?" I asked.

"Help fight communism," he replied.

I retreated to my room in tears. Only nine at the time, I didn't know that South Vietnam was half a world away and I sure to heck didn't know what communism was. I didn't even understand that my father would be in any danger. I cried simply because he was going away and I was afraid he would never come back. "I'll come back, I promise," Daddy said, wiping my tears as he sat on the edge of my bed.

Daddy kept his promise. He did come back: in a silver coffin, draped with a red-white-and-blue flag. [...]

My parents fell in love as kids. They expected to grow old together. But only Mama has grown old. She eats her soup beans and cornbread alone and remembers with heartache the man who enticed her to laugh on sunny days.

I'm troubled by the nightmares that surely await this generation of battle-scarred children. I know they will grow up longing for just one more embrace. And like me, they are doomed to spend their lifetimes asking, wasn't there any better way?

Did Saddam's million victims not have children, parents, and other loved ones, just like the hundreds of US servicemen who have been killed? What was their better way?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:06 AM


Three Books (Rev. James V. Schall, S.J., April 2004, Crisis)

Let us suppose that someone wanted to read, say, three books that would explain in clear, profound, and incisive terms the whole structure of human life, its destiny, and how it stands before God and the world. What books would I recommend? Or if some parent asked me what three books should he give his son or daughter on the way to college, something that, if read and pondered, would keep what is clearly before his or her eyes, in all its philosophic and revelational dimensions. What books would these be? If some unsuspecting student inquires, “What should I read this summer?,” what three books would I suggest? [...]

These three books are the following: (1) Josef Pieper: An Anthology; (2) Peter Kreeft, The Philosophy of Tolkien; and (3) Ralph McInerny, The Very Rich Hours of Jacques Maritain: A Spiritual Life. None of these books is very long. Each is relatively easy to read. All three are as profound as any book ever written. They all deal with what is.

These books cover every issue of any importance about how to live and what is true. Each of the authors knows classic and modern thought. None of these books intends to be apologetic; yet taken together, they constitute the finest apologetic imaginable. They are all lyrical. They deal with evil. They take us to the order of things in a way that nothing else will in quite the same way. “Read them!”

Though sadly unfamiliar with Pieper, we'd certainly recommend that you read Maritain and Tolkien's own works too.

-TRIBUTE: A Philosopher of Virtue (Gilbert Meilaender, April 1998, First Things)
-ESSAY: Josef Pieper's Scholasticism (James Richard Skemp, March 13th 2003)
-LINKS: Resources for further study of the thought of Josef Pieper

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:54 AM


Bush Draws Terrorism Law Into Campaign (ADAM NAGOURNEY, 4/21/04, NY Times)

The banner behind President Bush proclaimed, "Protecting the Homeland." At his side were five law enforcement officials, including the United States attorney who prosecuted six terrorism suspects here last year. And for nearly an hour on Tuesday, Mr. Bush and the White House-picked group sharing a stage with him hailed the antiterrorism law enacted in the wake of the Sept. 11 acts, declaring that it was vital to protecting the nation.

"Those who criticize the Patriot Act must listen to those folks on the front line of defending America," Mr. Bush said with a glance at the police chief from the nearby town of Amherst, sitting crisply in his uniform two stools away. "The Patriot Act defends our liberty, is what it does, under the Constitution of the United States."

This was the third time in just four days that Mr. Bush had publicly invoked the USA Patriot Act. And it reflected what aides said would be systematic references to it in his speeches and television advertisements through Election Day, as this signature statute of his administration becomes a crucial part of his campaign strategy.

[W]ith this evocatively titled law, Mr. Bush's aides argue, they have found a way to advance two of their chief lines of attack against Mr. Kerry: that Mr. Bush would be tougher than he in facing down terrorism and that the senator, who voted for the law and later came to criticize some of its provisions, is a "flip-flopper," as Republicans regularly describe him.

"It's a two-fer: he's wrong on the issue, and he's flip-flopped," said Matthew Dowd, a senior Bush election adviser.

Among the delusions driving the Democrats these days there may be none greater than that the American people think we're being too tough on the liberties of Islamicists. Of course, they're still waiting for the popular backlash against Republicans for being too tough on Communists in the 50s.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 AM


Bush's testosterone problem (Maggie Gallagher, April 20, 2004, Townhall)

Testosterone, Steven Rhoads points out in his forthcoming book, Taking Sex Differences Seriously, creates a "loner profile."

Animal studies find the "tremendous increase in oxytocin at puberty drives both sexual behavior and attachment in females, (but) it increases sexual drive without increasing the drive for pair bonding in males." Differences in men and women in aggression and in response to threat of violence are ubiquitous. "(M)en see aggression as functional, while women see it as problematic. For women, the relationship costs seem too high, and they are more likely to fear retaliation." Moreover, "sex differences in fear of physical danger are pervasive."

All of which may go far to explain some of the latest poll results cited by political analyst (and columnist) Dick Morris. By a huge margin (51 percent to 36 percent), men say the United States is safer than it was before Sept. 11. Women are split (41 percent safer, 42 percent less safe). Forced to choose between "letting terrorists know we will fight back aggressively" or "working with other nations," men opt for aggression 53 percent to 41 percent, while women opt for diplomacy by the reverse margin (54 percent to 36 percent).

Isn't that less George Bush's problem than part of the general problem with universal suffrage?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 AM


French unemployment revised upwards to 9.8% (Jo Johnson, April 20 2004, Financial Times)

The number of people seeking work in France is now brushing against the politically traumatic 10 per cent threshold, following an upwards revision to official unemployment figures for February.

For President Jacques Chirac, who has made job creation the priority for the embattled government, Tuesday's figures from Insee, the French statistics office, make worrying reading. Unemployment at the end of February was revised upwards to 9.8 per cent from 9.6 per cent.

All the polls show unemployment to be the biggest single concern of the French public today. Nicolas Sarkozy, France's new finance minister who is struggling for ways to stimulate consumer spending, has promised that "everything will be done for economic growth and jobs".

For the first time since 1993, France destroyed jobs last year. Some 67,000 fewer people worked in 2003 than in 2002, principally because of a sharp fall in the number of people employed on the public payroll, employer of one in five French workers.

The number of public employees in 2003 fell by just over 100,000, in large part because of the government's decision not to renew a work-creation scheme for young people introduced by the last Socialist administration.

This was offset only partially by an increase in the number of controversial fixed-length contracts in the private sector. The total number of unemployed in France now stands at 2.68m, compared with 2.43m when the centre-right came to power in mid-2002.

The revised figures mean France's jobless rate is a full percentage point above the eurozone level of 8.8 per cent in February. Insee on Tuesday also revised upwards its figures for December 2003 by 0.2 per cent to 9.9 per cent.

Leaked finance ministry data suggest the French government no longer believes it can reduce the budget deficit to below 3 per cent of GDP in 2005. With growth sluggish, the European Commission predicts France will have a deficit of 3.7 per cent next year and 3.6 per cent in 2005.

As Paul Krugman could tell them, these things are just cyclical. The fact that they're in economic decline during a >global boom just means their cycle is running a bit differently....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:28 AM


'Passion'-bashing minimal (Ed Meza, Don Groves, Archie Thomas, Charles Newbury, Ken Bensinger, Nick Vivarelli and Tom Birchenough, 4/18/04, Variety)

Fears that "The Passion of the Christ" would inflame passions worldwide turned out to be overblown.

The U.S. release created the most controversy by far, with criticism in other countries mostly limited to the press. Overseas filmgoers for the most part ignored complaints of the film's violence and turned out for the pic in proportion to religious observance in the given territory.

While the biblical epic did ignite controversy in a few countries, fears of anti-Semitic outcry and demonstrations didn't come to pass. And what controversy there was didn't stop the pic from powering so far to a hefty $155 million gross outside the U.S. and Canada.

Indeed, the release of the film was far more an occasion for anti-Christian jeremiads than for anti-Semitic incidents.

April 20, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:25 PM


Arab ally snubs Bush amid 'unprecedented hatred' for US (Ewen MacAskill and Suzanne Goldenberg, April 21, 2004, The Guardian)

A growing rift between America and the Arab world was exposed yesterday when two Middle Eastern allies delivered damaging rebuffs to President George Bush's policies in the region.

King Abdullah of Jordan flew home from the US after abruptly cancelling a meeting planned for today with the president in Washington. The king's move came as the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, said there was more hatred of Americans in the Arab world today than ever before.

Damaging? Given how much most Americans hate the Arab world right now it's hard to see how this could damage the President.

Posted by David Cohen at 4:03 PM


Poll Shows New Gains for Bush: Lead Over Kerry Widens On Issues of Security (Richard Morin and Dan Balz, Washington Post, 4/20/04)

President Bush holds significant advantages over John F. Kerry in public perceptions of who is better equipped to deal with Iraq and the war on terrorism, and he has reduced the advantages his Democratic challenger held last month on many domestic issues, according to a Washington Post-ABC News Poll.

The poll also found that Iraq and the war on terrorism have surged in importance, and ranked with the economy and jobs as top voting issues. Despite signs of concern among Americans about the violence in Iraq, the poll showed Bush's approval ratings holding steady and Kerry's slipping on a variety of issues and attributes.
I'm not going to pretend that polling in April is meaningful just because it underscores my political savvy -- but: keeping the discussion on Iraq helps the President. Of course, keeping the discussion on the economy helps the President. Keeping the discussion on the War on Terror helps the President. I'd suggest that Kerry try keeping the focus on ketchup, but who do we suspect eats more ketchup?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:52 PM


A Fly in the Curveball: As the 103rd Major League baseball season opens, physicists have now shown that a well-hit curveball trumps a well-hit fastball. Pitchers must be so scared. (Adam Summers, April 2004, Natural History)

There is a morbid fascination in watching a Little League pitcher who develops a good curveball at a tender age; more than one talented young fastball hitter has switched to basketball after facing that aerodynamic phenomenon, which can turn the most powerful swing into physical comedy. Some youngsters find the rhythm of this evasive pitch and learn to hit it with the same authority as they do a fastball. But for most batters (even at the highest levels of competition) the curve is a devil to hit—not quite as bad as trying to swat a flying mosquito with a toothpick, but almost.

Conventional baseball wisdom has long held that even if the bat does meet the curveball, the batter is still at a disadvantage; many observers maintain that even if a batter manages to crush both curveball and fastball with equal force on the sweet spot of the bat, the curveball won’t sail as far as the fastball. But that clubhouse conviction has now fallen victim to a careful analysis of the physics of pitched baseballs. It turns out that good wood on a slow curve will carry the ball deeper into the cheap seats than it will Roger Clemens’s best fastball.

As a boy I never got beyond the “keep your eye on the ball” stage of hitting, which led to a pretty abbreviated career in organized baseball. But now that engineers Gregory S. Sawicki of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mont Hubbard of the University of California, Davis, and William J. Stronge of the University of Cambridge have shown what it takes to accomplish the task, I don’t feel so bad about my early retirement. To get the job done in the batter’s box, they show, “all” the batter has to do is integrate at least fifteen variables and constants that define several physical characteristics of the bat, the ball, the atmosphere, and the world at large.

It seems only fair to note that soccer requires you to process more than one variable also: you have to both see the enormous ball and strike it with your foot.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:10 PM


Student Loaned: Kerry borrows youth voters for his campus Snoozefest (Anya Kamenetz, April 20th, 2004, Village Voice)

The first clue was the light jazz. Last week's "Change Starts With U: Kerry Campus Tour 2004" was billed as the unveiling of John Kerry's "Compact with the Next Generation," including tuition assistance and a national-service program. These five Northeastern college appearances were designed to inspire 30 million young adults to make the difference for Democrats in this presidential election. The press release promised "high-profile entertainment."

But on Wednesday at Harlem's City College, as hundreds of students and more than 50 members of the media waited over half an hour to hear Kerry, they listened to the cocktail-party stylings of a light jazz quartet. "It's all right," a slouching young man with a nose ring and ponytail commented. "It's keeping me awake." That was more than could be said for the rest of the program.

Judging from Wednesday's performance, John Kerry is not all that interested in playing to young voters. Senator Hillary Clinton, greeted with a standing ovation, introduced the presumptive Democratic nominee, ticking off a long list of his accomplishments in the Senate: the fight for Vietnam P.O.W.'s and M.I.A.'s, the investigations into Iran Contra and BCCI, and a crusade against irresponsible fiscal policies. All important, none relevant to a college student today.

Then Kerry gave 15 minutes of his standard stump speech: tax-code reform, outsourcing, Social Security, and Medicare. "Let's think about the worker who's 45 or 50 years old who's lost his job, lost his health insurance," he exhorted the crowd of twenty- somethings, many of whom work two or even three jobs to pay their way through school. The senator didn't talk about his proposed $4,000 tuition tax credit, maybe because it goes to parents who pay tuition, not students who shoulder the debt. And he didn't touch his complicated plan to cover increases in education funding by ending federal interest-rate guarantees on student loans. Not until the Q&A did Kerry mention his national-service plan, which promises a free college ride for up to 200,000 students willing to do two-year tours in service professions like teaching or law enforcement.

It's April and he's already making us nostalgic for a dynamic candidate like Al Gore or Michael Dukakis.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 2:09 PM


Children's aid probing Khadrs (Don Martin, National Post, 20/04/04)

The Children's Aid Society has launched an investigation into whether the parents of 14-year-old Karim Khadr are guilty of child abuse for counselling him to become a terrorist.

Maha Elsamnah Khadr arrived in Toronto from Pakistan with her paralyzed son two weeks ago, demanding health care and triggering a debate on the boy's right to medicare. Ms. Elsamnah wants treatment for the spinal injury the boy received in a gunfight with Pakistani troops that killed his father, Ahmed Said Khadr, an al-Qaeda fundraiser and Osama bin Laden operative.

An official says the Children's Aid Society of Toronto "has already begun" looking into Karim's treatment from his parents while the family lived in Afghan terrorism circles.

Authorities will start by investigating a report received yesterday from psychologist Marty McKay, an expert witness in more than 200 child welfare cases.

Ms. Elsamnah, who left Canada many years ago, denouncing it as a place unworthy of raising children lest they be exposed to drugs and homosexuality, has promised the glories of heaven to her offspring should they become martyrs for extremist Islamic causes. She has also declared her pride in another teenage son being held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for killing a U.S. medic.

That brand of parental guidance prompted Dr. McKay to raise the alarm with Children's Aid authorities, arguing it is part of her professional mandate as a clinical psychologist with 28 years in the field.

"I am sure that you would agree that counselling one's child to become suicidal or homicidal constitutes emotional child abuse, leading to physical abuse when the child acts upon these teachings," she said in her report.

Is this what Senator Kerry means by treating terrorism as a law enforcement issue? If that guy Bin-Laden isn’t careful, he’s going to find himself hauled up before Judge Judy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:56 PM


Studios Rush to Cash In on DVD Boom (SHARON WAXMAN, 4/20/04, NY Times)

Not since the advent of the videocassette in the mid-1980's has the movie industry enjoyed such a windfall from a new product. And just as video caused a seismic shift two decades ago, the success of the DVD is altering priorities and the balance of power in the making of popular culture. And industry players, starting with the Writers Guild, are lining up to claim their share.

There's good cause. Between January and mid-March this year, Americans spent $1.78 billion at the box office. But in the same period they spent $4.8 billion — more than $3 billion more — to buy and rent DVD's and videocassettes.

Little wonder then that studio executives now calibrate the release dates of DVD's with the same care used for opening weekends, as seen by Miramax's strategic release of "Kill Bill: Vol. 1" a few days before the theatrical release of "Kill Bill: Vol. 2." (The DVD made $40 million its first day out.)

Studios now spend comparable amounts of money on DVD and theatrical marketing campaigns. Disney spent an estimated $50 million marketing the "Finding Nemo" DVD last year, said officials at Pixar, which made the film. It was money well spent. The DVD took in $431 million domestically, about $100 million more than the domestic box office. DVD has resuscitated canceled or nearly canceled television series like "The Family Guy" and "24," and has helped small art movies like "Donnie Darko" win rerelease in theaters. It is also beginning to affect the kinds of movies being made, as DVD revenues figure heavily in green-light decisions and are used as a perk to woo craft-conscious movie directors.

"There's not a sector of the entertainment industry to which DVD is not a significant, if not the dominant, contributor of revenue," said Scott Hettrick, editor in chief of DVD Exclusive, a trade paper, pointing to the movie and television libraries being released on DVD. Even in the ailing music industry, he noted, music DVD's are an area of growth.

Master and Commander is out today and it's exquisite.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:45 PM


New Rules on Fund-Raising Bring Lobbyists to the Fore (GLEN JUSTICE, 4/20/04, NY Times)

A central purpose of the sweeping new campaign finance law was to limit the influence of special-interest money in politics.

But by a twist of legislative fate, lobbyists say that under the law they are being pressed by politicians to give and raise far more than ever.

"I'm getting killed with fund-raising requests everywhere," said Robert L. Livingston, a former Republican chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, now a lobbyist.

Before the law took effect in late 2002, political parties and candidates were fueled by six- and seven-figure soft money donations, which totaled hundreds of millions of dollars. Now that those have been banned, lawmakers and their parties are being forced to compensate by raising money in smaller increments. As a result, both are turning to a reliable source: lobbyists, who have always been an integral and interested party in the process.

While lobbyists have always been swamped with solicitations from politicians, many say they are being asked to give more and organize more fund-raising events, where they invite their clients to contribute.

The new law doubled to $2,000 the maximum that an individual can give to a candidate, and lobbyists donated accordingly. They gave candidates and political parties more than $12 million in 2003, 53 percent more than in the same period in the last presidential election, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign financing. And fund-raising has continued apace since then, putting lobbyists well on track to beat the totals in the 2000 races by Election Day.

It's hardly ironic, indeed it's quite predictable. Attempts to limit the amount of money in politics or restrain the raising of said are always destined to make the money and fundraising more important. Want to reduce the influence of money? Get rid of all the limits. It would have the added advantage of bringing the law back into conformity with the Constitution.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:35 PM


Jordan's Snub to Bush Is Tip of Iceberg (Jonathan Wright, 4/20/04, Reuters)

When the king of Jordan postponed this week's meeting with President Bush, the snub revealed only a fraction of the humiliation felt by Washington's Arab friends. [...]

Arab commentators have called a Bush letter to Sharon last week a new Balfour Declaration -- a reference to the British promise in 1917 to allow a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

The declaration, written by then British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour, lingers in the memory of Arabs and Muslims as a symbol of colonial powers giving away another people's land.

"The Balfour Declaration is a deep scar in our psyche. If someone like me is angry, imagine what it does to religious people and the fundamentalists," said Mohamed al-Sayed Said.

The comparison is quite apt. As the Balfour Declaration made an Israel inevitable so too have Mr. Bush's declarations made a Palestine inevitable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:28 PM


Lung Cancer Tops List of Cancer Deaths among Women (Sarah Graham, April 14, 2004, Scientific American)

Breast cancer is the type of cancer most closely linked with women in the public consciousness, but lung cancer has now surpassed it as the leading cause of cancer deaths among women. According to a report published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, fatalities for females suffering from the disease are up 600 percent since 1930, whereas the number of men who died of lung cancer over the same time period declined. [...]

In 2003 80,100 women in the U.S. were diagnosed with lung cancer--a 60 percent increase from 1990--and 68,800 of them died. Over the same time period, the number of new cases among males was constant. Much of the discrepancy can be attributed to differences in smoking behavior, Mark G. Kris of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and his colleagues report. Since the 1960s, the number of male smokers has decreased by about half, whereas the number of female smokers declined by only 25 percent. [...]

In the U.S. lung cancer now kills as many women as breast cancer and all gynecological cancers combined. "The extraordinary increase in lung cancer rates seen among U.S. women in the 20th century will be repeated among women in developing countries during this century unless effective tobacco control measures are implemented," the team concludes. "Curtailing the increase in tobacco use among women in developing countries represents one of the greatest opportunities for disease prevention in the world today."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:22 PM


Political Correctness: Or, the perils of benevolence (Roger Kimball, Winter 2003/04, National Interest)

[T]he roots of political correctness go back a long way. To some extent, I suppose, political correctness can be seen as part of the perennial human attraction to moral conformity, to be part of what the American art critic Harold Rosenberg memorably called the "herd of independent minds."

Political correctness can also be enlisted in what Alexis de Tocqueville, in his Democracy in America, called "democratic despotism." In pre-democratic societies, Tocqueville noted, despotism tyrannized. In modern democracies, it infantilizes. Democratic despotism is both "more extensive and more mild" than its precursors: it "degrades men without tormenting them." In this sense, Tocqueville continued, "the species of oppression by which democratic nations are menaced is unlike anything that ever before existed in the world."

Tocqueville's analysis, although written in the 1830s, seems remarkably contemporary. Let me quote a few sentences. The force of democratic despotism, Tocqueville wrote, would

be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood. . . . [I]t every day renders the exercise of the free agency of man less useful and less frequent; it circumscribes the will within a narrower range and gradually robs a man of all the uses of himself. . . . [T]he supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided. . . . Such a power does not destroy, . . . but it enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

Thus Tocqueville, who might have been writing about the latest initiative from the European Union.

Yet the impulse to conformity and democratic despotism are only part of the story. We come closer to the heart of political correctness--to the reality if not the phrase--with figures like Robespierre and St. Just. They and their comrades sought to bring post-Revolutionary France into line with what they called "virtue", the heady feeling that one was in the vanguard of enlightenment, an angel of truth, a beacon of uncommon wisdom.

It was--it is--a daring as well as an intoxicating vocation. In The Social Contract, Jean-Jacques Rousseau had warned that "Those who dare to undertake the institution of a people must feel themselves capable . . . of changing human nature, . . . of altering the constitution of man for the purpose of strengthening it." Robespierre & Co. thought themselves just the chaps for the job. The fact that they measured the extent of their success by the frequency that the guillotines around Paris operated highlights the connection between the imperatives of political correctness and tyranny--between what Robespierre candidly described as "virtue and its emanation, terror."

Nearer our own time, Chairman Mao, with his sundry campaigns to "re-educate" and raise the consciousness of a recalcitrant populace, offers a classic example of political correctness in action. Add to those efforts the linguistic innovations that George Orwell described in the Afterword to 1984 as "Newspeak" and you have limned the basic features of political correctness. The purpose of Newspeak, Orwell wrote, was to make "a heretical thought . . . literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words."

The word free still existed in Newspeak, but it could only be used in such statements as "this dog is free from lice" or "This field is free from weeds." It could not be used in its old sense of "politically free" or "intellectually free", since political and intellectual freedom no longer existed even as concepts, and were therefore of necessity nameless.

Just so, the politically correct of our own day seek to bring about a moral revolution by changing the way we speak and write about the world: a change of heart instigated and embodied by a change of language. Examples are legion. We are told to scrap the phrase "learning disabilities" and replace it with "learning differences." The announced hope is that little Johnny, who is a bit backward, poor thing, will not feel stigmatized; the secret hope is that by refusing to speak the truth, we can change the truth. The bbc tells its employees that they must use the word "partner" when referring to their wife or husband, since using "wife" and "husband" might seem to imply that the married state was somehow preferable to other possible modes of sexual cohabitation. Major newspapers in the United States refuse to accept advertisements for houses to let that mention that their property has "good views" (unfair to the blind), is "walking distance" to the train (unfair to the lame), is on a "quiet street" (unfair to the deaf). I know it sounds mad. It is mad. Nevertheless, it is true.

Kipling, de Tocqueville, Orwell, Bagehot and Stove in one essay? Be still our beating hearts.

Want to see political incorrectness? Try this one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:01 PM


QUESTIONS FOR KENNETH STARR: Life After the Report (Interview by DEBORAH SOLOMON, April 18, 2004, NY Times Magazine)

At the moment, you are representing the mother of the 9-year-old girl whose father wants the Supreme Court to strike the words ''under God'' from the Pledge of Allegiance.

It's obviously a very important case on both a constitutional level and a practical level. And it was a great honor to be called upon by Sandra Banning, the mother in the case.

Do any other countries have a pledge of allegiance to their flags?

Not to my knowledge.

And the phrase ''under God'' wasn't initially part of the pledge, was it?

No. Congress added the words ''under God'' in 1954. The American political philosophy was viewed in the 1950's as standing in sharp contrast to the political philosophy of the other side of the cold war.

But don't you think it trivialized religious belief to evoke God that way, as a handy weapon against Communism?

In my judgment, it is a clear and forceful articulation of our founding principles. We are endowed by our creator, in Jefferson's words, with certain inalienable rights.

Do you pray every night?

I am going to decline to get into that.

Do you believe that atheists go to hell?

I am not going to get into theology.

You're impeding my investigation. You won't answer anything, although you investigate everyone else.

Wait a second. Not everyone. Just one person. And I had a nice legal charter!

What do you do for fun?

As a family, we love hopping on horses. Our principal activity is most summers we get out to Wyoming and we ride.

And are you reading anything interesting now?

I am rereading Dickens's ''Bleak House.''

Now that is a book that certainly explains how getting obsessed with legal procedure can cause one to lose sight of the larger issues, namely justice.

One of my favorite quotes is from Justice Frankfurter, who said, ''The history of liberty has largely been the history of procedural safeguards.''

Whom do you plan to vote for in the presidential election?

We have a wonderful reform in this country. It's called the secret ballot.

I find you unnecessarily secretive.

But I told you about ''Bleak House.'' Now don't forget to mention my book -- First Among Equals: The Supreme Court in American Life. It's just out in paperback.

Nearly the dictionary definition of suffering fools gladly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:45 AM


Kerry would change war on terror (Stephen Dinan, April 19, 2004 , THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry said yesterday that he will treat the war on terror "primarily" as law-enforcement action even as he pledged to remain committed to Iraq and to personally plead for international help in policing and rebuilding that nation.

"In order to know who they are, where they are, what they're planning and be able to go get them before they get us, you need the best intelligence, best law-enforcement cooperation in the world," the Massachusetts senator said in an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press." [...]

In other comments on the show yesterday, Mr. Kerry stood by his statements that he received endorsements from numerous foreign leaders and made light of his 1971 assertion of having committed "atrocities" while serving in Vietnam.

Mr. Racicot also criticized Mr. Kerry for saying he would consider voting against funding for the war effort in the future, as he did last year, depending on the circumstances.

"This conditional support for the troops John Kerry voted to send to Iraq in the first place demonstrates a disturbing lack of judgment," Mr. Racicot said.

Someone needs to lock him in with a cask of amantillado until Election Day because every time he speaks he loses votes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:36 AM


Woodward, White House, Saudis: No election deal on oil: Kerry rips report of election-related deal (CNN, April 20, 2004)

The charge that Saudi Arabia made a secret pact with President Bush to lower gasoline prices in time to help him in the November presidential election was denied Monday by the White House, the Saudi ambassador to the United States -- and even by journalist Bob Woodward, who raised the specter of such a quid pro quo in a book released Monday.

"I don't say there's a secret deal or any collaboration on this," Woodward told CNN's "Larry King Live" Monday. "What I say in the book is that the Saudis ... hoped to keep oil prices low during the period before the election, because of its impact on the economy. That's what I say."

The Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who appeared on the program with Woodward, said his characterization of Saudi policy was "accurate."

"We hoped that the oil prices will stay low, because that's good for America's economy, but more important, it's good for our economy and the international economy," he said. "This is nothing unusual. President Clinton asked us to keep the prices down in the year 2000. In fact, I can go back to 1979, President Carter asked us to keep the prices down to avoid the malaise."

"So yes, it's in our interests and in America's interests to keep the prices down. But that was not a deal."

Bandar said much the same thing on April 1, after he met with national security adviser Condoleezza Rice at the White House amid concerns that OPEC production cuts might further push up the price of oil, with U.S. gas prices already at record levels.

Bandar said then that the Saudis wanted to keep the per-barrel price of oil, now topping $33, to between $22 and $28 a barrel, and he also said Bush and Crown Prince Abdullah, Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, "have been in touch on this subject for a while now."

"Saudi Arabia does not live on the moon. When the world economy gets hurt, we get hurt also," Bandar said.

Presumably Mr. Kerry isn't saying the Saudis should raise prices, is he? If we're going to have higher prices why don't we recoup them in taxes instead of letting the sheiks have them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:28 AM


The Case Against Perfection: What's wrong with designer children, bionic athletes, and genetic engineering (Michael J. Sandel, April 2004, Atlantic Monthly)

In order to grapple with the ethics of enhancement, we need to confront questions largely lost from view—questions about the moral status of nature, and about the proper stance of human beings toward the given world. Since these questions verge on theology, modern philosophers and political theorists tend to shrink from them. But our new powers of biotechnology make them unavoidable. [...]

It is commonly said that genetic enhancements undermine our humanity by threatening our capacity to act freely, to succeed by our own efforts, and to consider ourselves responsible—worthy of praise or blame—for the things we do and for the way we are. It is one thing to hit seventy home runs as the result of disciplined training and effort, and something else, something less, to hit them with the help of steroids or genetically enhanced muscles. Of course, the roles of effort and enhancement will be a matter of degree. But as the role of enhancement increases, our admiration for the achievement fades—or, rather, our admiration for the achievement shifts from the player to his pharmacist. This suggests that our moral response to enhancement is a response to the diminished agency of the person whose achievement is enhanced.

Though there is much to be said for this argument, I do not think the main problem with enhancement and genetic engineering is that they undermine effort and erode human agency. The deeper danger is that they represent a kind of hyperagency—a Promethean aspiration to remake nature, including human nature, to serve our purposes and satisfy our desires. The problem is not the drift to mechanism but the drive to mastery. And what the drive to mastery misses and may even destroy is an appreciation of the gifted character of human powers and achievements.

To acknowledge the giftedness of life is to recognize that our talents and powers are not wholly our own doing, despite the effort we expend to develop and to exercise them. It is also to recognize that not everything in the world is open to whatever use we may desire or devise. Appreciating the gifted quality of life constrains the Promethean project and conduces to a certain humility. It is in part a religious sensibility. But its resonance reaches beyond religion.

It is difficult to account for what we admire about human activity and achievement without drawing upon some version of this idea. Consider two types of athletic achievement. We appreciate players like Pete Rose, who are not blessed with great natural gifts but who manage, through striving, grit, and determination, to excel in their sport. But we also admire players like Joe DiMaggio, who display natural gifts with grace and effortlessness. Now, suppose we learned that both players took performance-enhancing drugs. Whose turn to drugs would we find more deeply disillusioning? Which aspect of the athletic ideal—effort or gift—would be more deeply offended?

Some might say effort: the problem with drugs is that they provide a shortcut, a way to win without striving. But striving is not the point of sports; excellence is. And excellence consists at least partly in the display of natural talents and gifts that are no doing of the athlete who possesses them. This is an uncomfortable fact for democratic societies. We want to believe that success, in sports and in life, is something we earn, not something we inherit. Natural gifts, and the admiration they inspire, embarrass the meritocratic faith; they cast doubt on the conviction that praise and rewards flow from effort alone. In the face of this embarrassment we inflate the moral significance of striving, and depreciate giftedness. This distortion can be seen, for example, in network-television coverage of the Olympics, which focuses less on the feats the athletes perform than on heartrending stories of the hardships they have overcome and the struggles they have waged to triumph over an injury or a difficult upbringing or political turmoil in their native land.

But effort isn't everything. No one believes that a mediocre basketball player who works and trains even harder than Michael Jordan deserves greater acclaim or a bigger contract. The real problem with genetically altered athletes is that they corrupt athletic competition as a human activity that honors the cultivation and display of natural talents. From this standpoint, enhancement can be seen as the ultimate expression of the ethic of effort and willfulness—a kind of high-tech striving. The ethic of willfulness and the biotechnological powers it now enlists are arrayed against the claims of giftedness.

The ethic of giftedness, under siege in sports, persists in the practice of parenting. But here, too, bioengineering and genetic enhancement threaten to dislodge it. To appreciate children as gifts is to accept them as they come, not as objects of our design or products of our will or instruments of our ambition. Parental love is not contingent on the talents and attributes a child happens to have. We choose our friends and spouses at least partly on the basis of qualities we find attractive. But we do not choose our children. Their qualities are unpredictable, and even the most conscientious parents cannot be held wholly responsible for the kind of children they have. That is why parenthood, more than other human relationships, teaches what the theologian William F. May calls an "openness to the unbidden."

May's resonant phrase helps us see that the deepest moral objection to enhancement lies less in the perfection it seeks than in the human disposition it expresses and promotes. The problem is not that parents usurp the autonomy of a child they design. The problem lies in the hubris of the designing parents, in their drive to master the mystery of birth. Even if this disposition did not make parents tyrants to their children, it would disfigure the relation between parent and child, and deprive the parent of the humility and enlarged human sympathies that an openness to the unbidden can cultivate.

To appreciate children as gifts or blessings is not, of course, to be passive in the face of illness or disease. Medical intervention to cure or prevent illness or restore the injured to health does not desecrate nature but honors it. Healing sickness or injury does not override a child's natural capacities but permits them to flourish.

Nor does the sense of life as a gift mean that parents must shrink from shaping and directing the development of their child. Just as athletes and artists have an obligation to cultivate their talents, so parents have an obligation to cultivate their children, to help them discover and develop their talents and gifts. As May points out, parents give their children two kinds of love: accepting love and transforming love. Accepting love affirms the being of the child, whereas transforming love seeks the well-being of the child. Each aspect corrects the excesses of the other, he writes: "Attachment becomes too quietistic if it slackens into mere acceptance of the child as he is." Parents have a duty to promote their children's excellence.

These days, however, overly ambitious parents are prone to get carried away with transforming love—promoting and demanding all manner of accomplishments from their children, seeking perfection. "Parents find it difficult to maintain an equilibrium between the two sides of love," May observes. "Accepting love, without transforming love, slides into indulgence and finally neglect. Transforming love, without accepting love, badgers and finally rejects." May finds in these competing impulses a parallel with modern science: it, too, engages us in beholding the given world, studying and savoring it, and also in molding the world, transforming and perfecting it.

The mandate to mold our children, to cultivate and improve them, complicates the case against enhancement. We usually admire parents who seek the best for their children, who spare no effort to help them achieve happiness and success. Some parents confer advantages on their children by enrolling them in expensive schools, hiring private tutors, sending them to tennis camp, providing them with piano lessons, ballet lessons, swimming lessons, SAT-prep courses, and so on. If it is permissible and even admirable for parents to help their children in these ways, why isn't it equally admirable for parents to use whatever genetic technologies may emerge (provided they are safe) to enhance their children's intelligence, musical ability, or athletic prowess?

The defenders of enhancement are right to this extent: improving children through genetic engineering is similar in spirit to the heavily managed, high-pressure child-rearing that is now common. But this similarity does not vindicate genetic enhancement. On the contrary, it highlights a problem with the trend toward hyperparenting. One conspicuous example of this trend is sports-crazed parents bent on making champions of their children. Another is the frenzied drive of overbearing parents to mold and manage their children's academic careers.

As the pressure for performance increases, so does the need to help distractible children concentrate on the task at hand. This may be why diagnoses of attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder have increased so sharply. Lawrence Diller, a pediatrician and the author of Running on Ritalin, estimates that five to six percent of American children under eighteen (a total of four to five million kids) are currently prescribed Ritalin, Adderall, and other stimulants, the treatment of choice for ADHD. (Stimulants counteract hyperactivity by making it easier to focus and sustain attention.) The number of Ritalin prescriptions for children and adolescents has tripled over the past decade, but not all users suffer from attention disorders or hyperactivity. High school and college students have learned that prescription stimulants improve concentration for those with normal attention spans, and some buy or borrow their classmates' drugs to enhance their performance on the SAT or other exams. Since stimulants work for both medical and nonmedical purposes, they raise the same moral questions posed by other technologies of enhancement.

However those questions are resolved, the debate reveals the cultural distance we have traveled since the debate over marijuana, LSD, and other drugs a generation ago. Unlike the drugs of the 1960s and 1970s, Ritalin and Adderall are not for checking out but for buckling down, not for beholding the world and taking it in but for molding the world and fitting in. We used to speak of nonmedical drug use as "recreational." That term no longer applies. The steroids and stimulants that figure in the enhancement debate are not a source of recreation but a bid for compliance—a way of answering a competitive society's demand to improve our performance and perfect our nature. This demand for performance and perfection animates the impulse to rail against the given. It is the deepest source of the moral trouble with enhancement. [...]

In a social world that prizes mastery and control, parenthood is a school for humility. That we care deeply about our children and yet cannot choose the kind we want teaches parents to be open to the unbidden. Such openness is a disposition worth affirming, not only within families but in the wider world as well. It invites us to abide the unexpected, to live with dissonance, to rein in the impulse to control. A Gattaca-like world in which parents became accustomed to specifying the sex and genetic traits of their children would be a world inhospitable to the unbidden, a gated community writ large. The awareness that our talents and abilities are not wholly our own doing restrains our tendency toward hubris.

Though some maintain that genetic enhancement erodes human agency by overriding effort, the real problem is the explosion, not the erosion, of responsibility. As humility gives way, responsibility expands to daunting proportions. We attribute less to chance and more to choice. Parents become responsible for choosing, or failing to choose, the right traits for their children. Athletes become responsible for acquiring, or failing to acquire, the talents that will help their teams win.

One of the blessings of seeing ourselves as creatures of nature, God, or fortune is that we are not wholly responsible for the way we are. The more we become masters of our genetic endowments, the greater the burden we bear for the talents we have and the way we perform. Today when a basketball player misses a rebound, his coach can blame him for being out of position. Tomorrow the coach may blame him for being too short. Even now the use of performance-enhancing drugs in professional sports is subtly transforming the expectations players have for one another; on some teams players who take the field free from amphetamines or other stimulants are criticized for "playing naked."

The more alive we are to the chanced nature of our lot, the more reason we have to share our fate with others. Consider insurance. Since people do not know whether or when various ills will befall them, they pool their risk by buying health insurance and life insurance. As life plays itself out, the healthy wind up subsidizing the unhealthy, and those who live to a ripe old age wind up subsidizing the families of those who die before their time. Even without a sense of mutual obligation, people pool their risks and resources and share one another's fate. [...]

A lively sense of the contingency of our gifts—a consciousness that none of us is wholly responsible for his or her success—saves a meritocratic society from sliding into the smug assumption that the rich are rich because they are more deserving than the poor. Without this, the successful would become even more likely than they are now to view themselves as self-made and self-sufficient, and hence wholly responsible for their success. Those at the bottom of society would be viewed not as disadvantaged, and thus worthy of a measure of compensation, but as simply unfit, and thus worthy of eugenic repair. The meritocracy, less chastened by chance, would become harder, less forgiving. As perfect genetic knowledge would end the simulacrum of solidarity in insurance markets, so perfect genetic control would erode the actual solidarity that arises when men and women reflect on the contingency of their talents and fortunes. [...]

There is something appealing, even intoxicating, about a vision of human freedom unfettered by the given. It may even be the case that the allure of that vision played a part in summoning the genomic age into being. It is often assumed that the powers of enhancement we now possess arose as an inadvertent by-product of biomedical progress—the genetic revolution came, so to speak, to cure disease, and stayed to tempt us with the prospect of enhancing our performance, designing our children, and perfecting our nature. That may have the story backwards. It is more plausible to view genetic engineering as the ultimate expression of our resolve to see ourselves astride the world, the masters of our nature. But that promise of mastery is flawed. It threatens to banish our appreciation of life as a gift, and to leave us with nothing to affirm or behold outside our own will.

Enthusiasts of enhancement like to dismiss the objections of conservative critics as little more than a superstitious fear of "playing God." In doing so they fail to come to terms with the political implications of "improving" humans. They cast themselves as defenders of freedom, but on closer examination are its enemies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:00 AM


Does Israel Need a Plan? (Daniel Pipes, February 2003, Commentary)

The year 2002 will be remembered as a low point in the long conflict between Palestinians and Israelis, when diplomacy came to a standstill, emotions boiled over, blood ran in the streets, and the prospects of all-out war drew closer. Anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic furies seemingly put to rest suddenly revived with stunning vehemence. The existence of Israel appeared imperiled as it had not been for decades.

This picture is accurate as far as it goes, but it omits one other salient feature of the landscape in 2002. The year also witnessed a host of new plans, initiatives, and schemes for fixing the situation. None of these ideas came from the Palestinian side—hardly surprising, given that Yasir Arafat seems to see violence against Israelis as the solution to all his problems. Instead, they issued from various parties in Israel and the United States, with an echo or two from Europe and the Arab states.

These plans, of which the best known is the Bush administration's "road map," run the gamut from tough-seeming to appeasing. But they have two qualities in common. All of them give up on the Oslo-era assumption of Palestinian-Israeli comity as the basis for negotiation. But at the same time, all of them proceed from a fundamentally flawed understanding of the conflict and therefore, if actually implemented, would be likely to increase tensions. None of them can lead to a resolution of the conflict; that requires an entirely different approach.

Suggestions for resolving the conflict fall into three main categories. The first consists of proposals for Israel to retain a significant portion of the territories won in the 1967 war while effectuating a unilateral separation from the Palestinians living there. [...]

Perhaps the simplest proposal for separation is the one that does not require moving people. It is to build a physical wall between the two populations. "A Protective Fence: the Only Way" was a popular bumper sticker in Israel before the Sharon government began building such an electronic boundary along a 192-mile line approximately between Israel and the West Bank. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon favors a beefed-up version of this plan, with trenches and mine fields, arguing that in combination, walls and buffer zones "will contribute to the security of all Israeli citizens." [...]

As for fences and buffer zones, they offer poor protection. Terrorists can go over a fence in gliders, around it in boats, or under it in tunnels; they can fire mortars or rockets over a wall, pass through checkpoints using false identification papers, and recruit Israeli Arabs or Western sympathizers on the wall's other side. Once a wall goes up, moreover, Israel would effectively surrender its influence over what happens beyond it, within the Palestinian Authority, including the latter's ability to import weapons and foreign troops. Nor, finally, would hunkering down behind a fence send the Palestinians the intended message, convincing them to give up on violence; on the contrary, it would likely reinforce an impression of Israel as a cowering and essentially passive society, thus spurring further violence. In sum: a fence may have utility as a tactical tool to save lives, but none as a basis for ending the conflict.

Palestinians Reap the "Rewards" of Terrorism: How Israelis have turned the current intifada into a complete disaster...for the Palestinians. (Daniel Pipes, April 20, 2004, FrontPageMagazine.com)
[S]haron’s tough policies have established that terrorism damages Palestinian interests even more than it does Israeli ones. This has led some analysts deeply hostile to Israel to recognize that the “second intifada” was a grievous error. Violence “just went haywire,” says Sari Nusseibeh, president of Al-Quds University. An “unmitigated disaster,” journalist Graham Usher calls it. A “crime against the Palestinian people,” adds an Arab diplomat.

After the execution of Hamas’s other leader, Ahmed Yassin, last month, sixty prominent Palestinians urged restraint in a newspaper ad, arguing that violence would provoke strong Israeli responses that would obstruct aspirations to build an independent “Palestine.” Instead, the signatories called for “a peaceful, wise intifada.”

Ordinary Palestinians, too, are drawing the salutary conclusion that murdering Israelis brings them no benefits. “We wasted three years for nothing, this uprising didn’t accomplish anything,” says Mahar Tarhir, 25, an aluminum-store owner. “Anger and disillusionment have replaced the fighting spirit that once propelled the Palestinian movement,” finds Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, a reporter for Knight Ridder.

As for Israelis, as early as July 2003 the military brass reached the conclusion that Israel was achieving victory. More sharply, Israeli analyst Asher Susser concluded in the Middle East Quarterly back then that the Palestinian effort to break the Israeli spirit through terror “has failed” and resorting to force “was a catastrophic mistake, the worst the Palestinians have made since 1948.”

And so we are arrived at the ideal moment to impose statehood on the Palestinians, a people fed up with the violence advocated by their "leadership" and desperate to get on with life. In retrospect, the President's declaration that the eventual map would contain two states, not just one, was obviously the beginning of the end of the conflict, not its low point at all.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:45 AM


Americans would pay more for cleaner air (Russell Totten, April 19, 2004, UPI)

A strong majority of voters will consider the presidential candidates' environmental protection policies when going to the polls in November, and most voters are willing to pay more for programs to protect the country's air and water supplies, according to a survey released Monday by The Trust for Public Land and The Nature Conservancy, two of the United States' largest conservation organizations.

The poll, coordinated to coincide with the 34th anniversary of Earth Day on Thursday, found that 65 percent of likely U.S. voters support a "small increase in taxes" to fund the government purchase of land in order to protect water quality, natural areas, neighborhood parks and wildlife habitat. Seventy-nine percent said that water quality issues will be "very" or "somewhat" important in choosing a presidential candidate -- and in the 17 "battleground" states most likely to determine the outcome of the presidential election, that figure remains high at 77 percent.

The poll also noted a growing concern among Americans that their communities are growing too quickly. In 1999, when economic growth was at its peak, 35 percent said their neighborhoods, towns and cities were growing too fast, and 25 percent said they were growing too slowly. But in the poll, 39 percent of respondents were worried about the fast pace of development, while 12 percent said growth was sluggish.

The national poll of 1,500 likely voters was conducted April 3-12 by Republican research firm Public Opinion Strategies and Democratic firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Associates. It has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

A revenue neutral tax on fuels makes all kinds of sense.

Natural Gas-Powered Limos Are Hollywood Hit (Stefan Lovgren, April 19, 2004, National Geographic News)

The newest addition to the limousine fleet of Los Angeles-based Evo Limo is a tricked-out Chevy Suburban monster ride that gets about 15 miles (24 kilometers) a gallon in gas mileage.

Your basic environmental nightmare, right?

Think again. This beast doesn't guzzle gasoline. Like the company's two other SUV limousines, it runs on natural gas, emitting 80 percent less smog-forming emissions than its gasoline-powered counterparts.

Is Hydrogen the Gasoline of the Future? (Nicole Davis, September 9, 2003, National Geographic News)
At Ford's Sustainable Mobility Technologies Lab in Dearborn, Michigan, where engineers are at work on the latest buzz-phrase in driving—hydrogen fuel cell cars—Mugeeb Ijaz runs down the vital stats on the Ford Focus above him. Suspended on a hydraulic lift, the underbelly of the popular sedan seems no different from the average car, except for the black metal box fastened to its middle.

In place of the gas tank, explains Ijaz, a supervisor for the fuel cells program at Ford, there is a stack of fuel cells. Instead of gas, this prototype, like dozens of others in development around Detroit, runs on hydrogen. Yet the most salient fact about this Focus is what it doesn't do: While the average car releases roughly six tons (5.4 metric tons) of carbon dioxide into the air each year, a hydrogen-fuel cell car emits zero pollutants.

Hydrogen can be used in an internal combustion engine. But a fuel cell car—essentially an electric car that uses the cells as a catalyst to convert hydrogen and oxygen into electricity—emits only heat and water vapor. For the environmentally conscious and those anxious over energy security, such benign byproducts could either be a red herring, or a real breakthrough.

Posted by David Cohen at 7:57 AM


Hanging Tough: Despite Troubles in Iraq, Poll Finds Presidential Ratings Steady or Rising (Gary Langer, ABC News, 4/19/04)

Equally important as issue preferences are personal attributes, and here, too, Kerry fares less well. Forty-nine percent rate him as "honest and trustworthy," down from 59 percent last month. (Bush does better, 55 percent and stable.) Kerry's rating as a strong leader is down nine points to 52 percent; as someone who understands people's problems, down seven points to 51 percent.

Bush does less well on empathy — just 41 percent think he understands their problems — but that's unchanged. He does better on being a strong leader — 64 percent, essentially unchanged, and 12 points better than Kerry.

In three new measures, just 45 percent say Bush admits his mistakes — but it's the same for Kerry. Just 46 percent say Bush is "always truthful in explaining his policies" — but it's just 38 percent for Kerry (with more undecided). And 79 percent say Bush "takes a position and sticks with it," while just 41 percent say that describes Kerry.

Sticks with his positions: Bush: 79% Kerry: 41
Strong leader: Bush: 64 Kerry: 52
Honest and trustworthy: Bush: 55 Kerry: 49
Truthful in explaining policies: Bush: 46 Kerry: 38
Admits mistakes: Bush: 45 Kerry: 46
Understands people's problems: Bush: 41 Kerry: 51

This poll is as anodyne as any that preceeds the election by six months, but we can start to see themes emerge. The ABC slant on the poll is "Iraq is a quagmire, so why isn't the President tanking?" There are a lot of assumptions built into this, but I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that the American voters may actually be adults. Shocking, I know, but there you are. The downfall of these polls is always the pollsters unspoken assumptions, and here ABC is misled by its assumption that Americans hate military casualties most of all, and that stability in the mideast is a good thing. The idea that we might be willing to take casualties in order to destabilize the current Arab regimes never occurs to them.

We can also see in the poll that the marketing strategies of both campaigns are paying off. John Kerry is, relative to the President, seen to be a waffling, prevaricating wimp who admits his mistakes (lots of practice I guess) and -- here's where Shrum is winning -- understands people's problems. Can't do anything about them, since he is a waffling, prevaricating wimp, but he does understand them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:52 AM


French doctors' protest deals new blow to government (Jon Henley, April 20, 2004, The Guardian)

France's embattled centre-right government faced further trouble from a restive public sector yesterday when some 300 senior hospital doctors signed a petition warning that the country's acclaimed healthcare system was in crisis.

"The situation is so grave that we consider it our duty as doctors to inform you," the 268 professors, heads of department and leading specialists wrote to "the people of France" in a letter published in Le Monde.

"Our hospitals, which practise medicine at the highest level, are being dislocated," they wrote. "Our healthcare system, seen yesterday as one of the best in the world, is being destroyed... we can no longer provide our fellow humans with the efficient treatment they need."

France's generous, highly appreciated but expensive healthcare system was ranked best in the world by the World Health Organisation four years ago. But a recent government report said that without fundamental reforms it would collapse by 2020.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:39 AM


Frist funnels campaign cash to Daschle foe (NANCY ZUCKERBROD, 4/19/04, Associated Press)

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., is relying on his fund-raising strength to try to oust his Democratic rival - Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.

Frist has helped funnel more than $150,000 so far this year to Republican John Thune, who is trying to unseat the three-term Daschle in what is expected to be one of the most competitive Senate races. In 2002, Thune lost to Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson by 524 votes in South Dakota, a Republican-leaning state that President Bush won handily two years earlier.

This is the Senate seat that Mr. Frist can match up against those obtained by Bill Owens (CO), Mitt Romney and Arnold.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:32 AM


Hamas ready to cooperate, but only in Gaza Behind the cries for revenge, power sharing talks go on (Conal Urquhart, April 20, 2004, The Guardian)

Hamas said yesterday that it would stop attacking Israeli targets from Gaza if Ariel Sharon carried out his proposed withdrawal from the strip.

But it maintained its right to fight against Israeli occupation of the West Bank and retaliate for the assassination of its leaders.

Despite almost constant vows of revenge by mourners since the death of its leader, Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi, senior officials want to continue discussing with the Palestinian Authority how Hamas could take a political role when and if Israel evacuates 18 settlements in the strip and withdraws its troops.

What's going to surprise people--many of the same people who said Israel would never unilaterally create a Palestinian state--is how quickly Hamas subsides into a mainly political organization as it is forced to meet the day-to-day needs of a sovereign Palestinian people. And Arafat and the PLO are a dead letter.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:24 AM


The return of people's war: Iraq shows the west and its new liberal imperialists have forgotten the lessons of history (Martin Jacques, April 19, 2004, The Guardian)

What lies at the core of people's war is the desire of people to rule themselves rather than be governed by foreign countries, often from thousands of miles away, that are possessed of utterly alien values and their own self-serving priorities. This is a principle that the west has found extremely difficult to learn. And even when it appears to have finally learned the lesson - always the hard way, by defeat - it seems to suffer another bout of amnesia: how could this country not be served better by adopting our values and our institutions, even if the ministering of the medicine does require application with more than a little force?

The Vietnamese proved, with extraordinary courage and intelligence, that people's war could triumph against the most formidable and frightening odds. The Americans may have possessed awesome weapons, but the Vietnamese commanded the hearts and minds - and eventually even managed to convince the American public that the war could not be won. Their victory was to transform the conduct of American foreign policy for a quarter-century - until the arrival of the Bush regime, which declined to accept the verities of the Vietnamese conflict and preferred to believe that defeat was a consequence of a lack of US military resolve.

Epochal change inevitably brings into question old assumptions. The end of the cold war clearly belongs to this category. The Americans regarded the war against North Vietnam as a crucial plank in the fight against communism: if South Vietnam should fall, the domino effect would surely follow. Self-determination, though, was no creature of communism. True, the great anti-colonial struggles historically coincided with the high tide of communism and some of the most effective protagonists of people's war were communist parties. Moreover, the Soviet bloc gave sustenance and support to these struggles, while the west was almost invariably arraigned as their enemy. But self-determination and people's war were, and remain, utterly distinct phenomena, quite independent of communism.

This lesson seems to have been forgotten by the Americans and by many others in the west as well. Come Iraq, it was as if the power and virtue of self-determination and people's war belonged to another, bygone era, without application to the times in which we live. They had gone the same way as so much else during that absurd decade of the 1990s, when everything of worth was "new", and history was only relevant to the past. Perhaps also the western mind was diverted by the fact that, following the heroic achievements of the Vietnamese, many self-determination struggles took the form of extremely bloody and unpleasant ethnic wars, with minority national groups seeking independence from what they saw as their new oppressors.

A year ago, at the time of the invasion of Iraq, few anticipated, least of all the Bush administration, that there would be any sustained resistance. On the contrary, Bush and Blair expected the "coalition" troops to be embraced as liberating forces: after all, with good old western imperial hubris, were they not the bearers of our own infinitely superior values? The new breed of liberal imperialists, refugees from the left, swallowed that whole and forgot the lessons of half a century of history. Even when the resistance began to get under way, it was almost invariably described - by governments and media alike - as the remnants of the Saddam regime, together with foreign terrorists, and thereby summarily dismissed.

It is now clear to everyone - apart from Donald Rumsfeld and his cronies - that, far from being a rump of Saddamist malcontents, the resistance enjoys broad based support among the Sunnis and increasingly the Shias too. The old truths are alive and well. People do not want to be ruled by an alien power from thousands of miles away whose interests are self-serving. The resistance in Iraq bears all the hallmarks of a people's war for self-determination.

His version of Vietnam is positively deranged and there appears to be almost no popular support for the various thuggish resistances in Iraq, but he's right that folks want to govern themselves. Of course, that's precisely what we've promised to let them do starting July 1. In fact, most of the violence in Iraq would seem to be a function of the coming era of self-determination, when the Sunni and twerps like Al-Sadr stand to lose whatever power they have.

April 19, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:43 PM


Switch to daylight-saving said to reduce accidents, crime (Japan Times, 4/20/04)

Annual traffic accidents can be reduced by about 1.1 percent if Japan adopts daylight-saving time, according to projections released Monday by the Japan Productivity Center for Socioeconomic Development.

The center said the economic effect of turning the hands of the clock ahead an hour between April and October would be worth some 46 billion yen a year.

In recent years, the annual number of traffic accidents has hovered around 940,000, and police say statistics show they usually occur around dusk.

Center officials said calculations based on the percentage of accidents vis-a-vis traffic volume by time and season of occurrence show that about 10,000 accidents can be avoided by shifting to daylight-saving time.

It also said that under a daylight-saving regime, 10 percent fewer women would have their purses snatched on their way home from work and 4 percent fewer would be similarly victimized while shopping in the early evening.

We've too many chevaux de bataille of our own to ever indict others for theirs, but the psychotic hatred of libertarians for Daylight Savings Time is at least amusing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:02 PM


John Kerry's War (Steve Hayes, April 17, 2004, Washington Post)

I knew John Kerry. We served together in late 1968 and early '69 as Navy Swift Boat officers-in-charge in Coastal Division 14 in Cam Ranh Bay and in Coastal Division 11 in An Thoi, Vietnam.

I didn't know him well. I found him a bit aloof and imperious. After a 24-hour patrol, most of us would kick back, get a cold beer, talk or sleep. After a 24-hour patrol, I remember Kerry would usually be in the squadron office writing. I never knew exactly what he was working on. Notes? Letters? His war diary? But always he was writing.

His service along the coast and in the rivers was commendable. But there was always something a bit odd about his time with us.

Kerry served approximately 41/2 months "in country" -- a little more than one-third the normal 12-month tour. Within a 90-day period, he received three injuries that resulted in Purple Heart awards. All three wounds were minor. Tedd Peck, one of our Coastal Division 14 fellow officers, says that Kerry pressured our squadron executive officer to "put him in" for his first Purple Heart after the squadron commander indicated he thought the injury was so minor it didn't rise to the level of an award.

Finally, Lt. j.g. Kerry could have remained in Vietnam with the rest of us, but he made a formal request to be reassigned to the States, as three Purple Hearts entitled him to do. I remember colleagues leaving Vietnam early . . . in body bags. I remember some being medevaced back home because of serious wounds. I recall no one, except Kerry, asking that his tour be cut short and that he be sent home.

All this has always seemed just a little strange to me. But no more strange than the son of a Texas congressman jumping over several hundred other folks to gain admission to the Texas National Guard, then not showing up -- or at least not having any record of attendance -- at many of the mandatory drills. But then the late '60s and early '70s were strange times.

Most Vietnam veterans I know who oppose Kerry are not irate over what he did or did not do in Vietnam but over what he did after returning. His mistake was in blurring the line between protesting the war and our foreign policy on the one hand and, on the other hand, tarnishing the reputations of good men who did what their country asked them to do.

This seems to be a consensus most Americans can settle on. His service in Vietnam was honorable. His performance on his return stateside was despicable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:53 PM


Giuliani remains a New York favorite, poll finds (MARC HUMBERT, April 19, 2004, Associated Press)

Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is a clear front-runner for governor in 2006 in theoretical matchups with two Democrats who have expressed interest in the job, according to a statewide poll released Monday.

The poll showed Giuliani, a Republican, leading Sen. Charles Schumer 57 percent to 37 percent, and state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer 59 percent to 34 percent.

Giuliani, a one-time federal prosecutor, became known as America's mayor after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

He has said he may get back into politics in 2006 with a run for governor or for the Senate against Democratic incumbent Hillary Rodham Clinton. Giuliani dropped out of the 2000 Senate race won by the then-first lady after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He was barred by term limits from running for a third term as mayor in 2001.

In a hypothetical Giuliani-Clinton race, the Marist poll had the former mayor favored by 50 percent of voters with the Democratic incumbent backed by 48 percent.

Ms Clinton has served herself well by sticking to her knitting--focussing on only her Senate seat and her constituents.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:43 PM


Lessons for US from a Shiite uprising in Lebanon: Observers of Israel's mid-80s occupation see a striking resemblance to the occupation of Iraq. (Nicholas Blanford, 4/20/04, CS Monitor)

Some veteran observers of south Lebanon see parallels between Israel's confrontation with Lebanese Shiites in the 1980s and the US-led coalition's campaign against Sadr in Iraq.

"The similarities between Iraq today and south Lebanon [in the 1980s] are very striking," says Timur Goksel, a university lecturer in Beirut who served with the UN peacekeeping force in south Lebanon from 1979 to 2003. "Even the language of American military commanders is the same as Israeli commanders back in the 1980s, talking of wiping out the enemy. But if you go in to wipe them out, then you will lose."

The US military appears to appreciate the symbolic importance of Najaf. The troop buildup may be geared more toward coercing Sadr to call off the uprising than a preparation for military action.

But a wrong move could reignite the Sadr revolt, analysts say. The coalition should back away, Mr. Goksel says, and allow the Shiite leadership to negotiate with Sadr behind the scenes. "Going in by force only undermines the efforts of the Shiites trying to talk an end to it," he says.

That view was shared by Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, who warned last week that relying on force "is a big mistake with severe consequences."

The US military has been criticized for adopting counterinsurgency tactics previously used by Israeli forces in Lebanon and more recently in the West Bank and Gaza, such as bulldozing houses of suspected militants, sealing off villages with razor wire, mass detentions, and excessive use of firepower.

It was similar tactics by Israel in the 1980s, coupled with a growing perception that Israeli forces had no intention of a swift departure, that goaded the Lebanese Shiites to turn to armed resistance.

It is making clear our intent to depart that is all important here and the case is not helped by neocons (Bill Kristol, John McCain, etc.) and opponents of the President (John Kerry, etc.) who call for more troops and delaying the handover of sovereignty for their own ulterior motives.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:26 PM


Crane Seeks Full Tax Deduction for HSAs (Steve Stanek, 04/01/2004, The Heartland Institute)

When Health Savings Accounts became law on January 1, millions of Americans received the chance to buy low-cost health insurance policies and save money in tax-free savings accounts. Now a move is afoot in Congress to make health insurance still more affordable by making HSA insurance premiums 100 percent tax-deductible.

“This deduction would be available to all Americans with a Health Savings Account regardless of whether the individual itemizes or not,” said Congressman Phil Crane (R-Illinois), who plans to introduce tax-deduction legislation this spring. “This legislation is an important step towards reducing the rolls of the uninsured and ensuring that more people have access to affordable health care.”

In his January State of the Union address, President George W. Bush asked Congress to pass legislation allowing individuals who buy catastrophic health care coverage as part of a Health Savings Account to deduct 100 percent of the premiums from their taxes. Under most circumstances, health insurance premiums are not deemed to be qualified medical expenses under the current HSA law. Crane said his bill would address that issue.

Congress approved HSAs late last year as part of the Medicare reform package. The HSA allows a person to buy a high-deductible health insurance policy, which can shave hundreds of dollars off monthly premiums. Eligible individuals (or their employers) may establish Health Savings Accounts to pay for routine medical expenses or expenses that would otherwise be covered by the insurance but fall within the deductible. Once the deductible is reached, the insurance coverage takes over.

If an employer establishes an HSA, employee contributions may be made on a pre-tax basis. If the employer makes a contribution to the HSA, the contribution is tax-deductible by the employer and not considered to be taxable income to the individual. The maximum pre-tax contribution allowed in 2004 is $2,600 for persons with self-only coverage and $5,150 for those with family coverage. In both cases, the contribution may not exceed the annual deductible.

The money grows tax-free and can be withdrawn tax-free for medical expenses not paid for by insurance. Funds left in the account at year-end roll over into the next year. At retirement, unused HSA funds may be withdrawn for any purpose, not just medical care, lending a financial as well as a health insurance component to the accounts.

“Because HSAs allow people to save the money remaining in their account at the end of the year, they will have an incentive to ask for the price before they get medical care, to shop around for a provider and generally become good consumers in the health care marketplace,” Crane said. “Most importantly, HSAs are an essential tool to help 43 million uninsured Americans afford health insurance. People who are currently without health insurance need health coverage, and HSAs will provide an option to people who otherwise would go without medical care.”

Indeed, it will even be worth having government fund them for the poorest Americans to some considerable extent.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:57 PM


The Economic Lessons of President Hoover (Tim Kane, Ph.D., April 16, 2004, Heritage)

The economy today is strong, but perceptions remain gloomy thanks to unrelenting negative rhetoric from some politicians in Washington. Despite the widely held view, on Wall Street and elsewhere, that the economy may be overheating, Senator John Kerry and the Democratic Party maintain that President George Bush has “the worst economic record since the Hoover Administration." But is this really an apt comparison?

Herbert Hoover, of course, was President from 1929 to 1933. Given today’s rhetoric, it may be instructive to review his record—both the economic facts and the misguided policy responses that converted the 1930 recession into the decade-long Great Depression.

* Jobs. Hoover’s economy lost 6.4 million jobs in four years, almost half during his last year. Unemployment rose to 24.9 percent. Since Bush took office, payroll jobs are down, but overall employment is up by 400,000. Since the recent recession ended in late 2001, 1.9 million more Americans have found jobs. Most importantly, the rate of unemployment is 5.7 percent today, which is low by almost any standard.

* GDP. Real output collapsed during the Hoover administration, declining by more than 25 percent after the 1929 peak. Today’s real GDP is over $700 billion dollars greater than it was when Bush was sworn in. Growth has accelerated sharply and reached a 6.1 percent annualized average rate over the most recent two quarters. [...]

Policies of the Hoover era

Monetary policy, controlled entirely by the Federal Reserve, was unforgivably tight in 1930, raising interest rates. In contrast, Alan Greenspan’s Fed has aggressively lowered the federal funds rate to from 6.5 percent in 2000 to a steady 1 percent today, driving up investment and asset values. [...]

Questions and Answers

* Were Hoover's policies responsible for the Great Depression?

The policy response of President Hoover, a Republican, to economic crisis was mixed, especially after a Democratic majority was elected to Congress in 1930. Economic polices of the time included, from during and after Hoover’s term, the Smoot-Hawley Tariff in 1930, tax increases in 1932, 1935, and 1937, and a new Social Security tax in 1937.

Economists are universally critical of the contractionary monetary policy of the Federal Reserve during the first phase of the Depression, which had a greater impact than fiscal policy.

Protectionism, increased government spending, raising interest rates into the teeth of deflation and hiking tax rates on an impoverished nation. What's mixed?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:40 PM


State Republicans See 2004 As a Year of Opportunity (Steve Landfield, 4/16/04, Practical Politics)

New Jersey has been firmly in the Democratic camp in presidential elections. You would have to go back 16 years, to the 1988 Bush-Dukakis contest, to find the last time the Republicans carried this state in presidential voting. In the last presidential election, in 2000, Al Gore easily won New Jersey by over half a million votes.

But, it’s now four years later and an entirely different world, suggesting for state Republicans that this is a year of great opportunity. First and foremost, according to state Sen. Joe Kyrillos, chair of the NJ State Republican Committee, is the president himself and the power of his leadership. In the post-9/11 world, “The preeminent issue of our time is the nation’s security,” said Kyrillos, and that, he suggests, is where the president has shown his greatest strength. “A majority of people believe we should be vigilant.” [...]

Counting on Jewish voters Republicans also feel optimistic about their support from the Jewish community. While a large majority of Jews vote Democratic, many are expected to show their gratitude to Bush at the polls for standing by Ariel Sharon’s side and refusing to deal with Yasser Arafat. The GOP, meanwhile, is trying to paint Kerry as a candidate in thrall to the Jimmy Carter wing of the Democratic Party and its “evenhandedness” toward the Mideast conflict. Even a small swing among Jewish voters can be significant in key battleground states for 2004, such as New Jersey, Florida, and Ohio.

“There has been no better president for Israel,” according to Kyrillos. “There has been a commitment for the State of Israel and for the American-Israeli partnership.” And that commitment translates into hard dollars for Republicans, not only at the national level, but here in New Jersey as well.

Beyond the rhetoric, the state GOP is mounting an aggressive campaign, has hired a new executive director, and is planning a much greater grassroots effort. [...]

For NJ Republicans, the real prize is in 2005, when Gov. James McGreevey is up for reelection. McGreevey has consistently struggled in the polls and will be a prime target for state Republicans. Still, Kyrillos said, their goal is to take things “one step at a time.” Their first goal is to see the president get reelected, and they are not going to be shy about it.

Given the peculiar nature of the scandal surrounding Mr. McGreevey and rumors that Steve Forbes may be willing to step up to the race, the governor's seat would appear to be winnable. Mr. Forbes would do himself some good by being front and center promoting the Bush re-election this Fall.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:23 PM


Gorelick role raised early (Charles Hurt, 4/19/04, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Former acting FBI Director Thomas J. Pickard told the September 11 commission in a private interview earlier this year that he was surprised that Jamie S. Gorelick is serving on the panel because she had played a key role in setting the very counterterrorism policies being investigated.

According to a summary of that interview obtained by The Washington Times, Mr. Pickard said Ms. Gorelick -- who was No. 2 in the Clinton Justice Department under Attorney General Janet Reno -- resisted efforts by the FBI to expand the counterterrorism effort beyond simple law enforcement tactics and agencies.

"Mr. Pickard indicated that it was a growing concern that the international terrorism threat was 'bigger than law enforcement,'†" according to the notes from a Jan. 20 meeting at the commission's New York office.

"Despite expression of these concerns by FBI executive management, Attorney General Reno and her Deputy Jamie Gorelick believed that a law enforcement approach was appropriate," the notes say.

In a footnote, the FBI employee who attended the meeting and kept the notes wrote: "Mr. Pickard stated that he finds her 'membership on your Commission surprising since it [the decision to counter international terrorism with a law enforcement-only approach] was her and Reno's policy.'"

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:10 PM


Bush names Negroponte ambassador to Iraq: U.S. diplomat to U.N. would assume post after June 30 handover (The Associated Press, April  19, 2004)

President Bush on Monday named John Negroponte, the United States’ top diplomat at the United Nations, as the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. [...]

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Dick Lugar, R-Ind., supports the nomination and said he will work with Secretary of State Colin Powell to provide a prompt public hearing for Negroponte.

If confirmed by the Senate, Negroponte would head a U.S. Embassy in Baghdad that will be temporarily housed in a palace that belonged to Saddam. When up and running, the embassy will be the largest in the world. [...]

Negroponte’s nomination for the U.N. post was confirmed by the Senate in September 2001, but that confirmation didn’t come easy.

It was delayed a half-year mostly because of criticism of his record as the U.S. ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985. In Honduras, Negroponte played a prominent role in assisting the Contras in Nicaragua in their war with the left-wing Sandinista government, which was aligned with Cuba and the Soviet Union.

For weeks before his Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Negroponte was questioned by staff members on whether he had acquiesced to human rights abuses by a Honduran death squad funded and partly trained by the Central Intelligence Agency.

This is a direct slap at John Kerry and the rest of the pro-Sandinista Democrats.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:58 PM


The Gospel According to George: The press wanted contrition. Maybe they don't understand the man. Bush's faith will guide him—in Iraq and at the polls (Howard Fineman and Tamara Lipper, 4/26/04, Newsweek)

There it is, encapsulated in prime time: the Bush campaign, presidency and world view. This is a president who often would rather preach than answer questions—or ask them. He leads and runs unapologetically on faith, dividing the world and the presidential campaign into two discrete spheres: one for patriots who believe in his policies and vision, and one for everyone else. Whether he can win re-election that way is unclear. The race is a tossup; the press conference didn't appreciably move the polling needle. But if Karl Rove is the guru, the strategy is pure Martin Luther. "Here I stand," Bush seems to declare. "I can do no other."

Faith in his vision (and Dick Cheney's) is the essence of his war leadership, Bob Woodward reports in his new book, "Plan of Attack." As Woodward describes it, Bush essentially locked onto the notion of invading Iraq by the winter of 2001, and gave the "go" order 16 months later without subjecting the idea to a real vetting by his inner circle. Asked whether he seeks his own father's advice on Iraq, the son demurred. "You know, he is the wrong father to appeal to in terms of strength," the president told Woodward. "There is a higher father that I appeal to."

Tellingly, there was no rage at the White House over the Woodward account. "Sure he asked for the new war plan on Iraq," said one top aide. "He asked for updates on 67 other plans as well." The president needed to keep his provisional decision quiet to prevent a public uproar that might have limited his options later, said another aide. There was no formal directive to the Pentagon until February 2002—still more than a year before the war commenced. But the White House does not dispute the basic notion that Bush (and Cheney) had long had Iraq in their gun sights. Woodward is "a good reporter," said one official.

Why would he apologize for liberating Iraq?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:48 PM


Kerry’s Consigliere: For the legendary strategist Bob Shrum, a lifetime in Democratic politics comes down to John Kerry and a final shot at the White House (Ryan Lizza, May 2004, The Atlantic Monthly)

As anyone who has worked closely with him or covered one of his campaigns can attest, his political skills are not limited to winning elections. Kerry's campaign offers just the latest example of his Rumsfeld-like mastery of bureaucratic maneuvering. "He is a savage infighter," one friend explains—skilled at conquering rivals within a campaign and consolidating power by taking his arguments directly to the candidate. Last fall aides who had prepared a speech to launch the campaign were stunned to learn that Shrum had materialized at Kerry's Boston home and stayed up with him through the night, rewriting it to his own liking. "He plays 'capture the candidate' better than anyone," a former Kerry aide says.
Not surprisingly, Shrum has attracted more than his share of enemies, whose criticism is startling even by Washington standards. "He wreaks havoc in campaigns," says a senior Gore aide who clashed with him in 2000. Yet despite Shrum's reputation for being quarrelsome, disruptive, and prone to tantrums, Kerry eagerly enticed him to join the campaign. As a close friend of Shrum's counters when asked about the trail of invective that follows the consultant, "Why is it that almost every major candidate for the Democratic nomination since 1972 has wanted Bob Shrum to work for them? ... These are not dumb people." The Democratic strategist James Carville, who has worked with Shrum on five campaigns, adds, "I think he's getting a really bad rap."

Nevertheless, all the controversy has lately begun to catch up with Shrum—and not all of it is about his personality. At issue is whether he is as valuable as he is reputed to be or whether his populist message has become shopworn and ineffective. As far back as 1980 The Washington Post pointed out how often he failed: "Friends of Shrum's joke that he's had so many losers that he wouldn't know what to do with a winner." That year he was Ted Kennedy's chief speechwriter when the senator challenged Shrum's old ideological bête noire, Jimmy Carter. But Kennedy lost. By 1988 Shrum, now a full-service consultant, had graduated to Mario Cuomo, who never ran, and then signed on with Richard Gephardt in the primaries. Gephardt lost too. Shrum wound up working for Michael Dukakis's ill-fated general-election campaign. In 1992 his horse was Bob Kerrey. But Kerrey soon bowed out, and Shrum never managed to penetrate Bill Clinton's inner circle. In 2000 he was one of Al Gore's top advisers, with all-too-familiar results. At one point Shrum even attended a strategy meeting for the ultimate losing candidate, New Coke. [...]

In November he emerged as the dominant power in the campaign after an internal struggle led to the departure of Kerry's campaign manager, Jim Jordan. Shrum can expect to exert the leverage over Kerry that he lacked during his short tenure with Carter—aides whisper that the nominee talks to Shrum more than to anyone but his wife. The two already have a bond of trust, because Shrum rejuvenated Kerry's imperiled 1996 Senate campaign. "When you've gone through a near-death experience, you tend to hold on to those who helped get you through those moments," says Jim Margolis, who produces Kerry's television ads with Shrum. Another colleague adds, "To the extent that there is a Karl Rove in this operation, Karl is named Bob."
What is perhaps most fascinating about the coming election is that Shrum's trademark populism, which seemed so discordant just two years ago, will suddenly have renewed resonance. With much of the country passionately aligned against President Bush, the consummate Shrum villain if ever there was one, the sociological and political landscape may at last be hospitable to the consultant's steadfast world view. And a win for Kerry would bestow on Shrum the one thing that separates him from Karl Rove: credit for bringing a President to power.

If, however, Kerry loses, he will become the second patrician Democrat in two presidential elections to do so on populist themes of economic and class warfare. It's hard to see how Shrum's outsize reputation—and by extension the current direction of the Democratic Party—could possibly remain intact.

It's a mark of just how frozen in amber the Democratic Party is that Mr. Shrum, whose Ted Kennedy campaign was too far Left to win even the Democratic nomination in 1980, is running the same campaign in the general election of a far more conservative America a quarter century later. Karl Rove idolizes McKinley, but he doesn't base races on the tariff.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:52 PM


A Crash Course in Dubyanomics (Peter Robinson, January 6, 2004, Uncommon Knowledge)

Peter Robinson: Welcome to Uncommon Knowledge, I'm Peter Robinson. Our show today: the economic policies of George W. Bush. The decades of the 1980s and 1990s would seem to offer two quite different models for promoting economic growth. The 1980s under Ronald Reagan? Deep tax cuts and mounting federal deficits. The 1990s under Bill Clinton? Tax increases and growing federal surpluses. Yet the results in both decades were similar: economic boom. George W. Bush has clearly been following the Reagan model, cutting taxes even as federal deficits mount to now record levels. But has the President drawn the correct lessons from our recent economic history? Are his policies genuinely promoting long-term, sustainable, economic growth or endangering it instead?

Joining us today, two guests. Robert Barro is an economist at Harvard University, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a columnist for Businessweek magazine. Paul Krugman is an economist at Princeton University, a columnist for the New York Times and the author of a recent book highly critical of George W. Bush entitled The Great Unraveling.

Title: A Crash Course in Dubyanomics

Peter Robinson: Nobel Prize-winning economist George Akerlof on the fiscal policies of George W. Bush, "What we have here is a form of looting." Robert?

Robert Barro: I think the tax policy's been very good. The economy's doing great so I don't agree with that.

Peter Robinson: Paul?

Paul Krugman: He's exactly right. It's a form of looting.

Peter Robinson: A form of looting. All right. Let's set the fiscal policies of George W. Bush in the context of recent, economic history, Eighties and Nineties. Reaganomics. Ronald Reagan cuts personal income tax rates by some 30% across the board, engages in a major increase in defense spending and runs up chronic deficits, adding 1.4 trillion to the federal debt. And the economy responds how? By entering on the--to that point in American history, longest peacetime expansion we had ever seen, 18 million new jobs, interest rates down, inflation down, stock of assets in the United States increases in value by $17 trillion. What did Ronald Reagan do right? Paul?

Paul Krugman: There are a lot of things that explain that expansion and it was just a business-cycle expansion. It was just taking up the slack. If you look at the underlying rate of growth of productivity, nothing good happened during the Reagan years. It was the same as it had been before.

Peter Robinson: And you give Ronald Reagan no credit at all? Reagan's policies had nothing to do with it. Purely cyclical.

Paul Krugman: It was purely cyclical. Did Ronald Reagan's policies have anything to do with the good cyclical developments after 1982? A bit. Federal Reserves policies had more to do with it. But I think you could easily have come up with a policy that would have not have built up all that debt and would have done just as well in the business cycle. So I give him nothing.

Invocation of the "Business Cycle" is, so far as any non-economist can tell, simply a device to obscure ignorance. That our economic lives are in the very broadest sense cyclical is a truism. Sometimes the economy is thriving and other times it's failing. For the "Cycle" to mean anything though those periods would have to correlate to something, not just be historical observations.

The French tend to think of war as cyclical. They've won some and lost others. As it happens, they've been in a down cycle since Waterloo. But the win cycle has to come around again soon, right?

Here's the ignorance that Mr. Krugman is trying to obscure in this specific instance: if the Reagan boom is just cyclical then why has it lasted for twenty-plus uninterrupted years?



What Was the GDP Then?

Year Real GDP
(billions of 2000 dollars)
Real GDP
per Capita
(2000 dollars)
1982 $5,189 $22,349
1983 $5,423 $23,148
1984 $5,813 $24,597
1985 $6,053 $25,386
1986 $6,263 $26,027
1987 $6,475 $26,668
1988 $6,742 $27,518
1989 $6,981 $28,225
1990 $7,112 $28,434
1991 $7,100 $28,010
1992 $7,336 $28,558
1993 $7,532 $28,943
1994 $7,835 $29,743
1995 $8,031 $30,131
1996 $8,328 $30,885
1997 $8,703 $31,891
1998 $9,066 $32,837
1999 $9,470 $33,907
2000 $9,817 $34,758
2001 $9,866 $34,553
2002 $10,080 $34,937
2003 $10,390 $35,790

Source "What Was the GDP Then?"

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:47 PM

DON'T HAVE A SEIZURE, DUDE (via Kevin Whited):

We Didn't Dare Wait (William Raspberry, April 19, 2004, Washington Post)

What follows is the speech the president didn't make at his news conference last week. He can use it now, with no further permission from me.

Before I take your questions, I would like to speak plainly for a moment to the American people.

We're having some tough times in Iraq, and many Americans are wondering how we came to be in such a tough spot. Some are asking: Isn't it time to just get out?

These are tough questions, but the people deserve some answers. From your president's point of view, the answers start with Sept. 11. That was the day the world changed. That was the day America changed. And that was the day, my fellow Americans, when your president changed. Up to that nightmarish day, the policy of the United States was to remain strong in the face of a foreign threat but to strike only if that threat became action. It was a policy that guided our nation for most of its history. Don't start anything with anybody, but crush anybody who starts anything with us. We were like the sheriff of the old Western movies, poised and ready, but waiting for the other guy to draw first.

My friends, Sept. 11 changed all that. Suddenly, waiting for the other guy to shoot first no longer made sense. That policy might have worked when the bad guys were armed with swords or six-shooters, when even the bad guys played by certain rules. It does not work in the face of evil that accepts no limits, that will not hesitate to destroy anything or anyone -- even fellow countrymen -- to achieve its objectives.

That is the evil we have faced since Sept. 11.

That's an adequate restatement of the President's Axis of Evil speech, but has rather little to do with why we deposed Saddam. As the President quite clearly told the UN, the case against Saddam was a straightforward legal one, stemming from the first Gulf War:
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. [...]

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.

We can harbor no illusions -- and that's important today to remember. Saddam Hussein attacked Iran in 1980 and Kuwait in 1990. He's fired ballistic missiles at Iran and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Israel. His regime once ordered the killing of every person between the ages of 15 and 70 in certain Kurdish villages in northern Iraq. He has gassed many Iranians, and 40 Iraqi villages.

My nation will work with the U.N. Security Council to meet our common challenge. If Iraq's regime defies us again, the world must move deliberately, decisively to hold Iraq to account. We will work with the U.N. Security Council for the necessary resolutions. But the purposes of the United States should not be doubted. The Security Council resolutions will be enforced -- the just demands of peace and security will be met -- or action will be unavoidable. And a regime that has lost its legitimacy will also lose its power.

All Saddam Hussein had to do to avoid war was to fulfill his commitments to the UN, which, unfortunately for him, pretty much included his leaving office:
RESOLUTION 688 (1991)

Adopted by the Security Council at its 2982nd meeting on 5 April 1991

The Security Council,

Mindful of its duties and its responsibilities under the Charter of the United Nations for the maintenance of international peace and security,

Recalling of Article 2, paragraph 7, of the Charter of the United Nations,

Gravely concerned by the repression of the Iraqi civilian population in many parts of Iraq, including most recently in Kurdish populated areas, which led to a massive flow of refugees towards and across international frontiers and to cross-border incursions, which threaten international peace and security in the region,

Deeply disturbed by the magnitude of the human suffering involved, Taking note of the letters sent by the representatives of Turkey and France to the United Nations dated 2 April 1991 and 4 April 1991, respectively (S/22435 and S/22442),

Taking note also of the letters sent by the Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations dated 3 and 4 April 1991, respectively (S/22436 and S/22447),

Reaffirming the commitment of all Member States to the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of Iraq and of all States in the area,

Bearing in mind the Secretary-General's report of 20 March 1991 (S/22366),

1. Condemns the repression of the Iraqi civilian population in many parts of Iraq, including most recently in Kurdish populated areas, the consequences of which threaten international peace and security in the region;

2. Demands that Iraq, as a contribution to remove the threat to international peace and security in the region, immediately end this repression and express the hope in the same context that an open dialogue will take place to ensure that the human and political rights of all Iraqi citizens are respected;

3. Insists that Iraq allow immediate access by international humanitarian organizations to all those in need of assistance in all parts of Iraq and to make available all necessary facilities for their operations;

4. Requests the Secretary-General to pursue his humanitarian efforts in Iraq and to report forthwith, if appropriate on the basis of a further mission to the region, on the plight of the Iraqi civilian population, and in particular the Kurdish population, suffering from the repression in all its forms inflicted by the Iraqi authorities;

5. Requests further the Secretary-General to use all the resources at his disposal, including those of the relevant United Nations agencies, to address urgently the critical needs of the refugees and displaced Iraqi population;

6. Appeals to all Member States and to all humanitarian organizations to contribute to these humanitarian relief efforts;

7. Demands that Iraq cooperate with the Secretary-General to these ends;

8. Decides to remain seized of the matter.

They stopped being seized, so we took care of it for them.

Posted by David Cohen at 12:25 PM


If it's war you want, then go Democrats (John Laughland, The Australian, 4/20/04)

Kerry voted for the war on Iraq and continues to support it wholeheartedly. He said last December that those who continue to oppose the war "don't have the judgment to be president -- or the credibility to be elected president". Kerry does not even say that Bush has jeopardised US security by attacking Iraq instead of facing down the al-Qa'ida threat; he is not Richard Clarke. Instead, Kerry says: "No one can doubt that we are safer -- and Iraq is better -- because Saddam Hussein is now behind bars."

On December 17, Kerry lent credence to the loony theory that Iraq was the author of the September 11 attacks, something Bush has done at least twice. Yet in February Kerry attacked Bush for planning to hand back power to the Iraqis too quickly -- what he called "a cut and run" strategy -- even though Bush intends the US embassy in Iraq to be the biggest US embassy in the world and even though 110,000 US troops are to remain stationed there indefinitely.

Above all, Kerry is, like Bush, committed to the world military supremacy of the US. "We must never retreat from having the strongest military in the world," says the possible future president. Kerry claims that Bush has weakened the military and so he has promised 40,000 more active-duty army troops.

Americans think of ourselves as a simple, open and easily understood people. That's hard to square with articles like this that completely misunderstand us. As this doesn't seem to be satire, we have to wonder: aren't you people paying attention?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:04 PM

60-40 NATION:

Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Texas Redistricting Case (The Associated Press, April 19, 2004)

The Supreme Court refused Monday to consider if Texas Republicans went too far last year in their strategy to enact new GOP-friendly congressional boundaries.

The congressional map that could give Texas Republicans six more seats cleared the state Legislature after months of turmoil and two walkouts by Democrats.

It's going to be an ugly seven decades for the Democrats.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:07 AM


Poll Shows New Gains For Bush: Lead Over Kerry Widens On Issues of Security (Richard Morin and Dan Balz, April 20, 2004, Washington Post)

President Bush holds significant advantages over John F. Kerry in public perceptions of who is better equipped to deal with Iraq and the war on terrorism, and he has reduced the advantages his Democratic challenger held last month on many domestic issues, according to a Washington Post-ABC News Poll.

The poll also found that Iraq and the war on terrorism have surged in importance, and ranked with the economy and jobs as top voting issues. Despite signs of concern among Americans about the violence in Iraq, the poll showed Bush's approval ratings holding steady and Kerry's slipping on a variety of issues and attributes.

By 49 percent to 44 percent, Bush was viewed as better able to deal with the country's biggest problems. Five weeks ago, those numbers were reversed. By comfortable margins, voters saw Bush as stronger than Kerry on key national security issues.

On the economy, Bush has erased Kerry's 12-point edge and is tied with the senator from Massachusetts on who can better deal with the country's economic problems.

In a matchup, Bush held a lead of 48 percent to 43 percent over Kerry among registered voters, with independent Ralph Nader at 6 percent. In early March, shortly after he effectively wrapped up the Democratic nomination, Kerry led Bush by 48 percent to 44 percent.

Poll: Bush increasing lead on Kerry (CNN, April 19, 2004)
President Bush increased his lead over Sen. John Kerry in a CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll released Monday, but fewer than half of the respondents said they approved of the way Bush is handling of the war in Iraq.

Bush led Kerry, the presumptive Democratic nominee, 51 percent to 46 percent in the survey of likely voters, which was conducted Friday through Sunday. The survey interviewed 1,003 adults, including a subsample of 767 respondents deemed most likely to vote in November.

When consumer activist Ralph Nader's independent candidacy was factored in, the survey's results were 50 percent for Bush, 44 percent for Kerry and 4 percent for Nader among likely voters.

The previous CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll, conducted April 5-8, showed Bush leading Kerry 48 percent to 45 percent among likely voters.

U.S. Leading Economic Indicators Rose 0.3% in March (Bloomberg, 4/19/04)
The index of leading economic indicators rose 0.3 percent in March and had its greatest year-on- year increase in two decades as the U.S. expansion gained momentum.

Companies took longer to fill orders in March, showing an increase in demand, while jobless claims fell, building permits rose and tax refunds put more money in the hands of consumers. The indicators helped push up the Conference Board's index, which was unchanged in February after 10 consecutive increases.

The increase suggests that economists may need to reconsider their projections for growth in the second quarter. The economy is forecast to expand 4.3 percent at an annual rate this quarter, compared with 4.4 percent in January-March, according to the median forecast in the most recent monthly Bloomberg News economist survey. For the year, growth may average 4.6 percent, the fastest since 1984, according to the survey.

It's morning in America. [Mourning in France.]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:44 AM


It wasn't a mugging, I fell over my dog, says Spacey (Chris Boffey, 20/04/2004, Daily Telegraph)

Kevin Spacey, the Oscar-winning actor, admitted yesterday that he had misled police about being mugged in a London park at 4.30am while walking his dog.

The American film star had gone to a police station early on Saturday morning and claimed he had been beaten around the head and robbed of his mobile phone.

But after receiving hospital treatment for his injuries, Spacey, 44, returned to the police station and withdrew the allegations.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:04 AM


Rolling Back Government: Lessons from New Zealand (Maurice P. McTigue, April 2004, Imprimis)

When a reform government was elected in 1984, it identified three problems: too much spending, too much taxing and too much government. The question was how to cut spending and taxes and diminish government’s role in the economy. Well, the first thing you have to do in this situation is to figure out what you’re getting for dollars spent. Towards this end, we implemented a new policy whereby money wouldn’t simply be allocated to government agencies; instead, there would be a purchase contract with the senior executives of those agencies that clearly delineated what was expected in return for the money. Those who headed up government agencies were now chosen on the basis of a worldwide search and received term contracts – five years with a possible extension of another three years. The only ground for their removal was non-performance, so a newly-elected government couldn’t simply throw them out as had happened with civil servants under the old system. And of course, with those kinds of incentives, agency heads – like CEOs in the private sector – made certain that the next tier of people had very clear objectives that they were expected to achieve as well.

The first purchase that we made from every agency was policy advice. That policy advice was meant to produce a vigorous debate between the government and the agency heads about how to achieve goals like reducing hunger and homelessness. This didn’t mean, by the way, how government could feed or house more people – that’s not important. What’s important is the extent to which hunger and homelessness are actually reduced. In other words, we made it clear that what’s important is not how many people are on welfare, but how many people get off welfare and into independent living.

As we started to work through this process, we also asked some fundamental questions of the agencies. The first question was, “What are you doing?” The second question was, “What should you be doing?” Based on the answers, we then said, “Eliminate what you shouldn’t be doing” – that is, if you are doing something that clearly is not a responsibility of the government, stop doing it. Then we asked the final question: “Who should be paying – the taxpayer, the user, the consumer, or the industry?” We asked this because, in many instances, the taxpayers were subsidizing things that did not benefit them. And if you take the cost of services away from actual consumers and users, you promote overuse and devalue whatever it is that you’re doing.

When we started this process with the Department of Transportation, it had 5,600 employees. When we finished, it had 53. When we started with the Forest Service, it had 17,000 employees. When we finished, it had 17. When we applied it to the Ministry of Works, it had 28,000 employees. I used to be Minister of Works, and ended up being the only employee. In the latter case, most of what the department did was construction and engineering, and there are plenty of people who can do that without government involvement. And if you say to me, “But you killed all those jobs!” – well, that’s just not true. The government stopped employing people in those jobs, but the need for the jobs didn’t disappear. I visited some of the forestry workers some months after they’d lost their government jobs, and they were quite happy. They told me that they were now earning about three times what they used to earn – on top of which, they were surprised to learn that they could do about 60 percent more than they used to! The same lesson applies to the other jobs I mentioned.

Some of the things that government was doing simply didn’t belong in the government. So we sold off telecommunications, airlines, irrigation schemes, computing services, government printing offices, insurance companies, banks, securities, mortgages, railways, bus services, hotels, shipping lines, agricultural advisory services, etc. In the main, when we sold those things off, their productivity went up and the cost of their services went down, translating into major gains for the economy. Furthermore, we decided that other agencies should be run as profit-making and tax-paying enterprises by government. For instance, the air traffic control system was made into a stand-alone company, given instructions that it had to make an acceptable rate of return and pay taxes, and told that it couldn’t get any investment capital from its owner (the government). We did that with about 35 agencies. Together, these used to cost us about one billion dollars per year; now they produced about one billion dollars per year in revenues and taxes.

We achieved an overall reduction of 66 percent in the size of government, measured by the number of employees. The government’s share of GDP dropped from 44 to 27 percent. We were now running surpluses, and we established a policy never to leave dollars on the table: We knew that if we didn’t get rid of this money, some clown would spend it. So we used most of the surplus to pay off debt, and debt went from 63 percent down to 17 percent of GDP. We used the remainder of the surplus each year for tax relief. We reduced income tax rates by half and eliminated incidental taxes. As a result of these policies, revenue increased by 20 percent. Yes, Ronald Reagan was right: lower tax rates do produce more revenue. [...]

New Zealand had an education system that was failing as well. It was failing about 30 percent of its children – especially those in lower socio-economic areas. We had put more and more money into education for 20 years, and achieved worse and worse results.

It cost us twice as much to get a poorer result than we did 20 years previously with much less money. So we decided to rethink what we were doing here as well. The first thing we did was to identify where the dollars were going that we were pouring into education. We hired international consultants (because we didn’t trust our own departments to do it), and they reported that for every dollar we were spending on education, 70 cents was being swallowed up by administration. Once we heard this, we immediately eliminated all of the Boards of Education in the country. Every single school came under the control of a board of trustees elected by the parents of the children at that school, and by nobody else. We gave schools a block of money based on the number of students that went to them, with no strings attached. At the same time, we told the parents that they had an absolute right to choose where their children would go to school. It is absolutely obnoxious to me that anybody would tell parents that they must send their children to a bad school. We converted 4,500 schools to this new system all on the same day.

But we went even further: We made it possible for privately owned schools to be funded in exactly the same way as publicly owned schools, giving parents the ability to spend their education dollars wherever they chose. Again, everybody predicted that there would be a major exodus of students from the public to the private schools, because the private schools showed an academic advantage of 14 to 15 percent. It didn’t happen, however, because the differential between schools disappeared in about 18-24 months. Why? Because all of a sudden teachers realized that if they lost their students, they would lose their funding; and if they lost their funding, they would lose their jobs. Eighty-five percent of our students went to public schools at the beginning of this process. That fell to only about 84 percent over the first year or so of our reforms. But three years later, 87 percent of the students were going to public schools. More importantly, we moved from being about 14 or 15 percent below our international peers to being about 14 or 15 percent above our international peers in terms of educational attainment.

It is because Mr. Bush is leading this type of transformation and because John Kerry is such a reactionary as regards this revolution that the 2004 election is uniquely significant, perhaps the most important in our history.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:57 AM


Deserters from US Army are running to Canada (Pravda, 04/16/2004)

Iraq is not the "second Vietnam" yet, but the US Army already has deserters as in the period of Vietnam war. Two US Army soldiers requested Canadian authorities to grant them asylum. They do not want to serve in Iraq.

One of them is 18-year old Brandon Khagei from San Angelo, Texas. Currently he is living in the family of Quakers in San Katarinas, Ontario, and is preparing the papers to submit them to Canadian authorities. Another soldier, 25-year old Jeremy Khintsmann did not follow the order to depart for Iraq, but left the military base in Fort Bragg, NC. He hopes to be granted asylum in Canada for himself and his family: wife Nga Nguen and son Liam whom has not turned 2 years old yet...

"I believe that the war in Iraq is contradicts the international law, and I am not in the position to fight in this war", soldier Khaintsmann said.

Like Khaintsmann, Khagei joined the Army when he was 17 years old. The young men was to earn money for studying in college. Being in the army, the two young soldiers raised doubts about the war in Iraq and shared them with their commanders. The commanders recommended them to "think less"...

Surfing the Internet, Brandon met the man who promised him to help enter Canada. The soldier deserted on March 2, before the deployment of his military unit in Iraq. The activist of pacifist movement helped Brandon to cross the Canadian border: they pretended to be basketball fans heading for the game of their favorite team in Toronto.

The people who accommodated Khagei, helped him to meet the lawyer and Khaintsmann. Khagei became a peace movement activist: he frequently speaks out at anti-war demonstrations in Canada.

However, lawyers believe that there is no chance for the two soldiers to be granted asylum in Canada. In 2003 the record number of Americans (317) requested asylum in Canada (marijuana smokers and Moslems concerned about prosecution of them in the USA). No request was satisfied by Canadian authorities.

Don’t worry. If history is any guide, in thirty-five years they will be trying to eke out a living selling crafty things off Vancouver Island and boring everyone with tales of how George W. Bush ruined them. However, as a Canadian, I am furious our customs officials could be so stupid as to believe that the Toronto Raptors are anyone's favourite team.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:16 AM


Israeli Rightists Endorse Plan to Withdraw From the Gaza Strip (JAMES BENNET, 4/19/04, NY Times)

As Palestinians massed in Gaza City to vent rage at Israel over its killing of a top militant leader on Saturday night, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon picked up crucial support on Sunday from right-wing leaders for his plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip without a peace agreement.

The endorsements, including one from former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meant that Mr. Sharon would almost surely prevail in a May 2 referendum on his plan within his dominant right-wing faction, Likud, Israeli political analysts said.

If he wins the referendum, Mr. Sharon will for the first time commit Likud — a bulwark for the goal of a Greater Israel — to evacuating some settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, which Israel occupied in the 1967 war.

"With great difficulty and with a broken heart I have come to the conclusion that the people today want the possibility of change," said Limor Livnat of Likud, as she reluctantly backed the plan.

Seeming tired and downcast, Mr. Netanyahu, also of Likud, appeared on Israel's Channel 1 television on Sunday night to argue that he was acting as a responsible leader, even as he disappointed his most ardent rightist supporters.

Bibi knows what side his bread is buttered on.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 AM


Hamas` Trash Talkin (Joel Mowbray, 4/19/04, FrontPage)

Even if you want to take Hamas at its word that it really is devoting itself to “100 unique retaliations” instead of trying to find “100 unique undisclosed locations,” the terrorist group was no less determined to kill Jews last month (or last year) than it is right now.

Want proof? Notice the similarity in reaction after the targeted killing of Hamas’ “wheelchair-bound” “spiritual leader” Sheikh Yassin on March 22.

Hamas promised to “kill hundreds of Zionists on every street, in every city and everywhere in the occupied lands.”

Only, it hasn’t happened. That’s not to say that Hamas won’t be successful in killing more Jews, but it most likely won’t be as successful as it has been.

With Hamas leadership preoccupied with staying alive—even Yassin essentially lived underground in the months before his death and Rantisi went to great precautions as well—strategy and attack coordination are bound to suffer.

In fact, that has already happened. The lone suicide bombing since Yassin’s death was over the weekend, on the same day Rantisi got to test that “72 virgins” theory. Only one Israeli died.

This month free of suicide bombings came not on the heels of a truce or a peace agreement, but after Hamas had pledged to “open the gates of hell.”

The reason should be obvious: terrorism is not, and never has been, a grassroots, bottom-up movement. It is a top-down indoctrination industry that relies on brainwashing and a handful of key organizational leaders. In a perverse way, it operates like the structure of W.E.B. DuBois’ “talented tenth,” where the elite leadership guides the uneducated masses.

Giving the people their own state will be the final nail in the terror coffin. Then folks will look to their leaders to create better lives for them and you don't do that with bombs. Hamas seems well positioned to transform itself into a normal political party and lead the new state.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 AM


God talk is everywhere (CAROL EISENBERG, April 14, 2004, Newsday)

The young bank teller eyed the tall, bearded man who had just signed the back of his paycheck.

"Are you a clergyman?" she asked.

The Rev. Thomas Goodhue nodded, sure he would be asked to do a wedding. But instead, the woman wanted to talk about Jesus Christ - specifically, what His suffering meant and why it had preoccupied believers for two millennia. Right there, right then, in the Massapequa Park branch of Commerce Bank.

"When I got back, my wife asked me, 'What took you so long?'" said Goodhue, executive director of the Long Island Council of Churches. "I said I can't cross the street without having a talk about theology. It was probably the 100th conversation of the day inspired by 'The Passion of the Christ' ... It's been very gratifying, but it's also been exhausting."

Nearly 40 years after Time magazine posed the question "Is God Dead?" signs of His resurrection are everywhere: Mel Gibson's "The Passion" is on its way to becoming the highest-grossing independent film of all time, while the apocalyptic "Left Behind" novels, based on the Book of Revelations, have sold 58 million copies, a publishing jackpot.

Dan Brown's "The DaVinci Code," a theological whodunit with a new spin on Jesus and Mary Magdalene, leads the fiction bestseller list, and Rick Warren's "The Purpose Driven Life," a 40-day spiritual workout, is outselling "The South Beach Diet."

The nation's born-again president pronounces Jesus his "favorite philosopher" and trumpets America's mission to battle evil in the world. And faith avowals are all but requisite on the campaign trail - with hell to pay for anyone who demonstrates biblical illiteracy, as did Vermont Gov. Howard Dean when he described Job as his favorite book of the New Testament and was promptly pronounced a heathen.

"God talk is ubiquitous today. You might even say we're drowning in it," said Phyllis Tickle, author of more than a dozen books about religion in America and contributing editor in religion for Publishers Weekly.

Even prime-time television, which once steered clear of overtly religious themes, suddenly has characters who converse directly with a higher power, from Joan of Arcadia to Jaye on the recently canceled "Wonderfalls." And network news divisions are churning out religious-themed specials like so many chocolate Easter eggs - from Dateline NBC's "The Last Days of Jesus" to ABC News' ambitious three- hour special on Jesus and Paul.

"There's just been a sea change in how religion is lived in this country," said the Rev. Margaret Peckham Clark of Trinity Church in Roslyn, who reports that hundreds of people have attended forums at her church on "The Passion" and "The DaVinci Code."

"You have many people who have drifted away from the tradition they grew up in, are disillusioned with it or have never been a part of it," Clark said. "And that creates a climate, particularly after Sept. 11, where people are groping for ways to understand what is at the core of what they believe."

All of this is occurring against a backdrop of growing tension between Islam and the West, and increasingly rancorous debate in this country about issues of morality, biblical authority and separation of church and state - from gay marriage to the deletion of "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance to the struggle over a Ten Commandments monument in an Alabama courthouse.

Is America experiencing a religious revival? Is all this ferment a result of post-Sept. 11 anxiety? Or has spirituality become just another commodity in a world where consumerism has become the ultimate value?

"I think every major sociologist would agree that we're in a time of religious awakening," said Rabbi Irwin Kula, president of CLAL, the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership in Manhattan. "But it's an awakening in which existing institutions like churches and synagogues are no longer mediating the sacred."

One of the great mysteries of American life is why we are so fortunate as to have these periodic Awakenings, while other nations steadily decline into the abyss.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:56 AM

LAST RITES (via Mike Daley)

A referendum: brave, right and risky (Daily Telegraph, 19/04/2004)

If, as now seems likely, Tony Blair commits himself to a referendum on the EU constitution, he will be doing something brave and right. This newspaper has spent much of the past two years demanding that the matter be put directly to voters.

Now that we finally appear to have got our way, it would be petty to cavil about whether the poll will be manipulated, or gloat at Mr Blair's U-turn. The plain fact is that the Prime Minister is putting his future on the line for the sake of his principles, and that is something every democrat should applaud. This logic ought also to apply, by the way, to the Tories. They have every reason to be annoyed, having planned to fight the European election largely on this issue; but muttering about rigged questions comes across as sour grapes. Of course, Labour will do everything it can to win, by fair means or foul. [...]

This is one of the most serious political risks Mr Blair will ever take. If he lost on an issue of such magnitude, he would almost certainly have to resign. Even if he clung on, his authority would be destroyed. But the question of Britain's relationship with the EU is bigger than any prime
minister. At stake is whether we want to be an independent country, living under our own laws, or part of a bigger country called Europe. Nothing could matter more.

Blair bows to pressure for EU poll (Toby Helm, 19/04/2004, Daily Telegraph)
The move, which follows strong pressure from Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary and John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, represents a complete about-turn by Mr Blair.

He has repeatedly insisted that he will not call a referendum because the constitution will not have a profound effect on the way the United Kingdom is governed. "There will be no referendum," he said at a Brussels summit in October.

Sources said the main reason Mr Blair had changed his mind was that the Conservatives had recently vowed to renegotiate the constitutional treaty, raising the stakes in the debate between the two main parties on Europe.

But the decision is also clearly aimed at depriving the Tories, who have demanded a referendum as a means of rejecting the constitution, of a key issue on which to fight the European elections on June 10 and then the general election, expected next spring or summer.

The change, while embarrassing for Mr Blair, will leave the Tories having to rethink their strategy.

Don't you have to assume he's scheduled the vote now because he's given up on European Union and wants it to fail for good?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:49 AM


The legacy of Lebanon (Leader, April 19, 2004, The Guardian)

When the Israeli military carried out its "targeted killing" of the wheelchairbound Hamas leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin just 28 days ago, there was a degree of puzzlement over why it had chosen that moment to assasinate him, when it could have done so many times previously. Now, following the killing of Sheikh Yassin's replacement as Hamas leader, Abdel-Aziz Rantissi, using the same deadly method of helicopterlaunched missile, it appears that Israel's prime minister Ariel Sharon is clearing the way for Israel's withdrawal from Gaza - and in doing so aims to decapitate the leadership of Hamas.

Etched deep within the collective memory of Israel's policy-makers is the image of its withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000, and the triumphal scenes in the Arab world that celebrated its pullout as a victory for Hizbullah's guerrillas. The Israeli army was seen as humiliated and harassed into retreating back within its borders - and the subsequent morale boost it gave to the Palestinian cause is offered by some observers as a reason behind the outbreak of the second intifada. Debatable though that claim may be, Mr Sharon's government is determined that there should be no repeat of Lebanon, and that the pull-out from Gaza, so generously backed by the US administration last week, will be resolutely wrapped within an iron fist.

They can't really just be figuring that out now, can they?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:42 AM


Lebanon's free fall: Political bickering, poor governance and economic woes - with foreign debt of $53.7b - weigh down the country (Pranay Gupte, 4/18/04, Straits Times)

Lebanon's strategic eastern Mediterranean location is important to Syria's own status as an anti-American Arab leader in a region of 300 million people and 24 countries. He cannot afford to antagonise Lebanon's majority Muslims, particularly the Shi'ites of Lebanon's Hizbollah party, whose radical programmes the Syrians support through money and armaments.

At the same time, Mr Assad is known to fear that if he pulls Syrian troops from Lebanon, its ethnic communities will once again start tearing one another apart, perhaps rekindling the civil war.

Conflict in Lebanon could then spill over into Syria, where Mr Assad's secular-minded - but authoritarian - government is facing mounting opposition from fundamentalists.

Mr Assad also sees the value in having the Hizbollah nip constantly at neighbouring Israel from its militarised bases in southern Lebanon. In his calculation, it is financially worthwhile for Syria to fund the Hizbollah because it keeps Israel from military excursions into his country.

With the intifada still raging in Palestine, the Israelis may not have a Syrian assault in mind just yet. But try telling that to the people of southern Lebanon. A visit to the Bekaa Valley, the region's cradle of Islamic fundamentalism, shows how much anti-Israeli propaganda the Hiz- bollah undertakes.

Judging from posters and fundraising in the Bekaa's towns and villages, one would think that the Israelis are about to invade Lebanon. Hizbollah street literature also alleges that the Israelis prompted the US invasion and occupation of Iraq last year.

The Hizbollah is doing more than mouthing anti-Israeli mantras, however. It has acquired political legitimacy by transforming itself from a guerilla movement into a full-fledged party: It holds 12 of the 128 seats in Lebanon's unicameral Parliament.

Its leader, Ali Nasrullah, has said that although the Hizbollah does not wish to see Lebanon transformed into an Islamic theocracy, he would not mind if that happens. But Lebanon's Maronite Christians and even Sunni Muslims do not share Nasrullah's enthusiasm for outlawing alcohol, gambling and Western lifestyles that have long contributed to the country's reputation as the Middle East's playground.

Perhaps paradoxically, that reputation, put on hold during the civil war, is blossoming again. Since Sept 11, Gulf Arabs who used to travel to Europe and the United States for pleasure are increasingly indulging themselves in free-spirited Lebanon, buying valuable real estate, hotels and resorts. If Lebanon were to become an Islamic state, it's a sure bet that the Arab traffic, and the revenues it generates for this country, would dry up.

It is a situation that vastly worries Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a self-made billionaire who does not get along with Mr Lahoud, a former army general, nor with Lebanon's patron, Mr Assad. At the root of his worry is that the Syrian presence and incipient Hizbollah threat are driving away Western investors.

Mr Hariri made his fortune in Saudi Arabia in the construction business, and is widely considered to be the main force behind the post-war reconstruction of Beirut. He often appeals to global investors - and, increasingly, those from Singapore and South-east Asia - to help develop the tourism industry, the country's main foreign-exchange earner after remittances from an estimated 20 million people of Lebanese extraction who live overseas.

The response has been discouraging. Investors are frightened by the country's staggering US$32-billion (S$53.7-billion) foreign debt, or nearly 200 per cent of the gross national product. They see little being done to streamline Lebanon's traditionally lethargic bureaucracy. They view Lebanon's economy as hopelessly encumbered by a bewildering body of regulations. And they are disheartened by the unending corruption.

No one accuses Mr Hariri of corruption - he's too rich for that - although some of his Cabinet colleagues are not immune from bitter criticism. He fears that the main cause of Lebanon's economic deterioration is that, unlike Singapore - a country he hugely admires - it does not enjoy good governance.

This, of course, is an indictment of his own management. But it also suggests that Mr Hariri's room to manoeuvre is limited by Mr Lahoud's opposition to any Hariri initiative. A recent agreement with foreign governmental lenders to reschedule Lebanon's debt has already faltered.

One of the benefits of getting rid of Baby Assad will be that it allows Lebanon's politics to become more rational.

-In Search of Hezbollah (Adam Shatz, 4/29/04, NY Refview of Books)

Hezbollah's announced long-term objectives—the establishment of an Islamic republic in Lebanon, and the elimination of the State of Israel— have not changed. But it interprets its founding principles with considerable suppleness, as when Nasrallah says he will not sabotage an Israeli–Palestinian peace agreement. Today it is not only prominent in Lebanese politics; it is also a major provider of schools, where the principles of Islam according to Ayatollah Khamenei and Hezbollah ideology are folded into a normal curriculum that is approved by the Lebanese government. It also provides an impressive range of social services such as hospitals and job training to the Shiite community.

In a country mired in patronage and back-room dealing, Hezbollah is respected for its lack of corruption. Although the party's yellow-and-green flag—depicting a fist brandishing a Kalashnikov, posed against a globe— still advocates "the Islamic Revolution in Lebanon," Hezbollah has recently said little about an Islamic state, and begun to build alliances across religious lines, particularly at the municipal level and in professional unions. In 1999, for example, Hezbollah members of Lebanon's engineering syndicate formed a coalition with the Phalange Party, a rightist Christian group, and the National Liberal Party, both allies of Israel during the civil war. Another change that is impossible to ignore is the growing prominence of female activists in the party, a development that makes the party progressive by Islamist standards. "One would have to be blind not to notice the changes Hezbollah has undergone," says Joseph Samaha, a secular Christian writer for the daily as-Safir. "Has Hezbollah tried to ban books or impose sharia? Not once. Their electoral program is [an] almost social democratic [one]. So we're confronting a very different kind of Fundamentalist party."

Moreover, as Daniel Byman, an analyst at the Brookings Institution, points out in his article "Should Hezbollah Be Next?" in Foreign Affairs, over the last decade Hezbollah's military wing has concentrated most of its efforts on strengthening its defensive capacity; according to Byman, Hezbollah has not been linked to a "single attack on a US target" since the 1996 bombing of Khobar Towers. In its guerrilla war with Israel in southern Lebanon, it targeted soldiers, not civilians, although it is said to provide both financing and training for Hamas.

While Iran continues to supply Hezbollah with money and arms, including Katyushas that arrive through Syrian ports, it has shown increasing restraint since the mid-1990s, when it used Hezbollah agents to strike at American and Jewish targets outside Israel. Iran's foreign minister, Kamal Kharazi, has urged Nasrallah to avoid giving Israel a pretext for attacking Lebanon. Although American officials have called attention to the presence of about a hundred Hezbollah members in Iraq, few believe that they are organizing violent resistance.[10] Every Hezbollah official I spoke to vehemently denied such reports, some indicating that they would welcome diplomatic relations with the United States.

Observing these changes, a growing number of American scholars, notably Augustus Richard Norton of Boston University, Judith Harik of the American University in Beirut, and Sami Hajjar of the US Army War College, argue that the party has undergone a genuine transformation, that it cannot be regarded as a terrorist group comparable to al-Qaeda, and that it would be pragmatic to engage in talks with Hezbollah and test its intentions. Their views are shared both by European diplomats such as Giandome-nico Picco, former assistant secretary-general for political affairs at the United Nations, and by retired American diplomats, such as Richard Murphy at the Council on Foreign Relations, and by some officials in the State Department. Dennis Ross, the Middle East envoy under the first Bush and Clinton administrations, has stated that Hezbollah's resistance to the Israeli occupation, unlike its past activities aimed at Western targets, is not terrorism.[11] While the United States, Israel, and Canada classify Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, European allies of the US, including Britain, say a distinction should be made between Hezbollah's political wing and the terrorist "external security apparatus." In their view Nasrallah and his Lebanese political organization are giving support to Palestinian extremists but are not directly involved in international terrorism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 AM


It’s Morning After in America (Kay S. Hymowitz, Spring 2004, City Journal)

SEX DOESN'T SELL: MISS PRIM IS IN. No, editors at the New York Times “Sunday Styles” section were not off their meds when they came up with that headline recently. Just think about some of the Oscar nominees this year: there was Seabiscuit, a classic inspirational story of steadfast outsiders beating huge odds to win the race; Return of the King: Lord of the Rings, a mythic battle of good defeating evil, featuring female characters as pure as driven snow; Master and Commander, a nineteenth-century naval epic celebrating courage, discipline, and patriarchal authority. And then there was Lost in Translation, in which a man in the throes of a midlife crisis spends hours in a hotel room with a luscious young woman, and . . . they talk a lot.

If you listen carefully, you can hear something shifting deep beneath the manic surface of American culture. Rap stars have taken to wearing designer suits. Miranda Hobbs, Sex and the City’s redhead, has abandoned hooking up and a Manhattan co-op for a husband and a Brooklyn fixer-upper, where she helps tend her baby and ailing mother-in-law; even nympho Samantha has found a “meaningful relationship.” Madonna is writing children’s books. Gloria Steinem is an old married lady.

Yessiree, family values are hot! Capitalism is cool! Seven-grain bread is so yesterday, and red meat is back!

Wave away the colored smoke of the Jackson family circus, Paris Hilton, and the antics of San Francisco, and you can see how Americans have been self-correcting from a decades-long experiment with “alternative values.” Slowly, almost imperceptibly during the 1990s, the culture began a lumbering, Titanic turn away from the iceberg, a movement reinforced by the 1990s economic boom and the shock of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. During the last ten years, most of the miserable trends in crime, divorce, illegitimacy, drug use, and the like that we saw in the decades after 1965 either turned around or stalled. Today Americans are consciously, deliberately embracing ideas about sex, marriage, children, and the American dream that are coalescing into a viable—though admittedly much altered—sort of bourgeois normality. What is emerging is a vital, optimistic, family-centered, entrepreneurial, and yes, morally thoughtful, citizenry. [...]

And that surprise takes us back to the most vexing issue of our day: gay marriage, which encapsulates the tension between the sexual revolution and the new conventionality. On the one hand, it asserts the value of unrestrained sexual desire; on the other, it celebrates our new seriousness about constructing traditional meaning, solidity, and connection out of those desires in a vulgar and rootless post-liberation landscape. Regardless of how Americans resolve this tension, the change in the cultural zeitgeist means that, for all their wealth and fame, the Quentin Tarantinos and Ice Ts of this culture do not own it. The public has its own mind, influenced by forces more powerful than the television or movie screen. The purveyors of fashion and entertainment try to decipher the cultural mood.

So, the latest ads for Gucci leave sexual decadence behind for mystery and romance. Why? Because these trendsetters sense something new. “What we did was sort of instinctual. We just felt there was something in the air,” Doug Lloyd, one of Gucci’s admen, told the New York Times. “Believe it or not, I am a little sick of blatant sexual poses in advertising,” Gucci designer Tom Ford, a man who once had a G shaved into a model’s crotch and hired a photographer to snap the results, told Harper’s Bazaar. So Abercrombie and Fitch canceled their Christmas catalog after the outcry over its orgy tips for teens. So Viacom president Mel Karmazin chided his radio stations: “This company won’t be a poster child for indecency.” More surprising than Janet Jackson’s breast reveal was the vigorous public spanking that she and Justin Timberlake received after it was over. For what it’s worth, my 16-year-old daughter tells me that the girls she knows with pierced navels now see them as “skanky” and wish they could undo them. Now they care about SEXY TOPS THAT DON'T LOOK TRASHY, as a recent Seventeen headline promised to explain to its teen readers.

With their genius for problem solving and compromise, pragmatic Americans have seen the damage that their decades-long fling with the sexual revolution and the transvaluation of traditional values wrought. And now, without giving up the real gains, they are earnestly knitting up their unraveled culture. It is a moment of tremendous promise.

No matter how much it horrifies John Kerry and company, these trends mean that we're going to keep drifting further apart from secular Europe. Eventually our cultures will diverge so much that we'll no longer consider them part of Western Civilization. They've already departed Christendom.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:31 AM


Death Of Chas. Darwin: The Life And Work Of The Eminent Naturalist, His Ancestry and Education--Earliest Scientific Work--His Publications--The Theory Of Evolution And The Use He Made Of It (NY Times, 4/21/1882)

The qualities and natural bent of his clear mind were inherited. His father and grandfather were naturalists, though the latter, Dr. Erasmus Darwin, was a much more famous and productive man than his son, Dr. R. W. Darwin. [...]

If asked to define Darwinism, the orthodox antagonist of the scientific unbelief of the day will reply that it is an attempt to show how blind matter became the seeing eye; the biologist of the Haeckel school will say that it is a description of the mechanical process by which the cosmic system was produced out of elementary matter acted upon by its own laws. Neither definition is correct, for Mr. Darwin made an extremely modest use of his great attainments. He did not construct a theory of the cosmos, and he did not deal with the entire theory of evolution. He was content to leave others to poke about in the original protoplasmic mire, and to extend the evolutionary law to social and political phenomena. For himself, he tried to show how higher organic forms were evolved out of lower. He starts with life already existing, and traces it through its successive forms up to the highest--man. The central principle--his opponents call it a dogma--of Mr. Darwin's system is "natural selection," called by Herbert Spencer "the survival of the fittest," a choice which results inevitably from "the struggle for existence." It is a law and fact in nature that there shall be the weak and the strong. The strong shall triumph and the weak shall go to the wall. The law, though involving destruction is really preservative. If all plants and animals were free to reproduce their kind under like and equally favorable conditions, if all were equally strong and well equipped for obtaining sustenance and making their way in the world, there would soon be no room on the earth for even a single species. Thirty millions of men in less than 700 years of unchecked reproduction, under the conditions we have mentioned, would have living offspring enough to cover the whole earth at the rate of one for each square foot of its surface. The limit of subsistence and the power of reproduction are the bounds between which the conflict rages. In this struggle the multitudes are slain and the few survive. But the survivors do not owe their good luck to chance. Their adaptation to their surroundings is the secret of their exemption from the fate which overtakes those less happily circumstanced. A variety of squirrels, for instance, which is capable of wandering far afield in pursuit of its food, which is cunning and swift enough to evade its enemies, and has a habit of providing a store of nuts for Winter use, will naturally have a better chance of survival than a variety deficient in these qualities. But Mr. Darwin also discovered that natural selection created special fitness for given circumstances and surroundings. Climate, soil, food supply, and other conditions act in this way, and the result is the differentiation of species. A certain thistle grows in a kind of soil which is rich in the elements which go to produce the tiny hairs upon the surface of the plant. The seeds are thus furnished with downy wings longer than usual, and are wafted further off where they have plenty of space to grow, and they, in turn, reproduce and emphasize the changes to which they owe their existence. Seeds or nuts developing a thick covering for the kernel are thus protected from birds and animals, and live to germinate, producing, also hard-shelled seeds, and thus the process goes on. Varieties which do not develop a high degree of special adaptation to their surroundings fall out of the race, unable to defend themselves against their innumerable aggressors. An infinitesimally minute variation of function or structure repeated and becoming more marked through many successive generations, results ultimately in the production of a variety; or even of a species, quite unlike the parent individual.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:23 AM


Norah Jones … and all that jazz
: She’s led jazz from the wilderness with a blend of languid vocals and melodic piano tunes. (Pat Kane, 4/18/04, Sunday Herald)

It’s hard not to be shocked by Norah Jones. This may seem like the most perverse of statements. How can the “queen of the downbeat generation”, the torch-carrier for “grown-folks music”, the peddler of “lullabies for grown-ups”, even – most insultingly – “Snorah Jones” be in the remotest way shocking?

Whenever any of the 14 million or so purchased copies of her debut album are played, across this weary and over-worked globe, surely the response is a collective sigh of stress relief. Those eyes, those lips, that serenity; the melodious thunk of her right hand on the piano, the hug-me-hold-me lilt of her Texan voice; the lyrics of escape and redemption, changing seasons, meaningful sex, private despair, unravelling families, quiet regret. She’s quite a package, is Norah Jones. But shock would seem to be the least credible reaction to her music.

Well, I’m shocked. And it’s mostly because I’m scratching my head at a phenomenon which seems to have shifted the centre of gravity in the music business in a direction I never though it would go. For years, I’ve heard jazz and rock musicians, lost somewhere at the bottom of a bottle of Jack Daniel’s, moaning endlessly about how nobody could ever allow them to make “real” music.

Who could get the freedom to fuse musics together, to focus on quietness and textures as well as production trickery, to put performance and emotion in the centre of the frame – and then make a real career out of it? Hello, Norah. And after her, the deluge. Now touring in the UK with her new record, Feels Like Home, Jones enters a marketplace that resounds to the vibration of double-bass and piano wire, the susurration of languid vocals, and a jazz-tastic vibe that only a few years ago was being sliced and diced on The Fast Show (“A countrypolitan feel with Ray Charles stylings? Seminal.”).

Listen to some of her contemporaries, and it seems like there’s been a phalanx of talent battering at the door of the music business, waiting for the Jones effect to let them in. Whatever you want to say about teenagers and 20-somethings like Joss Stone, Katie Melua or Jamie Cullum, there is something startling – alright, shocking – about such jazz-blues-and-soul oriented artists getting their big promotional push. Perhaps it’s about more than just an ability to sing and play piano at the same time.

Only television seems to be lagging behind in the dejuvenilization of pop culture.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:17 AM


Interpreter dodges bullets, befriends Marines (DARRIN MORTENSON, 4/18/04, North County Times)

Ehaeb barely flinched Saturday when the rifles crackled nearby.

As an interpreter for American forces in Iraq for the last five months, he says he has grown used to gunfire and recognized the shots as coming from American weapons.

So, as the close crackle of gunfire continued, Ehaeb remained comfortably tucked into a soft chair in the living room of an Iraqi home reading an Arabic novel he found there when he and a squad of Marines took over the house during the heavy fighting in Fallujah last week.

When another shot rang out, however, this one sounding louder and sharper but just as near as the first volley, Ehaeb furrowed his brow and jerked to his feet.

"That's AK," he said, identifying the distinctive crack from a Kalishnakov assault rifle ---- the preferred weapon of the Iraqi insurgents.

He rushed upstairs to investigate.

Ehaeb ---- whom the troops call "Johnny Five" after a curious robot character in the movie "Short Circuit" ---- is a native of Baghdad and a best friend to Marines fighting in Fallujah.

Because his language skills are needed on every patrol and during every operation to communicate with locals, the 22-year old computer science graduate has seen probably more combat than most of the saltiest of the Marine grunts he walks with.

"It's very dangerous, yes," said the quiet, dark and handsome Iraqi Shiite who calls all the Marines "sir."

"It's dangerous for me because I am all the time going on patrols with Marines, but I have no weapon," he explained. "It is all the time RPG, bullets, AK ---- it's crazy!"

Ehaeb first started working with Army infantrymen from the 10th Mountain Division near Diwaniyah five months ago, and then hitched up with 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers for duty in probably the most dangerous city in Iraq: Fallujah.

"At first I did it for money"' he said, explaining that he and seven of his college buddies hired on as "terps" to make quick cash from the Americans with the English language skills that they learned in the state education system at the University of Baghdad.

"Now I just want to fix Fallujah," he said with a smile and an open palm.

"Yes. I want to fix my country. I want to one day live in a place here in safety. I want my sisters and brother to live like that."

Gee, their aspirations don't seem much different than ours...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:13 AM


Celebrating Immigration's New Face: Official events and pop culture are beginning to pay tribute to the contributions of the diverse wave of recent newcomers to the city. (Josh Getlin, April 17, 2004, LA Times)

[U]nlike the Ellis Island experience, which has been recounted in books, movies, plays and novels, the modern tale of people journeying to New York and the rest of the country is only now beginning to echo in American pop culture.

"The new version is still in flux, it's still ongoing — and that's what makes it hard for a lot of people to grasp," said Nancy Foner, author of "From Ellis Island to JFK: New York's Two Great Waves of Immigration."

"New York is changing every day as a result of this process, and everywhere you look — on the subways, in neighborhoods, in parks, in taxis, on the streets — you see the signs of something profound. But the new world is just beginning to be noticed."

One reason is that Ellis Island continues to cast a long shadow. City officials have pointed out that Immigrant History Week observances are timed to remember April 17, 1907, when Ellis Island bureaucrats processed 11,747 immigrants — the largest recorded number for one day in U.S. immigration annals. The processing facility, which was open from 1892 to 1954, reopened as a museum in 1990.

Yet the most recent wave of immigration to the city, which began in 1965, when the federal government loosened restrictions, has generated its own stunning statistics.

Nearly 1 million immigrants have settled in New York since 1990, and today 36% of city residents (or 2.9 million) are foreign-born, a figure rivaling the previous high of 41% reached in 1910, according to U.S. census statistics. The borough of Queens, where once-deteriorating neighborhoods have been revitalized by a flood of newcomers, is now thought to be the nation's most ethnically diverse county.

The vast majority of arrivals are legal immigrants; an estimated 500,000 are considered undocumented. But their presence here is not nearly as controversial as it is in Southern California or other national regions, experts say, because the city has a long history of affirming the human and economic value of immigration.

Each generation thinks its immigrants are uniquely unassimilable and that the drawbridge should be raised.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:10 AM


The rise of new Christianity: This will come to be seen as the century in which religion replaced ideology (Angela Shanahan, 4/12/04, The Age)

Those who say Christianity is dead or dying might, on the face of it, have a point. There is widespread disillusionment with the established church, and secularism encourages a view of religion that would exculpate its influence from the public domain.

To make matters worse there is a shrinking demographic in Christianity's traditional European strongholds. And a new liberalism has taken hold in Europe and North America that wants to diminish the authority of the hierarchy and erode traditional doctrine on issues such as life, family, and sexuality.

But while this is the case in the old Christian world, think about this. In the Philippines the annual rate of baptisms is higher than the totals for Italy, France, Spain and Poland combined. Of the 18 million Catholic baptisms recorded in 1998, 8 million took place in Central and South America, 3 million in Africa and almost 3 million in Asia.

The coming dominance of new Christianity is the theme of a ground-breaking book by American historian of religion Philip Jenkins, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity.

Jenkins argues that "the 21st century will almost certainly be regarded by future historians as the century in which religion replaced ideology as the prime animating and destructive force in human affairs".

His argument is not theological. He analyses sociological trends. Within 25 years the population of Christians will be 2.6 billion, making it the world's largest religion, and most of these will be in the developing world. The growing numbers of Christians in Africa, projected at 228 million by 2025, has probably the deepest political significance because it is there that the dividing lines are drawn between Islam and Christianity - both of which seem to be polarising towards fundamentalism. [...]

When the film The Passion of the Christ was released at the start of Lent this year there was a general perception that a religious film produced by an eccentric and seemingly reactionary Catholic like Mel Gibson was in some ways an exotic curiosity. Many critics, particularly reform-minded Catholics, regarded it as a throwback to a different, pre-Vatican II version of religion.

But contrary to expectations, the film has been hugely popular among the young. This is partly because it vividly dramatises the Passion. But the Jesus of this film is not the fashionable Jesus of my youth, the counter-culturalist, as portrayed in Pasolini's famous film The Gospel According to Matthew. No, it is the suffering Jesus to whose suffering we join our own.

Whatever one's opinion of the artistic merit of the film, it's greatest achievement at Easter 2004 is to bring within the orbit of popular culture an annunciation of the central doctrine of orthodox Christianity: Jesus is the divine redeemer whose suffering and death was the point of his life and the Gospels.

It does that in no uncertain terms - and the young of today want certainty.

Indeed, it's not Christianity that's dying out but secular ideological Europe. Considering how many the ideologues killed, good riddance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:03 AM


Nobel Prize Winner Speaks with Q-C Leaders (Thomas Geyer, April 16, 2004, Quad City Times)

Seeing people rioting over jobs and food and begging for nickels on the streets of Minneapolis to buy bread during The Great Depression deeply affected Cresco, Iowa, native Norman Borlaug. That was in 1933 when he was heading to college at the University of Minnesota. "Being from a rural area, I'd never seen anything like that before," he said Friday night in the Quad-Cities. "People were going hungry. That left a big impression on

It also directed his life in ways he could not have imagined. Instead, for the past 60 years, Borlaug has either been conducting cutting-edge research to produce hardier and more prolific strains of food plants or has led or promoted other researchers and scientists in the production of
those plants. Just as important has been his work in convincing political leaders to bring such agricultural advances to fruition and get them in the field.

His work has taken him from Mexico and Latin America to the Asian and African continents. It was Borlaug who almost single handedly started what is known today as the "Green Revolution," and in the process taught much of the world how to feed itself, beginning with strains of hardy wheat he developed while working in Mexico for the Rockefeller Foundation.

Through his research, he is credited with saving the lives of 1 billion people. For that, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. On top of saving lives, his work has improved the lives of another billion or so people around the world.

His travels to the poorest countries of the world have taught him a very valuable lesson. "Where there is hunger and misery, the seeds of terrorism take root," Borlaug said during a presentation at Deere & Co. headquarters in Moline.

Speaking to about 75 Quad-City business and community leaders, he explained how better agricultural techniques and the prosperity it engendered in places like Vietnam and Cambodia left insurgents in those countries with no recruits. "In Cambodia, we did what the Vietnamese could
not," he said. "We wiped out the Khmer Rouge, a terrorist faction."

April 18, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:02 PM


TV archive unlocks myth of revolution (TIM CORNWELL, 4/15/04, The Scotsman)

IN OCTOBER 1917, when the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia, sailors in the port of Kronstadt formed the vanguard of the revolution. They overran the cruiser Aurora, bombarded the Winter Palace, stormed the building and handed it over to the Bolsheviks.

Four years later, 900 of those same sailors were executed by firing squad after they rose up against the Communists and the Red Army. Thousands of others were dispatched to the Gulag prison camps.

Now their story is to be used by the TV company WarkClements as the narrative spine of a two-part documentary promising to "unpack" the myths of the Russian revolution and the lethal battle for power that followed.

Storm in the East will argue that Russia should never have had a Socialist revolution in 1917, that the Bolsheviks were a fringe party, and that "the revolution was an exercise in capturing and maintaining power at all costs".

Alan Clements, the managing director of the company, described yesterday how it took two years to secure financing for a project he has wanted to do for 21 years, ever since he studied the subject at the University of Glasgow.

"It has been a long-haul putting together the funding, a labour of love," he said. "The thesis will be quite controversial, but at least thought- provoking.

"People tend to believe that Lenin was this cuddly guy and Stalin made it all bad. Historically there are a lot of people on the Scottish left with that view, certainly when I was still at university, and that can't be justified."

This was the singular fact that Mikhail Gorbachev failed to comprehend. He mistakenly believed that when the state loosened its grip on public discourse people would criticize the direction in which Stalin took the otherwise glorious revolution. In effect they'd be perfecting flaws. Instead dissidents were just waiting to shred the reputation of Lenin and of the Revolution itself. They thereby delegitimized the entire concept of the USSR.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:43 PM


After the Double Helix: Unraveling the Mysteries of the State of Being (MARGARET WERTHEIM, 4/13/04, NY Times)

Sitting at lunch on the patio of his home here one muggy day last June, Francis Crick was expounding on the mind-body problem and the thorny subject of the human "self."

Where is the line between mind and matter? he asked. Aside from the neurons in our brains, the human body contains tens of millions of neurons in the enteric nervous system, which extends into the stomach and intestines. "When you digest your lunch is that you?" Dr. Crick asked.

Body and mind are the twin problems around which Dr. Crick's life has spiraled, much like the double helix structure of DNA that he and Dr. James D. Watson are famous for discovering half a century ago. Though his research on "the molecule of life" is what he is best known for, in his 28 years at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, his work has focused on the mind, and in particular the question of consciousness.

Until recently, that subject was viewed with deep suspicion in scientific circles, but Dr. Crick has led a campaign to make it acceptable. These days it is even fashionable. While some philosophers claim that consciousness is a phenomenon outside the purview of material science, Dr. Crick dismisses such arguments with the imperious confidence that is part of his legend. "The mechanism is the important part; the rest is just playing with words," he said in a recent interview.

It takes a really spectacular jackass to think that his luncheon grilled cheese is part of his soul just because it's material.

-Deficient Anthropology at the Root of Cultural Crisis in the West (Andrew Stephen Damick, Orthodoxy Today)

It's my belief that the West in general has a deficient anthropology, mostly because of its inability to fit the seeming paradox of the meshing of God's sovereignty with man's free will. Various answers to this quandary have been posed -- bondage of the will, Calvinistic predestination, Purgatory and indulgences, name-it-claim-it theology, sacramental symbolism (i.e. no "real presence"), iconoclasm, and so on. What ultimately is at work here is an unwillingness to come to terms with the Incarnation, namely, that God became a man. The implications of that event are both staggering and thoroughgoing -- on the one hand, they mean that the Uncreated has become a creature while yet remaining Uncreated, while on the other, they mean that the creature may become Uncreated. (What else did St. Athanasius mean, anyhow? God became man that man might become god.)

You may be finding it hard to connect the dots here (as I did), but consider the scandal of the Incarnation: God became a human male, born of a woman in a real human society. He lived, preached, healed, died and resurrected. That is, after dying on a cross, he got up out of His tomb and walked around again. His heart stopped beating, then later started up again. He gave us the Holy Mysteries to join us intimately with Him, that we might become partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). The Mysteries are given to redeem us in our fallenness and bring us to perfection, that we might become by grace what He is by nature.

Without coming to terms with what it means to be psycho-somatic beings (that is, composed of both soul and body), we will continue to have an unbalanced understanding of ourselves and of our God. Either we will attempt to devalue the body in favor of the soul, creating a highly mental and/or emotional religion (whether that religion be one of faith or atheism) or we will devalue the soul in favor of the body, focussing endlessly on sexuality, personal appearance, and even a morbid obsession with seeking out physical suffering as a "spiritual" good. Standing at the balance between these two extremes, however, is orthodox Christian asceticism, the careful, sober bringing of the body into the service of the soul so that both may glorify God in unity and enter into deeper, more intimate communion with Him.

In calling us to asceticism, God proposes a marriage between us and Himself. If any of you have been married or considered marriage, you know that the question of who the beloved really is will always be essential in your union. Because it is God Who gives us our being and speaks into being what His design for Creation is (both its material and immaterial aspects), and because He is the one Who created marriage, then that means that this union must be according to His design or else it is nothing. All the Mysteries are His to give, not ours to control or make "relevant" to modern culture.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:14 PM


Kevorkian Expects to Die in Prison (Associated Press, April 11, 2004)

Assisted suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian, behind bars for the videotaped lethal injection of a man in 1998, says he expects to die in prison, but has few regrets.

That would be convicted murderer Jack Kevorkian.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:09 PM


'Lost in Translation' doesn't translate well in Japan: The Japanese are frowning upon the Oscar-winning film's depiction of them. (Robert Marquand, 4/19/04, CS Monitor)

Several stereotypes seem designed to bring Western yuks. Murray is shot in a hotel elevator looking like a jet-lagged big bird amid dwarf Japanese businessmen. There is a shower head Murray can't bend low enough for. Some comic dialogue takes advantage of Japanese difficulty in pronouncing L's and Rs. A Japanese director comically asks for more "intensity" from a confused Murray, who is in town to lend his fading fame to a whisky commercial. Squads of overly polite Tokyo attendants and hosts seem unable to connect with any of the American characters.

One famous critic, Osugi, said, "The core story is cute and not bad; however, the depiction of Japanese people is terrible!"

The Australian chef at the Hyatt opined that "Lost in Translation" captures what Tokyo is like to first time visitors. "But now that I've lived here for two years, I think it isn't fair to Japanese."

Actor Bill Murray did single-handedly break a set of cultural barriers in his own unorthodox style at a very stressful point in the hotel shoot, according to Midori Ochiai, a hotel official. She was charged with enforcing the Hyatt's strict house rules, which included filming times only between midnight and 6 am.

"I would tell them, please go now, don't do this, don't do that. I was very much like a schoolteacher," the diminutive Ms. Ochiai says.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:43 PM


Community Service a Must (Associated Press, 1/27/04)

A minor league pitcher who killed a popular osprey with a baseball last year cannot pay his way out of performing community service, a judge ruled Tuesday.

An attorney for Jae Kuk Ryu had requested that his client pay the standard state rate of $10 an hour rather than do the 100 hours of work he agreed to in a plea deal in August. [...]

Ryu, 20, knocked the bird from its perch at Jackie Robinson Ballpark in Daytona Beach before a game in the Class A Florida State League on April 21. The bird, nicknamed "Ozzy" by fans, was blinded in its right eye and died six days later.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:27 PM


Prime Suspect 6 (PBS, April 18 + 25, 2004)

Prime Suspect is a tour de force.

Between 1992 and 1997, this tense, uncompromising drama has been critically acclaimed on both sides of the Atlantic and has won a total of 14 international awards. These have include Emmys for 'Outstanding Miniseries' and 'Outstanding Actress' for Helen Mirren, Peabody Awards, BAFTAs for 'Best Drama Serial' and 'Best TV Actress' and more.

Mirren has sculpted the role into her startling masterwork, creating a woman -- DCI Jane Tennison -- who is single-minded, compulsive, difficult, frustratingly arrogant, highly regarded and very, very good at her job.

The Prime Suspect series is credited with originating the compelling blueprint for gold-standard crime drama -- intriguing behind-the-scenes detail, real and vulnerable characters and gripping stories of death and murder.

And now, in Prime Suspect 6: The Last Witness, the best is back.

One of those rare times the promotional material is accurate.

-Mirren's 'Prime Suspect' returns, and TV is the better for it (Robert Bianco, 4/15/04, USA TODAY)
-Prime Jane: Detective Superintendent Tennison remains true to herself (JOYCE MILLMAN, Boston Phoenix)
-Great Dame: In Prime Suspect 6, Helen Mirren proves she's still got it. (Dana Stevens, April 16, 2004, Slate)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:59 AM


RETHINKING OUR ALLIANCES: It's time to forget Europe and find new allies (Thomas P.M. Barnett, 4/18/04, The Washington Post)

Terrorists buy a national election in Spain for the price of 10 backpack bombs and remove a "crucial" pillar of the Western coalition in Iraq. Predictably, Op-Ed columnists and talking heads raise the cry for the Bush administration to "save the Western alliance." This is a knee-jerk response that reflects historical habit more than strategic logic.

Clinging to the Western alliance isn't the way to win the global war on terrorism. In fact, it's a backward-looking approach that's certain to doom our efforts in this conflict. Combating transnational terrorism in the era of globalization will be a decades-long task, and anything that long and complex requires a genuinely grand strategy -- something that this country has lacked since the end of the Cold War.

Grand strategy is about figuring out what kind of global future is worth creating, understanding which states have the incentive to build that future and concluding the bargains necessary to keep them on board for the duration. [...]

Instead of focusing on what it will take to keep Old Europe enlisted in the effort to transform the Middle East, what the United States really needs to concentrate on is developing an entirely new alliance with such emerging powers as China, India and Russia. We can bend over backward trying to keep Spain's 1,300 soldiers in Iraq, or we can figure out what it will take to get these emerging pillars of globalization to contribute far bigger numbers to the effort.

It might seem counterintuitive to enlist nations wanting in the democracy department to promote it in the Middle East. But democracy is a long-term goal at best, when what the region needs right now are states willing to export security in the form of peacekeepers. That is true for not just the Middle East but everywhere else that we'll be fighting terrorism in this global war.

Globalization's steady advance across the planet marks the battle lines in the war on terrorism. Show me regions deeply embedded in the global economy or moving rapidly toward its rule-bound embrace, and I will show you all the states that should logically be counted among our strongest allies.

That "functioning core" of globalization includes North America, much of South America, the European Union, Russia, Japan and Asia's emerging economies (most notably China and India), Australia, New Zealand and South Africa -- representing more than 4 billion people in a global population of 6.4 billion.

Are all of these states democratic today? Hardly. But connecting up to the global economy is how you grow a middle class, and that's the main ingredient needed for a stable democracy over the long haul.

Conversely, show me the regions most disconnected from the global economy, and I will show you those regimes that should be overwhelmingly targeted for reform or, yes, even periodic violent dismantling. These countries lie chiefly within the Caribbean Rim, Africa, the Balkans, the Caucasus, the Middle East, Central Asia and Southeast Asia. A wide swath of the world, to be sure, but that's hardly a "global" war.

Terrorism thrives where globalization has yet to extend itself in any meaningful way, because countries that lack widespread economic interactions with the outside world (beyond just pumping oil) are either failed states or brutally repressive regimes, both of which generate desperate young men seeking political change through violence.

You want to dry up global terror? Make globalization truly global.

China is still an enemy, which is part of the reason to cultivate India and Russia so steadfastly, but if we place enough pressure on it the government likely can't resist reform nor even hold the country together. The successor regimes should be worthy allies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:50 AM


Now Can We Talk About Health Care? (HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, 4/18/04, NY Times Magazine)

First, the way we deliver health care must change. For too long our model of health care delivery has been based on the provider, the payer, anyone but the patient. Think about the fact that our medical records are still owned by a physician or a hospital, in bits and pieces, with no reasonable way to connect the dots of our conditions and our care over the years.

If we as individuals are responsible for keeping our own passports, 401(k) and tax files, educational histories and virtually every other document of our lives, then surely we can be responsible for keeping, or at least sharing custody of, our medical records. Studies have shown that when patients have a greater stake in their own care, they make better choices.

One reads that and for the most fleeting of moments thinks that maybe she's figured out that the solution to our health care problems is re-empowering the consumers and bringing market forces to bear, but in shiort order she refutes her own point:
Some people believe that the only solution to our present cost explosion is to shift the cost and risk onto individuals in what is called ''consumer driven'' health care. Each consumer would have an individual health care account and would monitor his or her own spending. But instead of putting consumers in the driver's seat, it actually leaves consumers at the mercy of a broken market. This system shifts the costs, the risks and the burdens of disease onto the individuals who have the misfortune of being sick.

Consider what she's saying here what she's saying here: sick people shouldn't face "the costs, the risks and the burdens of disease". This is Second Way Think--similarly the New Deal/Great Society types argue that the unemployed shouldn't be responsible for finding jobs, the elderly for paying for their retirements, welfare recipients for pretty much anything. It's the most anti-market, anti-consumer driven system you can imagine. It's as if she (and John Kerry, Ted Kennedy, and company) learned nothing from the 20th Century. Their goal is still to make us all wards of the State.

When you place their desire to defend and extend the disastrous statist policies of the past few decades against George W. Bush's vision of an "Opportunity Society" you can see that this is the most significant election in American (and therefore world) history.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:28 AM


The Case for a War Tax — on Gas: A conservative argues for $1 a gallon as a sacrifice that will do us a world of good (ANDREW SULLIVAN, 4/19/04, TIME)

Gas prices are too low. There. I said it. Even when they peak this summer, as most analysts predict, they will be too low. And they're too low in large part because gas is woefully undertaxed in this countrya state of affairs that is bad for the economy, bad for drivers and bad for our foreign policy. In fact, one of the simplest and best things any Administration could do right now would be to add a buck per gallon to the federal gas tax, which is currently just 18.4¢. Now that I have alienated almost every reader of this column, allow me to defend myself.

The worst knock against a gas tax is that it is, well, a tax. Who likes that? But with soaring deficits and a war to pay for, taxes are not an option — they're a necessity. The only relevant question is, Which taxes? The case for a gas tax is a straightforward one. Gas prices are strikingly lower in America than anywhere else in the world; such taxes are relatively easy to collect; since an overwhelming majority of Americans drive, few avoid the tax; and by adding a cost to the wanton consumption of gasoline, you actually encourage conservation, accelerate fuel efficiency, reduce pollution, cut traffic and help wean Americans off the oil that requires the U.S. to be so intimately involved in that wonderful cesspool of rival hatreds, the Middle East. So what's not to like?

The idea is so obviously a good one that in their recent absurd bickering over who is responsible for higher gas prices, neither George W. Bush nor John Kerry has gone near it.

Mostly right, except that it should be used to offset cuts in other taxes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:24 AM


Student trying to 'bomb' Kerry (Eric Heyl, April 16, 2004, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

[Ken] Jacobson, 23, of Shadyside, is the driving force behind an Internet effort to publicize the issue-waffling done by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry. He is attempting to make the Massachusetts senator's campaign Web site -- www.johnkerry.com -- the first that appears after typing in the word "waffles" on Internet search engines.

As of Thursday, Kerry's site was the first Web page indexed when querying "waffles" on the Yahoo! and Lycos search engines, the fourth on MSN and the sixth on AltaVista. It doesn't show up on Google, which is to search engines what the English mastiff is to dog breeds -- a pretty darn big one.

Jacobson has been able to accomplish this feat less than two weeks after launching the crusade from his own little-known Web site, www.esoteric-diatribe.blogspot.com.

"I can't believe the response to this," he said. "It only took 11 days to conquer the Internet."

He did so employing a technique computer nerds refer to as "Google bombing." It occurs when a group of Web sites link to another Web page using specific words or phrases.

If enough people use the same keywords, the linked Web page becomes one of the first to surface when the keywords are queried into a search engine.

That would be "waffles".

Posted by Peter Burnet at 11:20 AM


A judgment too far (The Scotsman, 08/04/04)

Two Albanian men who came under fire from British peacekeeping troops in Kosovo in 1999 have won damages from the Ministry of Defence, after a hearing at the High Court in London. A third man was killed in the incident. Speaking in judgment, Mr Justice Elias said: "In this case, the fall from the army’s usual high standards led to tragic consequences for the victims and their families. The Queen’s uniform is not a licence to commit wrongdoing."

The case obviously has great significance for British operations abroad, especially in Iraq. It cannot be denied that British soldiers, even in the most dangerous combat situation, must operate within a framework of law and respect for human rights. But the issue at stake here is that Mr Justice Elias has extended the principle that the British Army must demonstrate a duty of care in all foreign "peacekeeping" operations - operations which can only grow in number in the 21st century. As a result, he ruled that the three Albanians bore no responsibility for the incident, despite the fact that the dead man was firing an AK-47 automatic in defiance of an embargo, or that they refused to stop their vehicle when asked, or that they were approaching a building containing frightened Serbian civilians being guarded from the local Albanian population by the British troops.

British soldiers do not have leave to shoot civilians at will, even in problematic circumstances. However, this ruling seems to identify a situation called "peacekeeping" - hardly a well-defined concept - in which the duty of care imposed on British soldiers precludes them from considering it a combat zone. In other words, soldiers may find their response is strictly limited in law. Thus, Mr Justice Elias stated clearly that the three Albanians shared no responsibility for their injuries - a view many will consider breaks the bounds of common sense.

Breaks the bounds of common sense? How about dives head first into insanity? Maybe the U.S. should retreat before Sadr drops the big one–a class action.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:13 AM


French battle over 35-hour week (Guardian News Service, 4/18/04)

French leftwing groups and trade unions howled down a proposal to touch one of the most sacred tenets of French life: the 35-hour week.

Members of the ruling centre-right party proposed that the law, inherited from the last Socialist government, be altered to allow companies rather than the state to set their own ceilings on working hours.

Why shouldn't a dying race enjoy its twilight years?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:10 AM


To some banks, undocumented residents an untapped market (JENALIA MORENO, 4/17/04, Houston Chronicle)


No problema, some banks and lenders say to undocumented immigrants.

Banco Popular is one bank that gives undocumented immigrants home loans, provided they have an individual taxpayer identification number. Other banks will likely soon offer undocumented immigrants home loans, Banco Popular officials predict.

"It's not going to be long before a lot of people are out there tapping it," said Mike Carr, regional executive for Banco Popular, which is based in Puerto Rico.

Good credit and a job history are necessary to take out a loan, as well as abiding by the anti-terrorism Patriot Act, which requires banks to check the identity of their customers. But legal status in the United States is not.

"It's not my job to determine if somebody is here legally or illegally," Carr said.

The bank is helping an underserved market, he said.

"You take the underground economy and you bring it to the surface," Carr said.

Freeloading immigrants?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:07 AM


OK, it's not perfect, but workers comp deal works (Daniel Weintraub, April 18, 2004, Sacramento Bee)

A few hours after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders settled last week on a delicately balanced plan to overhaul the state's troubled workers compensation system, the lawyers who represent injured workers attacked the deal as a sellout to employers and insurance companies and an assault on employees hurt on the job.

"INJURED WORKERS CHOICE OF DOCTORS IS ELIMINATED," the lawyers' statement screamed. "The injured worker can choose a doctor only from a 'closed panel' or pool of physicians selected exclusively by employers or insurers. Free choice from a pool of company doctors is no choice!"

But here is what this provision would actually do: It would allow employers to offer workers a network of doctors approved by the state and obligated to follow national standards in diagnosing and treating injured workers. Workers who disagreed with the first doctor's recommendation could get a second and a third opinion. If they were still unhappy, they would be entitled to an independent medical review from a doctor chosen by the state. And if that review vindicated them, they could leave the employer's network to get care elsewhere.

That kind of gap between the rhetoric of the lawyers and the reality of the bill is typical of the interest-group minefield that Schwarzenegger and the lawmakers who negotiated with the governor had to navigate to reach this compromise. Employers, labor, insurance companies, doctors, lawyers and others with a stake in the $20 billion-a-year system relentlessly advocate for their own positions - and often seek to demonize anyone who disagrees.

But the workers comp agreement reflects a compromise among most of the major players and another example of the kind of progress on knotty problems that can come when partisans back away from absolutism and settle for something less than their ideal.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:33 AM


The Bush re-election cmpaign has just launched their official site.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:52 AM


'Lawrence of Arabia' Redux (Frank Rich, 4/18/04, NY Times)

AS the Iraq war enters its second year, it has already barreled through at least four movie plots. What began as a "High Noon" showdown with Saddam Hussein soon gave way to George W. Bush's "Top Gun" victory jig. Next was the unexpected synergy with "The Fog of War," Errol Morris's Oscar-winning documentary underlining how the Johnson administration's manipulation of the Gulf of Tonkin incident was the ur-text for the current administration's hyping of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. And then Fallujah: "Black Hawk Down."

If the news from the war were better, there might be an audience now for Disney's new version of "The Alamo," with which Michael Eisner had once hoped to "capture the post-Sept. 11 surge in patriotism." But its opening weekend may have drawn fewer moviegoers in total than there were Jews at "The Passion of the Christ." Triumphalism is out. If we are to believe most commentators, the next title on our wartime bill will instead be "Apocalypse Now" (if we stay and sink into the quagmire) or "Three Kings" (if we cut and run). Though perhaps not quite yet. The most apt movie for this moment just may be David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia." Richard Holbrooke, the Clinton ambassador to the United Nations whose foreign service career began in Vietnam, said to me last week, "That's the image everyone I've talked to who saw the movie has in his head right now."

What Mr. Holbrooke is referring to is the story's mordant conclusion. The Arab revolt against the Ottoman empire, abetted by the heroic British liaison officer T. E. Lawrence and guerrilla tactics, has succeeded. The shotgun mandating of the modern state of Iraq, by the League of Nations in 1920, is just a few years away. But as the local leaders gather in an Arab council, a tentative exercise in self-government, there is nothing but squabbling, even as power outages and public-health outrages roil the populace. "I didn't come here to watch a tribal bloodbath," says Peter O'Toole, as Lawrence, earlier in the movie when first encountering the internecine warfare of the Arab leaders he admired. But the bloodbath continued — and now that we've ended Saddam's savage grip on Iraq, it has predictably picked up where it left off. Only Americans have usurped the British as the primary targets in the crossfire of an undying civil war.

It was last weekend, after I watched "Lawrence" again for the first time in years, that L. Paul Bremer was asked by Tim Russert to whom we would turn over the keys in Iraq on June 30, and gave his now immortal answer: "Well, that's a good question." We don't have a clue, and in part that's because we have no memory.

No, seriously, he wrote this. I know, you're saying to yourself: "No intelligent human being thinks that the movies tell it like it was"--but he really wrote this.

Anyone who's read any of a number of books--the best of which is probably David Fromkin's Peace to End all Peace--will be aware that most of today's problems in the Middle Easty trace directly to the failure to heed Lawrence and allow the Arabs to develop their own states. All the Brits and French did was to delay the necessary process of self-determination and democratization for several decades. Unfortunately, we're left cleaning up the mess they made.

If he's going to base his view of history on the movies alone, Mr. Rich would do well to at least choose his viewing more carefully. In this case, A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia is more accurate than David Lean's masterpiece.

George W. Bush is indeed T. E. Lawrence, but he's also David Lloyd George and that makes all the difference in the world.

The importance of T. E. Lawrence (David Fromkin, September 1991, New Criterion)

The celebrity brought about by Lowell Thomas’s “Lawrence of Arabia” show propelled T. E. into the political limelight. Long before George Murphy became a U.S. Senator or Ronald Reagan became America’s President, Lawrence was a sort of actor in politics. He threw himself into his roles wholeheartedly. Dressed in the uniform of a British officer, he spoke cynically of how he would manipulate the peoples of the Middle East, but wearing his native robes, he was the only prominent Englishman in favor of genuine independence for the Arabs.

In 1919 Lawrence was Feisal’s confederate at the Peace Conference, maneuvering to get Hussein’s son the crown of an independent Syria and causing some on the British side to wonder whose team he was on. In 1920, T. E. became a public critic of Britain’s Middle East policy. Attacking the central justification of imperialism—that native peoples are incapable of self-rule—he wrote to the Times that “Merit is no qualification for freedom.” Of the Arabs in Syria and what is now Iraq, he wrote that “They did not risk their lives in battle to change masters, to become British subjects or French citizens, but to win a show of their own.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:40 AM


REVIEW: of The Betrayal of Dissent by Scott Lucas (Johann Hari, 11 April 2004, Independent)

When I first heard that Scott Lucas was writing a book-length attack on "public intellectuals including Christopher Hitchens, Michael Walzer, David Aaronovitch and [hem hem] Johann Hari, who have all invoked Orwellian honesty and decency to shut down dissent", I was excited. The British school of "Cruise Missile Liberals" - lefties who backed the recent war on Iraq and, more broadly, the "War on Terror" - have been an eclectic crowd, from John Lloyd to Nick Cohen. Our philosophy remains inchoate. Nothing helps to clarify thought like intelligent opposition, so I turned keenly to The Betrayal of Dissent when it arrived on my desk.

Lucas's first chapter is a familiar attack on George Orwell, rehashed from his earlier biography. Orwell is a "policeman of the left", he argues, a man who defended the world's existing power structures aggressively while dressing his conservatism in progressive rhetoric. He merely adopted the pose of telling uncomfortable truths to his own side; in reality, he belonged in the conservative camp all along. Orwell's ire, Lucas argues, was consistently turned to greatest effect against the legitimate socialist movements of his time. He blamed the poverty in Wigan on the failure of socialists and the rise of tyranny on the success of socialists. Presented with any given problem, he was more enraged by the failure of the left than by anything else.

Once he is seen in this context, Lucas explains, we can see that the canonisation of Orwell has occurred for two fetid reasons. Firstly, he provides right-wingers with a fake "decent" left-winger they can use to bash and delegitimise any real opposition forces. Secondly, he provides lefties with an excuse - and indeed a vocabulary - for selling out while retaining a smug sense of moral superiority. This is an interesting thesis, albeit one Lucas has already outlined at length. The point of this new book is to extend this critique to the "liberal hawks" who are, he believes, contemporary Orwells, defending the extension of ultra-conservative American power with slices of leftie rhetoric.

Isn't the point that to be a member of the Decent Left is to be of the Right?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:27 AM


Majority misrule: This week’s elections in South Africa mark the tenth anniversary of the end of apartheid, but racism still governs the republic. (Andrew Kenny, 4/17/04, The Spectator)

Since 1994, South Africa has had political stability, with no threats whatsoever to the ruling party in government, but has suffered rampant crime, with a quarter of a million murders. Unemployment has increased from 31 per cent then to 41 per cent now. Economic growth, which the ANC promised would be 6 per cent (a reasonable hope), has been 2.8 per cent, far less than in equivalent emerging countries. The ANC’s great achievement has been in the national finances: debt has been reduced to European levels or lower, and inflation is under tight control. Tourism and motor-car manufacturing have done well, but industry in general has not. South Africa has seen the world’s most vigorous programme of bringing electricity to poor households. The rand has dropped from 3.6 to the dollar then to 6.5 now, and even at this rate it is much too strong for the economy to bear. There has been the greatest sustained period of skilled emigration in South African history. Foreign fixed investment in South Africa has been pitifully low. South Africa’s largest companies, such as Anglo-American, Old Mutual and Sasol, have listed abroad and are shipping their assets out of the country. The Johannesburg Stock Exchange has dropped from the 14th to the 17th largest stock exchange in the world. Aids, unemployment and violent crime are crushing millions of desperately poor people.

A tourist to South Africa now would get much the same impression as a tourist to Zimbabwe in 1990, ten years after Mugabe came to power: lovely weather, magnificent scenery, well-functioning amenities and friendly people. On the way from Cape Town airport to the city, though, he would glimpse huddled shantytowns and squatter camps on the side of the freeway. In Johannesburg, he would notice security fences around nearly every house. If he began to talk to local businessmen, he would find that most of them were looking for ways of getting their money out of the country. He would hear professional middle-aged people expecting their children to leave the country after their education. After a few beers, the mood of the locals in the pub might well turn into the sour resignation that characterises so much of South Africa today.

Looking back over the two eras, I see a horrible continuity between apartheid and ANC rule. Both the National party and the ANC had strong socialist instincts before coming to power, and a desire to nationalise the economy. Neither did so in government, both choosing instead a corporatist or fascist approach, in which the big corporations and trade unions were co-opted into arrangements with the state on the running of the economy. Both believe in an all-powerful state that must control every aspect of life. And of course both are obsessed with race, their all-consuming ideology.

This has been a bitter pill for liberals like me to swallow. The hopes in the dying days of apartheid that soon at last we would judge a man on his worth and not his race have been dashed completely. We are now forced by law, under pain of huge penalties, to judge men by their skin colour. It is now compulsory for employers to classify their employees by race, to state whether they are white, ‘African’, ‘coloured’ or ‘Indian’, and to submit a plan showing how they will change their racial proportions to match the ANC’s racial masterplan. These ANC laws are very similar to the 1933 German laws to bring about a correct balance between ‘Aryans’ and ‘non-Aryans’. At the universities, heads of departments must fill in lists giving even more racial details about their students. (Chinese students might or might not be classified as ‘Asian’, depending on whether they come from Hong Kong, Taiwan or mainland China.) Sports teams are disqualified if they do not have the correct racial quotas.

The centrepiece of the ANC’s racial ideology is ‘Black Economic Empower-ment’ (BEE). This gives jobs, promotion and contracts on the basis of black skin colour. Businesses must have BEE managers and must make their procurements with BEE companies, or else they will not get government contracts. White businessmen promote black men to high positions because of their political connections. This has produced an elite of black rentiers, who drive Mercedes and live in mansions, who become very rich not by producing wealth but by bestowing political patronage. At the same time, the economy is held in a strangling grip by the government, a few large corporations and the big trade unions. In true fascist style, the three have come together to draw up highly restrictive labour laws, which cripple small businesses and shut the poor out of the economy. The result is massive unemployment, grinding poverty for the masses and sumptuous wealth for the lucky few.

The reason for majority rule in colonial societies is not because the majority can or should run the country but because the effects on the minority from oppressing the majority are so morally and spiritually destructive. Once the natives make all the same mistakes we Westerners did they'll arrive at the same solutions, but it means they go backwards for quite some time before going forwards.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 9:13 AM


Antidepressant Use in Children Soars Despite Efficacy Doubts (Shankar Vedantam, Washington Post, 18/04/04)

The number of depressed American children being treated with antidepressants has soared over the past decade -- a tectonic shift in the practice of psychiatry -- but new scientific reviews of the research that fueled the trend suggest that the drugs' benefits have been dramatically oversold.

The use of antidepressants among children grew three- to tenfold between 1987 and 1996, data from various studies indicate, and a newer survey found a further 50 percent rise in prescriptions between 1998 and 2002. The explosion in antidepressant use occurred even though the vast majority of clinical trials have failed to prove that the medicines help depressed children.

The spike in prescriptions over the past five years has been especially sharp among children younger than 6, even though there is virtually no clinical trial data on these youngest patients.

Paradoxically, drugs that have never shown benefits for depressed children in clinical trials have some of the largest increases in prescription rates. Pediatric prescriptions for Paxil, for example, doubled between 1998 and 2002, even though the medicine failed to show it was any better than dummy pills in three trials. The drug has not been approved for use in children, and last year the Food and Drug Administration and British health authorities warned physicians not to prescribe Paxil for children, citing safety concerns.

Paxil is not alone. Of 15 trials conducted among depressed children, 10 failed to show antidepressants were better than dummy pills. Two were inconclusive, and three showed positive results. The negative results have mostly been withheld from public scrutiny by the pharmaceutical companies that paid for the trials, which say that the data are proprietary.

Although many psychiatrists swear by the drugs in children and adults, leading specialists agree they have limitations.

The first line says it all by assuming there is a plague of young children suffering from a real disease called depression. What exactly is a depressed five year old? What kind of insane society actually believes this? Surely any parent or doctor that allows a young child to be medicated this way is guilty of child abuse.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:01 AM


“The Passion of the Christ” wins over non-Catholic youth (Asia News, 4/01/04)

Thanks to an avalanche of English language pirated copies, the fever for Gibson’s blockbuster “The Passion of the Christ” is spreading across China, as young Catholics are taking great pains to encourage their friends and schoolmates to see the film.

AsiaNews sources in the capital have said that during the last few days there have been dozens of showings of the film in small groups and parishes, to which even non-Christians are invited.

A young non-Catholic said: “My only intention was to practice my English by watching the film. Instead, however, the movie really struck me: I can’t believe that someone would sacrifice himself for others, even to the point of dying for them,” he said. “I want to learn more about Christianity,” he added.

Never mind the commercial success, the influence Mr. Gibson's film is having in the world should earn him the Best Picture Oscar.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:45 AM


Iraq's Kurds: Toward an Historic Compromise? (Middle East Report , 08 April 2004, International Crisis Group)

The removal of the Ba'ath regime in 2003 opened a Pandora's box of long-suppressed aspirations, none as potentially explosive as the Kurds' demand, expressed publicly and with growing impatience, for wide-ranging autonomy in a region of their own, including the oil-rich governorate of Kirkuk. If mismanaged, the Kurdish question could fatally undermine the political transition and lead to renewed violence. Kurdish leaders need to speak more candidly with their followers about the compromises they privately acknowledge are required, and the international community needs to work more proactively to help seal the historic deal.

The Kurdish demand for a unified, ethnically-defined region of their own with significant powers and control over natural resources has run up against vehement opposition from Iraqi Arabs, including parties that, while still in exile, had broadly supported it. The Kurds in turn vigorously objected to the kind of federalism envisaged in the agreement reached in November 2003 by Paul Bremer of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and the Interim Governing Council, which would have been based on Iraq's eighteen existing governorates, including three individual, predominately Kurdish ones, and have left them without control of Kirkuk.

A series of negotiations produced a compromise in the interim constitution (Transitional Administrative Law, TAL) signed on 8 March 2004 that recognised a single Kurdish region effectively equivalent to what the Kurds have governed in semi-independence since 1991 (that is, without Kirkuk), elevated Kurdish to official language status alongside Arabic and met another Kurdish demand by providing that a census would be held in Kirkuk before its final status was determined. In return, the Kurdish leaders accepted postponement of the knotty Kirkuk question until the constitutional process that begins only sometime in 2005 is complete and a legitimate and sovereign Iraqi government has been established through direct elections.

Meanwhile, away from the give and take of the negotiations in Baghdad, the Kurds are contributing mightily to a volatile atmosphere by creating demographic and administrative facts in Kirkuk, using their numbers and superior organisation to undo decades of Arabisation and stake a strong claim to the area. The Turkoman, Arab and Assyro-Chaldean communities are increasingly worried about Kurdish domination evident in control of key directorates, strength on the provincial council and the steady return of Kurds displaced by past Arabisation campaigns in a process that many see as reverse ethnic cleansing. In March 2004, rising tensions led the Arab and Turkoman members to resign from the Kirkuk provincial council. A pattern, new for Kirkuk, has begun to emerge of sectarian-based protests that erupt into violence.

Significantly, however, the tough bargaining and rhetoric during the TAL negotiations and the friction in Kirkuk mask a profound shift in Kurdish strategy that is yet to be broadcast and understood publicly. The top leadership of the two principal Kurdish parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), is offering Iraqi Arabs what amounts to an historic compromise: acceptance of an autonomous region as the maximum objective of the Kurdish national movement they represent and, even more importantly, a willingness, expressed in interviews with ICG, to abandon the exclusive claim to Kirkuk in favour of a sharing arrangement under which the city and governorate would receive a special status.

Regrettably, Kurdish leaders have yet to announce their decision or start preparing the Kurdish people for this profound and seemingly genuine strategic shift. Indeed, there is a growing discrepancy between what the Kurds want, what they say they want and what non-Kurds suspect they want.

The Sunni could have a similar arrangement if they'd deal with their own more radical elements or finger them and let us deal with them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:39 AM


American Christians Don't Threaten Jews: Critics of "The Passion" look for anti-Semitism in all the wrong places. (ARYEH SPERO, April 5, 2004, Wall Street Journal)

Record-breaking multitudes over a span of many weeks have now viewed Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" in every major and far-flung U.S. locale, and not one American synagogue has been torched or Jewish cemetery vandalized by the Christian faithful who have seen the movie. Having been forewarned that in medieval Europe, passion plays and Easter sermons roused the public to immediate pillaging of Jews and their property, Americans should be proud that the warnings by Jewish organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League of anti-Semitic outbreaks did not materialize here.

I never had any doubts, since it has been obvious for decades that American Christianity embodies a warm and symbiotic attachment to the Jewish religion, believing as it does in a Judeo-Christian ethic with strong, literal emphasis on the Old Testament. Such did not prevail in pre-World War II Europe, which viewed the Jewish religion as basically illegitimate. Moreover, Americans, in contrast to Europeans, have repeatedly shown themselves to be philo-Semitic. In America, Jews are not considered "outsiders."

And herein lies one of the most disheartening but salient observations one is forced to make, post-"Passion," about many in the Jewish community: They still don't get it. Even after more than two charmed centuries in America, they confuse contemporary America with medieval and postmedieval Europe, still not realizing how America and American Christians are a category wholly different from those of other nations, other religions and other strains of Christianity. [...]

Anti-Semitism is a real problem in the world today, but it mostly arises from the Muslim world and the political left. It's easy to attack American Christians, schooled on love and forbearance, who will never requite these attacks with any sort of comparable intensity. It takes real bravery to confront the anti-Semitism of militant Islamists and left-wingers who have been inclined to physical violence.

The Muslim world may well use this Christian film to depict Jews as evil and further their anti-Jewish propaganda. They do so steadily with the fictitious and European-based Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and every week some state-sponsored Egyptian newspaper carries editorial cartoons depicting Jews as apes, devils, Nazis. Last week Reuters reported that " 'The Passion of the Christ' is all the rage among Palestinians, curious about complaints by Jews that it is anti-Semitic." Likewise in much of Europe, predisposed as it is to Jew-hatred, the movie may stir continued demonization of Jews.

In contrast, American Christian leaders will continue to use this as an opportunity to show friendship to the Jewish community, ignoring the taunts of Abe Foxman and the vulgarities of Frank Rich. To be sure, even in America there will be occasional incidents of anti-Semitism, as there were before the film, but in a nation of almost 300 million, they will be statistically insignificant.

The heads of American Jewish organizations ignited this world-wide controversy by implying that American Christians are but one movie away from attacking their Jewish neighbors. Now that the evidence is in, will they apologize?

The Holocaust means never having to say you're sorry.

-The Passion of the Christ -- Three Reviews and a Letter (Orson Scott Card February 29, 2004, Rhinoceros Times))

Pious films are usually embarrassingly bad -- one thinks of Richard Gere prancing around in a diaper in the mercifully forgotten King David -- primarily because the attempt to inspire and the need to be true to the source material are often incompatible with each other, and both interfere with the requirements of art and entertainment.

Director and co-writer Mel Gibson's artistic achievement in The Passion of the Christ would have been noteworthy had the film been merely adequate, as art or entertainment. Instead, it is superb; I believe that it is, in every way that matters, perfect. [...]

But Jesus' life is well-known, in outline at least, even to nonbelievers; and to believers, every word of dialogue, every single event, is expected.

So the real surprise is how much Gibson was able to step away from the literal filming-of-the-gospels and insert his own (or co-writer Benedict Fitzgerald's) brilliant interpretations, augmentations, and allegorizations.

The most obvious such fictionalization is the way the film depicts Satan. I was astonished, after the fact, to find that Satan was played by a woman, Rosalinda Celentano. But the way Satan is presented, his face a mockery of tenderness and concern, surrounded by images of maggots, serpents, decay, deformity, I could not imagine a better depiction. And when we see, at the point of Christ's death, Satan in the midst of desolation, defeated, it gives the film meaning and resonance that would not have been there had we seen nothing more than the torture and death of Jesus' body.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 AM


A Fresh Take on a Classic Role (Judith S. Gillies, April 18, 2004, Washington Post)

When actor Goran Visnjic told his father he was playing the lead role in "Spartacus," his dad simply said, "Better be good."

That's because he was not only playing "one of the most important humans in the whole world history," the actor said, he also was tackling a role made famous by the legendary Kirk Douglas in a 1960 film that has a history of its own.

The new "Spartacus" is a miniseries about the slave who was trained as a gladiator and led a bloody revolt against his Roman masters more than 2,000 years ago. It premieres in two parts on Sunday and Monday from 8 to 10 p.m. on cable's USA Network.

It obviously won't be as good as the great movie but is supposedly not too bad.

April 17, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:53 PM


Bush Began to Plan War Three Months After 9/11: Book Says President Called Secrecy Vital (William Hamilton, April 17, 2004, Washington Post)

In two interviews with Woodward in December, Bush minimized the failure to find the weapons of mass destruction, expressed no doubts about his decision to invade Iraq, and enunciated an activist role for the United States based on it being "the beacon for freedom in the world."

"I believe we have a duty to free people," Bush told Woodward. "I would hope we wouldn't have to do it militarily, but we have a duty."

The president described praying as he walked outside the Oval Office after giving the order to begin combat operations against Iraq, and the powerful role his religious beliefs played throughout that time.

"Going into this period, I was praying for strength to do the Lord's will. . . . I'm surely not going to justify war based upon God. Understand that. Nevertheless, in my case I pray that I be as good a messenger of His will as possible. And then, of course, I pray for personal strength and for forgiveness."

The president told Woodward: "I am prepared to risk my presidency to do what I think is right. I was going to act. And if it could cost the presidency, I fully realized that. But I felt so strongly that it was the right thing to do that I was prepared to do so."

Asked by Woodward how history would judge the war, Bush replied: "History. We don't know. We'll all be dead."

The president told Woodward he was cooperating on his book because he wanted the story of how the United States had gone to war in Iraq to be told. He said it would be a blueprint of historical significance that "will enable other leaders, if they feel like they have to go to war, to spare innocent citizens and their lives."

"But the news of this, in my judgment," Bush added, "the big news out of this isn't how George W. makes decisions. To me the big news is America has changed how you fight and win war, and therefore makes it easier to keep the peace in the long run. And that's the historical significance of this book, as far as I'm concerned."

That is indeed the only portion of the book that matters in the long run.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:37 PM


McDermott returns contribution linked to Hussein's regime (The Associated Press, 4/17/2004)

Rep. Jim McDermott of Washington has returned a $5,000 contribution made to his legal defense fund by an Iraqi-American businessman who has acknowledged financial ties with Saddam Hussein's regime.

Does anyone really think Mr. McDermott betrayed his country for the money?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:33 PM


9/11 commissioner: 'I've received threats': Gorelick says she won't step down; FBI investigating (CNN, April 17, 2004)

Jamie Gorelick, a member of the commission investigating the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, said Saturday that she received death threats this week after a number of conservatives alleged that her former work in the Justice Department may have contributed to failures leading to the attacks.

In the mid-1990s, Gorelick served as deputy attorney general of the United States. During that time, she wrote a memorandum establishing distinctions between intelligence that could be used for law-enforcement purposes and intelligence that could be used for national security purposes.

That separation was originally required as a safeguard against abuse of citizens' rights by government investigative agencies. But passage of the Patriot Act in the wake of the attacks eliminated the requirement.

So now she has an even more obvious conflict of interest, no?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:05 PM


Kicking Over the Chessboard (THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, 4/18/04, NY Times)

At first, I thought I'd write a column that just ripped President Bush for declaring that the United States — after decades of neutrality — has decided to oppose the right of Palestinian refugees to return to Israel as part of any final peace settlement. Why is the president dragging America into the middle of this most sensitive Israeli-Palestinian issue? You're telling me that just because Ariel Sharon has to persuade the right-wing lunatics in his cabinet to undo the lunatic settlement mess that Mr. Sharon himself created, America has to pay for it with its own standing in the Arab world?

And while I was at it, I also thought I'd write that it is an abomination for Mr. Bush to say that Palestinians had to recognize "the new realities on the ground" in the West Bank — the massive Israeli settlement blocks — without even mentioning the fact that those "new realities" were built in defiance of stated U.S. policy and they have been just devastating to Palestinian civilians, who've seen their lands confiscated, olive groves uprooted and community fragmented.

But then I thought I also had to write to the Arab leaders wailing over the Bush statements and ask them a simple question: Where have you been? Saudi Arabia's crown prince comes up with one peace plan, one time, for one day. That was it. There's been no follow-up — not a single imaginative, or even pedestrian, Saudi, Arab or Palestinian initiative to sell this peace plan to the Israeli people. And what did the Palestinians think? That years of insane suicide bombing of Israelis wouldn't drive Israel to act unilaterally?

But after I got all these prospective columns off my chest, I decided what I really wanted to say was this: I'm fed up with the Middle East, or more accurately, I'm fed up with the stalemate in the Middle East. All it has produced is death, destruction and endless "he hit me first" debates on cable television. Arabs, Israelis, Americans — everyone is sick of it.

So now President Bush has stepped in and thrown the whole frozen Middle East chessboard up in the air. I don't like his style, but it's done. The status quo was no better.

It's fascinating the way Mr. Bush's radicalism so often lies in forcing people to face unwelcome realities.

This gamble by Sharon is at least based on reality (Anne Applebaum, 18/04/2004, Daily Telegraph)

"He's rolling the dice," a diplomat said to me last week, speaking of the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon. "Let's just roll the dice and see what happens" is how another foreign affairs analyst I know in Washington described the Bush administration's Middle Eastern policy.

Sometimes political metaphors take on a life of their own (remember the European train that was about to leave the station?) and this one has lately become almost inseparable from the policy that America and Israel have been trying to craft over the past few months in the Middle East. I have also heard people talk of "reshuffling the cards", which amounts to the same thing: these are gambling metaphors, descriptions of an extremely risky, high-stakes policy that nobody actually feels very confident about.

And a gamble is what Sharon is now engaged in, as even his supporters agree. By promising unilaterally to pull his troops and his settlers out of the Gaza strip and large chunks of the West Bank; by building a fence (or a wall, depending on your point of view) along what has become, in effect, the new, albeit still temporary, Israeli border; by dropping any attempt to negotiate either the borders or the political character of a new Palestinian state; by doing all of this, Sharon has suddenly and abruptly changed all of the rules of the Middle Eastern game. For a long time - decades, in fact - everyone has assumed that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could only be resolved by mutual agreement. Instead, one of the negotiating parties which was trying to resolve it has suddenly abdicated.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:59 PM


Iran's mullahs influencing resistance in Iraq (REZA LADJEVARDIAN, 4/15/04, Houston Chronicle)

After their recent naked power grab in Iran and the Iranian people's apathy toward the plight of the reformists, who consistently failed to deliver on their promises, the conservatives now feel more secure about their powerbase in Iran and are more emboldened to challenge America in Iraq. They now feel the best defense to ensure their position in Iran is a good offense in Iraq.

Al-Sadr has learned very well from his conservative role models in Iran. The vast majority of the Iranians didn't want a theocracy at the time of the revolution, but rather a democratic regime that respected their Islamic values. However, an organized and extremely militant group around Ayatollah Khomeini through force and intimidation outmaneuvered far higher ranking clerics such as Ayatollah Shariatmadari, who wasn't willing to shed blood.

Similar to how the taking of the American hostages resulted in the further radicalization of Iran's Islamic revolution and the marginalization of the more tolerant, democratic Islamic leaders, the present uprising is a power play by radicals such as al-Sadr to undermine and marginalize moderates, such as Ayatollah Ali Sistani.

Al-Sadr is trying to copy Khomeini's formula. By setting himself up as the undisputable leader of the anti-American camp of the Shiites, al-Sadr hopes for a harsh retaliation by the American forces to boost anti-Americanism among the Shiites.

This way, he'll compel Sistani to increasingly become more critical of the American occupation or risk marginalization. Either way, al-Sadr will enhance his own prestige and following. He believes that through intimidation, he can also leverage his organized yet relatively small militant group.

Al-Sadr has consistently advocated for an Iranian-like theocracy, traveled to Iran and received considerable financing and training from Iran's Revolutionary guards. His pre-eminent father, who was assassinated by Saddam Hussein, even argued for velayat-e faqi, in line with Khomeini's rule by jurists.

Al-Sadr is playing a pivotal role in the Iranian mullahs' Iraqi game plan by radicalizing the political environment.

We probably shouldn't violate the holy city of Najaf, but it sounds like al-Sadr could use killing. On Fresh Air the week, Juan Cole even said that some of al-Sadr's followers believe him the Hidden Imam--his death should at least dispel that notion.

-AUDIO INTERVIEW: with Middle East History Professor Juan Cole (Fresh Air, April 13, 2004)

A village laid waste: this is al-Sadr's law for unfaithful (Sunday Telegraph, 18/04/2004)

The destruction by religious extremists of an entire community gives a foretaste of life in Iraq if the hardline cleric takes control, writes Philip Sherwell in Najaf

On the dust-blown plains of central Iraq, Qawliya had long held a notorious reputation as a haven for prostitution, drug dealers and gun runners - until the village was reduced to rubble and its population driven from their homes.

The attack that destroyed Qawliya was launched by the Mahdi Army militiamen of Moqtada al-Sadr, the young clerical firebrand who has become the voice of anti-American discontent for many of the country's Shia Muslim majority.

It was this brutal display of Mahdi Army muscle last month - combined with the increasing power wielded by its Islamic sharia law courts - that finally persuaded Paul Bremer, chief US administrator of coalition forces, to declare al-Sadr an outlaw, The Telegraph has been told.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:30 PM


King Abdullah: Al Qaeda WMDs Came From Syria (Newsmax, 4/17/04)

Jordan's King Abdullah revealed on Saturday that vehicles reportedly containing chemical weapons and poison gas that were part of a deadly al Qaeda bomb plot came from Syria, the country named by U.S. weapons inspector David Kay last year as a likely repository for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

"It was a major, major operation. It would have decapitated the government," King Abdullah told the San Francisco Chronicle. Jordanian officials estimated that the death count could have been as high as 20,000 - seven times greater than the Sept. 11 attacks.

Syria Under Bashar (II): Domestic Policy Challenges (Middle East Report, 11 February 2004, International Crisis Group)

Bashar al-Assad’s presidency has failed to live up to the hopes for far-reaching domestic reform that greeted it in 2000. After a brief opening, Syria clamped down on dissent, and economic change remains painfully slow. Many who once viewed Bashar as a potential partner, open-minded, and Western-oriented, now perceive him as, if anything, more ideological than and just as tied to the Baathist regime as his father. Both assessments are overly simplistic and poor guides to dealing with a Syria that is at a crossroads. Syrian officials hint at significant steps in mid-2004, including possible changes in the Baath Party hierarchy and doctrine and moves toward a more open and inclusive political system. Scepticism is in order, as such pledges have repeatedly been made in the past only to be ignored. But with reform now a strategic imperative, Syria should turn hints into reality and the international community should find ways to encourage and to assist it.

There is good evidence that Bashar came to office aware that bold economic measures were needed to rationalise public administration, curb corruption and otherwise modernise the country. But his legitimacy and power base are closely tied to the Baathist system. However much he may understand that his plans cannot succeed with the current regime, he fears that he may not long survive without it. It is not a question of merely ridding the system of remnants of his father’s rule. The system has been shaped by powerful constituents – a political/economic elite entrenched in the public sector, the army, security services and a vast, lethargic bureaucracy accustomed to benefit from the status quo. Far more than his father, Bashar has to share authority with multiple power centres, as Syria’s “pluralistic authoritarianism” becomes less authoritarian, more pluralistic. An aspiring reformist, the President realised that his longevity was tied to the stability of the regime he sought to reform.

In the past, foreign policy dividends – income generated by aid from Iran in the 1980s, from the Gulf in the early 1990s, and from illicit trade with Iraq since then – made up for domestic shortfalls. Those days are gone. Syria urgently needs domestic change. Its economy is plagued by corruption, ageing state industries, a volatile and under-performing agricultural sector, rapidly depleting oil resources, an anachronistic educational system, capital flight and lack of foreign investment.

The image of a regime that owes its durability solely to repression and a narrow, sectarian base is wide of the mark; the Baathists built support from a cross-section of Syria’s socio-economic and religious groups. Still, the regime is by no means immune to internal challenge should the economy continue to deteriorate. At the least, a flagging economy will gradually undercut its legitimacy and undermine its support, and shrinking economic resources will reduce the availability of rents and economic privileges that have been used to ensure backing from key groups.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:44 PM


A Republican's Case Against George W. Bush (Paul Findley, April17 , 2004, Former Congressman Assess U.S. Foreign Policy)

DURING MY LONG life, America has surmounted many severe challenges. As a teenager, I experienced the Great Depression. In World War II, I saw war close-up as a Navy Seabee. As a country newspaper editor, I watched the Korean War from afar. As a Member of Congress, I agonized through the Vietnam War from start to finish. During these challenges I never for a moment worried about America's ultimate survival with its great principles and ideals still intact.

Today, for the first time, I worry deeply about America's future. We are in a deep hole. I believe President George W. Bush's decision to initiate war on Iraq will be the greatest and most costly blunder in American history. He has set America on the wrong course.

Follow the link to see whose readership will be getting this stunning message.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:40 PM


HAMAS LEADER KILLED (Sky News, 4/17/04)

The leader of Hamas in Gaza, Abdel Aziz Rantissi, has been killed in an Israeli missile strike.

His son Mohammed and a bodyguard were also killed when at least two missiles hit their car as it travelled through Gaza.

Rantissi was rushed to a Gaza City hospital in a critical condition after the attack but died from his injuries.

Hundreds of Hamas members and supporters flooded to the hospital after news of the Israeli raid.

If you're making Palestine a nation you need to kill the ones you want dead now, because afterwards it's an act of war. On the day they leave for good they'll kill Arafat too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:56 PM


One Dead, 6 Wounded in Kosovo, UN Police Trade Fire (Branislav Krstic, Apr 17, 2004, Reuters)

An American policewoman with the United Nations force in Kosovo was killed on Saturday and four U.S. policewomen were badly wounded in a shootout, said to be with Jordanian police, after a dispute about Iraq, a hospital official said.

A male American officer and an Austrian policeman were also wounded in the shooting at the U.N. compound in the city of Mitrovica, said Milan Ivanovic, deputy head of the Serbian hospital in Mitrovica.

Unconfirmed reports spoke of a total of five dead and 14 wounded in the incident, alleged to have been sparked by a dispute over Iraq between American and Jordanian colleagues.


It's religion gone mad
(MICHAEL COREN, 4/17/04, Toronto Sun)

HOW DOES one discuss the state of the Islamic faith, the Middle East, terrorism and the world without upsetting people? Frankly, it's almost impossible.

I'm not talking here of a fear of abuse and attack or of being accused of political incorrectness. I couldn't give a fig about that. No, I mean the need to hold on to common courtesy and avoiding making generalizations that could hurt good people. [...]
It's not about colonization, globalization, Zionism, American dominance or any other cliches. The Muslims themselves are colonizers, having pushed most Christians out of the Middle and near East, once the cradle of the Christian world.

The Ottoman Turks, Muslims all, colonized the region for centuries. Arabs colonized Persians, Assyrians, Kurds and others. The Saudis, sponsors of so much terror, are nobody's victims. They are wealthy beyond belief, and deprive women and minorities of most basic civil rights.

This is something deeper, darker, than an imagined fight against a foreign foe. There is a virus at work. For the sake of the good, law-abiding Muslims of the world -- the majority -- we cannot pretend any longer it's about anything other than what it is: a religion gone mad and gone bad.

Stop the lies, they only make it worse.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:20 PM


In New York, Gospel Resounds in African Tongues (DANIEL J. WAKIN, 4/18/04, NY Times)

Every Sunday, in more than 100 churches across New York City, pastors preach the Gospel in languages like Ibo, Twi and Ga. Conga drums drive songs of praise. Swaths of kente cloth cover bodies swaying in the pews.

An explosion of African immigrant churches in the past 15 years has helped reshape religious worship in the city. The surge is creating oases of Christian faith for newcomers from Nigeria, Ghana, Congo, Ethiopia and other countries and fueling an evangelical movement long the province of Latinos and African-Americans.

"They're having an impact beyond the African church," said Tony Carnes, a sociologist of religion who runs a seminar on immigration at Columbia University and a co-editor of "New York Glory: Religions in the City."

"The African churches are bringing new vitality and new ways of doing things to African-American and other churches," he added.

As membership increases, the churches are growing more visible in their neighborhoods. "People walk in and find community — friendly, African hospitality," Mr. Carnes said. "And second, there's this big emphasis on spiritual power in their services." As African churches attract increasing numbers of white worshipers, they can serve as a bridge between races, he added.

In some cases, churches founded by white missionaries during the colonial conquest of 19th-century Africa are sending their own missionaries here.

Seems only fair that they return the favor and evangelize the West.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:06 PM


What Iraqis Want: We'll settle for nothing less than sovereignty, democracy and justice. (AHMAD CHALABI, April 17, 2004, Wall Street Journal)

The CPA, the Iraqi Governing Council and the provisional government that will take power on June 30 must make greater efforts to bring the fruits of liberation to the lives of the mass of the Iraqi people. Sadr has attracted support because of growing discontent among the Shia. Dispossessed, abused and disenfranchised for so many years under the Baath, Iraq's Shia rejoiced at America's promises of liberation and democracy. Yet one year later liberation has become occupation, democracy is delayed, Baathists are returning to positions of influence, and while mass graves and torture centers have been revealed, the victims have yet to receive justice.

The alienation of the Shia is fostered by increasing calls in Washington, backed by the Arab capitals, for scaling back de-Baathification and bringing about "national reconciliation" between Iraq's communities. Both of these are seen by the Shia as euphemisms for renewed Baathist domination and Shia disenfranchisement. Careless comments by American politicians such as Sens. Carl Levin and Jay Rockefeller, who recently criticized the de-Baathification process, are replayed with glee by the Arab media and serve only to heighten the anxieties of the Shia majority and propel them into the arms of Sadr.

At the same time there must be greater efforts to empower the leaders in the Sunni community who are opposed to Saddam and Baathism and will support democracy in the new Iraq. There are many such leaders but they lack resources, organizational skills and, most importantly, the confidence to speak out. Iraqis must understand that democracy is not a zero-sum game where one community will triumph at the expense of others.

A year after Saddam was deposed, the Iraqi people are grateful for liberation but tired of occupation and delayed promises. Only sovereignty, democracy and justice will satisfy us now.

And why should the Shi'a accept anything less?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:32 PM


The Rights of Man: In the victory of the American Revolution European liberals saw the justification of their ideals and the realization of their hopes. It turned the current of the Enlightenment in a political direction and infused a revolutionary purpose into the democratic idealism of Rousseau. (CHRISTOPHER DAWSON, 1955, The South Atlantic Quarterly)

[I]f it was a time of freedom and hope, it was also a time of illusion. The Constituent Assembly went to work in a mood of boundless optimism without any regard for the facts of history or the limitations of time and place, in the spirit of their arch theorist Sieyès, who said that the so-called truths of history were as unreal as the so-called truths of religion. When their work was finished, Cerutti declared that they had destroyed fourteen centuries of abuses in three years, that the Constitution they had made would endure for centuries, and that their names would be blessed by future generations. Yet before many months had elapsed their work was undone and their leaders were executed, imprisoned or in exile. They had destroyed what they could not replace and called up forces that they could neither understand nor control. For the liberal aristocracy and bourgeoisie were not the people, and in some respects they were further from the people than the nobles and clergy who remained faithful to the old order. On the one hand there were the vast inarticulate masses of the peasantry who were ready to burn the castles of the nobles but who were often equally ready to fight with desperate resolution for their religion. On the other hand there was the people of the communes, above all the Commune of Paris.

For Paris was still at heart the old city of the League and it needed no teaching from America or England to learn the lesson of Revolution. It remembered the night of St. Bartholomew and the killing of Henry III, and its crowds rallied as readily to the preaching of the new Cordeliers and the new Jacobins as to that of their Catholic predecessors who led the mob against theHuguenots and held the city for five years against Henry of Navarre. Already in the days of July the people of Paris had asserted their power in unequivocal fashion and had regained their liberty by force of arms. Henceforward the people of Paris were an independent power, and a power which possessed far more political self-consciousness and revolutionary will than the people whose representatives sat in the National Assembly. It is true that in the first years of the Revolution the municipality was still in the hands of the bourgeoisie, but this was not the case with the assemblies of the districts and sections which were the real centers of political action. Here was democracy in action. Not the representative democracy of liberal constitutionalism, but the direct democracy of the medieval communes and the Greek city states — the democracy of which Rousseau and Mably had dreamed. It was this new and terrible power which was to undo the work of the aristocratic liberals and remake the Revolution; and already in the days of the Constituent Assembly it had found its leader in Danton, and its philosopher and teacher in Marat.

For the venomous and diseased little Swiss doctor, who was regarded as either a criminal or a lunatic by the respectable politicians of the Assembly, saw more clearly than they the fundamental issues of the Revolution and the bloody road that it was to travel. From the first he denounced the new constitution as the work of a privileged class and he marvelled at the way in which the workers had risked their lives to destroy the Bastille which was not their prison but that of their oppressors. He even warned the Assembly that if the bourgeoisie rejected the political rights of the workers on the ground of their poverty, they would find a remedy in the assertion of their economic rights to share in the possessions of the rich. "How many orators boast thoughtlessly of the charms of liberty. It only has a value for the thinker who has no wish to crawl and for the man who is called to play an important part by his wealth and position, but it means nothing to the people. What are Bastilles to them? They were nothing but a name. Where is the country of the poor?' he writes in November 1789, in reference to the question of conscription. "Everywhere condemned to serve, if they are not under the yoke of a master, they are under that of their fellow-citizens, and whatever revolution may come, their eternal lot is servitude, poverty and oppression. What can they owe to a state which has done nothing, nothing but secure their misery and tighten their chains. They owe it nothing but hatred and malediction."

In that disastrous demand for economic leveling lies the whole difference between the doomed revolutions of the Left and the successful American Revolution.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:14 AM


An Israeli Who's Got Everybody Outraged (JONATHAN D. TEPPERMAN, 4/17/04, NY Times)

"Ethnic cleansing has a bad name, and rightly so, but in 1948 it was justified because the 650,000 Jews who lived here were under existential threat," Mr. Morris said recently as he sat in the high-ceilinged lobby of the King David Hotel here. "It was the only way to win that war."

If Ben-Gurion bore any moral responsibility for expelling the Palestinians, Mr. Morris added, it was for not having been more thorough. Having decided on transfer, he said, Israel's leaders should have resolved to "do it properly."

"Don't leave 20 percent of the Arabs still in Israel," he said, creating "a time bomb for the future."

Mr. Morris, 55, is aware how discomforting his views are: "I'm not saying it's nice, I'm not saying it's pleasant."

And he stops short of endorsing transfer today, calling it "morally wrong and politically impractical" short of what he calls an existential threat to Israel.

But he does say, somewhat wistfully, that "had all the Palestinians crossed the Jordan River in 1948, either voluntarily or under compulsion, there would have been a complete separation between the two people, which would have taken some of the causation out of the continued warfare."

Such views — and the suggestion that ethnic cleansing cannot be ruled out as a legitimate strategy in the future — have almost entirely isolated Mr. Morris: he now finds himself rejected by his former comrades on the left and still shunned by the right.

Ilan Pappe, a professor at Haifa University who was also part of the generation of leftist revisionist historians, called Mr. Morris's statements proof that he is "a bigoted thinker, very narrow-minded."

Anita Shapira, a Zionist historian at Tel Aviv University and a longtime critic of Mr. Morris, said "he still has this inclination to look for any detail that can show the unsavory side of the Israeli army or politics, and to exaggerate it out of proportion."

His is a lonely position. "It's a bit unpleasant," Mr. Morris concedes, "when you walk in the corridors at Ben-Gurion University, and some of your colleagues don't say hello to you. It's been awkward."

But if Mr. Morris's case is extreme, his transformation and political hardening reflect some of the changes that Israeli society as a whole has undergone in recent years.

Anybody wish that America were on the verge of being majority Native American?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:11 AM


MADE IN THE WEST?: The Islamic fundamentalists who found their faith in Paris, London and New York. (Josie Appleton, 4/17/04, sp!ked)

Western towns and cities do seem to be particularly fertile ground for nurturing the kind of nihilistic terrorism that we saw on 9/11. A number of the hijackers, and the plot leader Mohammed Atta, met while students in Hamburg, Germany. Before he went to Germany, Atta had been involved in the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, which opposed the government and aimed to build an Islamic state in the country. It appears that it was in Hamburg, rather than Cairo, that Atta developed a more terrifying, anti-Western brand of terrorism. Meanwhile, the 'twentieth hijacker', Zacarias Moussaoui, was a French-born Muslim who fell in with fundamentalists at a mosque in Brixton, London; and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, one of the key planners of the 9/11 attacks, studied at university in North Carolina. Richard Reid, the 'shoe-bomber' who tried to blow up a plane over the Atlantic, was brought up in Bromley, south-east London, and also met fundamentalists at the Brixton mosque.

Al-Qaeda is often seen as hailing from the mountains of Afghanistan, but many of those who carried out al-Qaeda-style attacks in the 1990s had Western connections. The World Trade Centre bomb of 1993 was organised by a 25-year-old Pakistani, Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, who went to college in the Welsh city of Swansea - and he found his volunteers for the job in a mosque in Brooklyn, New York. Meanwhile, Ahmed Ressam, the 33-year-old Algerian who was caught trying to plant a bomb at Los Angeles international airport in 1999, had left Algeria when he was 25 to escape the rising violence caused by radical Islamists. He drifted around the ex-pat community in France for a while, then moved to Canada - and it was in a Canadian mosque that he became attracted to Islamic extremism. A group arrested for planning an attack on the US embassy in Paris included an Algerian-born man, who had lived in France and married a French woman before moving to Leicester, UK; and a Tunisian who had converted to radical Islam in Belgium.

This evidence has often been passed over, perhaps because it raises uncomfortable questions for the West. There has been a tendency to externalise terrorism, to see it as an assault by enemies from foreign lands - after all, it is much easier to bomb Afghanistan for 'harbouring terrorists' than Brooklyn or Hamburg. While the issue has been brought to attention in Europe, Americans still seem to want to believe that it doesn't affect them. A recent article in the Washington Post discussed home-grown fundamentalism as a European problem, saying that while 'Europe is on alert at home', 'America is at war abroad': 'Muslim communities in the United States are not seen as the breeding grounds for Islamic extremism.'

That some individuals are turning to fundamentalism in the West points to a malaise at the heart of our societies. This terrorism can't be blamed on the peculiarities of Islam or particular ethnic groups - on 'foreign elements' brought in from outside. Instead, it suggests a failure of mainstream institutions to cohere society and provide individuals with a sense of identity. These issues affect everybody, rather than only immigrants. Across the board we see a growing atomisation, confusion about personal identity and a cynicism about public life.

When individuals are more isolated, they often find change and development disorientating, rather than exciting. Western cities that in the past would have seemed exciting and ripe with opportunities may today just inspire unease. There is a tendency for individuals to kick against society, and lash out against change - something that we see in anti-globalisation protests' brand of anti-modern rejectionism as much as in the terrorism of 9/11.

It is difficult to imagine the globalised, nihilistic mentality of a Mohammed Atta developing in a Pashtun village or Palestinian refugee camp, communities which tend to be more preoccupied with local struggles over power and religion. In Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror, Jason Burke insists on the distinction between Islamic movements such as the Taliban, and al-Qaeda-style groups. While the Taliban had an incredibly narrow worldview, focused on the intricacies of religious behaviour and deeply rooted in rural Pashtun tradition, al-Qaeda's attacks against Western interests tend to be carried out by worldly freelancers. Operatives' detachment from traditional Islamic communities is almost a precondition for their terrorism: rather than building an Islamic society, they are lashing out at symbols of the West, wherever in the world they might find them.

Al Qaeda is no threat to us; we threaten ourselves.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:03 AM


Below the Campaign Radar, a Values War (ROBIN TONER, 4/17/04, NY Times)

There are stark differences between the candidates on these issues. Mr. Bush, for example, supports a constitutional amendment to outlaw same-sex marriage, and recently asserted in a speech that an amendment is the only way to protect the institution of marriage from "activist courts and local officials" who want to redefine it. Mr. Kerry says such an amendment is wrong; he opposes gay marriage but supports civil unions, and he has accused Mr. Bush of practicing divisive politics on the issue.

Mr. Bush is on record as a longtime opponent of legalized abortion, except in cases of rape and incest and to save a woman's life. Last fall he signed into law the first federal ban on a specific abortion procedure, the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, and he has appointed some prominent opponents of a constitutional right to abortion to federal appeals courts. He has said the country is not ready for an outright ban on abortion, although his party's platform calls for one, and he often speaks of working to "build a culture of life."

Mr. Kerry has a 100 percent rating from Naral Pro-Choice America and has promised to block any nominee to the Supreme Court who does not support Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that recognized a right to abortion. He was one of 34 senators who voted against the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, on the ground that that it had no exception for the use of the procedure to protect the health of the pregnant woman.

Another sharp distinction is on the issue of capital punishment. Mr. Kerry, a former prosecutor, has long opposed the death penalty, although he now supports its use against terrorists and has said he would respect state laws that call for it. Mr. Bush was governor of a state that led the nation in executions.

The campaigns themselves, so far, are not hammering those differences as hard as they might, at least with general audiences. This is not surprising, some analysts say. "When you're running nationwide with so many different constituencies, it's hard to take on these issues without wondering whether you're going to drive away as many as you attract," said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center.
History suggests both the effectiveness and the risks. The 1988 campaign of the first President George Bush devastated the Democratic nominee, Michael S. Dukakis, by defining him as soft on crime and excessively devoted to civil liberties. Four years later, though, Republican appeals to "family values" and the declaration of a cultural war at the party's convention were widely thought to have backfired.

Actually, George H. W. Bush made a terrible mistake by not running on cuultural issues, one of the reasons conservatives didn't turn out for him. The only exciting moment of his whole campaign was Pat Buchanan's Culture War speech:

The presidency is also America's bully pulpit, what Mr Truman called, "preeminently a place of moral leadership." George Bush is a defender of right-to-life, and lifelong champion of the Judeo-Christian values and beliefs upon which this nation was built.

Mr Clinton, however, has a different agenda.

At its top is unrestricted abortion on demand. When the Irish-Catholic governor of Pennsylvania, Robert Casey, asked to say a few words on behalf of the 25 million unborn children destroyed since Roe v Wade, he was told there was no place for him at the podium of Bill Clinton's convention, no room at the inn.

Yet a militant leader of the homosexual rights movement could rise at that convention and exult: "Bill Clinton and Al Gore represent the most pro-lesbian and pro-gay ticket in history." And so they do.

Bill Clinton supports school choice--but only for state-run schools. Parents who send their children to Christian schools, or Catholic schools, need not apply.

Elect me, and you get two for the price of one, Mr Clinton says of his lawyer-spouse. And what does Hillary believe? Well, Hillary believes that 12-year-olds should have a right to sue their parents, and she has compared marriage as an institution to slavery--and life on an Indian reservation.

Well, speak for yourself, Hillary.

Friends, this is radical feminism. The agenda Clinton & Clinton would impose on America--abortion on demand, a litmus test for the Supreme Court, homosexual rights, discrimination against religious schools, women in combat--that's change, all right. But it is not the kind of change America wants. It is not the kind of change America needs. And it is not the kind of change we can tolerate in a nation that we still call God's country. [...]
[T]onight I want to talk to the 3 million Americans who voted for me. I will never forget you, nor the great honor you have done me. But I do believe, deep in my heart, that the right place for us to be now--in this presidential campaign--is right beside George Bush. The party is our home; this party is where we belong. And don't let anyone tell you any different.

Yes, we disagreed with President Bush, but we stand with him for freedom to choice religious schools, and we stand with him against the amoral idea that gay and lesbian couples should have the same standing in law as married men and women.

We stand with President Bush for right-to-life, and for voluntary prayer in the public schools, and against putting American women in combat. And we stand with President Bush in favor of the right of small towns and communities to control the raw sewage of pornography that pollutes our popular culture.

We stand with President Bush in favor of federal judges who interpret the law as written, and against Supreme Court justices who think they have a mandate to rewrite our Constitution.

My friends, this election is about much more than who gets what. It is about who we are. It is about what we believe. It is about what we stand for as Americans. There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself. And in that struggle for the soul of America, Clinton & Clinton are on the other side, and George Bush is on our side. And so, we have to come home, and stand beside him.

The speech provided a sharp spike upwards in tracking polls. Unfortunately, Mr. Bush wasn't home when they got there.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 AM


PARDON? (Joshua Kurlantzick, 2004-04-19, The New Yorker)

Alain de Chalvron, the Washington bureau chief for France 2, the French equivalent of the BBC, hasn’t had an easy time since he came to America, last fall. He has had to endure a predictable barrage of remarks regarding freedom fries, Old Europe, and the “Axis of Weasel,” along with a reticent White House, which has made it hard for foreign journalists to get briefings. So when John Kerry became the front-runner for the Democratic Presidential nomination de Chalvron and other French journalists in Washington were understandably excited. They knew about Kerry: he went to a Swiss boarding school, he has a cousin who ran for the French Presidency, and he supposedly wooed Teresa Heinz by impressing her with his fluent French.

For a time, Kerry seemed equally enthusiastic about the French reporters covering his campaign. “He was quite accessible in Iowa and New Hampshire,” de Chalvron said the other day, in his office in Washington. “He understands French very well. His words are correct and sometimes even sophisticated. I asked him, ‘How can you have this life? It must be terrible, crisscrossing the country.’ Kerry answered, ‘C’est affreux’—‘It’s awful.’” De Chalvron’s voice rose with admiration. “Affreux, it’s not a very usual word. It’s something a French person can use easily, but Kerry could have said, ‘Yes, it’s terrible,’ instead of going to pick a more difficult word.”

Everything changed, though, when, in recent months, Republicans started intimating that Kerry was too Continental. Conservatives complained about his touting of endorsements from foreign leaders, and Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans told reporters that Kerry “looks French.” Right-wing talk-show hosts began referring to him as “Monsieur Kerry” and “Jean Cheri.” A couple of weeks ago, the Washington Post reported that G. Clotaire Rapaille, a French anthropologist known for identifying the subconscious associations that people from various cultures make in the “reptilian” part of their brains, had offered to become the Senator’s Gallic Naomi Wolf, devising ways for him to rid his speaking style of French influences.

Suddenly, Kerry appeared to develop linguistic amnesia. “During a press conference, I asked Kerry a question, on Iraq,” de Chalvron recalled. “He didn’t answer. In front of the American journalists, he didn’t want to take a question that was not in English.” Loïck Berrou, the United States bureau chief for de Chalvron’s competitor, TF1, has been having similar problems. Berrou chatted in French with Kerry on a commercial flight last year; the Senator reminisced about his family’s country house in Saint-Briac-sur-Mer, a village in Brittany, where Kerry’s cousin is the mayor. “We’ve pushed hard to get an interview with him, and no answer,” Berrou says.

Family members have apparently been put on a leash as well.

You can take the cabana boy out of France, but you can't take the France out of the cabana boy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 AM


Two Cents: Kill Bill vs. Kill Jesus? (Chris Field, April 16, 2004, HUMAN EVENTS Weekly Wrap-Up)

Last week, after I had already prepared the Weekly Wrap-up, I read an interesting movie review on the Fox News website. The review by Roger Friedman was on the new movie by Quentin Tarantino, "Kill Bill, Vol. 2," and contained nothing but praise for the flick. (For those of you unfamiliar with the "Kill Bill" movies, they are samurai-style films known for their violence and blood as much as their quality.)

But strangely enough (well, maybe not that strangely), reading Friedman's old stuff we find that his main complaint with Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" was its graphic violence and blood. So, after reading of his love for Tarantino and "Kill Bill, Vol. 2," I sent to Friedman an email. I thought y'all might enjoy it.


Mr. Friedman,

I noted with interest your review of "Kill Bill, Vol. 2." What made the review of this movie interesting -- and your replay of praise for "Vol. 1" -- was not the actual good things you had to say about it, but, rather, reading it in light of what you wrote about "The Passion".

Here's what you penned on February 25, 2004:

"But the real problem with 'The Passion' is that it is graphic beyond belief, and unrelenting. How anyone will be able to sit through this thing is the real mystery. There is blood, blood, everywhere. The violence toward Jesus is sadistic and grotesque."

If the "real problem" with "The Passion" was the violence, would not that same characterization and "problem" hold true for at least "Kill Bill, Vol. 1," if not also "Vol. 2" (which I've yet to see)?

Or, were you hoping no one would remember your "excuse" for not liking "The Passion" - which was your supposed dislike for "graphic" and "unrelenting" violence.

In light of your comments about "The Passion," I also found it ironic (maybe just plain weird) that you closed your column on "Kill Bill, Vol. 2" with the words "Have a happy Easter."

Regards (and Happy Easter),
Chris Field


Since then, I've dug up Mr. Friedman's review of "Kill Bill, Vol. 1". You might find it as interesting as I did, that this movie critic who was so worried about the violence of "The Passion" had this to say about Tarantino's first "Kill Bill" installment:

"...these were the impressions I was left with after the screening: that it rocked, that the violence and spurting blood was cartoon-like fun..."

I'm just guessing, but I'm not sure Mr. Friedman's problem with "The Passion" was actually the violence.

This does not appear to be online, but if it is we'll gladly reduce the post to just an excerpt, but it's too funny not to share. If nothing else it's reason enough to sign-up for the Human Events e-mail update.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:18 AM


The sound of rockets in the morning (Andrew Gilligan, The Spectator, 17/04/04)

The loss of credibility is nowhere more apparent than in the promises made, and broken, about the new, postwar Iraq. Waiting in line at the Royal Jordanian ticket counter, I flip through a British government dossier. Not the famous, sexed-up weapons of mass destruction one, nor even the PhD thesis ripped off by Dr Alastair Campbell, but the very final effort, the DeLorean 83 Series, of the legendary Downing Street dossier production line. This dossier, entitled ‘A vision for Iraq and the Iraqi people’, with a foreword by the Prime Minister, plopped on to the newsdesks on 16 March 2003, four days before the outbreak of war. Not surprisingly, it attracted little attention, and was published only on the Foreign Office website, the dossier equivalent of straight-to-video. But it repays reading now.

‘We’ve set out for you that should it come to conflict, we make a pledge to the people of Iraq,’ writes Mr Blair. The pledges were for ‘peace: a unified Iraq living at peace with itself’, for ‘freedom: an Iraq whose people live free from repression and the fear of arbitrary arrest’, and for ‘good government: an Iraq respecting the rule of law, whose government helps rebuild Iraq’s security and provides its people with food, water and high quality public services, especially health and education’. The UN, pledges the Prime Minister, will be heavily involved in Iraq’s reconstruction and will administer the country’s oil revenues.

A year on, none of these reasonably modest promises has been carried out, not even the one about freedom from repression (attacking a civilian city with helicopter gunships, as the Americans did last week, can hardly be described as community policing)...

In the Jumhuriya district of Baghdad, temporary home of thousands of refugees from Fallujah, Iraqi hospitality towards foreigners is strained. But I am eventually offered a glass of tea. ‘The problem with the Americans in Fallujah is that they do not distinguish between friend and enemy,’ said Najim Abdullah al-Azzawi, a building contractor. ‘So everyone ends up as an enemy.’

Later, in a different part of town, I have a chance to observe the truth of this maxim for myself. I am at the al-Mustansria University when it is raided by the Americans for the second time that day. Sausen al-Samir, the head of the English department, is showing me the damage they did on their first visit — smashed doors and windows, broken furniture, a trashed photocopier — when the campus is again surrounded and men in boots burst up the stairs. ‘F—ing get out of here,’ screams one of the soldiers, pointing his gun at us. ‘This is a Coalition operation.’

Al-Samir, furious, stands her ground, demanding to be taken to the commanding officer, Major Williams. ‘I want an apology for this morning,’ she says. ‘Ma’am, I’m not in the apology business given what we found here,’ he replies. Later the major takes me aside and shows me the haul: nine Kalashnikovs, a pistol, a rocket-propelled grenade and leaflets calling for violence against the Coalition. The raid is perfectly justified, but you can’t help thinking they could have done it more politely. Was it really necessary to break all the doors down? Don’t the university staff have keys? How do the soldiers know that the leaflets were produced on the photocopier they smashed — and anyway, don’t rather a lot of other people need the copier, too? ‘We will look into all that, sir,’ says the major. ‘But you do see what we’re up against.’ I do, which is why it makes sense not to manufacture even more difficulties for yourself...

Withdrawal would be an unthinkable humiliation. As this week’s request for more troops showed, the Coalition’s only possible way forward is to get sucked in deeper. Nobody knows when the Iraqi elections will be. The insurgents, on the other hand, know exactly when the US and British elections are going to be. There are now 40 hostages, of 12 different nationalities, held in Iraq. But the real hostages are George Bush and Tony Blair.

Mr. Gilligan is the notorious BBC anti-war toady, but has he not made a good point? Imagine if the huge sacrifices we were asked to make in World War 11 had been presented as being necessary, not to defend democracy but to bring democracy to Germany and Japan. Imagine as well that we entered and fought the war proclaiming throughout that the Germans and Japanese were all innocent victims of tyrants and a small number of their henchmen. Then imagine both the war and the ensuing occupations were judged daily in the court of public opinion by how welcoming and grateful the defeated populations were.

The war on terror is not over, but it is obviously wildly successful--perhaps too successful--and is making the world a safer place. More and more, however, both its defenders and detractors argue as if it 9/11 never happened and it was all an ambitious foreign aid project requiring the ongoing consent and enthusiasm of the recipients. It is bad enough that the West’s will to defend itself is suspect. What may be worse is that it has become so politically difficult to even talk about self-defence that it must be exercised under cover of altruistic rhetoric.

After promising so glowingly to bring freedom and democracy to Iraqis, are President Bush and Prime Minister Blair now forced to defend the war on terror as if it were the war on AIDS? Are they now politically beholden to “public opinion” in a byzantine country fraught with seething hatred? Is the problem not exactly as the Iraqi gentleman says–that Americans cannot distinguish their enemies and friends–but in the exact opposite sense than he meant?

April 16, 2004

Posted by Peter Burnet at 10:21 PM


Archbishops reject US cash in gay clergy row ( Jonathan Petre, The Telegraph, 17/04/2004)

African archbishops representing more than half the worldwide Anglican Church are to refuse millions of pounds a year from their US counterparts in protest at its first openly gay bishop.

The conservative archbishops, who opposed the consecration of Canon Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire in November, said that they would not sacrifice their faith and conscience on the altar of money.

Their action will be seen as another step towards schism over the issue of homosexuality. Many of them are disillusioned with the efforts of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, to keep the worldwide Church together, and they are making preparations for a rival Church with an alternative leader.

The most likely candidate, the Primate of Nigeria, Archbishop Peter Akinola, said the liberal leadership of the American Episcopal Church must be disciplined for supporting the consecration.

The archbishop, the chairman of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA), said that the Episcopal Church leadership had three months in which to "repent" or the CAPA bishops, representing about 40 million Anglicans, would feel free to take action.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:49 PM


Kean Interest (The Prowler, 4/16/2004, American Spectator)

According to a Republican staffer on the 9/11 commission, growing public and pundit outrage over commissioner Jamie Gorelick's failure to disclose the existence of a Justice Department memo, had chairman Gov. Tom Kean asking Gorelick yesterday morning if she would think about stepping aside.

"The word is she was asked whether she might consider it and she flat out shut him down," said the staffer. "We're in an extremely difficult spot on this."

Gorelick's conflict of interest came to light on Tuesday afternoon, when a newly declassified 1995 Justice Department memo written by her when she was serving as Deputy Attorney General was presented to the commission by Attorney General John Ashcroft during public testimony. The memo, which mandated policy that, as it turned out, made it almost impossible for counter-terrorism investigators to pursue the 9/11 plot before it unfolded, surprised Gorelick's fellow commissioners and staff because, staffers said, she never disclosed its existence to any of them.

Her name alone should have raised questions about her impartiality.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:34 PM


RNC Announces Index De Le Miserables (RNC, 4/13/04)

Today the Republican National Committee released the Index De Le Miserables (IDM). The IDM is calculated based on four factors including proposed spending beyond current budget proposals; tax increases necessary to pay for spending increases; announced tax increases; and number of additional days Americans will have to work before they are working for themselves.

“What do the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus and John Kerry’s misery index have in common? Hint, it’s not their positive outlook.,” said RNC Communications Director Jim Dyke. [...]

Total Kerry IDM—20.46

Question and Answers for the Index De Le Miserables

What is the origin of the IDM?

Kerry campaign made up a misery index so we did too.

How did you create the IDM?

Same way the Kerry campaign did.

Are you aware that since its inception over 20 years ago the ‘Misery Index’ has been defined as a combination of unemployment + inflation?


Is it strictly coincidence that the Kerry IDM is the same as the 1980 Carter MI of 20.46?



Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:57 PM


Specter endorses a flat tax, but Toomey calls it just talk: The incumbent supports a 19% levy without any deductions. His rival says he's failed to act. (Joseph N. DiStefano, 4/16/04, Philadelphia Inquirer)

Facing a vigorous conservative challenger in the April 27 primary election, U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter (R., Pa.) called yesterday for scrapping the federal tax code in favor of a flat-rate income tax.

Speaking to leaders of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow, and reporters, Specter endorsed a 1980s plan advanced by a pair of California academics to levy a 19 percent tax on Americans' wages, salaries and pensions, with no deductions.

Under Specter's proposal, American workers would keep paying the current Social Security and Medicare payroll tax of nearly 8 percent, for a total federal tax bite of 27 cents out of every dollar. [...]

As Specter waved a sample postcard-size flat-tax form for news cameras, Snow offered broad support for Specter's tax proposal.

"This card, or something like it, is very much something that we owe the American public," Snow said. He said the flat tax could be modified so poorer families would pay less. Specter said his flat-tax plan was based on proposals from Stanford University economist Robert E. Hall and political scientist Alvin Rabushka in the early 1980s.

Senator Specter voted for the fetal protection law too--someone's hearing footsteps...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:25 PM


Kerry Plans Effort to Show He Is a Centrist (JODI WILGOREN, 4/16/04, NY Times)

Tacitly acknowledging his vulnerability to harsh portrayals in a barrage of Mr. Bush's advertisements over the past month, Mr. Kerry urged Democrats at a $25,000-a-plate breakfast at the "21" Club in Manhattan to help him paint his own portrait. He promised to begin "a positive affirmative advertising campaign" in "the next days," although his aides said there were no specific plans or timetables.

"A lot of people still don't really know who I am," Mr. Kerry, a four-term Massachusetts Democrat who has everything but the official title of presidential nominee, told the audience of 100 people. "The level of communication that we still need to undertake here is enormous."

Most reporters were barred from the event, which netted $2.5 million for the Democratic National Committee. A transcript of Mr. Kerry's remarks circulated by a journalist allowed in to represent reporters who travel with the campaign showed a candidate keenly aware of the need to define himself before his opponent beats him to it.

Mr. Kerry said he would cite his bipartisan credentials and pitch himself as a fiscal conservative to counter the Bush campaign's portrait of him as a waffling tax-and-spend liberal.

"We've got to reach out," Mr. Kerry said. "There are so many Republicans who have said to me: `You know, for the first time in my life, I'm going to vote for a Democrat. I'm ready to switch over.' "

He noted that Reagan Democrats were a critical faction in the 1980's but that Democrats like President Jimmy Carter had trouble attracting Republican votes.

"Fear not," Mr. Kerry said. "I am not somebody who wants to go back and make the mistakes of the Democratic Party of 20, 25 years ago. Nor am I somebody who believes that Washington has all the answers."

Mistakes of 25 years ago? Like selling out South Vietnam?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:12 PM


Woodward book: Bush hid Iraq war plan: CIA chief said to see 'slam dunk' on weapons of mass destruction (MSNBC, April  16, 2004)

President Bush secretly ordered a war plan drawn up against Iraq less than two months after U.S. forces attacked Afghanistan and was so worried the decision would cause a furor he did not tell everyone on his national security team, says a new book on his Iraq policy.

Bush feared that if news got out about the Iraq plan as U.S. forces were fighting another conflict, people would think he was too eager for war, journalist Bob Woodward writes in “Plan of Attack,” a behind-the-scenes account of the 16 months leading to the Iraq invasion.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the book, which will be available in book stores next week.

“I knew what would happen if people thought we were developing a potential war plan for Iraq,” Bush is quoted as telling Woodward. “It was such a high-stakes moment and ... it would look like that I was anxious to go to war. And I’m not anxious to go to war.”

According to a report Friday by the Washington Post, Woodward also claims that:

* Starting in late December 2001, Bush met repeatedly with Army Gen. Tommy Franks and his war cabinet to plan the U.S. attack on Iraq even as he insisted he was pursuing a diplomatic solution.

* CIA Director George Tenet assured the president that it was a "slam dunk" case that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

* Some of Vice President Dick Cheney's colleagues felt he had a "fever" about removing Saddam Hussein by force.

* Secretary of State Colin Powell felt Cheney and his allies — among them the undersecretary of defense for policy, Douglas Feith, and what Powell called Feith's "Gestapo" office — had established what amounted to a separate government.

Asked about the book Friday, the president said the subject of Iraq came up four days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks when he met his national security team at Camp David to discuss a response to the assault.

If true this would be disappointing. Paul O'Neill swore they came to office with plans to attack Iraq and if they didn't actually start on one until November of 2001 you have to wonder what they were waiting for.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:42 PM


Is Housing Headed for a Fall? (Robert J. Samuelson, April 15, 2004, Washington Post)

>Economists Robert Shiller of Yale and Karl Case of Wellesley polled recent home buyers in four cities. In the next decade, these home buyers think real estate values will rise from 11.7 percent annually (Milwaukee) to 15.7 percent annually (San Francisco).

These expectations are absurd, as Shiller and Case say. Annual increases of even 11.7 percent would triple prices in a decade -- far beyond any plausible income gains. Who'd buy those homes? But if people believe, they'll borrow more against homes, and torrents of credit will temporarily bolster prices. Sure enough, home borrowing has surged. In 2003 homeowners' equity (the amount not covered by loans) was only 55 percent of home value, a record low. In 1990 the figure was 61 percent; in 1945, it was 86 percent.

Still, Shiller and Case doubt there's a big bubble -- and they could be right. Lawrence Yun of the National Association of Realtors points out that since World War II, median national home prices have never declined from one year to the next. At worst, there have been localized "bubbles." [...]

Over the past two decades, homeowners have benefited from two trends. One is falling inflation and interest rates. On 30-year fixed-rate mortgages, the peak occurred in October 1981 at about 18.5 percent. Lower rates mean that borrowers can -- on the same income -- afford larger loans and costlier homes. Consider a family with $50,000 in disposable annual income that spends 28 percent ($1,167 a month) on its mortgage, says Yun. With interest rates at 8 percent, it can afford a $159,000 loan; at 6 percent, that jumps 23 percent to $195,000. Interestingly, those changes roughly mirror what's actually happened nationally to interest rates and home prices since 2000.

The other favorable trend has been a transformation of the mortgage industry. [...]

In 1980 high fees and closing costs made mortgage refinancing attractive only if interest rates dropped two percentage points (say, from 8 percent to 6 percent), says Forrest Pafenberg of the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight. Now the threshold for refinancing is as low as 40 basis points (say, from 8 percent to 7.6 percent), estimates Douglas Duncan of the Mortgage Bankers Association.

All this has made housing an economic cocktail. People have repeatedly refinanced. They've traded up. They've borrowed against higher prices, spent some cash or consolidated high-rate credit card debt into lower-rate mortgages. The Fed's low overnight rate (1 percent) helped keep mortgage rates low. Higher home values buoyed confidence. If more jobs signal a stronger economy and slightly higher rates, what's the worry? Home prices may stabilize, and even if declines occur in some frenzied markets, there won't be a widespread collapse of either prices or psychology.

That "never declined" statistic is staggering.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:22 PM


Democrats Are Risking Political Damnation: Voters relate to Bush's religiosity. A different critique is needed. (Ronald A. Klain, April 16, 2004, LA Times)

Beware the temptation to snicker, because therein lies defeat.

That is an important warning for those Democrats who have spent the days since President Bush's press conference making light of his invocation of "the Almighty" in the defense of his Iraq policy. Specifically, they've been snickering over the president's contention that "freedom is the Almighty's gift to every man and woman in this world."

Some critics have called the president's message "missionary." Some have said that it suggests a case for "religious war" by U.S. armed forces. Others have simply waved it about as evidence of a president who is intellectually or strategically shallow.

This is a dangerous path for Democrats.

During a debate in the 2000 primary campaign, the GOP candidates were asked to name the philosopher who had most affected their lives. Bush's answer was unique: Jesus Christ. As a senior advisor to Al Gore at the time, I recall the reaction in Democratic circles: laughter and disbelief. Bush was seen as a dunce at best, a panderer at worst. "George Bush probably can't even name a philosopher," was repeated so often in progressive circles that it became a theme. How could such an "uneducated person" win?

And yet, for countless independent and swing voters, Bush's invocation of divine inspiration said far more about his values — and how much they were in line with their own — than it did about any gaps in his Yale course work.

In the United States, a person who has knowledge must be respected. But someone who shares our values can be trusted. And the choice of a president is ultimately about trust more than respect.

To not believe that freedom is God's gift to all men is un-American in at least a non-pejorative sense.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:25 PM


The Sharon Plan of Disengagement (WILLIAM SAFIRE, 4/16/04, NY Times)

America's historic, unequivocal support of what the world knows must be part of a two-state solution puts pressure for peaceful negotiation where it belongs: on Palestinians, who must take control of their destiny away from fanatics sworn to destroy Israel. As Iraqis are also learning, free nationhood comes to those with the courage to control violent extremists.

Bush prevailed on Sharon to ease the disruption of Palestinian lives along the the security fence, which I think will encompass the Ariel salient, and to delay a Jordan Valley barrier. Sharon will take all 7,500 Israelis out of Gaza by the end of next year, and the settlers' movement is infuriated.

But having promised "painful compromises" — code for withdrawals — before his recent elections, Arik expects to remain in office through a Likud Party vote and possible coalition defection. "I'm not boasting" (he used the Russian word for boasting), "but I am not suspected of compromising our security." If the far right parties desert him, he'll bring in Labor, headed by his old rival Shimon Peres. A threatened indictment? "A terrible libel."

He speaks highly of Colin Powell and almost reverently about Bush: "Something in his soul committed him to act with great courage against world terror. Though under constant pressure, the man has not changed his mind."

Mr. Sharon yielded to the reality of the two-state solution, but his foes proved incapable of doing the same, President Bush Calls for New Palestinian Leadership (The Rose Garden, 6/24/02)
My vision is two states, living side by side in peace and security. There is simply no way to achieve that peace until all parties fight terror. Yet, at this critical moment, if all parties will break with the past and set out on a new path, we can overcome the darkness with the light of hope. Peace requires a new and different Palestinian leadership, so that a Palestinian state can be born. [...]

I can understand the deep anger and anguish of the Israeli people. You've lived too long with fear and funerals, having to avoid markets and public transportation, and forced to put armed guards in kindergarten classrooms. The Palestinian Authority has rejected your offer at hand, and trafficked with terrorists. You have a right to a normal life; you have a right to security; and I deeply believe that you need a reformed, responsible Palestinian partner to achieve that security.

I can understand the deep anger and despair of the Palestinian people. For decades you've been treated as pawns in the Middle East conflict. Your interests have been held hostage to a comprehensive peace agreement that never seems to come, as your lives get worse year by year. You deserve democracy and the rule of law. You deserve an open society and a thriving economy. You deserve a life of hope for your children. An end to occupation and a peaceful democratic Palestinian state may seem distant, but America and our partners throughout the world stand ready to help, help you make them possible as soon as possible.

If liberty can blossom in the rocky soil of the West Bank and Gaza, it will inspire millions of men and women around the globe who are equally weary of poverty and oppression, equally entitled to the benefits of democratic government.

I have a hope for the people of Muslim countries. Your commitments to morality, and learning, and tolerance led to great historical achievements. And those values are alive in the Islamic world today. You have a rich culture, and you share the aspirations of men and women in every culture. Prosperity and freedom and dignity are not just American hopes, or Western hopes. They are universal, human hopes. And even in the violence and turmoil of the Middle East, America believes those hopes have the power to transform lives and nations.

This moment is both an opportunity and a test for all parties in the Middle East: an opportunity to lay the foundations for future peace; a test to show who is serious about peace and who is not. The choice here is stark and simple. The Bible says, "I have set before you life and death; therefore, choose life." The time has arrived for everyone in this conflict to choose peace, and hope, and life.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:06 PM


Change of direction in the Mideast: US embrace of Sharon plan leaves Arab world reeling. (Jim Bencivenga, April 16, 2004, csmonitor.com)

Can anyone explain why that subhead shouldn't warm our hearts?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:52 PM


We bombed the wrong side? (Lewis MacKenzie, April 6, 2004, National Post)

Five years ago our television screens were dominated by pictures of Kosovo-Albanian refugees escaping across Kosovo's borders to the sanctuaries of Macedonia and Albania. Shrill reports indicated that Slobodan Milosevic's security forces were conducting a campaign of genocide and that at least 100,000 Kosovo-Albanians had been exterminated and buried in mass graves throughout the Serbian province. NATO sprung into action and, in spite of the fact no member nation of the alliance was threatened, commenced bombing not only Kosovo, but the infrastructure and population of Serbia itself -- without the authorizing United Nati