May 31, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:30 PM

16 TO 1:


People are not drawn to religion just because of a fear of death or any other single reason, according to a new comprehensive, psychological theory of religion.

There are actually 16 basic human psychological needs that motivate people to seek meaning through religion, said Steven Reiss, author of the new theory and professor of psychology and psychiatry at Ohio State University.
“Because this theory can be tested scientifically, we can learn its strengths and weaknesses, and gradually improve it,” Reiss said. “Eventually, we may understand better the psychological basis of religion.”

These basic human needs – which include honor, idealism, curiosity and acceptance – can explain why certain people are attracted to religion, why God images express psychologically opposite qualities, and the relationship between personality and religious experiences.

Previous psychologists tried to explain religion in terms of just one or two overarching psychological needs. The most common reason they cite is that people embrace religion because of a fear of death, as expressed in the saying ‘there are no atheists in foxholes,” Reiss said.

“But religion is multi-faceted – it can’t be reduced to just one or two desires.”

Reiss described his new theory – which he said may be the most comprehensive psychological theory of religion since Freud’s work more than a century ago -- in the June issue of Zygon, a journal devoted to issues of science and religion.

“I don’t think there has been a comprehensive theory of religion that was scientifically testable,” he said.

The theory is based on his overall theory of human motivation, which he calls sensitivity theory. Sensitivity theory is explained in his 2000 book Who Am I? The 16 Basic Desires that Motivate Our Action and Define Our Personalities (Tarcher Putnam).

Reiss said that each of the 16 basic desires outlined in the book influence the psychological appeal of religious behavior. The desires are power, independence, curiosity, acceptance, order, saving, honor, idealism, social contact, family, status, vengeance, romance, eating, physical exercise, and tranquility.

In fact, Reiss has already done some initial research that suggests the desire for independence is a key psychological desire that separates religious and non-religious people. In a study published in 2000, Reiss found that religious people (the study included mostly Christians) expressed a strong desire for interdependence with others. Those who were not religious, however, showed a stronger need to be self-reliant and independent.

The study also showed that religious people valued honor more than non-religious people, which Reiss said suggests many people embrace religion to show loyalty to parents and ancestors.

Strange how there are 16 different reasons people are religious but the opposite of each one is the same: self-absorption.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:20 PM


America's battle to regain respect (Lawrence Freedman, May 30 2004, Financial Times)

We have reached a turning-point in international politics as well as in Iraq. President George W. Bush is widely seen to have gambled on Iraq and lost. The impact of that loss goes well beyond Iraq. The US has not been defeated in battle and is unlikely to be so but it can no longer impose its will on Iraq because it lacks the moral authority to do so.

The "resistance" in any of its many guises is too divided to win and half- decent outcomes may yet emerge. The point is only that the future of Iraq increasingly depends on the variable quality of local leaders in the country, their ability to understand the consequences of allowing violence to become the first arbiter of their differences, the role that the United Nations chooses to play in helping to secure a transition from coalition occupation - and the readiness of the Americans to accept that they have lost the initiative. If he is to have any chance of success, Ayad Allawi, would-be prime minister, will need to demonstrate his distance from the coalition.

This was not inevitable.

We could have a contest just to see which assertion in this essay is the silliest:

(1) The attempt to make Iraq a democracy didn't inevitably have to end with Iraqis choosing their own leaders.

(2) The attempt didn't inevitably have to lead to resistance by Ba'athists and al Qaeda.

(3) The attempt didn't inevitably have to lead to opposition from Europe and the American Left.

(4) The attempt didn't inevitably have to lead to greater hatred of Israel.

(5) North Korea and Iran would not have eventually had to be dealt with.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:04 PM


Bush likability not to be underrated: Ike, JFK, Reagan, and Clinton all had it - Kerry may need it to beat Bush. (Godfrey Sperling, 6/01/04, CS Monitor)

Yes, Senator Kerry has caught up with Bush in the polls. But the average of several polls I've seen would show that Kerry is only a percentage point or two ahead. So the question persists: Why, with Bush so far behind in public approval, isn't Kerry substantially ahead in the polls?

I find the answer on the wall above my typewriter where I have the picture of my favorite president, Abraham Lincoln. I see in his face his warmth and friendliness. Polls show that voters find these qualities more in Bush than in Kerry. Indeed, this is what is keeping the contest in the polls close when Bush is so bogged down with problems.

A Zogby poll showed that voters found Kerry cold, aloof, and remote. Biographical material about Kerry describes him as a man who is really quite warm in personal relationships, but simply finds it difficult to show this friendliness when in a group. I recall Kerry coming into a Monitor breakfast back in his earlier years in the Senate. I remember how very reserved he was and commented on it at the time.

Now, as I watch Kerry on TV, I see him making an effort to be open and warm - and who knows, maybe he'll become likable and cuddly before the race is over.

Likability of a candidate certainly doesn't trump how he stands on the issues; but it is very important.

Who's the last candidate Americans knew to be unlikable who won anyway? Nixon in '68?

Add to that: the candidate perceived as obviously less intelligent won every race (not involving an incumbent--and many of those races too) in the 20th Century except for Hoover in '28. And look how that worked out...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:48 PM


US-named Iraqi council pushes back: Negotiations resume after weekend talks stalled between the Governing Council, CPA, and UN envoy Brahimi. (Nicholas Blanford and Orly Halpern, 6/01/04, CS Monitor)

The 24-member council, a mix of seasoned politicians, exiles, academics, and tribal leaders, appeared doomed to irrelevancy when Brahimi said last month that none of them would appear in the post-June 30 administration. Brahimi, charged with helping to form a transitional government, favored a team of technocrats who could hold Iraq together until national elections, scheduled to be held by the end of January.

But on Friday, the council surprised everyone by announcing that it had endorsed Alawi as prime minister. Now the council has locked horns with the UN envoy and the CPA chief over the choice of president. The council members favor Ghazi al-Yawar, a US-educated Sunni engineer and leader of the prominent Shammar tribe who has expressed criticism of the occupation and US military actions. Mr. Bremer and Brahimi are said to prefer Adnan Pachachi, an 81-year-old veteran Sunni Iraqi politician who is regarded as generally pro-US.

Raja Habib Khuzai, a Shiite member of the council says, "The Americans want Pachachi, but they won't tell us why. If they continue to insist on Pachachi it will create very big problems because all the Iraqis want Sheikh al-Yawar, not just the Governing Council."

Despite his biting criticism of past coalition actions, Sheikh al-Yawar is a vocal opponent of the mainly Sunni-driven insurgency. His influence with Iraq's tribes could help reduce the level of violence, reassuring nervous Sunnis that they will not be marginalized in the new Iraq.

But CPA officials privately concede that Pachachi has the backing of the Americans because he is seen as the one person who will stand by the Transitional Administrative Law during ing the interim period. The law, of which Pachachi was a key architect, was drawn up earlier this year to serve as a temporary constitution until a permanent one is established no later than December 2005. "Everyone else will just ignore it like any piece of paper," says one CPA official.

The law sparked opposition among Shiites, who represent 65 percent of the population. They resented a clause that potentially allowed Kurds and Sunnis to veto a future constitution.

Any arrangement in Iraq is just a piece of paper until the Shi'ites agree to it.

'Sovereignty' at issue in final push for Iraq transition plan: Members of UN Security Council are pressing the US to ensure that caretaker Iraqi government has full control. (Howard LaFranchi, 6/01/04, CS Monitor)

Sovereignty is taking on such importance because of deepening concern over whether the Iraqi people will embrace the interim government as legitimate in the crucial months before elections planned to be held by January 2005. "There are going to be problems with any government, especially where the security situation won't allow an electoral process to deliver it," says James Dobbins, a former White House envoy to Afghanistan and Bosnia. "But what is needed is a government that as many people buy into as possible."

The interim government that began to emerge over the weekend is a reflection of a tougher tug of war than anticipated between the US-named Governing Council and UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, entrusted by the White House with coming up with a caretaker government. Charged with forging a leadership made up of a prime minister, a largely ceremonial president and two vice presidents, as well as 26 ministers, Mr. Brahimi sought to deliver something more representative to average Iraqis than the Governing council, which has never enjoyed much public support.

But the council, made up largely of former exiles representing established political parties, balked at Brahimi's first choice for prime minister, nuclear scientist Hussain Sharistrani, a Shiite and senior adviser to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. After imposing one of their own, Mr. Allawi, in that post on Friday, council members also stonewalled candidates that were known to be the preference of Brahimi and the US for other top jobs.

But at the same time Brahimi was believed to have secured three of the six most coveted ministerial positions for two Kurd leaders and one Sunni - the other six going to representatives of the majority Shiites. While some of the top picks of the new government still being drawn up Monday were not Brahimi's first choices, the overall makeup is reflective of the careful balance among Iraq's predominant religious and ethnic populations that the UN envoy sought from the beginning. "Brahimi really has been very clever. He knows that if there is no buy-in from the main communities, the government won't have legitimacy and it can't be successful," says Laith Kubba, an Iraqi expert at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington.

From the beginning, the Governing Council was uneasy with what Brahimi said was his preference for a caretaker government of technocrats who would swear off any role in elections. People close to Brahimi say his talk of technocrats was never a hard and fast rule, but rather a way to discuss the new government's formation. "Brahimi doesn't go in with a vision, he goes in with an open mind and a plan for moving consultations in a desirable direction," says Mr. Dobbins, who worked with Brahimi in Afghanistan.

Now an international security expert at the RAND Corp., Dobbins says any government Brahimi accepts will be one he believes can move Iraq ahead.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:43 PM


Why Not Palestinian Elections? (Jackson Diehl, May 24, 2004, Washington Post)

Last week an Arab government publicly embraced the idea of democratic elections and asked the United States for its help in holding them -- and the Bush administration, which says Middle Eastern democracy is its top priority, ducked. That's because the idea came from the Palestinian Authority, where a free vote would probably demonstrate that another tenet of Bush policy, the "irrelevance" of Yasser Arafat, is a fiction.

Loath to acknowledge the reality of Arafat's continuing authority, or offend Israel's Ariel Sharon, the White House brushes off the appeals of Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia for new elections for a Palestinian parliament and president. In doing so it misses an important opportunity -- one that may offer the only real hope of achieving American aims on the Israeli-Palestinian front.

Like it or not (and no reasonable non-Palestinian does), Arafat remains in charge, as he has demonstrated repeatedly during the past year. Qureia and other Palestinian moderates are too weak to move against him or to meet U.S. and Israeli demands that control over security forces be taken away from him. That leaves Bush's "road map" for Israeli-Palestinian peace stalemated -- a status that is convenient for Sharon but disastrous for Bush's attempts to regain his footing in Iraq and the broader Middle East.

What would happen if the United States were to endorse and facilitate Palestinian elections? To begin with, Bush would get considerable credit around the region for acting to back up his democracy sloganeering and for taking an initiative in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict beyond his indiscriminate backing of Sharon. Both the president's democracy initiative for the "greater" Middle East, due to be unveiled next month, and the cause of elections in Iraq would get a boost.

More important, the stalemate in Ramallah would finally end. Most likely Arafat would be reelected president -- after all, his most formidable rival, Marwan Barghouti, is inside an Israeli prison. But Palestinian voters would almost certainly vote out of office the corrupt and feckless band of Arafat cronies and yes men now serving in the Palestinian parliament. In their place would come a new generation of Palestinian leaders, from both nationalist and religious parties, who mostly oppose their 75-year-old president and would be eager to curb his power. Some would be cronies of Barghouti, who, unlike Arafat, is liable to support a negotiated settlement with Israel. Some would be representatives of Hamas, which would be drawn into the realm of democratic politics and government -- as opposed to insurgency and terrorism -- for the first time.

Mr. Diehl sounds like one of those folks who was certain Mikhail Gorbachev was a popular leader in the USSR. Arafat too would lose, which is one reason why it makes no sense dealing with him. But we should obviously support elections which are the best way to empower reformers and hasten the transition of Hamas from terrorist organization to normal political party.

Egypt tells Arafat: Reform or be removed - report (JOSEPH NASR, 5/31/04, Jerusalem Post)

Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman has reportedly warned Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat to relax his grip on the reins of Palestinian power or face the possibility that Egypt and the US will cease to block Prime Minister Ariel Sharon from carrying out his threat to "remove" the chairman.

According to a report Monday in the pan-Arab Al-Quds-al-Arabi, Suleiman handed Arafat three demands:

First, to unite all the Palestinian security forces under one command authority, and into three components. These include the police, the Preventative Security Service (equivalent of Israel's General Security Service), and the Palestinian foreign security service (equivalent of Israel's Mossad).

Secondly, give PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei complete authority to conduct negotiations with Israel over Ariel Sharon's unilateral disengagement plan.

Thirdly, stand aside and accept a symbolic position and let others lead the Palestinian Authority.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:29 PM


Warning of massive Saudi attack (Michael Theodoulou and Daniel McGrory, June 1, 2004.

INTELLIGENCE agencies believe the Islamic terrorists behind the weekend kidnapping and murder of foreigners in Saudi Arabia are close to staging "a spectacular attack" that will cause devastating loss of life.

The British ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Sherard Cowper-Coles, confirmed yesterday that "further attacks may be in the final stages of preparation".

It is feared the attack could be on a key oil installation or the causeway linking Saudi Arabia to Bahrain.

Three suspected al-Qaeda militants escaped after slitting the throats of up to nine foreigners among at least 22 killed in a 24-hour rampage in a housing compound in the eastern oil city of Khobar.

The trio seized one car then another in their flight, and appeared yesterday to have escaped.

Going by the timing offered by the owner of the second hijacked car, they may even have slipped away from the Oasis housing compound before Saudi commandos descended in a helicopter to rescue what hostages they could.

A fourth militant, the alleged leader, was wounded and captured. He was identified only as one of the kingdom's "most wanted".

Took 9-11 for us to get serious.

Posted by David Cohen at 7:07 PM


GOP looks to limit class-action suits (Jesse J. Holland, AP, 5/31/04)

After trying to curb class-action suits for years, Republicans finally have enough support to ram legislation through the Senate to limit what they call an overabundance of frivolous cases against American businesses. . . .

GOP senators fell one vote short of achieving a filibuster-proof, 60-vote majority in October. But now several Democrats, including Christopher Dodd of Connecticut and Charles Schumer of New York, have agreed to support the legislation.

It means Republicans gaining a supermajority to stop the Democratic minority from blocking a vote.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:47 PM


Hollywood as a Tool of German Foreign Policy? (Stephan Richter | Friday, May 28, 2004, The Globalist)

Roland Emmerich, ["Day After Tomorrow"]’s director, comes with impeccable cinematographic credentials, including “The Patriot” and “Independence Day.” Both these movies revolve around core American ideals — such as overcoming adversity, fighting for one’s way of life and the ultimate belief that good will conquer evil. [...]

Hollywood has long been used as a tool to project "soft" American power around the world.

In that sense, this activist director must feel like he has achieved a perfect circle — aligning the commercial interests of the movie industry with his own agenda, which in this case is pro-environment.

So far, so good. What is completely overlooked in this tale is the fact that Mr. Emmerich hails from Germany, is an avid supporter of the pro-environment German Green Party — and is known to hang out on trendy Berlin cafes with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, the leading figure of the Green Party.

Which goes some way towards explaining the near-fatal problems with The Patriot.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:34 PM


Remembering the Vendée (Sophie Masson,

In 1789, the French Revolution began, a revolution that at first was full of optimism, of the genuine wish for reform; a revolution that was not even opposed by King Louis XVI himself. This was the Enlightenment. Humanity was to be trusted to behave well. Liberty, equality, fraternity. Who could argue with that? Very few did, least of all the peasants of western France, who welcomed many of the changes – the abolition of compulsory labour, the gradual abolition of privilege. The revolutionaries produced a passionate and idealistic document, the Declaration of the Rights of Man. Some of those rights were the right to freedom of religion; the right to live peacefully, without tyranny or arbitrary rule; the right to discuss. Alas! While Desmoulins and Danton debated and wrote passionately, Robespierre bided his time. That time came all too soon.

In 1790, the first cracks began to appear. Provincial assemblies were abolished, stripping people of their local governments. The clergy was to be stripped of its property and would be appointed by lay people, not the church. In practice, this meant that the bourgeois of the cities now had the right of imposing chosen priests on peasant communities. Vendée and Brittany and Normandy began to stir at this; they were greatly attached to their own priests and resisted the imposition of others. A year later, the King was arrested. Riots erupted in Brittany. In 1792, the extremist Jacobins under the leadership of Robespierre took power and formed the now infamous Convention. And then the horrors began in earnest.

Madame Guillotine was fed many times, soon taking Danton and Desmoulins and many of the earlier revolutionaries, who, too late, had seen the monster they had unleashed. But it was not till 1793 that two events happened which precipitated France into a terrible civil war; the consequences of which are still very much felt today.

Those events were the execution of Louis XVI, the subsequent pre-emptive declaration of war by France on the rest of Europe, and, as a consequence, the forced conscription of 300,000 men – the revolutionaries wanted the peasants of France to pay for their murderous folly! There was immediate revolt in Vendée, in Brittany, in Normandy, but the centre of the revolt was Vendée itself. This was a completely popular uprising; it was the peasants themselves who took the initiative and who only later persuaded some of their native nobles, who had been army officers, to lead some of their armies.

The new, the First Republic reacted immediately. This would be a fight to the death, for it was a tussle for the very spirit of revolution. The fact that the Vendée revolt was a popular one called into question the very nature of the Revolution, with its middle-class and aristocratic leaders. More than that, it dared to oppose the "despotism of liberty." Republican armies led, more often than not, by ci-devant ex-nobles and princes were sent into the rebellious province. But the Vendéens proved difficult nuts to crack. To the contemptuous surprise of the Paris grandees, the armies of the Chouans, as they became known (because of their rallying call, which imitated the call of the screech owl, or chat-huant in French), were well-disciplined and highly effective, and unusual in that the men had an input into decisions, not just the leaders (some of course later saw that as a weakness). They fought with a combination of regular and guerilla tactics and had a number of brilliant leaders – Cathelineau, La Rochejacquelein, Charrette, d'Elbée, Stofflet, Lescure. The Bretons, under Cadoudal, Jean Jan, Jean Cottereau and others, joined them at several points.

In the first year, they were remarkably successful, and their armies swelled to more than 150,000 men, none of whom had been coerced or conscripted. They captured towns and villages, made tentative links with the English, who were horrified by the fate of the King, and with the émigré nobles who had escaped to England already. It seemed that not only the liberation of western France, but also of the whole of France from the tyranny and terror of the Convention was at hand. Alas . . .

Division began to appear in Chouan ranks, as leaders with strong egos fought with each other, the English and the French émigrés (many of whom scorned this "peasant army") proved to be of no help whatsoever, and the Republic spared no expense of finance or soldiers' lives to crush the rebels. The crushing defeat of the Chouan armies at the end of 1793 in Vendée did not predispose the Republic to mercy. In early 1794, the Convention decided to exterminate the Vendéens, to the last man, woman and child. And they found plenty who were happy to carry out these orders.

"Not one is to be left alive." "Women are reproductive furrows who must be ploughed under." "Only wolves must be left to roam that land." "Fire, blood, death are needed to preserve liberty." "Their instruments of fanaticism and superstition must be smashed." These were some of the words the Convention used in speaking of Vendée. Their tame scientists dreamed up all kinds of new ideas – the poisoning of flour and alcohol and water supplies, the setting up of a tannery in Angers which would specialise in the treatment of human skins; the investigation of methods of burning large numbers of people in large ovens, so their fat could be rendered down efficiently. One of the Republican generals, Carrier, was scornful of such research: these "modern" methods would take too long. Better to use more time-honoured methods of massacre: the mass drownings of naked men, women, and children, often tied together in what he called "republican marriages," off specially constructed boats towed out to the middle of the Loire and then sunk; the mass bayoneting of men, women and children; the smashing of babies' heads against walls; the slaughter of prisoners using cannons; the most grisly and disgusting tortures; the burning and pillaging of villages, towns and churches.

The ci-devant aristocrat Turreau de la Linières took command of what are known in Vendée as the douze colonnes infernales (the twelve columns of hell), which had specific orders both from his superiors and from himself to kill everyone and everything they saw. "Even if there should be patriots [that is, Republicans] in Vendée," Turreau himself said, "they must not spared. We can make no distinction. The entire province must be a cemetery." And so it was. In the streets of Cholet, emblematic Vendéen city, by the end of 1793, wolves were about the only living things left, roaming freely and feeding on the piles of decomposing corpses.

People in Vendée still tell the stories of the colonnes infernales and the unspeakable things they did. There was not even any pretence of discriminating between fighters and civilians; documents of the time, still kept in army records in Vincennes, tell their hideous, chilling story, a story which has tolled repeatedly in our own terrible century. The generals speak coolly of objectives achieved, exterminations nicely done, "ethnic cleansing" carefully carried out, of genocide systematically and rigorously conducted. There were those, too few, alas, who refused to take part; but they were summarily dealt with.

But the Vendéens were not completely beaten. Full of hate now, they fought back, sporadically but ferociously. Their "chouan" rallying cry became a source of terror for republican stragglers in the deep remote country of the marshes and forests of Vendée. And the Bretons fought, attempting to come to the aid of their brothers, but it was difficult to maintain resistance in the face of such full-scale assault. One by one, the charismatic leaders were killed or hunted down like wild beasts. Within two years, Chouan resistance in Vendée was all but dead, though Brittany, under the leadership of the remarkable Georges Cadoudal, continued to fight for many years to come. [...]

Right wing, left wing, centre in France have never been able to deal with the legacy of Vendée. The left wing has problems with the impugning of the Revolution; the right wing because civil war put France in peril of foreign armies; the centre because, hey, it's not exactly pretty stuff. Thirty or so years ago a then-unknown but now infamous Jean-Marie le Pen championed the cause of Vendée and Brittany, applauding regionalism and independence, and produced a recording of Chouan songs; now, as the leader of the extreme right Front National, he studiously ignores it all, speaking grandly and opportunistically of the marvellous republic and the great destiny of a centralised France – for Vendée costs votes. Vendée is embarrassing, for it shows what the French are capable of doing to the French without any help from immigrant bogeys. The extreme left, the communists, of course never had any warm feelings for "priest-ridden peasants." Besides, they understood Robespierre's "despotism of liberty" only too well.

Many people in Vendée who keep the memory in their hearts refuse to vote at all in general elections, considering that the soul of the republic itself is soiled and flawed. They find it bitter indeed that the 1989 bicentenary ignored them completely. There are some who would sanctify all the Chouans, would make of them impossibly perfect heroes. For them, the "Bleus," the republicans, were devils without any redeeming features. But it is remarkable how many in Vendée do not hate. They only wish to remember.

There's a good Balzac novel about the mostly forgotten story. It's even on-line.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:23 PM


From Bush, Unprecedented Negativity: Scholars Say Campaign Is Making History With Often-Misleading Attacks (Dana Milbank and Jim VandeHei, May 31, 2004, Washington Post)

It was a typical week in the life of the Bush reelection machine.

Last Monday in Little Rock, Vice President Cheney said Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry "has questioned whether the war on terror is really a war at all" and said the senator from Massachusetts "promised to repeal most of the Bush tax cuts within his first 100 days in office."

On Tuesday, President Bush's campaign began airing an ad saying Kerry would scrap wiretaps that are needed to hunt terrorists.

The same day, the Bush campaign charged in a memo sent to reporters and through surrogates that Kerry wants to raise the gasoline tax by 50 cents.

On Wednesday and Thursday, as Kerry campaigned in Seattle, he was greeted by another Bush ad alleging that Kerry now opposes education changes that he supported in 2001.

The charges were all tough, serious -- and wrong, or at least highly misleading.

The immediate retreat from wrong to misleading gives up the game. Just to take one easy example, Mr. Kerry has indeed suggested that terrorism is more of a criminal than a military matter. He may even be right. He certainly was about the gas tax.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:59 PM


Cheney office denies role in Halliburton deal: E-mail cited by Time implies veep helped ex-employer get Iraq contract (Suzanne Malveaux, May 31, 2004, CNN)

Vice President Dick Cheney's office denied Sunday that he was involved in a coordinated effort to secure a multibillion dollar Iraq oil deal for Halliburton, his former employer.

A reference to such an arrangement was made in an internal Pentagon e-mail from an Army Corps of Engineers official to another Pentagon employee, Time magazine reports in its June 7 edition, which is due on newsstands Monday.

The existence of the e-mail was confirmed to CNN by a senior administration official familiar with it.

The e-mail -- dated March 5, 2003 -- says Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy, approved the arrangement to award the contract to the oil-services company, the administration official said.

According to an e-mail excerpt in Time, the contract was "contingent on informing WH [White House] tomorrow. We anticipate no issues since action has been coordinated w[ith] VP's office."

The Corps of Engineers gave Halliburton the contract three days later without seeking other bids, Time reports.

Time says it found the e-mail "among documents provided by Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group."

The senior official told CNN the e-mail was a typical "heads-up" memo from one government agency to another that "a decision has been made, we're about to announce this contract, and as a courtesy we are alerting the White House of a public announcement. This is a standard practice."

The "coordinated action" referred to, the senior administration official said, was "that of publicly announcing the contract decision that has already been made."

Who else could you give it to?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:51 PM


Pro-life lobby touts fetal-pain bill (Amy Fagan, 5/20/04, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

The next big rallying point for the pro-life movement on Capitol Hill appears to be legislation introduced yesterday that would require doctors to inform women seeking abortions that the procedure will cause pain to their unborn children.

"Unborn children can and do feel pain," said the bill's Senate sponsor, Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican. "Women should not be kept in the dark."

"We're going full-court press," said Rep. Christopher H. Smith, a New Jersey Republican who is sponsoring the measure in the House.

Mr. Smith has asked for hearings on the legislation and is hoping for a floor vote this year. Mr. Brownback is talking with Senate Republican leaders about attaching the proposal to a larger bill that comes before the Senate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:46 PM


Double standard: Israel escapes sanctions imposed on other nations (Bill Kaufmann, 5/31/04, Calgary Sun)

In Washington state, a mother still struggles over the meaning of her daughter's sacrifice.

In March, 2003, Rachel Corrie, 23, was crushed to death in Rafah, Gaza, beneath an Israeli bulldozer in an incident photos and witnesses suggest was a cold-blooded killing.

Meaning? The wages of hate-mongering is death.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:34 PM

50-0 FILES:

In Minnesota, Kerry holds narrow lead (BILL SALISBURY, 5/31/04, St. Paul Pioneer Press)

Democrat John Kerry holds a slim 3-percentage point lead in Minnesota over President Bush, according to a new statewide poll.

The poll shows 44 percent of Minnesota voters would vote for Kerry, while 41 percent favor Bush. Two percent support independent candidate Ralph Nader, while 13 percent are undecided.

Kerry's 3-point lead puts the race within the poll's 4-point margin of error.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:09 PM


The Real Story of Fallujah: Why isn't the administration getting it out? (ROBERT D. KAPLAN, May 31, 2004, Wall Street Journal)

If Al-Karmah is reclaimed, if Fallujah itself remains relatively calm, if the Marines can patrol there at some point, and if mortar attacks abate measurably--all distinct possibilities--the decision not to launch an all-out assault on Fallujah could look like the right one.

But none of the above matters if it is not competently explained to the American public--for the home front is more critical in a counterinsurgency than in any other kind of war. Yet the meticulous planning process undertaken by the Marines at the tactical level for assaulting Fallujah was not augmented with a similarly meticulous process by the Bush administration at the strategic level for counteracting the easily foreseen media fallout from fighting in civilian areas near Muslim religious sites. The public was never made to feel just how much of a military threat the mosques in Fallujah represented, just how far Marines went to avoid damage to them and to civilians, and just how much those same Marine battalions accomplished after departing Fallujah. [...]

[I]...found that there are many different Iraqs and different levels of reality to each of them. Presently, the administration lacks the public relations talent and the organizational structure for conveying even the positive elements of the Iraqi panorama in all their drama and texture.

Because the battles in a counterinsurgency are small scale and often clandestine, the story line is rarely obvious. It becomes a matter of perceptions, and victory is awarded to those who weave the most compelling narrative. Truly, in the world of postmodern, 21st century conflict, civilian and military public-affairs officers must become war fighters by another name. They must control and anticipate a whole new storm system represented by a global media, which too often exposes embarrassing facts out of historical or philosophical context.

Without a communications strategy that gives the public the same sense of mission that a company captain imparts to his noncommissioned officers, victory in warfare nowadays is impossible. Looking beyond Iraq, the American military needs battlefield doctrine for influencing the public in the same way that the Army and the Marines already have doctrine for individual infantry tasks and squad-level operations (the Ranger Handbook, the Fleet Marine Force Manual, etc.).

The centerpiece of that doctrine must be the flattening out of bureaucratic hierarchies within the Defense Department, so that spokesmen can tap directly into the experiences of company and battalion commanders and entwine their smell-of-the-ground experiences into daily briefings. Nothing is more destructive for the public-relations side of warfare than field reports that have to make their way up antiquated, Industrial Age layers of command, diluting riveting stories of useful content in the process. Journalists with little knowledge of military history or tactics and with various agendas to peddle can go directly to lieutenants and sergeants, yet the very spokesmen of these soldiers and Marines themselves--even through their aides--seem unable to do so.

Nothing in the history of our democracy suggests that the government can get the truth out about a policy in competition with a press that prefers another.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:52 PM


SCUD MISSIVES: a review of Letters of Ayn Rand, edited by Michael S. Berliner (Florence King, May 28, 2004, National Review)

If anyone needs a makeover it's Ayn Rand. After her death in 1982, her one-time proteges, Nathaniel and Barbara Branden, both published biographies portraying her as an abusive monster who held facts instead of opinions, drove her husband to drink, and held purge trials in her living room whenever one of her acolytes got philosophically out of line.

The centerpiece of both books is Miss Rand's affair with Nathaniel, begun when she was 50 and he 24, and continuing until they were 63 and 37. The story goes that she gathered the Brandens together with her husband, Frank O'Connor, announced that she and Nathaniel wanted to have an affair, and then opened the floor to discussion, which she dominated, analyzing the proposed adultery to prove that it was rational according to the principles of Objectivism, her home-cooked contribution to Western thought.

When the inevitable explosion came, Miss Rand publicly repudiated and denounced the Brandens, who soon divorced. Her think tank, largely their work, fell apart, as did many of her emotionally dependent acolytes, some of whom discussed whether it was rational to assassinate Nathaniel.

No hint of any of this appears in Letters of Ayn Rand, a labor of love by Leonard Peikoff, her leading loyalist (and sole heir under her will, according to Barbara Branden), and Michael S. Berliner, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute, newly restored to promote Objectivism. They give us a new, improved Ayn Rand. [...]

Writing to Barry Goldwater about his book, The Conscience of a Conservative, she upbraids him for saying that conservatism rests on faith instead of on reason.

Ms King is always funny and Ms Rand an inviting target, but no one has ever had her number better than that great conservative and man of faith Whittaker Chambers.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 12:23 PM


Resistance (Ignacio Ramonet, Le Monde Diplomatique, May, 2004)

Resistance means saying no. No to contempt, arrogance and economic bullying. No to the new masters of the world: high finance, the countries of the G8, the Washington consensus, the dictatorship of the market and unchecked free trade. No to the quartet of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organisation and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. No to hyper-production. To genetically modified crops. To permanent privatisations. To the relentless spread of the private sector. No to exclusion. No to sexism. No to social regression, poverty, inequality and the dismantling of the welfare state.

No to the abandonment of the South. No to the daily deaths of 30,000 poor children. No to the destruction of the environment. No to the military hegemony of a sole superpower. No to "preventive" war, to invasion, to terrorism and to attacks on civilians. No to racism, anti-semitism and islamophobia. No to draconian security measures. No to a police state mentality. No to dumbing-down. To censorship. To media lies. To manipulative media.

Resistance also means saying yes. Yes to solidarity between the six billion inhabitants of this planet. Yes to the rights of women. Yes to a renewed United Nations. Yes to a new Marshall plan to help Africa. Yes to the total elimination of illiteracy. Yes to an international campaign against a technology gap. Yes to an international moratorium that will preserve drinking water.

Yes also to generic medicines for all. To decisive action against Aids. To the preservation of minority cultures. And to the rights of indigenous peoples.

Yes to social and economic justice. And a less market-dominated Europe. Yes to the Porto Alegre Consensus. Yes to a Tobin tax that will benefit citizens. Yes to taxing arms sales. Yes to writing off the debt of the poor nations. Yes to banning tax havens.

To resist is to dream that another world is possible. And to help build it.

Who says the Left and Right can’t find common ground? We’re completely on board with that bit about dumbing down.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:23 AM


What Europe Doesn't Understand: Neoconservatism is neither neo nor conservative. It's just American. (ZACHARY SELDEN, May 26, 2004, Wall Street Journal)

It is difficult to define neoconservative foreign policy or to spell out what distinguishes it from other strains of political thought. Originally the label was applied to former leftists who became anticommunist after World War II and to Democrats who found themselves more in the Republican camp in the post-Vietnam era. But many of the individuals identified as neocons today are too young to have been part of the original group or were never associated with the Democratic Party.

Some turn to a more arcane definition of "the neoconservatives" as the students of the University of Chicago political philosophy professor Leo Strauss. Others note the Jewish surnames of many of the president's foreign affairs and defense advisors and hint darkly that the U.S. government is being manipulated for the benefit of Israel. Once again, these definitions fail to satisfy. Strauss may have been an influence on some, but it is difficult to believe that a relatively obscure philosophy professor dead for 30 years could now suddenly wield such influence over the conduct of U.S. foreign policy. By the same token, many of President Bush's advisors may indeed have Jewish roots, but many do not; it is, moreover, truly bizarre to believe that individuals can work their way to the top of the U.S. foreign policy apparatus by advocating the interests of another state to the detriment of the United States.

More often than not, the label is now employed as a pejorative to mean "hawkish on foreign policy." But this description applies to much of the American public since September 11. What has happened is that some commentators and defense intellectuals associated with the neocon label have been successful after 9/11 in articulating ideas that resonate with the general public and deep-seated beliefs that have historically guided the conduct of American foreign policy.

As much as some may have wanted to push the U.S. toward intervention in Iraq and take a firmer line with state supporters of terrorism, it simply was not politically possible until the clear and present danger presented itself. The arguments of Paul Wolfowitz and others were originally made in the early 1990s. They pressed for a more interventionist policy based on the threat to U.S. national security posed by inaction in the Greater Middle East, particularly in Iraq. One does not have to look any further than the Defense Planning Guidance of 1992 (co-authored by Mr. Wolfowitz), which in part advises removing the Saddam Hussein regime, to see the pattern. Others have long been advocating increased U.S. pressure on other regimes in the region, such as Iran and Syria. But it was not until September 11 that such a policy could have resonance in American public opinion.

There is also a strong misperception in Europe that the ideas ascribed to the neocons represent a small, extreme faction of the Republican Party. Although the so-called neocons may in general be Republicans, their ideas have a fair degree of approval within the ranks of the Democratic Party as well. In my own recollection, the first two individuals to promote the idea of military action to remove Saddam Hussein from power were both Democratic Party figures--one a retired congressman and the other a former Clinton administration official. It also bears repeating that 81 Democrats in the House voted in favor of authorizing the president to use military force in Iraq. Clearly there is more involved here than a handful of Rasputin-like ideologues whispering in the president's ear.

In truth, much of what has been identified as the neoconservative agenda has little to do with Republican versus Democrat; it is more a contest between realists and idealists--with the neocons firmly in the idealist camp. Realists are generally conservative in the true sense of the word. They do not seek to take risks to extend liberal democratic ideals. On the contrary, they seek to maintain American primacy and would not risk diluting finite resources to take on an enormous and protracted mission such as remaking the Middle East.

The realist school of thought contrasts sharply with the neoconservative camp, whose agenda would not be unfamiliar to Woodrow Wilson. He too sought to remake the international system from a position of relative strength, to spread democracy and the rule of law. It is true that today's crusaders are not about to place their trust in international institutions to do the job, but the basic ideals are similar in that they seek to use American power to reshape the global environment in the name of a set of liberal democratic ideals. It is their belief that this will make the United States more secure by reducing the seemingly intractable problems of the Middle East, thus getting at some of the root causes of terrorism. In taking up this banner, the neocons play into a very deep and old aspect of American political thought. This is why President Bush could speak for a large majority of the country when he set forth such an ambitious agenda based on their proposals.

Doesn't neoconservatism really just represent the recognition that the Democrats had become a secular party and no longer shared Wilson's crusading faith in the universality of American ideals? Today even John Kerry concedes that the Democrats are no longer pro-democracy--it's too messy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:14 AM


A's blow another lead, lose to Indians: Rhodes melts in 2nd straight game as Cleveland sweeps (Josh Suchon, May 31, 2004, )

Pitcher Arthur Rhodes thought it was the third sign. Catcher Adam Melhuse thought it was the second sign. Rhodes threw a hard slider. Melhuse expected a cut fastball.

By the time Melhuse realized a different pitch was coming, it was too late. The ball was past him at the backstop, the winning run sliding home, and the Oakland Athletics found another painful way to lose a game.

In a game of bullpen meltdowns, the A's were handed two runs in their half of the ninth, then Rhodes gave two back as the Cleveland Indians completed a weekend sweep in their final at-bat to win 4-3 on Sunday before 24,005 fans at Jacobs Field. [...]

Rhodes' history with Vizquel may have played a role in his emotions. Three years ago, Vizquel asked Rhodes, then with Seattle, to remove his earring because the glare made it tough to see.

During a heated argument, Rhodes called Vizquel "a little midget" and was ejected. Rhodes later told reporters, "I'm not going to let a guy weighing 125 pounds tell me that I have to take off my earring."

That's just not a sentence you can sound macho while speaking.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:21 AM


If you really want to reduce gas prices, here's how (BEN LIEBERMAN, 5/31/04, Chicago Sun-Times)

The nearly $10 per barrel rise in oil prices since the start of the year explains much of the nation's 2004 jump at the pump, from just over $1.50 to over $2 per gallon, but it does not explain all of it. That's because we can't put crude oil into our fuel tanks. First it must be refined into gasoline and diesel.

And it is at this step that costly regulations have pushed gas prices higher than necessary.

Under the Clean Air Act, refiners must adhere to strict requirements affecting the composition of motor fuels, and at the same time comply with tough provisions restricting refinery pollution. Both types of regulations have become more stringent in recent years. And several state-specific requirements have also complicated matters.

America has at least 15 different gasoline blends in use, in order to meet the hodgepodge of regulations. The fuel specifications get even tougher during the summer months, when several smog-fighting provisions kick in.

One of the most difficult summer blends to produce is the one required in Chicago. According to AAA, a gallon of regular gasoline currently averages $2.18 in Chicago, and $2.05 nationally.

At the same time that refiners struggle to produce gasoline that meets these requirements, they must also comply with a long and growing list of facility emissions controls. Due in part to this multi-billion dollar regulatory burden, no new domestic refinery has been built since 1976, and expansions of existing refineries has barely kept pace with growing demand. The Department of Energy predicts that gasoline demand will set a record this summer, but notes that "refinery capacity has not expanded significantly since last summer."

Few are inclined to shed tears over the plight of "big oil," but oil companies' high production costs and capacity restraints are hurting all of us, boosting the retail price of gas above and beyond the impact of crude oil costs.

Lower prices should not be a national goal, but more rational high prices should be. That means reducing the costly burden of complex regulation and replacing those savings with direct taxation (offset by tax cuts elsewhere to maintain revenue neutrality).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:16 AM


Dem dispute may give GOP budget say (DAVE MCKINNEY, CHRIS FUSCO AND LESLIE GRIFFY, May 31, 2004, Chicago Sun-Times)

With their leaders going separate ways, Democrats fumed Sunday at the growing possibility of budget gridlock driving them into legislative overtime -- a prospect that could lift Republicans off state government's doormat.

Seemingly oblivious to the gravity all around her, Gov. Blagojevich's 8-year-old daughter Amy played volleyball with a staffer in a Capitol hall while her father was entangled in a behind-the-scenes political wrestling match with House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago).

As hope of a budget deal appeared to crash, sending the General Assembly out the door early during a rare Sunday session, an adjournment deadline looms today in a poisoned atmosphere where Democrats hold all the power but can't get along.

Senate President Emil Jones (D-Chicago) left the Capitol at 10 p.m. and summed up the situation in particularly bleak terms: "It's going to be a long, long year."

There may be no state Democrats are counting on more heavily in both the presidential and senate contests.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:11 AM


Progress in Iraq: Consider the possibility, for a change, that on our Memorial Day, we have cause for cautious optimism. (WILLIAM SAFIRE, 5/31/04, NY Times)

Iyad Alawi is the Acceptable Arab. At the Ambrosetti conference in Italy last year, he and Adnan Pachachi — a Sunni in his 80's close to the Saudi royals — were the only Iraqis present. They spent most of their time in close consultation with Amr Moussa, head of the Arab League. Pachachi, whose exile ended with our overthrow of Saddam, was overtly ungrateful to the Americans.

Alawi, however, was noncommittal, so I plonked myself next to him at lunch and asked who was going to run Iraq after the U.S. left. He said only "I have a real political organization in Iraq." Mebbeso; at any rate, this tough-minded escapee from Saddam's assassins knows how to dicker with disparate colleagues and knew precisely when to make his move.

Present and former C.I.A. types, fresh from exacting their vengeance on their hated critic, Ahmad Chalabi, are telling media outlets that Alawi has always been their asset. This boasting by our leakiest intelligence agents is harmful to the presumptive prime minister because Alawi cannot let himself appear to be any outsider's puppet. But apparently some of our spooks feel that settling scores and falsely claiming credit takes precedence over U.S. and Iraqi interests.

Now the fast-fading three B's — Brahimi, Blackwill and Bremer — are joining with Alawi to put across Pachachi as figurehead president to appeal to the Arab League's Moussa. The Kurds, who have so far been outmaneuvered by Iraqi Arabs and, as usual, abandoned by our State department, prefer the younger Ghazi al-Yawar, sheik of the powerful Shamar Arab tribe and a businessman educated in the U.S.

The purpose of all this jockeying is to form an organization capable of holding an election in a country beset by Saddam loyalists and terrorists determined to block that election. This will take Iraqi politicians courageous enough to risk their lives, sensible enough to work closely with coalition generals to protect the voters from the killers, and persuasive enough to enlist many more Iraqis to join the fight for freedom.

It's worth recalling that Congress authorized the Second Iraq War in October 2002 and the handover is scheduled for July 2004.

By contrast, Congress authorized WWII in December 1941. American troops first landed in France in June 1944. The Federal Republic of Germany was created in 1949. That republic did not include East Germany, which we failed to liberate.

Guess which is called the Good War?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:50 AM


What Studs Terkel's 'Working' Says About Worker Malaise Today: It is hard to read "Working," Studs Terkel's oral history of working life published 30 years ago, without thinking about what has gone wrong in the workplace. (ADAM COHEN, 5/31/04, NY Times)

There have been substantial productivity gains. But those gains have not found their way to paychecks. In a recent two-and-a-half-year period, corporate profits surged 87 percent, while wages rose just 4.5 percent. Not surprisingly, a study last fall by the Conference Board found that less than 49 percent of workers were satisfied with their jobs, down from 59 percent in 1995.

When "Working" was written, these trends were just visible on the horizon. A neighborhood druggist laments "the corner drugstore, that's kinda fadin' now," because little shops like his can't compete. "Most of us, like the assembly line worker, have jobs that are too small for our spirit," an editor says. "Jobs are not big enough for people."

When America begins to pay attention to its unhappy work force — and eventually, it must — "Working" will still provide important insights, with its path-breaking exploration of what Mr. Terkel described as "the extraordinary dreams of ordinary people."

Mr. Terkel's book is silly enough in its own right without dragging him into the bizarre argument that despite spectacular productivity gains workers are more dissatisfied now than they have been in the past.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:42 AM


Office Politics Give Liberal Radio a Rocky Start: Even by the chaotic standards of a new media company, Air America Radio's first two months of broadcasting have been convulsive. (JACQUES STEINBERG, 5/31/04, NY Times)

The fledgling talk-radio network has replaced five top executives, been taken off the air in two of its top three markets and lost several crucial producers. By late April, current and former executives said last week, the company was perilously close to running out of money. It has since received an infusion of cash, though it has not disclosed how much or from whom. [...]

Despite the intrigue concerning its management - and the abrupt pulling of its programming last month from stations in Chicago and Los Angeles, in a contract dispute - there are early indications that, where it can be heard, Air America is actually drawing listeners. WLIB-AM in New York City, one of 13 stations that carry at least part of Air America's 16 hours of original programming each day, even appears to be holding its own with WABC-AM, the New York City station and talk radio powerhouse that is Mr. Limbaugh's flagship.

For example, among listeners from 25 and 54, whom advertisers covet, the network estimates it drew an average listener share (roughly a percentage of listeners) of 3.4 on WLIB in April, from 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on weekdays, according to the company's extrapolation of figures provided by Arbitron for the three months ended in April. (Arbitron, which does not provide ratings in monthly increments, said the network's methodology appeared sound, although such figures were too raw to translate to numbers of listeners.)

By contrast, according to Air America's figures, WABC-AM drew an average share of 3.2 during the same period in April for the same age group. That time period includes the three hours in which Mr. Limbaugh was pitted head to head against Mr. Franken.

Phil Boyce, the program director of WABC , cautioned against drawing conclusions from preliminary data. "If they end up doing that well when the final number is out, which is two more months, I'll give them a congratulations," Mr. Boyce said.

While the network is awaiting the release of similar figures from Arbitron for other cities, KPOJ-AM, the Clear Channel station that carries its programming in Portland, Ore., informed Air America executives by an e-mail message in late April that its ratings appeared to have tripled last month, according to the station's informal survey. (A station executive, Mary Lou Gunn, did not return a telephone message left at her office on Friday.)

The network, which is also carried on the satellite radio providers XM and Sirius, has found an audience on the Internet. In its first week, listeners clicked on the audio programming on the Air America Web site more than two million times, according to RealNetworks, the digital media provider.

"It's clear the audience is there," Mr. Franken said.

We wish them well, because you canm't both be informed about the news of the day and remain liberal. The news proves conservatism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 AM


The Challenge Of Secularism: It is no accident that the introduction of universal compulsory state education has coincided in time and place with the secularization of modern culture. (CHRISTOPHER DAWSON, 1956, Catholic World)

Where the whole educational system has been dominated by a consciously anti-religious ideology, as in the Communist countries, the plight of Christianity is desperate, and even if there were no persecution of religion on the ecclesiastical level, there would be little hope of its survival after two or three generations of universal Communist education. Here however the totalitarian state is only completing the work that the liberal state began, for already in the nineteenth century the secularization of education and the exclusion of positive Christian teaching from the school formed an essential part of the program of almost all the progressive, liberal and socialist parties everywhere.

Unfortunately, while universal secular education is an infallible instrument for the secularization of culture, the existence of a free system of religious primary education is not sufficient to produce a Christian culture. We know only too well how little effect the Catholic school has on modern secular culture and how easily the latter can assimilate and absorb the products of our educational system. The modern Leviathan is such a formidable monster that he can swallow religious schools whole without suffering from indigestion.

But this is not the case with higher education. The only part of Leviathan that is vulnerable is his brain, which is small in comparison with his vast and armored bulk. If we could develop Christian higher education to a point at which it meets the attention of the average educated man in every field of thought and life, the situation would be radically changed.

In the literary world something of this kind has already happened. During my lifetime Catholicism has come back into English literature, so that the literary critic can no longer afford to ignore it. But the literary world is a very small one and it does not reflect public opinion to anything like the degree that it did in Victorian times. The trouble is that our modern secular culture is sub-literary as well as sub-religious. The forces that affect it are in the West the great commercialized amusement industries and in the East the forces of political propaganda. And I do not think that Christianity can ever compete with these forms of mass culture on their own ground. If it does so, it runs the danger of becoming commercialized and politicized and thus of sacrificing its own distinctive values. I believe that Christians stand to gain more in the long run by accepting their minority position and looking for quality rather than quantity.

This does not mean that Catholicism should become an esoteric religion for the learned and the privileged. The minority is a religious minority and it is to be found in every class and at every intellectual level. So it was in the days of primitive Christianity and so it has been ever since.

The difference is that today the intellectual factor has become more vital than it ever was in the past. The great obstacle to the conversion of the modern world is the belief that religion has no intellectual significance; that it may be good for morals and satisfying to man's emotional needs, but that there is no such thing as religious knowledge. The only true knowledge is concerned with material things and with the concrete realities of social and economic life.

This is a pre-theological difficulty, for it is impossible to teach men even the simplest theological truths, if they believe that the creeds and the catechism are nothing but words and that religious knowledge is not really knowledge at all. On the other hand, I do not believe that it is possible to clear the difficulty away by straight philosophical argument, since the general public is philosophically illiterate and modern philosophy is becoming an esoteric specialism.

The only remedy is religious education in the widest sense of the word. That is to say a general introduction to the world of religious truth and the higher forms of spiritual reality. By losing sight of this world, modern secular culture has become more grievously impoverished than even the non-Christian cultures, for those cultures agreed in recognizing the existence of a higher supernatural or divine world on which human life was dependent.

Now the Christian world of the past was exceptionally well provided with ways of access to spiritual realities. Christian culture was essentially a sacramental culture which embodied religious truth in visible and palpable forms: art and architecture; music and poetry and drama, philosophy and history were all used as channels for the communication of religious truth. Today all these channels have been closed by unbelief or choked by ignorance, so that Christianity has been deprived of its natural means of outward expression and communication.

It is the task of Christian education to recover these lost contacts and to restore contact between religion and modern society — between the world of spiritual reality and the world of social experience.

It's always helpful to go back and read conservative and Christian (and Christian conservative) warnings from the New Deal/Great Society era to get some sense of just how reactionary modern American culture truly is. While Europe continues on its inexorable path over the secular cliff, America has at least applied the brakes and is trying to ram into reverse. In this instance the movement for universal school vouchers is obviously a powerful antidote to the poison of compulsory secular education.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:14 AM


The real problem with Europe (Martin Walker, 5/31/2004, UPI)

Whatever happened to the European economies? Since 1990, the big three continental economies of Germany, France and Italy have grown at an average rate of less than 1.7 percent a year. By contrast, the United States grew almost twice as fast over the same period.

One result of this became strikingly clear last week when the German edition of the Financial Times published a league table of the world's 100 "most valuable" companies (which means ranked by market capitalization). Were it not for the British, whose refusal to join the euro currency renders them semi-detached, the Europeans would be dropping out of contention. [...]

No wonder that Romano Prodi, president of the European Commission, in his appearance before the European Union's Economic and Social Committee last week lamented that Europe needed "a radical change."

Prodi was testifying on something called the Lisbon strategy, a highly ambitious plan drawn up at the EU summit in Lisbon in 2000 that was supposed to deliver the "most competitive economy in the world by 2010." The strategy called for liberalization of labor markets, intensified competition, Europe-wide coordination of education and skills training, and reform of corporation taxes and incentives for research. The "social partners," as the EU dubs the representatives of the EU's federations of labor unions and of employers, were to be brought into the process. And this was all to be combined with a budget and investment strategy that was supposed to unleash the talents of Europe and catch up -- and even overtake -- the great spurt the American economy had displayed in the 1990s.

Instead, the Lisbon strategy has become something of a joke.

They dropped out of contention decades ago when they lost their religious faith, stopped having children and became willing dependents of the Welfare State.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:06 AM


Freedom is taking root in Russia (Aleksander Lebedev, May 31, 2004, The Boston Globe)

THE CHANGES in Russia during the past 15 years have been brought about by the desire of the Russian people to have a better life. Although laced with imperfection, democratic changes have taken root in Russia, and we now have an elected parliament and a popularly elected president.We also have a multi-party system and claim to be tolerant of a pluralism of views and attitudes.

The economy is based on market values and private ownership. Russia voluntarily withdrew its troops from Eastern and Central Europe, and our nuclear weapons are no longer aimed at theWest.We have been assisting the United States in the war on terrorism, and few can downplay the significance of Russian-American cooperation in Afghanistan.

Domestically, Russia will soon undergo rapid economic growth. After the 1998 default the economy is growing at a steady rate. In 2003, economic growth was more than 7 percent of the GDP. The first quarter results of 2004 support these positive trends: GDP grew by 8 percent, and investment grew by 13 percent, while inflation was the lowest ever at 3.5 percent. Real income grew by 13.9 percent while net capital outflow was as low as $200 million.

It would be a mistake to try to attribute this growth only to higher prices on oil and other natural resources in the international markets. Yet to accelerate this growth we have to solve many problems. Most important is that we clear a path to development of private entrepreneurship. If we succeed in this, Russia will have a real chance to complete the historic economic reforms of the 1990s.

Silly Mr. Lebedev--if he'd paid attention duiring the 20th Century he'd have learned from the Realists that Slavs have no desire for freedom, just as they tell us now that Muslims have none.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:59 AM


A Worn Road for U.N. Aide (DEXTER FILKINS, 5/31/04, NY Times)

When Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations envoy, arrived earlier this month, he declared that he would crisscross Iraq to give the people a new government, one that he suggested would be more independent of America's heavy-handed ways.

Now, as Mr. Brahimi nears the end of his work, Iraqis are discovering that his task was not so simple.

With his slate of appointees expected to be announced in the next day or two, the appointments leaked so far suggest that what Mr. Brahimi ultimately accomplishes may turn out to be less a revolution than a rearrangement, less a new cast of characters than a reworked version of the same old faces.

The reason, Iraqis are beginning to say, has been the unexpected assertiveness of American officials and their allies on the Iraqi Governing Council, coupled with Mr. Brahimi's surprising passivity, after he was expected to have a free hand.

Here's a handy rule of thumb for anyone who still hasn't figured it out four years into the Bush administration: today's story about the President reversing a position will be followed by tomorrow's about how he's simply accomplishing it via different means.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:16 AM


Careers curtailing children
(Anne Marie Owens, National Post, May 31st, 2004)

Canadian professional women are choosing not to have children, or severely limiting their number of offspring, because they do not believe they can have children and successful careers, according to new research that has significant implications for Canada's future labour market and economic consumption patterns.

Almost a third of female professionals and managers had no children at all and almost as many had just one child, with the majority of those surveyed indicating they made a conscious decision on how many children to have and stating their career was a major factor in that decision.

The number of women surveyed who had more than two children was extremely low: None of the women under the age of 31 had more than two children, and only 17 of the nearly 100 under the age of 38 had more than two children.

The study, which is to be released today by researchers at Carleton University's Sprott School of Business, provides one of the first insights into the behaviour and decision-making that is driving the international trend of declining fertility.

"This is a revolution in fertility," says Linda Duxbury, one of Canada's leading workplace experts and one of the authors of the study. "These professional women are making a conscious decision to limit family size because they know that organizations and government haven't responded.... They used to have the kids and worry about the career later. Now, they're worrying about the work first."

The researchers say their findings have significant societal implications because they show the impending labour-force shortage stemming from this declining fertility is largely a result of a conscious rejection by working women of workplace practices and government policies that have made the top professional careers incompatible with family life.

Debates about demographics often reflect an assumption that we are speaking of broad socio-economic forces or evolutionary imperatives cutting a wide swath through society. The tone of these debates leaves the impression that people largely make their choices unconsciously or in response to general forces over which they have little control, and that some sort of counter trends or equilibrium will set in as these change. They do not consider that demographic change can be a product of individual intelligent design that has little to do with the objective state of the world around them.

The article makes a half-hearted and predictable attempt to blame government and corporations for the lack of child-friendly policies. But the problem is a spiritual one that is reflected in the word “career”. People can have jobs, which are generally mundane, practical means to acquire the material needs that support what is really important to them. They can have vocations, which imply service and duty within certain defined and traditional parameters. But folks with careers believe the worth their lives is measured by their personal status, which requires a continuous, discernable advancement in power, wealth and prestige. Emotionally, they live for themselves and nothing–certainly not the messy, demanding life of family–can be allowed to stand in their way.

It is fine to point fingers at women, but, as with so many popular feminist causes, they are simply following trends set by men and are but a generation or two behind.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:09 AM


CLERICS CONDEMN KHOBAR CARNAGE (Ahmad Wahaj Al-Siddiqui, 5/31/04, The Saudi Gazette)

ISLAMIC scholars and high authorities condemned the deadly terrorist attacks at the Arabian Petroleum Investment Corp. residential compound in Al-Khobar.

It is most abhorring to kill innocent people who came to Saudi Arabia on its invitation to help build the country and who are under a covenant to get protection under Islamic order, the clerics said.

These criminal acts only strengthen the Zionists in their aggression against the Palestinians, they said.

Dr. Abdullah Abdul Mohsin Al-Turki, the Secretary General of the Muslim World League and member of the Supreme Council of Islamic clerics at Makkah, explained why terrorist acts have no place in Islam.

Islam came at a time when the world was a lawless state, he said. It is Islam that laid down the constitution to govern and brought peace and made every one including the ruler subservient to peace. This caused Islam to spread quickly. But now these terrorists are indulging in un-Islamic and inhuman acts of barbarism which no religion ever allows.

He appealed the people to cooperate with the authorities in achieving and maintaining peace in the Kingdom.

Not as graceful as one would like, but progress...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:04 AM


U.S.: China rethinking military strategy ROBERT BURNS, 5/30/04, AP)

The speed with which U.S. ground forces captured Baghdad and the prominent role played in Iraq by U.S. commandos, have led China to rethink how it could counteract the American military in the event of a confrontation over Taiwan, the Pentagon says.

The Chinese also believe, partly from its assessment of the Bush administration's declared war on terrorism, that the United States is increasingly likely to intervene in a conflict over Taiwan or other Chinese interests, according to the Pentagon analysis.

"Authoritative commentary and speeches by senior officials suggest that U.S. actions over the past decade ... have reinforced fears within the Chinese leadership that the United States would appeal to human rights and humanitarian concerns to intervene, either overtly or covertly," said the Pentagon.

Overtly, or Congress would go ballistic.

May 30, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:53 PM


Central America Free Trade Agreement (Cynthia Kirk, May 29, 2004, VOA)

The United States has signed a trade agreement with five Central American countries. The five are Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

Trade ministers from the six countries signed the agreement in a ceremony Friday at the Washington headquarters of the Organization of American States. The new treaty is known as the Central America Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA.

The Dominican Republic is expected to join CAFTA at a later date. All seven countries will be included in the agreement when it is presented to the United States Congress for approval.

President Bush first announced his plan to negotiate a free trade agreement with Central American countries in two-thousand-two. The negotiations were completed at the end of last year.

Mr. Bush continues to build on what was already quite the best free trade record of any modern president.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 AM


Senior Pro-Taliban Cleric Killed in Pakistani Port City (Reuters, May 30, 2004)

A senior pro-Taliban cleric in Pakistan was gunned down by unknown assailants outside his mosque in the port city of Karachi on Sunday and later died of his wounds, police and hospital sources said.

Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai, who called for a holy war against the United States after the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, was wounded along with three of his sons outside his mosque, police official Fayyaz Qureshi said.

Careful what you wish for...

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:09 AM


Actually, we eat less (Daily Telegraph, May 30th, 2004)

In fact, Britons are eating less than they used to. According to a study by the Royal College of General Practitioners, the food intake of the average Briton has declined by 750 calories a day over the past 30 years. The reason we are getting fatter is that we are doing less manual work and taking less exercise: we are burning off 800 fewer calories a day than we were in the early 1970s. For the decline in physical activity, especially among children, the Government has to take some of the blame. It has continued to allow school playing fields to be sold to developers and has introduced health and safety legislation which makes it more difficult for outdoor adventure courses to operate.

To accuse the food industry of promoting child obesity is to distract attention from these issues. But there is also a cultural reason why the manufacturers of crisps, chocolate bars and fizzy drinks get blamed for promoting obesity: they represent everything which the Left dislikes about globalisation. The main difference between the British diet now and that of 30 years ago is not that we eat more sugar and fat, as a visit to an old-fashioned greasy spoon will remind anyone; it is that we eat more branded foods. Wotsits are damned not just because, when eaten in excess, they make people fat but because they are produced by a multinational company and are marketed around the world in standardised form.

While the availability of many forms of junk food has certainly increased over the past generation, so too have the opportunities to eat well. Whereas the greengrocer of 30 years ago offered a limited range of yellowing cauliflower and frozen peas, today's supermarket brims with fresh fruit and vegetables from all over the world. Thanks to the globalised food industry, it is possible now to buy leaner meat than 30 years ago, to buy olive oil as well as butter, skimmed milk as well as full cream. Moreover, food manufacturers now offer hugely detailed nutritional information, including calorie counts, on their packets: something which they never used to do.

Clearly, not all Britons are making wise decisions about what they eat, but to lay the charge of promoting obesity at the door of the food industry is the easy way out. Those who get fat have themselves to blame above anyone else.

Or their parents. If children were compelled to walk to and from school, to play outside all day on weekends and to pay for their own treats out of a modest allowance, there would presumably be a sharp decline in childhood obesity. Yet somehow many modern parents have let themselves be convinced that the first is dangerous, the second oppressive and the third mean. More and more they see exercise as a scheduled event to be undertaken only on consent. Having lost control over the matter, they find it much easier to direct their wrath at an imagined corporate conspiracy and teach their children to be neurotic about food.

Scientists and lawyers know a good deal when they see one and are persuading millions that we all ate a diet based upon fruits and vegetables and unrefined grains in the good old days. Those of us who can remember the typical huge breakfasts, rich desserts, school lunches, fatty meats and gravies, creamy milks, syrupy canned fruits, sugar-laden juices and soft drinks and ubiquitous cakes and pies of the 50's and 60's may wonder how we possibly managed to avoid the very real tragedy afflicting so many of our children.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:59 AM


Conservative Classics Outlet (ISI)

Brothers Judd Recommended Summer Reading

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:56 AM


Christian Cool and the New Generation Gap (JOHN LELAND, 5/16/04, NY Times)

FOR evidence of generational upheaval these days, you might skip over the usual suspects - sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll - and consider instead the church.

Two decades after baby boomers invented the suburban megachurch, which removed intimidating crosses or stained-glass images of Jesus in favor of neutral environments, their children are now wearing "Jesus Is My Homeboy" T-shirts.

As mainline churches scramble to retain young people, these worshipers have gained attention by creating alternative churches in coffee bars and warehouses and publishing new magazines and Bibles that come on as anything but church.

But does a T-shirt really serve the faith? And if religion is our link to the timeless, what does it mean that young Christians replace their parents' practices?

The movement "has a noble side," said Michael Novak, the conservative theologian at the American Enterprise Institute. He himself remembers how much he enjoyed the Christian comic books of his youth. He compared the alt-evangelicals to missionaries, who "feel they've learned something valuable from their faith and want to share it" using the native language.

"But in boiling it down, trying to make it relevant, you leave out the hard edges and the complicated points," he said. "You make the faith less than it is."

Yet for many in this generation, the worship of their parents feels impersonal - not bigger than their daily, media-intensified lives, but smaller. Their search is for unfiltered religious experience.

"My generation is discontent[ed] with dead religion," said Cameron Strang, 28, founder of Relevant Media, which produces Christian books, a Web site and Relevant magazine, a stylish 70,000-circulation bimonthly that addresses topics like body piercing, celibacy, extreme prayer, punk rock and God.

"We don't want to show up on Sunday, sing two hymns, hear a sermon and go home," Mr. Strang said. "The Bible says we're supposed to die for this thing. If I'm going to do that, this has to be worth something. Our generation wants a tangible experience of God who is there."

If Christ were among us in these times, we'd surely know it as the "Sermon on NBC", not "on the Mount." Gotta evangelize where the people are.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 AM


Deadlock Seen on Presidency in Iraqi Talks (DEXTER FILKINS and STEVEN R. WEISMAN, 5/30/04, NY Times)

American, Iraqi and United Nations officials deadlocked Saturday over the selection of an Iraqi president, even as they appeared to strike a deal over the most important cabinet ministers for the new government that is to take over on July 1.

On one side of the deadlock are the United Nations envoy, Lakdar Brahimi, and the chief American administrator, L. Paul Bremer III, who are backing the former foreign minister, Adnan Pachachi. Leaders of the Iraqi Governing Council support a rival, Sheik Ghazi Ajil al-Yawar. Both men are Sunnis.

Some Iraqi officials said Saturday that Mr. Brahimi had reached agreements with Mr. Bremer and Iraqi leaders on six important cabinet positions. Two people close to the Iraqi Governing Council said Mr. Brahimi had reached agreements to name three Shiites, two Kurds and one Sunni to high-level jobs in the cabinet. That mix reflects the ethnic and religious balancing act under way.

According to these sources, the two Kurds were Barham Salih, who would become the foreign minister, and Hoshyar Zebari, who would be named the defense minister. The Kurds, deprived of the top jobs of prime minister and president, would get these two important cabinet posts. Three members of the majority Shiite population would be in line for the cabinet: Adel Abdul Mahdi as the finance minister, Thamir Ghadbhan as the oil minister, and Dr. Raja Khuzaie as the health minister.

In addition to the president being a Sunni Arab, the last of the six cabinet officials mentioned would also be Sunni: Samir Sumaidy, who stands to become the interior minister.

The stage appears set for a showdown on the presidency on Sunday.

American officials say they are backing Mr. Pachachi in large part because they believe he would adhere to the interim constitution that was hammered out earlier this year and is meant to guide the new government until elections are held.

The constitution is, and should be, toast--get over it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:44 AM


Hostages Released After Standoff in Saudi Arabia (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 5/30/04)

Saudi forces freed dozens of American and other foreign hostages Sunday after a shooting rampage turned into a daylong standoff with Islamic militants at an expatriate resort. A Saudi security official said the lead attacker was in custody and two other suspects were being arrested.

Saudi officials would not comment on the condition of the hostages. However, a diplomat in Khobar said officials told him there were deaths among the hostages and attackers. Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said he did not know how many hostages were dead, but was informed that two gunmen were killed.

At least 10 others -- including an American -- died in the attack claimed by an al-Qaida-linked group that began Saturday morning when gunmen in military-style dress opened fire on security forces at two oil industry compounds in Khobar, 250 miles northeast of Riyadh.

The assailants -- believed to number up to seven -- then fled up the street, taking some 45-60 hostages in a high-rise housing mainly foreigners.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:25 AM


The Literary Divide (Anne Applebaum, April 7, 2004, Washington Post)

At the National Book Awards ceremony last fall, a special lifetime achievement award was given to the horror writer -- and mass-market success -- Stephen King. He returned the favor with a slap in the face. In an extraordinary acceptance speech, he claimed that he had been snubbed all of his life by snooty critics; that wonderful writers such as John Grisham were regularly ignored by snobbish prize committees; and that never, ever in his entire life had he written a word for money.

But most people do write for money. How else would we survive? As long ago as the 18th century, Samuel Johnson declared that it would be idiotic to imagine otherwise: "No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money." Only people like Stephen King, whose best-selling novels are regularly made into popular movies, don't need to think about money: He employs an accountant to do that. It's hardly surprising that he's resented, even snubbed, by authors like the anonymous, self-described "critically acclaimed mid-list writer" who wrote a long, painful description of her career ups and downs -- four published books, good reviews, middling sales, waves of rejections thanks to middling sales and, finally, a decision to take another job -- in Salon last month, causing a minor sensation.

There are, it is true, still a few "crossover" writers, mostly writers of excellent popular books about American history, and one or two novelists. But my sense is that their numbers are shrinking, that there's almost no more middle ground. Popular culture now hates high culture so much that it campaigns aggressively against it. High culture now fears popular culture so much that it insulates itself deliberately from it. As for the rest of us -- we're inundated with the former, often alienated from the latter. And if we write books, we skulk about checking our Amazon rankings, wondering whether CNN might possibly have put our names in tiny print at the bottom of the screen, and feeling dazed -- and extremely grateful -- when we win prizes.

Americans have especially good cause for and a long history of hating intellectuals, but the literati have done themselves no favors in this regard by intentionally making their work unreadable. Meanwhile, popular culture is obviously uneven, but much of it--from Lord of the Rings to The Passion to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and so forth--plumbs more enduring and interesting themes than most high culture.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:26 AM


Where to Get a Good Idea: Steal It Outside Your Group (MICHAEL ERARD, 5/22/04, NY Times)

Got a good idea? Now think for a moment where you got it. A sudden spark of inspiration? A memory? A dream?

Most likely, says Ronald S. Burt, a sociologist at the University of Chicago, it came from someone else who hadn't realized how to use it.

"The usual image of creativity is that it's some sort of genetic gift, some heroic act," Mr. Burt said. "But creativity is an import-export game. It's not a creation game."

Mr. Burt has spent most of his career studying how creative, competitive people relate to the rest of the world, and how ideas move from place to place. Often the value of a good idea, he has found, is not in its origin but in its delivery. His observation will undoubtedly resonate with overlooked novelists, garage inventors and forgotten geniuses who pride themselves on their new ideas but aren't successful in getting them noticed. "Tracing the origin of an idea is an interesting academic exercise, but it's largely irrelevant," Mr. Burt said. "The trick is, can you get an idea which is mundane and well known in one place to another place where people would get value out of it."

Mr. Burt, whose latest findings will appear in the American Journal of Sociology this fall, studied managers in the supply chain of Raytheon, the large electronics company and military contractor based in Waltham, Mass., where he worked until last year. Mr. Burt asked managers to write down their best ideas about how to improve business operations and then had two executives at the company rate their quality. It turned out that the highest-ranked ideas came from managers who had contacts outside their immediate work group. The reason, Mr. Burt said, is that their contacts span what he calls "structural holes," the gaps between discrete groups of people.

"People who live in the intersection of social worlds," Mr. Burt writes, "are at higher risk of having good ideas."

People with cohesive social networks, whether offices, cliques or industries, tend to think and act the same, he explains. In the long run, this homogeneity deadens creativity. As Mr. Burt's research has repeatedly shown, people who reach outside their social network not only are often the first to learn about new and useful information, but they are also able to see how different kinds of groups solve similar problems.

The most famous example is Charles Darwin, who looked at the economic theories of the day (mainly Adam Smith and Thomas Malthus) and combined them with local breeding techniques to come up with a theory for how evolution might occur naturally.

May 29, 2004

Posted by Peter Burnet at 9:05 AM


British-educated surgeon is new Iraqi prime minister (Luke Harding, Michael Howard and Julian Borger, The Guardian, May 29, 2004)

A British-educated neurosurgeon who spent 30 years in exile in Britain, and who has close links with both the CIA and MI6, was named as Iraq's new interim prime minister last night.

Ayad Allawi, 58, the head of the Iraqi National Accord (INA), emerged as Iraq's surprise new leader after weeks of speculation and intrigue.

Earlier this year the INA said it had provided "in good faith" the raw intelligence from a single source that was used to support the claim that Saddam Hussein was able to deploy weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes of the order.

The INA said later it had presumed that MI6 would verify the claim. [...]

Other observers were also enthusiastic. Laith Kubba, a veteran Iraqi liberal who is now at the US-based National Endowment for Democracy, said Dr Allawi would be a unifying choice. "He has reached out to Sunni and Shia as well as Kurds."

However, Dr Allawi's close links to US and British intelligence agencies will not make him a popular choice for many ordinary Iraqis. [...]

The Iraqi resistance is likely to dismiss Dr Allawi as an American stooge and try to kill him.

So, Ba'athists and terrorists are now the "Iraqi resistance". It isn't very hard to figure out what the Left's worst nightmare is.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 AM


Bush Points the Way: President Bush scored a humanitarian victory in Sudan this
week, but unfortunately it is not far-reaching enough. (NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF, 5/29/04, NY Times)

I doff my hat, briefly, to President Bush.

Sudanese peasants will be naming their sons "George Bush" because he scored a humanitarian victory this week that could be a momentous event around the globe — although almost nobody noticed. It was Bush administration diplomacy that led to an accord to end a 20-year civil war between Sudan's north and south after two million deaths.

If the peace holds, hundreds of thousands of lives will be saved, millions of refugees will return home, and a region of Africa may be revived.

But there's a larger lesson here as well: messy African wars are not insoluble, and Western pressure can help save the day. So it's all the more shameful that the world is failing to exert pressure on Sudan to halt genocide in its Darfur region. Darfur is unaffected by the new peace accords. [...]

Yet while Mr. Bush has done far too little, he has at least issued a written statement, sent aides to speak forcefully at the U.N. and raised the matter with Sudan's leaders. That's more than the Europeans or the U.N. has done. Where are Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac? Where are African leaders, like Nelson Mandela? Why isn't John Kerry speaking out forcefully? And why are ordinary Americans silent?

Islamic leaders abroad have been particularly shameful in standing with the Sudanese government oppressors rather than with the Muslim victims in Darfur. Do they care about dead Muslims only when the killers are Israelis or Americans?

Far be it from a Timesman to credit the fact, but the Sudanese have made it quite clear that this agreement is fruit of the war on terror (including even Bill Clinton's cruise missile strike) and of the efforts of Christian evangelicals to influence Africa policy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:30 AM


Calling All Ids: Freudians at War (D. D GUTTENPLAN, May 29, 2004, NY Times)

Who owns psychoanalysis? That question is at the center of the most recent battle here in the Freud Wars, the epic (or as the man himself might say, interminable) struggle over the legacy of Sigmund Freud, pioneer psychotherapist, cartographer of the unconscious and former resident of Hampstead, the leafy corner of Northwest London where the concentration of therapeutic couches per square mile may be even higher than on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

Late last year a new group calling itself the College of Psychoanalysts sent out a letter inviting British therapists who met certain qualifications to list themselves on the organization's "register of practitioners." The British Psychoanalytical Society, headquarters of classical Freudian analysis, responded with a statement accusing college members of "misleading the public about their training and qualifications." And then the fireworks really started. One founder of the college — which is a professional organization rather than a training institution — countered with a letter describing the society's action as "a phobic response to growth as symbolized in the Oedipal myth." An opponent of the college, on the other hand, described the new group as "an association of wannabes and poseurs."

More recently, the society's Web site included a disclaimer describing the college as a device for allowing therapists "to pass themselves off to the public as though they were trained psychoanalysts." In British law, "passing off" is a form of fraud; this was a declaration of war.

Susie Orbach, a therapist, an active member of the college and the author of the best-selling "Fat Is a Feminist Issue" and other books, says the dispute has already had "a chilling effect" on British intellectual life. To her, the society's argument that the title psychoanalyst "refers not to what the practitioner does, but what they have been trained to do" is nonsensical, a spurious restraint on trade.

"I do the work," she said. "My contributions are contributions to psychoanalysis, its theory and clinical practice, not to some other field."

On the surface, this is a parochial argument about labels and credentials, a tempest in a Viennese teacup — or at most, a professional turf war. But you don't have to probe the protagonists too deeply to discover that this is also a battle over the nature of therapy itself — what it is, what it does, how it works. And it quickly becomes apparent that alongside the intellectual controversy is a bare knuckles fight over money, power and prestige. These people, after all, are professionals of the ego.

Nurse Ratched must restore order.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:33 AM


Conservative Allies Take Chalabi Case to the White House (ELISABETH BUMILLER, 5/29/04, NY Times)

Influential outside advisers to the Bush administration who support the Iraqi exile leader Ahmad Chalabi are pressing the White House to stop what one has called a "smear campaign" against Mr. Chalabi, whose Baghdad home and offices were ransacked last week in an American-supported raid.

Last Saturday, several of these Chalabi supporters said, a small delegation of them marched into the West Wing office of Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, to complain about the administration's abrupt change of heart about Mr. Chalabi and to register their concerns about the course of the war in Iraq. The group included Richard N. Perle, the former chairman of a Pentagon advisory group, and R. James Woolsey, director of central intelligence under President Bill Clinton.

Members of the group, who had requested the meeting, told Ms. Rice that they were incensed at what they view as the vilification of Mr. Chalabi, a favorite of conservatives who is now central to an F.B.I. investigation into who in the American government might have given him highly classified information that he is suspected of turning over to Iran.

Mr. Chalabi has denied that he provided Iran with any classified information.

The session with Ms. Rice was one sign of the turmoil that Mr. Chalabi's travails have produced within an influential corner of Washington, where Mr. Chalabi is still seen as a potential leader of Iraq.

"There is a smear campaign under way, and it is being perpetrated by the C.I.A. and the D.I.A. and a gaggle of former intelligence officers who have succeeded in planting these stories, which are accepted with hardly any scrutiny," Mr. Perle, a leading conservative, said in an interview.

Mr. Perle, referring to both the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency, said the campaign against Mr. Chalabi was "an outrageous abuse of power" by United States government officials in Washington and Baghdad.

Whatever Mr. Chalabi may or may not have done, CIA and State always favor Sunni dictatorship, so this certainly serves their purposes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:28 AM


US and the EU: an economic love affair (Richard Carter, 5/28/04, EUObserver)

Despite political tensions and periodic trade disputes, the economic ties between the EU and the US are closer and deeper than ever, argues a new report presented today (28 May) at the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels. [...]

The report says: "even though US-German relations ebbed to one of their lowest levels since World War II, American firms sank $7 billion in Germany in 2003, a sharp reversal from 2002, when US firms pulled some $5 billion out of Germany".

US investment flows to France also jumped by ten percent last year despite a general decline in Franco-US relations.

And there was more French investment into the state of Texas than the combined total of US investment into China and Asia.

May 28, 2004

Posted by Paul Jaminet at 11:29 PM


"Money, Sex, and Happiness: An Empirical Study" (David G. Blanchflower, Dartmouth College Dept of Economics, and Andrew J. Oswald, University of Warwick Dept. of Economics)

The happiness-maximizing number of sexual partners in the previous year is calculated to be 1.

I'm inclined to trust this result.

UPDATE: Shock new research: sex makes us happy (The Australian)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:11 PM


The rule of law: a new prime minister in Baghdad, and an old role model (The Daily Star, May 29, 2004)

Iraq has a prime minister in waiting. On Friday, the Iraqi Governing Council unanimously endorsed Iyad Allawi, a British-educated neurologist, in the post, which will take effect on June 30 when US rule through the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) ends.

This represents the beginning of a new era for Iraq, and a heavy burden will rest on the shoulders of the new prime minister. It will be in his job description to be a symbol of renewal, and there will be those, as we have seen, who will do their utmost to make his task as difficult as possible.

The immediate challenge is to muster momentum among Iraqis to push the United States, the United Nations and all other influential players in the unfolding Iraq drama to work toward developing and then implementing a comprehensive legal system for Iraq. [...]

At this juncture it should be remembered that Iraq, in its ancient Mesopotamian incarnation, was the land that gave the world the first written code of laws in human history - the code of Hammurabi, c.1700 BC. Hammurabi was the sixth king of the Amorite Dynasty of Old Babylon.

Allawi has much work to do, and he must begin now. If Hammurabi can be a source of inspiration, then all the better. If Iraq succeeds in the enormous task that lies ahead - and a tragedy for the world it will be if it does not - then instituting the rule of law will be a foundation stone of that success. And, in so doing, Iraq will set an example for the other states of the Middle East that still have much to learn about the rule of law.

It would be a very good thing for democracy joined with the rule of law to be a source of pride in the Middle East.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:55 PM


The Connection: The collaboration of Iraq and al Qaeda. (Stephen F. Hayes, 06/07/2004, Weekly Standard)

In late February 2004, Christopher Carney made an astonishing discovery. Carney, a political science professor from Pennsylvania on leave to work at the Pentagon, was poring over a list of officers in Saddam Hussein's much-feared security force, the Fedayeen Saddam. One name stood out: Lieutenant Colonel Ahmed Hikmat Shakir. The name was not spelled exactly as Carney had seen it before, but such discrepancies are common. Having studied the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda for 18 months, he immediately recognized the potential significance of his find. According to a report last week in the Wall Street Journal, Shakir appears on three different lists of Fedayeen officers.

An Iraqi of that name, Carney knew, had been present at an al Qaeda summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on January 5-8, 2000. U.S. intelligence officials believe this was a chief planning meeting for the September 11 attacks. Shakir had been nominally employed as a "greeter" by Malaysian Airlines, a job he told associates he had gotten through a contact at the Iraqi embassy. More curious, Shakir's Iraqi embassy contact controlled his schedule, telling him when to show up for work and when to take a day off.

A greeter typically meets VIPs upon arrival and accompanies them through the sometimes onerous procedures of foreign travel. Shakir was instructed to work on January 5, 2000, and on that day, he escorted one Khalid al Mihdhar from his plane to a waiting car. Rather than bid his guest farewell at that point, as a greeter typically would have, Shakir climbed into the car with al Mihdhar and accompanied him to the Kuala Lumpur condominium of Yazid Sufaat, the American-born al Qaeda terrorist who hosted the planning meeting.

The meeting lasted for three days. Khalid al Mihdhar departed Kuala Lumpur for Bangkok and eventually Los Angeles. Twenty months later, he was aboard American Airlines Flight 77 when it plunged into the Pentagon at 9:38 A.M. on September 11. So were Nawaf al Hazmi and his younger brother, Salem, both of whom were also present at the Kuala Lumpur meeting.

Six days after September 11, Shakir was captured in Doha, Qatar. He had in his possession contact information for several senior al Qaeda terrorists: Zahid Sheikh Mohammed, brother of September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed; Musab Yasin, brother of Abdul Rahman Yasin, the Iraqi who helped mix the chemicals for the first World Trade Center attack and was given safe haven upon his return to Baghdad; and Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, otherwise known as Abu Hajer al Iraqi, described by one top al Qaeda detainee as Osama bin Laden's "best friend."

Despite all of this, Shakir was released. On October 21, 2001, he boarded a plane for Baghdad, via Amman, Jordan. He never made the connection. Shakir was detained by Jordanian intelligence. Immediately following his capture, according to U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence on Shakir, the Iraqi government began exerting pressure on the Jordanians to release him. Some U.S. intelligence officials--primarily at the CIA--believed that Iraq's demand for Shakir's release was pro forma, no different from the requests governments regularly make on behalf of citizens detained by foreign nationals. But others, pointing to the flurry of phone calls and personal appeals from the Iraqi government to the Jordanians, disagreed. This panicked reaction, they say, reflected an interest in Shakir at the highest levels of Saddam Hussein's regime.

CIA officials who interviewed Shakir in Jordan reported that he was generally uncooperative. But even in refusing to talk, he provided some important information: The interrogators concluded that his evasive answers reflected counterinterrogation techniques so sophisticated that he had probably learned them from a government intelligence service. Shakir's nationality, his contacts with the Iraqi embassy in Malaysia, the keen interest of Baghdad in his case, and now the appearance of his name on the rolls of Fedayeen officers--all this makes the Iraqi intelligence service the most likely source of his training.

The Jordanians, convinced that Shakir worked for Iraqi intelligence, went to the CIA with a bold proposal: Let's flip him. That is, the Jordanians would allow Shakir to return to Iraq on the condition that he agree to report back on the activities of Iraqi intelligence. And, in one of the most egregious mistakes by the U.S. intelligence community after September 11, the CIA agreed to Shakir's release. He posted a modest bail and returned to Iraq.

He hasn't been heard from since.

Where's the yellowcake?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:40 PM


U.S., U.N. Blindsided on Iraq PM Announcement (Caren Bohan, 5/28/04, Reuters)

When word surfaced in Baghdad on Friday that Iyad Allawi would lead Iraq's interim government, confusion reigned both in Washington and at the United Nations, despite President Bush's assurances of an orderly handover.

For weeks, the Bush administration has described the selection of the interim government as a process that was being spearheaded by U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi in consultation with the United States and Iraqis.

Bush, in a major address on Monday, laid out a step by step plan that he said would lead to Iraqi sovereignty on June 30.

But it was the U.S. appointed-Iraqi Governing Council and an aide to Allawi who first disclosed his selection to the top job in the transitional Iraqi government.

Nearly three hours later Brahimi gave his endorsement to Allawi through a spokesman. It took a full three additional hours for a senior administration official in Baghdad, who spoke on condition of anonymity, to confirm that Allawi would be interim prime minister.

"He will be the prime minister when the interim government is set up in the next two or three days," the official told reporters in a conference telephone call. "We thought he would be an excellent prime minister. ... I think that this is going to work."

For folks who we are assured have no instinct nor desire for self-government they seem to be doing okay.

Surprising Choice for Premier of Iraq Reflects U.S. Influence: In the choice of Iyad Alawi for prime minister of Iraq, the United Nations found itself appearing shoved aside by the U.S. (WARREN HOGE and STEVEN R. WEISMAN, 5/29/04, NY Times)

Statements from the United Nations seemingly confirmed the idea that Mr. Brahimi was merely bowing to the wishes of the others.

"Mr. Brahimi respects the decision and says he can work with this person," Fred Eckhard, the spokesman for Secretary General Kofi Annan, said in response to a barrage of skeptical questioning. Asked what Mr. Annan's view was, Mr. Eckhard said: "The secretary general respects the decision, as I said Mr. Brahimi does. `Respect' is a very carefully chosen word."

Some time later, perhaps because of the skepticism that comment engendered, a less circumspect statement was issued in the name of Ahmad Fawzi, Mr. Brahimi's press spokesman, saying: "Let there be no misunderstanding. Mr. Brahimi is perfectly comfortable with how the process is proceeding thus far."

In a telephone interview from Baghdad, Mr. Brahimi refused to discuss the selection of Dr. Alawi. "I don't want to go back saying who is good and who is bad," he said.

But in a hint that the selection process had not gone exactly as planned, Mr. Brahimi added, "You know, sometimes people think I am a free agent out here, that I have a free hand to do whatever I want." He noted that he had been asked to take on the job in a letter to Mr. Annan from the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq and the Iraqi Governing Council.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:30 PM


On American Morals (G.K. Chesterton)

Incidentally, I must say I can bear witness to this queer taboo about tobacco. Of course numberless Americans smoke numberless cigars; a great many others eat cigars, which seems to me a more occult pleasure. But there does exist an extraordinary idea that ethics are involved in some way; and many who smoke really disapprove of smoking. I remember once receiving two American interviewers on the same afternoon; there was a box of cigars in front of me and I offered one to each in turn. Their reaction (as they would probably call it) was very curious to watch. The first journalist stiffened suddenly and silently and declined in a very cold voice. He could not have conveyed more plainly that I had attempted to corrupt an honorable man with a foul and infamous indulgence; as if I were the Old Man of the Mountain offering him hashish that would turn him into an assassin. The second reaction was even more remarkable. The second journalist first looked doubtful; then looked sly; then seemed to glance about him nervously, as if wondering whether we were alone, and then said with a sort of crestfallen and covert smile: `Well, Mr. Chesterton, I'm afraid I have the habit.'

As I also have the habit, and have never been able to imagine how it could be connected with morality or immorality, I confess that I plunged with him deeply into an immoral life. In the course of our conversation, I found he was otherwise perfectly sane. He was quite intelligent about economics or architecture; but his moral sense seemed to have entirely disappeared. He really thought it rather wicked to smoke. He had no `standard of abstract right or wrong'; in him it was not merely moribund; it was apparently dead. But anyhow, that is the point and that is the test. Nobody who has an abstract standard of right and wrong can possibly think it wrong to smoke a cigar. But he had a concrete standard of particular cut and dried customs of a particular tribe. Those who say Americans are largely descended from the American Indians might certainly make a case out of the suggestion that this mystical horror of material things is largely a barbaric sentiment. The Red Indian is said to have tried and condemned a tomahawk for committing a murder. In this case he was certainly the prototype of the white man who curses a bottle because too much of it goes into a man. Prohibition is sometimes praised for its simplicity; on these lines it may be equally condemned for its savagery. But I myself do not say anything so absurd as that Americans are savages; nor do I think it would matter much if they were descended from savages. It is culture that counts and not ethnology; and the culture that is concerned here derives indirectly rather from New England than from Old America. Whatever it derives from, however, this is the thing to be noted about it: that it really does not seem to understand what is meant by a standard of right and wrong. It is a vague sentimental notion that certain habits were not suitable to the old log cabin or the old hometown. It has a vague utilitarian notion that certain habits are not directly useful in the new amalgamated stores or the new financial gambling-hell. If his aged mother or his economic master dislikes to see a young man hanging about with a pipe in his mouth, the action becomes a sin; or the nearest that such a moral philosophy can come to the idea of a sin. A man does not chop wood for the log hut by smoking; and a man does not make dividends for the Big Boss by smoking; and therefore smoking has a smell as of something sinful. Of what the great theologians and moral philosophers have meant by a sin, these people have no more idea than a child drinking milk has of a great toxicologist analyzing poisons. It may be a credit of their virtue to be thus vague about vice. The man who is silly enough to say, when offered a cigarette, `I have no vices,' may not always deserve the rapier-thrust of the reply given by the Italian Cardinal, `It is not a vice, or doubtless you would have it.' But at least the Cardinal knows it is not a vice; which assists the clarity of his mind. But the lack of clear standards among those who vaguely think of it as a vice may yet be the beginning of much peril and oppression. My two American journalists, between them, may yet succeed in adding the sinfulness of cigars to the other curious things now part of the American Constitution.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:13 PM


Cold feet and cold beers (Zev Chafets, 5/28/04, Jewish World Review)

Many of the politicians and commentators who beat the drums for invading Iraq have begun beating their breasts instead. They didn't bargain for the pictures from Abu Ghraib or reports of the accidental slaughter of innocent villagers.

They didn't think about how unpopular war would make them with the friends of their enemies or how unpleasant it would be to watch the evening news. They no longer want to be associated with war's terrible inevitabilities.

Their sudden scrupulousness is not a badge of moral superiority. On the contrary, it is a mark of cowardice and a sign of bad character. Every grownup who supported sending troops to Iraq (and Afghanistan) knew that they would wind up unintentionally killing or injuring some civilians and abusing the rights of others. The question was, and remains: Is the war worthwhile despite what it entails?

The answer, at least in my opinion, is yes. The worldwide fight against Islamic fascism — whose hottest theaters are presently Iraq, Afghanistan and Gaza — is a good cause in the same way that World War II was a good cause.

It is not about payback for 9/11 or other acts of terrorism. Rather, it is a wholly necessary struggle against a debased, xenophobic and aggressive ideology.

This war can be won, but only with patience and self-confidence and the willingness to inflict as much punishment as necessary. In other words, in cold blood.

I'm personally of the opinion that this is just another war against a totalitarian "ism" and will be as easy to defeat as Nazism and Communism were. But, if not, it will get a whole lot bloodier and deadlier and it won't be our side doing most of the dying. Forcing reform now seems a better alternative than waging a war of extermination later. Otherwise, the scruples you try to protect today will take a real drubbing down the road.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:04 PM


The same old song: As war news turns sour, critics point their fingers at who else — the Jews (Jonathan Tobin, May 28, 2004, Jewish World Review)

[Marine Gen. Anthony C.] Zinni rose briefly to fame in 2002 during a brief stint as Washington's envoy to the Middle East, an experience that gave new meaning to the word fiasco. The man was so ineffective that the post itself was obsolescent. The general who'd helped inflame Arab expectations that the U.S. would pressure Israel to appease Palestinian terrorists dropped from the public eye.

But there's no keeping a publicity-hungry ex-military man down. Zinni used the commencement of the war in Iraq to begin to try and even the score with his political foes inside the Pentagon. This campaign of self-aggrandizement via anti-war rhetoric has now reached its climax with the publication of a book (co-authored by techno-thriller maven Tom Clancy), coupled with the "60 Minutes" interview.

Correspondent Steve Croft played right into Zinni's hands as he described the Iraq invasion planners as "a group of policymakers within the administration known as 'the neoconservatives,' who saw the invasion of Iraq as a way to stabilize American interests in the region and strengthen the position of Israel.

They include Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz; Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith; Former Defense Policy Board member Richard Perle; National Security Council member Eliot Abrams; and Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis 'Scooter" Libby.'

Following in the footsteps of other media outlets, including Business Week, that have played the same tune, Croft managed to list only those members of the administration who are Jewish. That's a neat trick when you remember that neither Bush, Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld nor any member of the Cabinet is Jewish. Nor did he mention the fact that a broad cross-section of the defense and intelligence establishment viewed Iraq and Saddam Hussein as threats to U.S. security and to the security of "moderate" Arab states.

Responding to previous criticisms of his singling out Jews, Zinni stretched his thin supply of credibility to the breaking point: "Because I mentioned the neoconservatives … I was called anti-Semitic. I certainly didn't criticize who they were. I certainly don't know what their ethnic religious backgrounds are. And I'm not interested."

Given the confrontational culture of the "60 Minutes" genre, you would have expected Croft to nail Zinni for uttering such disingenuous tripe. At the very least, you would expect a follow-up question. But just because he plays "journalist" on television — like the rest of "60 Minutes" on-screen celebrities — doesn't mean he actually practices the craft of journalism. Zinni was allowed to get away with not only spreading a whopper of a lie, he wasn't even challenged to defend it.

Zinni's screed is, of course, just the tip of a growing anti-Semitic iceberg that stands ready to sink public discourse on the war into a morass of hate.

In all fairness, the war is religious in nature--it's just that it has been driven by an evangelical Christian as much as by Jewish neocons. Jews just happen to be easier targets than Christians, but by much.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:25 PM


Immigrants Drain $30 Billion in Cash Annually (Joseph A. D'Agostino, May 28, 2004, Human Events)

"Technological advances in communication and data transfer--and a surge in labor mobility--have fueled enormous growth in remittances," Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Samuel Bodman said at a May 17 conference at which a new study on remittances was released. "Since 1995, annual remittances from the United States have nearly doubled. . . . In recognition of the importance of remittances around the world, the G7 is committed to facilitating remittance transfers and increasing options available to recipients to help them improve their own economic livelihood. This is a top priority issue for this year's G8 Summit to be held in Sea Island, Georgia, next month."

The study, based on a survey of 3,800 Latin American immigrants living in the United States conducted by Bendixen & Associates, found that legal and illegal immigrants send a combined $30 billion annually to their home countries. Mexico alone receives $13.3 billion a year. [...]

"It's money flowing out of some of the poorest communities of the United States," said Steve Camarota, research director at the Center for Immigration Studies. Camarota said that statistics on remittances are hard to generate accurately due to the large number of illegal immigrants in the United States and to the "informal banking arrangements" that often serve as conduits for money sent home. He said there was no reliable way of estimating how much of the $30 billion was taxed by the United States and how much went under the radar screen. "It's certainly not being taxed in the way money spent here would be in sales taxes, etc," he said. "Roughly half of what illegals make is on the books and half off."

Asked if remittances were helping poor Latin American countries stay afloat, Camarota replied, "Does it stymie development in the home country? Everyone sees their economic future dependent on immigration to the United States."

"It encourages governments in other countries to push harder and harder for open borders," said Rep. Tom Tancredo (R.-Colo.), chairman of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus. "They want those funds to keep flowing."

In fact, Georgetown Prof. Manuel Orozco reported in a presentation to the Inter-American Development Bank on Sep. 17, 2002, that Haiti depends on remittances for 24.5% of its GDP, El Salvador for 17%, Nicaragua for 22%, Jamaica for 15%, the Dominican Republic for 10%, and Mexico for 1.7%. Since $30 billion out of Latin America's total remittance receipts of $38 billion come from the United States, these countries are heavily dependent on immigrants to America.

One has to be a spectacular nitwit to think that making those countries poorer would reduce the migration out of them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:15 PM

(via Robert Schwartz):

Calm Down. That Wolf at the Door Has Been Here Before. (BEN STEIN, 5/23/04, NY Times)

One of the best antidotes to fear is to consult with reality. Another is to consult with experience. On both counts, there is a certain amount of cause for optimism.

For one thing, we are in the middle of a powerful recovery from the slowdown that began in 2000 or 2001. Corporate profits have reached historical highs. The stock market, as measured by the Dow Jones industrials and the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index, is at a more sensible level, compared with earnings, than it has been in more than five years, and possibly longer. In other words, stocks are priced more sensibly by historical measurements than at any levels since the bubble. The stock "market" is a market for buying future earnings, and, at least for the Dow, these are priced more reasonably than they have been since before Bill Clinton's second term.

Housing is phenomenally strong. A record share - more than two of three - of Americans own their own homes. A high rate of home ownership is usually considered a sign of economic strength; it is also a prime cause of the increase in household indebtedness, as people acquire mortgages. Even with rising mortgage rates, there is little sign of a construction slowdown.

The "jobless recovery" is over. New jobs are running at close to 300,000 a month, well above the average of 115,000 added each month in the era since World War II. There is even rapid growth in manufacturing employment.

The economy now has a good kind of inertia on its side. Recoveries in the postwar era have tended to last about 50 months, on average, and they have generally grown longer as time has passed since V-J Day. If the current recovery started near the beginning of 2002, it still has at least two years to go - and probably more, if it is in line with the average.

What about the inflation and the oil and the commodities and the rising interest rates? Well, as Roseanne Roseannadanna used to say on "Saturday Night Live," "It's always something." But oil prices tend to fluctuate greatly when there is terrorism near oil-producing areas. So far - and this is a fascinating fact in and of itself - there has never been a long-lasting interruption in supply because of terrorism. Sharp price increases in oil tend to be followed by price declines.

(I hasten to add, however, that this is no excuse for not having a national program of conservation, turning coal into oil and doing anything else that will reasonably reduce our energy dependence on people who hate us. This kind of Project Independence, first proposed by my former boss, Richard M. Nixon, is long, long overdue.)

If oil reverts to historical patterns, this period of increases will be followed by a correction. Even if it is not, the economy has dealt with oil price gains before, and lived to tell the tale. And commodities are on a long-term downward, not upward, trend - and upticks are often temporary. When they are not, many substitutions are possible.

There's a terrific new book out by Chris Farrell, Deflation : What Happens When Prices Fall, which explains why we may well be in a deflationary cycle quite similar to the one at the end of the 19th century and why this is not at all a bad thing. It'd be nice if oil prices came down and the Middle East reformed itself peacefully, but it's hard to see how the economic outlook could be better otherwise.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:02 PM

>11,000=50 (via Robert Schwartz):

At Least the Contrarians Are Smiling (MARK HULBERT, May 23, 2004, NY Times)

To be sure, contrarian analysis strikes some investors as odd, even mysterious. But it rests on nothing more contentious than the widespread tendency of most people to become more bullish and optimistic as the market climbs and to be progressively more bearish as it falls. It follows that the most extreme levels of bullishness will be registered at market tops, and that the most gloom and doom will be found at market bottoms.

Contrarians often focus on newsletter editors because the editors' consensus opinion of the market is a very sensitive barometer of investor moods. The editors can be quick to change their minds about the market - raising or lowering by big margins their recommended portfolio exposure to stocks. In contrast, large Wall Street institutions are relatively sluggish in changing their recommended market exposure. And when they do so, they typically suggest only small adjustments.

The three dozen newsletters monitored by The Hulbert Financial Digest that try to time the market's short-term swings have turned remarkably bearish in recent months. They now have a recommended equity exposure, on average, of minus 13.5 percent. That means that the average market timer in this group is not only recommending that subscribers avoid stocks, but that they allocate about one-eighth of their portfolios to going short the stock market - a bet that the market will decline.

That would be reason enough to expect a market rally, according to contrarians. But they also point to a second reason: the speed of the market timers' turn from stocks. Typically, that doesn't happen at market tops. As recently as Jan. 8, the average equity exposure among this group of timers was as high as 47.5 percent, according to The Hulbert Financial Digest. That means that, even though the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index is only about 3 percent lower now than it was then, this group has reduced its average equity exposure by more than 61 percentage points.

This would seem to jibe with polling numbers that show people are still worried about the economy despite its return to solid growth and outstanding long-term prospects globally.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:51 PM


U.S. Lengthens the List of Diseases Linked to Smoking: According to the latest surgeon general's report, smoking can cause cancers of the cervix, kidney, pancreas and stomach, as well as several other illnesses. (ELIZABETH OLSON, 5/28/04, NY Times)

The report, Dr. Carmona said at a news briefing, "documents that smoking causes disease in nearly every organ in the body at every stage of life."

Among the other disorders listed since the first report, in 1964, are cancers of the esophagus, throat and bladder; chronic lung disease; and chronic heart and cardiovascular diseases.

Government figures show that 440,000 Americans a year are now dying of smoking-related illnesses, and Dr. Carmona said more than 12 million had died since the first report. Smokers typically die 13 to 14 years earlier than nonsmokers, he said.

Treating those diseases costs about $75 billion a year, according to government figures, and an even greater amount is sacrificed in lost productivity.

For the first time, however, the number of Americans who have quit smoking edges out the number who still smoke, the surgeon general said. An estimated 46 million Americans "have managed to beat the habit and quit,'' he said, "while 45.8 million continue to smoke." Of the entire adult population, people 18 or older, smokers now account for only 22 percent.

Still, Dr. Carmona conceded that at the current rate of decline, the federal government would not meet its goal of cutting the number of smokers to 12 percent of adults by 2010.

It serves no useful social purpose--ban it entire or tax the heck out of it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:33 PM


Bush Calls for 'Culture Change': In interview, President says new era of responsibility should replace 'feel-good.' (Sheryl Henderson Blunt, 05/28/2004, Christianity Today)

Explain your comment "I don't do nuance" in the context of the war.

Well, my job is to speak clearly and when you say something, mean it. And when you're trying to lead the world in a war that I view as really between the forces of good and the forces of evil, you got to speak clearly. There can't be any doubt. And when you say you're going to do something, you've got to do it. Otherwise, particularly given the position of the United States in the world today, there will be confusion. And it is incumbent upon this powerful, rich nation to lead—not only lead in taking on the enemies of freedom, but lead in taking on those elements of life that prevent free people from emerging, like disease and hunger. And we are. We feed the world more than any other country. We're providing more money for HIV/AIDS in the world. We are a compassionate country.

What about your description of the war as a battle between good and evil and statements you made on Egyptian television following the prisoner abuse scandal, which some later called a mistake for appearing to be apologizing in a way that reinforces Pan-Arabism?

No question, that's why I said I am sorry for those people who were humiliated. That's all I said. I also said, "The great thing about our country is that people will now see that we'll deal with this in a transparent way based upon rule of law. And it will serve as a great contrast." But I never apologized to the Arab world.

Do you believe there is anything inherently evil in the way some practice Islam that stands in the way of the pursuit of democracy and freedom?

I think what we're dealing with are people—extreme, radical people—who've got a deep desire to spread an ideology that is anti-women, anti-free thought, anti- art and science, you know, that couch their language in religious terms. But that doesn't make them religious people. I think they conveniently use religion to kill. The religion I know is not one that encourages killing. I think that they want to drive us out of parts of the world so they're better able to have a base from which to operate. I think it's very much more like an … "ism" than a group with territorial ambition.

More like a what?

An "ism" like Communism that knows no boundaries, as opposed to a power that takes land for gold or land for oil or whatever it might be. I don't see their ambition as territorial. I see their ambition as seeking safe haven. And I know they want to create power vacuums into which they are able to flow.

To what final end? The expansion of Islam?

No, I think the expansion of their view of Islam, which would be I guess a fanatical version that—you know, you're trying to lure me down a road [where] … I'm incapable of winning the debate. But I'm smart enough to understand when I'm about to get nuanced out. No, I think they have a perverted view of what religion should be, and it is not based upon peace and love and compassion—quite the opposite. These are people that will kill at the drop of a hat, and they will kill anybody, which means there are no rules. And that is not, at least, my view of religion. And I don't think it's the view of any other scholar's view of religion either.

One of the most amusing things about the Bush-hatred that afflicts even the decent Left is that the views above are indistinguishable, if less eloquently stated, than those of someone like Paul Berman, who nonetheless disdains the President.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:13 PM


'Drowned' toddler returns to life (Associated Press, May 28, 2004)

A hospital worker preparing a drowned toddler for a funeral home noticed the boy was breathing - more than an hour after he had been pronounced dead.

Logan Pinto, who is 22 months old, apparently wandered away from his baby sitter Thursday and fell into a canal near his home in Rexburg, about 275 miles east of Boise. He was submerged for nearly 30 minutes before police found him a half-mile downstream, said Rexburg police Capt. Randy Lewis.

Though an officer gave him CPR and emergency workers did everything they could to revive him, Lewis said, the boy was pronounced dead when it appeared the effort had failed. After giving the boy's mother and stepfather - Debra and Joe Gould - some time to say goodbye, Madison Memorial Hospital nurse Mary Zollinger began to prepare Logan's body for the funeral home.

But when she looked at the boy, she noticed his chest was slightly moving and realized that Logan was alive.

Yet we want to let people kill the unconscious?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:07 PM


Santa Klaus: John Laughland talks to the Czech President, Václav Klaus — Thatcherite, Eurosceptic and much loved by the people (John Laughland, 5/29/04, The Spectator)

The man who has dominated Czech politics for more than a decade is not usually associated with symbolic, still less mystical gestures. A neo-liberal former professor of economics in the Hayekian tradition, and a one-time president of the Mont Pelerin society, [Vaclav] Klaus’s name evokes money supply more than mediaeval mythology. And yet it is precisely his skills at statecraft, and in particular his deep belief in the political value of nationhood, which form the real bedrock of his political identity. [...]

Unlike his British Tory friends, however, Klaus has enough sense not to fall into the equal and opposite sin of thinking that America is the universal panacea. The man who was ousted as prime minister of the Czech Republic in 1997 because he started to talk about national interest rather than frenetic privatisation is no slavish follower of the latest faddish dictates from Washington. This is in stark contrast, for instance, to the President of neighbouring Poland, who seems to spend more time in the White House than in Warsaw. Before becoming President, Klaus published articles questioning both the Kosovo and Iraq wars — ‘And I was right in both cases,’ he tells me proudly — and as President, he struck a Gaullist note when he said that he did not want US military bases on Czech soil, because Czechs had had enough experience of foreign soldiers on their territory in the past.

‘The Americans on the one hand,’ Klaus explains, ‘play visibly a card of national defence. They speak about the nation. We do not, because it is politically incorrect. At the same time, they speak about exporting ideas. So for me there is a contradiction in their position. They export more ideas than national defence. That’s a problem for me. We know something in this country about the export of ideas and ideology. I have recently engaged in a debate on the difference between human rights and citizens’ rights: I always advocate citizens’ rights, because mankind is not an entity which could potentially guarantee your rights, whereas the nation is an entity where it is possible.’ It takes guts to say you are against human rights, and indeed Klaus insists to me that he opposes the idea of using military force to promote ideas rather than to defend territory. ‘The military defence of human rights is a political agenda and an ideological standpoint.’ It is also precisely that for which Nato now stands, to which the Czech Republic has belonged since 1999.

As if the field were not already strewn with slaughtered sacred cows, Klaus also likes to puncture the hubris of those ‘dissidents’, his predecessor in the first place, who present themselves as heroes for having defeated communism. He is convinced that, instead, communism collapsed of its own accord. It is, paradoxically, his left-wing enemies whom he denounces for their professional anti-communism today. He caused a stir last week when he told a meeting of former political prisoners under communism that there are plenty of new isms to be afraid of today, ‘such as Europeanism and internationalism’, and yet these are of course precisely the new conformisms that have supplanted the old left-wing orthodoxies to which so many subscribed before, especially the so-called dissidents themselves. In other words, if there is one true dissident in today’s Euro-American internationalist morass, it is none other than Václav Klaus himself.

But the Czech Republic is a nation and one worth defending, largely because of folk like the two Vaclav's--who long ago internalized the ideology of America. Saddam's Iraq was not such a nation, nor is much of the Middle East as yet. All nations are not equal.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:56 PM


e Builders of Iraq (Charles Rousseaux, 05/28/2004, Tech Central Station)

Several structures of self-government have been established. Control of thirteen separate government ministries has been transferred to Iraqis, the most recent of which was the Ministry of Transportation. Other ministries under direct Iraqi control include the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Education.
Notwithstanding an awful start last year, when Coalition commanders cancelled elections shortly after announcing them, Iraqis have gained experience in self-government. President Bush noted that, "many of Iraq's cities and towns have elected town councils or city governments." Under the oversight of Paul Bremer, a group of local government representatives, including members of the Baghdad City Council, elected engineer Mahmood al Tamimi as city mayor last month.
The Baghdad City Council, largely a mix of previously apolitical technocrats, ranging from sheiks to secularists and from lawyers to engineers, has become a power in its own right. Council members were selected by their neighbors almost a year ago, and after first focusing on their neighborhoods, have since started to speak out on national issues. A February Washington Post profile of the group said, "They are the closest thing Iraq has to a democratically elected representative body with real clout." For instance, council member Ali Hadary pushed hard for the reassembly of classrooms, and received almost $500,000 to repair 20 schools in his area.
The entire Iraqi educational establishment is being rebuilt. Mr. Bush said, "Under the direction of Dr. Ala'din al-Alwan, the Ministry [of Education] has trained more than 30,000 teachers and supervisors for the schools of a new Iraq." According to the White House, over a third of the 15,000 teachers fired by Saddam have been rehired and more than 5.5 million Iraqi students are back at school. Earlier this month, the World Bank issued a $40 million grant to the Ministry of Education.
Schools aren't the only things going up. Spending on reconstruction is finally surging, according to retired admiral David Nash, who is overseeing construction. Earlier this week he said at a briefing, "Things are going very well." $75 million in new construction being set up each week. Over the last two months, $4 billion has been put towards specific projects. That is twice the amount two months ago, and the pace is still increasing.

Hard to accept it now, but Iraq is two months away from being a non-story.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:49 PM


Muslims for the Coalition (Stephen Schwartz, 5/28/04, Weekly Standard)

American Shia Muslims claim two million adherents in the United States and Canada, mainly drawn from India, Pakistan, Iran, and Iraq, with a sprinkling from Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, East Africa, and the Balkans. Iraqi Shias are concentrated in Dearborn, Michigan, and Los Angeles and are expected to be well-represented at the gathering this weekend.

The first such convention, held in the nation's capital last year with 3,000 delegates, featured a surprising banquet speaker: deputy Defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz. While this year's banquet program had not been fixed by Thursday afternoon, UMAA media representative Agha Shawkat Jafri said the delegates have received hundreds of calls from Iraqi Shias expressing hope that the convention can draw the attention of the Pentagon to their concerns, which are centered on the need for forcible action against rebel Shia leader Moktada al-Sadr.

"Our people view Moktada al-Sadr as a dangerous renegade and adventurer, who threatens the safety of every Shia Muslim in Iraq," Jafri said. "We do not want the Coalition forces to inflict harm on the holy sites in Najaf or Karbala, but we want al-Sadr firmly defeated. The best action would be to support the Iraqi Shias in combating him. Give them the power and they will get rid of the problem."

Jafri said that Shias were disturbed and hurt by the scandal of prison abuses at Abu Ghraib but understand the difference between the Coalition forces and the former regime. "In the Coalition forces, these cruel acts represented the prejudice and indiscipline of a tiny, exceptional minority, and they will be punished. In Saddam's army, it was required of them and they were rewarded for it."

Jafri said Iraqi Shias are "terrified that if the U.S. in Iraq leaves, the Wahhabis concentrated in Falluja and Tikrit will begin a wholesale genocide of Shias, repeating the earlier actions of the Saddam regime."

Our past actions more than justify their fears that we'll betray them again.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:44 PM


Human rights at a 50-year nadir: Amnesty report says US war on terror encourages global abuses (Ewen MacAskill, May 27, 2004, The Guardian)

Human rights last year came under the most sustained attack for 50 years, according to the annual report of Amnesty International published yesterday.

Irene Khan, secretary general of Amnesty, blamed a combination of groups such as al-Qaida and the response of US and other governments as part of the war on terror. "The global security agenda promoted by the US administration is bankrupt of vision and bereft of principle," she said.

"Violating rights at home, turning a blind eye to abuses abroad, and using pre-emptive military force where and when it chooses has damaged justice and freedom, and made the world a more dangerous place."

A host of countries, following the lead of the US, had introduced legislation after September 11 that seriously undermined human rights, especially the right to a fair trial. Others had used the war on terror as an excuse to crack down on legitimate political and religious dissent.

Challenged at a press conference in London over the claim that human rights abuses were running at the highest level for 50 years, an Amnesty spokeswoman said that while there might no longer be abuses in a single country on the scale of Cambodia under Pol Pot, the abuses were more spread out.

You're in trouble when even The Guardian realizes you're full of it. Calling the Chinese repression of the Uighurs worse than the Cultural Revolution is the height of idiocy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:46 PM


A BRIEF HISTORY OF BOLLOCKS: Francis Wheen talks to Brendan O'Neill about creationism, McDonald's and the new anti-Enlightenment. (Brendan O'Neill, May 2004, spiked)

Wheen reckons we're living through a counter-revolution against the Enlightenment, that revolution in human affairs when reason was elevated over tradition and superstition to become, in the words of one author, 'the arbiter of truth and the foundation of objective knowledge'. 'The Enlightenment brought us out of the dark', says Wheen. 'Now we seem to be heading back in.' In his book he celebrates the Enlightenment's gains - how it led to the 'waning of absolutism and superstition, the rise of secular democracy, the transformation of historical and scientific study'. The Enlightenment put us centre stage, says Wheen, as the makers of history and destiny. 'Yet now, 200 years later, there are people who believe their Tuesday mornings are determined by the alignment of the planets'.

As a good God-fearin' atheist and some time contributor to the New Humanist magazine, Wheen is especially aghast at the apparent rise of the creationist movement. 'Those people', he says, as a full sentence, to indicate that he doesn't much care for the likes of the Christian fundamentalists who in 2002 took control of a state-funded school in north-east England intending to 'show the superiority' of creationist beliefs in their classes. 'Why don't we have schools that teach children there is a tooth fairy or put Santa Claus Studies on the national curriculum, and be done with it?'

Wheen was most struck by prime minister Tony Blair's response to revelations
of a creationist takeover of a state-run school. When Lib Dem Jenny Tonge asked Blair if he was 'happy to allow the teaching of creationism alongside Darwin's theory of evolution in state schools', the prime minister said: 'In the end, a more diverse school system will deliver better results for our children.' 'A simple "no" to Tonge's query would have sufficed', says Wheen, 'and perhaps shown that the prime minister of the United Kingdom believes in reason. This is a man whose mantra is "education, education, education". He ought to know

Mr. Wheen's previous book was a biography of Karl Marx--who along with Darwin and Freud (the bearded god-killers) makes up the Trinity of the Age of Reason. The idea that the elevation of free-floating reason above millennia of tradition was a good thing was pretty much interred in the soil of Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, Mao's China and chucked in the dumpsters of every abortion clinic around the world. He wonders why there's been a reaction?

Posted by Peter Burnet at 1:43 PM


Just like Stalingrad (Bret Stephens, Jerusalem Post, May 28th, 2004)

According to Sidney Blumenthal, a one-time adviser to president Bill Clinton who now writes a column for Britain's Guardian newspaper, President George W. Bush today runs "what is in effect a gulag," stretching "from prisons in Afghanistan to Iraq, from Guantanamo to secret CIA prisons around the world." Blumenthal says "there has been nothing like this system since the fall of the Soviet Union."

In another column, Blumenthal compares the April death toll for American soldiers in Iraq to the Eastern Front in the Second World War. Bush's "splendid little war," he writes, "has entered a Stalingrad-like phase of urban siege and house-to-house combat." [...]

Blumenthal is not alone. Former vice president Al Gore this week accused Bush of creating "more anger and righteous indignation against us as Americans than any leader of our country in the 228 years of our existence as a nation." Every single column written by the New York Times's Paul Krugman is an anti-Bush screed; apparently, there isn't anything else worth writing about. A bumper sticker I saw the other day in Manhattan reads: "If you aren't outraged, you're not paying attention."

There are two explanations for all this. One is that Bush really is as bad as Sid, Al and Paul say: the dumbest, most feckless, most fanatical, most incompetent and most calamitous president the nation has ever known. A second is that Sid, Al and Paul are insane. [...]

This is an easier case to make. Blumenthal, for instance, is the man who described Clinton's as the most consequential, the most inspiring and the most moral American presidency of the 20th century, only possibly excepting FDR's. Krugman spent his first couple of years as a columnist writing tirades about how the US economy was on the point of Argentina-style collapse.

What makes these arguments insane – I use the word advisedly – isn't that they don't contain some possible germ of truth. One can argue that Clinton was a reasonably good president. And one can argue that Bush economic policy has not been a success. But you have to be insane to argue that Clinton was FDR incarnate, and you have to be insane to argue Bush has brought the US to its lowest economic point since 1932. This style of hyperbole is a symptom of madness, because it displays such palpable disconnect from observable reality.

If you have to go looking for outrage, the outrage probably isn't there. That which is truly outrageous tends to have the quality of obviousness.

Never mind the elusive search for the outspoken, moderate Muslim. Why are there so few voices from the decent, moderate middle condemning these slanders and verbal outrages?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:44 PM


Getting All Veterans to the Voting Booths (Charles Slaughter, May 27, 2004, AlterNet)

On Memorial Day this year we will dedicate a new national memorial to Americans who served in World War II. The decision to join America's armed forces isn't something most of us make lightly. As an Army veteran of the Vietnam era, Memorial Day reminds me of the tremendous sacrifice of my brave friends and colleagues. I am blessed to still be here as a community activist and father to my four daughters.

Another celebration this month -- the 50th Anniversary of the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision and its extraordinary impact on American society -- reminds us that many World War II vets returned from fighting for freedom abroad to a society that not only tolerated but enforced segregation, racial discrimination, and denial of voting rights.

The Brown decision galvanized a national commitment to making progress on all those fronts, yet 50 years later there are still more than 4 million Americans, including 500,000 veterans, who are denied the right to vote by state laws that keep felons and former felons out of the voting booth. It is especially troubling that the most fundamental right of citizenship - the right to participate in the democratic process -- is denied to those who risked their lives to achieve the goals set forth by the authors of our Constitution: "... to establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity."

The most fundamental responsibility of citizenship isn't military service but to obey the law. Violate the domestic tranquility and there are consequences.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:36 PM


24's Subversive Message (Matthew Hisrich, May 28, 2004,

What, other than ratings, is the show's underlying premise for why disaster is always imminent? Like any good soap opera, there are a lot of twists and turns along the way, but as the seasons pile up, the evidence points to one man: President David Palmer.

As first Senator, then President, David Palmer stands for integrity in the face of adversity. Though this season has seen him get his hands a bit dirty, the show places the moral structure of each dilemma in him. While it could be argued that both he and Bauer are what you might call moral
utilitarians, Palmer clearly suffers from the weight of his decisions, whereas Bauer seems to shrug most things off as all in a day's work.

It is interesting, then, to reflect on the rationale for each season's crisis. Seasons 1 and 3 are both linked to a covert operation in Bosnia authorized by Palmer. Season 2, which appears unrelated (though there are plenty of theories), is instead a crisis resulting from tensions with the
Islamic world.

In each case, though, the focus is on the repercussions of an interventionist U.S. foreign policy. Sometimes called "blowback," or what might otherwise be identified by Misesians as the unanticipated consequences of government action, the lesson is the same whether dealing with foreign or domestic policy. Government policy presumes a static and unchanging world
and cannot predict or account for the human response to its policies. Even its "dynamic" models are static because they cannot account for every variation.

In foreign policy, the problem is arguably worse than in domestic policy, because the government deals with political systems its supposed experts cannot understand, cultures that are unfamiliar, and unleashes forces and responses that it never expected. The result is always some "crisis," which means nothing more than a dangerous development that had not been part of
the plan.

"24's" preoccupation with this theme seems indicative of an underlying message for viewers. Season after season, we are confronted with the reality that meddling in the affairs of other countries brings deadly consequences home to American soil.

Isn't the truly subversive message the notion that our intelligence services are even mildly competent? Never mind that they could solve a problem in one day...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:31 AM


REVIEW: of Opening Skinner's Box: Great Psychological Experiments of the Twentieth Century by Lauren Slater (Farhad Manjoo,

Early in Lauren Slater's engaging new book, Opening Skinner's Box, the author reports an amusing conversation she has with Jerome Kagan, a psychologist at Harvard who insists that humans beings possess "free will." Kagan is having a hard time convincing Slater
of his view; in the middle of the last century, the psychologist B.F. Skinner showed, through a series of ingenious experiments with animals, that we are all far more mechanistic than we believe. We do what we do because we are conditioned to do it, because we are, all of us, acutely sensitive to rewards and reinforcements in the environment.

Slater, who is herself a psychologist, agrees with Skinner. She tells Kagan, "I don't absolutely rule out the possibility that we are always either controlled or controlling, that our free will is really just a response to some cues that --" And just then, to prove that people really do whatever they want to do, "Kagan dives under his desk," Slater writes. "I mean that literally. He springs from his seat and goes head forward into nether regions beneath his desk so I cannot see him anymore."

Kagan shouts to Slater, "I'm under my desk. I've never gotten under my desk before. Is this not an act of free will?"

Opening Skinner's Box, in which Slater guides us through 10 landmark psychological experiments, brims with moments like this one -- unbelievable little scenes in which Slater or one of the many people she encounters does or says something so unexpected that you'll wonder, for just a split second, whether you're reading fiction. There's Kagan diving under his desk. There's the dour psychologist Robert Spitzer, who, when told that an old foe of his is laid up with a terminal disease that doctors can't diagnose, responds with perverse glee. There's Elizabeth Loftus, a famous memory researcher who "blurts out odd comments" and has "targets from a rifle practice affixed to her office wall." She volunteers her bra size to Slater. In the middle of a telephone interview, Loftus slams down the phone for no reason, then "calls back sheepishly," offering no explanation for her behavior.

And finally there's Slater herself, a writer so personally invested in her subject that she seems willing to risk just about anything for a good story.

Anyone really need another book to tell us that psychiatrists are a bunch of whackjobs?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:56 AM


Kerry outlines foreign policy (Brian Knowlton, May 28, 2004, International Herald Tribune)

Senator John Kerry, seeking to more clearly define his national security differences with President George W. Bush, said Thursday that members of the administration had "bullied when they should have persuaded" and "looked to force before exhausting diplomacy."

Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, called for an energetic new pursuit of diplomacy and foreign alliances, as in the years after World War II.

"There was a time, not so long ago," he said, "when the might of our alliances was a driving force in the survival and success of freedom."

"At stake is a vision of an America truly stronger and truly respected in the world," he said in Seattle.

Hard to believe any intelligent adult who lived through them could long for a return to the years of the Cold War--a world permanently divided, an American nation divided, huge defense spending to no good end, constant involvement in dirty wars, loathing and ridicule from the rest of the world, retarded economic growth, etc., etc., etc. But that may well be what we get if we fail to hasten the transformation of the Middle East as we so despicably failed to displace communism at the end of WWII. We'll still win in the long run but at unnecessary cost to them and to us. On the other hand, that's the best oprtion for the statists of the left, who were bought off with bigger government all through the Cold War and reveled in the resulting breakdown of traditional society.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 AM


In the Scrapyards of Jordan, Signs of a Looted Iraq: There is increasing evidence that parts of sensitive military equipment, billed as Iraqi scrap metal, are streaming into Jordan. (JAMES GLANZ, 5/28/04, NY Times)

As the United States spends billions of dollars to rebuild Iraq's civil and military infrastructure, there is increasing evidence that parts of sensitive military equipment, seemingly brand-new components for oil rigs and water plants and whole complexes of older buildings are leaving the country on the backs of flatbed trucks.

By some estimates, at least 100 semitrailers loaded with what is billed as Iraqi scrap metal are streaming each day into Jordan, just one of six countries that share a border with Iraq.

American officials say sensitive equipment is, in fact, closely monitored and much of the rest that is leaving is legitimate removal and sale from a shattered country. But many experts say that much of what is going on amounts to a vast looting operation.

In the past several months, the International Atomic Energy Agency, based in Vienna, has been closely monitoring satellite photographs of hundreds of military-industrial sites in Iraq. Initial results from that analysis are jarring, said Jacques Baute, director of the agency's Iraq nuclear verification office: entire buildings and complexes of as many as a dozen buildings have been vanishing from the photographs.

"We see sites that have totally been cleaned out," Mr. Baute said.

Isn't it the official NY Times position that there were no sensitive weapons in Iraq?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 AM


Founders' Quote Daily (The Federalist Patriot)

The judiciary of the United States is the subtle corps of sappers and miners constantly working under ground to undermine the foundations of our confederated fabric. They are construing
our constitution from a co-ordination of a general and special government to a general and supreme one alone."
-Thomas Jefferson

May 27, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:56 PM



The method under which elections will be held is the subject of heated behind-the-scenes debates among various Iraqi parties and the Coalition authority led by Paul Bremer.

Most of the Shiite parties want a first-past-the-post British-style electoral system based on single- or multiple-member constituencies. Such a system could give the Shiites up to 75 percent of seats in any future parliament, far beyond their 60 percent or so of the total population.

The system could also benefit the two main Kurdish parties. They could end up with almost a quarter of the seats, although the population of the areas they control is no more than 15 percent of the total.

On the other hand, if proportional representation is the method of election, the Kurds could end up as big losers. This is because the regions where they are the majority also include large non-Kurdish minorities, notably Turcomans, Assyrians and Yazidis.

Shiite leaders reject any analysis based on sectarian differences. "We are all Iraqis," says Muhammad Bahr al-Olum, a leading Shiite political and religious figure. "We must have an electoral system that reflects the reality of our country, and create a government that all Iraqis will see as their own." [...]

Iraq today is in a position that few other nations have found themselves in history.

All the pillars of the various despotic regimes that have ruled Iraq since its creation have disappeared. There is no army, no security apparatus worth mentioning. The ruling party is gone, along with the idea of the "strongman." The dominant political, economic and cultural elites have been blown away, along with methods of government established over decades. By one estimate more than two-thirds of all laws will have to be repealed or amended.

"We must build a new state from the very foundations," says Zebari. "The first bricks we pose will determine the shape of the whole structure."

The single most important thing that must be done in this whole process is to make sure that the Kurds and Shi'a dominate at least their regions if not the entire government.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 PM


Not yet nyet to democracy: After the chaotic 1990s, Russians put a premium on stability. (Scott Peterson, 5/28/04, The Christian Science Monitor)

Deep in the heart of their national psyche, do Russians really yearn for democracy?

Several surveys appear to show that Russians prefer authoritarian order to democracy. One poll found that 53 percent of Russians opposed democracy, while 22 percent favored it.

But the story behind those numbers, as well as other poll results, complicate that view. While Russians want stability - a condition that President Vladimir Putin is widely credited with restoring - Russians are also attached to democratic values.

"There's a battle of data, and everybody cites their favorite poll," says Michael McFaul, a Russia expert at Stanford University, who began canvassing Russian opinions more than a decade ago.

"The big picture is, if you ask Russians about the actual practice of democracy - Should there be a separation of powers? Should people vote for their leaders? Should there be independent media? - a two-thirds majority say yes," says Mr. McFaul. "But when you ask about their experience with democracy, it's been very negative, because folks that called themselves democrats are perceived as having failed in the 1990s."

Two hundred years ago it was blacks who were incapable of democracy, then Catholics, then Asians, then Slavs, then Africans, etc., etc., it's Muslims.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 PM


'Tomorrow's' forecast: bad science on the big screen: Natural-disaster film risks trivializing a real problem as far-out science fiction. (Peter N. Spotts, 5/28/04, CS Monitor)

[E]ven if the movie gets passing marks for entertainment and is stirring the political caldron, it flunks Climate 101. And in the process, it runs the risk of trivializing as mere entertainment a problem that many researchers say is quite serious.

Global warming "is a real problem and people need to be educated about it," says Peter Stone, a professor of atmospheric dynamics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who attended an advanced screening of the film in Boston. But the film's errors and exaggerations "make it an easy target to shoot at," he adds, and could leave an impression that the issue as a whole is an exaggeration.

What a remarkable contrast to the Times, eh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:19 PM


Kerry pitches his global view: In the first of a series of speeches, Kerry seeks to sharpen foreign-policy differences with Bush. (Liz Marlantes, 5/28/04, CS Monitor)

[K]erry and Bush share some key similarities when it comes to their overall approach to foreign policy. Both have clearly asserted that the US does not need a green light from other nations to use force. And while Bush has moved toward Kerry's call for internationalizing the effort in Iraq, Kerry has moved closer to Bush's original wariness of the United Nations, proposing a "high commissioner" to Iraq who could bypass UN bureaucracy.

Still, many analysts argue that the overall approach and tone Kerry would bring to US foreign policy would represent a striking contrast with Bush - and could lead to some substantially different results.

"Bush is part of the realist, realpolitik school of foreign policy, that first and foremost showcases America's force," says historian Douglas Brinkley. "Kerry is part of what they used to call the moralist or multilateral school of foreign affairs."

Often, realpolitik is the best approach, Mr. Brinkley adds: During the cold war, for example, both Kennedy and Reagan took tougher stands against the Soviet Union, that ultimately proved successful. "But it is not the best approach when you are trying to get countries to spend billions of dollars in building up a new democratic society."

Kerry's multilateral worldview can be traced to his background: The son of a diplomat, he went to boarding school in Switzerland, and spent time in cities like Paris and Bonn. In the US, his familiarity with European culture has been seen almost as a disadvantage - Republicans have joked that he "looks French," and mocked him in an Austin Powers-style spoof as an "international man of mystery."

But as the US burden in Iraq grows, Americans may increasingly see an advantage in a president who is comfortable negotiating with - and might have more of an opening among - foreign leaders.

Mr. Brinkley could not possibly be more wrong. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush are nearly messianic in their democratic idealism and stand in stark contrast to the kind of "stability at all costs" that the Realist school espouses.

Understanding Evil: As liberals try to sabotage the War on Terror, President Bush, like Reagan before him, boldly faces an unappeasable evil. (Peter Huessy, 5/26/04, FrontPage)

The Bush administration's foreign and national security policy has generated serious opposition here at home and overseas. This is not unlike the reaction to President Reagan's plan to deploy intermediate range missiles in Europe and to modernize our land, sea and air-based nuclear deterrent systems.

The demonstrations of the early 1980's throughout Europe, coupled with the push for a nuclear freeze here in America, made it appear as if President Reagan was intent on blowing up the world. Former Carter administration officials were sought on a daily basis to appear on morning, evening and weekend talk shows, warning of impending doom, the collapse of arms control, possible conflict with the Soviet Union, and the deterioration of NATO.
For the intellectual Left in America, Reagan's bold foreign and defense policies were seen as fundamentally representative of a narrow, U.S. interest, reflecting the selfish concerns of the military industrial complex, war planners and DOD officials. In particular, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the New Yorker, and the evening television news shows were unanimous that the US President, an uninformed actor, naive in the ways of the world, could not be trusted with US security policy.

The Left hoped that cooler heads in the State Department would convince Reagan, the former California governor, to seek coexistence, not confrontation, with the leaders in Moscow. Critical to this strategy, we were told, was to get the two leaders from the US and the Soviet Union together at a "summit" to freeze our respective nuclear arsenals.

Fast forward twenty years later. In early 2001, the earliest manifestations of the new Bush administration security policy were a speech at the National Defense University where the President outlined the need for missile defenses, an overall counter terrorism strategy, and stronger controls over the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, as well as a strong, robust but reduced and more balanced deterrent force of nuclear weapons.
The reaction mirrored that of 1981. The same media outlets, the same articles, same television commentators, wringing their hands in worry, despairing of a "cowboy" governor from Texas, way over his head in the nuanced, fuzzy liberal world of his opponents.

Bush's assertion of US interests, such as defending ourselves from ballistic missiles, or foregoing signing-off on a foolish energy consumption commitment such as called for by the Kyoto Treaty, was universally derided as wrong headed, "unilateral," representative of a "go it alone" policy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:49 PM


Kerry puts Edwards
through veep paces
: N.C. senator gets the closest look (Howard Fineman, May 26, 2004, Newsweek)

If Sen. John Kerry isn’t going to pick Sen. John Edwards to be his running mate, he’s sure putting him through his paces. At the Kerry campaign’s request, the North Carolinian is doing four major events in June, three in battleground states. The headliner is the mid-month Jefferson-Jackson Weekend in Florida. If Edwards is a hit there, he could be on his way to the vice presidential nomination in Boston in July.

The problem is Mr. Kerry can't afford to have him speak in Boston. If he does the press corps may as well access their hard drives now for those stories from '76 and '80 about how there was a palpable sense in the convention hall that they'd nominated the wrong guy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:41 PM


In a Reverse Migration, Blacks Head to New South: California, other regions lose African Americans feeling the pull of 'home' and a slower pace.
(Mark Arax, May 24, 2004, LA Times)

In what demographers are calling a "full scale reversal" of the Great Migration in the early part of the 20th century, blacks are leaving California, New York, Illinois and New Jersey and retracing steps to a place their families once fled — the South.

This population shift of hundreds of thousands of blacks is nowhere near the millions who left the South from 1910 to 1970. But the flow is sustained and large enough, according to a study released today by the Brookings Institution, that a new map of black America must be drawn.

Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Chicago and Detroit — cities blacks once considered the promised land — have been seeing more blacks moving out than moving in. As part of this shift, the overall black population in Los Angeles County and the Bay Area dropped for the first time in 70 years.

The new migratory pattern reflects the ascendancy of Latinos and Asians and provides another sign that the high-water days of black community power — when Los Angeles boasted a black mayor for two decades — may be over.

"We came out to California to find gold, and many of us found it," said Noella Buchanan, a pastor at the Community African Methodist Episcopal Church in Corona. "But when it's time to retire, there's this desire to go back home. Even the children who grew up in California are feeling the pull. They're heading off to black colleges in Atlanta and North Carolina and staying there.

"Let's face it. Everything is crazy here. The traffic is crazy, the housing prices are crazy. They're finding a slower pace of life in the South. Out here, we're the forgotten minority. Back there, we're the chosen minority." [...]

"My wife and I live in a house with 3,000 square feet, a nice yard, nice patio, nice pool, nice neighborhood, right next door to a Mormon bishop," said Martin Bauchman, a 75-year-old Las Vegas newcomer.

His migration tells the story of black America in the post-World War II years. He left his native Oklahoma in 1950, moved to South-Central Los Angeles and spent the next 50 years working his way up from prison guard to assistant manager in the state Department of Education. Two years ago, he pulled up stakes and moved to the boomtown in the desert.

"My backyard is even big enough that I got some tomatoes and peppers and a few carrots," he said, chuckling. "I just saw Gladys Knight perform at the Flamingo down the street. It's a pretty good life."

Amen, brother.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 3:21 PM


Human rights climate 'worst in 50 years' (Simon Jeffery and Mark Oliver, The Guardian, May 26th, 2004)

Amnesty International today claimed that governments and armed groups such as al-Qaida were putting human rights and international humanitarian law under the greatest pressure for more than 50 years. [...]

The 2004 annual report documents human rights abuses in 155 countries including execution, detention without judicial process, hostage taking and "disappearances" by state agents.

It condemns attacks by al-Qaida and others as "sometimes amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity" but says principles of international law that could prevent such attacks were being undermined and marginalised by powerful countries such as the US.

"Governments are losing their moral compass, sacrificing the global values of human rights in a blind pursuit of security. This failure of leadership is a dangerous concession to armed groups," said Irene Khan, the secretary general of Amnesty International.

"The global security agenda promoted by the US administration is bankrupt of vision and bereft of principle. Violating human rights at home, turning a blind eye to abuses abroad and using pre-emptive military force where and when it chooses has damaged justice and freedom, and made the world a more dangerous place."

The attacks of 9/11 forced us to confront the power, hatred and popularity of the Islamic movement. Since then, perhaps an even greater shock has been to see just how many in the West have had their critical faculties so badly warped by abstract, soft-leftist drivel. That these statements from Amnesty International don’t even make sense does not mean they won’t resonate with millions.

We tend to imagine that appeasement in the 1930's was an expression of collective fear whereby people cowered in their homes and, somewhat guiltily, refused to concern themselves with Hitler’s threats or his victims. In fact, it was an aggressivly idealistic force that was marked by a gradual demonizing of those victims, a preoccupation with the “underlying causes” of totalitarianism, a scorning of moral distinctions, utopian dreams and a constant blaming of all things Western and democratic for– well, just about everything. For many, it was an inspiring, cutting edge cause that filled young and not-so-young hearts with a sense of noble purpose and the conviction they were fighting for a just and peaceful world.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:03 PM


A Child of the Century (Ben Hecht)

The Reader's Digest Magazine broke the American silence attending the massacre of the Jews in February 1943. It printed my article called "Remember Us," based on Dr. Greenberg's data.

Reading it in the magazine, I thought of a larger idea and set out to test its practicality. Thirty famous writers (and one composer) were assembled at George Kaufman's house by my friend, his wife Beatrice. All had written hit plays or successful novels. Put their names together and you had the box-office flower of American culture. In addition to success, wit and influence, they had in common the fact that they were all Jews.

I had said to Bea that thirty New York dinner guests might save the surviving four million Jews in Europe. The first massacre scores had come in: dead Jews --two million; anti-Germany butchery protests--none.

I looked eagerly at the thirty celebrities in Bea's drawing room. Some were friends, some enemies. Some wrote like artists (almost), some like clodhoppers. Some were insufferably fatheaded, some psychotically shy. But such variation was unimportant. Bold, shy, Shakespeare or Boom McNutt--they had a great common virtue. They could command the press of the world.

What would happen if these brilliant Jews cried out with passion against the German butchers? If these socially and artistically celebrated Jews spoke up in rage at the murder of their people? How they could dramatize the German crime! How loudly they could represent the nightmare to America and the world!

When we sat with coffee cups, Bea said to me, "Why not talk to them now, before they start playing games or something?"

I recited all the facts I knew about the Jewish killings. I said I felt certain that if we banded together and let loose our talents and our moral passion against the Germans we might halt the massacre. The Germans now believed that the civilized world looked with indifference on their extermination of Europe's Jews. How could they think anything else? Had anybody (but the biased kinsmen of the victims) protested? Had England's great humanitarian, Churchill, spoken? Or our great keeper of the rights of man--Roosevelt? No, nary a word out of either of these politically haloed gentlemen. And out of that third champion of all underdogs--Stalin--no more hint of Jews than if they had all bowed out with Moses.

Consider (this was part of my speech to the thirty Jewish geniuses of New York City), consider what would happen to the Germans if they were to hear that their crime was sickening the world! If a roar of horror swept the civilized earth and echoed into the land that was once Goethe's and Beethoven's! Imagine the effect on the descendants of Schiller, Wagner, Kant, Hegel, etc., etc., were they to hear a universal shout go up! "You are not heroes. You are monsters."

And to back up my theory I wheeled out my sole exhibit--the King of little Denmark. Peter Freuchen, the writer and explorer, had told me the story. He had been in Copenhagen at the time the Germans announced they were going to "clean" Denmark of Jews. The King of Denmark, with the German heel on his neck, had answered that the Danes would never stand for this crime against humanity. He had put the yellow armband identifying Jews on his own sleeve and requested his people to do the same. They did. The Jews of Denmark went on living, protected by the moral passion of an otherwise powerless king.

I concluded with another argument. I said that an outcry against the massacre would have an important effect on the British. The British were not a bloodthirsty, murderous people. If they heard that millions of Jews had already been murdered, and that the Germans planned to kill the four million still left breathing in Europe, and that most of these still-breathing Jews could be saved if the ports of Palestine were opened, the British, fine, decent people that they were, would certainly not continue to collaborate with the Germans on the extermination of the four million surviving Jews.

There was no applause when I stopped talking. Not that I expected any. The authors of hit plays and novels are more interested in receiving applause than in giving it. But the nature of the silence was revealed to me when a half-dozen of the guests stood up and without saying "Boo" walked out of the room.

"It looks like I struck out," I said to my hostess as the silence kept up.
Edna Ferber's voice rose sharply. "Who is paying you to do this wretched propaganda," she demanded, "Mister Hitler? Or is it Mister Goebbels?" Her query started irritated and angry talk. The anger and irritation were against me.

In the vestibule, Beatrice said to me, "I'm sorry it turned out like this. But I didn't expect anything much different. You asked them to throw away the most valuable thing they own--the fact that they are Americans."

How argue with Beatrice, a fine woman with as bright a mind and as soft a heart as anyone I knew? How convince any of her high-faluting guests that they had not behaved like Americans but like scared Jews? And what in God's name were they frightened of? Of people realizing they were Jews? But people knew that already. Of people hearing that they had Jewish hearts? What kind of hearts did they imagine people thought Jews had, non-Jewish hearts? Or did they think they would be mistaken for "real" Americans if they proved they had no hearts at all? Two of the thirty guests came into the vestibule to say good night to me.

"I thought I'd tell you that if I can do anything definite in the way of Jewish propaganda call on me," said Moss Hart.

Kurt Weill, the lone composer present, looked at me with misty eyes. A radiance was in his strong face.

"Please count on me for everything," Kurt said. (Hecht, Moss and Weill would cooperate in creating the pageant "We Shall Never Die" which was staged in Madison Square Garden. The three were joined by showman Billy Rose of whom Hecht writes "A third Jew soon joined us--Billy Rose. He needed no briefing. He came under his own steam, which was considerable.")

I am likely to sound rather immodest in this chapter, but truth is truth, and a man should not be afraid to speak it even if it embarrasses him. My activities quickly produced a new Jewish battle cry. And not only in New York but in Chicago, Boston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, San Francisco and even in London. This new Jewish battle cry was "Down with Ben Hecht." It came roaring from synagogue pulpits (reformed ones). It filled the Jewish press and the Jewish magazines. I can still see the headlines in the American Jewish Congress Monthly and other such periodicals. They identified me as the American Goebbels, as Hitler's Hired Stooge, as the Broadway Racketeer Growing Rich on Jewish Misery, and this and that.

The first Jewish outbursts against me remained, actually, unknown to me. I was too busy getting the pageant ready....

I first became aware that there was annoyance with me among the Jews when Rabbi Stephen Wise, head of the Jews of New York, head of the Zionists and, as I knew from reading the papers, head of almost everything noble in American Jewry, telephoned me at the Algonquin Hotel where I had pitched my Hebrew tent.

Rabbi Wise said he would like to see me immediately in his rectory. His voice, which was sonorous and impressive, irritated me. I had never known a man with a sonorous and impressive voice who wasn't either a con man or a bad actor. I explained I was very busy and unable to step out of my hotel.

"Then I shall tell you now, over the telephone, what I had hoped to tell you in my study," said Rabbi Wise. "I have read your pageant script and I disapprove of it. I must ask you to cancel this pageant and discontinue all your further activities in behalf of the Jews. If you wish hereafter to work for the Jewish Cause, you will please consult me and let me advise you."

At this point I hung up. When I informed Bergson of Rabbi Wise's fatheadedness, he answered moodily, "We'll have to get the spies out of our organization. There are obviously people among us carrying information and documents to the enemy."

I was confused by the word enemy. I had up to that moment been thinking only of an enemy with a swastika.

Recognizing the enemy in our midst is always a shock.

-The Return of Ben Hecht--40 Years After His Passing (Dr. Rafael Medoff, April 2004, Wyman Institute)

As a young man, Hecht had shown no real interest in his Jewish heritage. But the rise of Nazism and the persecution of Europe's Jews transformed him. First he joined the Fight for Freedom Committee, which advocated pre-emptive U.S. military action to oust Hitler. He wrote a fundraising pageant for the group, called "Fun to Be Free," which drew more than 17,000 people to Madison Square Garden in 1941.

Hecht's evolution from assimilation to activism is explored in an essay by Prof. Gil Troy, "The Transformation of Ben Hecht from Literary Gadfly to Political Activist,"which will appear in a forthcoming issue of the scholarly journal American Jewish History.

My own recent book, Militant Zionism in America: The Rise and Impact of the Jabotinsky Movement in the United States, reveals previously-classified documents showing that the FBI spied on the Bergson Group, the militant Jewish activists headed by Peter Bergson (Hillel Kook), with whom Hecht was associated. Memoranda authored by FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover erroneously characterized Hecht as a "fellow traveler" and a "Communist Zionist."

Hecht's first project with the Bergson Group was "We Will Never Die," a dramatic 1943 pageant to raise American public awareness of the Nazi genocide. Starring Edward G. Robinson and Paul Muni, it was staged at Madison Square Garden before audiences totaling more than 40,000, before traveling to Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, the Hollywood Bowl, and Washington D.C., where the audience included First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, six Supreme Court justices and several hundred Members of Congress.

During the 1940s, the Bergson Group sponsored numerous full-page newspaper ads calling for U.S. action to rescue Jews from Hitler. The ads, many of them authored by Hecht, featured eye-catching headlines such as "Time Races Death: What Are We Waiting For?" and "How Well Are You Sleeping? Is There Something You Could Have Done to Save Millions of Innocent People--Men, Women, and Children--from Torture and Death?" "Our mission in the United States would not have attained the scope and intensity it did if not for Hecht's gifted pen," senior Bergson group activist Yitshaq Ben-Ami later wrote. "He had a compassionate heart, covered up by a short temper, a brutal frankness and an acid tongue."

Posted by John Resnick at 12:00 PM


THINK SIMPLE FOR SUMMER STYLE (Brooke Showell, Long Island Press)

The flip-flop is one of this summer's biggest trends, having made its way into the season's most fashionable footwear. Rubber thongs are casual, comfortable, practical and inexpensive. Once strictly a beach statement, this laid-back look now appeals to all ages for all occasions. New Yorkers wear flip-flops with a bikini on the Montauk shore, or with a sundress on Madison Avenue. Even Sarah Michelle Gellar showed off white flip-flops with her Vera Wang wedding gown. Right now, there are no limitations when it comes to summer sandals.

Flip-flops range from high-end Helmut Lang rubber thongs and kitten-heeled Sigerson Morrison sandals to everyday options by J.Crew, Old Navy and Target. Adidas' high-tech flip-flops and the surf-friendly Reef Smoothy Sandals offer sportier selections for guys. But like all trends, the flip-flop has taken a trendy turn.

Who'd have thought Sen. Kerry's spectacular nuancing would spark a fashion revival? Doesn't hold a candle to Al Gore inventing the Internet though.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:37 AM


House deals Blagojevich budget defeat (DAVE MCKINNEY AND LESLIE GRIFFY, May 27, 2004, Chicago Sun-Times)

The Illinois House on Wednesday overwhelmingly defeated a $304 million plan to end several corporate tax breaks, dealing Gov. Blagojevich a sobering setback and putting a budget deal before a Monday deadline deeper in doubt.

The bid to close so-called business loopholes, a cornerstone of the governor's revenue package, drew only 23 "yes" votes and 81 "no" votes after the state Senate narrowly backed the proposal earlier.

"That was a significant message to the governor that maybe some of your revenue is in trouble," Senate Minority Leader Frank Watson (R-Greenville) said of the House vote, which drew universal praise from business groups.

While House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) voted for the plan Wednesday, he allowed the measure to be unceremoniously voted down at the same time Blagojevich had scheduled a new round of budget talks with the legislative leaders -- a summit Madigan chose to skip.

If the vote's timing was merely a coincidence, the speaker's absence from budget negotiations for a second straight day was not. Denying that any messages were being sent, a top aide said Madigan's schedule was too busy to permit any time to attend talks on a budget compromise, producing smirks from some Statehouse observers.

"I don't think we're obstructing anything that I can see," Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said.

The test of wills between Blagojevich and Madigan has brought business at the Capitol to a virtual standstill, increasing the likelihood the Democratic-controlled Legislature will miss a Monday adjournment deadline, go into overtime and empower Republicans to dictate terms of a new state budget.

Though it took truly disgusting scandals to end the GOP hammerlock on the statehouse, the election of Mr. Blagojevich was supposed to indicate a swing Left by IL and make him a potential national candidate--especially since Ms Granholm in neighboring MI is ineligible. Instead he's fighting Mayor Daley and his own legislative "allies"? Bill Richardson looks better and better for the vp nod.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:14 AM


ISLAM AND DEMOCRACY: THE IMPOSSIBLE UNION: Iranian Muslim Amir Taheri says his faith cannot embrace western liberalism because our notions of equality are antithetical to the basis of Islam (Amir Taheri, May 23, 2004, The Sunday Times)

In recent weeks there has been much soul-searching, in the Islamic world and among the wider Muslim diaspora about whether Islam is compatible with democracy. This sparked a debate hosted by Intelligence2, a forum I took part in last week. As an Iranian now living in a liberal democracy, I would like to explain why Islam and democracy are essentially incompatible.

To understand a civilisation it is important to comprehend the language that shapes it. There was no word in any of the Muslim languages for democracy until the 1890s. Even then the Greek word entered Muslim vocabulary with little change: democrasi in Persian, dimokraytiyah in Arabic, demokratio in Turkish.

Democracy is based on one fundamental principle: equality. [...]

The idea of equality is unacceptable to Islam. For the non-believer cannot be the equal of the believer. Even among the believers only those who subscribe to the three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, known as the "people of the book" (Ahl el-Kitab), are regarded as fully human. Here, too, there is a hierarchy, with Muslims at the top.

Non-Muslims can, and have often been, treated with decency, but never as equals. There is a hierarchy even for animals and plants. Seven animals and seven plants will assuredly go to heaven while seven others of each will end up in hell.

Democracy means the rule of the demos, the common people, or what is now known as popular or national sovereignty. In Islam, however, power belongs only to God: al-hukm l'illah. The man who exercises that power on Earth is known as Khalifat al-Allah, the regent of God. Even then the Khalifah, or Caliph, cannot act as legislator. The law has already been spelt out and fixed forever by God.

The only task that remains is its discovery, interpretation and application. That, of course, allows for a substantial space in which different styles of rule could develop.

Though correct in terms of classical Islam, this is, of course, not the case for Shi'ism, which is specifically premised on the notion that government will not be Godly until the Hidden Imam appears. Nor is it the case for states, like Turkey, where reformers have rather easily made Islam and democracy function together. Indeed, even the ease with which much of Islam was led down the tragic path of Wahabism and a fraction thereof deluded into following the disastrous Westernized heresy of Sayyid Qutb indicates that the faith is likely to be quite susceptible to Reformation, which will proceed from within (as in Libya, Morocco, etc.) and without (as in Afghanistan, Iraq, etc.). The End of History won't be making exceptions.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:19 AM


For Some, the Blogging Never Stops (KATIE HAFNER, 5/27/04, NY Times)

TO celebrate four years of marriage, Richard Wiggins and his wife, Judy Matthews, recently spent a week in Key West, Fla. Early on the morning of their anniversary, Ms. Matthews heard her husband get up and go into the bathroom. He stayed there for a long time.

"I didn't hear any water running, so I wondered what was going on," Ms. Matthews said. When she knocked on the door, she found him seated with his laptop balanced on his knees, typing into his Web log, a collection of observations about the technical world, over a wireless link.

Blogging is a pastime for many, even a livelihood for a few. For some, it becomes an obsession. Such bloggers often feel compelled to write several times daily and feel anxious if they don't keep up. As they spend more time hunkered over their computers, they neglect family, friends and jobs. They blog at home, at work and on the road. They blog openly or sometimes, like Mr. Wiggins, quietly so as not to call attention to their habit. [...]

The number of bloggers has grown quickly, thanks to sites like, which makes it easy to set up a blog. Technorati, a blog-tracking service, has counted some 2.5 million blogs.

Of course, most of those millions are abandoned or, at best, maintained infrequently. For many bloggers, the novelty soon wears off and their persistence fades.

Sometimes, too, the realization that no one is reading sets in. A few blogs have thousands of readers, but never have so many people written so much to be read by so few. By Jupiter Research's estimate, only 4 percent of online users read blogs.

Indeed, if a blog is likened to a conversation between a writer and readers, bloggers like Mr. Wiggins are having conversations largely with themselves.

Rule #6: Never let it interfere with real life.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:59 AM


US intelligence fears Iran duped hawks into Iraq war (Julian Borger, May 25, 2004, The Guardian)

An urgent investigation has been launched in Washington into whether Iran played a role in manipulating the US into the Iraq war by passing on bogus intelligence through Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress, it emerged yesterday.

Some intelligence officials now believe that Iran used the hawks in the Pentagon and the White House to get rid of a hostile neighbour, and pave the way for a Shia-ruled Iraq.

According to a US intelligence official, the CIA has hard evidence that Mr Chalabi and his intelligence chief, Aras Karim Habib, passed US secrets to Tehran, and that Mr Habib has been a paid Iranian agent for several years, involved in passing intelligence in both directions.

The CIA has asked the FBI to investigate Mr Chalabi's contacts in the Pentagon to discover how the INC acquired sensitive information that ended up in Iranian hands.

The implications are far-reaching. Mr Chalabi and Mr Habib were the channels for much of the intelligence on Iraqi weapons on which Washington built its case for war.

"It's pretty clear that Iranians had us for breakfast, lunch and dinner," said an intelligence source in Washington yesterday. "Iranian intelligence has been manipulating the US for several years through Chalabi."

America and the Shi'a have an obvious convergence of interests--the real question is how did Iran get Saddam to attack Kuwait and make eventual regime change inevitable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:10 AM


Cry No Tears for Martha Stewart: The privilege the law sometimes extends to the well-to-do explains why Martha Stewart was not convicted of more. (SCOTT TUROW, 5/27/04, NY Times)

As you would expect of someone who has been a criminal defense lawyer for many years, I was disgusted to learn that the government has charged its own expert witness with committing perjury in the Martha Stewart trial. Yet the development is unlikely to overturn Ms. Stewart's criminal conviction. Its most lasting effect, rather, will probably be louder bleating from those who have insisted from the start that Ms. Stewart got a raw deal. And more's the pity, because that's hardly the case.

They won the case against her so easily a retrial would be a certainty.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:07 AM


Touching, teaching: Could the surprising election result in India push the decline of the most racist system in the world? (Marvin Olasky, 5/29/04, World)

Defeat of the Hindu nationalist party in India's elections means that national anti-evangelism legislation is unlikely, and that some of the state laws may be rolled back. The other tidbit is from Turkey, where a criminal court in southeastern Turkey dropped all charges against a Protestant pastor accused of opening an "illegal" church. [...]

But India has a deeper problem that will take more than an election to fix: More than 200 million Dalits ("untouchables") still face discrimination at least as great as that faced by black Americans 50 years ago.

Although officials legally abolished the caste system in 1949, culture almost always trumps law, so castes remain a significant force throughout India. (Generally, the lighter-skinned Indians belong to a higher caste, the darker-skinned ones to a lower.) As in the United States up to the 1960s, those near the bottom can lord it over those at the bottom. Sudras (members of the peasant class) can feel superior when they refuse to drink from the same glass as a Dalit.

Some Indians joke sadly about a prominent Dalit politician who returns to his small village to open a hospital and is welcomed by those who once looked down on him. After a fancy lunch he is preparing to leave when another Dalit comes into the room through a back door. The politician says, "You don't have to come in by the back way now. I was once like you, and see what I have made of myself." The other replies, "I just came to get my plates. They borrowed them to serve you your lunch."

Why does such bigotry remain in India at a time when it is largely gone from the United States? One reason may be difference between the biblical sense of equality and a common Hindu theology of inequality. The biblical understanding is that all of us are sinners (Psalm 14:3: "there is none who does good, not even one"). We owe anything good in us and our living circumstances to God's grace. We know that God offers that grace to people of all races. Kids convey more truth than they realize when they warble, "Red and yellow, black and white/ They are precious in His sight/ Jesus loves the little children of the world."

Hinduism, however, pushes Dalits into believing that their karma for this life is already determined, and that submissiveness can make their next birth better. Although Social Darwinism—the idea that helping the poor obstructs societal evolution—is a 19th century western invention, Hindu racists a millennium before developed strong rationales for malign neglect of those in need: the poor are suffering in accordance with their karma and their qualities.

For many Indian secularists karma is now a faded rose from days gone by, but it still has influence. So does pride: Indian leaders have long criticized others while letting themselves off easy. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru said on in 1953, "India will not go with the doctrine of racial inequality. Wherever there is racial discrimination we shall do everything in our power, short of war, to oppose it." Good words, but he pointed to Africa and the United States as problem areas and left out the biggest one, his own country. Today, India is clearly the largest purveyor of racism in the world.

Could that be changing?

This is a less recognized victory for American Imperialism (or the End of History or globalization as it's also called). The future of India is not unreconstructed Hinduism--it's protestantism (certainly with a small "p", maybe with a large).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:04 AM


Marquis de Bush? (MAUREEN DOWD, 5/27/04, NY Times)

John Kerry's advisers were surprised and annoyed to hear that Mr. Gore hollered so much, he made Howard Dean look like George Pataki. They don't want voters to be reminded of the wackadoo wing of the Democratic Party.

They would like Mr. Gore, who brought bad karma to Mr. Dean with his primary endorsement, to zip it and go away. But more and more Democrats think it is Mr. Kerry who should zip it and go away.

Mr. Kerry has made a huge $25 million ad buy in recent weeks, believing that the better voters know him, the more they'll like him. But many Democrats fear he's one of those supercilious/smarmy candidates (like Al Gore) for whom the opposite is true: the more you know him, the less you want to see him.

They wonder whether Mr. Kerry should just let the campaign be Bush vs. Bush. As the president's old running buddy, Lee Atwater, used to say, don't get in the way when your rival's busy shooting himself.

Couldn't the Democratic standard-bearer use a William McKinley front-porch strategy, talking only to those who bother to show up at his front porch? After all, Mr. Kerry and his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, have five front porches, stretching from Sun Valley to Nantucket and Georgetown.

Now that Mr. Kerry has decided to accept the nomination of his party, we've taken the liberty of writing an acceptance speech/stump speech for him: "I'm not George Bush. Thank You."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 AM


A Film That Could Warm Up the Debate on Global Warming: Whatever its flaws, "The Day After Tomorrow"' could do more to elevate the issue of global warming than any number of Congressional hearings or high-minded tracts. (ROBERT B. SEMPLE. Jr., 5/27/04, NY Times)

It could be similar to how the summer-blockbuster Armageddon led even the Left to support the deployment of a space-based defense against asteroids.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:53 AM


Treat the Disease: Campaign spending will keep increasing as long as government does. (Patrick Basham , 5/25/04, National Review)

[T]he most important factor driving campaign finance upward is "more government." Simply stated, the growth of government spending fosters the growth in campaign spending. Taxes and regulations on society have increased the ambit of government at all levels. Increasing government activity leads to more efforts to influence political decisions, including spending on campaigns, a relationship confirmed by scholarly studies.

As government does and spends more, individuals try to influence government, both to advance their causes and to protect themselves from abuse. And government has grown enormously. In 2000, the federal government taxed Americans to the tune of $2.03 trillion, a 250-percent real increase since 1970. On the expenditure side, federal-government spending reached $1.79 trillion in 2000, a 915 percent nominal increase over the previous 30 years.

Government has assumed the additional power to regulate all kinds of private conduct, especially regarding economic life. Economist Thomas Hopkins estimates that the cost of complying with these federal regulations exceeds $700 billion. The desire to gain benefits or avoid costs from regulation also pushes campaign contributions upward.

These levels of taxation and regulation indicate that government has vast power over many aspects of American life — from wealth redistribution, to the nature of housing, agriculture, education, and health care, to trade, energy, and telecommunications, to gun ownership, to the consumption of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. Almost 70,000 government bodies are authorized to impose taxes on Americans.

Is it any wonder, then, that several billion dollars are spent lobbying politicians during each election cycle?

Suppose you had a democracy and it turned out the people wanted stuff from the State, but I repeat myself...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 AM


The Chalabi Fiasco: He's a pawn in a much larger strategic game. (Wall Street Journal, May 26, 2004)

The more we dig into last week's Baghdad raid against Ahmed Chalabi, the more curious it seems. Clearly there's much more going on here than a fight over one man's credibility.

If nothing else, this has to be the strangest "spy" case in U.S. history. On the day of last week's raid, a spokesman for U.S. regent L. Paul Bremer denied that Mr. Chalabi was even the target. But the papers and TV shows have since been filled with accusations that Mr. Chalabi provided classified information to Iran. None of his accusers is ever on the record, and no one has explained how Mr. Chalabi would have access to such U.S. secrets. But someone in the U.S. government clearly wants to damage him. [...]

The charge of spying for Iran is serious enough that Mr. Chalabi, Iraqis and the U.S. have a substantial stake in getting to the truth. As Mr. Chalabi suggests, ideally that would be in public, before Congress.

Mr. Chalabi has long maintained good relations with Iran, in particular to gain access to northern Iraq during Saddam's rule. But this is hardly news to U.S. officials, who financed the INC's Tehran office. In any event, the last thing Iran's mullahs want is the emergence of a secular, stable, Shiite-led free government of the kind Mr. Chalabi has long favored.

So what's really going on here? We think Mr. Chalabi is a pawn in a much larger battle that is strategic, ideological and personal. [...]

The ideological battle concerns Iraq's future governance. As a secular Shiite, Mr. Chalabi has sought to make an alliance with Grand Ayatollah Sistani and other moderate Shiite leaders. This puts him at odds with Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. special envoy to Iraq, as well as with the neighboring Arab leaders who are wary of control by the Shiite majority.

Jordan's King Abdullah, a longtime Chalabi enemy who is close to Mr. Brahimi, has already called for another Sunni strongman to run Iraq. Mr. Bremer and the Bush Administration have handed control over the June 30 transition to Iraqi sovereignty to Mr. Brahimi, and one of his demands is that Mr. Chalabi be frozen out.

As for the personal, Mr. Chalabi is a blunt man who can seem arrogant even to his friends. Unlike some others on the Iraqi Governing Council, he has frequently been critical of Mr. Bremer and has fought him over many issues, especially elections and the probe into the U.N. Oil for Food scandal.

All of this is to suggest that there are many people, in the U.N. and U.S. government, who were only too happy to see Mr. Chalabi humiliated in that raid and then trashed afterward.

Mr. Bremer triggered much of the Sadr mess by shutting down his trivial "newspaper"--let's hope there's more to the Chalabi stroy than just thin skin.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:45 AM


2006 Cuts In Domestic Spending On Table (Jonathan Weisman, May 27, 2004, Washington Post)

The White House put government agencies on notice this month that if President Bush is reelected, his budget for 2006 may include spending cuts for virtually all agencies in charge of domestic programs, including education, homeland security and others that the president backed in this campaign year.

Administration officials had dismissed the significance of the proposed cuts when they surfaced in February as part of an internal White House budget office computer printout. At the time, officials said the cuts were based on a formula and did not accurately reflect administration policy. But a May 19 White House budget memorandum obtained by The Washington Post said that agencies should assume the spending levels in that printout when they prepare their fiscal 2006 budgets this summer.

"Assume accounts are funded at the 2006 level specified in the 2005 Budget database," the memo informs federal program associate directors and their deputies. "If you propose to increase funding above that level for any account, it must be offset within your agency by proposing to decrease funding below that level in other accounts."

J.T. Young, a spokesman for the White House Office of Management and Budget, said the memo, titled "Planning Guidance for the FY 2006 Budget," is a routine "process document" to help agency officials begin establishing budget procedures for 2006. In no way should it be interpreted as a final policy decision, or even a planning document, he said.

It takes a particular genius to position the press so that it thinks it has a scoop when it reveals information designed to placate voters.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 AM


The Curse of Beauty for Serious Musicians: Classical music still seems to have trouble dealing with strong women. If you're attractive, it seems, you must also be cheesy and commercial. (ANNE MIDGETTE, 5/27/04, NY Times)

When the violinist Lara St. John gave a recital in Toronto in February, she gave a lot of thought to what she was going to wear.

Ms. St. John, 32, is well aware of the power of image. For one thing she is a striking six-foot blonde. And while this week saw the release of "Re: Bach," her first album for Sony Classical, the CD she will probably always be best known for is "Bach Works for Violin Solo" from 1996. That is the one on which she appeared naked on the cover, holding her violin across her breasts.

The picture was more artistic than shocking. Showing Ms. St. John from the waist up with the violin completely hiding her chest, it revealed nothing inappropriate for a family paper. But from the reaction, you would have thought she had posed for Penthouse. There were accusations of sexploitation and child pornography. (Ms. St. John was 24 and looked younger.) There were also phenomenal album sales: more than 30,000 copies, big stuff for a classical music recording.

The cover has remained a mixed blessing. Because of it many in the field have pigeonholed Ms. St. John in the booming genre of classical crossover, lumping her with other musicians of far less artistic substance, like Linda Brava (a Finnish violinist who has indeed posed for Playboy) or Vanessa-Mae (a violinist remembered for her wet T-shirt poses and electric violin arrangements).

But this is patently foolish. Ms. St. John is a substantial musician, and she has never strayed from the classical repertory. "Re: Bach" is her first crossover album. In person she is also less a bimbo than a bird of paradise, striking and unconventional. And while she clearly enjoys vamping for photos, she's very serious about the music.

"I'm actually pretty conservative when it comes to performance," she said.

The Ahn Trio played at Dartmouth recently and one assumes more young men than usual probably turned out to see them...and hear them. In the outstanding new Teacout Reader, the critic Terry Teachout has an essay about this phenomenon (sadly not on-line), titled Classical Barbie--it's very funny, though it does brutalize the Eroica Trio.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:58 AM


Iraqis Need to Bear the Burden (Melana Zyla Vickers, 05/26/2004, Tech Central Station)

"Can (Iraqi forces) opt out of an operation if they don't want to or something of that nature? And the answer has to be yes," Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on May 18. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz added: "I agree exactly."

If ever there was an illustration of what's wrong with the administration's perception of the U.S. role in Iraq, this is it: Current Iraq policy puts the U.S. military far too much in the front and center in that country, and relies far too little on transferring the burden of fighting armed insurgents, nation-building and policework to the Iraqis. The reasoning ranges from the Iraqis being unready and untrained, to them being unwilling, to them being unable to take the lead role in their own security and defense.

Yet sidelining the Iraqis with exceptions and concessions such as the opt-out clause is damaging to both Iraq and the United States. It puts off the day when a new Iraq is militarily master of its own house. And it shoves the U.S. -- which was never supposed to be the bull's eye of insurgents and antagonists in Iraq, only the liberator of the Iraqi people -- more deeply into the burdensome, dangerous, and increasingly unpopular position of military occupier.

Conservatives understand how reliance on the state makes citizens dependent, why keep a whole other nation dependent on us?

May 26, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:41 PM


Israel and the Question of the National State (Ran Halévi, April 2004, Policy Review)

The idea of a binational state has repeatedly reared its head throughout the Arab-Israeli conflict. It was already circulating, in various guises, during the 1920s and 30s among the Brit Shalom (“The Alliance for Peace”) group, led by Martin Buber and Gershom Scholem, before falling victim to military confrontation. It surfaced in the wake of the Six-Day War, this time under the auspices of the plo, which demanded the dissolution of the “Zionist entity” for the sake of what the official euphemism called “a secular and democratic Palestinian state” where there would be no place for Jews who arrived in Israel after 1948. It was also embraced by some figures of the American literary left. With the signing of the Oslo Accords, it seemed to have vanished for good. But the second Intifada infused it with new life: The resurrection of the binational project is one of the many consequences of the dramatic fiasco at the Camp David negotiations during the summer of 2000.

Today, however, it is not within the Palestinian camp that the idea is most audible, but in the margins of the political debate in Israel and . . . in the writing of Tony Judt (see Israel: The Alternative, New York Review of Books, October 22, 2003), who adorns it with the attire of novelty and the noble allure of the “unthinkable.” It is odd to see this epithet attached to an idea that is almost a hundred years old and which has never ceased to be “thought,” despite never having been applied. Here it is back on the agenda. [...]

Several months before his article appeared, in August 2003, the readers of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz had the binational project explained to them by two respected figures of the Israeli left. One of them, Meron Benvenisti, once deputy mayor of Jerusalem responsible for relations with the local Arab population, is one of the men who has toiled most to bring about a reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. An engaging, passionate personality with deep family roots in the Zionist movement, it isn’t as if Benvenisti, at the age of 70, had turned into a furious ideologue who favored the disintegration of Israel.

His reflection proceeded from three fundamental observations. The first is that the development of settlements in the West Bank has created an irreversible trend that precludes a return to the situation before 1967. Mr. Benvenisti has been predicting this since the 1980s. At that time, however, the settlements amounted to barely 20,000 persons; today the estimate is 230,000. And that which to him seemed impossible 20 years ago is all the more so today.

From this observation flows a second one: The irreversible situation produced by the extension of the settlements has already created a binational reality which any political solution should take into account. All the more so, given a third observation: that the debacle at Camp David and the bloody confrontations that almost immediately followed have tragically brought Israelis and Palestinians back to their attitudes of 50 years ago, thus consuming all avenues of compromise which they believed they were so close to achieving: “Both sides have in fact given up their mutual recognition, when we have begun again to consider the Palestinians as a terrorist entity, and they to look at us as aliens.” In this respect, Mr. Benvenisti shows himself almost as hard on the Israeli left as on the right: “This whole problem of the Arabs annoys the people on the left, is too complicated for them, exposes them to a moral dilemma and a cultural embarrassment: this is why they want this horrible wall . . . which is a violation of this land, why they flee Jerusalem, why they flee the countryside and the landscape to crowd together in Tel Aviv.”

In this disenchanting picture, the dominant, decisive fact that prescribes, so to speak, the future is the demographic element: The entanglement of Jewish and Arab populations on the territory that extends from the Jordan river to the Mediterranean renders literally inapplicable the creation of two distinct national states, says Mr. Benvenisti. “Since Zionism excluded the idea of eliminating the Arabs, its dream has become unrealizable. For this land cannot accommodate two sovereignties within it, and will never be able to do so.”

In other words, a binational reality prescribes a binational solution. Between the 3.5 million Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Gaza, the 1.2 million Israeli Arabs, and the some 5 million Jewish Israelis, it is thus necessary to imagine a new framework of cohabitation. Mr. Benvenisti envisages a structure that is both federal and cantonal — he speaks of “ethnic cantons” — where each people could lead an autonomous existence. The plan, he admits, is still embryonic and nebulous, but the general direction seems clear. “What I propose doesn’t make me rejoice. . . . I cling to the fragile hope that, perhaps, a common purpose may emerge . . .; that we will learn perhaps to live together; that we will understand perhaps that the other is not the devil.”[...]

Besides being “bad for the Jews,” Mr. Judt explains, Israel represents an historical anachronism, founded, what is more, on an original injustice. Several nation-states rose from the ashes of the old empires on the eve of World War i, and their very first action was “to set about privileging their national, ‘ethnic’ majority . . . at the expense of inconvenient local minorities, who were consigned to second-class status.” The creation of the state of Israel not only reproduced this offense, but posed the additional difficulty of having arrived “too late” in a world where borders are open, democracies are pluralist, and there are multiple “elective identities.” This late-blooming nation-state thus embodies the double sin, according to Tony Judt, of both injustice and anachronism.

The legitimacy of the Zionist enterprise was, we know, contested from the outset. But when it comes to legitimacy, it is not ideological posturing but history that is the final judge. The history of Israel’s creation, which is still being written, has not yet produced its moral balance sheet — and thus is incommensurate with the experience of nation-states whose security has been established for centuries. Tony Judt does not contest the legitimacy of the French nation on account of the Frankish invasions, or that of England by stigmatizing the armed expedition of William the Conqueror. But he haggles over Israel’s legitimacy for its supposedly anachronistic character. As Mark Lilla recently noted, as if replying to Judt in anticipation, “all political foundings, without exception, are morally ambiguous enterprises, and Israel has not escaped these ambiguities. Two kinds of fools or bigots refuse to see this: those who deny or explain away the Palestinian suffering caused by Israel’s founding, and those who treat that suffering as the unprecedented consequence of a uniquely sinister ideology.” [...]

[H]ere are two living examples, America and Israel, where democracy, the nation, and the sovereign state are closely linked. And if so many Europeans today have a hard time acknowledging this “incongruity,” and a harder time still putting up with it, this is because they tend increasingly to detach democracy from the nation and to persuade themselves, against all the evidence, that democracy does not need either the nation or the state in order to flourish.

The wars of the twentieth century have fatally brought the nation into disrepute, and this process has only grown further with European integration. We do not cherish the nation anymore, but we are unable to abandon it because we do not know how and with what to adequately replace it. Political philosophy does not provide us with any practical alternative: neither the tribe, nor the empire, nor the city. Even Europe disconcerts us: It has taken only one plenary session of the Council, enlarged to 25 states — only one! — to make us discover, belatedly, that the European machine cannot offer an adequate substitute for our disaffection with the nation. But this disaffection remains so deeply rooted that many Europeans are less and less inclined to understand those nation-states which are not afflicted by our doubts, and still less to tolerate the use these states make of their monopoly on legitimate force. The detestation of George W. Bush or of Ariel Sharon does not confine itself to what in their policies could be seen as reprehensible — and God knows they may be, in certain respects. Rather it is combined with a sentiment of alienation and frustration in the presence of such fully assumed expressions of national sovereignty — this still-vital constellation of the nation-state and democracy, which so many of us are inclined to disconnect and even to oppose.

Israel offers a mirror, an exemplary case in which we can contemplate and realize vicariously our schizophrenic relationship towards the national question. It is no accident that the more virulent critics, who often happen to be those of the United States as well, are to be found in the ranks of the antiglobalization movement. The type of postnational nihilism they inscribed on their banner contributed to the depoliticization of their approach to politics in general and the Middle East in particular: Israel, in other words, is that nation-state which most immediately vexes their planetary humanism.

Beyond the important distinction it draws about America's enduring devotion to the idea of the nation, this essay gets back to last week's discussion of how the Left/peace movement is basically anti-Zionist.

-The End of Zionism?: The ideology that built the State of Israel has given way to a Post-Zionism that sanctifies Jewish disempowerment. (Yoram Hazony, Summer 1996, Azure)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:05 PM


Japanese divided on whether foreigners are good influence (AP, May 27, 2004)

The Japanese are evenly split over whether foreigners are a good influence on their society, according to an Associated Press poll on immigration attitudes.

Forty-four percent of respondents said immigrants are a good influence on their country -- but the exact same percentage called immigrants a bad influence, researchers said. [...]

There are 2 million foreigners living in Japan -- a minuscule number in a country with 127 million people. The largest group are Koreans, many of them descendants of laborers taken there during Japan's 1910-1945 colonization of the Korean Peninsula. [...]

Foreigners, particularly those from other countries in Asia or developing countries, face discrimination in employment and housing, and there have been incidents in which they have been barred from certain shops, bathhouses or bars.

Authorities and media reports suggest illegal aliens are behind a recent crime surge, but statistics show foreigners commit crimes at about the same rate as Japanese.

There's been some back-and-forth over the image of Japan portrayed in the film Lost in Translation, illustrated particularly well in the scene where Bill Murray gets trapped on a piece of exercise equipment but there are no human beings available to help him out. In the survey, despite the fairly even split over immigrants generally, an overwhelming majority express the belief that immigrants take mostly those jobs that the natives wouldn't do themselves. In other words, the Japanese, or some considerable portion thereof, would prefer an antihuman society to a multiethnic one. No wonder their nation is dying.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:55 PM


Clarke claims responsibility: Ex-counterterrorism czar approved post-9-11 flights for bin Laden family (Alexander Bolton, 5/26/04, The Hill)

Richard Clarke, who served as President Bush’s chief of counterterrorism, has claimed sole responsibility for approving flights of Saudi Arabian citizens, including members of Osama bin Laden’s family, from the United States immediately after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

In an interview with The Hill yesterday, Clarke said, “I take responsibility for it. I don’t think it was a mistake, and I’d do it again.”

Most of the 26 passengers aboard one flight, which departed from the United States on Sept. 20, 2001, were relatives of Osama bin Laden, whom intelligence officials blamed for the attacks almost immediately after they happened.

Clarke’s claim of responsibility is likely to put an end to a brewing political controversy on Capitol Hill over who approved the controversial flights of members of the Saudi elite at a time when the administration was preparing to detain dozens of Muslim-Americans and people with Muslim backgrounds as material witnesses to the attacks.

Several Democrats say that at a closed-door meeting May 6, they pressed members of the commission investigating the attacks of Sept. 11 to find out who approved the flights.

Mr. Clarke's stay as a media-darling was predictably short-lived, but any legs it had left will be cut out from under by this revelation. The Left has erected entire book and movie industries around the notion that this happened because the Saudis own the Bush family or some such nonsense.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:33 PM


Putin: Russia's 'Mr. Stability': In state-of-the-nation speech, Russian president pledged to stay the course with modest reforms. (Scott Peterson, 5/27/04, CS Monitor)

Tax reform. Better healthcare and education. And a promise from Russian President Vladimir Putin that, after a decade of post-Soviet chaos and four years of his benevolent rule, Russia has now crossed a threshold to a stability that will double the economy and incomes by 2010.

With little emotion, Mr. Putin Wednesday used his first state-of-the-nation speech since a March landslide reelection victory to announce new long-term aims. But among Putin's modest pledges for affordable housing and new oil pipelines, analysts expressed concern about what Putin did not say.

"I did not hear anything significant about political reforms, the media, regional problems, or building a professional army - as if everything was OK in those fields," says Maxim Glikin, political editor of Moscow's Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily newspaper. "The message is: I'm victorious, and everything is under my control."

Widely popular among Russians tired of the uncertainties of the 1990s, Putin is beginning his second term on the wave of a 7.3 percent economic growth last year, and backed by a pro-Kremlin parliament elected last December.

What's the hurry? They tried rapid reform and it was a mess.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:28 PM

PSYCHOBABBLER (via Uncle Neil)

Remarks by Al Gore (May 26, 2004)

One of the clearest indications of the impending loss of intimacy with one's soul is the failure to recognize the existence of a soul in those over whom power is exercised, especially if the helpless come to be treated as animals, and degraded. We also know - and not just from De Sade and Freud - the psychological proximity between sexual depravity and other people's pain. It has been especially shocking and awful to see these paired evils perpetrated so crudely and cruelly in the name of America.

The scary thing is, just reading that you can tell he's writing his own stuff. At least John Kerry and Howard Dean get to blame their speechwriters.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:03 PM


Doctorow Booed After Anti-Bush Speech (Associated Press, May 26, 2004)

Author E.L. Doctorow, who penned "Ragtime" and "City of God," was stunned when his commencement address at Hofstra University was booed by some students angry at his criticism of President Bush.

"I thought we were all supposed to speak out," he told The Washington Post in Tuesday's editions. "Isn't that what this country is about?"

In a 20-minute address to graduates at the Long Island school on Sunday, the novelist criticized Bush's tax cuts, anti-terrorism policies and the Patriot Act, but focused mainly on what he called Bush's "untrue" stories about the war in Iraq.

"One story he told was that the country of Iraq had nuclear and biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction and was intending shortly to use them on us ... but it was not true," Doctorow said.

"Another story was that the Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, was in league with the terrorists of al-Qaida, and that turned out not to be true. But anyway we went off to war on the basis of those stories."

That led to a torrent of boos and catcalls that forced Doctorow to stop talking.

Just because the Left thinks Iraq is Vietnam doesn't mean the rest of us are stuck in the 60s.

Doctorow's Malpractice: Hofstra students use boos responsibly. (PEGGY NOONAN, May 25, 2004, Wall Street Journal)
Newsday said many parents and relatives of the more than 1,300 undergraduates were "livid" over the address. Frank Mallafre, who had traveled from Miami for his granddaughter's graduation, said, "If this would have happened in Florida, we would have taken him out" of the stadium. Bill Schmidt, 51, of North Bellmore, N.Y., shared the outrage. "To ruin my daughter's graduation with politics is pathetic," the retired New York police captain told the paper.

On Sunday night a Hofstra official said that while Mr. Doctorow had the right to his views, he violated the unwritten code that college commencement speeches should inspire and unite a student body. But a Hofstra faculty member came to the fore, defending Mr. Doctorow. "I thought this was a totally appropriate place to talk about politics because that's the world our students are entering," sociology professor Cynthia Bogard told Newsday. "I only wish their parents had provided them a better role model."

Wow. Think of what a role model Prof. Bogard is. What a fool. What a snob.

I want to explain to Ed Doctorow why he was booed. It was not, as he no doubt creamily recounted in a storytelling session over drinks that night in Sag Harbor, that those barbarians in Long Island's lesser ZIP codes don't want to hear the truth. It is not that they oppose free speech. It is not that the poor boobs of Long Island have an unaccountable affection for George W. Bush.

It is that they have class.

The poor stupid people of Long Island are courteous, and have respect for the views and feelings of others, and would not dream of imposing their particular views on a captive audience that has gathered to celebrate--to be happy about, to officially mark with their presence--the rather remarkable fact that one of their family studied and worked for four years, completed his courses, met all demands, and became a graduate of an American university.

This indeed is something to be proud of.
The Heckler Heckled (George Neumayr, 5/26/2004, American Spectator)

When E.L. Doctorow urged graduates at Hofstra University to question authority, he didn't expect them to question his. The fiction writer accused George Bush of launching a fictitious war in Iraq and was heckled into silence. In a moment the liberal elite must regard as an alarming illustration of the Red-Blue divisions of America now even bleeding into academia, students and parents booed Doctorow while the liberal faculty stood to cheer at the end of his speech. Booing a speaker into silence wasn't the vigorous free speech and activism Doctorow had in mind when he extolled agitation earlier in his speech. How dare the mob turn on its visionaries. Notice the suggestion (in the Newsday story about Doctorow's speech) that peasants were responsible for the heckling -- the booing "came mainly from the crowd in the stands." This is reminiscent of self-appointed populist Michael Moore blaming boos at the Oscars two years ago on lowly stage hands and hooligans in the cheap seats.

The distinction between civility and incivility in the liberal mind is very fine indeed: If a liberal commencement speaker calls the president of the United States a liar, that's civility; if the crowd boos the speaker calling their president a liar, that's incivility.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:45 PM


Kerry decides to have conventional convention (Ron Fournier, 5/26/2004, Associated Press)

Bowing to pressure, John Kerry decided Wednesday to accept the nomination at the Democratic presidential convention in July, scuttling a plan to delay the formality so he could narrow President Bush's public money advantage.

Forget the vp slot, John Edwards should take the class action law suit for the whiplash Mr. Kerry is causing the nation. Dude turns around faster than the Tasmanian Devil.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:30 PM


Al-Sadr Offers to Remove Militia From Najaf (Fox News, May 26, 2004)

[I]raq's national security adviser said al-Sadr had offered to remove his fighters from Najaf — except for those who live there.

Dang! The uninformed had such high hopes for his "rebellion".

Posted by David Cohen at 7:13 PM


Kerry to Accept Nomination at Convention (Ron Fournier, AP, 5/26/04)

Bowing to pressure, John Kerry decided Wednesday to accept the nomination at the Democratic presidential convention in July, scuttling a plan to delay the formality so he could narrow President Bush's public money advantage.

"Boston is the place where America's freedom began, and it's where I want the journey to the Democratic nomination to be completed," Kerry said in a statement released by his campaign. "On Thursday, July 29, with great pride, I will accept my party's nomination for president in the city of Boston. From there we will begin our journey to a new America."

Now he's going out of his way to invent issues to flip-flop on.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:34 PM


Kerry inches up as Bush approval drops (Quinnipiac University, May 26, 2004)

By a 50 – 39 percent margin, voters would rather have a backyard barbecue with Bush

That number seems about where the electorate is today on a decision about who you want on your tv screen every night for the next four years.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:30 PM


Gore calls for Rice, Rumsfeld, Tenet to resign (MSNBC, 5/26/04)

Al Gore issued a fiery denunciation Wednesday of Bush administration policy in Iraq and demanded the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, CIA director George Tenet and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.

Raising his voice to a yell in a speech at New York University, Gore said: “How dare they subject us to such dishonor and disgrace! How dare they drag the good name of the United States of America through the mud of Saddam Hussein’s torture prison!”

Trying to capture some of that Howard Dean magic by appearing psychotic?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:27 PM


Gay vows in S.F. appear doomed: JUSTICES CAST DOUBT OVER LEGALITY OF 4,000 WEDDINGS (Howard Mintz, May 26, 2004, San Jose Mercury News)

San Francisco's bold decision to issue marriage licenses to thousands of gay couples in February and March appears doomed to fail in the California Supreme Court.

In two hours of rapid-fire arguments, the majority of Supreme Court justices on Tuesday sent strong signals that San Francisco had no legal authority to defy California law and wed more than 4,000 same-sex couples.

And while the justices made clear they won't decide the constitutionality of California's ban on gay marriage for now, their questions left little doubt that same-sex weddings will not resume any time soon in San Francisco or other cities across the state.

It's not like there's any harm in rescinding the licenses--what are they going to say, that without them they'll have been living in sin?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:22 PM


U.S. war policy 'grave error': Ex-Rumsfeld aide admits occupation of Iraq a failure (SANDRO CONTENTA, May 26, 2004, Toronto Star)

Richard Perle, until recently a powerful adviser to U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, described U.S. policy in post-war Iraq as a failure.

"I would be the first to acknowledge we allowed the liberation (of Iraq) to subside into an occupation. And I think that was a grave error, and in some ways a continuing error," said Perle, former chair of the influential Defence Policy Board, which advises the Pentagon.

With violent resistance to the U.S.-led occupation showing no signs of ending, Perle said the biggest mistake in post-war policy "was the failure to turn Iraq back to the Iraqis more or less immediately.

"We didn't have to find ourselves in the role of occupier. We could have made the transition that is going to be made at the end of June more or less immediately," he told BBC radio, referring to the U.S. and British plan to transfer political authority in Iraq to an interim government on June 30.

He doesn't say the policy is a failure but that the failure to return sovereignty to the Iraqis quicker was an error. About that he's certainly correct, but it's hardly fatal and an experienced bureaucrat can hardly be surprised by the government moving too slowly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:58 PM


Inside Syria's Gulag (Nir Boms, May 26, 2004,

[T]he story of Aktham Na’eesah—a lawyer, activist, and the recent laureate of the prestigious “Ludovic Trarieux” award for his distinct human rights work—provides a glimpse into the Syria’s “democratic” reality.

Two weeks ago, Na’eesah nearly died as a result of a stroke suffered inside the unforgiving walls of the Sadniah prison in Damascus, a facility notorious for the brutal “rehabilitation” programs it offers its political prisoners.

Luckily, though, Syrian guards summoned a doctor, who was able to save Na’eesah’s life—at least for the moment.

A longtime critic of Syria’s totalitarian Ba’athist regime, Na’eesah was first imprisoned in 1982 for his written calls for the protection and respect of human rights in Syria. In 1989, after years of harassment by Syria’s security apparatus, he and a group of fellow Syrian pro-democracy activists created the Committee for the Defense of Freedom and Human Rights (CDF).

In 1991, Na’eesah was arrested yet again for taking part in activities intended to regain the independence of the Syrian Bar Association. For his actions, he was convicted and sentenced to nine years in prison.

Following his release in 1998, Na’eesah and other CDF members continued their activism despite being subjected by Syrian authorities to routine surveillance, phone tapping, confiscation of mail and the harassment of their families.

That is, until April 13, when Na’eesah was arrested and thrown into Sadniah prison, accused of “spreading false information and establishing a secret organization with an international influence.”

Shortly before his arrest, Na’eesah had presented a petition to the government signed by 7,000 Syrian intellectuals seeking the abolition of Syria’s emergency laws, which have been in place since the Ba’ath party came to power in 1963.

He also issued a report that accused Syrian authorities of illegally arresting more than 1,000 Kurds and called for an end to the state's “terrorist and illegal practices” against the Kurdish minority in Syria (last month, close to a 100 Kurds were killed and more than 500 wounded in anti-government riots and around the Syrian city of Quamoshli).

Pssst...Assad has the yellowcake...pass it on...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:14 PM



Seven Iraqi men whose right hands were chopped off on Saddam Hussein's orders at Abu Ghraib prison yesterday went to see President Bush - to thank America for freeing their country and getting them prosthetic limbs.

"You have to thank everybody who participated in the decision-making of going to war against Saddam, because without this, nobody can live in peace ever in the United States, Iraq or in Europe," said Basim Al Fadhly, 43.

All seven had their right hands amputated by a doctor at Abu Ghraib on Saddam's orders, on charges of foreign currency trafficking - and each had an "X" tattooed in the middle of his forehead to mark him as a criminal. [...]

The men spoke at a press conference several hours after going to the Oval Office, where Bush said, "I'm honored to shake the hand of a brave Iraqi citizen who had his hand cut off by Saddam Hussein. They are examples of the brutality of the tyrant."

But the men - who today plan to thank some of the U.S. troops who helped free Iraq - also spoke with surprising optimism and lack of bitterness about the future, talking about the need for forgiveness, as well as punishment, so Iraq can build anew.

Why surprising? Only the Western Left and far Right are not optimistic about Iraq's future.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:47 AM


Daley says Kerry went too far with joke about president's fall (Chicago Sun-Times, May 26, 2004)

Mayor Daley scolded Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry Tuesday for making a wisecrack about the bicycle accident that scraped the face, hands and knees of President Bush.

According to the Drudge Report, Kerry was having a conversation with reporters that he apparently believed was off the record when he reportedly asked, "Did the training wheels fall off?"

Daley, who ripped the skin off his kneecap during a bicycle accident a few years ago, said the joke was disrespectful. "When someone falls . . . you should not wish ill upon anyone. It's not right. . . . You just don't do that. Let's have some respect for one another."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:43 AM


The Washington Post`s New Leftist: Harold Meyerson`s qualifications: a fringe leftwing journalist for the L.A. Weekly, an ideologue at The American Prospect, an unreconstructed socialist. His job: regular columnist for the Washington Post. (Shawn Macomber, 5/26/04, FrontPage)

Meyerson also has an activist career as Vice-Chair of the Democratic Socialists of America, and refers to George W. Bush “The Most Dangerous President Ever,” frequently describes America as “belligerent” and “xenophobic,” and openly yearns for a European superstate to “prevail” in blocking American interests and power. “We need Europe to save us from ourselves,” Meyerson recently wrote.

The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), by its own admission, is “the largest socialist organization in the United States, and the principal U.S. affiliate of the Socialist International.” Meyerson is so well respected by the DSA that he was the honored guest at their annual 1995 dinner and is a featured speaker at the Socialist Scholars Conference, an event which annually gathers intellectuals of the hard left including indicted terrorist, Lynne Stewart. [...]

As the war on terror moved on, he was soon was begging Europe to rescue humanity from the Great Satan. “Americans must hope that, in this era of global integration, we are not at the brink of the American century. If anything, the Europeans should take some time out from perfecting Europe to project their values more forcefully on the wider world.” Clearly Europe is political home for Meyerson. “At the outset of the 21st century, the battle between Europe and America for the power to shape the century, and on behalf of different models of social organization, is already joined,” Meyerson lectures. “And may I gently suggest that the best possible outcome for the American democratic republic – for the America of Jefferson, Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt – would be an American (or more precisely, Bushian) defeat.”

We've not been following his hijinx lately, but for awhile there took great amusement as Mr. Meyerson repeatedly compared President Bush and the Republicans to the Confederates.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:13 AM


U.S. troops capture key lieutenant of radical cleric (ROBERT H. REID, May 26, 2004, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

U.S. troops captured a key lieutenant of radical Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr during overnight clashes in Najaf that killed 24 people and wounded nearly 50, hospital and militia officials said.

Riyadh al-Nouri, al-Sadr's brother-in-law, offered no resistance when American troops raided his home during a series of clashes in this Shiite holy city, according to Azhar al-Kinani, a staffer in al-Sadr's office in Najaf.

The capture of al-Nouri would be a major blow to al-Sadr's al-Mahdi Army, which has been battling coalition forces since early April. Al-Sadr launched his uprising in response to a crackdown by coalition authorities who announced an arrest warrant against him in the April 2003 assassination of a moderate cleric in Najaf.

In Baghdad, diplomatic sources confirmed reports published Wednesday that Dr. Hussain al-Shahristani, a science adviser to the Iraqi government who spent years in Abu Ghraib prison, was among several people under consideration for the job of prime minister of an interim government to take power June 30. The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, emphasized that no decision had been made and other candidates were under consideration.

Before the Iraq war, al-Shahristani was among the Iraqi exiles who had insisted that Saddam maintained weapons of mass destruction. In February 2003, he told CBS' "60 Minutes" that such weapons may have been hidden in tunnels for a Baghdad subway that never opened.

The news just keeps getting better...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:54 AM


Melvin J. Lasky, Cultural Cold Warrior, Dies at 84 (RICHARD BERNSTEIN, May 22, 2004, NY Times)

Melvin J. Lasky, the editor of two major intellectual journals and a man at the vortex of the debates and controversies thrown up by the cold war, died Wednesday at his home in Berlin. He was 84. [...]

Probably no person was more associated than Mr. Lasky with the term cultural cold warrior. In a career that spanned several decades, during which he lived in London, Paris and Berlin, he edited the monthly magazine Encounter, which was not only one of Europe's leading literary and political journals but also a major force in articulating the point of view best summed up by the phrase liberal anti-Communism. [...]

Mr. Lasky was seen as a hero by his friends and intellectual allies for his fierce and uncompromising opposition to totalitarianism. In what was a kind of personal credo, he once wrote about the intellectual's responsibility to mount an unwavering defense of individual rights, or else, as he put it, "manuscripts will be banned, books will be burned, and writers and readers will once again be sitting in concentration camps for having thought dangerous ideas or uttered forbidden words."

He was himself uncompromising in his disdain for anyone who, in his view, had muddled, morally confused thoughts about the irredeemable viciousness of Soviet totalitarianism, or who committed, in his eyes, the incomprehensible error of seeing the flaws of the democratic West as somehow comparable to those of the Communist East. [...]

In 1966, The New York Times disclosed that the magazine had been secretly financed by the C.I.A., which channeled funds through an organization called the Congress for Cultural Freedom, which Mr. Lasky had helped to create to wage the intellectual battle against Communism. [...]

Melvin Jonah Lasky was born in New York on Jan. 15, 1920. He went to the City College of New York, a hotbed of left-wing "isms," where among his classmates were the men later to be known in New York intellectual life as "the two Irvings," Irving Howe and Irving Kristol.

During World War II, Mr. Lasky served as a combat historian in France and Germany, and no sooner had the war ended, than he showed what became his feisty and prickly approach to political controversy, taking part in a literary debate organized as a propaganda exercise in the Soviet occupied part of Berlin.

While most participants duly lambasted the "imperialistic" United States, Mr. Lasky, who with his goatee looked a bit like Lenin, compared the Communist system to Nazism.

-OBIT: Obituary: Melvin J. Lasky, Editor of Encounter (The Daily Telegraph, May 21, 2004)
-OBIT: Obituary: Melvin Lasky: Cold warrior who edited the CIA-funded Encounter magazine (Andrew Roth, May 22, 2004, The Guardian)
-OBIT: Melvin J. Lasky: Cold Warrior editor of the controversially funded 'Encounter' (Albert H. Friedlander , 21 May 2004, Independent uk)
-ESSAY: Babel: The return of the J-word in Germany and whether "Hey Jude" is anti-Semitic (Melvin J Lasky, April 1997, Prospect)
-Arguing the World: The New York Intellectuals (
-PROFILE: A Brief Encounter: Melvin Lasky is a legend. Better yet, he dislikes Maureen Dowd. (TUNKU VARADARAJAN, April 6, 2001, Wall Street Journal)
-REVIEW ESSAY: The CIA and the Cultural Cold War Revisited (James Petras, November 1999, Monthly Review)
-REVIEW: of The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters
by Frances Stonor Saunders
(MICHAEL P. ROGIN, The Nation)
-ESSAY: A Cause In Need of A Lasky (Anne Applebaum, June 9, 2004, Washington Post)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:09 AM


McGovern: Kerry Shouldn't Delay Nomination (LOLITA C. BALDOR, 5/25/04, AP)

Democrat George McGovern, who ran for president in 1972, warned Tuesday that John Kerry should not delay the party's nomination schedule out of concern over money.

The liberal South Dakotan told The Associated Press that Kerry's proposal to delay accepting the Democratic nomination would show that "money is king and everything else takes a back seat." And while McGovern said he wished he'd had more funds in his unsuccessful campaign against Republican Richard Nixon, he said money isn't everything. [...]

"It's the worst idea I've heard on timing since I gave my (acceptance) address at 2 a.m. in the morning," said McGovern, whose middle-of-the night speech accepting the Democratic nomination missed most television viewers. "I don't believe in monkeying around with things like that."

Bad enough that Mr. Kerry has become a figure of open ridicule by the Bush campaign, but how can you run a campaign so inept that even George McGovern is making fun of you?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:05 AM


Prodi: 'radical change' needed for EU to catch US (Richard Carter, 25.05.2004, EUOBSERVER)

Commission President Romano Prodi on Tuesday (25 May) called for a "radical change" in EU economic policy if it is to succeed in its ambitious goal to overhaul the US and become the "most competitive economy in the world by 2010" - its so-called Lisbon strategy.

Speaking at a meeting of the European Economic and Social Committee, Mr Prodi said that the process is undergoing "great difficulties" and declared, "if we want the Lisbon strategy to be a success, we need to radically change European economic policy".

Echoing his sentiments, competition commissioner Mario Monti asked, "how can we seriously try to become the most competitive economy in the world if we do not put our money where our mouths are"?

You can't--the very notion of a viable and competitive Europe is risible.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:47 AM


Candidates' Iraq Policies Share Many Similarities: When it comes to Iraq, it is getting harder every day to distinguish between President Bush's prescription and that of Senator John Kerry. (ADAM NAGOURNEY and RICHARD W. STEVENSON, 5/26/04, NY times)

They both support the June 30 deadline for the beginning of the transition to civilian power. They both say they would support an increase in United States troop strength, if necessary. Neither has supported a deadline for removing United States troops.

Mr. Bush's gradual shift away from what many Democrats have long denounced as a go-it-alone stance is an adjustment to the surge in violence in Iraq, as well as the deterioration of domestic support for the occupation in the wake of the prison abuse scandal.

But there also is clearly a political component at play here, as the White House seeks, while managing its own problems, to create a predicament for Mr. Bush's Democratic opponent. Mr. Kerry this week is beginning a series of speeches in which he will lay out some of his most detailed foreign policy pronouncements.

The fact that Mr. Bush has moved close to Mr. Kerry on some of these questions makes it much more difficult for Mr. Kerry to take advantage of what Democrats and Republicans view as the biggest political crisis of Mr. Bush's presidency, by emphasizing differences between them. Mr. Kerry is left to argue that while both men have similar ideas about what to do, he has more credibility to do it, given the breakdown in relations between Mr. Bush and many world leaders over Iraq.

Mr. Kerry has negotiated the shifting sands of Iraq for more than a year now. Some Democrats said that their candidate would just as soon stand back and not engage Mr. Bush on the war, allowing the president to struggle with setbacks, while avoiding making himself a target should Mr. Bush attempt to suggest that he is not supporting the troops.

But as Mr. Kerry is well aware, there is a growing antiwar segment of the American electorate. And there is likely to be an antiwar candidate on the ballot, in the person of Ralph Nader, the independent candidate who has called for an withdrawal of American forces.

In another sign of the complication Mr. Kerry faces, Al Gore, one of the party's severest critics of the war, is to deliver a speech in New York on Wednesday that is expected to call for the dismissal of top administration officials and assert that Americans have been put at risk at home and abroad by Mr. Bush's foreign policy.

"He's caught between what would be politically advantageous, declaring a timetable for getting out, and what he knows is the reality on the ground, which is that we need more troops," said one adviser who Mr. Kerry relies on heavily.

He won't do as well as Ross Perot--because he's a candidate of the disgruntled Left, not Right--but there's every reason to believe that Mr. Nader could do as well as the last similar third party candidate, John Anderson, who polled 6% in 1980. That would put Mr. Kerry perilously close to 40% and create the environment for a truly transformative election.

The Bush and Kerry Tilt: On one issue, John Kerry is no alternative to George Bush:
Both of them embrace Ariel Sharon. (NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF, 5/26/04, NY Times)

As for Mr. Kerry, he has generally been sensible on the Middle East. But in recent months he has zigged and zagged away from his record (he used to oppose the Middle East fence, for example) to plant his own wet kisses on Mr. Sharon. It's too bad he doesn't have the leadership to acknowledge what 50 former U.S. diplomats wrote in an open letter to President Bush last month:

"You have proved that the United States is not an evenhanded peace partner. . . . Your unqualified support of Sharon's extrajudicial assassinations, Israel's Berlin Wall-like barrier, its harsh military measures in occupied territories, and now your endorsement of Sharon's unilateral plan are costing our country its credibility, prestige and friends. This endorsement is not even in the best interests of Israel."

The Bush-Kerry Nondebate: In contrast to the heated arguing about Iraq in the media,
George Bush and John Kerry seem to see eye to eye on it. (WILLIAM SAFIRE, 5/26/04, NY Times)
Four weeks ago, at Westminster College in Fulton, Mo.,, Kerry laid out three basic options: (1) "continue to do this largely by ourselves" (would never work); (2) "pull out and hope against hope that the worst won't happen" (worst would happen); or (3) "get the Iraqi people and the world's major powers invested with us in building Iraq's future" (that's it!).

In his address the other night, President Bush agreed with Kerry's unassailable Option 3 by recounting his own five-step plan:

(1) Turn over sovereignty as promised in a month, the date O.K.'d by Kerry; (2) help establish security (like Kerry, Bush is ready to send over more troops if our generals ask, and they'd better not ask); (3) "rebuilding that nation's infrastructure," echoing Kerry's call for "tangible benefits of reconstruction in the form of jobs, infrastructure and services"; (4) "Next month at the NATO summit in Istanbul," Bush promised to "discuss NATO's role in helping Iraq build and secure its democracy." As Kerry said last month: "He must also convince NATO as an organization that Iraq should be a NATO mission."

Only on the fifth step can we find daylight between the two men's positions. The neomultilateral Bush boasted that "a United Nations team headed by Karina Pirelli is now in Iraq helping form an independent election commission that will oversee an orderly, accurate national election."

But Kerry prefers a "high commissioner . . . charged with overseeing elections . . . highly regarded by the international community." Sorry, Pirelli; step aside, Brahimi; we need a celebrated heavy hitter like Nelson Mandela or Jimmy Carter to order those so-called sovereign Iraqis around. (Who'd a-thunk it: Bush caving in to the U.N., while Kerry gives Kofi Annan's envoys the back of his hand.)

Aside from this minor divergence of views — which could be rectified the moment Bob Shrum reads this — the speeches of the two candidates show that they see eye to eye not only about staying the course, but about what course to pursue. "If the president will take the needed steps to share the burden," said Kerry, ". . . then I will support him on this issue." And the Bush five-step plan takes those steps.

The Bush campaign yesterday launched a new TV attack ad blasting John Kerry for voting for the anti-terror Patriot Act and then speaking out against it.

"John Kerry? He voted for the Patriot Act, but pressured by fellow liberals, he's changed his position," the narrator of the ad says.

"While wiretaps, subpoena powers and surveillances are routinely used against drug dealers and organized crime, Kerry would now repeal the Patriot Act's use of these tools against terrorists."

"John Kerry: playing politics with national security," the commercial concludes. [...]

The Kerry campaign called the ad "completely false," saying Kerry himself used wiretaps when he was a prosecutor in the Boston.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 AM


Building the Countermovement (Laurie Spivak, May 25, 2004 , AlterNet)

In order to stem the conservative tide and to win the hearts and minds of Americans, progressives need to go on the offensive and develop a commonsense countermovement with a quick ramp-up, long-term resolve, and sufficient resources reaching far beyond the 2004 election.

To accomplish this goal, progressives should look to the architecture of the conservative movement, which according to the founder of the Heritage Foundation, Paul Weyrich, was built on "the four M's: mission, money, management and marketing." While each of these factors has played a critical role in the ascendancy of the conservative movement, perhaps the most important is marketing.

To understand the role of marketing, think of policies as the products in "a marketplace of ideas" and public opinion polls as indicators of consumer preference. Polls consistently show that the majority of Americans are more closely aligned with the Democratic Party on the issues than they are with the Republican Party. Yet today twice as many Americans identify themselves as conservatives than as progressives. [...]

A progressive movement should be built on the four M's, plus one more M, mobilization. Progressives need to think strategically and long-term, like conservatives, while drawing upon their unique, competitive advantages and untapped resources.

In terms of competitive advantages, Americans not only prefer the positions and policies of the Democratic Party, but according to Ruy Texeira and John Judis, coming demographic shifts will also favor Democrats. [...]

The ultimate counter to the conservative movement is a progressive movement. Why progressive and not liberal? The word "progressive" frames the conservative movement for what it truly is: a regressive, backward movement. As its antithesis, it contrasts conservatives, who are stuck in the past and seek to resist change, with innovative, forward-looking progressives.

Consider the implications of the progressive frame on the war on terror. Conservatives missed the 9-11 threat because they were "preserved in amber," as Richard Clark put it, obsessed with Cold War thinking. The terrorist threat that America faces post-9-11 requires a modern foreign policy paradigm. The solution to a network of global terrorists that reaches across international borders lies in transnational networks and cooperation, not in regional Cold War models, alienating allies, and inflaming antagonisms.

Similarly, the progressive frame exposes conservative domestic policies for what they truly are: a rollback of the gains and progress that America has made over the past century.

In looking at the voting records of members of Congress since the 1790s, sociologist G. William Domhoff found that by and large, conservatives have generally opposed all of the progressive changes in American history, such as voter rights, worker protections and civil rights. These significant progressive achievements, gains in equality, and an expansion of the basic rights that most of us consider central to American values, are today taken for granted by the right and the left alike. It is these very strides that today's conservatives seek to undo. [...]

Progressives share a common set of values. According to cognitive linguist George Lakoff, these values center on our children's future: their health, their prosperity, their education, and the environment, as well as the global situation that they inherit. From the pilgrims on the Mayflower to our newest waves of immigrants, for more than 300 years, people have come to America to give their children a chance at a better life.

Securing that future through forward-looking policies, bold vision and political reform is the mission that unites progressives. To this end, progressive issues include everything from quality public education, to global warming, to a healthy and poison-free environment, to energy independence, to healthcare and wellbeing, to economic opportunities, to safety and security, to federal deficits.

It's always easier to blame the messenger than to look realistically at your message, but here are just some of the things that Ms Spivak seems to think are popular with the American people:

(1) The UN and other transnational institutions (except, presumably, for the WTO and NATO).

(2) The Kyoto Treaty--which failed 95-0 in a sense of the Senate resolution.

(3) Affirmative Action

(4) Gay rights

(5) Abortion--though that's deuced hard to reconcile with "our children's future."

(6) Immigration

(7) Taxes

Of course, the most successful Democratic leader of the second half of the 20th Century (the only one to be elected president twice since FDR) ran against all of those things.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:18 AM


Tracing a Civilian's Odd Path to His Gruesome Fate in Iraq (JAMES DAO, 5/26/04, NY Times)

[T]he many unexplained details of Mr. Berg's final days, combined with the uncommon details of his unconventional life, have also prompted furious speculation on the Internet and talk radio about Mr. Berg himself. Some have argued that he was a spy for Israel or the C.I.A., or that the video of his murder was staged by pro-American forces to arouse anger toward Iraqi insurgents. Some have asserted that he had ties to the very Qaeda militants who are believed to be responsible for his death.

He was, after all, traveling alone, without a translator or a bodyguard, in a lawless land whose language he barely understood. He carried books about Iran and kept a detailed inventory of Iraqi communications towers. He was shown in the beheading video wearing orange clothing, which, to some, looked like the jumpsuits worn by prisoners held by the American military.

Adding to the mystery, both the Iraqi police and the American military deny responsibility for Mr. Berg's detention. The Iraqi police contend they promptly turned Mr. Berg over to the American military, an assertion Mr. Berg later confirmed in e-mail home. But American officials assert he remained in the custody of Iraqi police for the entire 13 days.

American law enforcement and intelligence officials have strenuously rejected the conspiracy theories. Mr. Berg was detained because his activities seemed suspicious, and once those suspicions were dispelled, he was released, they said. They are convinced, they said, that Mr. Berg was just a freelancing businessman with a high tolerance for risk, whose naïveté and idealism blinded him to Iraq's treacherous corners.

"He was in the wrong place at the wrong time," an F.B.I. official said.

To Mr. Berg's friends and family, there was nothing odd or mysterious about his wanderings in Iraq. He was just being Nick: a bright, fearless, iconoclastic man who saw himself as a modern-day Prometheus, bringing progress to a downtrodden nation. And like Prometheus, his friends say, he was punished for his good deeds.

"I'm sure that throughout the entire ordeal, he felt no fear," a close friend, Luke Lorenz, said of Mr. Berg's final hours. "I doubt that he thought they would hurt him. He really believed in the goodness of people. That if they took the time, they'd like him."

"When I see him sitting there in the video, it doesn't seem any different than when I'd see him anywhere else," Mr. Lorenz, 28, said. "Taking it all in." [...]

In Oklahoma, Mr. Berg's e-mail password was obtained by an associate of Zacarias Moussaoui. Mr. Moussaoui, who is awaiting trial on charges of assisting the Sept. 11 plot, attended flight school in Norman in 2001, but it is not clear that he ever met Mr. Berg.

F.B.I. agents interviewed Mr. Berg in 2002 and came away convinced that he had either shared the password with someone who passed it on to Mr. Moussaoui or that the password had been stolen from him. The F.B.I. cleared Mr. Berg of having links to terrorist groups, officials said.

Nice to see crack FBI work...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM


Founders' Quote Daily (The Federalist Patriot, 5/26/04)

It is a wise rule and should be fundamental in a government disposed to cherish its credit, and at the same time to restrain the use of it within the limits of its faculties, 'never to borrow a dollar without laying a tax in the same instant for paying the interest annually, and the principal within a given term; and to consider that tax as pledged to the creditors on the public faith.'
-Thomas Jefferson

Thank goodness for Alexander Hamilton.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:04 AM


In Libya, chance for new start (Charles A. Radin, May 26, 2004, Boston Globe)

A quarter-century of being identified as a leading enemy of the United States and listed as a state sponsor of terrorism, combined with economic policies based on Khadafy's personal leadership and philosophy, have stagnated the economy despite the country's substantial oil revenues.

Many government buildings and community centers are shabby, in need of plaster and paint. Public works and public services have deteriorated. Roadsides and forests near cities are full of trash; highway maintenance is spotty. Large, government-owned hotels and other public facilities are strongly evocative of China and the Soviet Union before the demise of socialism in those countries.

US-based oil companies, which have major interests in Libya, have not operated here since 1986, when President Ronald Reagan -- who also launched US airstikes against the country and broke diplomatic relations in response to alleged Libyan involvement in terrorism -- ordered the companies out and stopped all energy-related Libyan trade with the United States.

When suspicions arose that Libyan officials were linked to the Lockerbie bombing, most other developed nations joined the US sanctions regime, and the Libyan economy nosedived. Without tourists or business travelers, internal air routes withered in the Alaska-sized country, most of whose 5.5 million people live near the coast. Ferries to Morocco, Turkey, Egypt, and Malta also came to a halt.

The lifting of sanctions by other countries in 1999, when Libya acknowledged responsibility for the airliner bombing and surrendered two suspects for trial, did not do enough to modernize the oil industry and reinvigorate the economy. There are stiil very few foreigners on the streets of Tripoli and in major tourist destinations.

Posted Green Book slogans say things like "there is no freedom for the people when food comes from overseas," but a huge selection of food products, such as yogurt, cheese, pistachio nuts, and breakfast cereals, are imported. Neither the material failings nor the limitations on political speech have engendered the tough political opposition that has arisen in defiance of repression in other Arab countries, such as Syria and Tunisia. A middle-aged history teacher explained with a Libyan saying: "A satisfied stomach has no ears."

Khadafy may not have succeeded in keeping up with modernity or developing the economy, but he apparently did not engage in the gross corruption of many other Arab regimes, and he used Libya's oil resources to subsidize the population's basic needs.

"Oil was everything," said a professional tour guide, with a hint of resentment. "That's why tourism is only just beginning. Quite frankly, until now we did not need it."

A textbook illustration of the way oil retards both political and economic development.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:47 AM


In fits and starts, free press rises: Journalist Sirikit Syah set up Indonesia's first media-watch organization. By Susan llewelyn Leach, 5/26/04, CS Monitor)

In the five years since, [journalist Sirikit] Syah has watched the freewheeling Indonesian press and broadcast media run through some wild swings before settling down to relearn its trade. It was "chaotic," she says. "It was like another extreme" - the media thought they could write anything, broadcast anything. After decades of repression, Indonesia's newspapers and magazines often published stories that were provocative, misleading, and biased, she says. But her media-watch organization also realized that the press wasn't just putting out misinformation; it was inflaming conflicts around the country. In response, LKM Media Consumers Board stepped in and starting running workshops on "peace journalism" and conferring awards for good reporting.

In the past two years, Indonesia's media have largely found their equilibrium, she says. They recognize that being free means being responsible and accurate.

The biggest challenge now is educating the audience, she says. In the past, if an individual or organization wasn't happy with a news story, the media outlet would learn about it when its computers were vandalized or its journalists attacked. Now disapproval comes in a slew of lawsuits, many unjustified. Everyone is suing, Syah says - conglomerates, politicians, celebrities - and the amount of money awarded is threatening the existence of some publications. She calls it a "war" between the press and the public.

But it's a healthier war than that under General Suharto. Syah remembers, as a journalist, getting calls from the military about a clash between religious or ethnic groups and being told not to report on it. "They were very direct, very clear about what could not be published. We just followed to survive."

Despite major strides, the Indonesian media still have "noticeable problems," according to Reporters Without Borders, an international organization that lobbies for press freedom.

Surely this kind of liberalization be happening in a Muslim country--we all know how they hate Western freedoms...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:32 AM


U.N. Closes In on Choice To Lead Iraq: U.S. Differs With France, Britain on Power Sharing (Robin Wright and Rajiv Chandrasekaran, May 26, 2004, Washington Post)

The United Nations is closing in on a slate for the new Iraqi government, with a Shiite nuclear scientist who spent years in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison emerging as the leading candidate for prime minister, according to Iraqi and U.S. officials.

U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and Robert D. Blackwill, the U.S. presidential envoy to Iraq, are still working out the "complicated geometry" of dividing power among Iraq's disparate ethnic and religious factions, a senior administration official in Baghdad said yesterday. But Brahimi has met several times this month with Hussain Shahristani, who said in an interview yesterday that if asked, he would reluctantly accept the post of prime minister in Iraq's first post-Saddam Hussein government.

"If they consider my participation essential, I'll try to convince them otherwise," said Shahristani, who was educated in London and Toronto. "But if they're not convinced and they ask me to take a role . . . I cannot refuse. I must serve my people." [...]

The interest by U.N. and U.S. envoys in the 62-year-old nuclear scientist reflects their goal of crafting a government with broad legitimacy both at home and with the international community and reaching beyond the 25 men and women appointed to the Governing Council last year, who have failed to win widespread support among Iraqis.

Shahristani, who has a doctorate in nuclear chemistry from the University of Toronto, served as chief scientific adviser to Iraq's atomic energy commission until 1979, when Hussein became president. When he refused to shift from nuclear energy to nuclear weaponry, he was jailed. For most of a decade, he was in Abu Ghraib prison, much of it in solitary confinement. He escaped in 1991 and fled with his wife and three children to Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq and, eventually, Iran, where he worked with Iraqi refugees. He later moved to Britain, where he was a visiting university professor.

But unlike other exiles, Shahristani was not active in opposition parties, choosing instead to focus on humanitarian aid projects. He does, however, have a critical connection: He is close to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the country's most powerful Shiite cleric, whose support is essential for the viability of an interim government.

Shahristani, who has described himself as an adviser to Sistani, said he has met with the ayatollah several times since the fall of Hussein's government. Shahristani said Sistani has played a "very, very constructive" role in Iraq over the past year. Iraqi officials familiar with Brahimi's mission said Shahristani's lack of political affiliation could be an asset, allowing him to serve as a bridge between various factions. [...]

Iraqi officials familiar with Brahimi's mission said it was an op-ed piece Shahristani wrote for the April 29 Wall Street Journal that piqued Brahimi's attention. Headlined "Election Fever," the piece criticized the U.S. occupation authority for failing to prepare for elections sooner and for promulgating an interim constitution that was drawn up behind closed doors. He called for the government taking power on June 30 to have limited powers aimed at preparing the country for elections -- a position advocated by Sistani.

Democracy Delayed Is Democracy Denied: The sooner elections are held in Iraq the fewer American lives will be lost. (HUSSAIN AL-SHAHRISTANI, February 12, 2004, Wall Street Journal)
Iraqis are told by the CPA that the reasons for delaying elections are the absence of voter registration lists and the security situation. However, in mid-2003 the Iraqi Central Bureau of Statistics, the body responsible for preparing voter lists, issued a report concluding that it could prepare lists and arrange for elections before the end of 2003. The CPA and the Transitional Governing Council chose to ignore this report, and together signed an agreement that would allow them to handpick transitional assembly members through a complex caucus process. The Nov. 15 agreement gave no role to the U.N., and set a timetable for a handover of sovereignty to these handpicked Iraqis by June 30, 2004.

Having recognized that this process violates the fundamental principle of a fair election--one person, one vote--Ayatollah Al-Sistani issued an edict, "[T]he mechanism in place to choose members of the Transitional Legislative Assembly does not guarantee true representation of the Iraqi people. Therefore this mechanism must be replaced with one that guarantees the aforesaid, which is elections."

On the Ayatollah's insistence, the U.N. was invited to send a mission to study how it can help prepare for such elections and to assist in the transition of sovereignty to a legitimate Iraqi authority. This is an extremely important opportunity for the U.N. to exercise its mandate to maintain peace and security in this volatile part of the world, and to uphold the right of nations to self-determination.

The current impasse is far more than a showdown between Iraq's most influential leader and the CPA. It raises the disturbing question of whether Washington truly understands the Iraqi reality. National identity and self-determination are strong forces in Iraq. Instead of dismissing them, the U.S. ought to work with the U.N. to start preparation for a national election under U.N. auspices.

CPA head L. Paul Bremer might be right that there is not enough time now to organize elections by June 2004; but surely preparations could have been made over the last nine months--if, indeed, an election was ever a U.S. priority. He also points out that security conditions are not conducive to elections; yet clearly, impeding the legitimate demand for direct and fair elections would further aggravate ethnic and sectarian tensions.

The U.S. administration should not force its agenda onto the Iraqi people, based on a U.S. election timetable. The aim should be the creation of a new Iraqi government that has legitimacy in the eyes of its own citizens, so that in the years ahead, a stable, democratic and peaceful Iraq will emerge as a responsible member of the world community. If America is genuinely committed to democracy in the Middle East, then it should avoid handpicking rulers for Iraq. Only a very short-sighted policy would orchestrate a process that leaves behind a government that may be friendly, but will not endure. Without a constitutional process, Iraqis cannot be assured that their basic human and political rights are respected. Failing to engage the people in the political process will further destabilize the country and provide fertile grounds for the remnants of Saddam Hussain's security apparatus to recruit zealots to carry out terrorist acts.

A couple things stand out here:

(1) How many of the folks who think the wog uninterested in democracy would have the physical courage to take this job?

(2) The Administration's understanding that some distance from the U.S. will be helpful to a new leadership and likewise a closeness to Ayatollah Sistani.

-Profile of Dr. Hussain Shahristani (Eric Goldstein,
-INTERVIEW: Interview with Hussain Al-Shahristani (CNN, 4/08/03)

Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:54 AM


Quebec minister sparks outrage over aboriginal comments (Globe and Mail, May 26th, 2004)

A Mohawk chief and opposition politicians expressed outrage Tuesday after a provincial minister said aboriginals were more violent than the rest of Canadian society.

Public Security Minister Jacques Chagnon made the comments in the legislature during remarks about the embattled Mohawk community of Kanesatake, west of Montreal, which is embroiled in a tense policing dispute.

"I don't think it's a secret to anyone that in aboriginal societies and in Kanesatake society, there is a level of violence that is not found elsewhere," the minister said during Question Period.[...]

Grand Chief James Gabriel, who was forced out of the settlement in January when his house was torched by dissidents, said he was insulted by the minister's comments.

Forget the fact that the young and armed dissidents in this community call themselves the Warriors. Everyone knows the Mohawk culture is a culture of peace. Like Islam.

May 25, 2004

Posted by David Cohen at 10:06 PM


THE JEWISH CEMETERY AT NEWPORT (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, July, 1854)

How strange it seems! These Hebrews in their graves,
Close by the street of this fair seaport town,
Silent beside the never-silent waves,
At rest in all this moving up and down!

The trees are white with dust, that o'er their sleep
Wave their broad curtains in the south-wind's breath,
While underneath these leafy tents they keep
The long, mysterious Exodus of Death.

And these sepulchral stones, so old and brown,
That pave with level flags their burial-place,
Seem like the tablets of the Law, thrown down
And broken by Moses at the mountain's base.

The very names recorded here are strange,
Of foreign accent, and of different climes;
Alvares and Rivera interchange
With Abraham and Jacob of old times.

"Blessed be God! for he created Death!"
The mourners said, "and Death is rest and peace;"
Then added, in the certainty of faith,
"And giveth Life that nevermore shall cease."

Closed are the portals of their Synagogue,
No Psalms of David now the silence break,
No Rabbi reads the ancient Decalogue
In the grand dialect the Prophets spake.

Gone are the living, but the dead remain,
And not neglected; for a hand unseen,
Scattering its bounty, like a summer rain,
Still keeps their graves and their remembrance green.

How came they here? What burst of Christian hate,
What persecution, merciless and blind,
Drove o'er the sea -- that desert desolate --
These Ishmaels and Hagars of mankind?

They lived in narrow streets and lanes obscure,
Ghetto and Judenstrass, in mirk and mire;
Taught in the school of patience to endure
The life of anguish and the death of fire.

All their lives long, with the unleavened bread
And bitter herbs of exile and its fears,
The wasting famine of the heart they fed,
And slaked its thirst with marah of their tears.

Anathema maranatha! was the cry
That rang from town to town, from street to street;
At every gate the accursed Mordecai
Was mocked and jeered, and spurned by Christian feet.

Pride and humiliation hand in hand
Walked with them through the world where'er they went;
Trampled and beaten were they as the sand,
And yet unshaken as the continent.

For in the background figures vague and vast
Of patriarchs and of prophets rose sublime,
And all the great traditions of the Past
They saw reflected in the coming time.

And thus forever with reverted look
The mystic volume of the world they read,
Spelling it backward, like a Hebrew book,
Till life became a Legend of the Dead.

But ah! what once has been shall be no more!
The groaning earth in travail and in pain
Brings forth its races, but does not restore,
And the dead nations never rise again.


HERE, where the noises of the busy town,
The ocean's plunge and roar can enter not,
We stand and gaze around with tearful awe,
And muse upon the consecrated spot.

No signs of life are here: the very prayers
Inscribed around are in a language dead;
The light of the "perpetual lamp" is spent
That an undying radiance was to shed.

What prayers were in this temple offered up,
Wrung from sad hearts that knew no joy on earth,
By these lone exiles of a thousand years,
From the fair sunrise land that gave them birth!

How as we gaze, in this new world of light,
Upon this relic of the days of old,
The present vanishes, and tropic bloom
And Eastern towns and temples we behold.

Again we see the patriarch with his flocks,
The purple seas, the hot blue sky o'erhead,

The slaves of Egypt,--omens, mysteries,--
Dark fleeing hosts by flaming angels led.

A wondrous light upon a sky-kissed mount,
A man who reads Jehovah's written law,
'Midst blinding glory and effulgence rare,
Unto a people prone with reverent awe.

The pride of luxury's barbaric pomp,
In the rich court of royal Solomon--
Alas! we wake: One scene alone remains,--
The exiles by the streams of Babylon.

Our softened voices send us back again
But mournful echoes through the empty hall:
Our footsteps have a strange unnatural sound,
And with unwonted gentleness they fall.

The weary ones, the sad, the suffering,
All found their comfort in the holy place,
And children's gladness and men's gratitude
'Took voice and mingled in the chant of praise.

The funeral and the marriage, now, alas!
We know not which is sadder to recall;
For youth and happiness have followed age,
And green grass lieth gently over all.

Nathless the sacred shrine is holy yet,
With its lone floors where reverent feet once trod.
Take off your shoes as by the burning bush,
Before the mystery of death and God.

Is it just coincidence that Lazarus published her response to Longfellow on the 13th anniversary of his poem?

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:15 PM


Berkeley Intifada (Anneli Rufus, East Bay Express, May 19th, 2004)

On the day after September 11, Micki Weinberg walked to the UC Berkeley campus still in shock. At the entrance to campus, facing Telegraph Avenue, huge sheets of blank paper were spread out as an impromptu memorial on which students, faculty, and other passersby were invited to write comments. Glad to have found such a forum, Weinberg scanned the inscriptions. Then he saw one, large and clear, that stopped him dead in his tracks:

"It's the Jews, stupid."

The slender Weinberg, a year younger than most freshmen, had only just arrived at Cal from Beverly Hills, where he had been president of his high school's Shalom Club. As a young teenager, he had savored heady stories of how Mario Savio and his comrades in the Free Speech Movement danced the hora and sang "Hava Nagila" at sit-ins and peace rallies forty years ago. The son of left-wing, Jewish intellectuals, Weinberg viewed himself as one too, having spent the summer before his senior year of high school in Myanmar, cataloguing the archives of Rangoon's disintegrating and depopulated Jewish synagogue. "That's why I came to Berkeley -- because of its strong romantic aura of the Free Speech Movement and Mario Savio," he recalls. "Then I got here and discovered that that light seems to have been extinguished. You have this vitriol. You feel it everywhere. Berkeley is now the epicenter of real hatred."

Almost three years later, Weinberg graduates this month as a student whose days at Cal were marked by what he calls "pinnacles of horror," in the pinched tone of a man betrayed. He remembers pro-Palestinian protesters insisting that Israeli border crossings are as bad as Nazi death camps. He remembers the glass front door of Berkeley's Hillel building -- where he attends Friday night services -- shattered by a cinderblock, with the message FUCK JEWS scrawled nearby. He remembers the spray-painted swastikas discovered one Monday morning last September on the walls of four lecture rooms in LeConte Hall accompanied by the chilling bilingual message, "Die, Juden. "

In recent years the international press has documented the resurgence of anti-Semitism around the world. Jewish schoolkids have been attacked by epithet-shouting gangs in Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, France, and Brazil. Synagogues have been destroyed in Marseille and Istanbul; a Jewish school was firebombed this spring in Montreal; "Death to the Jews" was shouted through bullhorns outside a temple in South Africa. AP ran photos last month of a Jewish graveyard in eastern France where a hundred tombstones had been spray-painted with blood-red swastikas and the Nazi slogan Juden Raus: "Jews out." The Chicago Sun-Times and the British Guardian report that a ubiquitous chant at European soccer matches -- leveled at London and Rotterdam teams perceived as having Jewish roots -- is "Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas."

So, what is to be done?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:39 PM


Kenyans buy into slum plan: It's the latest example of what experts say is becoming a model for slum improvement around the world. (Meera Selva, 5/26/04, CS Monitor)

Susan Wanjiru used to be a seamstress. For 12 hours a day in her cardboard shack, she would hunch over her sewing, earning just 200 shillings, or $2.50, to feed her four children. Her back always ached and the tips of her fingers were constantly scratched and bleeding. But since she changed jobs, training to be a stone mason in the Nairobi slums, things have improved.

"Ah, my body feel so much better now," she says, flexing her biceps proudly. "I work in the fresh air, get paid 300 shillings [$3.75] a day, and sleep soundly at night. It is a much better life."

Ms. Wanjiru makes an unlikely builder, even with her newly formed muscles. But mixing cement is part of a new kind of renovation program, one that gives slum residents some control over their lives. Last year, a group of Nairobi slum dwellers banded together and asked the city council to give them the land that they had been squatting on illegally. In return, they promised to build proper houses, schools, and community centers without any government money.

"We went to the council and said: 'We know this land belongs to you, but we have lived here for 30 years and if you help us, we will make it a clean environment with good security," says Peter Chege, secretary of the housing association. "In the end, they agreed to draw up title deeds to the land in our name." [...]

The idea comes from Slum Dwellers International, an Indian pressure group that encourages people living in slums to find their own solutions to housing problems. In the 1990s, it helped slum residents in Bombay to claim the land they were squatting on and turn it into a proper residential estate with running water and electricity. The group has programs in Africa, Asia, and South America.

Doesn't Hernando de Soto deserve much credit for the idea?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:56 PM


Positive signs for GOP in Democratic-leaning California (BETH FOUHY, May 25, 2004, AP)

[R]epublicans see a wealth of opportunities on the horizon, due in large part to shifting population growth and the broad popularity of their new governor - Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"I have always maintained that California is far more competitive than pundits believe," said former Gov. Gray Davis, the Democrat who was recalled by voters and replaced by Schwarzenegger last year. "Democrats can't win this state on the cheap. Kerry has to spend money here, and I believe he knows that."

Political strategists largely credit excitement about Schwarzenegger with helping to increase Republican voter registration in the state, cutting the advantage for the Democrats from more than 10 percent in 2000 to about 8 percent.

Organizers of the Republican National Convention and Schwarzenegger aides are trying to reach an agreement on how to showcase him in New York in late August. The Schwarzenegger camp is pressing for a prominent role - perhaps a prime-time convention speech - that organizers have not yet offered. [...]

Republicans point to the state's changing population patterns. While Democratic strongholds such as the San Francisco Bay area have been bleeding population, growth has exploded in traditionally Republican areas such as northern San Diego County and the so-called Inland Empire east of Los Angeles, where cheaper housing and new roads have lured thousands of families.

Said Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie: "There is no downside to us competing in California, and having it be real."

They could easily win the Senate race too, which Mr. Schwarzenegger is more personally invested in, with Barbara Boxer continuing to poll below 50%.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:23 PM


A Dangerous Dreamer: Spurned by the U.S., Chalabi emerges as a Shiite firebrand (Andrew Cockburn, May 21, 2004, LA Times)

U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has made it known that Chalabi, who currently sits on the Iraqi Governing Council, will not figure in the Iraqi administration he is assembling for a June 30 transfer of power. And just this week the Pentagon revealed that it is at last suspending Chalabi's $340,000 monthly subsidy.

That's not all. The discrediting of Chalabi's prewar "intelligence" on Saddam Hussein's WMD and terror links has wrecked his once-warm relations with the U.S. media. And his senior aides are under investigation for robbery and kidnapping, the official reason for Thursday's raid. The raid was not insignificant; it was an indication of just how seriously the U.S. occupation authorities consider Chalabi a threat to their plans for the future of Iraq.

In recent months he has been adopting an increasingly strident tone in denouncing both the U.S. occupation and the U.N. role in Iraq. He has recently compared American officials bringing former Iraqi generals to Fallouja to "putting the Nazis back in power" and has derided Brahimi as "an Algerian with an Arab nationalist agenda."

Less publicly, he has been putting together a sectarian Shiite bloc with the aim of immediately destabilizing whatever arrangement Brahimi unveils in 10 days' time. Many fear Chalabi could, for example, champion a move for a separate Shiite state, or indeed, foment anti-Sunni demonstrations. This is indeed a far cry from the days when Chalabi posed as the champion of liberal Iraqi democracy for U.S. supporters, though Iraqis who know him are less surprised at the cynical turnabout.

As one Iraqi who has known and worked with Chalabi in the past observes: "His dream has always been to be a sectarian Shia leader. Not in the religious sense, but as a political leader." Leading fellow sectarians in opposition to the U.S. and U.N. plans would be a vital step in realizing this dangerous dream.

Let's hope there's more to this story than just that, because Mr. Chalabi is right in what he says here. Brahimi and the rest of the Sunni Middle East are trying to restore control over the Shi'a of Iraq and it can not be tolerated. His "dangerous dream" is Iraq's most likely and probably healthiest future, though he seems unlikely to be the one to lead them there.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:09 PM


Saturn SL is most-stolen vehicle in U.S. (John Porretto, May 25, 2004, Associated Press)

The 1995 Saturn SL was the nation's most-stolen vehicle last year based on thefts versus the number of models registered...

What was second, the Yugo?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:33 PM


Survey Finds Angst-Strained Wretches in the Fourth Estate (Howard Kurtz, May 24, 2004, Washington Post)

A joint project by the Pew Research Center and the Project for Excellence in Journalism reveals a darkly pessimistic view of the profession among its own members, often echoing the criticisms of the public at large.

The 55 percent of national journalists, and 37 percent of local ones, who see the media as soft on Bush may well be reflecting their own views of the president. At national outlets, 34 percent describe themselves as liberal, 54 percent as moderate and 7 percent as conservative. (The local split was 23-61-12.) Nearly 7 in 10 of the liberal national journalists criticized the Bush coverage.

"You'd expect the minority who say they have a liberal point of view to be more critical of the press when it comes to Bush," says Pew Director Andrew Kohut, whose organization interviewed 547 journalists. But he noted that 44 percent of the self-described moderates also hold that view.

Tom Rosenstiel, the project's director, says the growing proportion of self-identified liberals in the national media -- and the fact that "conservatives are not very well represented" -- is having an impact. "This is something journalists should worry about," he says. "Maybe diversity in the newsroom needs to mean more than ethnic and gender diversity."

The survey confirmed that national journalists are to the left of the public on social issues. Nine in 10 say it is not necessary to believe in God to be moral (40 percent of the public thinks this way). As might have been inferred from the upbeat coverage of gay marriage in Massachusetts, 88 percent of national journalists say society should accept homosexuality; only about half the public agrees.

In a related finding, 31 percent of national journalists now have a great deal of confidence in the public's election choices, compared with 52 percent at the end of the Clinton administration. The clear implication is that many media people feel superior to their customers.

Given how far to the Left of the public even those who think themselves conservative are, it's no surprise that the media is incapable of providing decent coverage of America. They're like the blind men describing the elephant.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:25 PM


Kevin Whited, of Reductio ad Absurdum fame, has a worthy new project: Chronically Biased.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:18 PM


When Reason Sleeps, Mumbo-Jumbo Frolics: Often, it seems as though the Enlightenment never happened. (Francis Wheen, May 24, 2004, LA Times)

In 1922, just after his second term as president, Woodrow Wilson was asked for his thoughts on Darwinian theory.

"Of course, like every other man of intelligence and education, I do believe in organic evolution," he replied. "It surprises me that at this late date such questions should be raised."

Now imagine Wilson's downright astonishment had he been informed that in 2004, more than eight decades later, the state schools superintendent in Georgia would propose excising the word "evolution" from the biology curriculum.

There are few backers these days for the argument that we have reached "the end of history." However, a glance at some of the dominant ideas of the last couple of decades raises an even more startling possibility: that history, far from halting, has gone into reverse gear.

Pity poor Francis Fukuyama--his theory does take a drubbing from those, like Mr. Wheen, who completely fail to grasp it. The End of History thesis is not premised upon History ending in the 1990's but on the universal recognition that it had ended in 1776, with the visions of liberal democratic protestant capitalism embodied in the Declaration of Independence and The Wealth of Nations. The subsequent centuries proved this system so much more powerful than its rivals that there is nearly no sane person left arguing for any alternative. And, significantly, the system requires Judeo-Christian faith, not Darwinism, which proved a more useful underpinning for liberalism's enemies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:02 PM


Lady Liberty hooded in political ad (Mark Memmott, 5/21/04, USA TODAY)

A hooded Statue of Liberty, meant to remind viewers of Iraqis abused by American soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, dominates a TV ad that an anti-Bush organization will begin airing nationally next week., a national grassroots organization, and the new ad's makers defend the imagery they used.

"There's nothing inappropriate about making sure Americans know about the scandal," said Peter Schurman,'s executive director.

The ad isn't offensive; it's foolish. Unless their target audience is people who hate America already, who's going to make the connection between a hooded Statue of Liberty and the pranks at Abu Ghraib? Of course, it makes more sense than their demand that the President fire one of the most popular leaders in America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:55 PM


Daschle Hypocrisy on Johnson Calling Republicans Members of the Taliban (Daschle v. Thune, 5/24/04)

To the left is a picture of Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota, with Senator Daschle and Stephanie Herseth behind him, railing against the "Taliban wing of the Republican Party" at a Herseth rally yesterday in McKennan Park in Sioux Falls. His statement has generated a firestorm--see here, here, and here--and calls for Johnson, Daschle, and Herseth to apologize for the remarks. The immediate context is the House special election next week that Herseth is competing in against Larry Deidrich (Stephanie memo to Tim: we're running a "postive" campaign and trying to tar our opponent for launching "negative attacks," remember?)(see this for Stuart Rothenberg's comments about Herseth "crying wolf" on "negative" ads). The broader context is the major speech Senator Daschle gave earlier this month decrying the "startling meanness" in American politics and denouncing the tactic of "demonizing those with whom we disagree." (see this USA Today story about Daschle's speech). Instead of intervening after Johnson's remarks, however, Daschle stood by and clapped.

Surely we are all deeply pained and disappointed, right, Mr. Daschle?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:49 PM


Iraqi weapons pipeline probed (Bill Gertz, 5/25/04, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

The Pentagon is investigating reports that Iraqi weapons are being sent covertly to Syria and that they are fueling anti-U.S. insurgents training there, The Washington Times has learned.

The shipments include weapons and explosives sent by vehicles that were detected during the past several months going to several training camps inside Syria, which has become a key backer of anticoalition forces in Iraq, according to defense officials familiar with reports of the shipments.

Did the President sound to you like he was done liberating the Middle East last night?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:26 PM


Nader Makes Waves (Dotty Lynch, Douglas Kiker, Beth Lester and Clothilde Ewing, 5/25/04, CBS News)

Ralph Nader, referred to President Bush as a "messianic militarist" who should be impeached for pushing the nation into a war in Iraq "based on false pretenses," reports The New York Times.

In a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in Manhattan, Nader said, "The founding fathers did not want the declaration of war put in the hands of one man," referring to his belief that U.S. foreign policy goals are being compromised because the president tends to "talk like an out-of-control West Texas sheriff."

The Times says, "Mr. Nader also accused President Bush of exaggerating the threat of terrorism in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. 'To say that President Bush has exaggerated the threat of Al Qaeda is to trip into a political hornets' nest,' he said. But he said it was time to raise 'the impertinent question' about whether the threat had been 'exaggerated for a purpose.' Mr. Nader said he believed such a deception had taken place, and had been intended in part to draw popular support for more militaristic policies and to generate military contracts for companies with close ties to the Bush administration."

Mr. Nader's sheriff comparison is apt.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:15 PM


Vigil held for slain lion: ORGANIZER HOPES FOR `HEALING' AFTER SHOOTING THAT SHOOK COMMUNITY (Julie Patel, 5/25/04, San Jose Mercury News)

Monday night there was a vigil for the mountain lion that wandered into Palo Alto last week and was shot by police.

"What it evoked in the community was a feeling of sadness,'' said Larissa Keet, a psychotherapist who was a teacher in the Palo Alto Unified School District for 20 years and who organized the vigil. ``I felt a vigil was something that could help with all of those range of sentiments that get aroused and that we could somehow channel those feelings to provide healing for all of us.''

Six people formed a circle around a photo of a mountain lion and two American Indian Zuni fetishes -- miniature animal-shape sculptures believed to embody the spiritual force of a soul -- in a grove of redwood trees at Rinconada Park.

Let's be honest here--what wouldn't you give for its mate to have shown up and mauled them?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:22 AM


Kerry needs to focus, state party chiefs say (Donald Lambro, May 23, 2004, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Undecided voters are still trying to "figure out" presidential candidate John Kerry's message, especially on Iraq, which remains unclear and confusing to much of the electorate, according to Democratic state chairmen from key battleground states.

"I think he is going to have to sharpen the message on Iraq. He has to present some clear alternative to what we have now," said Ron Oliver, chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party.

Acknowledging that virtually all the head-to-head polls show the Massachusetts liberal has not benefited much from President Bush's decline in job-approval surveys, Democrats such as Mr. Oliver say that Mr. Kerry probably will not see any new movement toward his candidacy until he becomes better known and offers voters a more vivid contrast to the president's policies in Iraq.

No one who knows Mr. Kerry thinks that voters getting to know him will be helpful to his chances. His only chance of remaining viable is to disappear completely until after election day.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:43 AM


Maple seed problems are spiraling (DAN ROZEK, May 25, 2004, Chicago Sun-Times)

Rain isn't the only thing coming down more heavily than usual. The Chicago area also is being inundated by an unusual bumper crop of maple seeds that have been helicoptering down, clogging gutters, making a mess of patios and porches -- and delighting children.

"It is a banner year for seeds,'' said Peter Bristol, curator of woody plants at the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe. "They're big and falling all over the place.''

The familiar pods -- a seed connected to a 1- to 2-inch curved wing that causes it to whirl to the ground in a distinctive way -- begin twisting down out of maples every May.

But some years, for reasons scientists say aren't entirely understood, the trees spawn more of the seeds than usual.

That's what's happening now, apparently triggered in part by a dry and warm April, the time when many trees begin flowering. That breezy, dry weather helped spread pollen more readily -- and widely -- between maples.

The pollen fertilized the flowering maples, producing an abundance of seeds, which then twirl out of the tree looking to put down roots and grow into a new tree.

"I think all the conditions are right for seed production this year,'' Bristol said.

The helicopter assault is particularly heavy in long-established suburbs on the North Shore, where maple trees are especially common.

Do you suppose kids still split them at the bottom and stick them on their noses?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:09 AM


Chance of Delayed Nomination Vexes Boston (JENNIFER PETER, May 24, 2004, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The possibility that John Kerry may delay accepting the presidential nomination at the Democratic National Convention here is compounding the upset of city officials and business owners, who already are unhappily looking ahead to traffic tie-ups expected during the four-day gathering.

"It's one thing to hold the neighborhood hostage because of a political convention," said Robert Torabgar, manager of Hilton's Tent City, a sporting goods store in the shadow of the FleetCenter, the convention site in the densely built downtown. "But to have the neighborhood closed just because of a political rally is a little harder to take."

Kerry said Monday that no decision had been made about whether he will accept the nomination at the July 26-29 convention or wait a few weeks to even the financial playing field with President Bush.

As long as Democrats don't need to be away that week the GOP leadership in Congress should schedule some votes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:46 AM


BUSH BETS THE HOUSE (John Podhoretz, May 25, 2004, NY Post)

GEORGE W. Bush is a high-stakes player, a political gambler. And last night he took a fantastically bold gamble: In the teeth of bad polls, an atmosphere of panic in his own party and the barely concealed glee of his rivals . . . he has decided to stand pat. [...]

Bush's decision to stay on course may not simply be an example of stubbornness. The fact is that the news from the battlefield in Iraq these past five or six days has been remarkably good. The forces commanded and directed by the thug-cleric Muqtada al-Sadr are on the run or nearly destroyed in three different cities.

Sadr's uprising two months ago was the moment at which even passionate supporters of the war and proponents of the success in achieving civil order began to grow terrified that somehow the United States might actually lose in Iraq. So shouldn't the fact that we're routing him be grounds for some optimism?

It's very meaningful that other Shiite clerics in the city of Najaf now feel safe enough to issue what must be judged an astounding denunciation of Sadr in the past few days.

As reported on the brilliant Healing Iraq blog, Najaf clerics laid the blame for the entry of U.S. forces into that holy city: "It is the movement of Sayyid Muqtada [Sadr] that has encouraged the occupiers to cross the red lines," the senior clerics in Najaf wrote. "And it is clear that the organization of Sayyid Muqtada - and whoever follows the Sadrist movement - were the first to violate the sanctity of" the city's holiest shrine.

It's a reasonably safe bet.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:02 AM


New Testament as Easy to Read as ... Cosmo?: Glossy 'biblezines,' complete with top 10 lists, mix the secular with Scripture in an attempt to get teens to pick up the Good Book. (Joy Buchanan, May 15, 2004, LA Times)

In some local bookstores, teen boys can find a glossy publication filled with music reviews, top 10 lists and advice about dating. Its photos show pretty girls, skateboarders, guys with cornrows and teens cruising in convertibles.

But it's not a magazine. It's a Bible. Or actually, what its publisher has dubbed a "biblezine."

Titled Refuel, it was recently released by Thomas Nelson, one of the nation's largest Bible publishers. Refuel has the complete New Testament written in the company's colloquial New Century translation. But the Scriptures are printed in columns like a magazine story and are surrounded by, among other things, pop-up bubbles containing suggestions on how a fly teenager can also be a good Christian.

This ain't your grandfather's Bible. Smack in the middle of 1 Corinthians is a list of the coolest things God has made, including dogs, pterodactyls, facial hair and ocean waves — with girls at the top of the list. Refuel also reports the results of a survey asking girls what they look for in a boyfriend: guys who show them respect, open doors for them, spend time with their parents and worship God freely.

Youth pastors say they welcome anything that will get teens to read the Bible. Publishers like Thomas Nelson say they are providing teens with Bibles that address issues specific to them, much like adult devotional Bibles, with short lessons on applying Scripture to modern life.

Facial hair? Everyone has facial hair. Let's talk back hair...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:39 AM


One slam fits all (Debra Saunders, May 25, 2004, TownnHall)

He isn't very bright. He's a religious fanatic who sees the world in black and white. He engaged in an "elaborate campaign of disinformation" designed to "mislead his own people" about the war. He's not really running the government; he's a puppet manipulated by a subordinate. And his name is -- Tony Blair.

So says author Geoffrey Wheatcroft in June's "The Atlantic Monthly" in a profile of the prime minister of Great Britain. It demonstrates how the left demeans its opposition so uniformly that Wheatcroft managed to hurl the exact same insults at Blair that U.S. lefties have hurled at President Bush for years. One slam fits all.

Wheatcroft sadly writes that Blair "is in no real sense an intellectual." Then: "Clearly, Blair is a smart operator, but how intelligent is he?" The answer comes from an American woman who dined with Blair and concluded "he wasn't that bright." The American denies making that statement. But who cares? Not Wheatcroft, who dispels the disclaimer by noting that novelist Doris Lessing said Blair is "not very bright in some ways."

The proof of Blair's low wattage apparently comes, not from his actions or history but from what intellectuals have to say about him. If Lessing said it, case closed; it must be true.

In fact, while critics here slam Bush for not reading newspapers, the word across the pond -- voiced by Lessing -- is that Blair doesn't read books.

When she originally announced Blair's lack of brainpower last year, Lessing also linked the PM's dubious intelligence with his religious beliefs -- in the bigoted way that leftists dismiss the devout. Wheatcroft followed suit. He quoted Roy Jenkins, co-founder of Social Democrats, who said Blair is "a little too Manichean for my perhaps now jaded taste, seeing matters in stark terms of good and evil, black and white."

It may take twenty or thirty years, but eventually Mr. Blair will be seen to have been just as much an heir to Thatcherism/Reaganism as George W. Bush is and what unites them and informs their policies is their faith. The Left is just having a little trouble letting go of the notion that the best Labour Prime Minister ever is a crypto-Tory. Of course, Mr. Wheatcroft made the case for this idea almost ten years ago in an essay that contains the most important line ever spoken about Tony Blair, The Paradoxical Case of Tony Blair:
Every Tory leader since Sir Robert Peel had implicitly agreed with his opponents that the future belonged with their side; that at best a rearguard action could be fought; that conservatism's role was to make concessions as slowly, and with as good grace, as possible. That is, until Margaret Thatcher. She was the first Tory leader who did not share this belief.

And Blair agrees with her. He is the first of the Tories' political opponents ever to concede that they have largely won the argument. An anthology of Blair's recent reflections speaks for itself.

"I believe Margaret Thatcher's emphasis on enterprise was right."

"A strong society should not be confused with a strong state."

"Duty is the cornerstone of a decent society."

"Britain needs more successful people who can become rich by success through the money they earn."

"People don't want an overbearing state."

Any of these could have been uttered by a Tory, or by a none-too-liberal Democrat or, indeed, by a none-too-liberal Republican. Come to think of it, Patrick Buchanan's main disagreement with the Labour leader would be over Blair's uncritical admiration for "wealth creators" and free trade. It has been a breathtaking achievement--but a paradoxical one. Political parties have changed character before now, and have sometimes been taken over from the outside. This is a unique and much stranger case: a party has been captured from the inside, and by a man who in his heart despises most of that party's traditions and cherished beliefs. [...]

Someone who knows him says, "You have to remember that the great passion in Tony's life is his hatred of the Labour Party."

You also have to remember our old friend English irony as you read that, but it is not just a joke. Tony Blair's career has been a freak of political nature. When he was chosen leader, two years ago, the Labour Party was punch-drunk, demoralized by its miserable run of lost elections, desperate for any chance of returning to office. The puritanical "culture of defeat" might have permeated sections of the movement, but the brighter and more ambitious in the party had not gone into politics to spend a lifetime in opposition. They wanted their ministerial red boxes and secretaries; they were fed up with waiting in line for cabs and craved black limos. That meant that they wanted a leader who could win, and in the process they struck a Faustian bargain.

Except that Faust knew what he was doing. Labour had not truly reckoned with Blair. The party did not realize just how deep was his contempt for its traditions, and certainly didn't guess that its first Prime Minister in a generation will be further to the right not only than any previous Labour premier but than several postwar Tory premiers. It is an extraordinary performance, and a political triumph of sorts--but for whom? The life, times, and government of Tony Blair may yet be seen as Margaret Thatcher's greatest victory.

Eventually the contradiction between the conservative religious leader and his still mostly socialist party has to lead to a fall--the question then will be: have the Tories figured out that they too need to be the sons of Thatcher?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM


The 50¢-a-Gallon Solution (GREGG EASTERBROOK, 5/25/04, NY Times)

[T]he country would indeed be better off if gasoline taxes had been raised by 50 cents a gallon when Mr. Kerry favored the idea. And the United States would still be wise today, if it increased gasoline taxes by the same amount now.

The federal gasoline tax is 18.4 cents per gallon, while state gasoline taxes average 24.6 cents per gallon. Had federal gas taxes gone up 50 cents a gallon 10 years ago, several things might not have happened or would have had far less impact.

The S.U.V. and pickup-truck crazes would not have occurred, or at least these vehicles would be much less popular; highway deaths would have been fewer; and gasoline demands would be lower as would oil imports. To continue, the world price of oil would have been lower, since petroleum demand in the United States is the first factor in oil markets; greenhouse-gas emissions in this country would be lower; Persian Gulf oil states would have less influence on the global economy and less significance to American foreign policy; fewer dollars would have flowed to the oil sheiks; and the trade deficit balance for the United States would be smaller.

Don't all those things sound pretty good? And if higher gasoline taxes had moderated the ever-growing national thirst for oil, fuel at the pump still would have become more expensive — but Americans would be sending the extra money to Washington rather than Riyadh.

It's an idea the GOP should support for national security reasons and as a step towards making the tax code more dependent on consumption, but they reject it out of hand because it comes from the full-moon envirocommies and folks who just want to add the to federal tax revenues, instead of offsetting them elsewhere. Conversely, Democrats reject pretty much every other step we need to take--from more drilling to more refineries to less regulation--as we seek to liberate ourselves from the inherently unstable petro-states.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 AM


At the center of a culture shift: A pioneer says outsourcing will ultimately benefit US, India. Others are less sanguine. (Robert Weisman, May 25, 2004, Boston Globe)

It doesn't look much different from the other three-family, gambrel-roofed homes lining the blocks behind Central Square. But for students of the Indian outsourcing movement, the olive gray house at 10 St. Paul St. could qualify as a historic landmark.

It was here, in the fall of 1972, where one of the earliest ''offshore" business models was conceived and tested by Indian-born MIT graduate Narendra K. Patni and his bride, Poonam. Their experiment has mushroomed into a business empire, and a global phenomenon that is fueling productivity -- along with controversy.

The newlyweds launched a pilot project in their third-floor apartment, designating the living room as the ''United States" and the bedroom as ''India."

In one room, they wrote instructions for the conversion of data from paper documents to computers. In the other room, a small team of MIT students typed the data into a Flexowriter machine that spat out paper tape -- the first and most labor-intensive task in what then was a multiple-step, data-conversion process.

A key ground rule was that there would be no oral communication -- only written notes -- between people in the two rooms. That was because phone connections between the United States and India were still spotty in the 1970s. Written instructions would have to suffice.

''That was the first major attempt to outsource services," said Narendra Patni, 62, who shuttles between his US office in Kendall Square and his headquarters in Bombay as chief executive of Patni Computer Systems Ltd., a $250 million-a-year technology services firm that recently went public in India. ''I felt from the beginning there was economic significance to it."

His wife has a different, less grandiose memory. ''It wasn't easy hauling the Flexowriter up all those stairs," she recalled. [...]

Even among Patni's admirers, not everyone is so sanguine about the impact of outsourcing, especially as the practice spreads to higher-wage job categories such as software programming.

Jay Forrester, a retired professor at MIT's Sloan School of Management and a pioneer in the field of systems dynamics, hired Patni to help him run his consulting and publishing company (no relation to Forrester Research) in the late 1960s. ''He was a very high-caliber person," Forrester said, ''and he's been very successful."

When Patni told him a few years later that he was shipping documents to India for data conversion, Forrester said, ''I was surprised because this was entirely new to me."

Today, more than 30 years later, the 85-year-old Forrester casts a skeptical eye on the burgeoning outsourcing movement.

''I think it's going to produce a tremendous political backlash, and will be significantly curtailed in a few years," he warned. ''I think it will drive the standard of living of the United States down to the level of the countries that we're outsourcing to."

Patni, for his part, believes the genie is out of the bottle.

Added Mr. Forrester: "Look at all those great jobs in the chemical industry we lost to Bhopal."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:45 AM


Kerry justifies idea of nomination delay: But critics say legality an issue (Glen Justice and Michael Kranish, May 25, 2004, Boston Globe)

[T]wo prominent campaign finance watchdogs questioned whether it would be legal for the host committee to spend $15 million in federal funds to stage the Democratic National Convention if the event does not produce Kerry's nomination.

"I think there is a very strong case here that it would be illegal," said Fred Wertheimer, who runs a campaign finance organization called Democracy 21. "They received the money to conduct a nominating convention, and a nominating convention tends to include the concept of a nominee. At a minimum, they face real legal questions."

Representative Martin T. Meehan of Lowell, a fellow Democrat and coauthor of the country's new campaign finance law, agreed that the $15 million is at risk. "The question is whether it could be made up in private contributions," the congressman said. [...]

The Kerry campaign is studying alternatives, including the use of a lesser-publicized option that would enable individuals to give as much as $57,500 to national and state parties for advertising that would independently boost Kerry's candidacy. While individuals are allowed to give no more than $2,000 to Kerry for the primary campaign, Wertheimer said they can give an additional $25,000 to the national party and $10,000 to state parties, with an overall two-year limit of $57,500.

Even a dog has sense enough not to mess where it sleeps--the worst presidential campaign in modern memory though is consciously alienating it's own goo-goo ("Good Government") base.

May 24, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:11 PM


The Lobotomized Weasel School of Writing (Crispin Sartwell, May 20, 2004, LA Times)

Today's educational establishment is making actual illiteracy look good, like an act of humanity and rebellion. Writing, which ought to nurture and give shape to thought, is instead being used to pound it into a powder and then reconstitute it into gruel.

The thoroughly modern grade-A public-school prose style is not creative or interesting enough even to be wrong. The people who create and enforce the templates are, not to put too fine a point on it, people without understanding or imagination, lobotomized weasels for whom any effort of thought exceeds their strength. I recently read one of the many boilerplate descriptions of how students should write their essays. "The penultimate sentence," it said, "should restate your basic thesis of the essay." Well, who says? And why?

The description is nonsense, of course, no one reads the penultimate sentence, only the ultimate sentence, which is where you should restate your thesis.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:04 PM


Remarks by the President on Iraq and the War on Terror (United States Army War College Carlisle, Pennsylvania, 5/24/04)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Thank you and good evening. I'm honored to visit the Army War College. Generations of officers have come here to study the strategies and history of warfare. I've come here tonight to report to all Americans, and to the Iraqi people, on the strategy our nation is pursuing in Iraq, and the specific steps were taking to achieve our goals.

The actions of our enemies over the last few weeks have been brutal, calculating, and instructive. We've seen a car bombing take the life of a 61-year-old Iraqi named Izzedin Saleem, who was serving as President of the Governing Council. This crime shows our enemy's intention to prevent Iraqi self-government, even if that means killing a lifelong Iraqi patriot and a faithful Muslim. Mr. Saleem was assassinated by terrorists seeking the return of tyranny and the death of democracy.

We've also seen images of a young American facing decapitation. This vile display shows a contempt for all the rules of warfare, and all the bounds of civilized behavior. It reveals a fanaticism that was not caused by any action of ours, and would not be appeased by any concession. We suspect that the man with the knife was an al Qaeda associate named Zarqawi. He and other terrorists know that Iraq is now the central front in the war on terror. And we must understand that, as well. The return of tyranny to Iraq would be an unprecedented terrorist victory, and a cause for killers to rejoice. It would also embolden the terrorists, leading to more bombings, more beheadings, and more murders of the innocent around the world.

The rise of a free and self-governing Iraq will deny terrorists a base of operation, discredit their narrow ideology, and give momentum to reformers across the region. This will be a decisive blow to terrorism at the heart of its power, and a victory for the security of America and the civilized world.

Our work in Iraq has been hard. Our coalition has faced changing conditions of war, and that has required perseverance, sacrifice, and an ability to adapt. The swift removal of Saddam Hussein's regime last spring had an unintended effect: Instead of being killed or captured on the battlefield, some of Saddam's elite guards shed their uniforms and melted into the civilian population. These elements of Saddam's repressive regime and secret police have reorganized, rearmed, and adopted sophisticated terrorist tactics. They've linked up with foreign fighters and terrorists. In a few cities, extremists have tried to sow chaos and seize regional power for themselves. These groups and individuals have conflicting ambitions, but they share a goal: They hope to wear out the patience of Americans, our coalition, and Iraqis before the arrival of effective self-government, and before Iraqis have the capability to defend their freedom.

Iraq now faces a critical moment. As the Iraqi people move closer to governing themselves, the terrorists are likely to become more active and more brutal. There are difficult days ahead, and the way forward may sometimes appear chaotic. Yet our coalition is strong, our efforts are focused and unrelenting, and no power of the enemy will stop Iraq's progress. (Applause.)

Helping construct a stable democracy after decades of dictatorship is a massive undertaking. Yet we have a great advantage. Whenever people are given a choice in the matter, they prefer lives of freedom to lives of fear. Our enemies in Iraq are good at filling hospitals, but they do not build any. They can incite men to murder and suicide, but they cannot inspire men to live, and hope, and add to the progress of their country. The terrorists' only influence is violence, and their only agenda is death.

Our agenda, in contrast, is freedom and independence, security and prosperity for the Iraqi people. And by removing a source of terrorist violence and instability in the Middle East, we also make our own country more secure.

Our coalition has a clear goal, understood by all -- to see the Iraqi people in charge of Iraq for the first time in generations. America's task in Iraq is not only to defeat an enemy, it is to give strength to a friend - a free, representative government that serves its people and fights on their behalf. And the sooner this goal is achieved, the sooner our job will be done.

There are five steps in our plan to help Iraq achieve democracy and freedom. We will hand over authority to a sovereign Iraqi government, help establish security, continue rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure, encourage more international support, and move toward a national election that will bring forward new leaders empowered by the Iraqi people.

The first of these steps will occur next month, when our coalition will transfer full sovereignty to a government of Iraqi citizens who will prepare the way for national elections. On June 30th, the Coalition Provisional Authority will cease to exist, and will not be replaced. The occupation will end, and Iraqis will govern their own affairs. America's ambassador to Iraq, John Negroponte, will present his credentials to the new president of Iraq. Our embassy in Baghdad will have the same purpose as any other American embassy, to assure good relations with a sovereign nation. America and other countries will continue to provide technical experts to help Iraq's ministries of government, but these ministries will report to Iraq's new prime minister.

The United Nations Special Envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, is now consulting with a broad spectrum of Iraqis to determine the composition of this interim government. The special envoy intends to put forward the names of interim government officials this week. In addition to a president, two vice presidents, and a prime minister, 26 Iraqi ministers will oversee government departments, from health to justice to defense. This new government will be advised by a national council, which will be chosen in July by Iraqis representing their country's diversity. This interim government will exercise full sovereignty until national elections are held. America fully supports Mr. Brahimi's efforts, and I have instructed the Coalition Provisional Authority to assist him in every way possible.

In preparation for sovereignty, many functions of government have already been transferred. Twelve government ministries are currently under the direct control of Iraqis. The Ministry of Education, for example, is out of the propaganda business, and is now concerned with educating Iraqi children. Under the direction of Dr. Ala'din al-Alwan, the Ministry has trained more than 30,000 teachers and supervisors for the schools of a new Iraq.

All along, some have questioned whether the Iraqi people are ready for self-government, or even want it. And all along, the Iraqi people have given their answer. In settings where Iraqis have met to discuss their country's future, they have endorsed representative government. And they are practicing representative government. Many of Iraq's cities and towns now have elected town councils or city governments - and beyond the violence, a civil society is emerging.

The June 30th transfer of sovereignty is an essential commitment of our strategy. Iraqis are proud people who resent foreign control of their affairs, just as we would. After decades under the tyrant, they are also reluctant to trust authority. By keeping our promise on June 30th, the coalition will demonstrate that we have no interest in occupation. And full sovereignty will give Iraqis a direct interest in the success of their own government. Iraqis will know that when they build a school or repair a bridge, they're not working for the Coalition Provisional Authority, they are working for themselves. And when they patrol the streets of Baghdad, or engage radical militias, they will be fighting for their own country.

The second step in the plan for Iraqi democracy is to help establish the stability and security that democracy requires. Coalition forces and the Iraqi people have the same enemies -- the terrorists, illegal militia, and Saddam loyalists who stand between the Iraqi people and their future as a free nation. Working as allies, we will defend Iraq and defeat these enemies.

America will provide forces and support necessary for achieving these goals. Our commanders had estimated that a troop level below 115,000 would be sufficient at this point in the conflict. Given the recent increase in violence, we'll maintain our troop level at the current 138,000 as long as necessary. This has required extended duty for the 1st Armored Division and the 2nd Light Cavalry Regiment -- 20,000 men and women who were scheduled to leave Iraq in April. Our nation appreciates their hard work and sacrifice, and they can know that they will be heading home soon. General Abizaid and other commanders in Iraq are constantly assessing the level of troops they need to fulfill the mission. If they need more troops, I will send them. The mission of our forces in Iraq is demanding and dangerous. Our troops are showing exceptional skill and courage. I thank them for their sacrifices and their duty. (Applause.)

In the city of Fallujah, there's been considerable violence by Saddam loyalists and foreign fighters, including the murder of four American contractors. American soldiers and Marines could have used overwhelming force. Our commanders, however, consulted with Iraq's Governing Council and local officials, and determined that massive strikes against the enemy would alienate the local population, and increase support for the insurgency. So we have pursued a different approach. We're making security a shared responsibility in Fallujah. Coalition commanders have worked with local leaders to create an all-Iraqi security force, which is now patrolling the city. Our soldiers and Marines will continue to disrupt enemy attacks on our supply routes, conduct joint patrols with Iraqis to destroy bomb factories and safe houses, and kill or capture any enemy.

We want Iraqi forces to gain experience and confidence in dealing with their country's enemies. We want the Iraqi people to know that we trust their growing capabilities, even as we help build them. At the same time, Fallujah must cease to be a sanctuary for the enemy, and those responsible for terrorism will be held to account.

In the cities of Najaf and Karbala and Kufa, most of the violence has been incited by a young, radical cleric who commands an illegal militia. These enemies have been hiding behind an innocent civilian population, storing arms and ammunition in mosques, and launching attacks from holy shrines. Our soldiers have treated religious sites with respect, while systematically dismantling the illegal militia. We're also seeing Iraqis, themselves, take more responsibility for restoring order. In recent weeks, Iraqi forces have ejected elements of this militia from the governor's office in Najaf. Yesterday, an elite Iraqi unit cleared out a weapons cache from a large mosque in Kufa. Respected Shia leaders have called on the militia to withdraw from these towns. Ordinary Iraqis have marched in protest against the militants.

As challenges arise in Fallujah, Najaf, and elsewhere, the tactics of our military will be flexible. Commanders on the ground will pay close attention to local conditions. And we will do all that is necessary -- by measured force or overwhelming force -- to achieve a stable Iraq.

Iraq's military, police, and border forces have begun to take on broader responsibilities. Eventually, they must be the primary defenders of Iraqi security, as American and coalition forces are withdrawn. And we're helping them to prepare for this role. In some cases, the early performance of Iraqi forces fell short. Some refused orders to engage the enemy. We've learned from these failures, and we've taken steps to correct them. Successful fighting units need a sense of cohesion, so we've lengthened and intensified their training. Successful units need to know they are fighting for the future of their own country, not for any occupying power, so we are ensuring that Iraqi forces serve under an Iraqi chain of command. Successful fighting units need the best possible leadership, so we improved the vetting and training of Iraqi officers and senior enlisted men.

At my direction, and with the support of Iraqi authorities, we are accelerating our program to help train Iraqis to defend their country. A new team of senior military officers is now assessing every unit in Iraq's security forces. I've asked this team to oversee the training of a force of 260,000 Iraqi soldiers, police, and other security personnel. Five Iraqi army battalions are in the field now, with another eight battalions to join them by July the 1st. The eventual goal is an Iraqi army of 35,000 soldiers in 27 battalions, fully prepared to defend their country.

After June 30th, American and other forces will still have important duties. American military forces in Iraq will operate under American command as a part of a multinational force authorized by the United Nations. Iraq's new sovereign government will still face enormous security challenges, and our forces will be there to help.

The third step in the plan for Iraqi democracy is to continue rebuilding that nation's infrastructure, so that a free Iraq can quickly gain economic independence and a better quality of life. Our coalition has already helped Iraqis to rebuild schools and refurbish hospitals and health clinics, repair bridges, upgrade the electrical grid, and modernize the communications system. And now a growing private economy is taking shape. A new currency has been introduced. Iraq's Governing Council approved a new law that opens the country to foreign investment for the first time in decades. Iraq has liberalized its trade policy, and today an Iraqi observer attends meetings of the World Trade Organization. Iraqi oil production has reached more than two million barrels per day, bringing revenues of nearly $6 billion so far this year, which is being used to help the people of Iraq. And thanks in part to our efforts -- to the efforts of former Secretary of State James Baker, many of Iraq's largest creditors have pledged to forgive or substantially reduce Iraqi debt incurred by the former regime.

We're making progress. Yet there still is much work to do. Over the decades of Saddam's rule, Iraq's infrastructure was allowed to crumble, while money was diverted to palaces, and to wars, and to weapons programs. We're urging other nations to contribute to Iraqi reconstruction -- and 37 countries and the IMF and the World Bank have so far pledged $13.5 billion in aid. America has dedicated more than $20 billion to reconstruction and development projects in Iraq. To ensure our money is spent wisely and effectively, our new embassy in Iraq will have regional offices in several key cities. These offices will work closely with Iraqis at all levels of government to help make sure projects are completed on time and on budget.

A new Iraq will also need a humane, well-supervised prison system. Under the dictator, prisons like Abu Ghraib were symbols of death and torture. That same prison became a symbol of disgraceful conduct by a few American troops who dishonored our country and disregarded our values. America will fund the construction of a modern, maximum security prison. When that prison is completed, detainees at Abu Ghraib will be relocated. Then, with the approval of the Iraqi government, we will demolish the Abu Ghraib prison, as a fitting symbol of Iraq's new beginning. (Applause.)

The fourth step in our plan is to enlist additional international support for Iraq's transition. At every stage, the United States has gone to the United Nations -- to confront Saddam Hussein, to promise serious consequences for his actions, and to begin Iraqi reconstruction. Today, the United States and Great Britain presented a new resolution in the Security Council to help move Iraq toward self-government. I've directed Secretary Powell to work with fellow members of the Council to endorse the timetable the Iraqis have adopted, to express international support for Iraq's interim government, to reaffirm the world's security commitment to the Iraqi people, and to encourage other U.N. members to join in the effort. Despite past disagreements, most nations have indicated strong support for the success of a free Iraq. And I'm confident they will share in the responsibility of assuring that success.

Next month, at the NATO summit in Istanbul, I will thank our 15 NATO allies who together have more than 17,000 troops on the ground in Iraq. Great Britain and Poland are each leading a multinational division that is securing important parts of the country. And NATO, itself, is giving helpful intelligence, communications, and logistical support to the Polish-led division. At the summit, we will discuss NATO's role in helping Iraq build and secure its democracy.

The fifth and most important step is free, national elections, to be held no later than next January. A United Nations team, headed by Carina Perelli, is now in Iraq, helping form an independent election commission that will oversee an orderly, accurate national election. In that election, the Iraqi people will choose a transitional national assembly, the first freely-elected, truly representative national governing body in Iraq's history. This assembly will serve as Iraq's legislature, and it will choose a transitional government with executive powers. The transitional national assembly will also draft a new constitution, which will be presented to the Iraqi people in a referendum scheduled for the fall of 2005. Under this new constitution, Iraq will elect a permanent government by the end of next year.

In this time of war and liberation and rebuilding, American soldiers and civilians on the ground have come to know and respect the citizens of Iraq. They're a proud people who hold strong and diverse opinions. Yet Iraqis are united in a broad and deep conviction: They're determined never again to live at the mercy of a dictator. And they believe that a national election will put that dark time behind them. A representative government that protects basic rights, elected by Iraqis, is the best defense against the return of tyranny -- and that election is coming. (Applause.)

Completing the five steps to Iraqi elected self-government will not be easy. There's likely to be more violence before the transfer of sovereignty, and after the transfer of sovereignty. The terrorists and Saddam loyalists would rather see many Iraqis die than have any live in freedom. But terrorists will not determine the future of Iraq. (Applause.)

That nation is moving every week toward free elections and a permanent place among free nations. Like every nation that has made the journey to democracy, Iraqis will raise up a government that reflects their own culture and values. I sent American troops to Iraq to defend our security, not to stay as an occupying power. I sent American troops to Iraq to make its people free, not to make them American. Iraqis will write their own history, and find their own way. As they do, Iraqis can be certain, a free Iraq will always have a friend in the United States of America. (Applause.)

In the last 32 months, history has placed great demands on our country, and events have come quickly. Americans have seen the flames of September the 11th, followed battles in the mountains of Afghanistan, and learned new terms like "orange alert" and "ricin" and "dirty bomb." We've seen killers at work on trains in Madrid, in a bank in Istanbul, at a synagogue in Tunis, and at a nightclub in Bali. And now the families of our soldiers and civilian workers pray for their sons and daughters in Mosul and Karbala and Baghdad.

We did not seek this war on terror, but this is the world as we find it. We must keep our focus. We must do our duty. History is moving, and it will tend toward hope, or tend toward tragedy. Our terrorist enemies have a vision that guides and explains all their varied acts of murder. They seek to impose Taliban-like rule, country by country, across the greater Middle East. They seek the total control of every person, and mind, and soul, a harsh society in which women are voiceless and brutalized. They seek bases of operation to train more killers and export more violence. They commit dramatic acts of murder to shock, frighten and demoralize civilized nations, hoping we will retreat from the world and give them free rein. They seek weapons of mass destruction, to impose their will through blackmail and catastrophic attacks. None of this is the expression of a religion. It is a totalitarian political ideology, pursued with consuming zeal, and without conscience.

Our actions, too, are guided by a vision. We believe that freedom can advance and change lives in the greater Middle East, as it has advanced and changed lives in Asia, and Latin America, and Eastern Europe, and Africa. We believe it is a tragedy of history that in the Middle East -- which gave the world great gifts of law and science and faith -- so many have been held back by lawless tyranny and fanaticism. We believe that when all Middle Eastern peoples are finally allowed to live and think and work and worship as free men and women, they will reclaim the greatness of their own heritage. And when that day comes, the bitterness and burning hatreds that feed terrorism will fade and die away. America and all the world will be safer when hope has returned to the Middle East.

These two visions -- one of tyranny and murder, the other of liberty and life -- clashed in Afghanistan. And thanks to brave U.S. and coalition forces and to Afghan patriots, the nightmare of the Taliban is over, and that nation is coming to life again. These two visions have now met in Iraq, and are contending for the future of that country. The failure of freedom would only mark the beginning of peril and violence. But, my fellow Americans, we will not fail. We will persevere, and defeat this enemy, and hold this hard-won ground for the realm of liberty.

May God bless our country.

Nothing new, but by restating it he gives opponents, waffling allies, and those in between the opportunity to pretend that things have changed dramatically and that now they're ready to get on board...

Allies offer the UN draft plan on Iraq (Brian Knowlton, May 25, 2004, International Herald Tribune)

WASHINGTON The United States and Britain presented a draft UN resolution Monday that calls for a full transfer of sovereignty to Iraq and an initial one-year mandate for the U.S.-led multinational military force, subject to the consent of the transitional government.

"The interim Iraqi government will assume total responsibility for its own sovereignty," the British ambassador, Sir Emyr Jones Parry, said before a closed-door Security Council session called to review the proposal. That government is to take office by June 30. The text drew mostly positive comments among ambassadors in the corridors outside the conference room, and was expected to lead fairly quickly to the passage of a resolution. But the timetable from now to June 30, when the United States has promised to hand over additional powers to Iraqis, remains tight, troubled and uncertain. "We are definitely running out of time," said Ambassador Abdallah Baali of Algeria, a council member. "There is no room for error. Not anymore." [...]

Even Ambassador Gunter Pleuger of Germany, whose country ardently opposed the Iraq war, called the draft text "a good basis for discussions" toward a resolution that will "make clear that we have a new start in Iraq."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:56 PM


US closes in on deal with Iraqi cleric: Officials say talks are under way to turn Moqtada al-Sadr's army into a political group. (Orly Halpern, 5/25/04, CS Monitor)

As fighting between Shiite militiamen and US-led coalition forces continued Monday, the outline of a Fallujah-like solution began to emerge.

The death toll rose in Baghdad and Kufa as the Mahdi Army of militant Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr battled US troops. But behind the scenes, direct negotiations were under way to transform Sadr's militia into a political entity and end a violent rebellion.

The coalition has declared repeatedly that it will not negotiate with "militias and criminals." Nonetheless, a deal may be forthcoming with Sadr, said an official close to the talks. The coalition has previously said it wanted the cleric killed or captured.

If the deal pans out, it could bring to an end the seven-week conflict. The hope is that by engaging Sadr politically, the coalition can neutralize him militarily. His militia might also eventually be integrated into the Iraqi national security forces.

Such an accord would reverse previously held coalition strategies - much as happened in Fallujah. In that Iraqi city, the scene of intense fighting in April, militia including many of the same insurgents who were fighting the Marines are now in charge of keeping the peace.

Get him out in the open and someone will surely whack him.

U.S. Seems Ready to Allow Iraqi Militias to Keep Arms (DEXTER FILKINS, 5/25/04, NY Times)

The danger is that on June 30 the Americans will hand over power to an Iraqi administration that will not have a monopoly on the use of armed force, in an environment that many fear could set the stage for sectarian and ethnic warfare as the country moves toward what are intended to be democratic elections.

As that date approaches, the Americans are quietly allowing some of these armed groups to flourish and, in some cases, have even helped recreate them.

In Falluja, the scene of deadly fighting last month, American commanders agreed to set up an Iraqi security force composed almost entirely of former members of Mr. Hussein's Republican Guard and anti-American guerrillas.

In Baghdad and southern Iraq, the Americans have allowed the two largest Shiite militias, the Badr Corps and the Dawa army, to remain intact, largely on the promise by their leaders that the fighters will stay off the streets.

In northern Iraq, as part of the effort to disband the 60,000-man Kurdish militia, entire military units simply donned police uniforms of the new Iraqi state but otherwise stayed in the same place with the same commanders.

Even fighters in the Mahdi Army of the radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, whom American soldiers have been killing in large numbers in recent weeks, may be given a chance for legitimacy. In a recent news conference, the general commanding American forces in Najaf and Karbala said he would be willing to consider taking Mahdi Army militiamen into a new Iraqi security force being set up to help secure southern Iraq. [...]

In some cases, the Americans have allowed militias that it considers friendly simply to change their names. The Badr Corps, for instance, has changed its name to the Badr Reconstruction Organization, and its leaders claim that it is now involved only in cultural activities. The head of the group, Abu Hassan al-Ameri, remains in his same offices, and his men still carry Kalashnikov rifles. "All of our guns have been licensed by the Americans," Mr. Ameri said.

As with most other militias, the Badr organization is made up almost entirely of a single religious or ethnic group. So strong is the Shiite identification of the Badr Corps that in the 1980's, during the Iran-Iraq war, some of its members fought for Iran, another majority-Shiite country, against the Sunni-led forces of Iraq.

From the beginning, the task of disarming the militias has been a difficult one. Every Iraqi family is permitted to own one high-powered assault rifle, and virtually all of them do. Like the American minutemen of yore, the militias are composed mostly of civilians, who assemble — or disappear — on short notice.

While the United States has tried a hands-off approach with armed groups it regards as friendly, it has tried to co-opt ones that have demonstrated hostility. After the heavy fighting in Falluja last month, American commanders accepted an offer from a former general in the Republican Guards to set up a security force of his former troops.

One result is that Falluja has been mostly peaceful since the deal was reached a month ago. But the peace has come at considerable cost: It has enraged mainstream Shiites, who were stunned to learn that the Americans had resurrected the very soldiers they deposed a year before. Shiite leaders worry that the short-term peace in Falluja will give way to disaster in the future.

"Today, they are in Falluja; tomorrow they will be in Baghdad," said Mr. Mehdi, the Shiite leader.

These days in Falluja, the line separating an insurgent and a member of the "security forces" is sometimes invisible.

"All the people in Falluja are fighters," said Naji Obeid, a 35-year-old member of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, an American-sponsored force.

When the Marines tried to enter Falluja last month, Mr. Obeid joined the fight against them. When the peace deal was struck, he put his Iraqi civil defense uniform back on and returned to work.

"The people, they were fighting against the Americans, and they were fighting to protect their city," he said. "And now they are in the new Iraqi Army, protecting their city."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:43 PM


George Bush never looked into Nick's eyes: Even more than the murderers who took my son's life, I condemn those who make policies to end lives (Michael Berg, May 21, 2004, The Guardian)

People ask me why I focus on putting the blame for my son's tragic and atrocious end on the Bush administration. They ask: "Don't you blame the five men who killed him?" I have answered that I blame them no more or less than the Bush administration, but I am wrong: I am sure, knowing my son, that somewhere during their association with him these men became aware of what an extraordinary man my son was. I take comfort that when they did the awful thing they did, they weren't quite as in to it as they might have been. I am sure that they came to admire him.

I am sure that the one who wielded the knife felt Nick's breath on his hand and knew that he had a real human being there. I am sure that the others looked into my son's eyes and got at least a glimmer of what the rest of the world sees. And I am sure that these murderers, for just a brief moment, did not like what they were doing.

George Bush never looked into my son's eyes. George Bush doesn't know my son, and he is the worse for it.

Would a responsible news organization run such fatuous nonsense after Mr. Berg's son was tied to the 20th hijacker? They may well be making themselves a mouthpiece for al Qaeda propoganda.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:36 PM


Billion-dollar timebomb puts Chalabi at risk (Robin Gedye, 21/05/2004, Daily Telegraph)

Ahmad Chalabi is in possession of "miles" of documents with the potential to expose politicians, corporations and the United Nations as having connived in a system of kickbacks and false pricing worth billions of pounds.

That may have been enough to provoke yesterday's American raid. So explosive are the contents of the files that their publication would cause serious problems for US allies and friendly states around the globe.

Late last year and several months before Paul Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority became involved, Mr Chalabi had amassed enough information concerning corruption in the oil-for-food scandal to realise that he was sitting on explosive material.

There's something in his prospective trial for everybody.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:00 PM


Speaking to the nation (Michael Barone, May 24, 2004, TownHall)

To the criticism that they report and overemphasize bad news, reporters say, correctly, that bad news is news. But in a country like Iraq, ruled by a vicious dictator for the last 35 years, good news is also news. Reporters readily fan out to find bad news. But they seldom seek the good news -- readily available in Iraqi and military weblogs and confirmed in polls of Iraqis -- that incomes, electricity, schools, water quality, medical care, religious freedom and security are improving in Iraq. Some reporters, as the Daily Telegraph's Toby Harnden reports from Iraq, deliberately avoid good news because they think it might help George W. Bush win re-election.

When Bush speaks to the public, he might follow the example of one considerably below him in the chain of command, Marine Corps Maj. Ben Connable, who wrote is USA Today: "This is my third deployment with the 1st Marine Division to the Middle East. This is the third time I've heard the quavering cries of the talking heads predicting failure and calling for withdrawal. This is the third time I find myself shaking my head in disbelief. ... Just weeks ago, I read that the supply lines were cut, ammunition and food were dwindling, the ‘Sunni Triangle' was exploding, cleric Muqtada al-Sadr was leading a widespread Shiite revolt and the country was nearing civil war. As I write this, the supply lines are open, there's plenty of ammunition and food, the Sunni Triangle is back to status quo and Sadr is marginalized in Najaf. Once again, dire predictions of failure and disaster have been dismissed by American willpower and military professionalism."

The president needs to put things in perspective. Iraq is not Vietnam. My Lai was a massacre; Abu Ghraib was abuse. Hundreds of thousands of enemy attacked in the Tet offensive; a few thousand fought for Moqtada al-Sadr, and they are being rejected by his fellow Shiites.

Too many folks have too much vested in the notions that America is evil, that George Bush is an idiot , and/or that Muslims don't want freedom for the situation to be reported honestly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:55 PM


Mayor Tom to Kerry: Just do it!: Nomination flap heats up in Hub (David R. Guarino, May 23, 2004, Boston Herald)

A frustrated Mayor Thomas M. Menino yesterday urged Sen. John F. Kerry to make good on plans to accept the Democratic presidential nomination in the Hub, bluntly telling Kerry to ``just do it.''

Menino, peeved that Kerry didn't clue him in on planning that could render the Boston convention irrelevant, said it's too late for ideas like Kerry's.

``My advice? Do what everybody else has done in the past,'' Menino told reporters.

``Just do it. Just get it done.''

The mayor led what could become a rising tide of opposition to the Kerry trial balloon suggesting the nomination be delayed to improve the campaign's finances.

Never mind losing MA, at this rate Mr. Kerry may not carry Boston.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:52 PM


Sharon tweaks withdrawal plan: Israel's leader is expected to seek cabinet approval Sunday for a Gaza plan that some say has changed little. (Ilene Prusher, 5/25/04, CS Monitor)

"It's basically a watered-down version to persuade some of the naysayers that, even if they couldn't go along with the last one, they will go along with the next one," says Mark Heller, a political scientist at Tel Aviv University. "Most of those who opposed did so on ideological grounds, being opposed to the concept of unilateral withdrawal, and not the specifics."

On the one hand, many Israelis view the military drive into Gaza Strip as justifiable, given the recent shooting deaths in Gaza of an Israeli mother and her four daughters and the deaths of 13 Israeli soldiers during attacks by Palestinian militant groups. But the stated goals of the operation have been inconsistent - from what the military says is a need to destroy tunnels to plans to widen the corridor between the Strip and Egypt.

In the hawkish view, Israel wanted to show Palestinians how Israel will respond to any attempt to use a Gaza Strip withdrawal to launch fresh attacks on Israel. Or, as Ze'ev Schiff, a military analyst with the Ha'aretz newspaper, puts it: "Rafah will be a reminder to them what will happen if they go on with the terror war after the withdrawal."

Israel may also have gone on the offensive to preempt Hamas claims that the army is leaving Gaza "under fire," as Hizbollah claimed in Lebanon.

The shifting and varied reasons to justify the Rafah operation have left many here baffled, and the new and improved disengagement plan according to an editorial in Ha'aretz, "arouses both concern and puzzlement."

Says Mr. Heller: "We always proceed on the assumption that someone up there in the leadership has a clear idea of what they're doing, and we just need to figure it out. But in this case, i'm not sure if they had a clear idea.

"It's the government's job to provide a clear explanation of things, a rationale, and in that they failed - so everyone's confused and we're reduced to guessing," he says.

What is clear is that Sharon's essential thinking remains unchanged, namely that Israel has no partner within the Palestinian leadership and should therefore withdraw from some 20 Jewish settlements in Gaza and certain parts of the West Bank.

Even folk who are contemptuous of the striped-pants diplomat set nonetheless tend to get obsessed with every little zig and zag in the road to a Palestinian state, but the destination is inevitable and imminent.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:20 PM

THE STABLE BUSH (via Kevin Whited):

Bush Sr. clarifies 'Chicken Kiev' speech (Natalia A. Feduschak, May 24, 2004, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Former President George Bush, the latest in a string of prominent American visitors to Ukraine, said last week that what became known as his "Chicken Kiev" speech in 1991 was misunderstood by his critics.

In that speech, delivered in Kiev months before a referendum in which Ukrainians voted to withdraw from the Soviet Union, Mr. Bush cautioned against "suicidal nationalism."

The remarks subsequently were derided as lacking sufficient resolve against communism and, in any case, had little impact on the referendum, which passed overwhelmingly.

Back in Kiev last week during a European tour to raise support for his son's re-election campaign, Mr. Bush insisted that both Ukrainians and the Western press had missed his point.

The message he had wanted to send was that Ukrainians should not do "something stupid," he said. "If your leaders hadn't acted smartly, there would have been a crackdown" from Moscow.

Mr. Bush told an audience of students and other invited guests that Washington had felt a "sense of relief" when 90 percent of Ukrainians voted for independence. "What transpired 13 years ago marked a new, hopeful chapter for mankind," he said.

Interesting that the senior Mr. Bush has to go to Eastern Europe to apologize for being on the wrong side of History and underestimating their desire for freedom, but twenty years from now folks will be apologizing to his son for underestimating how much the Middle East desired the same.

The state of dis-Arabia (Claude Salhani, 5/24/2004, UPI) -- If Arab leaders gathered in a summit meeting in Tunis this past weekend were to qualify for a report card, most would score low marks for lack of progress, absence of political freedom, deficit of democracy and human rights abuses.

While the developed world has progressed over the last decade, the Arab world has largely stagnated, lamented Turki al-Hammad, a Jordanian-born political scientist.

"The whole world has changed but the Middle East has not," said al-Hammad, adding the reason the area remained in conflict was "because the Middle East is going backward instead of forward." [...]

While the Middle East regressed politically, Europe, meanwhile, particularly the "New Europe," has been the most successful Cinderella story of the planet. The former Eastern Bloc has shed the chains of communism, and in light years leaps and bounds joined the 21st century, leaving the Middle East behind in its dust.

Despite its richness in natural resources, the Middle East continues to lag behind the rest of the developed world in bringing about democratic reforms. The proliferation of the Internet, cellular telephones and satellite television has allowed many Arabs greater access to information than ever before, yet, as Secretary of State Colin Powell pointed out, the entire Arab world of 260 million people has a smaller combined gross domestic product than Spain with 40 million. [...]

Given the immense richness of the area -- from oil, to natural gas and its multitude of minerals, given Middle Easterners' natural flair for business and their success at it -- there is little excuse for the socio-political retardation in the area. "We must identify the past and not repeat its mistakes," said a participant at last week's Kuwait conference.

"Here are the facts, whether we like them or not. A number of countries have no respect for human rights," said al Hammad, the political scientist. The need for change in the Arab world was echoed by his Syrian colleague, Sami al-Khaymi, who said, "There is dire need to change the Arab mind." No one will argue that point.

But still, there is room for optimism. A few countries are beginning to introduce reform, albeit at their own pace, such as Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Tunisia and Algeria, the latter of which has seen a mushrooming of independent newspapers. Others are under mounting pressure from the Bush administration to change.

The other country offering a glint of hopefulness in the region is Iran -- not an Arab country -- and which is most likely to head towards greater democratic changes within the next decade. "It is not right to represent Iran with its ruling mullahs, who are (going to be) seriously in trouble when young Iranians enter society," commented Amir Naghshineh-Pour, director of the San Diego-based Iran Alliance Public Relations.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:11 PM

FELLOW-TRAVELING (via ef brown):

Kerry's Stalinist Slogan (Insight Magazine, May 24, 2004)

Insiders say John Kerry has settled on "Let America Be America Again" as the motto and theme of his presidential campaign. The line comes from a Langston Hughes poem Kerry quoted at an NAACP event in Kansas. Apparently the pedantic St. Paul's and Yale graduate didn't bother to note that it was written for an International Workers Order (IWO) pamphlet called A New Song. The IWO was an officially cited affiliate of the Communist Party, and Hughes was so committed a Stalinist that he formally endorsed the Bolshevik purges.

In what sense is endorsing the Stalinist purges any worse than endorsing the North Vietnamese takeover of the South?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:59 PM


'Gas roots' protest over pump prices: Many consumers, blaming big oil, boycott stations. (Ron Scherer, 5.//25/04, CS monitor)

It sounds like a late-night joke: Did you hear the one about the Texan who drives a pickup truck and wants to boycott gasoline stations?

Leno and Letterman, meet Stephanie Cain, a resident of Houston, who has been avoiding the pumps at her favorite gas station. "The oil companies have no regard for the consumer," says Ms. Cain, the owner of a "gas hog" Dodge Ram pickup. "They are just lining their pockets."

She's far from alone in wanting to punish the pumps. Websites are springing up (www., among others), e-mails zinging oil companies are flying through the ether, and, yes, someone is both trying to boycott gasoline in California and get a "fuel revolt" proposition on the ballot this fall. With gasoline prices continuing to ratchet up - the weighted national average hit $2.10 a gallon last week - a "gas roots" effort is being pushed with populist zeal.

Yet many an economic conservative goes wobbly on theory when you propose that exorbitant hikes in gas taxes would reduce consumption.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 3:28 PM


Bible argument spurs boiling-oil charge (Boston Globe, May 21st, 2004)

A woman is accused of pouring boiling oil on her boyfriend's face in an argument over a Bible verse.

Angela S. Morris, 19, was charged with domestic violence assault and jailed on $250,000 bail. Her 31-year-old boyfriend, whose name was not released, was hospitalized with severe burns on his face, neck and chest.

The two were reading the Bible at the boyfriend's apartment May 13 when Morris went to the kitchen to prepare french fries, police said.

Morris told police that they continued to argue and that her boyfriend grabbed her from behind. Police said he then went to his bedroom to lie down. Morris followed and threw the oil on him, police said.

Twenty bucks says it was Exodus 20:14

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:50 AM


New Theory: Universe Created by Intelligent Being (John Roach, March 11, 2004, National Geographic News)

On any given starry night thousands, perhaps millions, of people crane their necks skyward and allow their minds to swirl around two fundamental questions: Are we alone, and why are we here?

According to a lawyer and science enthusiast in Portland, Oregon, not only is the universe full of life, but some of it may be intelligent beyond our wildest imagination. He also says that collectively as intelligent beings we are entwined in our ultimate destiny: to give birth to another universe.

"Intelligent life is, in essence, the reproductive organ of the cosmos," said James Gardner, the lawyer who moonlights as a scientist. He has pulled together his theory—called the selfish biocosm—from the disparate fields of physics, biology, biochemistry, astronomy, and cosmology.

Gardner has published pieces of his theory in several peer-reviewed scientific journals and wraps it together in his recently published book, Biocosm: The New Scientific Theory of Evolution: Intelligent Life Is the Architect of the Universe.

Though Gardner admits the theory is speculative and out-there in the literal and figurative senses, it is grounded enough in serious research to at least tickle the fancy of some of the world's most respected scientists.

Seth Shostak is a senior scientist with the Mountain View, California-based SETI Institute, which is the unofficial hub for researchers on the lookout for extraterrestrial intelligence. He agrees with Gardner's belief that intelligent life is out there.

"It doesn't mean I automatically buy into the entire scenario Gardner is buying into, but I think he is right in suggesting intelligence is not extremely rare," Shostak said. "Of course, I'm in the SETI business, so it's probably not surprising that I believe that."

The selfish biocosm theory begins with the premise that the universe is life friendly. It is not a hostile place full of black holes, uninhabitable planets, and the emptiness that somehow, randomly, allowed intelligent life to evolve on Earth, Gardner says.

It always helps to start a new theory from an obvious falsehood.

The Big Lab Experiment: Was our universe created by design? (Jim Holt, May 19, 2004, Slate)

Was our universe created? That is, was it brought into being by an entity with a mind? This is a question I began pondering after my recent inquiry into the end of the universe. (For some reason, cosmic mysteries are best contemplated in pairs.) It is the fundamental issue that separates religious believers, ranging from Deists to Gnostics to Southern Baptists, from nonbelievers. To many atheists, the very idea that our world could have been created by a conscious being seems downright nutty. How could anyone, even a god, "make" a universe?

To get a better understanding of this matter, I thought it might be wise to consult the man who has done more than anyone else to explain how our universe got going. His name is Andrei Linde, and he is a physicist at Stanford University. (He's also an artist and an acrobat, but never mind.) In the early 1980s, the then-thirtysomething Linde came up with a novel theory of the Big Bang that answered three vexing questions: What banged? Why did it bang? And what was going on before it banged? Linde's theory, called "chaotic inflation," explained the shape of space and how galaxies were formed. It also predicted the exact pattern of background radiation from the Big Bang that was observed by the COBE satellite in the 1990s. Linde has been amply honored for his achievement, most recently by being awarded the 2004 Cosmology Prize of the Peter Gruber Foundation (along with Alan Guth, another pioneer of the theory of cosmic inflation).

Among the many curious implications of Linde's theory, one stands out for our present purposes: It doesn't take all that much to create a universe. Resources on a cosmic scale are not required. It might even be possible for someone in a not terribly advanced civilization to cook up a new universe in a laboratory. Which leads to an arresting thought: Could that be how our universe came into being?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:48 AM


THE SQUID HUNTER: Can Steve O’Shea capture the sea’s most elusive creature? (DAVID GRANN, 2004-05-17, The New Yorker)

On a moonless January night in 2003, Olivier de Kersauson, the French yachtsman, was racing across the Atlantic Ocean, trying to break the record for the fastest sailing voyage around the world, when his boat mysteriously came to a halt. There was no land for hundreds of miles, yet the mast rattled and the hull shuddered, as if the vessel had run aground. Kersauson turned the wheel one way, then the other; still, the gunwales shook inexplicably in the darkness. Kersauson ordered his crew, all of whom were now running up and down the deck, to investigate. Some of the crew took out spotlights and shone them on the water, as the massive trimaran—a three-hulled, hundred-and-ten-foot boat that was the largest racing machine of its kind, and was named Geronimo, for the Apache warrior—pitched in the waves.

Meanwhile, the first mate, Didier Ragot, descended from the deck into the cabin, opened a trapdoor in the floor, and peered through a porthole into the ocean, using a flashlight. He glimpsed something by the rudder. “It was bigger than a human leg,” Ragot recently told me. “It was a tentacle.” He looked again. “It was starting to move,” he recalled.

He beckoned Kersauson, who came down and crouched over the opening. “I think it’s some sort of animal,” Ragot said.

Kersauson took the flashlight, and inspected for himself. “I had never seen anything like it,” he told me. “There were two giant tentacles right beneath us, lashing at the rudder.”

The creature seemed to be wrapping itself around the boat, which rocked violently. The floorboards creaked, and the rudder started to bend. Then, just as the stern seemed ready to snap, everything went still. “As it unhooked itself from the boat, I could see its tentacles,” Ragot recalled. “The whole animal must have been nearly thirty feet long.”

The creature had glistening skin and long arms with suckers, which left impressions on the hull. “It was enormous,” Kersauson recalled. “I’ve been sailing for forty years and I’ve always had an answer for everything—for hurricanes and icebergs. But I didn’t have an answer for this. It was terrifying.”

What they claimed they saw—a claim that many regarded as a tall tale—was a giant squid, an animal that has long occupied a central place in sea lore; it has been said to be larger than a whale and stronger than an elephant, with a beak that can sever steel cables. In a famous scene in “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” Jules Verne depicts a battle between a submarine and a giant squid that is twenty-five feet long, with eight arms and blue-green eyes—“a terrible monster worthy of all the legends about such creatures.” More recently, Peter Benchley, in his thriller “Beast,” describes a giant squid that “killed without need, as if Nature, in a fit of perverse malevolence, had programmed it to that end.”

Such fictional accounts, coupled with scores of unconfirmed sightings by sailors over the years, have elevated the giant squid into the fabled realm of the fire-breathing dragon and the Loch Ness monster. Though the giant squid is no myth, the species, designated in scientific literature as Architeuthis, is so little understood that it sometimes seems like one. A fully grown giant squid is classified as the largest invertebrate on Earth, with tentacles sometimes as long as a city bus and eyes about the size of human heads. Yet no scientist has ever examined a live specimen—or seen one swimming in the sea. Researchers have studied only carcasses, which have occasionally washed ashore or floated to the surface. (One corpse, found in 1887 in the South Pacific, was said to be nearly sixty feet long.) Other evidence of the giant squid is even more indirect: sucker marks have been spotted on the bodies of sperm whales, as if burned into them; presumably, the two creatures battle each other hundreds of feet beneath the ocean’s surface.

The giant squid has consumed the imaginations of many oceanographers. How could something so big and powerful remain unseen for so long—or be less understood than dinosaurs, which died out millions of years ago? The search for a living specimen has inspired a fevered competition. For decades, teams of scientists have prowled the high seas in the hope of glimpsing one. These “squid squads” have in recent years invested millions of dollars and deployed scores of submarines and underwater cameras, in a struggle to be first.

Steve O’Shea, a marine biologist from New Zealand, is one of the hunters—but his approach is radically different. He is not trying to find a mature giant squid; rather, he is scouring the ocean for a baby, called a paralarva, which he can grow in captivity. A paralarva is often the size of a cricket.

Even beasts have better taste than to eat Frenchmen.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:47 AM


Darwinian shift: survival of the smallest: Evidence suggests that harvesting the biggest animals may force species to evolve rapidly. (Peter N. Spotts, 5/20/04, CS Monitor)

One of the big puzzles for managers of fisheries involves the plunge in Atlantic cod populations around southern Labrador and Newfoundland's Grand Banks. Between the early 1960s and the early '90s, the number of cod there plummeted by 99.9 percent - one of the worst collapses of extant marine or land animals ever.

The cod that remained were smaller, matured at a younger age, spawned much earlier in their lives, and yielded weaker offspring than did their ancestors. In 1992, the Canadian government closed the fisheries. With the ban, fisheries managers expected the stocks to rebound. Yet today the populations remain at historic lows.

So Esben Olsen, a Norwegian marine ecologist, and a team of researchers decided to find out why. Were factors such as low food supplies or unusual ocean conditions responsible for the population's failure to rebound? Or did the fishing industry, by pulling up the larger fish, channel the populations' evolution toward smaller sizes, earlier maturity, and less reproductive success?

After analyzing nearly three decades' worth of data, the scientists concluded that evolution was indeed at work: Survival of the smallest. Dr. Olsen's team reported its results in the April 29 edition of the journal Nature.

"This shift toward early maturation could slow down the recovery of the population" because the fish can't produce offspring as robustly as the older fish could, Olsen says in a phone interview from his Oslo home.

The team made another key finding. The change showed up in the cod's population statistics before the collapse actually snowballed. He says this approach could be used as an early warning system for evolutionary trouble ahead.

Such a finding implies big changes for the way fisheries managers operate. If they are to take contemporary evolution into account, managers will have to cut back fishing of endangered populations earlier than ever - when the genetic changes are beginning to appear rather than when populations begin to collapse.

Another potential change: a more rigorous process for preserving genetic diversity. That would involve, scientists say, better screening to identify individuals to reintroduce; more detailed, persistent monitoring programs to find out how they're faring; and a focus on the genetic adaptability of distinct populations of a species, rather than on organisms thought to be most representative of a particular species.

Fast-track evolution affects more than fish. Last December, researchers in Alberta who closely tracked family histories within a group of mountain sheep at Ram Mountain reported that over a 30-year period, the rams in the population matured to smaller sizes and sported ever-smaller sets of horns.

The reason: Trophy hunters focused on taking the largest rams with the largest horns. These rams typically were shot before they reached their peak reproductive years. So, with many of those animals gone, the gene pool narrowed to favor the smaller rams.

Sometimes you have to wonder if the folks who write this stuff are Creationist plants--note that the argument here is that when intelligent beings intervene heavily enough they can cause changes within a species. There's no natural selection at work nor speciation, yet it's cited as "Darwinian" evolution. It is precisely what Darwin observed (breeding), just not what he thought he'd discovered (natural evolution).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:46 AM


For Better or for Worse?: President Bush's endorsement of a constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage should be welcomed by all Americans who are concerned about equality and preserving democratic decision-making. (Mary Ann Glendon, February 25, 2004, The Wall Street Journal)

If these social experiments go forward, moreover, the rights of children will be impaired. Same-sex marriage will constitute a public, official endorsement of the following extraordinary claims made by the Massachusetts judges in the Goodridge case: that marriage is mainly an arrangement for the benefit of adults; that children do not need both a mother and a father; and that alternative family forms are just as good as a husband and wife raising kids together. It would be tragic if, just when the country is beginning to take stock of the havoc those erroneous ideas have already wrought in the lives of American children, we should now freeze them into constitutional law. That philosophy of marriage, moreover, is what our children and grandchildren will be taught in school. They will be required to discuss marriage in those terms. Ordinary words like husband and wife will be replaced by partner and spouse. In marriage-preparation and sex-education classes, children will have to be taught about homosexual sex. Parents who complain will be branded as homophobes and their children will suffer.

Religious freedom, too, is at stake. As much as one may wish to live and let live, the experience in other countries reveals that once these arrangements become law, there will be no live-and-let-live policy for those who differ. Gay-marriage proponents use the language of openness, tolerance and diversity, yet one foreseeable effect of their success will be to usher in an era of intolerance and discrimination the likes of which we have rarely seen before. Every person and every religion that disagrees will be labeled as bigoted and openly discriminated against. The ax will fall most heavily on religious persons and groups that don't go along. Religious institutions will be hit with lawsuits if they refuse to compromise their principles.

Finally, there is the flagrant disregard shown by judges and local officials for the rights of citizens to have a say in setting the conditions under which we live, work and raise our children. Many Americans — however they feel about same-sex marriage — are rightly alarmed that local officials are defying state law, and that four judges in one state took it upon themselves to make the kind of decision that our Constitution says belongs to us, the people, and to our elected representatives. As one State House wag in Massachusetts put it, "We used to have government of the people, by the people and for the people, now we're getting government by four people!"

Always heartening to see a communitarian actually take a stand on moral principle.

Posted by David Cohen at 7:48 AM


A quick self-Google once a day to guard your reputation (Daniel Dasey, The Sun-Herald, 5/23/04)

It used to be a clandestine act carried out at the computer when no one else was watching, but "self-Googling" - searching for your own name on the internet - has gained social acceptance, with academics and legal experts saying the practice is healthy and fast becoming indispensable.

American researcher Alexander Halavais last month urged all internet users to keep tabs on what was being posted about them on the net, saying it was a 21st-century form of brand management.

The comments sparked an instant fad in the US, with people who consulted search engines surprised to discover they were mentioned on websites ranging from sporting team homepages to business directories.

This is a good idea in theory for those of you with distinctive names, but some of us are protected in our anonymity. I've never been able to keep interested long enough to find myself on Google.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:19 AM


Talking toilet orders men to sit down
(Boston Globe, May 21, 2004)

A German inventor who developed a gadget that berates men if they try to use the toilet standing up has sold more than 1.6 million devices, his business manager said on Tuesday.

German women fed up with a man with a poor aim can turn to the ghost-shaped gadget, which lurks under the toilet rim and, if the seat is lifted, declares in a stern female tone:

"Hello, what are you up to then? Put the seat back down right away, you are definitely not to pee standing up ... you will make a right mess..."

It is heartening to see that, after so many false starts, Germany has finally found a noble sense of national purpose.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:58 AM


When Alzheimer's Steals the Mind, How Aggressively to Treat the Body?
Gina Kolata, New York Times, May 28th, 2004)

Macie Mull was 82 and had suffered from Alzheimer's disease for more than a decade when she developed pneumonia. Her nursing home rushed her to the hospital where she spent the night, receiving intravenous antibiotics. The next day she was back at the nursing home, more confused than ever.

Now she was choking on her puréed food; eating was becoming impossible. And so, one Sunday afternoon, the administrators of her nursing home in Hickory, N.C., asked Mrs. Mull's daughter what to do: Did she want a feeding tube inserted? At that point, Mrs. Mull muttered only a few random words and could no longer recognize her daughter. The feeding tube would almost certainly prolong her life, but was it worth it?

The question of how aggressive to be in treating late-stage Alzheimer's patients is one of the most wrenching and contentious issues in medicine. For every patient who, like Mrs. Mull, reaches the final stage of the disease, there typically are about five or six family members faced with decisions about whether to authorize medical treatments for patients whose bodies live on though their minds are gone.

New research has found that Alzheimer's patients at the end of their lives often receive everything that medicine has to offer...

Modern man is a problem-solver. He is profoundly upset and dispirited by the notion that his can-do resolve, backed by no end of workshops, scientific research and technology, can not cope with whatever society or nature throws his way. But this heart-wrenching article shows that there are some dramas that don’t have happy endings and that, whatever we do, we make it worse. Neither religion, with its prohibitions against suicide and commands to care for the elderly, nor secular humanism, which tends to define quality of life as simply living as long as one can in the hope of dying in perfect health, can help us much here. With a huge Boomer generation set to retire soon, we are walking eyes wide open into an ethical sewer where we may be forced increasingly to choose between seeing ourselves as either murderers or torturers.

In the old days, wise men used to call pneumonia the old person’s friend. Nineteenth century novels and histories often speak of seniors who went for a walk, took a chill and passed on a few days later. Such blessings will not be for us, for we are of an age where it is bliss to be a child and a humiliating terror to be aged and infirm.

May 23, 2004

Posted by Paul Jaminet at 4:55 PM


Conciliating Hatred (Steven Smith, First Things, June/July 2004)

[I]n the Casey joint opinion [Kennedy] eventually joined O’Connor and Justice David Souter in reaffirming Roe’s “central holding”—with the expressed purpose, or at least the hope, of bringing the nation together on this “intensely divisive controversy.” These Justices portrayed the Court’s role as one of “call[ing] the contending sides of a national controversy to end their national division by accepting a common mandate rooted in the Constitution.”...

As you will learn to your chagrin if you have the misfortune of being required to teach these cases, the Court’s affirmative action decisions were plainly not about logic—or even about law in any serious sense. They were political compromises calculated to placate the major interested parties, and to avoid the divisiveness that the Court feared would ensue if affirmative action were ended....

The description in the Casey opinion of the Court as “call[ing] the contending sides of a national controversy to end their national division” struck some observers as grandiose, bordering on delusional.... Moreover, the leading precedent for this self-portrayal is ominous. In Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857), the Supreme Court similarly attempted to call the contending sides of a national controversy to end their national division: it attempted to settle the issue of slavery once and for all. Four years later the nation was engaged in a civil war that would wreak death and destruction on a horrifying scale....

[A] favored strategy seems to be emerging: we might call it the “evil-motives strategy.”... If the Justices ... want to invalidate a divisive measure, they can find the stated purpose to be merely a cover for some more nefarious motive—for racial or religious bigotry, or “animus,” or “a bare desire to harm a politically unpopular group” (quoting now from the 1996 decision in Romer v. Evans). In essence, the measure is struck down for being a product of hatred....

In Romer, ... Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion described a black-and-white world in which supporters of the measure were acting simply from “animus,” or from a “bare desire to harm a politically unpopular group.” And last term, in Lawrence v. Texas, Kennedy again wrote for the Court to declare that a Texas law prohibiting homosexual sodomy was like Amendment 2 in being “born of animosity toward the class of persons affected.”...

[T]he Court’s approach not only countenances but indeed mandates a discourse of demonization in which adversaries are required to litigate their differences by asserting and withstanding ascriptions of bigotry, intolerance, hatred, and “animus.” In traditional logic and rhetoric, the so-called ad hominem argument is typically treated as a certifiable fallacy. But if evil motives become the test of constitutionality, then disputants are not merely authorized but indeed required to trade in just that sort of argument. Robert Nagel notes that a good deal of modern constitutional jurisprudence amounts to little more than thinly veiled exercises in name-calling ...

Probably the principal device for reconciling [the ennobling and destructive aspects of our moral aspirations] consists of the venerable admonition to “hate the sin but love the sinner.”...

Tragically, the Supreme Court’s evil-motives jurisprudence attempts to negate that principle, or to foreclose any resort to it. Moral disapproval of conduct, such as homosexual acts, is equated with hostility toward and hatred of persons who engage in that conduct, and even of persons with a proclivity to engage in it, whether they actually do so or not.

This equation is nowhere clearer than in Justice O’Connor’s concurring opinion in Lawrence v. Texas. Moral disapproval of conduct, O’Connor there maintains, amounts to moral disapproval of the class or group with which that conduct is “closely correlated.” And “[m]oral disapproval of this group” is in turn tantamount for legal purposes to “a bare desire to harm the group.”...

Under the weight of these morality-flattening equivalences, any possibility of hating the sin but loving the sinner is crushed. On the contrary, disapproval of what you regard as sin amounts to (and indeed is simply the expression of) hatred of the sinners.

The task of finding compromise positions that can conciliate two groups that disagree is the natural one of legislators, who are electorally accountable to different segments of society and therefore represent and become intimately familiar with a variety of views. Having seized from legislators responsibility for vast areas of law, the Court now finds itself forced to play the role of a legislature by finding acceptable compromises. But with no accountability to others, a busy schedule and a much smaller body with little time to discuss issues with the people, Justices are hardly likely to take time to understand the views they are 'reconciling.' Rather, they are likely to rule out of their own prejudices. To get others to accept their arbitrary decisions, they are tempted to call not just upon the authority of the court, but also upon rhetorical tactics that help beat others into submission. Demonization of the losing party is therefore a natural consequence of judicial authoritarianism.

Judging by the last decade of rulings, the personal prejudices of the Court majority seem to be less liberal or conservative than anti-Christian and secular. Smith is right that the Court is "flattening" traditional Christian principles like "hate the sin, love the sinner" -- but the Court may regard that as a feature, not a bug.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:06 PM


Australian foreign policy should not be based on the Anglosphere concept (Michael Fullilove, 14/5/2004, Online Opinion)

[I] would like to suggest that as a foreign policy tool, the Anglosphere is flawed, for at least three reasons.

First, history tells us that states make decisions primarily on the basis of their national interests. Cultural and historical factors are of secondary importance only. Iraq provides a modern example of this. While the US drew significant support for its actions from Britain and Australia, the countries bringing up the rear were not sorted by civilisation: Anglospheric countries such as Canada and New Zealand failed to fall into line while Spain and Poland marched in lockstep.

In this context, the Second World War example is, in my view, overplayed by advocates of Anglospherism. It is true, of course, that during the war British and American affairs were thoroughly entangled: high policy was relatively well coordinated, and joint committees and combined boards regulated many everyday activities. Nevertheless, significant differences existed on vital issues such as the timing and location of the cross-Channel invasion, the role of China, free trade versus imperial preferences, and the fate of the colonial empires. Moreover, the Anglo-American condominium declined markedly in the aftermath of the war. Owen Harries has reminded us, for example, of the Suez Crisis of 1956, in which the US publicly denounced Britain and France for trying to seize the Canal back from Gamal Abdel Nasser. This was only a decade after the end of the war – and the people who had run the Allied war effort still ran the world!

There are, of course, many other instances of interests trumping civilisational or ideological sentiment, for example the execrable 1939 pact between German fascism and Russian communism and Nixon’s 1972 recognition of Beijing at the expense of Taipei. Another example from within the Anglosphere was Britain’s decision – much to the consternation of Commonwealth politicians who had grown used to a special economic relationship with the mother country – to join the European Economic Community in 1973.

There is no reason to think that Anglospheric ties would have greater salience now – particularly given the changes to the makeup of the populations of countries within its borders. This is the second weakness in this rather dusty argument. The post-war waves of immigration to countries such as the United States, Britain and Australia have diluted their Anglocentric cultures even as they have enlivened cultural ties to other parts of the world. In other words, it may not seem intuitive for a Mexican-American in California or for a Vietnamese-Australian in Cabramatta to gaze towards Whitehall for political succour.

And this foreshadows the final flaw in the Anglospherist thesis: it ignores the gravitational force-field of regionalism. Each of the US, Britain and Australia is located on the edge of a region which is occupying a greater share of the national mind. The US is being pulled southwards towards Mexico; the UK is being pulled eastwards towards Europe; and Australia is being pulled northwards towards Asia and the Pacific. It is entirely appropriate that these countries should put a priority on improving relations with the region in which they are located – and this regional push will properly affect the strength of extra-regional ties.

Mr. Fullilove seems overly literal about the Anglosphere, which is premised on Anglo-American ideals, not ethnicity, geography, or "interests". The Philippines, Taiwan, Israel, and India are, for instance, natural Anglosphere nations--they have political systems and cultures that are deeply influenced by the ideas and institutions that animate the British and American systems.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:05 PM


The return of a rare cello leaves a trail of question marks: The strange tale of the Los Angeles Philharmonic's $3.5 million lost and found Stradivarius. (Daniel B. Wood, 5/20/04, CS Monitor)

With national and international press packed cheek by jowl in the Philharmonic's Choral Hall, sound booms were lowered, lights aimed, and pens poised.

But somehow, despite the best intentions, the Tuesday affair raised as many questions as it answered with this announcement: The Philharmonic's $3.5 million Stradivarius cello, stolen from the principal cellist's home last month, had been found.

The objet du jour was not there - only oversized, full color photos of the vintage 1684 instrument. Perched on giant easels were images of the city's seemingly most-talked-about single crime since the Black Dahlia murder in 1947 - sprawled on a white-clothed operating table in an unnamed location.

A professorial-looking man in blue rubber gloves hovered next to a bulb-lit magnifying glass, examining damage to the instrument as if it were wounds of a human victim on TV-hit "CSI: Crime Scene Investigators."

But those wounds - appearing as a nearly imperceptible crack down the cello's face (perhaps 10 inches long), cracks on the back (not shown), and loosened strings - were only explained as "routine." The instrument would be restored to full value by October, said Robert Cauer, the Philharmonic's string technician.

"I wasn't there to see the injuries happen so I couldn't say," Mr. Cauer told me, rebuffing a query about what they were and how they could be fixed.

Second on the list of question marks was Philharmonic Principal Cellist Peter Stumpf, who had been in personal purgatory since the theft. The musician had arrived home late and weary after performing in Santa Barbara on April 25, and carelessly left the cello on the front steps.

How could an instrument - one of 60 cellos made 320 years ago by master instrumentmaker Antonio Stradivari - be left like a forgotten sack of groceries? Los Angeles Philharmonic Association President Deborah Borda cheerfully reminded reporters this kind of forgetfulness happens all the time. In January, violinist Gidon Kremer forgot his $3 million Guarneri del Gesu instrument on a train. In 1999, Yo-Yo Ma left his own $2.5 million Stradivarius cello in a New York City taxi.

Graves honestly surprised wallet returned (Joe Kay, 5/19/04, The Associated Press)
Danny Graves couldn't believe what showed up in the mail.

The Cincinnati Reds closer lost his wallet at the start of a West Coast trip last week, and figured he would never see it again. The wallet contained his credit cards, his driver's license, his Reds identification card to get into ballparks, and about $1,400 in cash.

A man who cleaned the team's bus in San Diego not only returned the wallet and all of its contents, but took extraordinary precautions to make sure it would be safe during shipping.

"The guy kept the cash and exchanged it for traveler's checks so it wouldn't get stolen through the mail," Graves said Tuesday. "It was like $1,400 in cash. He did say, 'I borrowed $26 to overnight it to you.'

"He sent his name, address and phone number. He said, 'All I ask for is could you please sign an autograph for my father.' He's going to get a little more than an autograph."

Geez, and The Wife gets all cranky when the ATM eats our bankcard just because I enter the wrong PIN three times...

Posted by Peter Burnet at 9:18 AM


EU wants random breath tests (Daily Mail, May 23rd, 2004)

The Home Office is resisting pressure from Europe to bring in random breath tests to catch drink drivers.

Under current British legislation, police can only breath test drivers if they believe they have been drinking alcohol.

But the European Commission wants countries across Europe to introduce random testing to improve road safety.

The Home Office has insisted that random tests were not an efficient way of catching drink-drivers and that it saw no need for them to be introduced.
However, the president of Tispol, the European Traffic Police Network, said the European Commission would attempt to make its recommendation a directive if it is not followed.

Ad Hellemons, who is also Dutch Assistant Commissioner of Police, told BBC Radio Five Live Five: "This is the first time the European Commission has made such a recommendation.

"The vast majority of member states already carry out random breath tests. We can't understand why governments would want to protect drink-drivers.

"The European Commission has made it clear that they expect this recommendation to be followed. If not they will try to make it a directive.

This is a great example of the conflict between continental and Anglo-American notions of freedom. In most of Europe, the well-ordered state is viewed as ultimately benevolent and is measured by its efficiency in solving problems. The citizen is always expected to defer to government, whose job is to provide munificence and order, and whose only potential sins are stupidity and corruption. In Anglo-American countries, the state is a necessary evil that can never be completely benevolent and against which the citizen must be protected by common individual rights that exist quite independently of their efficacy. This is the modern rationale for the presumption of innocence, trial by jury and the rules against self-incrimination. Except for the odd blogger from New Hampshire, most do not believe the police should always be assumed to operate in good faith or that accusation is a reliable determinant of guilt.

Since World War Two, this Anglo-American ethos has been sorely tested by the explosion of bureaucracy, urbanization, social engineering, the welfare state mentality and the complexities of modern technological society. The progressive response, as reflected in the judiciary, is to discover all manner of new, flavour-of-the-month constitutional rights that have turned law enforcement into a kind of chess game ever more remote from the moral underpinnings it is supposed to reflect. This has earned us a huge, expensive legal superstructure and a growing tendency to complicate the most mundane issues (like spam) by seeing them in terms of competing, fundamental rights. There are comparatively few really important rights. We dilute them by constantly inventing new ones.

Conservatives, however, often make the mistake the British Home Office is making here and try to respond by debating the issue on the question of efficiency. That is a very unpromising tact and the reason the British will probably lose this one in the end. Of course untrammeled police powers will make our roads and communities safer–one only has to compare pre and post Soviet Moscow to know that. But, with lobbyists like MADD with their tragic stories and a sensationalist media to cope with, we find it harder and harder to state the simple historical truth, which is that there are larger, more general issues at stake and we sometimes pay a price for freedom in terms of public order and safety.

Only a fanatic would argue our drinking and driving laws should be frozen in time and defined independently of social habits and the speed and concentration of traffic. The conservative response should be to take a hard, pragmatic look at the problem and reject solutions based solely on either state efficiency or inviolable individual rights. We must take care to avoid being hidebound by the past and be realistic about the new challenges of contemporary society. Yet we must not cower before the “if we can save but one life...” crowd or let accusations that we are casual about innocent death silence us on the overarching importance of a free and inefficient society.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 AM


Democracy And Its Global Roots (Amartya Sen, 04 October, 2003 , The New Republic)

There is no mystery in the fact that the immediate prospects of democracy in Iraq, to be ushered in by the American-led alliance, are being viewed with increasing skepticism. The evident ambiguities in the goals of the occupation and the lack of clarity about the process
of democratization make these doubts inescapable. But it would be a serious mistake to translate these uncertainties about the immediate prospects of a democratic Iraq into a larger case for skepticism about the general possibility of--and indeed the need for--having democracy in Iraq, or in any other country that is deprived of it. Nor is there a general ground here for uneasiness about providing global support for the struggle for democracy around the world, which is the most profound challenge of our times. Democracy movements across the globe (in South Africa and Argentina and Indonesia yesterday, in Burma and Zimbabwe and elsewhere today) reflect people's determination to fight for political participation and an effective voice. Apprehensions about current events in Iraq have to be seen in their specific context; there is a big world beyond.

It is important to consider, in the broader arena, two general objections to the advocacy of democracy that have recently gained much ground in international debates and which tend to color
discussions of foreign affairs, particularly in America and Europe. There are, first, doubts about what democracy can achieve in poorer countries. Is democracy not a barrier that obstructs the process of development and deflects attention from the priorities of economic and social change, such as providing adequate food, raising income per head, and carrying out institutional reform? It is also argued that democratic governance can be deeply illiberal and can inflict suffering on those who do not belong to the ruling majority in a democracy. Are vulnerable groups not better served by the protection that authoritarian governance can provide?

The second line of attack concentrates on historical and cultural doubts about advocating democracy for people who do not, allegedly, "know" it. The endorsement of democracy as a general rule for all people, whether by national or international bodies or by human rights activists, is frequently castigated on the ground that it involves an attempted imposition of Western values and Western practices on non-Western societies. The argument goes much beyond acknowledging that democracy is a predominantly Western practice in the contemporary world, as it certainly is. It takes the form of presuming that democracy is an idea of which the roots can be found exclusively in some distinctively Western thought that has flourished uniquely in Europe--and nowhere else--for a very long time. [...]

The broader view of democracy in terms of public reasoning also allows us to understand that the roots of democracy go much beyond the narrowly confined chronicles of some designated practices that are now seen as specifically "democratic institutions." This basic recognition was clear enough to Tocqueville. In 1835, in Democracy in America, he noted that the "great democratic revolution" then taking place could be seen, from one point of view, as "a new thing," but it
could also be seen, from a broader perspective, as part of "the most continuous, ancient, and permanent tendency known to history." Although he confined his historical examples to Europe's past (pointing to the powerful contribution toward democratization made by the admission of common people to the ranks of clergy in "the state of France seven hundred years ago"), Tocqueville's general argument has immensely broader relevance.

The championing of pluralism, diversity, and basic liberties can be found in the history of many societies. The long traditions of encouraging and protecting public debates on political, social, and
cultural matters in, say, India, China, Japan, Korea, Iran, Turkey, the Arab world, and many parts of Africa, demand much fuller recognition in the history of democratic ideas. This global heritage is ground enough to question the frequently reiterated view that democracy is just a Western idea, and that democracy is therefore just a form of Westernization. The recognition of this history has direct relevance in contemporary politics in pointing to the global legacy of protecting and promoting social deliberation and pluralist interactions, which cannot be any less important today than they were in the past when they were championed.

This is simply nonsense. The American project is imperialist in precisely the sense that liberal democratic protestant capitalism (the political/religious/economic regime that marks the End of History) is essentially and uniquely a creation of the Judeo-Christian West but it is going to be imposed--one way or another--on the whole world. People who would not have arrived at it themselves for hundreds or even thousands of years will have to adopt it just in order to survive. But the broader point is that the structure and the ideas that underlie it are so powerful--so true--that all peoples will be able to adopt it and thrive to one degree or another. The dispositive caveat is that the divergence in the respective fortunes of retrograde America and post-Christian Europe demonstrate that the greater a regime's adherence to specifically Western ideals the more successful it will be.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:57 AM


Fahrenheit 9/11 wins top honour at Cannes
(Associated Press, Globe and Mail, May 21st, 2004)

American filmmaker Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, a scathing indictment of White House actions after the Sept. 11 attacks, won the top prize Saturday at the Cannes Film Festival.

Fahrenheit 9/11 was the first documentary to win Cannes' prestigious Palme d'Or since Jacques Cousteau's The Silent World in 1956.

"What have you done? I'm completely overwhelmed by this. Merci," Moore said after getting a standing ovation from the Cannes crowd. [...]

While Fahrenheit 9/11 was well-received by Cannes audiences, many critics felt it was inferior to Moore's Academy Award-winning documentary Bowling for Columbine, which earned him a special prize at Cannes in 2002.

Some critics speculated that if Fahrenheit 9/11 won the top prize, it would be more for the film's politics than its cinematic value.

With Moore's customary blend of humor and horror, Fahrenheit 9/11 accuses the Bush camp of stealing the 2000 election, overlooking terrorism warnings before Sept. 11 and fanning fears of more attacks to secure Americans' support for the Iraq war.

Customary blend of humor and horror? I suppose that is one way of putting it. Mr. Moore proves that, in America, all things really are possible. Including making a killing from openly trashing one's country at a time of war.

The last word on this jerk surely goes to the inestimable Christopher Hitchens (via Andrew Sullivan): "But speaking here in my capacity as a polished, sophisticated European as well, it seems to me the laugh here is on the polished, sophisticated Europeans. They think Americans are fat, vulgar, greedy, stupid, ambitious and ignorant and so on. And they've taken as their own, as their representative American, someone who actually embodies all of those qualities."

May 22, 2004

Posted by David Cohen at 8:36 PM


Introducing Israel to Democracy (Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi, Arab News, 5/23/04)

I don’t support the two-state solution. The place is too small and integrated to be sliced into two entities. Instead, I would call for a united, democratic and secular country.

It shouldn’t be Jewish, Muslim or Christian, but a multi-cultural state, where all are given equal rights and responsibility — just like the United States of America.

In fact, I would choose the American Constitution, as is, for the new state, where democracy rules, there’s freedom for everyone, the law is above all, and secularism is sacred. . . .

Just imagine: No more peace negotiations; no more give and take; no more walls and fights. All it takes is for Israel to adopt the American Constitution and we all live happy ever after. Who says: Yes?

Perhaps the most fruitful method for seperating the United States from Israel is to focus on the ways in which the two states are different. Prior to 9/11, those wishing for such a split spent some time focussing on Israel's military response to terrorist. That's not going to work anymore, so now the focus has turned to secular democracy. This won't work, either.

Dr. Batarfi's plan would fail because the United States at the founding was, in different way, both more homogenous and more heterogenous than a Israel/Palestinian combination would be. The United States in 1787 was homogenous in its religion. More importantly, the people of the United States, having come through the Revolution and the Articles of Confederacy, thought of themselves as one people, indivisible. In Federalist 2, John Jay says:

It has often given me pleasure to observe that independent America was not composed of detached and distant territories, but that one connected, fertile, widespreading country was the portion of our western sons of liberty. Providence has in a particular manner blessed it with a variety of soils and productions, and watered it with innumerable streams, for the delight and accommodation of its inhabitants. A succession of navigable waters forms a kind of chain round its borders, as if to bind it together; while the most noble rivers in the world, running at convenient distances, present them with highways for the easy communication of friendly aids, and the mutual transportation and exchange of their various commodities.

With equal pleasure I have as often taken notice that Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people -- a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs, and who, by their joint counsels, arms, and efforts, fighting side by side throughout a long and bloody war, have nobly established general liberty and independence.

This country and this people seem to have been made for each other, and it appears as if it was the design of Providence, that an inheritance so proper and convenient for a band of brethren, united to each other by the strongest ties, should never be split into a number of unsocial, jealous, and alien sovereignties.

Similar sentiments have hitherto prevailed among all orders and denominations of men among us. To all general purposes we have uniformly been one people each individual citizen everywhere enjoying the same national rights, privileges, and protection. As a nation we have made peace and war; as a nation we have vanquished our common enemies; as a nation we have formed alliances, and made treaties, and entered into various compacts and conventions with foreign states.

A strong sense of the value and blessings of union induced the people, at a very early period, to institute a federal government to preserve and perpetuate it. They formed it almost as soon as they had a political existence; nay, at a time when their habitations were in flames, when many of their citizens were bleeding, and when the progress of hostility and desolation left little room for those calm and mature inquiries and reflections which must ever precede the formation of a wise and well-balanced government for a free people. It is not to be wondered at, that a government instituted in times so inauspicious, should on experiment be found greatly deficient and inadequate to the purpose it was intended to answer.

But Israel is, as Dr. Batarfi notes, too small and integrated for the our Constitution to work. In their distrust and hatred for each other, Muslims and Jews are too alike for the ameliorating effects of the our federal system to work. Consider Madison's famous discussion of faction from Federalist 10:

The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man; and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society. A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good. So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts. But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government.

No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, because his interest would certainly bias his judgment, and, not improbably, corrupt his integrity. With equal, nay with greater reason, a body of men are unfit to be both judges and parties at the same time; yet what are many of the most important acts of legislation, but so many judicial determinations, not indeed concerning the rights of single persons, but concerning the rights of large bodies of citizens? And what are the different classes of legislators but advocates and parties to the causes which they determine? Is a law proposed concerning private debts? It is a question to which the creditors are parties on one side and the debtors on the other. Justice ought to hold the balance between them. Yet the parties are, and must be, themselves the judges; and the most numerous party, or, in other words, the most powerful faction must be expected to prevail. Shall domestic manufactures be encouraged, and in what degree, by restrictions on foreign manufactures? are questions which would be differently decided by the landed and the manufacturing classes, and probably by neither with a sole regard to justice and the public good. The apportionment of taxes on the various descriptions of property is an act which seems to require the most exact impartiality; yet there is, perhaps, no legislative act in which greater opportunity and temptation are given to a predominant party to trample on the rules of justice. Every shilling with which they overburden the inferior number, is a shilling saved to their own pockets.

It is in vain to say that enlightened statesmen will be able to adjust these clashing interests, and render them all subservient to the public good. Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm. Nor, in many cases, can such an adjustment be made at all without taking into view indirect and remote considerations, which will rarely prevail over the immediate interest which one party may find in disregarding the rights of another or the good of the whole.

The inference to which we are brought is, that the CAUSES of faction cannot be removed, and that relief is only to be sought in the means of controlling its EFFECTS.

If a faction consists of less than a majority, relief is supplied by the republican principle, which enables the majority to defeat its sinister views by regular vote. It may clog the administration, it may convulse the society; but it will be unable to execute and mask its violence under the forms of the Constitution. When a majority is included in a faction, the form of popular government, on the other hand, enables it to sacrifice to its ruling passion or interest both the public good and the rights of other citizens. To secure the public good and private rights against the danger of such a faction, and at the same time to preserve the spirit and the form of popular government, is then the great object to which our inquiries are directed. Let me add that it is the great desideratum by which this form of government can be rescued from the opprobrium under which it has so long labored, and be recommended to the esteem and adoption of mankind.

By what means is this object attainable? Evidently by one of two only. Either the existence of the same passion or interest in a majority at the same time must be prevented, or the majority, having such coexistent passion or interest, must be rendered, by their number and local situation, unable to concert and carry into effect schemes of oppression. If the impulse and the opportunity be suffered to coincide, we well know that neither moral nor religious motives can be relied on as an adequate control. They are not found to be such on the injustice and violence of individuals, and lose their efficacy in proportion to the number combined together, that is, in proportion as their efficacy becomes needful.

From this view of the subject it may be concluded that a pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions.

A republic, by which I mean a government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect, and promises the cure for which we are seeking. Let us examine the points in which it varies from pure democracy, and we shall comprehend both the nature of the cure and the efficacy which it must derive from the Union.

The two great points of difference between a democracy and a republic are: first, the delegation of the government, in the latter, to a small number of citizens elected by the rest; secondly, the greater number of citizens, and greater sphere of country, over which the latter may be extended.

The effect of the first difference is, on the one hand, to refine and enlarge the public views, by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country, and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations. Under such a regulation, it may well happen that the public voice, pronounced by the representatives of the people, will be more consonant to the public good than if pronounced by the people themselves, convened for the purpose. On the other hand, the effect may be inverted. Men of factious tempers, of local prejudices, or of sinister designs, may, by intrigue, by corruption, or by other means, first obtain the suffrages, and then betray the interests, of the people. The question resulting is, whether small or extensive republics are more favorable to the election of proper guardians of the public weal; and it is clearly decided in favor of the latter by two obvious considerations:

In the first place, it is to be remarked that, however small the republic may be, the representatives must be raised to a certain number, in order to guard against the cabals of a few; and that, however large it may be, they must be limited to a certain number, in order to guard against the confusion of a multitude. Hence, the number of representatives in the two cases not being in proportion to that of the two constituents, and being proportionally greater in the small republic, it follows that, if the proportion of fit characters be not less in the large than in the small republic, the former will present a greater option, and consequently a greater probability of a fit choice.

In the next place, as each representative will be chosen by a greater number of citizens in the large than in the small republic, it will be more difficult for unworthy candidates to practice with success the vicious arts by which elections are too often carried; and the suffrages of the people being more free, will be more likely to centre in men who possess the most attractive merit and the most diffusive and established characters.

It must be confessed that in this, as in most other cases, there is a mean, on both sides of which inconveniences will be found to lie. By enlarging too much the number of electors, you render the representatives too little acquainted with all their local circumstances and lesser interests; as by reducing it too much, you render him unduly attached to these, and too little fit to comprehend and pursue great and national objects. The federal Constitution forms a happy combination in this respect; the great and aggregate interests being referred to the national, the local and particular to the State legislatures.

The other point of difference is, the greater number of citizens and extent of territory which may be brought within the compass of republican than of democratic government; and it is this circumstance principally which renders factious combinations less to be dreaded in the former than in the latter. The smaller the society, the fewer probably will be the distinct parties and interests composing it; the fewer the distinct parties and interests, the more frequently will a majority be found of the same party; and the smaller the number of individuals composing a majority, and the smaller the compass within which they are placed, the more easily will they concert and execute their plans of oppression. Extend the sphere, and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens; or if such a common motive exists, it will be more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and to act in unison with each other. Besides other impediments, it may be remarked that, where there is a consciousness of unjust or dishonorable purposes, communication is always checked by distrust in proportion to the number whose concurrence is necessary.

To succeed, the Federalists needed to show that a large, dispersed and diverse population could be brought together in a democratic republic. Israel and Palestine, combined, would make a small nation with its people crowded in together, caring (to the death) about one issue above all.

If Dr. Batarfi is serious, first he must make one people of Israelis and Palestineans. To quote one of OJ's favorite Adamisms,

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.

The Meaning of the American Revolution: A letter to H. Niles (John Adams, 13 February 1818)

Once Dr. Batarfi accomplishes a similar revolution in the hearts of Israelis and Palestinians, I'll gladly say yes to his proposal.

MORE (from OJ): Two Stars For Peace: The Case For Using US Statehood to Solve the Middle East Crisis (Martine Rothblatt).

In her book "Two Stars for Peace", Martine Rothblatt makes a compelling case for merging Israel and Palestine into the United States. This bold new strategy is also shown to be essential to removing the kindling wood of terrorism from Middle East politics.
OJ apparently is going to review this book, so I won't steal his thunder, but this has to be one of the stupidest ideas I've come across recently -- and I routinely surf Democratic Underground.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:51 PM



In ages of faith the final aim of life is placed beyond life. The men of those ages, therefore, naturally and almost involuntarily accustom themselves to fix their gaze for many years on some immovable object towards which they are constantly tending, and they learn by insensible degrees to repress a multitude of petty passing desires in order to be the better able to content that great and lasting desire which possesses them. When these same men engage in the affairs of this world, the same habits may be traced in their conduct. They are apt to set up some general and certain aim and end to their actions here below, towards which all their efforts are directed; they do not turn from day to day to chase some novel object of desire, but they have settled designs which they are never weary of pursuing.

This explains why religious nations have so often achieved such lasting results; for while they were thinking only of the other world, they had found out the great secret of success in this. Religions give men a general habit of conducting themselves with a view to eternity; in this respect they are not less useful to happiness in this life than to felicity hereafter, and this is one of their chief political characteristics.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:49 PM


US redeployments to Iraq rattle South Korean alliance: Seoul is trying to downplay fears of further withdrawals. (Donald Kirk, 5/20/04, CS Monitor)

The United States has opened a new chapter in its relationship with South Korea by what some here see as a precipitous decision to pull a combat infantry brigade from the historic invasion route between North Korea and this teeming capital 30 miles to the south.

While people sometimes joke that an invading army would bog down in mammoth Korean-style traffic jams on the way, the presence of 14,000 frontline troops with the US Second Infantry Division is still viewed here as a vital tripwire for US pledges to defend Korea in the face of North Korea's million-plus army.

In a visit here last November, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld impressed on Korean leaders his plan for restructuring US forces in Asia, including the repositioning further south of the 2nd Division. The understanding, however, was that the US headquarters in Seoul would be the first to move south of the capital, while the 2nd Division would remain in place for several more years and the US would keep 37,000 troops in the country.

But the sudden decision to transfer one infantry brigade - the first reduction of US troops in Korea since the 1970s has led many analysts here to view the plan as a sign that the US will ultimately give up its commitment to Korea's defence.

Oh, so that's why you don't tug on Superman's cape...

Posted by David Cohen at 7:42 PM


Palestinians Storm UN Aid Convoy After Israeli Raid (Cynthia Johnson, Reuters, 5/22/04)

Dozens of Palestinians, angry over Israel's bloodiest raid in the Gaza Strip in years, smashed the windows of a U.N. car Saturday and mobbed a shipment of humanitarian aid.
Somehow, I'm not sure that's going to dissuade the Israelis.

Posted by David Cohen at 10:55 AM


Is torturing war prisoners a betrayal of U.S. values? (David Horsey, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 5/22/04)

James Inhofe, the Oklahoma senator from the Neanderthal wing of the Republican Party, may still believe that the only practitioners of degradation and torture in the U.S. military were seven isolated misfits at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison. However, stories suggesting something much different continue to pile up . . . .

These and many other reports indicate that treatment of prisoners in violation of the Geneva Conventions is common among U.S. forces dealing with captives in the war on terror. The apparent efforts to hide these activities would lead to the conclusion that somebody knows they are doing something wrong. But somebody also must think it is a necessary wrong or why else would it be such a pervasive practice?

Here's a Burning Question that needs to be answered by all of us, not just our warriors:

Is torture always a betrayal of American values or are there times when it is justified?

We are doing a bad job of considering the questions raised by Abu Ghraib, mostly because, like Mr. Horsey, we are asking the wrong questions. As we are now engaged in a war likely to continue for decades against an enemy that takes pride in not abiding by our rules, we need to be very clear ourselves about what rules apply.

Mr. Horsey, like most media-types talking about these issues, confuses a number of issues. The first is the treatment of uniformed members of regular Iraqi forces taken as prisoners of war. These prisoners are arguably entitled to the protection of the Geneva Convention, and I haven't seen any convincing evidence that they are not receiving those protections.

The other questions involve the treatment of prisoners who were not uniformed members of regular forces. These prisoners are not entitled to the protections of the Geneva Convention. We do need to treat them consistently with our ideals -- not for their benefit, but for ours.

Seen from this perspective, the "freelance" mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib is a scandal and must be stomped on. Not only is it inconsistent with our own ideals to mistreat prisoners simply out of revenge, but this mistreatment also shows a break down in military discipline and order that has to be slapped down quickly. It is clear that much of the mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib splashed across the front pages, which now seems to have occurred on one particular day last November, which the Army investigated well-before it was publicized, and which is now being addressed by Courts Martial, is this type of freelancing. In part it was caused by the exhaustion and tension inherent in the occupation, and in part it was caused by a lack of control coupled with the desire of young soldiers to count coup. It is a problem, it is wrong, but it is being dealt with.

The other easy question has to do with the use of "pressure" as part of officially sanctioned and controlled intelligence gathering:

Sesame Street breaks Iraqi POWs (BBCNews, 5/20/04)

'Culturally offensive' music is being used to break prisoners
Heavy metal music and popular American children's songs are being used by US interrogators to break the will of their captives in Iraq.

Uncooperative prisoners are being exposed for prolonged periods to tracks by rock group Metallica and music from children's TV programmes Sesame Street and Barney in the hope of making them talk.

The US's Psychological Operations Company (Psy Ops) said the aim was to break a prisoner's resistance through sleep deprivation and playing music that was culturally offensive to them.

However, human rights organisation, Amnesty International, said such tactics may constitute torture - and coalition forces could be in breach of the Geneva Convention. . . .

"In training, they forced me to listen to the Barney "I Love You" song for 45 minutes. I never want to go through that again," one US operative told [Newsweek].

This use of sleep-deprivation and cultural pressure to extract information from Iraqi prisoners without violating any of our cultural taboos is humane and should not, pace Amnesty International, even be considered torture.

The hard question comes with the official use of what Americans would consider torture: use of pain and serious physical trespass. This is the line we should not cross and, to the extent that military intelligence allowed MP guards to think torture was appropriate, they, along with the MP's, need to be punished.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 9:57 AM


Conservative Group Amplifies Voice of Protestant Orthodoxy
(Laurie Goodstein and David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times, May 21st, 2004)

As Presbyterians prepare to gather for their General Assembly in Richmond, Va., next month, a band of determined conservatives is advancing a plan to split the church along liberal and orthodox lines. Another divorce proposal shook the United Methodist convention in Pittsburgh earlier this month, while conservative Episcopalians have already broken away to form a dissident network of their own.

In each denomination, the flashpoint is homosexuality, but there is another common denominator as well. In each case, the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a small organization based in Washington, has helped incubate traditionalist insurrections against the liberal politics of the denomination's leaders.

With financing from a handful of conservative donors, including the Scaife family foundations, the Bradley and Olin Foundations and Howard and Roberta Ahmanson's Fieldstead & Company, the 23-year-old institute is now playing a pivotal role in the biggest battle over the future of American Protestantism since churches split over slavery at the time of the Civil War.

The institute has brought together previously disconnected conservative groups within each denomination to share resources and tactics, including forcing heresy trials of gay clergy members, winning seats on judicial committees and urging congregations to withhold money from their denomination's headquarters.

Note the tone of illegitimacy here. To our judicial, religious, media and intellectual elites, the general population is viewed mainly as dissidents incubating insurrections.

Posted by David Cohen at 9:23 AM

MARTHA, MARTHA, MARTHA (From John Resnick)

Gov't Witness Charged in Stewart Case (Gail Appleson, Reuters, 5/21/04)

A government witness was charged with lying to help convict lifestyle trendsetter Martha Stewart, officials said on Friday, raising questions of whether her conspiracy conviction could be thrown out.

Larry Stewart, a U.S. Secret Service laboratory director, was accused of committing perjury at her trial, where he testified as an expert witness about ink on a worksheet kept by her stockbroker, federal prosecutors said.
On those cold lonely nights in prison, having grown tired in her soul of the carefully coordinated grays of the prison walls and prison blankets, it will be exquisite torture for Martha Stewart to know that she was convicted after federal officer lied at her trial. She's going to prison nevertheless. We might, though, want to revisit our comfort with sending people to jail because their testimony about a conversation differs from an FBI agent's testimony about that conversation, particularly when a conviction means fifteen minutes of fame for the prosecution.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:10 AM


Bush can count on the right (David A. Keene, May 18, 2004, ACU)

Last week, the Democratic National Committee began distributing several pages of quotes from conservatives critical of President Bush on a variety of fronts and suggesting to the media that the fact that we don't agree with the man on everything all of the time is evidence of real weakness in his base. Some in the media took the bait, and many of us got calls from reporters wondering if the president can really rely on the strong support he's going to need from his conservative base to win in November.

Now, the summer silly season is fast approaching, so perhaps one has to cut these folks a little slack, but their reasoning defies logic and represents little more than a hopeful fantasy among those who go to bed at night hoping the conservative Republican coalition will somehow fracture. It isn't going to happen... at least not this time around.

While the Democrats were circulating their theory, the president himself was addressing the 40th anniversary banquet of the American Conservative Union here in Washington. To say that he was well received by the audience of more than 700 activist conservative leaders would be a gross understatement. Indeed, we welcomed him as one of our own. Those attending agreed, I think, with my observation in introducing him that they, like millions of conservatives around the country, are prepared to do their part to see to it that he is re-elected this fall.

Does this enthusiastic support mean that we agree with his every act as president? Of course not. But he knew when he accepted our invitation and when he took the microphone that he was speaking to friends who believe he's done a remarkable job given the challenges he's faced since taking office in January 2001. He knew, too, that we all consider ourselves part of the same team and that he can count on us both to work for his re-election and to prod him to govern as we hope he will.

Frankly, those hoping for a collapse of the president's base don't seem to be able to grasp the simple fact that conservatives can differ with their friends on matters of policy but rally behind them if they are doing a good job overall, and are quite capable of recognizing the difference between friends, allies and those, like John Kerry, who oppose everything they want. In fact, it is not all that hard to tell when we are really mad enough at those who need our support to take a walk.

When many of us concluded prior to the 1972 elections that President Nixon had forfeited his claim to conservative support, conservatives ran a protest candidate against him in New Hampshire. When his successor did everything he could to infuriate us, we almost denied him his party's nomination in 1976. In 1992, conservatives flocked to Pat Buchanan because they were upset and offended by the current president's father's abandonment of the promises he'd made during his 1988 campaign.

None of those protests succeeded, but each reflected deep discontent within the GOP base. In none of those cases did it take a Democrat with a divining rod and a bunch of handouts to find out we were upset.

There was no talk of a primary protest against the current president this year for the simple reason that, while we might oppose such things as his Medicare prescription drug program and believe he could do far more to cut government spending, few believe he's abandoned us or the principles we like to believe we represent. No president is perfect, but most conservatives believe that this is one who deserves another term.

Meanwhile, Senator Kerry has Ralph Nader to his Left.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:09 AM


Why interfere with ‘love’?: It's time to set the record straight about Judaism and homosexuality (Rabbi Avi Shafran, 5/18/04, Jewish World Review)

Among the acts...that the Torah clearly regards as immoral — regardless of the actors' sexual inclinations or self-definition — is sexual congress between men (and, to a lesser degree, between women).

In the context of contemporary popular culture, that might seem unfair, if not downright cruel. Why interfere with love? Why limit the expression of deep and sincere feelings? But human beings are subject to many unsummoned loves and desires, and can experience deep urges for an assortment of illicit acts, both common ones like adultery or slander and more rare ones like murder or incest.

The Torah is not a template onto which we lay what we wish to do. It is a code of behavior for those who (apologies to JFK's speechwriter) seek not to tell G-d what He must do for us but rather what we must do for Him. The premise of the Torah's moral code (much of it, as per the Noahide Laws, intended for all of humankind) is that living a G-d-directed life means controlling, not venting, urges that run contrary to its mandates.

The Talmud even asserts that people with greater spiritual potential have concomitantly stronger proclivities to sin. By choosing not to succumb to, but rather to fight, those urges — to channel their energies instead to doing G-d's will — they realize their deepest potentials.

Jewish tradition is replete with narratives that make that point. One of the most famous is the story of Joseph, who merited the epithet "tzaddik", or "righteous one," precisely because he withstood a sexual temptation, that of Potiphar's wife, although his "orientation" - not to mention Mrs. Potiphar's insistence and a misleading prophetic vision - argued powerfully for his submission to his natural desire.

Part of being human is being subject to desires, and that includes desires for behaviors deemed improper by the Torah. One example that has always existed is the desire, at least for some people, to engage in homosexual behavior. But no predisposition or desire, no matter how strong, is beyond the most powerful and most meaningful force in the universe: human free will. We are not mere animals, responding to whatever urges overtake us. We are choosers. And at every moment of our lives, can choose right or choose wrong. If we subscribe to the belief that we are here not to "be what we are" but rather to "be what we can," we must endeavor to choose right.

How odd that folk would consider the surrender to physical urges to be a form of liberation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:51 AM


Baseball Notes>The DiNardo file Gordon Edes, May 16, 2004, Boston Globe)

With the Mets, who drafted him out of Stetson on the third round, [Lenny] DiNardo had the chance to be part of the revival of baseball in Brooklyn, which had been without a team since the Dodgers left after the '57 season until the Mets placed a Single A team there. "Brooklyn, it was great," he said. "They loved us. It was the closest thing to the big leagues, which is ironic, since it was short-season ball." He described a scene right out of "Boys of Summer": "We'd leave the stadium, people would be running after you, kids. It was incredible. They were great fans. I lived in a little Jewish neighborhood five minutes from the stadium. They'd come knock at our door, ask us if we'd play catch with them or Wiffle Ball. We'd go out and play with them, it was really fun." The fun ended abruptly on the night they were to have played Williamsport for the short-season championship: Sept. 11, 2001. "We woke up that morning, turned on the TV, and one of the towers was already down," Di Nardo said. "We went outside, there was ash everywhere. We tried to drive into the city but got stuck in Staten Island. It was surreal, a nightmare." His major league debut came less than three years later, in Yankee Stadium. "It was really fun, something I'm going to tell my grandkids about," he said. "To be in the bullpen and hear them yell, `DiNardo, you suck.' That's something I'm going to cherish. If you don't hear that, there's something wrong."

May 21, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:51 PM


Wilson, FDR, Truman, Bush: A "messianic militarist" in the White House? It's happened before. (JOSEPH LOCONTE, May 14, 2004, Wall Street Journal)

"These are times in which we could literally change the world by the spread of freedom," President Bush told supporters last week at a Wisconsin rally. "Freedom is not America's gift to the world; freedom is the Almighty God's gift to each man and woman in this world." In such declarations--and they are frequent from Mr. Bush--critics see a "messianic militarist" at work, to borrow a phase from Ralph Nader.

By historical standards, however, Mr. Bush's political ideals are in the mainstream of presidential rhetoric. Every U.S. president, Democrat and Republican, has upheld the sacred dignity of the individual as an essential tenet of the nation's political creed. Even John Kennedy, who famously denied that his Catholic faith would influence his politics, denounced communism by asserting that "the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God." [...]

Follow the logic of Mr. Bush's detractors, and most of the country's leaders look like messianic zealots. Calvin Coolidge, who approved the 1928 Pact of Paris, a quixotic attempt to persuade nations to renounce war, saw a divine role for the U.S. in such a peace-keeping mission. "America seeks no earthly empire built on blood and force," he said. "The legions which she sends forth are armed, not with the sword, but with the cross."

Dwight Eisenhower, known for his modest attachment to "religion in general," would be savaged today for describing the Cold War in biblical terms. "We sense with all our faculties that forces of good and evil are massed and armed and opposed as rarely before in history," he said in 1953. "Destiny has laid upon our country the responsibility of the free world's leadership." Ronald Reagan, of course, was mocked for calling the Soviet Union an "evil empire"--exactly what those who suffered under its rule knew it to be. [...]

Nazism and communism confronted American presidents with profoundly malignant, secular ideologies. In a similar way, the attacks of 9/11 thrust upon Mr. Bush the reality of a malevolent Islamic radicalism. In each case the language of the materialist seems unfit to address the evil of the hour; in each case our leaders turn instinctively to religious ideals. "As we meet the terror and violence of the world," Mr. Bush told an audience last November, "we can be certain the author of freedom is not indifferent to the fate of freedom."

Is it hubris to talk this way? Perhaps, but most Americans don't live in an existentialist universe; they believe in moral truths, embedded in human nature and validated by nature's God. This is the touchstone of America's democratic faith. The nation's leaders have sometimes failed miserably to advance this vision of freedom in the world, but it's important to ask what the world would be like without it.

In fact, it is those who oppose this vision who are departing from American tradition.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:50 PM


By X-Raying Galaxies, Researchers Offer New Evidence of Rapidly Expanding Universe (DENNIS OVERBYE, 5/19/04, NY Times)

Observations of giant clouds of galaxies far out in space and time have revealed new evidence that some mysterious force began to push the cosmos apart six billion years ago, astronomers said yesterday.

The results constitute striking confirmation of one of the weirdest discoveries of modern science: that the expansion of the universe seems to be accelerating, the galaxies flying apart faster and faster with time, under the influence of some antigravitational force.

What's weird about fine-tuning an experiment?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:22 PM


Public Domain (Andrew Sullivan, 05.04.04, New Republic)

The yawning divide between the Roman Catholic hierarchy and most Catholics is not usually an election story. But this year, it may become so. John Kerry is running as the first Catholic to campaign for president since John F. Kennedy. While Kennedy had to counter concerns that he was too Catholic for America, Kerry has to defend himself from accusations that he is too American for Rome. The hard-right of the American Catholic establishment, which is closely allied with the Opus Dei-influenced hierarchy now effectively running the global Church, is particularly incensed. Kerry's positions on a whole variety of issues--from stem-cell research to civil marriage rights for gays to abortion rights--offend parts of Catholic doctrine. But the Catholic wing of the religious right wants not simply for the Church to defend its positions and criticize Kerry's; it wants the Church to deny communion to Kerry, effectively excommunicating him for his political views, principally on abortion. They want a declaration that the Church will no longer countenance public figures calling themselves Catholics who do not conform in fundamental respects with religious orthodoxy.

One adherent of this view is Robert Novak, a man whose public appearances do not exactly reflect spiritual detachment from the world. Novak sneers, smears, lambastes, and heckles with the best of them, and there's nothing wrong with that in the hurly-burly of democratic politics. But Novak is also a convert to Catholicism and under the personal influence of John McCloskey, the Opus Dei cleric who has envisaged a future civil war in America in which the faithful secede from the faithless, and who regards any Catholic who questions the hierarchy's views on matters of faith and morals as a de facto Protestant.

Mr. Sullivan's typically disingenuous column fails to reckon with the difference between questioning Catholic orthodoxy, on the one hand, and acting upon one's own views, on the other. Institutions are strengthened by the former, undermined by the latter.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 2:51 PM


Sudan: The forgotten genocide (Fred Bridgland , The Scotsman, May 21st, 2004)

For in truth, a decade after the world recoiled with horror from Rwanda’’s genocide, government-backed Arab militias have killed tens of thousands of black Africans in the region and driven others from their homes.

Kofi Annan, the United Nations’’ secretary general, warned seven weeks ago that an international force might be necessary to prevent a repeat of Rwanda’’s tragedy in Darfur, an arid area the size of France that is home to both black and Arab tribes. "The risk of genocide remains frighteningly real," Mr Annan said.

Just as Rwanda’’s former government gave weapons to Hutu militias to massacre Tutsi tribespeople, so Sudan’’s National Islamic Front (NIF) regime has armed an Arab militia so it can kill, rape and pillage non-Arabic-speaking black Africans.

But the international community has done little to help the people, other than to debate whether events there should be described as "genocide" or "ethnic cleansing".

Mr Annan said he felt a deep sense of foreboding over the situation. He added: "Whatever terms it uses to describe the situation, the international community cannot stand idly by." [...]

The ethnic cleansing/genocide is an attempt by the NIF to replace the black population of the comparatively fertile Jebel Marra area with Arab settlers, humanitarian groups say.

"The aim is to kill as many people as possible and drive the remainder from their lands, destroying the fabric of rural society," reports the specialist journal Africa Confidential. "Proxy militias torch villages and exterminate villagers, slaughtering livestock and poisoning wells with corpses to prevent residents returning. Gang rape of women (often branded afterwards) and children reinforces the terror and helps to produce an ‘‘Arab’’ next generation. Abduction is widespread in Darfur, with groups of women flown away by helicopter."

The spearhead of Khartoum’’s assault is a 20,000-strong Arab militia called the Janjaweed (Men on Horseback). The Janjaweed frequently attacks after Sudanese MiG fighters and helicopter gunships have softened up the targets. Janjaweed fighters are paid an initial $100 (££56) and given licence to loot. [...]

The slaughter in Darfur is entirely racist, as the blacks of Darfur are Sunni Muslims, the same branch of Islam as Sudan’s Arabs.

There is more than a little irony in seeing Kofi Annan call for foreign intervention to stop an Arab government from slaughtering its people, but the situation is too tragic for humour. We all know who he means when he speaks of the responsibilities of the “international community”, but perhaps we should reflect a bit on who he doesn’t mean. What Arab or Islamic voice is speaking out here? Christians act to save Christians (and intervene to condemn warring Christians as in Ireland) and Jews go to heroic lengths to aid and protect Jews. Is the fate of these wretched people of any interest to their billion co-religionists from Rabat to Jakarta?

Not that you would notice. One of the features of cultures of victimhood is a lack of a sense of responsibility, not only for one’s own fate, but also that of others. We in the West can be woefully naive about our ability to save or help peoples in remote and savage lands, but at least we get upset enough to try. Does the fact that such an impulse is so foreign to so much of the Muslim world explain some of the current difficulties in Iraq in the sense that Iraqis must make tremendous leaps of faith to even dare hope that someone really does want to help them?

The leaders of the Arab League are meeting in Tunis this weekend. The agenda consists of the Palestinian issue, Iraq and political reform. Of course we wish them a pleasant time and every success.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 12:11 PM


Cursed are the peaceniks (James Delingpole, The Spectator, May 22nd, 2004)

Every now and then, there’ll come along a story which has the anti-war lobby punching the air with glee and which gives even pro-war people like me pause for thought. First was the one about the looting of Baghdad Museum’s greatest treasures (until it was inconveniently discovered to be tosh); more recently we’ve had the great Shia rebellion (that never was, because most Shiites think al-Sadr’s a prat); followed by Abu Ghraib, which I concede has a stronger foundation than most, is a spectacular own goal, a violation of human rights and so on, but which I still think is blinding rather too many journalists to the bigger picture, so busy as they are trying to explain why it is that being photographed naked with a female prison guard is every bit as appalling an ordeal as, say, being decapitated with a knife or blown to pieces by a suicide bomber.

Here’s a thing that puzzles me. Before the Iraq war started, I remember trawling through dozens and dozens of learned articles which all pointed out that however difficult the invasion might prove, the post-war settlement in a country with so many different tribal and religious factions and no recent tradition of democracy would be trickier. Yet now we’re at that tricky post-war settlement stage, everyone’s suddenly acting as though Iraq’s more like Tunbridge Wells and our failure to create instant harmony among such a pliant, peaceable population is an international disgrace.

I believe the Iraq invasion was the right thing to do for the same reasons I always did. The discovery of WMDs would have been a bonus, but they were never the real issue. Nor —— being grotesquely realpolitik-ish about this —— was the freedom of the Iraqis, absolutely delighted though I am that they’ve been rescued from decades of suffering and torture far worse than anything the Americans have ever inflicted.

Rather, the Iraqi invasion happened and ought to have happened because it is part of a long, ambitious but very necessary campaign to tip a wavering Islamic world towards stable, capitalist, peaceful, liberal democracy. If there’s one thing the West ought to have learnt from the escalation of terrorist atrocities in the last decade -- from the tourist massacre in Luxor through to 9/11 and Madrid -- it’s that its policy of appeasement towards Islamic terrorists and the regimes which fund or harbour them hasn’t worked. The growth of Islamofascism needs to be acknowledged for the global menace it is and confronted at any and every opportunity. To pull out of Iraq now at its greatest hour of need would not only make a nonsense of the invasion’s supposed humanitarian claims, but also act as a spur to terrorists who are never stronger than when the West is divided and weak.

The pacification of the Middle East is not going to be quick, easy or pretty. No one ever said it would be. But to those pea-brained, isolationist chicken-lickens of the media who ask what it all has to do with us, here’s a very simple explanation. It’s to lessen ever so slightly the chance that the next time you or I get on to a bus, a train or an aeroplane, the very last words we ever hear are a bearded but otherwise ritually shaved man in a headband yelling, ‘‘Allahu akbar.’’

That the left has seized on the Abu Ghraib scandal is hardly surprising. Most of them are like the pacifist “objective fascists” described by Orwell. One can even understand why a lot of ordinary, decent folks are upset and confused. But what explains the defection and lost bearings of so many apparently hard-nosed, resolute intellectual supporters over a matter that wouldn’t merit a footnote in the annals of the cruelties of war?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:31 AM


Colombia's priests keep paths of peace open: Last week's agreement between right-wing militia leaders and the government was facilitated by the Catholic clergy. (Rachel Van Dongen, 5/20/04, CS Monitor)

As bishop of Montería, Monsignor Julio César Vidal Ortiz has different kind of ministry. Instead of saying mass or handing out communion to parishioners, he has a more dangerous mission: helping right-wing death squads, known as the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), negotiate peace with the government. Montería is locally called the paramilitary capital of Colombia, and the right-wing militias control Father Vidal's turf.

Like scores of other Catholic priests in this deeply religious country, Vidal's role is as much peacekeeper as parish head. He has attended every meeting since talks began last July between the government and AUC leaders - many of them alleged killers and drug traffickers - at their hideaway in Córdoba in northwest Colombia.

Just a few weeks ago, the 10-month peace process appeared to be faltering after the mysterious disappearance - and presumed death - of AUC founder Carlos Castaño, allegedly at the hands of fellow AUC members. But despite the hurdles, Vidal, along with the government and the Organization of American States (OAS), last week convinced 10 AUC leaders to accept a "zone of concentration" in Córdoba, to which they will be confined for the duration of negotiations.

In exchange, the government will lift arrest warrants - and thus, US extradition requests - for these leaders and their bodyguards, as long as they are in the zone. The Army will be allowed to patrol the zone's perimeter, and an international body, led by the OAS and the church, will regulate it. Thus Vidal and his colleagues will be key to the possible demobilization of some 20,000 rank-and-file paramilitaries.

Colombia is one of the untold success stories of the war on terror--untold because the media is dominated by folks who prefer Castro, the Sandanistas and Hugo Chavez.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:10 AM


Who's Calling? (J. Budziszewski, Boundless)

"Discernment has its own spiritual laws, and of course they have to be followed. If you want to call that a method, you can, but it's not like what you've been calling methods. Those so-called methods are just gimmicks — not ways of discerning God's will, but ways of avoiding discernment."

"So what do I have to do? Become a prophet or a mystic or something?"

I smiled. "The first law of discernment is Preparation. Seek God's help to become the right kind of person inside — develop the right spiritual habits. Otherwise you haven't a chance to find His will."

"Habits like what?"

"The habit of prayer. The habit of faith. The habit of distrusting the desires and devices of your own devious heart. The habit of patience — what Scripture calls 'waiting on the Lord' — because God might guide you only a few steps at a time. The habit of submission in every matter where you already know His will, for He has already blessed us with revelation. The habit of seeking wisdom — learning to know His ways. Most of all, the habit of loving Him with your whole heart, and of loving your neighbor as yourself."

"Pardon me for saying so, Professor T, but that all sounds pretty obvious."

"It wasn't obvious to the people who invented the gimmicks."

"Hmm. I guess not. What's the second law?"

"The second law of discernment is Meditation. In the presence of God, contemplate all the relevant features of the decision. Seek human advice too — the Proverbs say 'plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many counselors they succeed.' Since you want to know how God is calling you, the relevant features of your decision include your gifts and talents, your weaknesses and tendencies to sin, the courses of action available, and the opportunities each one affords to glorify God and serve your neighbor. You come last, of course."

"But that all sounds pretty obvious too."

"Does it?"

"Yes. What's the third law?"

"The third and final law of discernment is Obedience. You follow whatever path is wisest."

Mark was silent for a few seconds. "That's all you're going to say?"

"That's all there is."

"But that's not what I came here to find out," he pleaded. "How do I know which path is wisest?"

I looked at him with compassion. "If you have to ask the meaning of the third law," I said, "then you aren't taking the other two seriously."

He didn't understand yet, but I knew he would.

The good folks at Spence Publishing contributed a paperback copy of Mr. Budziszewski's excellent book, What We Can't Not Know: A Guide, that we're offering as one of the prizes in the Kerry Resignation Prognostathon, so make sure to get your pick in quick.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:25 AM


Kerry's Disloyal Nicaraguan Journey (J. Michael Waller, May 17, 2004, Insight)

In his first major foreign-policy action as a U.S. senator nearly 20 years ago, John Kerry accused the United States of "funding terrorism." Fresh from a trip to the Far East, Kerry made his sensational allegation in Washington before flying to Nicaragua, then in the grip of a Marxist-Leninist junta, to coauthor a propagandistic peace proposal designed to disarm the U.S.-backed forces fighting to oust the Soviet-backed Sandinista regime.

Barely three months after being sworn as a senator, Kerry made his mark, and he made it big, as one of the leading opponents of President Ronald Reagan's effort to defeat Soviet-sponsored revolutionaries in the American hemisphere. The junior senator stopped at nothing: working with the nation's sworn ideological enemies, making damaging, distorted and often baseless allegations about U.S. covert operations, accusing his own government of sponsoring terrorism, and even damaging an FBI operation against a Colombian cocaine cartel.

That April 1985 journey to Nicaragua would become a trademark of the Kerry school of statecraft: making common cause with enemies of the United States - and allowing himself to be used by them - in order to win political battles at home.

The enemy of the 1980s was not Osama bin Laden and his allies, but the Soviet Union and its proxy regimes and guerrilla forces around the world. In addition to the strategic nuclear-missile threat it posed to the survival of the United States, the U.S.S.R. at the time was also the world's primary sponsor of international terrorism. It was not without concern, then, that Reagan, with the help of a bipartisan majority in Congress, financed an anticommunist guerrilla army in Nicaragua, made up mainly of peasants disenfranchised by the Soviet-backed Marxist-Leninist junta that had taken power shortly before Reagan was elected to office. That junta had by now sponsored communist guerrilla and terrorist groups from neighboring countries and presented a threat to the entire region. But Kerry, ever the defender of the communist left, didn't buy it.

To prevent the junta, known as the Sandinista National Liberation Front, from consolidating power, Reagan strongly backed the resistance fighters, whom the Sandinistas dubbed "contras," to pressure the regime either to hold free and fair elections or be overthrown. U.S. involvement in resisting the Soviet-backed revolutionary movements in Central America was a politically emotional issue at the time, and the highly charged atmosphere forced Reagan to tread carefully on Capitol Hill. Seeking the release of a $14 million appropriation from the previous year for the Nicaraguan resistance, and faced with public opposition, Reagan offered to limit U.S. aid to the "contras" to humanitarian assistance only, provided the Sandinistas agreed to national reconciliation and free elections that would have broken their total grip on power. The president told Congress that if the Sandinistas failed to comply by the deadline, he would use part of the $14 million to arm and militarily equip the growing insurgent army.

Reagan's compromise with Congress wasn't good enough for Kerry, the only freshman senator on the then-prestigious Foreign Relations Committee. For the new lawmaker, Central America was a cause - and he was on the other side.

The new senator already had placed himself among the intractable opposition to Reagan's national-security strategy. In announcing his candidacy for the U.S. Senate, on Jan. 26, 1984, at Boston's Park Plaza Hotel, Kerry assailed Reagan's anticommunist, pro-democracy policy as barbaric. "How can you teach liberty and justice and support death squads?" he demanded, falsely accusing the administration of backing the most thuggish and undemocratic elements in Central America.

Vietnam in Nicaragua: Once in office in 1985, Kerry acted on his words. He held a news conference accusing the U.S. government of financing terrorism. "Foreign policy should represent the democratic values that have made our country great, not subvert those values by funding terrorism to overthrow the governments of other countries," Kerry said in a statement. He announced he and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) would go to Managua, the Nicaraguan capital. The pair of Vietnam-era radicals held two days of secret talks with Sandinista junta leader Daniel Ortega, timing the visit just before a scheduled vote on release of the $14 million to the freedom fighters.

They arrived in the Nicaraguan capital late on April 18 for two days of scheduled talks with Marxist officials. On the eve of his meeting with Ortega, Kerry told the Boston Globe correspondent in Managua that the talks would "provide them [Kerry and Harkin] with enough information to sway congressional votes on the issue of aid to antigovernment rebels."

In an interview with the Globe, Harkin said that as Vietnam veterans he and Kerry "bring perspective to the situation here in Central America that perhaps others not involved in the Vietnam War might not have." According to the New York Times, Harkin and Kerry said "that they were seeking commitments that could help defeat President Reagan's request."

The Globe reported from Managua, "After marathon meetings with the senators that spilled into the early-morning hours, Ortega reasserted Nicaragua's commitment to Central America as a zone free of nuclear weapons and foreign military bases, including those of the Soviet Union and Cuba."

Kerry foreign-policy aide Richard McCall and Sandinista officials hammered out a working paper that Kerry said he would present to President Reagan. Ortega reportedly was at their side for the last three hours of the meeting. The final three-page product, which Kerry called a "peace proposal," included Sandinista promises of a cease-fire, as long as the United States cut off all assistance, including humanitarian aid, to the anticommunist forces and their families. Back in Washington, Harkin claimed that the Sandinistas "desire peace and not only normal but friendly relations with the United States. What we have is a new, bold and innovative approach. I am hopeful that we can pursue it."

"This is a wonderful opening" for peace, Kerry added of the Ortega plan, "without having to militarize the region." But the plan was phony. It was nothing more than a "restatement of old positions," a State Department official said at the time. "There is no mention of any dialogue with the unified democratic opposition, which we consider essential to internal reconciliation. Without such a dialogue, a cease-fire proposal is meaningless, essentially a call for the opposition to surrender." A White House spokesman dismissed the Kerry-Harkin-Ortega plan as nothing more than "propaganda."

Even the Sandinistas' own Washington lawyer, Paul S. Reichler, said the plan offered nothing new. "There is no offer of any kind from the government of Nicaragua today that is any different from what they've been saying all along," Reichler told the New York Times. [...]

White House spokesman Larry Speakes told reporters, "The very hour the House was rejecting the aid package [to the Nicaraguan resistance], President Ortega was going to Moscow to seek funds for his Marxist regime." White House Chief of Staff Donald Regan went further, accusing congressional Democrats of "supporting communism" in Central America.

Kerry's Political Allies Duck: Kerry scrambled for political cover. He asked Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, under whom he had served as lieutenant governor, to hold a news conference praising his Nicaragua initiative. Dukakis declined. Kerry asked the same of his predecessor, retired Sen. Paul Tsongas (D-Mass.). Tsongas did not do so. Kerry even approached former congressman James Shannon, whom he had defeated in the Senate primary the year before, asking for a written statement of support. No statement came, though Shannon, according to the Boston Herald, did give some radio interviews on Kerry's behalf. Kerry's staff asked other Massachusetts congressmen "to speak out in the House in praise of Kerry's trip and meeting with Ortega so that support could be seen on television through C-SPAN," according to the Herald. "All those contacted turned him down."

Most of Kerry's Senate colleagues ignored the plan and voted for aid to the Nicaraguan resistance. The House, however, voted against the aid. Kerry was thrilled. So was Ortega, who immediately announced a trip to the U.S.S.R. to petition for $200 million more in Soviet support.

Kerry didn't blame the Sandinistas for going to Moscow, of course. Instead, he blasted the Reagan administration for rejecting his "peace offer." Said Kerry, "I think it was a silly and rather immature approach" on the part of Reagan. He was not surprised that Ortega would respond with a fund-raising trip to the Soviet Union, saying breathlessly, in the words of a Boston Globe story, that Reagan "forced Ortega to look to the Soviets for help."

Thank goodness for Iran-Contra.

May 20, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 PM


Three quick notes from tonight's Red Sox/Tampa Bay game:

(1) The Lightning have won more games in the NHL post-season that the Devil Rays have in the MLB regular season.

(2) Pitchers in the NL are hitting a combined .152. Tampa Bay designated hitters are hitting a combined .153 for the season.

(3) Victor Zambrano threw 29 pitches in the first without one being put in play--he walked the bases loaded and struck out the side.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:16 PM


The Jesus Landing Pad: Bush White House checked with rapture Christians before latest Israel move (Rick Perlstein, May 18th, 2004, Village Voice)

It was an e-mail we weren't meant to see. Not for our eyes were the notes that showed White House staffers taking two-hour meetings with Christian fundamentalists, where they passed off bogus social science on gay marriage as if it were holy writ and issued fiery warnings that "the Presidents [sic] Administration and current Government is engaged in cultural, economical, and social struggle on every level"óthis to a group whose representative in Israel believed herself to have been attacked by witchcraft unleashed by proximity to a volume of Harry Potter. Most of all, apparently, we're not supposed to know the National Security Council's top Middle East aide consults with apocalyptic Christians eager to ensure American policy on Israel conforms with their sectarian doomsday scenarios.

But now we know.

"Everything that you're discussing is information you're not supposed to have," barked Pentecostal minister Robert G. Upton when asked about the off-the-record briefing his delegation received on March 25. Details of that meeting appear in a confidential memo signed by Upton and obtained by the Voice.

The e-mailed meeting summary reveals NSC Near East and North African Affairs director Elliott Abrams sitting down with the Apostolic Congress and massaging their theological concerns. Claiming to be "the Christian Voice in the Nation's Capital," the members vociferously oppose the idea of a Palestinian state. They fear an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza might enable just that, and they object on the grounds that all of Old Testament Israel belongs to the Jews. Until Israel is intact and David's temple rebuilt, they believe, Christ won't come back to earth.

Abrams attempted to assuage their concerns by stating that "the Gaza Strip had no significant Biblical influence such as Joseph's tomb or Rachel's tomb and therefore is a piece of land that can be sacrificed for the cause of peace."

Three weeks after the confab, President George W. Bush reversed long-standing U.S. policy, endorsing Israeli sovereignty over parts of the West Bank in exchange for Israel's disengagement from the Gaza Strip. [...]

The problem is not that George W. Bush is discussing policy with people who press right-wing solutions to achieve peace in the Middle East, or with devout Christians. It is that he is discussing policy with Christians who might not care about peace at all--at least until the rapture.

The Jewish pro-Israel lobby, in the interests of peace for those living in the present, might want to consider a disengagement.

Except that those who are pro-peace are generally anti-Zionist. Part of the deal when President Truman recognized Israel, as General Marshall warned him at the time, is that we accepted it meant ongoing war.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:09 PM

60-40 VISION:

South Dakota Heats Up: The tried-and-tested may soon be bested. (Jon Lauck, 5/20/04, National Review)

The news that the race is tightening comes as a hammer blow to the Daschle campaign. They had been expecting to widen their lead after spending close to $8 million on a barrage of television, radio, and newspaper ads, in addition to tens of thousands of costly mailers to individual voters. What's doubly damning about Daschle's inability to move his numbers is that the Thune campaign has spent only about $500,000, and has not run a single ad.

The Daschle campaign has the "French army problem": They're fighting the last war. In past campaigns, Daschle has adhered to a simple model, but it has become outdated and unworkable, and the unwillingness of the Daschle campaign to deviate from that model has led to some fundamental miscalculations.

In Daschle's early campaigns, for example, which coincided with rise of Reaganism, he ran as a "non-partisan" politician and staked out conservative positions. Daschle didn't openly identify himself as a Democrat, ran localized "door-to-door"campaigns, and emphasized personality and niceness instead of issues. To the extent that he embraced the latter, he opposed abortion, touted a balanced-budget amendment, and supported the Reagan tax cuts. He also focused heavily on agricultural issues, especially during the sad days of the 1980s farm depression.

Daschle's image-maker was, and still is, Karl Struble, who started his work as a Democratic operative for Jimmy Carter in 1980 and focused much of his attention on grass-roots organizing and image-shaping. Struble learned from Democratic mistakes and from the Reagan campaign: "Democrats have been hung up with the details of a subject, instead of the overriding feelings the electorate has." In 1985, Congressional Quarterly reported that in Daschle's 1984 House reelection effort, "Struble tested the 'feel good' approach with a series of ads built around the theme of 'Why I Love South Dakota.' His current work for Daschle picks up where those left off. 'It's almost impossible to see an issue or an accomplishment in the first few ads we put together,' says Struble." [...]

The last Senate leader to lose his reelection bid was Majority Leader Ernest McFarland (D., Ariz.) in the 1952 election. McFarland had a positive image in Arizona, but he failed to adjust his campaign techniques to a new political dynamic. A recent book about McFarland makes much of his "antiquated campaign tactics and organization" and his adherence to a campaign model that wasn't working. McFarland was also hurt by broader, national issues and the unpopularity of Democrats nationally, especially President Truman. McFarland lost to a dynamic, 43-year-old businessman from Phoenix named Barry Goldwater. John Thune, for the record, recently turned 43. [...]

— Jon Lauck is a professor of history at South Dakota State University and is blogging about the South Dakota Senate race at

It seems awfully hard to believe that the Blue Party can have its Senate leaders be from Red States and expect them to get re-elected.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:03 PM


We're Doomed Again: Paul Ehrlich has never been right. Why does anyone still listen to him? (RONALD BAILEY, May 20, 2004, Wall Street Journal)

Environmentalist Paul Ehrlich has proved himself to be a stupendously bad prophet. In 1968 he declared: "The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s, the world will undergo famines--hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death." They didn't. Indeed, a "green revolution" nearly tripled the world's food supply. In 1975, he predicted that, by the mid-1980s, "mankind will enter a genuine age of scarcity," in which "accessible supplies of many key minerals will be facing depletion." Far from it. Between 1975 and 2000 the World Bank's commodity price index for minerals and metals fell by nearly 50%. In other words, we abound in "key minerals." Naturally, Mr. Ehrlich has won a MacArthur Foundation genius award--and a Heinz Award for the environment. (Yes, that Heinz: Teresa Heinz Kerry is chairman of the award's sponsoring philanthropy.)

So why pay him any notice? Because he is a reverse Cassandra. In "The Illiad," the prophetess Cassandra makes true predictions and no one believes her; Mr. Ehrlich makes false predictions and they are widely believed. The gloomier he is and the faultier he proves to be as a prophet, the more honored he becomes, even in his own country.

Any thinking person will thus want to know, accolades aside, what actual effect "One With Nineveh" will have on the intellectual environment. The title is taken from "Recessional," the poem in which Rudyard Kipling warned Victorian England that it, too, could fall, like the capital of the ancient kingdom of Assyria. Mr. Ehrlich--writing with his wife, Anne--asserts that "humanity's prospective collision with the natural world" means that "what is at risk now is global civilization."

"One With Nineveh" begins by recycling the now familiar catechism of environmentalist doom, but most of it is devoted to the Ehrlichs' hugely ambitious plans for reorganizing the world's economy and systems of government to ward off apocalypse. Homer used the word hubris to refer to this aspect of human nature.

C'mon, if being catastrophically wrong could get you read out of the intellectual elite there'd be none.

Then again, their point isn't to be right, but to get the rest of us to transfer them the power they think they deserve. As Eric Hoffer puts it, in Working and Thinking on the Waterfront:

[Intellectuals] are people who feel themselves members of the educated minority, with a God-given right to direct and shape events. An intellectual need not be well educated or particularly intelligent. What counts is the feeling of being a member of an educated elite.

An intellectual wants to be listened to. He wants to instruct and to be taken seriously. It is more important to him than to be free...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:32 PM


CIA tipped off Turkey over al-Qaeda plan to attack NATO (, 5/20/04)

Turkey received a tip-off from the CIA over an alleged al-Qaeda plan to attack the June 28-29 NATO summit in Istanbul, to be attended by US President George W Bush, ahead of the arrest of suspected militants this month, the Milliyet newspaper reported Wednesday.

The CIA reportedly told Turkish authorities that the al-Qaeda network was planning a "large-scale" attack during the summit and that explosives were dispatched to Istanbul from northern Iraq, Milliyet said, without citing a source. A police spokesman contacted by AFP declined to comment.

The tip-off was received prior to April 30 when Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan held a security meeting with senior officials, Milliyet said. Shortly afterwards, Turkish police rounded up 25 people in Istanbul and nearby Bursa, thought to belong to the northern Iraq-based radical group Ansar al-Islam, an alleged ally of al-Qaeda, on suspision that they were plotting a bomb attack on the NATO summit. A search at the suspects’ homes and offices in Bursa netted home-made pipe bombs, materials used for making explosives, CDs featuring Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda militants in training and subversive documents.

The newspaper did not specify whether the May 3 crackdown was directly linked to the intelligence received from the CIA.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:47 PM


Win-win: Manmohan Singh gets the nod (Indrajit Basu, 5/20/04, Asia Times)

Sonia Gandhi's refusal - twice in two days - to become India's next prime minister may be as surprising as her Congress party's election win itself, but Manmohan Singh as the replacement candidate may just be what the doctor ordered for the country's economy, stock markets, industry chiefs and foreign experts say. [...]

Singh, 71, is a former finance minister and the architect of India's economic reforms that began in the early 1990s to roll back decades of central control. To most experts, Singh is the best choice for the post. Gandhi's is an extremely clever move, as she gains, the Congress gains, and India gains.

Martin Hutchinson, a Washington-based ex-international investment banker who specializes in investment opportunities in emerging markets, said the future of India partly rested on who got the prime minister's job. "A reformer [like Singh] locks in economic progress, whereas an old-guard socialist, or a weak leader without intellectual background [Gandhi], raises the risk profile of foreign investment in the country considerably," he said.

For the country's stock markets, perhaps nothing could be a better balm in chaotic post-election India as Singh as the next prime minister. The markets remained bullish on Wednesday despite the political uncertainty early in the day. The 30-share Mumbai stock exchange's Sensitive Index, which opened 65 points higher at 4,942, soon breached the 5,000 mark to touch an intra-day high of 5,060 on strong buying support across the board. It eventually closed up 129 points on the day at 5,006. The S&P/CNX Nifty Index of 50 stocks on the National Stock Exchange rose 64 points to close at 1,568.

Said Hutchinson: "The principal uncertainty among foreign investors over the incoming Congress-led government was the fact that Sonia Gandhi promised to the electorate that she would attempt to boost growth by additional injections of public spending [which would have more than likely, given the Gandhi family's fiscal history and belief system]. That would have quickly made India's fiscal position run out of control, bringing economic growth to a juddering halt. One could be optimistic if Manmohan Singh himself were to be the prime minister."

Optimistic, but cautious.

Singh's economic balancing act (Ranjit Devraj, 5/21/04, Asia Times)

The image that most residents of the national capital have of Manmohan Singh, due to be sworn in as India's next prime minister Saturday, is that of a diminutive, turbaned man patiently steering his small car through a chaotic sea of sleek limousines, hulking buses and slow-moving pedicabs.

That image probably portrays best the soft-spoken economist who, as finance minister between 1991 and 1996, is credited with steering India's overprotected economy - dominated by monopolistic business families and an inefficient public sector - through a difficult first phase of reforms.

"Manmohanomics" was blamed for the 1996 electoral defeat of the venerable Congress party, which had always styled itself as a pro-poor, socialist party ever since it assumed charge of the country in 1947 when India gained independence from British colonial rule. But both the left-dominated United Front government which took over in 1996 and the right-wing, ultra-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which followed in 1998, only deepened and widened the reforms initiated by Singh.

Now, the "Good Doctor", as the newspaper headlines often describe Singh, partly in deference to his impressive academic credentials, is back in the driver's seat - this time as prime minister after Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi declined the nomination on Wednesday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:26 PM


Elvin Jones, Jazz Drummer With Coltrane, Dies at 76 (PETER KEEPNEWS, 5/19/04, NY Times)

Elvin Jones, whose explosive drumming powered the John Coltrane Quartet, the most influential and controversial jazz ensemble of the 1960's, died yesterday in Englewood, N.J. He was 76 and lived in Manhattan and Nagasaki, Japan. [...]

Elvin Ray Jones was born in Pontiac, Mich., on Sept. 9, 1927. The youngest of 10 children, he was the third Jones brother to become a professional musician, following Hank, a respected jazz pianist who is still active, and Thad, a cornetist, composer, arranger and bandleader, who died in 1986.

He began teaching himself to play drums at 13, but he had lost his heart to the instrument long before then. "I never wanted to play anything else since I was 2," he told one interviewer. "I would get these wooden spoons from my mother and beat on the pots and pans in the kitchen."

After spending three years in the Army he joined his brothers as a fixture on the busy Detroit jazz scene of the early 1950's. As the house drummer at a local nightclub, the Bluebird Inn, he worked with local musicians like Tommy Flanagan and Kenny Burrell as well as visiting jazz stars like Charlie Parker and Miles Davis.

In 1956 after briefly touring with the bassist Charles Mingus and the pianist Bud Powell, Mr. Jones moved to New York, where he was soon in great demand as an accompanist. He occasionally sat in with Miles Davis, and he later recalled that Coltrane, who was then Davis's saxophonist, promised to hire Mr. Jones whenever he formed his own group. In the fall of 1960 Coltrane made good on that promise.

Working with Coltrane, a relentless musical explorer, emboldened Mr. Jones to expand the expressive range of his instrument. "My experience with Coltrane," he told the writer James Isaacs in 1973, "was that John was a catalyst in my finding the way that drums could be played most musically." He in turn influenced Coltrane, Mr. Jones's ferocious rhythms goading Coltrane to ecstatic heights in performance and on recordings like "A Love Supreme" and "Ascension."

Coltrane's quartet helped redefine the concept of the jazz combo. Mr. Jones and the other members of the rhythm section, the pianist McCoy Tyner and the bassist Jimmy Garrison, did not accompany Coltrane so much as engage him in an open-ended four-way conversation. Audiences found the group's intensity galvanizing, and many critics shared their enthusiasm.

There's only one prayer that fits the occasion:
A Love Supreme

I will do all I can to be worthy of Thee, O Lord.
It all has to do with it.
Thank You God.
There is none other.
God is. It is so beautiful.
Thank You God. God is all.
Help us to resolve our fears and weaknesses.
In you all things are possible.
Thank you God.
We know. God made us so.
Keep your eye on God.
God is. He always was. He always will be.
No matter what... it is God.
He is gracious and merciful.
It is most important that I know Thee.
Words, sounds, speech, men, memory, throughts,
fears and emotions--time--all related...
all made from one... all made in one.
Blessed be his name.
Thought waves--heat waves--all vibrations--
all paths lead to God. Thank you God.
His way... it is so lovely... it is gracious.
It is merciful--Thank you God.
One thought can produce millions of vibrations
and they all go back to God... everything does.
Thank you God.
Have no fear... believe... Thank you God.
The universe has many wonders. God is all.
His way... it is so wonderful.
all go back to God and He cleanses all.
He is gracious and merciful... Thank you God.
Glory to God... God is so alive.
God is.
God loves.
May I be acceptable in Thy sight.
We are all one in His grace.
The fact that we do exist is acknowledgement
of Thee, O Lord.
Thank you God.
God will wash away all our tears...
He always has...
He always will.
Seek him everyday. In all ways seek God everyday.
Let us sing all songs to God.
To whom all praise is due... praise God.
No road is an easy one, but they all
go back to God.
With all we share God.
It is all with God.
It is all with Thee.
Obey the Lord.
Blessed is He.
We were all from one thing... the will of God...
Thank you God.
--I have seen ungodly--
none can be greater--none can compare
Thank you God.
He will remake... He always has and He
always will.
It's true--blessed be His name--Thank you God.
God breathes through us so completely...
so gently we hardly feel it... yet,
it is our everything.
Thank you God.
All from God.
Thank you God. Amen.
-John Coltrane (December, 1964)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:08 PM


How the Middle East is really being remade (Nir Rosen, 5/21/04, Asia Times)

A few weeks prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom, the US Council of Foreign Relations held a dinner attended mostly by thirtysomething PhDs to discuss the intended consequences of the war. The participants were exuberant about the opportunity liberating Iraq presented to remake the Middle East. The "transformation of Iraqi society" would be a model and guide for the subsequent transformation of Arab society en masse, they enthused. Ecstatically, they spoke of how first the Iraqis, then other Arabs, would learn of civil society, and how it could lift them out of the morass in which they found themselves.

The criticism of Iraqi and Arab society was based on pity and academic disdain, rather than vitriol and hostility. The Persian Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula were pointed to as special examples of a blighted society in desperate need of uplifting. These "artificial societies" were regarded as the worst example of what dark turns Arab culture could take. The diners eagerly convinced each other that Arab culture and society needed a sharp and devastating blow that would "shock and awe" them, so that the English-speaking West could get its attention. They also assumed that after its liberation, a supine Iraqi population, unshackled from its old political masters, would lie quietly while American academics worked their magic and miraculously presented them with a new society.

Their reasons were not the ones proffered to the US public. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz confessed to Vanity Fair magazine that the weapons of mass destruction claims were a useful "bureaucratic argument", and "the one issue everyone could agree on". As has been revealed in recent books by former White House anti-terrorism coordinator Richard Clarke and insider journalist Bob Woodward, the war against Iraq had been on the minds of administration planners probably long before September 11, 2001. The attacks on that day only provided a fillip, allowing the execution of their plans to remake the Middle East. Since the US public could not be sold on a scheme of grand social revision, the marketing strategy relied on fear, and the various imminent threats that Saddam Hussein allegedly posed.

A year after this bold new strategy was embarked upon, it is worth examining how the neighborhood has been changed by the events of the past 12 months. Recall that the goal was the transformation of Middle Eastern society, and not mere regime change in one state.

Hard to see how much better it could have gone, with a free Kurdistan, Shi'ites in the South clamoring for elections, Libya embarked on major reforms, an Iranian regime in crisis, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan cracking down on al Qaeda, the Palestinian Authority forced to have elections to gain international legitimacy, democracy protestors appearing even in Syria, Turkey remaining stable and pro-Western, etc., etc., etc..

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:56 PM


The War on (Narco) Terror (Rachel Ehrenfeld and Walton Cook, May 20, 2004,

Assistant Secretary Charles draws a chilling comparison between drug use and the losses we suffered from terrorists on September 11, 2001. "Drugs are a very big national security issue. We lost 21,000 kids in this country last year to drugs—that’s seven Twin Towers. We are heavily involved and fully committed," he says. This commitment includes $310 million for the eradication of the opium poppies in Afghanistan. [...]

Enter the use of mycoherbicides, which are naturally occurring fungi that attack and kill a specific plant. They are used to control such illicit pest-plants as the coca shrub, opium poppy and other noxious weeds. Unlike chemical controls, mycoherbicides assail only the targeted plant. They continue to live in the soil, thus preventing the future growth of the intended plant. Biochemists say mycoherbicides will not cause a plant to become extinct- rather, they will greatly reduce yield and render cultivation uneconomical.

Experiments with such biological agents have been going on for years, and recent scientific papers indicate that researchers are close to further breakthroughs in bio-control science. However, these researchers have expressed exasperation with the lack of government funds, preventing the conclusion of the studies, and therefore the use of this method to eradicate opium and coca plants.

The use of mycoherbicides in Afghanistan will mitigate the production of heroin and cocaine and cut off the terrorists’ major money supply, and will help keep the country from returning to a haven for terrorists and their leaders. The procedure may free up billions of dollars used to fight the opium and coca addiction and make those monies available to help to fight terrorism directly. It would also free up funds for an array of social and governmental reforms in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Ultimately, eradicating narcotics means eliminating the cost of fighting them not only in Afghanistan but also throughout the world.

Now we're talkin' root causes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:49 PM


Cosby, Saying the Darndest Things (Richard Leiby, May 19, 2004, Washington Post)

Bill Cosby was anything but politically correct in his remarks Monday night at a Constitution Hall bash commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision. To astonishment, laughter and applause, Cosby mocked everything from urban fashion to black spending and speaking habits.

"Ladies and gentlemen, the lower economic people are not holding up their end in this deal," he declared. "These people are not parenting. They are buying things for kids -- $500 sneakers for what? And won't spend $200 for 'Hooked on Phonics.' . . .

"They're standing on the corner and they can't speak English," he exclaimed. "I can't even talk the way these people talk: 'Why you ain't,' 'Where you is' . . . And I blamed the kid until I heard the mother talk. And then I heard the father talk. . . . Everybody knows it's important to speak English except these knuckleheads. . . . You can't be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth!"

The Post's Hamil Harris reports that Cosby also turned his wrath to "the incarcerated," saying: "These are not political criminals. These are people going around stealing Coca-Cola. People getting shot in the back of the head over a piece of pound cake and then we run out and we are outraged, [saying] 'The cops shouldn't have shot him.' What the hell was he doing with the pound cake in his hand?"

How long 'til Harry Belafonte calls him a house slave?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:38 PM


Kerry the energy guzzler (Washington Times, 5/20/04)

In September 2000, George W. Bush was surely right to criticize Bill Clinton for playing politics with America's long-term national security. (Mr. Clinton released tens of millions of barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) in an effort to force energy prices down in order to increase the presidential prospects of Al Gore.) Today, President Bush is right to reject demands from Sen. John Kerry and other Democrats to divert oil from the SPR to the market in order to force gasoline prices down.

Mr. Bush's rationale today is the same as it was nearly four years ago. "The strategic reserve is an insurance policy meant for sudden disruption of our energy supply," Mr. Bush asserted in September 2000. The SPR, he rightly argued, "should not be used as an attempt to drive down oil prices right before an election. It should not be used for short-term political gain at the cost of long-term national security."

Strange thing about the conventional wisdom, which holds the President a lightweight and the Senator a heavyweight--the former remains anchored in position while the latter blows around like a feather in the political winds.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:08 AM


Kerry Reaches Out to Independent Rival Nader: The Democrat asks the activist candidate to keep their common positions in mind, but stops short of requesting that he end his run. (Nick Anderson and Michael Finnegan, May 20, 2004, LA Times)

Seeking common ground with a rival many Democrats view as a spoiler, Sen. John F. Kerry on Wednesday urged Ralph Nader to remember their past alliances and to avoid judging him based on the Clinton administration's record. [...]

Kerry's efforts...could complicate his recent drive to position himself in the political center.

In one exchange, recounted by a Kerry aide who requested anonymity, Nader complained that the Democratic Party had become too cozy with corporate interests.

Kerry replied: "Don't judge me by the people who preceded me. You may have had a disagreement with [President] Bill Clinton, or [former Vice President] Al Gore, or the Democratic leadership in Congress…. but that's not me. I have fought with you, I have been with you on a range of issues, and you should judge me by my record in the Senate."

Nader, in a telephone interview after Wednesday's meeting, said Kerry's answer was "a form of music" to his ears.

Meanwhile, his campaign is based on getting the rest of us not to judge him by his voting record in the Senate, which is more liberal than Ted Kennedy's.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:41 AM


No Wizard Left Behind: Harry Potter and Left Behind are more alike than you might think. (Steven Waldman, May 18, 2004, Slate)

The series seem to live in parallel universes, as different as books could be. But as we absorb their latest milestones (the upcoming release of the third Potter movie, the recent release of the climactic Left Behind volume), I have bad news for both camps: The two have a lot in common.

Most obviously, in both cases, we see not a fight between individual good guys and bad guys, but a Manichean struggle between good and evil. That's the case in Left Behind from early in the first book. Harry Potter starts out as a more limited skirmish between Harry and the evil sorcerer Voldemort. But by the fifth book, the number of combatants has increased, with the entire wizard cadre the Order of the Phoenix battling a vast conspiracy of Voldemort-worshipers and death-eaters.

More correspondences:

The good guys are not believed. Heroism is doubly admirable when the protagonist has to not only fight his enemies, but convince his friends. Harry's classmates don't believe that Voldemort is back, and non-believers don't believe that the Antichrist has arrived.

The evil one cannot stand on his own two feet. In both series, the bad guy must occupy a human "shell." In Left Behind, the devil takes the body of Nicolas Carpathia, the charming Romanian politician who becomes head of the United Nations (natch), creates a world government, unifies religions, and promotes abortion. In Harry Potter, Voldemort possesses the body of the stuttering professor Quirrell. [...]

Corrupt authority figures. Liberal Rowling and conservative LeHaye both distrust the government. Harry spends as much time in The Order of Phoenix battling the hapless (or wicked?) Ministry of Magic as he does Voldemort himself. In Left Behind, it's a takeover of world government by the Antichrist that puts the world at peril. In Harry Potter, the adults can't be trusted; in Left Behind, it's the non-Christians.

Political agendas. As the Harry Potter series progresses, it becomes clear that Voldemort and his death-eaters want power for a specific purpose: wiping out Muggles (non-magical families) and mudbloods (mixed families). The books become a plea for tolerance and against the nostalgia for ethnic purity. Hermione's campaign to liberate the house elves is even more transparent in its power-to-the-little-people message.

Left Behind presents a comprehensive conservative Christian agenda. The Antichrist is the secretary-general of the United Nations. He promotes a hit parade of classic liberal causes, including family planning, abortion, global disarmament, amniocentesis, Third World development, assisted suicide, and higher taxes. Yes, the Antichrist is a tax-and-spend liberal. "We will further finance our plans to inject social services into underprivileged countries and make the world playing field equal for everyone," Carpathia declares. Scarrrrrry.

What a curious mixture of the obvious and the purblind. Religious conservatives have embraced the Harry Potter series since book one and their author, a card-carrying member of the British Weights and Measures Association, who the Brits have no trouble recognizing as profoundly conservative.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:22 AM


Better Fed Than Dead: Alan Greenspan wears out his welcome. (Daniel Gross, May 19, 2004, Slate)

President Bush yesterday renominated Alan Greenspan for a fifth term as head of the Federal Reserve's Board of Governors. The news that the 78-year-old patron saint of the 1990s bull market, whose current term expires in June, will have another 18 months at the helm didn't cause much of a ripple on Wall Street.

This is a terrible decision by the President. The Fed is the one institution where youth should be served. The old men who run the place tend to combat the problems of their youth--inflation in Mr. Greenspan's case--rather than those of the present day.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:06 AM


In God, and the GOP, They Trust: A belief in free will puts frequent churchgoers in the Republican fold. (David Klinghoffer, May 19, 2004, LA Times)

What is it about the policy positions and cultural attitudes described as Republican or conservative that makes them so attractive to religious voters? What principle links, say, a passionate defense of gun ownership and a strong preference for low taxes? The link can be summarized in three words: individual moral responsibility.

For more than a century, our culture has been divided on the question of whether individual moral actors may justly be held responsible for their deeds. Marx and Freud rocked the 19th century faith in moral responsibility and freedom of will, arguing that human beings are unknowingly in the grip of, respectively, powerful economic and psychosexual forces. Later analysts would discover other latent structures in society that supposedly determine our moral choices.

Today, the ideological struggles of liberals and conservatives mirror the clash initiated by Marxists and Freudians with 19th century individualism. Conservatives encourage individuals to make their own choices, except where those choices invariably harm the innocent (as in abortion) or undermine the pillars of civilization itself (as in gay marriage). Liberals see the function of government as parental, with citizens in the role of children too unaware and irresponsible to cross the street by themselves. [...]

Generally speaking, liberalism distrusts the individual, while conservatism trusts him enough to give him a chance to make the right, or the wrong, decision. If he makes the wrong one, he will have to answer to his own conscience, or to his God.

Looked at this way, it becomes apparent why religious Americans gravitate to conservatism. By far the majority of them are Christians and their biblical religion is premised on the idea of individual moral responsibility. Traditionally, religious faith presumes that God commands us to act in certain ways — which in turn presumes moral freedom. Otherwise, how could God hold us responsible if we refuse to obey?

Not all Democrats fully accept the strictly "liberal" view, of course, but they belong to a party that, of the two main parties in American political life, is the one identified with the belief that moral choices are profoundly conditioned by circumstance and therefore aren't truly free. It may be too much to suggest that God himself is a Republican. Then again, it may not.

God is certainly not a Republican, but the GOP is certainly the party of God.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 AM


Iranians demonstrate against US, UK: Thousands gather in Tehran to protest US and British actions in Iraq. (Matthew Clark, May 19, 2004,

Iran's clerical regime, a frequent critic of US-led coalition efforts in Iraq, has once again called for Iranians to protest the occupation of their neighbor to the west.

Thousands of protesters – some chanting "death to America, death to Israel" and burning US, British, and Israeli flags – heeded that call Wednesday as they took to the streets of Tehran "to demonstrate against US and British 'crimes' in Iraq and the profaning of Shiite Muslim holy sites," reports Agence France-Presse.

About 200 demonstrators also threw firecrackers, stones, and petrol bombs at the British embassy in Tehran, reports Reuters. They were reportedly calling for the embassy to be closed. A few windows were broken, but no one in the embassy compound was injured, a diplomat told Reuters.

Iran's leaders have been calling for demonstrations in three cities – Tehran, Mashhad, and the holy city of Qom, reports BBC.

200 people throwing rocks is all they have left to show for the Revolution. History has Ended in Iran.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 AM


Foreign firms paid Saddam commission in oil-for-food deals (KHALED YACOUB OWEIS, 5/20/04, The Scotsman)

COMPANIES from Australia, the US and other countries paid a secret commission to Saddam Hussein’s government to secure contracts under the United Nations’ oil-for-food programme, Iraqi and occupation officials said yesterday.

Iraq demanded a 10 per cent payment from suppliers who were told to put the money into Arab bank accounts set up by Saddam’s administration.

"All oil-for-food contracts from 1998 included 10 per cent in ‘after-sales services’, including some with US companies," an official from the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) said.

The oil-for-food programme was designed to protect ordinary Iraqis from the worst hardships wrought by UN sanctions against Saddam’s regime, by providing food, medicines and other goods and paid for by oil sales.

The quantities involved were huge, especially the food required to feed 27 million Iraqis. Australia alone was exporting up to two million tonnes of wheat a year to Iraq before Saddam was toppled.

But there is growing evidence of corruption. Billions of dollars’ worth of goods flowed through the programme, established in 1996 and administered by the United Nations in New York through the French bank Paribas.

The US General Accounting Office has said Saddam and his cronies raised $4.4 billion in illegal revenues by imposing oil surcharges and commissions on suppliers of goods to Iraq under the scheme.

Is this what the Left and allied isolationists on the Right mean by "sanctions were working?" We basically incentivized his non-compliance with his treaty obligations.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:30 AM


Clean-air rules fuel gas run-up: Mandates for special blends play role in higher prices (Stephen J. Glain and Peter J. Howe, May 20, 2004, Boston Globe)

Oil industry officials and others are blaming part of the run-up to $2-a-gallon gasoline on air pollution regulations that are forcing refiners to supply 18 different blends of gas around the country, including four in New England alone.

The proliferation of mandated ''boutique blends" of gas has snarled supply lines for gasoline and left regional suppliers vulnerable to sudden shortages, which has built in a permanent premium in gas prices even before recent Middle East turmoil and OPEC supply reductions began pushing prices higher still.

Instead of being able to shop around the country for the best deal on wholesale gasoline, local suppliers are required to buy blends of gas that may only be mandated for sale to just a few million Americans. Refiners, meanwhile, run much less efficient operations because they are producing the equivalent of a Friendly's menu of ice cream instead of just plain vanilla, industry executives say.

Today's situation can be traced back to a federal clean-air initiative unveiled nearly a decade ago that has inadvertently compelled many states to develop gasoline based on their own environmental standards, contributing to an oil supply crunch by effectively balkanizing the country's gas market.

At least 18 different grades of gas have evolved as a way to sidestep the program, launched in 1995, which required the country's most smog-choked areas to use a cleaner-burning gasoline known as reformulated gas.

''Twenty years ago we had leaded and unleaded, and that was it," said Rayola Dougher, senior policy analyst with the American Petroleum Institute. ''Now we have 18 different types of gasoline that are required to be sold around the country, including summer and winter formulations. It's a lot to juggle, and it's a real issue for refiners."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 AM


Bush to Detail Transition Monday in First of Several Iraq Speeches (Robin Wright and Mike Allen, May 20, 2004, Washington Post)

President Bush will lay out details of the U.S. plan for the Iraq transition at a major speech Monday in a bid to counter mounting public anxiety over the escalating violence and uncertainty less than six weeks before the handover of political power in Baghdad, according to U.S. officials.

Beginning with Monday's address at the Army War College, Bush will give a major speech on Iraq every week through June 30, when the U.S.-led coalition is due to turn over limited authority to a new interim Iraqi government. "We're entering a critical phase, and the president will be speaking out each week to discuss with the American people, and the world, the way forward in Iraq," said a White House official.

"Some speeches will have more details than others, and will be given at different places and times. All have the important goal of explaining the essential tasks at hand and the significance of June 30," the official added.

Enough supporters of the war--from John Kerry to the Weekly Standard--have gone wobbly that Mr. Bush has the rare opportunity to get sole credit for the victory of U.S. policy in Iraq.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 AM


The Weird, Wacky World Of Baseball Injuries (Thomas Boswell, May 19, 2004, Washington Post)

Five-time batting champion Wade Boggs missed a week when he lost his balance putting on his cowboy boots and fell into a couch. Fat Freddie Fitzsimmons fell asleep in a rocking chair while talking to Rogers Hornsby and Bill Terry. While rocking as he snoozed, the 217-game winner crunched his pitching fingers under the chair. His month-long injury may have cost the '27 Giants a pennant. And Lefty Gomez, while knocking dirt from his spikes, smashed his ankle instead and was carried off the field.

So Sammy Sosa shouldn't feel too bad. Fluke injuries are nothing to sneeze at, especially in baseball, where the ridiculously improbable injury seems the rule, not the exception. Nonetheless, when Sosa sneezed twice while bending over in the Cubs clubhouse Sunday, sending his back into spasms and putting himself out of the lineup, he earned a spot on the all-time list. [...]

Sosa now joins the great tradition of comic "disabled" Cubs outfielders, which is led by Jose Cardenal, who couldn't play on Opening Day in 1974 because he said he slept wrong and his eyelid was stuck shut. Two seasons earlier, Cardenal had told manager Whitey Lockman he couldn't play because crickets in his hotel room kept him up all night.

At least Sosa has witnesses who can attest to his story. Not so for Padres southpaw David Wells, who lost Sunday, then cut his right wrist and left palm that same evening in a "home accident."

"It was not a fight," said General Manager Kevin Towers, perhaps aware that Wells once broke his pitching hand in a street fight outside a bar after his mother's wake -- something about a comment concerning her days riding with the Hells Angels.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 AM


Democrats Criticize Denial of Communion by Bishops (LAURIE GOODSTEIN, 5/20/04, NY Times)

Forty-eight Roman Catholic members of Congress who are Democrats have signed a letter to the cardinal archbishop of Washington, D.C., saying the threats by some bishops to deny communion to politicians who support abortion rights were "deeply hurtful," counterproductive and "miring the Church in partisan politics."

The letter is the first organized counter-punch by Democratic legislators since a handful of Catholic bishops set off an uproar in the church by declaring that they would withhold communion from politicians who favor abortion rights.

The Democrats haven't figured out yet that Sister Boom-Boom isn't actually a theologian.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:11 AM


Needed: One-Horse Power (Tony Kornheiser, May 18, 2004, Washington Post)

[S]marty Jones is a great American Dream story: A rags-to-riches colt, an underdog from a small track, ridden by a small-time, unknown jockey, owned by an elderly man now in a wheelchair, and breathing oxygen through a tube. They're all straight out of a Damon Runyon story -- and, boy, am I dating myself with that reference. But that's the point here: When Damon Runyon was writing these kinds of stories that would lead to "Guys And Dolls," horse racing was just about the biggest sport in America.

That was in the 1940s and '50s. Horse racing was still near the top through the 1960s and even into the '70s, when Secretariat was easily one of the biggest stars in sports. Just 30 years ago, the greatest sports columnists, like Red Smith of the New York Times, Shirley Povich of The Washington Post and Jim Murray of the Los Angeles Times, set their writing calendar by three sports: horse racing, boxing and baseball. Starting with spring training in late February, the best columnists followed their baseball teams all the way through the World Series, detouring to cover every big boxing match and every major stakes race from Hialeah in Florida, through Santa Anita in California, to Saratoga in upstate New York. All that other stuff -- the NFL, the NBA, the NHL, the Final Four -- that was just stuff they went to if it was being played in a town near a good track, a title fight or a major league ballpark.

Things change, of course. Boxing is dead now. You can't watch it on TV unless you pay for it. Great young athletes no longer box, they play sports that are more lucrative and safer, like basketball and, yes, football.

Most of all, boxing is dead because society has turned its back on it. Society no longer sees "the sweet science." Now it sees a brutal vestige of an old, unenlightened America. Boxing is a guilty pleasure now, appropriately centered in Las Vegas. It may as well be held on barges outside the three-mile limit.

Baseball is making a comeback of sorts. Attendance is up, and the playoffs and World Series are still widely watched and romanticized by a generation of sons, grown old themselves, who picture their fathers coming home from the war and heading straight for the ballpark. Baseball may still have a nostalgic hold on our hearts, but nobody in his right mind thinks baseball is anywhere close to the NFL in popularity. Some years it seems baseball rests below basketball. The good news for baseball is all the renewed interest in home run records. (The dirty little secret is that steroids and "supplements" have been very, very good for baseball.) Last year's playoffs showed it's even better news when Old School franchises like the Cubs and Red Sox battle the Yankees for dominance.

Horse racing needs Smarty Jones to win the Triple Crown to mount a comeback of its own.

America needs Smarty Jones to win because a country where horses are heroes is better than one where horses' asses, like the folks on reality TV shows, are.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:04 AM


Blind to Progress (Sebastian Mallaby, May 17, 2004, Washington Post)

When he was young and so was India, Jagdish Bhagwat left Oxford to work at the Indian Planning Commission. He was assigned to grapple with his country's biggest problem -- how to raise the incomes of the poorest -- and he soon came to the conclusion that the key was economic growth. For one thing, the "exploitative rich" were irritatingly few, so nationalizing their fortunes wouldn't get you very far. But Bhagwati was also impressed by data showing that no poor country has achieved egalitarianism in incomes. If inequality was more or less a given, the only hope was to expand the pie rather than slicing it up differently.

I tell this story partly because I've been reading Bhagwati's new book, In Defense of Globalization. But the episode also sheds light on the oddity of last week's Indian election, or at least on the way it was greeted. Comparing Bhagwati's snapshot of India in the early 1960s with today's transformed country tells you something about globalization -- and about why Bhagwati, who's now an eminent professor at Columbia University and a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, feels the need to defend it.

The Bhagwati of the 1960s was no pro-business conservative. His views reflected the Anglo-Indian intellectual consensus; he believed in government direction of the economy rather than free markets, import substitution rather than free trade. But the remarkable thing is that his enthusiasm for growth wasn't controversial among India's left-leaning intellectuals. It was shared even by Jawaharlal Nehru, the father of India and of Indian socialism. To ensure "an irreducible minimum standard for everybody, the national income had to be greatly increased," Nehru wrote shortly before India's independence.

This faith in growth has since been vindicated. With the advent of internationally comparable poverty statistics, it's grown clear that inequality varies more across countries than Bhagwati imagined 40 years ago. But it's also become evident that inequality varies little across history: Income distribution appears to be hard-wired into the DNA of a nation, so that tackling poverty via redistribution is a fool's errand. On the other hand, tackling poverty by creating growth has proven repeatedly successful, most obviously in East Asia. There are exceptions -- the Philippines under the Marcos dictatorship -- that have managed to experience growth without reducing poverty. But they are few and far between.

Yet if the India of the 1960s was right about growth's importance, it was wrong about how it might be achieved. The economy crawled along during the 1960s and 1970s, and the Indian Planning Commission was a large part of the problem.

It's truly an exquisite thing the way the laws of economics vindicate conservatism and repudiate Left egalitarianism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:30 AM


Here to Stay: We’re here, we’re mildly and tolerantly homophobic, get used to it! (John Derbyshire, May 14, 2004, National Review)

Having previously described myself in these pages, and elsewhere, as "a mild, tolerant homophobe," I feel it is incumbent upon me to speak out now and then about homogamy (that is, "gay marriage") and kindred topics on behalf of the homophobe community — part of the larger Homophobic, Anti-Lesbian, Transsexuality-Hostile Or Moralistically-Oriented (HALTHOMO) community. The following are just random fugitive thoughts, with no particular coherence from one section to another and in no particular order.

Their worst nightmare. A "mild, tolerant homophobe" is the homo-activist's worst nightmare. Even to admit the possible existence of such a creature would explode his entire ideology. Anyone who does not give whole-hearted, roaring approval to the entire homo-agenda must, must, be tarred as a stump-toothed knuckle-dragging primitive, probably afflicted with grave psychiatric problems and hopelessly out of touch with the zeitgeist. If you are not totally on board with absolutely every tiny point of homo-dogma, then you are a sick, poisonous bag of cruelty and evil, who must be destroyed. That's what ideologues are like; that's the totalitarian mindset.

Just as Lenin hated the mild, constitutional Mensheviks with far more passion than he could ever bring to bear against the Tsar and his Cossacks, the homo-agitators hate folk like me much more intensely than they hate the killers of Matthew Shepard. Those felons, after all, serve a very useful purpose for homo-propagandists: By their awful crimes, they validate the victim status of homosexuals, and thereby the homo-activist project of upturning our society and rewriting all its laws to eliminate the "root causes" of such outrages. (Which are: the slightest, merest, faintest hints or traces of disapproval of homosexual acts.)

I, on the other hand, am of no use to them, and say things they don't want people to hear.

Well, all of that is their problem, not mine. I've been in this world long enough to know who I am, and I'm not in the habit of apologizing for any of it. I also know that there are vast numbers of Americans — many tens of millions — who think pretty much the way I do about this topic, and they are probably not in much of a mood to apologize about their views, either. We're here, we're mildly and tolerantly homophobic, get used to it!

What Mr. Derbyshire describes would appear to be quite close to the consensus view in America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:28 AM


Kerry, Nader Meet and Go Separate Ways: Democrats Want To Diminish Man They Call Spoiler (Dan Balz and Jim VandeHei, May 20, 2004, Washington Post)

Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) met privately yesterday with independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader, who many Democrats believe cost Vice President Al Gore the White House in 2000, but the private session left the two in disagreement over the best way to defeat President Bush in November and with Nader saying he has no intention of quitting the race.

The 70-minute session at Kerry's headquarters in downtown Washington came amid signs of an emerging two-pronged Democratic strategy to counter Nader's candidacy that tries to avoid mistakes Democrats believe were made four years ago.

The strategy includes keeping lines of communication open between Nader and the Kerry campaign and Democratic Party officials while the party and its constituency groups work aggressively to diminish Nader's candidacy and dissuade voters in the battleground states from supporting Nader in November. Kerry's campaign hopes that former Vermont governor Howard Dean can appeal to potential Nader voters as well.

That marks a shift from four years ago, when the Gore campaign feared that engaging with Nader would only raise his political profile and Democrats launched anti-Nader operations in only a handful of states. In two states that Bush won with razor-thin margins, Florida and New Hampshire, Nader's vote far eclipsed Bush's victory margin, Democrats made little effort to diminish Nader's support.

Here's another mark of a thoroughly undisciplined campaign--what can possibly have been the point of having John Kerry meet with this guy as an equal? How do you then turn around and dismiss him when the Bush team insists he be included in debates?

Meanwhile, there was an interview on NPR this afternoon with a Nader spokesman and they asked him how the candidacy can possibly help John Kerry. The answer was that: (1) He'll force John Kerry to take the posiotions that he should instead of those that are politically expedient; and (2) Mr. Nader can do things like call for George Bush's impeachment, that Senator Kerry can't. So pushing the Senator to the Left and appealing narrowly to the Left himself is Mr. Nader's idea of helping out? Where do we send contributions?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:23 AM


Iowa Governor Vetoes Unborn Victims Bill (Paul Nowak, May 18, 2004,

Governor Tom Vilsack (D) vetoed the Iowa Unborn Victims bill, one of 17 bills he rejected on Friday. Vilsack is one of a handful of leading political figures pro-abortion Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry is considering as his running mate.

You can't spend the campaign defending a decision that 70% of the American people disagree with.

May 19, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:59 PM


Unexpected Revenue Could Ease Md. Deficit (Matthew Mosk, May 19, 2004,
Washington Post)

Maryland's much-dreaded budget crisis may be quietly evaporating, new revenue estimates show.

Money from Maryland's income and sales taxes has been flowing into the state treasury at a healthy clip this year, exceeding by more than $150 million the amount that fiscal experts had predicted. And if the revenue continues at that pace, predictions of a $1 billion shortfall facing the governor and General Assembly in January could be revised down to a far-more-manageable gap of roughly $252 million.

Surplus expected for state: With fiscal year to end next month, revenue is up nearly 3 points more than forecast (MICHAEL HARDY, May 19, 2004, Richmond TIMES-DISPATCH)
Before the start of the one of the biggest tax increases in state history, Virginia's economic engine seems to be in overdrive.

It also appears likely that the state will close the fiscal year on June 30 with a healthy surplus.

Only two months before the end of the fiscal year, revenue collections have grown 9.5 percent, well ahead of the annual forecast of 6.7 percent.

The annual forecast, required by law, was first made by the administration late last year.
Managed Hosting Services.

In a recent report to Gov. Mark R. Warner, Finance Secretary John M. Bennett suggested that the state's economy is rebounding nicely after a few years of stagnation caused by a national recession and the fallout from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Bushonomics at work = 50.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:38 PM

60-40 FILES:

Scientific Poll: Senate Race: One of the most-watched Senate races in the country is already too close to call. (, 05/19/2004)

Tom Daschle and John Thune won't be on a ballot until November. But our KELOLAND-TV/Argus Leader scientific poll shows most voters have already made up their minds.

And the numbers are almost even.

We polled 800 registered voters last week who say they regularly vote. Here's who they'd choose as senator if today were Election Day.

Our KELOLAND-TV/Argus Leader scientific poll shows 49% of voters would support democrat Tom Daschle. 47% would vote for republican John Thune. And just 4 percent are undecided. There's a three and a half percent margin of error.

Given that George W. Bush will carry the state by 20+%, there's no way Senator Daschle could win if the polls stay that tight. How are the Democrats looking with Hillary as their Minority Leader in 2005?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:11 PM


Kosovo's religious tables turned: Where is the outcry over anti-Serb, anti-Christian attacks? (Lawrence A. Uzzell, 5/20/04, CS Monitor)

Six years ago the US launched a noble experiment, becoming the first nation to proclaim international religious freedom as a goal of its foreign policy. Unfortunately, that experiment has been poisoned by interest-group politics. Usually the US speaks up only for persecuted religious denominations that have large memberships in America or good connections in Washington. Others are mostly ignored - as is the case with Kosovo now.

The ethnic Albanian Muslims who dominate that strife-torn Balkan province have been pursuing what a NATO commander recently called "orchestrated and well-planned ethnic cleansing" against minority Christian Serbs. In mid-March, Kosovo Albanian mobs destroyed 30 churches in two days. (The mobs were inflamed by reckless reports in local media, presenting as fact a rumor that Serb teens had drowned three Albanian boys; NATO officials now say they believe the drowning was accidental.) Some of these churches had been places of Christian worship since the 14th century, jewels of medieval architecture treasured by art historians worldwide. Today they're ashen ruins. Thousands of their former parishioners are now refugees; some are dead.

Imagine the outcry if these had been Baptist or Roman Catholic churches, or synagogues. But Eastern Orthodox Christians seem to have almost no sympathizers in the US except among fellow Orthodox - and among the few human rights advocates who pursue freedom not just for their own co-religionists, but for everyone. Especially friendless are the Serbian Orthodox...

All actions by a democracy are self-justifying--we're never going to admit we intervened in favor of the wrong side.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:57 PM


French health system gets surgery: Considered the world's best, France's healthcare system could face bankruptcy. (Peter Ford, 5/20/04, CS Monitor)

France offers its citizens the best healthcare in the world, and it isn't only the French who will tell you so. The World Health Organization ranks France at the top of its list.

The trouble is, the country cannot afford it. The French public health insurance scheme is heading for a $15.5 billion deficit this year, threatening to bankrupt the system.

"Our health system has gone mad," Health Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy told a parliamentary commission earlier this month. "Profound reforms are urgent."

But as trade unions rally in defense of free healthcare for all, the topic has become the hottest issue on the government's controversial reformist agenda, threatening further unpopularity as European parliamentary elections approach.

France is not alone in finding it increasingly hard to fund cradle-to-grave welfare systems. Across Europe, aging populations and ever more expensive medical treatments are busting budgets. The German government recently scandalized voters by introducing small charges for doctor visits and medicines.

Europeans' attachment to their public healthcare systems is strong, however, and nobody wants to see privatization.

It's an interesting thing, no one seriously considers France to have the best health care. If you were a wealthy and very ill Frenchman (or Canadian or whoever) you'd come here to get American medical care. So, the measure has to be something about the level of care top to bottom. This too is a dubious proposition--you likely get better in the Cook County emergency room than in your average French clinic, even though you do get an official appointment when you go to the latter. But once you factor in that the National Health systems are unsustainable it becomes truly asinine to classify them as "best."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:39 PM



Just down the hall from Donald Rumsfeld's third-floor office at the Pentagon is a high-tech conference room where U.S. generals arrayed around the globe can talk to the Pentagon boss—and with his boss, if he happens to stop by. That is exactly what happened last week when Central Command chief General John Abizaid, appearing via videophone from Qatar, admitted that he was worried about the political fallout back home from the Abu Ghraib prison-abuse scandal. Hearing this, George W. Bush peered back at Abizaid, who oversees two continuing wars in Asia, and told him to ignore the static. "You worry about getting the job done," Bush said. "You let me worry about the politics and the things back here."

Even if he was naked drunk in every bar in Alabama thirty years ago--or whatever the scenario that races through fevered imaginations--that's a Commander in Chief talking.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:06 PM


A Kerry victory would curtail spending (DOUG BANDOW, 5/20/04, Japan Times)

Republicans control both the White House and Congress, but Washington, D.C. remains a fiscal sinkhole. The best hope for budget probity is to turn over one branch of government to the Democrats.

This is, of course, idiotic. If George Bush loses this election the whole GOP will take a drubbing. If libertarians don't like single party rule by the GOP, just wait'll they see a Democratic government with John Kerry in the White House, Nancy Pelosi in the Speaker's chair and Kerry-mentor Ted Kennedy the de facto leader of the Senate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:04 PM


Families Heckle Giuliani at 9/11 Hearing (MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN, May 20, 2004, Associated Press)

Outraged relatives of World Trade Center victims heckled former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani on Wednesday as their hopes that he would be grilled by the Sept. 11 commission faded in the face of gentle questioning and effusive praise from panel members.

"My son was murdered because of your incompetence!'' shouted Sally Regenhard, whose firefighter son died in the trade center. Seated three rows behind Giuliani, she jabbed her finger at the former mayor and waved a sign that read ``Fiction'' as he gave the city's emergency response a glowing review.

Giuliani finished his testimony and abruptly left the auditorium minutes later, upsetting family members who said they received few answers. Monica Gabrielle, who lost her husband, Richard, called it a ``lost opportunity.''

"This was not a time for Rudy Giuliani to talk about all the great things he did on 9/11,'' she said. ``He can save that for his talking tours. He should have told us what went wrong and what we should do now.''

The acrimonious hearing brought together the mayor, who became a symbol of heroism for his steady response to the attack, and the activist relatives who have become a voice of dissent over his administration's emergency planning and response.

We're all grieved that they lost loved ones, but now they've made this about themselves. We've developed a disturbing tendency to do that with tragedy in the modern world. It's unbecoming.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:56 PM


Kerry Open to OK Anti-Abortion Judges (RON FOURNIER, May 19, 2004, AP)

Democrat John Kerry said Wednesday he's open to nominating anti-abortion judges as long as that doesn't lead to the Supreme Court overturning the landmark 1973 ruling that made abortion legal.

Anticipate the "clarification" momentarily.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 4:21 PM


The Eurovision Song Contest badly needs a makeover (Andy Sennitt, Radio Netherlands, May 19th,2004)

The Eurovision Song Contest is the flagship event of the European Broadcasting Union, the umbrella organisation of Europe's public broadcasters. Like similar broadcasting unions elsewhere, the EBU does a lot of important work which goes unnoticed unless you actually work in broadcasting. Every day, countless exchanges of material go on via the Eurovision network, but ordinary viewers are not conscious of the EBU's involvement. For most of Europe's viewers, Eurovision is a song contest that happens once a year, nothing more.

The Contest displays the best and the worst of European broadcasting. The best, because it's a live show of around three hours that manages to link every participating country with remarkably few technical problems. In that sense, it's a showcase for the very best that public broadcasters can offer. The problem is with the content, which is something the EBU itself has little control over. The broadcasters in the participating countries arrange their own national contests to select the song that's going to represent them. And it's those songs that are are the source of so much bitterness between different countries.

Quite simply, a lot of the songs are atrocious. More attention is paid to the visual aspects of the performances than to the artistic merits of the material. A British newspaper notes that the most votes generally go to the artists who are wearing the least clothing by the end of the performance. Certainly this year's voting appears to support that contention. One wag has suggested that they should change the name to the Eurovision Thong Contest. Now, I'm no prude. But, if the contest is about the artists and not the material they perform, the name does indeed need to be changed.

The voting system has been a big source of complaints this year from countries such as the Netherlands, which in earlier years generally did quite well but now, like the UK, seems to do poorly. There were technical problems with the computer software during the semi final, a new innovation, that was staged a three days beforehand to eliminate 12 of the contestants because so many countries (36) wanted to take part. But the main bone of contention is how, for example, the Slavic countries always vote for each other, the Scandinavians likewise, and so on. This will be the case as long as the programme uses the long-winded system of voting by country, which is supposed to be democratic but is anything but. It's time to come up with a simpler, more elegant solution.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:04 PM


Sarin? What Sarin?: The rush to dismiss the discovery of a toxic nerve agent in Iraq is an example of the "Four Noes" of the defeatists' platform. (William Safire, 5/19/04, NY Times)

The first "no" is no stockpiles of W.M.D., used to justify the war, were found. With the qualifier "so far" left out, the absence of evidence is taken to be evidence of absence. In weeks or years to come — when the pendulum has swung, and it becomes newsworthy to show how cut-and-runners in 2004 were mistaken — logic suggests we will see a rash of articles and blockbuster books to that end.

These may well reveal the successful concealment of W.M.D., as well as prewar shipments thereof to Syria and plans for production and missile delivery, by Saddam's Special Republican Guard and fedayeen, as part of his planned guerrilla war — the grandmother of all battles. The present story line of "Saddam was stupid, fooled by his generals" would then be replaced by "Saddam was shrewder than we thought."

This will be especially true for bacteriological weapons, which are small and easier to hide. In a sovereign and free Iraq, when germ-warfare scientists are fearful of being tried as prewar criminals, their impetus will be to sing — and point to caches of anthrax and other mass killers.

Defeatism's second "no" is no connection was made between Saddam and Al Qaeda or any of its terrorist affiliates. This is asserted as revealed truth with great fervor, despite an extensive listing of communications and meetings between Iraqi officials and terrorists submitted to Congress months ago.

Most damning is the rise to terror's top rank of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who escaped Afghanistan to receive medical treatment in Baghdad. He joined Ansar al-Islam, a Qaeda offshoot whose presence in Iraq to murder Kurds at Saddam's behest was noted in this space in the weeks after 9/11. His activity in Iraq was cited by President Bush six months before our invasion. Osama's disciple Zarqawi is now thought to be the televised beheader of a captive American.

The third "no" is no human-rights high ground can be claimed by us regarding Saddam's torture chambers because we mistreated Iraqi prisoners. This equates sleep deprivation with life deprivation, illegal individual humiliation with official mass murder. We flagellate ourselves for mistreatment by a few of our guards, who will be punished; he delightedly oversaw the shoveling of 300,000 innocent Iraqis into unmarked graves. Iraqis know the difference.

The fourth "no" is no Arab nation is culturally ready for political freedom and our attempt to impose democracy in Iraq is arrogant Wilsonian idealism.

In coming years, this will be blasted by revisionist reportage as an ignoble ethnic-racist slur.

The other day a young friend who's found himself growing more conservative in recent years, or accepting that he is a conservative more readily, asked why it was that all the things the Left believed twenty years ago proved false but they never acknowledge it. I suggested that he write down four things that he's certain of now but that the media and the rest of the Left disagree with and then look back in twenty years and see how those things have become the accepted wisdom which no one ever truly disagreed with. The fourth "no" is one to write down.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:55 PM

BUT THEY THROW LIKE GIRLS (via John D. Hendershot):

Robot Soccer: Real Kick to Scientists' Work (K.L. Vantran, May 19, 2004, American Forces Press)

Yang Gu dribbles the soccer ball across the grassy field. His opponent, a robot named "Brain," turns and moves toward the action.

The technology gleaned from playing soccer with robots may one day help save the lives of those in combat, said Brett Browning, a systems scientist in the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh.

Browning's work focuses on teams of autonomous robots operating in complex, dynamic and often adversarial environments. His main project is robot soccer, where teams of robots compete.

It'd be more impressive if they could play a game requiring some skill.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:50 PM


Gays Attacked At Palestinian Protest (Peter Moore, 5/19/04, FrontPage)

Members of two British gay rights groups were attacked when they attempted to participate in a demonstration for Palestinian rights.

OutRage and Queer Youth Alliance went to the protest march at Trafalgar Square to show their support for people of Palestine. But they also urged the Palestinian Authority to halt the arrest, torture and murder of homosexuals.

As soon as they arrived at the square to members of the two groups were surrounded by an angry, screaming mob of Islamic fundamentalists, Anglican clergymen, members of the Socialist Workers Party, the Stop the War Coalition, and officials from the protest organizers, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC).

They variously attacked the gay activists as "racists", "Zionists", "CIA and MI5 agents", "supporters of the Sharon government" and accused the gays of "dividing the Free Palestine movement".

PSC organisers asked the gay activists to "stand at the back of the demonstration", and when they refused blocked their placards with their own banners and shouted down the gay campaigners as they tried to speak to journalists and other protesters.

Good thing Britain has gun laws or it could have ended up like Greensboro.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:41 PM


Ordeal: awake during surgery (MATTHEW BARAKAT, 5/19/04, Associated Press)

The pain in Carol Weihrer's eye was so severe she decided to have it surgically removed, believing it was the only way to get on with life.

Instead, the surgery was the beginning of an unending nightmare. Her anesthesia failed, leaving her awake but paralyzed for a five-hour surgery in which doctors cut and gouged to remove her right eye.

"You feel really grueling pulling on your eye, but you can't move to relieve the pressure," Weihrer said recently.

She felt no pain from the cutting, because the painkilling portion of the anesthesia was effective. But the tremendous pressure exerted to remove the eye was painful in its own way.

'You're sure you'll die if you can't let them know you're awake, she said. "And you think, `That'd be fine, too, as long as this ends. And then you think, `Maybe you did die . . . and maybe you're in hell.'"

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:31 PM


Bush Gains in Efforts to Win Over Jewish Vote (Maura Reynolds and Peter Wallsten, May 19, 2004, LA Times)

Stuart Weil, a ponytailed tropical fish farmer from Fresno, is a longtime Democrat who regularly attends synagogue. Four years ago, he voted for Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore. This year, not only does he plan to vote for President Bush, he's urging his Jewish friends to do the same.

"He is the first president to understand the world in terms of terrorism," said Weil, 51, one of more than 4,000 delegates this week at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the nation's preeminent pro-Israel lobby.

"He understands that the terrorism Israel has had is now the terrorism the U.S. has."

On Tuesday, Weil and thousands of other AIPAC members welcomed Bush to their annual meeting with 21 standing ovations — a thunderous display of affection from an audience that, while always hawkish on Israel, had long been a home to more Democrats than Republicans. [...]

Since Bush came into office, his administration has made a concerted effort to court the Jewish community, both for donations and for votes. In just the last two weeks, in addition to the president's speech to AIPAC, Vice President Dick Cheney went to Florida to address the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County, and national security advisor Condoleezza Rice spoke to the Anti-Defamation League's annual conference in Washington.

Moreover, Jewish leaders have had extraordinary access to the president, who hosted White House meetings "a bunch" of times with groups of rabbis and other Jewish officials, according to a senior administration official. By contrast, Bush has yet to meet with bishops from the United Methodist church — the president's own denomination — who have requested a visit since he took office.

"My impression was of a very human and humble individual who wanted to dialogue and not lecture, to share and not pontificate," said Jacob Rubenstein, chief rabbi at Young Israel in Scarsdale, N.Y., who attended one session in the Oval Office last fall.

Look at me...I'm as helpless as a puppet on a string...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:28 PM


P.A. police defend mountain lion killing (Julie Patel, 5/19/04, Mercury News)

Palo Alto police Tuesday stood by their decision to kill a mountain lion as it reclined in a neighborhood tree, even as more than 50 phone calls and 150 e-mails poured in condemning Monday's shooting.

Why not form the phone-callers into a Mountain Lion Brigade and the next time one is on the loose they can go out and capture it by more pacific methods?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:25 PM


What Abu Ghraib Scandal?: While the West rings its hands over the fraternity pranks played on Iraqi prisoners, the Arab Street wonders what the big deal is. (Dr. Walid Phares, 5/19/04, FrontPage)

[O]ther people in the region...see the crisis through a different lens. In Beirut, amazement was mostly about George W. Bush addressing Arab TV. Lebanese were certainly disgusted by the aired images but they were stunned by the fact that a U.S. President was "talking" to Arab citizens. The region is infested with worse ugliness than the prison scandal, yet no one can remember any Arab leader addressing his people about abuse.

"Our dictators never showed up on any media, at anytime, for any picture" said many Syrians, "despite 28 years of horrors in their detention centers." Thousands of citizens were tortured in al Mazza, the Syrian equivalent of Abu Ghraib, yet no one lifted a finger. Many in the region have their own horror pictures, but who will publish them as long as no Americans were involved?

From Iraq, other voices blasted the media: "What was happening in the same cells of Abu Ghraib under the Baath defies human logic. The awful photos of today would be only appetizers," said Saddam's survivors. "We have pictures, we have documents, but that won't please your elites."

These survivors invited the world to visit the mass graves, to see piles of corpses, but to to avail. Shiites are cheap, unless they join the anti-American chorus. Their pictures won't make it to BBC, let alone the Arab networks.
You can tell this scandal is over because much of NPR has gone back to regular programming and at the hearings today the Senators were mostly apologizing to the generals for taking them away from their real duties.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:17 PM


Daley rips governor on casino (FRAN SPIELMAN, May 19, 2004, Chicago Sun-Times)

The Land of Lincoln is already the "Land of Gambling," Mayor Daley said Tuesday, mocking Gov. Blagojevich's core argument for saying "no dice" to a Chicago casino.

"He's against gambling. [He said] the state of Illinois doesn't want to be the state of Nevada.... But he's doing that outside Chicago. The Land of Lincoln outside Chicago has become the Land of Gambling," Daley said. [...]

"A megacasino in the city of Chicago, irrespective of who owns it, fundamentally changes the landscape of gaming in our state," the governor said. "That, coupled with other things, would frankly ... turn the Land of Lincoln into the land of Wayne Newton. I'm just not going to be the governor who presides over something like that." [...]

Before flying off to Paris last week, Daley took the wraps off his plan for a downtown city-owned casino to boost conventions and tourism, take the pressure off property taxes and generate a pot of gold for local government. The following day -- before City Hall had a chance to make a formal presentation -- Blagojevich shot it down.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:58 AM


Budget Deal Reached, but Outlook in the Senate Is Unclear: Republican Congressional leaders reached a tentative budget compromise on Tuesday that would extend several of President Bush's major tax cuts. (EDMUND L. ANDREWS, 5/19/04, NY Times)

The plan tries to resolve a battle between the House and the Senate over whether to require that new tax cuts be financed by either spending cuts or tax increases in other areas. The Senate's budget resolution includes such a requirement, but the House's does not; House Republican leaders and the Bush administration have adamantly opposed any restrictions on tax reduction.

The compromise reached Tuesday would impose that "pay as you go" requirement for one year while exempting three popular elements of last year's big tax-cutting package that are scheduled to expire at the end of this year. The three provisions are an expansion of the 10-percent tax bracket for lower-income households, an increase in the child tax credit and adjustments aimed at reducing the "marriage penalty" among two-income families.

Under the agreement, Congress, contrary to what Mr. Bush has been seeking, would not make any of the tax cuts permanent. Instead, lawmakers would have to revisit them in their entirety again next year.

Congressional analysts have estimated that extending the three tax cuts that are exempted under the deal would cost more than $500 billion over the next 10 years, and that extending all of Mr. Bush's tax cuts could cost nearly $2 trillion over 10 years.

House and Senate Republicans have been sorely split over the budget for weeks, and many lawmakers had begun to despair of reaching any agreement at all.

Wasting energy fighting to make them all permanent is silly anyway, because the code needs to be totally overhauled next year.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:33 AM

RED VS. BLUE VS. RED-GREEN (via Tom Morin):

KTHE NADER FACTOR: How much does Kerry have to lose? (Jim Geraghty, 05/18/04, National Review)

Perhaps the most significant and underreported story of the past week: Ralph Nader was endorsed Wednesday by the Reform party.

Presuming he accepts their nomination — and Nader spokesman Kevin Zeese told reporters, "he'll be on the ballot in Florida" — Nader will automatically get on the ballot in Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan, Colorado, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, and South Carolina.

The last four are shoo-ins for Bush, but the first three are swing states, and the Kerry campaign is spending $1 million in commercials in Colorado, suggesting they think they can pick it up.

Those four are also among Nader's stronger bases of support, judging from the last time around. Nader got 97,421 Florida votes in 2000 as Bush won the state by 537 votes. In 2000, Nader won 91,434 votes in Colorado — 5.25 percent of the vote — one if his best showings. In Wisconsin, Nader had 94,070 votes, or 3.62 percent, in a state that Gore carried by 5,708 votes. In Michigan, Nader had 84,165, or 1.99 percent.

Five Reasons Nader May Do Well In November:

1. Iraq will be at least one of the biggest issues, if not the issue in November. While Kerry is "nuancing" and talking about sending more troops to Iraq, Nader can play the role of the true antiwar candidate, demanding a total withdrawal within six months. How much will that siren's call appeal to ANSWER and the Deaniacs?

2. Some Green voters really do want to "punish" Democrats, for waffling, not taking a strong enough stand, and for not pushing Greens' core issues.

This is all amusing enough in the short run, and will put Mr. Kerry closer to 40% in November than to 50%, but the longer term implications seem more significant: Doesn't the Green Party--especially if it were to add a Redder (more overtly Socialist) patina, as it has in Europe--better represent the Left than the Democrats do?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:13 AM


Legislators press Bush to speed Iraqi vote (Brian Knowlton, May 19, 2004, IHT)

Top administration officials faced sharp bipartisan questioning in Congress on Tuesday about the costs of remaining in Iraq, and key lawmakers called for the administration to accelerate its handover of power to Iraqis.

Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary, did say that the administration would request no further funds for the reconstruction of Iraq, partly because revenues from Iraqi oil fields have recovered more quickly than anticipated.

But his appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee drew unusual expressions of concern, and even anguish, about the Iraq war. Many senators of both parties seemed rattled by the prison abuse scandal, the assassination Monday of a key Iraqi official and the surge in violence that made April the deadliest month for U.S. troops in a year.

With public support shaken as well, said Senator Lincoln Chafee, Republican of Rhode Island, ‘‘There’s cause for alarm.’’ Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, a widely respected Republican who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, has pressed the administration for weeks to answer important questions about what will happen on June 30, when limited sovereignty is to be given to Iraqis, and afterward.

He urged it Tuesday to do everything possible to accelerate reconstruction and the political transition, to speed elections and to step up talks on a new UN resolution on sovereignty and other matters.

Delays, Lugar said, ‘‘undercut United States credibility and increase suspicions among Iraqis.’’ He called for opening a U.S. embassy in Baghdad even before June 30.

‘‘We have considerably speeded up the transition to sovereignty,’’ Wolfowitz said. ‘‘We have enormously speeded up both the speed and the level of effort in equipping Iraqi security forces.’’

This is helpful pressure though it should have begun last year. The Iraqi people justifiably distrust us after we left Saddam in power in 1991. A fuller turnover of sovereignty is necessary to demonstrate that we're serious about them running their own affairs. The transfer of control will have a greater impact in the Middle East than deposing Saddam did--they know we'll remove governments we don't like, but will be stunned that we'll create governments we can't control.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:04 AM


Iraqi spiritual leader urges armed groups to leave holy cities (AP, 5/19/04)

Iraq's most respected Shiite cleric urged both U.S. soldiers and a radical cleric's militia Tuesday to withdraw from two Shiite holy cities where fighting has raged near some of Shia Islam's holiest shrines.

A statement released in Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani's name urged Iraqis not to travel to Najaf to join protests called by cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Instead, he said, Shiites should join rallies elsewhere to demand that Najaf and Karbala "be rid of all armed manifestations."

However, the statement, which al-Sistani's aides distributed to reporters after nighttime skirmishes in Najaf, did not include the ayatollah's personal seal nor was it posted on his Web site, as is customary with religious decrees, or fatwas, which are binding on his followers.

An aide to al-Sistani, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the ayatollah wants both the Americans and al-Sadr's al-Mahdi Army out of the holy cities in southern Iraq but has avoided an explicit call because he knows neither side is prepared to accept it.

Smart pol.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:52 AM


Black Gloom Rising (Richard Muhammad, May 13, 2004, AlterNet)

[T]here's a growing sentiment among a lot of blacks across the country that unequivocal support should not be given to the presumed Democratic Party presidential nominee for nothing. Front-line activists are frustrated because black needs aren't being met and people want to do something about it, says David Covin, president of the National Conference of Black Political Scientists. Democrats will lose if black voters aren't energized, he adds.

And unless John Kerry acts soon, black voter enthusiasm for him will wane. Al Gore won 90 percent of the black vote in 2000 and black voters could determine who wins Arkansas, Georgia, Florida and Louisiana this year. Bush got about nine percent of black votes in 2000, the worst GOP presidential showing since Barry Goldwater's 1964 stand with segregationists on states' rights. [...]

"What good does it do to have George Bush's cousin in the White House? I don't know what 'Anybody but Bush' means,'" says Dr. Conrad Worrill, of the National Black United Front, which is organizing and promoting the ndabas. Worrill insists that John Kerry at least endorse H.R. 40, a proposed measure sponsored by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) calling for a study of reparations. The bill has languished in congressional committee for a decade. Worrill won't go so far as to say blacks should boycott Kerry or sit out the election, but his terse "Blacks should vote their conscience" is a non-endorsement of the candidate.

Kerry has said he opposes reparations, but supports affirmative action. Worry about his appeal to African-Americans is seeping out from mainstream Democrats.

"It surfaced recently in off-the-record conversations between reporters and some key black Democrats who question whether the party's presumptive presidential nominee is doing enough to energize black voters," wrote DeWayne Wickham, a USA Today columnist, in a May 6 column. "Kerry's closest campaign advisers, these Democrats say, are lily white -- a charge that Kerry's supporters dispute. For weeks now, the Kerry campaign has tried -- and failed -- to put this matter to rest. In March, the Massachusetts senator met with the Congressional Black Caucus and assured its members that they would have input in, and access to, his campaign, the group's chairman, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., told me." [...]

"Kerry will get the majority of the black vote, but the question is how large the turnout will be," says Covin, of the National Conference of Black Political Scientists. With black concerns absent from public discourse, Kerry should be pushed to clearly state his positions on racial issues, or else it will affect voter turnout, Covin adds. Black turnout has generally been higher than white turnout since about 1982, noted Covin. Democrats have received the benefits of that turnout, but like Kerry, they've always worried about alienating white voters as well, Covin says. "Democrats are afraid to scare white folks but no Democratic candidate has won a majority of white votes since 1964. They can forget it," he says.

The great danger isn't losing the white vote, which Democrats may never get 40% of again, but losing the Latino vote.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:13 AM


Canadian Health Care System Nears Collapse (Conrad F. Meier, 05/01/2004, The Heartland Institute)

In no-nonsense language cutting across their diverse political stripes, Canadian provincial premiers lashed out at the federal government for reducing its share of provincial health care budgets at a time when costs are rising 10 percent a year.

The premiers met in February 2004 in a special session to discuss the state of health care in Canada. On March 8, the premiers of all 13 provinces and territories launched a national advertising campaign to air their concerns.

Prince Edward Island Premier Pat Binns warned, "our current system is not sustainable, the principles of the Canada Health Act are at risk, and health care as we know it will not survive the end of the decade."

Alberta Premier Ralph Klein made clear his province's willingness to consider opting out of the Canada Health Act, the single-payer enabling legislation also known as medicare.

"If Ottawa refuses to negotiate significant changes to medicare, we are willing to consider, as a province, going it alone. We are still a long way from that, but it is a consideration," Klein said.

According to many reports in the Canadian press, no other premier went as far as Klein. "If the richest province in Canada feels that the system may not be sustainable as it is, you can just imagine what it means for the rest of us," noted New Brunswick Premier Bernard Lord. That "walking away" from the Canada Health Act was even discussed indicates the gravity of the situation, according to Saskatchewan Premier Lorne Calvert.

As Michael Dukakis pointed out the other day, John Kerry is another Truman and one of Truman's ambitions was to foist such a health care system on us.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:37 AM


UN fetish (Mark Steyn, Jerusalem Post, May 18th, 2004)

But let's go to the next stage. What do the "Bush's boast rings hollow" crowd want for Iraq? Usually, they want the UN to take over.

Is the UN perfect? No.

Is the UN good? Well, I'm not sure I'd even say that. But if you object to what's going on in those Abu Ghraib pictures – the sexual humiliation of prisoners and their conscription as a vast army of extras in their guards' porno fantasies – then you might want to think twice about handing over Iraq to the UN.

In Eritrea, the government recently accused the UN mission of, among other offences, pedophilia. In Cambodia, UN troops fueled an explosion of child prostitutes and AIDS. Amnesty International reports that the UN mission in Kosovo has presided over a massive expansion of the sex trade, with girls as young as 11 being lured from Moldova and Bulgaria to service international peacekeepers.

In Bosnia, where the sex-slave trade barely existed before the UN showed up in 1995, there are now hundreds of brothels with underage girls living as captives. The 2002 Save the Children report on the UN's cover-up of the sex-for-food scandal in West Africa provides grim details of peacekeepers' demanding sexual favors from children as young as four in exchange for biscuits and cake powder. "What is particularly shocking and appalling is that those people who ought to be there protecting the local population have actually become perpetrators," said Steve Crawshaw, the director of Human Rights Watch.

By now you're maybe thinking, "Hmm. I must have been on holiday the week the papers ran all those stories about 'The Shaming of the UN.'"

In the last few days, The Daily Mirror has had to concede that their pictures of members of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment committing atrocities are all fakes. The Boston Globe has admitted that their pictures of US troops sexually abusing Iraqi women are also phony. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has apologized for claiming that Israel was implicated in the events at Abu Ghraib.

Why would these big-media fact-checked-to-death news operations get suckered so easily? Because, to the great herd of independent minds, these stories conform to their general view that all the ills of the world can be laid at the door of Bush, Blair, and Sharon.

Canada, Holland, Italy and several other countries have all had domestic scandals over their participation in UN missions. These range from mistreatment of prisoners and even civilians, paying protection money to the enemy and just plain cowardice. Yet it seems no atrocity and no scandal will penetrate the teflon coating of the UN, or cause the left to call for anything other than more of the same.

May 18, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:50 PM


Randy Johnson just threw a perfect game against the Braves. Smarty Jones is officially a lock for the Triple Crown.

Perfect form: Arizona's Johnson is oldest, at 40, to perform feat (Paul Newberry, May 19, 2004 , Associated Press)

Arizona's Randy Johnson became the oldest pitcher in major league history to throw a perfect game, retiring all 27 hitters to lead the Diamondbacks over the Atlanta Braves, 2-0, last night.

The 40-year-old lefthander struck out 13 and went to three balls on just one hitter -- Johnny Estrada in the second inning. Estrada fouled off three straight full-count pitches before going down swinging.

"A game like this was pretty special," the five-time Cy Young Award winner said. "It doesn't come along very often."

It was the 17th perfect game in major league history, the 15th since the modern era began in 1900, and the first since the New York Yankees' David Cone against Montreal on July 18, 1999.

Cy Young had been the oldest to throw a perfect game, doing it in 1904 at age 37.

It was the second no-hitter of Johnson's career. The other was for Seattle against Detroit on June 2, 1990.

Appropriately, Johnson struck out the final batter, pinch hitter Eddie Perez. The Big Unit pumped his fist and raised his glove in the air. Catcher Robby Hammock arrived at the mound with the ball, giving his pitcher a big hug. Within seconds, he was mobbed by the rest of his teammates.

He became only the fifth pitcher to throw no-hitters in both the National and American leagues, joining Young, Jim Bunning, Hideo Nomo, and Nolan Ryan.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:46 PM


Grading Bush's Economic Team: What they've done and what they might do in a second term. (Fred Barnes, 05/18/2004, Weekly Standard)

[W]atch Josh Bolten. There are murmurings inside the Bush administration about a push next year for budget austerity to shrink the deficit. Bush has chafed at criticism from conservatives over his Medicare prescription drug benefit for the elderly and his signing of a bloated farm subsidy bill. Even Bush's Democratic opponent, Senator John Kerry, claims to be a fiscal conservative by comparison. So Bush is considering a course reversal. Both Snow and Mankiw, known as budget hawks before joining the Bush administration, can be helpful here. But Bolten is the key figure. [...]

Let's examine the five players:

Josh Bolten. He is building a powerful base at the Office of Management and Budget and could emerge as the most influential budget director since Richard Darman in the elder Bush's administration. He has hired two hard-core free market conservatives for his staff--economist J.D. Foster and Steve McMillan, a former aide to Senator Phil Gramm, an advocate of smaller government. Bolten is getting more acquainted with outside economic advisers. One ally is John Cogan of Stanford, who was twice offered the budget post and turned it down.

Gregory Mankiw. He may not speak out in public much these days, but he has influence internally. The biggest single fight was between Mankiw and Evans on protectionism. Mankiw, a tenacious free trader, is the major counterweight to Evans, who represents his constituency, the business community. On both rolling back the steel tariff and trying to force China to make currency changes, he prevailed over Evans. Mankiw believes China is better left alone on currency matters for the time being.

John Snow. He is a pleasant surprise, a perfect antidote to O'Neill. He's proved adept at dealing with finance ministers from G7 countries, notably Britain's Gordon Brown. He's done well in touting the economic recovery. He's adroitly taken the lead on issues such as tort reform, pension reform, and regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And he's developed a close relationship with the White House--and not just Friedman. He regularly invites Bush aides to private lunches at Treasury. Among others to come: political director Karl Rove, domestic policy adviser Harriet Miers, and lobbyist David Hobbs. But a fount of new ideas Snow is not.

You'd think Mr. Barnes at least would have figured out that President Bush is not a time-server. In the second term they'll roll the dice again on a few big issues: Social Security privatization (in keeping with the vision of an Opportunity Society), tax reform (most likely moving towards consumption taxes), and tort reform. Mr. Bush never takes his eye off of the ball. Balanced budgets aren't the ball.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:15 PM


Nader worth nearly $4 million, financial-disclosure forms reveal (MARIA RECIO, May. 17, 2004, Knight Ridder Newspapers)

Ralph Nader, the citizen-activist presidential candidate who decries corporate influence in America, has a net worth of $3.8 million, according to financial-disclosure forms he filed Monday with the Federal Election Commission.

The consumer advocate has $1.74 million in a NASDAQ 100 Trust SRI index fund and $1.44 million in the Fidelity Spartan Money Market Fund, amounts he specified in an exclusive interview with Knight Ridder.

Nader also holds Cisco stock valued on the FEC form between $250,000 and $500,000, less than the $1.2 million it was worth in 2000. The candidate said he didn't sell the Internet stock despite its poor performance since the tech stock bubble burst in 2000.

As Jesse Jackson knows, there's good money to be made shaking down corporate types.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:21 PM


Gandhi bows out, taps reformer: Sonia Gandhi turned down India's top slot Tuesday, while her party signaled an agenda of moderate reforms. (Scott Baldauf, 5/19/04, CS monitor)

aside from all the drama and vitriol swirling around Gandhi's decision, the incoming leadership has quietly signaled that it will probably follow its predecessors on most of the major foreign and domestic issues of the day. On everything from economic reforms to relations with Pakistan, China, and the US, Congress leaders say they will choose policies that reflect and strengthen India's national interests, rather than any one party's ideology.

"We believe in the market, and I was a member of the Congress government that started the market reforms in 1989 under Rajiv Gandhi," says Eduardo Faleiro, a senior Congress party member and former minister of state for foreign affairs. [...]

With most of Congress's coalition partners and outside supporters coming from left-wing parties, investors are concerned that Congress might reverse some of the key economic reforms of the past decade. Some of these initiatives include lower import tariffs; tax breaks for foreign investors and Indian business houses; sell-offs of state-owned industries, hotels, and utilities; and cutbacks in bureaucratic regulations.

Continued economic liberalization without the BJP's Hindu nationalism would be precisely the right recipe for a bright future.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:16 PM


Behavior Drugs Lead in Sales for Children (MILT FREUDENHEIM, 5/17/04, NY Times)

Spending on drugs to treat children and adolescents for behavior-related disorders rose 77 percent from 2000 to the end of 2003, according to a study of prescription purchases by Medco Health Solutions, a pharmacy benefits management company.

The increase, to $536 a patient a year on average, reflected rising prices as growing numbers of young people used newer and more expensive drugs, said Robert S. Epstein, chief medical officer of Medco. The report is to be released today.

Sales of the behavioral drugs are growing faster than any other type of medicine taken by children, pulling ahead of the previous leaders, antibiotics and asthma treatments, he said. Most of the drugs were treatments for depression and attention deficit disorder, including prescriptions combining both treatments for the same patient.

Use of attention disorder drugs by children under age 5 rose 49 percent from 2000 to 2003, to half of all children taking any behavior-related medication. Scientists who have studied the trend called for more research on side effects and benefits.

No one cares as long as it makes them pliant.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:11 PM


A self-rule test at Iraq ministry: Cash and expertise boost Health Ministry even as doctors face kidnapping and threats. (Scott Peterson, 5/19/04, CS Monitor)

The question facing Iraq's freshly reformed ministries is whether the upward trend of improvements - spurred by huge infusions of cash, expertise, and US-driven reorganization - can outpace continued insecurity and a culture of corruption.

"There are a lot of obstacles," says Saad al-Amily, director of the health minister's office, where five phones sit on the desk, CNN plays on a large screen, and an air conditioner yields a deep freeze.

"The ministry was in a miserable situation before the war, then it was looted," he adds. "That was the real struggle till now."

On March 28, this Iraqi ministry became the first to be granted full control by US authorities, who celebrated its turnaround after "more than 30 years of neglect and isolation." Ministers now have control of eight of Iraq's 25 ministries, with more being transferred each week as officials gear up for the June 30 handover of sovereignty.

Health officials like to weigh their spending today against that of Saddam Hussein, whose 2002 health budget of $16 million for 25 million Iraqis amounted to just 64 cents per person. The 2004 budget is $948 million, with an additional $793 million coming directly from the US - all told, a 100-fold increase.

Took thirty years to destroy them, we should probably have a little patience while they rebuild.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:04 PM


Old Iraq Army Could Provide a Leader, Jordan's King Says (ALAN COWELL, 5/18/04, NY Times)

King Abdullah II of Jordan, a key player in American diplomacy in the Middle East, said Monday that Iraq should be run by a strongman - possibly drawn from the ranks of Saddam Hussein's army - after the United States hands over formal sovereignty to Iraqis on June 30.

In an interview, King Abdullah also said the Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat, should have "a long look in the mirror" to decide whether he should yield authority. Such a demand is made frequently by the Bush administration and Israel but rarely voiced so openly in the Arab world.

The king spoke as word began to reach this Dead Sea resort, where a regional conference just ended, that the leader of the Iraqi Governing Council had been killed by a suicide bomber in Baghdad.

The killing focused attention on who might take power after June 30 and raised questions about the security of any Iraqi leader seen as backed by the Americans.

"I would say that the profile would be somebody from inside, somebody who's very strong, has some sort of popular feeling," King Abdullah said, apparently registering disapproval of the former Iraqi exiles at the core of the current leadership.

"I would probably imagine - again, this is off the top of my head - somebody with a military background who has experience of being a tough guy who could hold Iraq together for the next year," he said.

Iraq's military elite, disbanded after the American invasion last year, was made up of Hussein loyalists. But Abdullah indicated that some older officers might not be tainted in the same way as those on America's wanted list.

"There were a lot of heroes; there are strong community leaders who are products of the Iraq-Iran war" of the 1980's, he said. "They are national heroes that do appeal to the Iraqi street."

The king's remarks broke from the traditional protocol that leaders do not comment on their neighbor's succession, and they seem to run counter to American insistence on ridding Iraqi public life of the former elite.

There seems to be an increase in the chatter from the Sunni dictators of the region to impose same on Iraq, lest a relatively liberal Shi'ite democracy set a "bad example."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:59 PM


Bush, Democrats reach deal on judge nominations (JESSE J. HOLLAND, 5/18/04, Associated Press)

Breaking a monthslong impasse, the White House and Senate Democrats struck a deal Tuesday allowing confirmation of dozens of President Bush's judicial nominations in exchange for a White House promise not to bypass the Senate again this year.

Under the agreement, Democrats will allow votes on 25 non-controversial appointments to the district and appeals courts. In exchange, Bush agreed not to invoke his constitutional power to make recess appointments while Congress is away, as he has done twice in recent months with judicial nominees.

The agreement was reached in a meeting among top Senate Democrats and Republicans as well as Andrew Card, the White House chief of staff.

How would Democrats enforce that agreement if he just went ahead and appointed some folks this Fall?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:47 PM


Exodus: As a Child, Cy Thao Crossed the Mekong from Laos to a New World. Now His Paintings Are Taking the Hmong People Home. (Peter Ritter, 5/19/04, City Pages)

There are many versions of the folktale about how the Hmong lost their language. One of them goes like this: In ancient times, a Hmong rebel was fleeing through a bamboo forest from soldiers of the Chinese emperor. The rebel carried with him scrolls of Hmong writing. He came to a river, the legend goes, and there saw a water bug dancing across the surface. Thinking that he could do the same, and same, and thus escape his pursuers, the man tied pieces of bamboo to his feet and leapt into the water. As he drowned, he swallowed the scrolls he'd been protecting. So the written words were lost; in time they were forgotten.

This is how Cy Thao tells the story, anyway. We're sitting in his office at the state Capitol on a quiet Tuesday afternoon. When the Legislature is in session, the whole building has the becalmed air of power being discreetly exercised. Conversations aggregate into a low thrum that sounds like oiled loafers swooshing over carpet.

Thao continues: "In China, the emperor started encroaching on the Hmong country. The Hmong fought back. But those that did were conquered. And the emperor outlawed the Hmong language, throughout history. Thousands of years.

"So the Hmong found the way to communicate with each other was through pattern and design. They would make designs to sew on their clothes to communicate when and how we're going to attack which garrison. They would walk from village to village and communicate with everyone without the emperor and his soldiers detecting what they were saying. Throughout the ages, many people lost the meanings of those designs. But we still kept the designs on our clothes."

Thao is a sturdily built man, not quite plump, but compact and thick-limbed: a former wrestler's physique. His face is round and unlined, though a neat goatee and scant hair make him look somewhat older than he, in fact, is. Although still in his freshman term as a state representative, Thao has something of a veteran politician's gift for easy rapport, the ability to make stories he's told a hundred times sound improvised. If this eloquence seems slightly practiced, that's only because, at age 32, Thao has already spent years as an emissary of Hmong culture.

As a politician, Thao is the public face of a large Hmong constituency in St. Paul's Frogtown; as an artist, his ambition is even greater. This week at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Thao will unveil The Hmong Migration, an epic cycle of 50 oil paintings that tracks the 5,000-year Hmong journey, from the creation of the universe, to the refugee camps in Thailand where Thao spent his early childhood, to the Hmong diaspora he now represents in the state Legislature.

"People always say, boy, somebody should be doing this," Thao says of the project, which preoccupied him for three years and took him to three countries. "Somebody should tell our story. So one day I just said, 'You know what? I'm not going to wait for that somebody anymore. It's just as much my responsibility-- it's a huge responsibility--to tell that story."

Yet another people whose heritage will one day reside only in America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:48 PM

50-0 FILES:

State's jobless rate falls at record pace (Associated Press, May 18, 2004)

Minnesota's unemployment rate fell in April to 4.1 percent, the largest one-month drop in the unemployment rate in state history.

While careful to say it's not a trend until job growth happens for at least a couple of months, it's a good sign, said Oriane Casale, assistant director of labor market information at the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

"We think this is one of the biggest signs to date that job growth is actually catching up with growth in the economy overall. And that's a good sign for people looking for work,'' she said.

The seasonally adjusted rate in March was 4.8 percent. The drop translates into 18,159 fewer people unemployed over the month.

Minnesota's rate was far below the national average, which was 5.6 percent in April. Nationally, employment rose by 0.2 percent.

Minnesota seasonally adjusted employment rose in April by 12,100 jobs, or 0.5 percent, from March. This growth - the largest one-month job gain since October 1999 - is largely due to increases in construction, manufacturing, and professional and business services.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:38 PM


God back in EU debate (Reuters, May 18, 2004)

God is back in the debate on the draft EU constitution as several states renewed demands to make a reference to Europe's Christian roots.

Predominantly Roman Catholic Ireland and Poland as well as Italy and Spain have long sided with the Vatican in demanding a reference to God, or at least Christian values, in the charter, against strong opposition from secular France.

France doesn't share Christian values any longer.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:11 PM


Remarks by the President to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Washington Convention Center, Washington, D.C., 5/18/04)

Our nation, and the nation of Israel, have much in common. We're both relatively young nations, born of struggle and sacrifice. We're both founded by immigrants escaping religious persecution in other lands. We have both built vibrant democracies, built on the rule of law and market economies. And we're both countries founded on certain basic beliefs: that God watches over the affairs of men, and values every life. (Applause.)

These ties have made us natural allies, and these ties will never be broken. (Applause.) In the past, however, there was one great difference in the experience of our two nations: The United States, through most of our history, has been protected by vast oceans to our east and west, and blessed with friendly neighbors to our north and south. Israel has faced a different situation as a small country in a tough neighborhood. The Israeli people have always had enemies at their borders and terrorists close at hand. Again and again, Israel has defended itself with skill and heroism. And as a result of the courage of the Israeli people, Israel has earned the respect of the American people. (Applause.)

On September the 11th, 2001, Americans saw that we are no longer protected by geography from the dangers of the world. We experienced the horror of being attacked in our homeland, on our streets, and in places of work. And from that experience came an even stronger determination, a fierce determination to defeat terrorism and to eliminate the threat it poses to free people everywhere. (Applause.)

Not all terrorist networks answer to the same orders and same leaders, but all terrorists burn with the same hatred. They hate all who reject their grim vision of tyranny. They hate people who love freedom. They kill without mercy. They kill without shame. And they count their victories in the death of the innocent.

We saw the nature of this enemy again in recent days when terrorists in Iraq beheaded an American citizen, Nicholas Berg. The message that accompanied the videotape of this brutal slaying promised more such atrocities. Here's what the killer said, "We will send you coffin after coffin, box after box, slaughtered in this way." The faces of the terrorists were cloaked, but we have seen their kind before.

Followers of the terrorist ideology executed an elderly man in a wheelchair, Leon Klinghoffer, and pushed his body off the side of a ship into the sea. They kidnapped the journalist, Daniel Pearl, and cut his throat, because he was a Jew. This enemy has left blood on the streets of Jakarta and Jerusalem, Casablanca and Riyadh, Mombasa and Istanbul, Bali, Baghdad and Madrid. They have declared war on the civilized world -- and war is what they got. (Applause.)

Freedom-loving people did not seek this conflict. It has come to us by the choices of violent men, hateful men. See, we seek peace. We long for peace. Israel longs for peace. America longs for peace. Yet, there can be no peace without defending our security. (Applause.) There is only one path to peace and safety. America will use every resource we have to fight and defeat these enemies of freedom. (Applause.)

The lesson of September the 11th is clear and must never be forgotten. Emerging terrorist threats must be confronted before they can reach our country and harm our people. Every terrorist is at war with civilization, and every group or nation that aids them is equally responsible for the murders that the terrorists commit. (Applause.)

So America has led a relentless global campaign against terrorists and their supporters. We're chasing them down one by one in caves, and in shadows where they try to hide. (Applause.) We have uncovered -- we have uncovered terrorist cells on several continents. We've prevented a number of terrorist attacks. We've removed the Taliban regime, which sheltered the plotters of September the 11th. (Applause.) We have stopped shipments -- we have stopped shipments of chemical precursors and nuclear-related -- weapons-related components bound for states that sponsor terror. By speaking clearly, and by meaning what we say, countries like Libya have gotten the message and have renounced their weapons programs. (Applause.)

And for the sake of peace and security, we ended the regime of Saddam Hussein. (Applause.) That regime cast a shadow, a dark shadow of aggression over the Middle East for decades. They invaded both Iran and Kuwait. The regime built and used weapons of mass destruction against its neighbors, and its own people. The regime sponsored terror; it paid rewards of up to $25,000 to the families of Palestinian homicide bombers. That regime filled mass graves with innocent men, innocent women, and innocent children. That regime defied the demands of the free world, and America, for more than a decade. And America is more secure, and the world is better off, because that regime is no more. (Applause.)

America is on the offensive, and we will stay on the offensive until the terrorists are stopped and our people are safe. (Applause.) I will use every asset at our disposal to do our most important job, which is to protect the American people. (Applause.) And that includes the United States military. We have come to know the skill and the courage of the men and women of the United States military. (Applause.) They have fulfilled every mission their country has given to them. They and their families have endured long deployments and uncertainty. Our men and women in uniform have fought in mountain passes and desert sands in the remotest part of the world. They've lost brave friends and comrades, who will always be remembered and honored by a grateful nation. (Applause.)

They have done all this to defend our country and to advance the cause of freedom and peace. And their loved ones, and those who wear our uniform, must know that America is very grateful to their service. (Applause.)

The peace we seek depends on defeating the violent. Yet, we also have a larger mission in the world. In the long-term, we must end terrorist violence at its source by undermining the terrorist ideology of hatred and fear. Terrorists find influence and recruits in societies where bitterness and resentment are common, and hope and opportunity are rare. The world's best hope for lasting security and stability across the Middle East is the establishment of just and free societies.

And so across that vital region, America is standing for the expansion of human liberty. This historic task is not easy in a part of the world that has known so much oppression and stagnation and violence. It's hard work. Yet, we must be strong in our firm belief that every human heart desires to be free. We must be strong in our belief that free societies are hopeful societies and peaceful societies. (Applause.)

We have made progress that few would have predicted or expected just three years ago. In Afghanistan, our coalition is working with President Karzai to help the people of Afghanistan build a modern, peaceful and democratic government. In January, Afghans approved a new constitution that protects the rights of all Afghan citizens, including women. (Applause.) Through weeks of negotiation and compromise, they agreed upon a fundamental law that respects tradition and establishes a foundation of modern political rights, including free speech, due process, and a vote for every citizen. We're making progress.

In Iraq, Saddam's brutal dictatorship is gone, and in its place an Iraqi democracy is emerging. Iraqi leaders have signed a transitional administrative law that will guarantee basic freedoms. Iraq now has an independent judiciary, a free market, a new currency, more than 200 newspapers in circulation, and schools free of hateful propaganda. (Applause.)

It's hard work in Iraq. Our efforts are approaching a crucial moment. On June 30th, our coalition will transfer its authority to a sovereign Iraqi government. With the assistance of the United Nations and our coalition, Iraqi citizens are currently making important decisions about the nature and scope of the interim government. In time, Iraq will be a free and democratic nation, at the heart of the Middle East. This will send a message, a powerful message, from Damascus to Tehran, that democracy can bring hope to lives in every culture. (Applause.) And this advance of freedom will bring greater security to America and to the world. These are historic times, it's an historic opportunity. (Applause.)

Yet, as June 30th approaches, the enemies of freedom grow even more desperate to prevent a rise of democracy in Iraq. That's what you're seeing on your TV screens: desperation by a hateful few, people who cannot stand the thought of free societies in their midst. They're targeting brave Iraqis who are leaning toward democracy, such as Izzedine Salim, who was assassinated in Baghdad yesterday. They're murdering Iraqi policemen who stand as symbols of order. They're killing foreign aid workers who are helping to rebuild Iraq. They're attacking our military. Their goal is to undermine the will of our coalition and the will of America, and to drive us out before our mission is complete. They're not going to succeed. They will not shake the will of America. (Applause.)

My resolve is firm. (Applause.) The resolve of the American people is solid. Our military is skilled, spirits are high. They are determined to succeed. We understand the stakes are high for America and for the world. We will not be intimidated by thugs and assassins. We will win this essential important victory in the war on terror. (Applause.)

This is an historic moment. The world watches for weakness in our resolve. They will see no weakness. We will answer every challenge. U.S. Army soldiers and Iraqi security forces are systematically destroying the illegal militia in the south of Iraq. (Applause.) Coalition forces are working with Iraqis in Fallujah to end control by Saddam loyalists and foreign fighters. (Applause.) We're building up Iraqi security forces so they can safeguard their own country. We're flexible in our methods, but our goal is unchanging: Iraq will be free, and Iraq will be a democratic nation. (Applause.)

Freedom is also at the heart of our approach to bringing peace between Israel and the Palestinian people. The United States is strongly committed, and I am strongly committed, to the security of Israel as a vibrant Jewish state. (Applause.) Israel is a democracy and a friend, and has every right to defend itself from terror. (Applause.)

For the sake of peace, this country is committed to helping the Palestinian people establish a democratic and viable state of their own. (Applause.) Israel needs a truly responsible partner in achieving peace. (Applause.) The Palestinian people deserve democratic institutions and responsible leaders. (Applause.) Progress towards this vision creates responsibilities for Israel, the Palestinian people, and Arab nations. Before these two states -- before there can be two states, all parties must renounce violence and fight terror. (Applause.)

Security is the foundation for peace. (Applause.) All parties must embrace democracy and reform and take the necessary steps for peace. The unfolding violence in the Gaza Strip is troubling and underscores the need for all parties to seize every opportunity for peace. I supported the plan announced by Prime Minister Sharon to withdraw military installations and settlements from Gaza and parts of the West Bank. (Applause.) As I said in my statement on April 14, 2004, the Prime Minister's plan is a bold, courageous step, that can bring us closer to the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security. (Applause.)

The Prime Minister's decision has given the Palestinian people and the free world a chance to take bold steps of their own toward peace. First, the Palestinian people must reject corrupt and failed leaders, and insist on a leadership committed to reform and progress and peace. (Applause.) Second, they must renounce terror and violence that frustrate their aspirations and take so many innocent lives. (Applause.) And, finally, by taking these steps, they will have an opportunity, a fantastic opportunity to build a modern economy and create the institutions and habits of liberty. The Palestinian people deserve a better future. (Applause.) And that future -- and that future can be achieved through democracy. (Applause.)

Many in this room have worked and waited a lifetime for peace in the Holy Land. I hear that deep concern for peace. Our vision is a Middle East where young Israelis and Palestinians can play and learn and grow without living in the shadow of death. (Applause.) Our vision is a Middle East where borders are crossed for purposes of trade and commerce, not crossed for the purposes of murder and war. (Applause.) This vision is within our grasp if we have the faith and the courage and the resolve to achieve it. (Applause.)

Perhaps the deepest obstacle to peace is found in the hearts of men and women. The Jewish people have seen, over the years and over the centuries, that hate prepares the way for violence. The refusal to expose and confront intolerance can lead to crimes beyond imagining. So we have a duty to expose and confront anti-Semitism, wherever it is found. (Applause.)

Some of you attended a very important event in Berlin last month, the International Conference on Anti-Semitism. You understand that anti-Semitism is not a problem of the past; the hatred of Jews did not die in a Berlin bunker. In its cruder forms, it can be found in some Arab media, and this government will continue to call upon Arab governments to end libels and incitements. (Applause.) Such hatred can also take subtler forms. The demonization of Israel, the most extreme anti-Zionist rhetoric can be a flimsy cover for anti-Semitism, and contribute to an atmosphere of fear in which synagogues are desecrated, people are slandered, folks are threatened. I will continue to call upon our friends in Europe to renounce and fight any sign of anti-Semitism in their midst. (Applause.)

We are living through historic times. We are called to do important work in the world. We will stand together against bigotry in every land and every language. We will answer violent men with patient, determined justice. We will expand human freedom and the peace that freedom brings. And by our resolve, and by our courage, we will prevail. (Applause.)

I want to thank you -- I want to thank you for your dedication to the security of America and to the safety of Israel. I want to thank you for your warm hospitality today. May God bless America. May God bless Israel. Thank you for coming. Thank you all for your time. Thank you all. (Applause.)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:03 PM


‘We walked right into it’: Democrats lament as GOP builds a pre-election model to trap John Kerry (Geoff Earle, 5/18/04, The Hill)

The one-vote defeat of an extension of unemployment benefits last week has sparked fear among Democrats that Republicans have developed a legislative model that will cast Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) repeatedly in a bad light before the election.

The extension needed 60 votes to pass in the Senate, and 12 Republicans made sure the final tally was 59-40, with only one absentee, presidential candidate Kerry.

At least one Republican senator, Elizabeth Dole (N.C.), was prepared to switch to a “no” vote to make sure the measure was defeated even if Kerry returned to cast his vote, a Democrat charged.

Even if Dole had stood firm, observers on both sides believe the GOP leadership would have been able to turn other Republicans to ensure defeat.

But by calculating the vote to a nicety, the GOP managed to make Kerry appear to be responsible for the defeat because he was a no-show.

The Democrats say they suspect the Republicans engineered the one-vote margin, and the incident underlines how both parties are expected to use the legislature to tarnish their opponents.

“They timed it just perfectly,” said one Senate Democratic aide. “We walked right into it — yes.”

A couple thoughts occur:

(1) Every idiot and his brother knew these kind of maneuvers were coming and that Mr. Kerry had to leave the Senate to avoid them--how could his campaign have not figured it out?

(2) Is it a coincidence that it was Liddy Dole who was ready to switch? Or do we detect an eminence grise?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:41 PM


Lima sings national anthem: Pitcher also performs 'God Bless America' on Thursday (Ken Gurnick, 5/13/04,

Over the last 50 years, the Dodger organization has had some pretty remarkable performances turned in by pitchers.

But Jose Lima did something Thursday that Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Eric Gagne never did.

He sang the national anthem and "God Bless America" before the game.

And, as he predicted, he was pretty good.

Flanked by his wife and 5-year-old son, the native Dominican filled Chavez Ravine with his renditions, in English, much to the delight of the sparse gathering before the Dodgers-Cubs game.

"I've been telling them since Spring Training that I can do it, said Lima, the consummate entertainer who moonlights during the winter as lead singer of Banda Mambo.

"It is special for me, to have my family here with me. And it's special back in the Dominican. Manny Mota said the president of the country will be listening."

It's been a year of accomplishments for the effervescent Lima, who first had to make the club in Spring Training as a non-roster invitee. Then there was Thursday's performance. And he has another goal he hopes to reach later this year.

"I'm going to apply for citizenship," Lima said. "I love this country. 'God Bless America' is one of my favorite songs."

We're suckers for stories like this anyway, but what makes it especially amusing is that Major League Baseball has cropped the original photo at their site, presumably because Mrs. Lima was fueling an unusually high number of visits, for obvious reasons.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:46 AM


Pakistan: After the hammer, now the screws (Syed Saleem Shahzad , 5/19/04, Asia Times)

[N]ow there is plan B, in terms of which the US military, like the tribals, will treat the artificially created Durand Line that separates Afghanistan and Pakistan more as an inconvenience than as a legal barrier. At the same time, the Pakistan army is reported to be mobilizing for another military excursion into the tribal areas. And it, too, will cross the border as it sees fit.

On Monday, according to tribal sources who spoke to Asia Times Online, US forces intruded into North Waziristan, resulting in the death of two tribals in a skirmish.

Prior to this, there have been reports of US forces crossing over to villages in the Datakhail area, and a tribal chief by the name of Malik Noor Khan was arrested in the Bacha Mela area (North Waziristan) . He is being interrogated in connection with the whereabouts of Maulana Jalaluddin Haqqani - a former Taliban minister and now a key resistance figure - and other foreign fighters. According to sources in North Waziristan, Pakistani Army and paramilitary forces turned a blind eye to the US patrols, which returned to Afghanistan of their own accord.

The Pentagon has acknowledged that it will engage in "hot pursuit" raids across the border, but Pakistani authorities, sensitive to local concerns, have routinely denied that they have given approval for such incursions. They have even gone so far as to lodge official complaints when cross-border raids have taken place.

When America is on the march there's no such thing as national sovereignty even for "allies".

Posted by Peter Burnet at 9:39 AM


Canadian clinics cutting off drugs for Americans (Carol M. Ostrom, Seattle Times, May 18th, 2004)

Canadian medical clinics are quietly informing American patients they will no longer help them obtain prescription drugs, after stern warnings from a major insurer that doctors who are sued by Americans won't be covered.

The move threatens to restrict access to cheaper drugs purchased by hundreds of thousands of Americans who visit Canadian clinics or buy online from Canadian pharmacies.

The medical licensing board in British Columbia, where many Washingtonians get prescription drugs, has long held that doctors who write prescriptions for patients without having a legitimate "doctor-patient" relationship are operating unethically and could be sanctioned.

But more recently, the organization that insures the vast majority of Canadian doctors has gone a step further, warning that if doctors continue the "risky activity" of rewriting prescriptions for American patients, they'll be on their own in the event of a lawsuit.

One does imagine there are a lot of power lunches about this issue.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:01 AM


How India funds Bush's campaign (Siddharth Srivastava , 5/19/04, Asia Times)

It was former US president Bill Clinton who actively sought to build bridges as well as cultivate the Indian community in the United States, recognizing their numbers - more than 2 million - as well as their immense money-power as global information-technology (IT) pioneers. The 2004 US elections are witnessing Indian-Americans reaching out to Republican Bush as a reaction to the virulent anti-outsourcing campaign being orchestrated by Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. Further, given the strides that Indo-US relations have taken under Bush, politically, economically and militarily, the Indian community feels much more comfortable in maintaining this continuity. Bush has himself indicated his pro-India proclivities by promising that he will visit the country next year if he wins re-election. Although India has been unhappy with some of the recent steps taken by the Bush administration, including the granting of special non-NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) status to Pakistan, India's relations with the United States have been by and large on the ascent.

In an interview to the Economic Times before the results of the elections in India were declared, Sharad Lakhanpal of Texas, a doctor and president of the American Association of the Physicians of Indian Origin who is one of the biggest fundraisers for Bush, said: "Indo-US relations are at an all-time high under the current administration. There has been good chemistry between President Bush and the [Atal Bihari] Vajpayee government. President Bush told me himself that [Prime Minister] Vajpayee has been a good friend and is a good man.

"The current administration has appointed several Indian-Americans to high positions. The fundraising will pay dividends for the Indian-American community and for Indo-US relations if the president wins ... re-election. Indians are increasingly recognized in the mainstream US politics," Lakhanpal added.

Although business has reacted with alarm at the Sonia Gandhi Congress-Left combination taking over from the Vajpayee dispensation, there isn't likely to be much of a rollback in the economic reforms program in India. After all, the man tipped to be finance minister, Manmohan Singh, is the original architect of India's liberalization agenda.

Though Indian-Americans have been seen as close to the Democrats, it is estimated that the community has already raised more than $500,000 for the Bush campaign. Bobby Jindal, Republican candidate for Congress, raised more than $800,000 in the first quarter ending March 31, and has $760,000 cash on hand. More than $575,000 of the contributions came from Louisiana donors. A Republican rally in that state that raised more than $1 million for the 2004 Bush-Cheney presidential ticket late last year had several prominent Indians in attendance.

In a speech widely quoted in India, Congressman Joe Wilson recently praised Lakhanpal and Narender Reddy, a doctor from Georgia, for raising more than $100,000 each for the president and categorized them as Bush pioneers. He said longtime Bush supporters Zach Zachariah and Raghavendra Vijayanagar from Florida each raised more than $200,000, calling them the "Bush rangers". "These leaders have rallied the Indian-American community behind Bush," Wilson said.

This is one of those things that the Know-Nothings apparently don't know.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:46 AM


For Conservatives, Mission Accomplished (JOHN MICKLETHWAIT and ADRIAN WOOLDRIDGE, 5/18/04, NY Times)

To consider the ground that liberals have ceded, one must look back at the [American Conservative Union's founding in a cramped living-room in 1964, a few days after Lyndon B. Johnson had thrashed the first fully paid-up conservative presidential candidate, Barry Goldwater. Back then, the self-styled "Mr. Conservative" seemed to come from another planet. "When in all our history," asked the political theorist Richard Hofstadter, "has anyone with ideas so bizarre, so archaic, so self-confounding, so remote from the basic American consensus got so far?"

Fast forward to today. A Republican Party that is more conservative than Mr. Goldwater could have imagined controls the White House, Congress, many governors' mansions and a majority of seats in state legislatures. Back in 1964, John Kenneth Galbraith smugly proclaimed: "These, without doubt, are the years of the liberal. Almost everyone now so describes himself." Today, a Gallup poll tells us, twice as many Americans (41 percent) describe themselves as "conservative" than as "liberal" (19 percent).

Democrats have come up with all sorts of excuses, from the evils of Richard Nixon's "Southern strategy" to the "stolen" election of 2000. They usually ignore the fact that the right has simply been far better at producing agenda-setting ideas. From welfare reform in Wisconsin to policing in New York City, from the tax-cutting Proposition 13 in California to regime change in Baghdad, the intellectual impetus has, for better or worse, come from the right. As President Bush bragged at last week's party, the right is "the dominant intellectual force in American politics."

Yet many Democrats insist this will change once Mr. Bush is ejected from the White House. This shows how little they have learned. First, the right has a history of advancing its agenda under Democratic executives (welfare reform came about under Bill Clinton). More important, it has organized itself for a much longer battle. Whenever it has been forced into retreat — as after Watergate — the flame has burned eternal at places like Heritage, the American Enterprise Institute and the Cato Institute, and at their smaller cousins in virtually every state.

Brains are nothing without political brawn. That's why the American Conservative Union disciplines Congressional Republicans by rating them according to their purity (the average rating for House Republicans has risen from 63 percent in 1972 to 91 percent in 2002). Yes, liberal environmental and abortion rights groups rate members of Congress too, but those figures are more effective as fodder for conservative attack ads than as a way to keep Democrats in line.

There are other battalions of foot soldiers, too. Americans for Tax Reform, which had a table at the dinner, rigidly enforces the party's pledge not to raise taxes. Focus on the Family (which has a campus in Colorado Springs so big that it has its own ZIP code) concentrates on promoting family values. Sometimes these groups feud — Cato libertarians have plenty of differences with Focus on the Family's social conservatives — but as all the back-slapping at the party showed, they share a sense of movement.

In theory, liberals have more than enough brain and brawn to match conservative America. The great liberal universities and foundations have infinitely more resources than the American Enterprise Institute and its allies. But the conservatives have always been more dogged. The Ford Foundation is as liberal as Heritage is conservative, but there is no doubt which is the more ruthless in its cause.

Democrats seems to have settled on this "ruthlessness" theme to explain away the reversion of the Republic back to a more conservative posture. But that ignores the complete intellectual failure of liberalism (in its American not classical sense). Ask yourself a simple question: what is the last significant idea for governing America to be proposed by the Left?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 AM


Sosa's back injury nothing to sneeze at Cub's mishap a link in long, weird chain (GARTH WOOLSEY, May 18, 2004, Toronto Star)

History tell us that the custom of saying "God bless you!" after someone sneezes dates back to the belief that a person's soul is momentarily endangered by the quick, violent release.

The Chicago Cubs faithful are collectively sympathetic to that notion today after their bread-and-butter basher, the soul of their long-suffering franchise, Sammy Sosa, had to scratch himself from the lineup Sunday against the Padres in San Diego. Slammin' Sammy, see, put his back out while ... sneezing. [...]

Still, and all, for some strange reason baseball is rife with injuries that have nothing really to do with the sport itself.

Mark Smith, when he was with the Orioles, injured his had after sticking it in an air conditioner to, as he said, "find out why it wasn't working."

Wade Boggs, late of the Red Sox, hurt himself pulling on his cowboy boots.

Hall of famer George Brett broke a toe while rushing from the kitchen to watch Bill Buckner hit on TV.

Glenallen Hill, the former Blue Jay, infamously cut himself on a glass table when awakened by a bad dream, about spiders.

Outfield Oddibe McDowell sliced his own hand up while trying to butter a bun at the Texas Rangers welcome home luncheon.

Bret Barberie had to miss a game with the Marlins because he rubbed his eye with a finger soaked in chilli juice.

Catcher Brent Mayne went on the Royals disabled list after he wrenched his back when he turned his head to check for traffic before crossing the street.

Yeah, look both ways. Carefully. And, by all means sneeze if you must. But carefully.

Scientist say that the force of air expelled during a sneeze is 100 m.p.h. or more, or roughly the same speed as a Randy Johnson heater. A sneeze involves a highly complex response, triggered by a specialized area of the brain and involving abdominal, shoulder, neck and chest muscles, the diaphragm and eyelids — most people close their eyes when they sneeze.

"Some of the things that you never expect to happen, happens," Sosa tells reporters, eyes wide open. "We're only human."

Chris Brown once went on the DL due to an eyelash injury.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:04 AM


Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 AM


The New Son-in-Law's an Ogre, and Hollywood Is the Target: The sequel to "Shrek" is slick and playful entertainment that remains carefully inoffensive beneath its veneer of bad manners. (A. O. SCOTT, 5/18/04, NY Times)

And here we all were hoping it would be really offensive so we couldn't take the kids who've been bugging us to go see it for a month...

-REVIEW: of Shrek2 (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:34 AM


Focus on What's at Stake in Iraq (Jim Hoagland, May 13, 2004, Washington Post)

Those who were silent about torture in Iraq during Saddam Hussein's time should be modest about cloaking established political agendas in the name of that cause now.

Abu Ghraib does not change the essential reality about Iraq, which I have flogged here for months: It is up to Iraqis to determine their political future, and it is up to the Americans and other Arabs to get out of their way -- yesterday. That has not been the Bush way. Proconsular absolutism has been abandoned in favor of yielding political power not to Iraqis but to the United Nations. This would presumably deprive Kerry of a campaign issue and placate Sunni Arab governments, which were silent about torture and mass murder when committed by Hussein's Sunni minority. Those regimes now prefer to see Iraq in chaos rather than ruled by Shiite Arabs.

"It is impossible for Iraq to be ruled by the Shiites," a political adviser to a ruling Arab monarch said recently in a not-for-attribution setting that encouraged unusual candor. "Sunnis make up 85 percent of the population of the Arab world. How could it be democratic" for a national Shiite majority to rule an Arab country? That is the key issue for King Abdullah of Jordan, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and other Sunni autocrats.

Impossible? It's inevitable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:29 AM


Who's to blame?: At a Cairo conference, Mohamed El-Baradei was criticised for his role in nuclear inspections in Iraq, while Israel remains free of blame. The IAEA director-general argued his case. (Aziza Sami, 22 - 28 April 2004, Al Ahram Weekly)

Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mohamed El-Baradei...countered allegations that the IAEA has succumbed to the disproportionate influence wielded by the US and its Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). He asserted that such questions are based on an "erroneous reading, or ignorance of the facts", cautioning that they incite unwarranted suspicion of the IAEA.

CSDC's Mustafa Kamel El-Sayed quickly laid on the table the contentious issues at the onset of the meeting. He questioned whether "joining the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty by some countries and not others has caused a dysfunction. At a time when Israel -- which has not signed the treaty -- possesses nuclear arms, Egypt, which has, is not even able to construct nuclear reactors for peaceful purposes." El- Sayed contended that "those who join the treaty are rewarded with punitive measures, while those who do not are absolved and allowed to engage in nuclear blackmail, as is the case of Israel and Pakistan." He pointed out the discrepancy of "having Iraq and Iran induced into submitting to inspections, while Israel's file remains suspended".

El-Baradei, who since the build-up to the war on Iraq has consistently projected the persona of the impartial technocrat, strongly criticised what he described as the Arab countries' "emotive and non-realistic approach" to the issue of Israel's nuclear disarmament.

He said that "the door has been closed [on the question of nuclear armament] by the international community manifest in UN Security Council's [resolution]". Reiterating a call he had recently made in opinion articles published in the Western press, the IAEA director-general asserted that a "strategic dialogue" between the Arab countries and Israel is incumbent "today [rather than] tomorrow". He said that "opportunity [was] lost" when clauses on nuclear disarmament were not included in either the Camp David peace accords between Egypt and Israel, or the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan.

He stressed that "Israel sees that it cannot give up its weapons of mass destruction [WMD] in the absence of comprehensive peace, as long as there are countries or individuals that say that it will be 'thrown into the sea', and that its existence is not recognised in the region."

El-Baradei lambasted what he described as the backward "state of development" of the Arab countries, and the prevalent attitudes of constant "self-victimisation" and "always asking the attainment of peace from others instead of working towards achieving it ourselves". The Arab countries have yet to create a "civilisational project allowing them to attain the necessary balance of interests needed to persuade Israel that it is in its interest to disarm", El-Baradei said. "We must see how we can convince Israel that it is in its interest to have a Middle East free of WMD. After the events of Libya and Iran, it is time to start this strategic dialogue."

Wow! Why isn't that front page material?

May 17, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:00 PM


Analysis: Medicare drug card evolving (Ellen Beck, 5/17/2004, UPI)

Market forces are working their charms on prices up at the Medicare drug discount card Web site and the head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said Monday he is looking for feedback from seniors on any problems they encounter.

CMS Administrator Dr. Mark McClellan also pledged seniors will see a more "personalized" health insurance program going forward as the agency tries to help them with other healthcare issues.

When the prescription drug card site, accessible through, went live a couple of weeks ago, not all vendors had card information available. In addition, the site was difficult to navigate and the prices varied widely. That was before the 73 card vendors got a chance to see what the competition was offering.

For example, a check on 30 tablets of the anti-inflammatory drug Vioxx cost anywhere from $77 to $160, depending on vendor, when the site first went live. By Monday, the same check produced prices within a $77-$85 range.

There were some early problems getting the correct drug price information on the site but that has, for the most part, been worked out between CMS and the vendors, sources told United Press International.

A CMS analysis found the average price across all cards has dropped by 11.5 percent for brands and 12.5 percent for generic drugs since the comparisons began.

A study of 150 drugs used more frequently by seniors, conducted by the Lewin Group for the Healthcare Leadership Council, found seniors will save an average of 20 percent with the discount cards compared to pharmacy retail prices.

Do you suppose the folks who are surprised when market forces render efficiencies are shocked that the sun comes up every morning?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:58 PM


The Bear's Lair: Another victim for Demos (Martin Hutchinson, 5/17/2004, UPI)

India's rejection of prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee reminds one in its ingratitude of Britain's rejection of Winston Churchill in 1945. Like Margaret Thatcher's ouster in 1990, it imposes a heavy brake on the pace of economic reform. Yet unlike the departure of Arthur, Duke of Wellington in 1830, it does not represent the irreversible death of an ideal of government.

The coalition led by Vajpayee's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won an overall parliamentary majority in 1999, at which time he and the BJP were known primarily for their Hindu nationalism and their construction of India's first nuclear weapon. Since that date, he has presided over a government committed to economic reform, that has raised India's economic growth rate to the historically unprecedented level of 8 percent per annum, while, aided by a good monsoon in 2003, reducing rural poverty significantly from its mid 1990s level. Yet in 2004, with record growth and a tentative peace deal with Pakistan on his resume, he was decisively rejected by the electorate. Not only has the cause of sound economic policy been damaged in the short term, its long term future in India has also been placed in doubt, as the electoral fruits of even the most successful reforms have proved to be so bitter.

At first sight, the new Congress Party-led government might seem adequately committed to continuing reform. Its likely finance minister, Manmohan Singh, was the brave soul who, faced with a near-default situation and a currency crisis, embarked in 1991 on the process of economic reform. Even Congress' partners, the Communists, are not really communists in the Western sense of the word, and are themselves committed at least to maintaining the reforms and privatization that have already taken place.

However, Manmohan Singh's reforms took place in one of the very few periods in which Congress was not run by one of the Gandhi family -- it was during the 1991-96 premiership of Narasimha Rao, shortly after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. If Manmohan Singh himself were to be prime minister, one could be optimistic, but it appears that Sonia Gandhi, the Italian-born wife of the late Rajiv, will take the top job.

Which explains this, Sensex Crashes 822 Pts, Investors Lose Rs 2 Trillion; Trading Halted (NNN, 5/17/04):
Country’s stock markets crashed like nine pins on Monday forcing the authorities to halt trading twice as the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) index fell more than 15% , a whopping by 822 points, amid fears that the new government could stall economic reforms, hurting millions of investors who lost up to an estimated Rs 200,000 crore (Rs 2 trillion) in the morning business itself.

The Security and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) authorities first halted trading for one hour at 1015 hours as the market fell by over 550 points but the freeze was imposed again within minutes of recommencement as the downhill march continued.

After recommencing trading at 1115 hours, it was closed within three minutes as the BSE fell further by 272 points to reach 4247.59.

The National Stock Exchange (NSE) too plummeted to 1306 after losing 276 points.

Monday's bloodbath on the bourses was being attributed to the uncertainty over economic policies of the new Government.

That's pretty much the essence of socialism--divvy up much less more equally, so that pretty nearly everyone's in a worse position financially, but they're suffering together.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:09 PM


Why do stars put their faith in Kabbalah? (Jane Simon, Daily Mirror, May 17th, 2004)

It is the trendiest faith around, endorsed by superstars like Madonna, Demi Moore and Britney Spears. As I take my first lesson in Kabbalah, I begin to understand why.

"By the fourth class you will learn to see into the future," my teacher announces confidently.

I'm in a meeting room in a smart square off Oxford Street for an introductory session in the ancient branch of Jewish mysticism which is enjoying a star-struck resurgence.

From the offset it is easy to see why so many celebrities are attracted to Kabbalah, as I'm promised money, sexual energy, passion and beauty - all for £180.

Madonna is Kabbalah's most famous devotee; other celebrity students include Elizabeth Taylor, Jerry Hall, Winona Ryder, Jeff Goldblum, Courtney Love and Roseanne Barr.[...]

As well as being able to see the future, other perks of becoming a believer are "money, good relationships, love and happiness," claims my teacher, Rabbi Chaim Solomon.

As if more reasons were needed, Kabbalists say the "positive flow of energy" can stop the ageing process. More bizarrely, they believe negative energy can be absorbed by swinging a chicken above the head.

The 10-week course will, claims Rabbi Solomon, teach me to tune myself like a TV set to become a better receiver of "rays of light", the infinite joy for which we're all searching for and, by no coincidence, the name of Madonna's 1998 album. [...]

Even the understanding of the Zohar, the 12th-century manuscript on which modern Kabbalah teaching is based, is surprisingly user-friendly. Rabbis at the Kabbalah Centre insist the Zohar - said to be too complicated for the most eminent scholars - can be "read" merely by running your hands over the text.

Which probably explains why its "unfathomable complexities" have become fully accessible to the likes of Britney Spears, who has also been seen sporting a Kabbalistic red-string wrist band.

"It's a bigger picture even than the Bible," she explained. "It's so interesting to me because I've never read stuff like this before."

I was going to call up Hollywood and try to invite some stars to this swinging rock/folk Mass, but I think I just might forget it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:29 PM


Women rape men in AIDS fury (, May 18, 2004)

SOUTH Africa, where human rights groups say one in two women risks being raped, is grappling with a new twist to its biggest public health problem: women who rape men, often at gunpoint, in a deliberate attempt to infect them with AIDS.

In one recent case, a 39-year-old father of three was ambushed on his way home from work late at night on the East Rand, near Johannesburg.

Three armed women forced him to accompany them to an isolated field near his bus stop.

The man was ordered to strip and was then raped by each of the women.

The traumatised victim told police one of the women had mocked him with the words: "Welcome to the world of AIDS."

The assault was the latest in a string of similar rapes in recent months.

"This seems to be something that's becoming very common, and it seems as if revenge is the motive," said East Rand police inspector Umgau Geelbooi Hadebe, who is leading the investigation into such assaults in the region of Johannesburg.

And there are people who believe this nonsense?

Posted by David Cohen at 5:09 PM


A day to celebrate (Sunshine DeWitt, Daily Hampshire Gazette, 5/17/04)

Cheers rang out through the crisp morning air as city residents Heidi Norton and Gina Smith walked slowly towards council chambers, one step in their long odyssey to get married.

The couple, plaintiffs in the landmark Massachusetts gay marriage case, were one of the first same-sex couples in the country to legally sign their marriage papers.

''I'm so excited,'' said Norton, who will soon take the name Nortonsmith. ''After all the work, this is the day we celebrate.''

A massive crowd had gathered to celebrate the day. After leaving the council chambers, the couple were showered with rice, and greeted with shouts of congratulations as they made their way towards the courthouse, where they sought a waiver in order to be able to marry today. . . .

Margaret Mastrangelo and Devorah Jacobson of Amherst were the first in line, arriving at Town Hall at 7:17 a.m.

''I'm delighted,'' said Mastrangelo. ''And I hope people come to recognize that in no way does my marriage undermine anyone else's marriage.''

We can but hope that Ms. Mastrangelo is correct and that the entire edifice of western civilization has not been fatally undermined. I wish her and everyone else celebrating this new right the very best; not simply for their own sakes but also because our civilization is now taking a flyer on our ability to remake human nature. Note well, though: this day marks the end of constitutional democracy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:52 PM


No Way to Run a War: The Democrats are guilty of ideological confusion and the Republicans of disdain for reflection. (MARK HELPRIN, May 17, 2004, Wall Street Journal)

Before the war's inception, and even after September 11, the Bush administration, having promised to correct its predecessor's depredations of the military, failed to do so. The president failed to go to Congress on September 12 to ask for a declaration of war, failed to ask Congress when he did go before it for the tools with which to fight, and has failed consistently to ask the American people for sacrifice. And yet their sons, mainly, are sacrificed in Iraq day by day.

When soldiers are killed because they do not have equipment (in the words of a returning officer, "not enough vehicles, not enough munitions, not enough medical supplies, not enough water"), when reservists are retained for years, and rotations canceled, it is the consequence of a fiscal policy that seems more attuned to the electoral landscape of 2004 than to the national security of the United States. Were the U.S. to devote the same percentage of its GNP to defense as it did during the peacetime years of the last half-century, and the military budget return to this unremarkable level, we would be spending (apart from the purely operational costs of the war) almost twice what we are spending now.

But why would we? The threat we face is quite minimal and our force level and equipment more than adequate. Indeed, as Mr. Helprin writes later, we should have left Iraq by now: "Mistakenly focused on physical control of Iraq, we could not see that, were we to give it up, the resultant anarchy might find a quicker resolution than the indefinite prolonged agony through which our continuing presence has nursed it." What then would be the point of shoveling more money and men into a defense establishment that was so easily able to dispatch one of the few considerable enemy regimes still extant?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:44 PM


What is the TerrorXchange?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:29 PM


It's America's War: But too many Democrats think it's Bush's war. (David Gelernter, 05/24/2004, Weekly Standard)

THESE ARE TIMES when President Bush and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld could probably use some encouragement. They should ponder a short note by Anthony Eden to Winston Churchill. It was May 1941 and World War II was going badly. Churchill was Britain's Bush and Rumsfeld, prime minister and minister of defense. Eden was his foreign secretary and friend. There had been disasters in Greece and Crete, a discouraging naval battle with the warship Bismarck, and hard fighting in Iraq, where the British were battling Nazi-backed Rashid Ali and Luftwaffe bombers that were helping him out. "My dear Winston," Eden wrote, "This is a bad day; but tomorrow Baghdad will be entered, Bismarck sunk. On some day the war will be won, and you will have done more than any other man in history to win it."

By "tomorrow" he meant "soon"; his predictions all came true. But for now, it is indeed a bad day.

Too many Democrats and some Republicans are acting as if Abu Ghraib means that the Bush administration is in trouble. They are wrong. It means that America is in trouble. And when America is in trouble, every public official is required to help.

Mr. Gelernter makes an honorable but perhaps mistaken assumption here when he assumes that most Democrats are Americans first. There is little in the party's recent history--starting with Vietnam, continuing through the final years of the Cold War (especially as it was fought in Latin America), and now resuming in the war on terror, after a brief post-9/11 interlude--to suggest that they particularly root for us to win our foreign wars. Given that the wars against communism and Islamicism have been largely religious in nature--seeking to vindicate the Judeo-Christian vision of the Declaration, that "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights..."--it should hardly come as a surprise that a party which no longer believes in a Creator would oppose such a mission in the world.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:10 PM


Two-Thirds Of Federal Workers Get a Bonus (Christopher Lee and Hal Straus, May 17, 2004, Washington Post)

The disclosure of the figures brought varying reactions. Some civil service specialists said the proliferation of bonuses reinforces a common belief that many federal workers are rewarded for little more than showing up. Some agency and union officials said it was evidence of a talented workforce that performs admirably, and often at salary levels inferior to those of the private sector.

For the Bush administration, the numbers underscore the challenge President Bush faces in his drive to revamp personnel systems to more strongly tie pay to performance, an endeavor underway at the departments of Defense and Homeland Security. White House officials have called the federal pay system broken, saying it rewards civil servants for longevity rather than how well they do their jobs. The Post undertook a wide-ranging analysis of federal bonuses after obtaining detailed pay records from the Office of Personnel Management through a Freedom of Information Act request. he records covered all civilian federal employees, except for those whose data was excluded for security or technical reasons.

Paul Light, a professor of government at New York University, said he doubts the public will swallow the notion that merit was the driving force behind the awards.

"I don't think Americans think that 60 percent of federal employees could possibly be so well above average that they would earn a bonus," Light said in an interview. "This is just going to further confirm what many Americans believe, that the federal government is somehow an island unto itself."

May as well fire the other third, they must be grotesquely incompetent.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:05 PM


Who's Afraid of Abu Ghraib?: The scandal won't determine the fate of democracy in the Middle East. (Reuel Marc Gerecht, 05/24/2004, Weekly Standard)

[I]s our situation in Iraq really in any way compromised by Abu Ghraib? Have the chances of democracy in the Middle East really been set back because sexually sensitive Muslims are so revolted that they won't embrace representative government? Or to put it more broadly, is America's standing in the Muslim world a popularity contest where our chances of success--whatever the mission may be--are directly proportional to how much an American president and his officials or the American people and their values are liked and esteemed?

LET US LOOK at Iraq post-Abu Ghraib. As disgusting as the tactics of the 800th Military Police Brigade may have been, they have not elicited much condemnation from Iraq's Arab Shiites and Sunni Kurds, who represent about 80 percent of the country's population. Most critically, the senior clergy of Najaf, in particular Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq's preeminent Shiite divine who virtually has a de facto veto over American actions, has hardly mentioned the matter, let alone aroused the faithful against the moral pollution of the American occupation.

There are probably several reasons for this. Both the Shia and the Kurds, not to mention the Arab Sunnis who were on the receiving end of Saddam Hussein's wickedness, know very well what real bestiality is. They know real sexual torture--Saddam institutionalized rape as a means of destroying and preemptively neutering individual male and tribal pride. Though there are surely too few U.S. troops in Iraq, most Iraqis have had some contact with American soldiers. They may not view them as German children viewed World War II GIs, but they have certainly had enough contact to know that American personnel, with the rarest exceptions, aren't rapists, sexual deviants, or by reflex or training particularly violent people. If this weren't the case, the senior clergy of Najaf would have long ago declared a holy war against the American occupation, as they declared a jihad against the British in 1920. The young clerical militant Moktada al-Sadr would have tens of thousands of recruits, and coalition forces would be fortified in their barracks, not on the offensive.

Also, the Shiites and Kurds probably assume that the humiliated prisoners in Abu Ghraib are Sunnis (which may in fact be the case). Though the Shiites and Kurds have so far been remarkably restrained in their desire for intiqam--revenge--which is a leitmotif of Iraqi culture, they probably are not above enjoying schadenfreude. They also want the Americans to beat the ex-Baathists, Sunni Arab fundamentalists, and foreign Sunni holy warriors who are trying to drive the Americans out of Iraq and stop the march toward democracy. After all, democracy will inevitably empower Shiites and frustrate the Sunni Arab penchant for pummeling the Kurds. Their tolerance for unpleasant American tactics in this endeavor is probably quite high. Unlike much of Washington, D.C., they have not lost sight of the larger objective: creating a democratic Iraq where they and their children will never again know the horrors of dictatorship.

Which is why, of course, the Shiite clergy has been focused throughout the Abu Ghraib affair on the guerrilla campaign of Moktada al-Sadr, who is detested by the traditional clergy since he is challenging their religious leadership and Sistani's decision to cooperate with the Americans. They've also been watching the Marines at Falluja and the American decision to return Baathist soldiers to duty to placate and quiet the town, which has been a center of Sunni Arab resistance. The American decision in Falluja provoked Jalaluddin al-Saghir, a spokesman for Sistani, to warn that "members of the Baath party committed the most heinous crimes and created bloodbaths and the biggest mass graves in the history of mankind." A very healthy self-interest is an obvious and major reason why Iraq's Shiites and Kurds--and perhaps a decent slice of its Arab Sunnis--can watch the images of Abu Ghraib and maintain their equanimity. They have vastly more important things to worry about.

Fortunately, the Iraqis are more mature about such things than the punditocracy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:56 PM


Old dogs, new tricks?: Debating population policy is no longer taboo (The Economist, 5/13/04)

IF GERMANY'S body politic is good at one thing, it is getting into a tizzy. Last week, the excitement was over the damage the ruling coalition of Social Democrats and Greens might suffer from a new immigration law. This week, the question is whether Hans Eichel, the finance minister, will have to go if the government borrows more money to cover huge tax shortfalls. Yet if you think Germany, in a year with more than a dozen elections, is all about short-term politics, think again. At last, Germany's chattering classes are facing up to the country's biggest long-term challenge: an ageing population. “In Germany, 2004 is the year of demography,” says James Vaupel, executive director of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock.

After half a century of obscurity, population issues are resurfacing in headlines, bestseller lists and talk shows. When in April the Berlin Institute for World Population and Global Development, a think-tank, issued a study saying which regions will suffer from a shrinking population, it was amazed by the media interest. And Germany's bestselling book is “Das Methusalem-Komplott” (The Methuselah conspiracy), an anti-ageism tirade by Frank Schirrmacher, a co-publisher of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper.

Both publications paint a bleak picture. Some regions are in a death spiral of sorts, says Reiner Klingholz, one of the authors of the study—and others may share that fate in years to come: their population is imploding, not just because of a lack of babies but because young, qualified people are moving away, making many regions even less attractive for job-creating investments. Mr Schirrmacher fears a clash of the generations and wants a cultural revolution to rethink what it means to be old.

It means you're easy pickins.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:25 PM


The End of the Pius Wars (Joseph Bottum, April 2004, First Things)

There was a curious moment during the exchanges about A Moral Reckoning in which Daniel Goldhagen appeared to admit that he had gotten the details wrong, but the point remained untouched. At one level, that makes no sense: He was writing an argumentative essay, after all, and if his evidence fails, so must his conclusion. But at another level, it makes perfect sense. However successfully the reviewers refuted the Pope’s detractors, the sum of all those well-publicized attacks, from Cornwell on, has had a tremendous impact on what people think—the tropes they use, the pictures they form, the things journalists think they can get away with saying, the images pundits believe will prove useful when they wish to strafe a particular target.

In the public mind at the present moment, there’s almost nothing bad you can’t say about Pius XII. The Vatican may end up declaring him a saint—the slow process of canonization has been winding its way through the Roman curia since the mid-1960s—but the general public has gradually been persuaded that Pius ranks somewhere among the greatest villains ever to walk the earth. Nearly every crime of the twentieth century seems to be laid at this man’s feet. Disapprove of the war in Vietnam? Well, according to a Ft. Lauderdale newspaper, Pius XII was “the main inspirer and prosecutor” of that war. Hate racism? An article in 2002 painted him as a slavering racist who mocked the Moroccan soldiers fighting for the Free French. Another had the young Pacelli denouncing black American soldiers for “routinely raping German women and children” after World War I.

Worse, he signed for the Vatican a hitherto-unknown “secret pact” with Nazi Germany in the 1930s. The Catholic hierarchy has suppressed all copies, so nobody knows what it said, but it must have been bad—although it scarcely seems necessary, since (a French author assured us in 1996) the Vatican and Germany began secretly working together all the way back in 1914 to bring about a German domination of Europe. Perhaps it doesn’t matter that this contradicts other theories floating around these days: that Pius XII was secretly working with Mussolini to achieve an Italian domination of Europe, for instance, or that he was secretly plotting with hard-line anti-Soviets to make the Protestant United States and Great Britain the world’s great powers. The point is that there is simply no depravity one can put past the man. He suppressed the anti-Nazi encyclical that Pius XI on his deathbed begged him to release. He was deeply implicated in the German’s massacre of 335 Italians in the Ardeatine Caves. He expressly permitted, even encouraged, the S.S. to round up Rome’s Jews in 1943.

At the root of all this lies the fact that Pius XII was, fundamentally, a follower of Hitler, a genocidal hater of the Jews in his heart and in his mind, and once we recognize him as a Nazi who somehow escaped punishment at the Nuremberg trials, we can see the origin of all the rest. He was Hitler’s Pope, in the title of John Cornwell’s book. The Holocaust happened Under His Very Windows, in the title of Susan Zuccotti’s. Pius XII represents the highest pitch of Papal Sin, in Garry Wills’ title. Modern times is defined by The Popes Against the Jews, in David Kertzer's--and just so nobody misses the point, the drawing on the dust jacket of Michael Phayer's book features a Nazi with whip and a Catholic priest standing on the body of a Holocaust victim.

Meanwhile, the Times of London named him “a war criminal” in 1999. The next year the television program 60 Minutes insisted there was “absolutely” no difference between the writings of Pius and the writings of Hitler. Daniel Goldhagen called him a “Nazi collaborator” who “tacitly and sometimes materially aided in mass murder”—which was relatively mild compared to Goldhagen’s other description of the Pope as a willing servant of “the closest human analogue to the Antichrist” and a man whose Church’s two-thousand-year history is nothing but preparation for the Holocaust’s slaughter of the Jews.

Forget the often-denounced “silence of Pius XII” about the Holocaust. Pacelli didn’t just accept Hitler; he loved the Nazi leader and agreed with him about everything. Did you know that shortly after World War I he gave the starving Adolf Hitler money because he so much approved the young man’s ideas? (This, by the way, is from a book that also reveals how Pius XII was merely the puppet of his Vatican housekeeper, Sister Pascalina.) Perhaps avarice to increase Vatican finances is what made him force reluctant Swiss banks to confiscate Jewish accounts. But only enduring belief in Nazi ideas can explain why Pius was the chief funder and organizer of the Ratline that helped hunted Gestapo agents escape to South America after Hitler’s defeat.

Regardless, the Pope was manifestly an anti-Semite of the first water—John Cornwell declared his views “of the kind that Julius Streicher would soon offer the German public in every issue of his notorious Nazi newspaper Der Stürmer”—except when Pius is said to have merely allowed Hitler free rein, accepting the murder of the Jews as the price to be paid for getting Germany to war against the greater menace of the godless Communists in Soviet Russia. These notions are not necessarily contradictory. In a 1997 essay, the widely published Richard L. Rubenstein concluded: “during World War II Pope Pius XII and the vast majority of European Christian leaders regarded the elimination of the Jews as no less beneficial than the destruction of Bolshevism.”

All of these claims are mistaken, of course—and more than mistaken: demonstrably and obviously untrue, outrages upon history and fellow feeling for the humanity of previous generations. But none of them are merely the lurid fantasies of conspiracy-mongers huddled together in paranoia on their Internet lists. Every one of these assertions has been made in recent years by books and articles published with mainstream and popular American publishers.

And when we draw from them their general conclusion—when we reach the point at which Rubenstein, for example, has arrived—then discourse is over. Research into primary sources, argument about interpretation, the scholar’s task of weighing historical circumstances: All of this is quibbling, an attempt to be fair to monstrosity, and by such fairness to condone, excuse, and participate in it. After printing the opening salvo of Goldhagen’s offensive against Catholicism, the publisher of the New Republic announced that Pius XII was, simply and purely, “a wicked man.” And once one has said that, one has said all that needs to be known.

It was here that the Pius War was lost—and lost for what I believe will be at least a generation—despite the victories of the reviewers. The question of “why now?” is an interesting one. Philip Jenkins understands it as not particular to Pius XII at all, but merely a convenient trope by which American commentators express what he calls an entirely new form of anti-Catholicism. Others see it in a continuum of more old-fashioned American distaste for the Whore of Babylon that dwells in Rome, spinning Jesuitical plots. Ralph McInerny linked it darkly to contemporary hatred of the Church’s stand against abortion. Noting the predominance of a certain sort of Catholic author in these debates, Justus George Lawler suggested the root lay in a “papaphobia” that has turned against the entire idea of authority. David Dalin argued that it was finally about John Paul II: an intra-Catholic fight over the future of the papacy, with the Holocaust merely the biggest club around for opponents of the current pope to use against his supporters.

All of these are quite interesting. None are quite persuasive. What the real cause may be, I cannot decide for myself. But it is into a world of public and scholarly opinion formed by books like Hitler’s Pope that every new attempt to consider the issue must enter. Relatively mild efforts to praise the Pope (such as José Sánchez’s Pius XII and the Holocaust in 2002), like relatively mild criticism (such as Martin Rhonheimer’s November 2003 essay in First Things), are as clueless about the situation in which they appear as the proverbial visitors from Mars. Indeed, there is something willful and maddening in their tone of Olympian detachment. In a world of imbalance, what but pressure on the other side can restore the balance that a true scholar is supposed to love? I am convinced that we will not achieve anything resembling historical accuracy until all present views have been cleared away—and thus, that the job for every honest writer who takes up the topic now is to correct the slander of Pius XII.

Like all such controversies, it has nothing to do with the facts and everything to do with hating the faith. One favorite illustration of this is the oft repeated idiocy--heard always from folks who deny everything from the Deluge to loaves and fishes as anti-scientific--is the one about blood flowing ankle-deep after the Crusaders took Jerusalem. That's not a claim any rational person would be sanguine about making.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:10 PM

ENT MISBEHAVIN' (via Brian Boys):

Regulators stymie 'human trees' (AFP, May 13, 2004)

A SCHEME by two London artists to take DNA from a dead person and insert it into apple trees to create a living memorial of that individual's "biological essence" has run headlong into problems.

Royal College of Art graduates Georg Tremmel and Shiho Fukuhara want to insert a stretch of genetic material from a dead loved-one into the genome of an apple tree.

If it weren't so dangerous, the naivete of those technophiles who think science can be trusted to behave responsibly in the area of bioengineering would be touching.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:03 PM


Citizens group hits Kerry on no-show (Steve Marantz, May 16, 2004, Boston Herald)

A conservative grassroots organizaton is launching a petition drive to force Sen. John F. Kerry [related, bio] to resign his seat - claiming he missed a key vote last week due to his presidential campaigning.

"Sen. Kerry is working two full-time jobs - we think it would be beneficial to Massachusetts taxpayers if he picked one and focused,'' said Summer Stitz of Citizens United.

Kerry was absent Tuesday when the Senate rejected by one vote a proposal to extend unemployment benefits - an issue he consistently has backed.

President Bush's re-election campaign blasted Kerry's absence, saying he is ``too busy playing politics'' to do his job.

It's perfectly honorable to freeload off of your wife, but not off of the taxpayers of your state.

His resignation is inevitable, but part and parcel of the worst run campaign in modern memory he's let the story get out in front of him instead of dictating its terms himself.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:57 PM


THE GRAY ZONE: How a secret Pentagon program came to Abu Ghraib. (SEYMOUR M. HERSH, 2004-05-15, The New Yorker)

The roots of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal lie not in the criminal inclinations of a few Army reservists but in a decision, approved last year by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to expand a highly secret operation, which had been focussed on the hunt for Al Qaeda, to the interrogation of prisoners in Iraq. Rumsfeld’s decision embittered the American intelligence community, damaged the effectiveness of élite combat units, and hurt America’s prospects in the war on terror.

According to interviews with several past and present American intelligence officials, the Pentagon’s operation, known inside the intelligence community by several code words, including Copper Green, encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners in an effort to generate more intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq. A senior C.I.A. official, in confirming the details of this account last week, said that the operation stemmed from Rumsfeld’s long-standing desire to wrest control of America’s clandestine and paramilitary operations from the C.I.A.

Rumsfeld, during appearances last week before Congress to testify about Abu Ghraib, was precluded by law from explicitly mentioning highly secret matters in an unclassified session. But he conveyed the message that he was telling the public all that he knew about the story. He said, “Any suggestion that there is not a full, deep awareness of what has happened, and the damage it has done, I think, would be a misunderstanding.” The senior C.I.A. official, asked about Rumsfeld’s testimony and that of Stephen Cambone, his Under-Secretary for Intelligence, said, “Some people think you can bull[wash] anyone.”

The Abu Ghraib story began, in a sense, just weeks after the September 11, 2001, attacks, with the American bombing of Afghanistan. Almost from the start, the Administration’s search for Al Qaeda members in the war zone, and its worldwide search for terrorists, came up against major command-and-control problems. For example, combat forces that had Al Qaeda targets in sight had to obtain legal clearance before firing on them. On October 7th, the night the bombing began, an unmanned Predator aircraft tracked an automobile convoy that, American intelligence believed, contained Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban leader. A lawyer on duty at the United States Central Command headquarters, in Tampa, Florida, refused to authorize a strike. By the time an attack was approved, the target was out of reach. Rumsfeld was apoplectic over what he saw as a self-defeating hesitation to attack that was due to political correctness. One officer described him to me that fall as “kicking a lot of glass and breaking doors.” In November, the Washington Post reported that, as many as ten times since early October, Air Force pilots believed they’d had senior Al Qaeda and Taliban members in their sights but had been unable to act in time because of legalistic hurdles. There were similar problems throughout the world, as American Special Forces units seeking to move quickly against suspected terrorist cells were compelled to get prior approval from local American ambassadors and brief their superiors in the chain of command.

Rumsfeld reacted in his usual direct fashion: he authorized the establishment of a highly secret program that was given blanket advance approval to kill or capture and, if possible, interrogate “high value” targets in the Bush Administration’s war on terror. A special-access program, or sap—subject to the Defense Department’s most stringent level of security—was set up, with an office in a secure area of the Pentagon. The program would recruit operatives and acquire the necessary equipment, including aircraft, and would keep its activities under wraps. America’s most successful intelligence operations during the Cold War had been saps, including the Navy’s submarine penetration of underwater cables used by the Soviet high command and construction of the Air Force’s stealth bomber. All the so-called “black” programs had one element in common: the Secretary of Defense, or his deputy, had to conclude that the normal military classification restraints did not provide enough security.

“Rumsfeld’s goal was to get a capability in place to take on a high-value target—a standup group to hit quickly,” a former high-level intelligence official told me. “He got all the agencies together—the C.I.A. and the N.S.A.—to get pre-approval in place. Just say the code word and go.” The operation had across-the-board approval from Rumsfeld and from Condoleezza Rice, the national-security adviser. President Bush was informed of the existence of the program, the former intelligence official said.

If the videos from Iraq represent the worst that we're doing to captured al Qaeda than heads should roll because they aren't taking the interrogations seriously enough. In reality, this would appear to be just more of the CIA trying to undermine the Administration, a la the Palme kerfuffle

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:14 PM


Cheer Up, Hawks (Charles Rousseaux, May 17, 2004,

While the administration has made errors in its post-war policies, and tragedies and sorrows have followed, the best evidence suggests that it has still made a vast amount of progress. Coalition forces may not have won the fight, but they ain't close to losing it.
One of the most important developments has been the gradual defanging of Muqtada al-Sadar and his Mahdi militia by both Coalition forces and moderate Shi'ites. When the radical cleric rose in revolt, he appeared to have put Coalition forces in an impossible position: If they attacked, they would risk alienating the Iraqi population with casualties and the destruction of holy places; if they failed to attack, they would give him the country. The persistent pressure applied instead appears to be having a pronounced effect. Earlier this week, a joint patrol of U.S. Marines and Iraqi forces entered Fallujah for the first time. While they weren't met by flowers, they weren't met by grenades either. In Najaf and Karbala, Coalition forces have cut down many members of the Mahdi militia and captured or destroyed a number of its arms caches. Last weekend, they captured two of Sadr's top aides. On Monday, Coalition forces blew up one of his two main headquarters in Baghdad.
Part of the reason that Coalition forces have acted so aggressively is that they no longer fear a popular revolt. Last week, a large group of influential Shi'ite leaders told Sadr to leave the holy places and the arms he had stored there. On both Monday and Tuesday, hundreds of individuals marched through Najaf calling for Sadr to depart. Even more are expected to turn out to demand Sadr's expulsion on Friday. They've been called into the streets by senior Shi'ite leader Sadruddin Qubanchi, who is allied with the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. For good reason, the Los Angeles Times ran a story on Tuesday titled, "Iraq Cleric Faces Showdown with Moderate Shiites." They want Sadr to go back to where he came from -- namely an embryonic state -- so that they can get back to the lucrative business of servicing the pilgrims who come to those holy places. It's something they can't do while being held hostage in their own cities, and the numbers of devout travelers have dropped to a trickle.

Spiritual leaders fear Iraq civil war
(Mohamad Bazzi, 5/17/04, NEWSDAY)
The six-week standoff between U.S. forces and renegade Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr could expand into an intra-Shiite conflict that some tribal and religious leaders worried would devolve into a civil war.

In recent days, Sadr has ratcheted up his rhetoric against Shiite political groups that oppose him, especially the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

He accused the group and its 10,000-member militia, the Badr Brigade, of "sowing sedition" among Iraqi Shiites at the behest of the United States. The group's leader, Abdulaziz Hakim, is a rival cleric who sits on the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council.

For their part, leaders of the Supreme Council have called for mass demonstrations in the southern city of Najaf against Sadr's use of religious shrines as bases for his militiamen.

Some of the group's leaders have even hinted that they could use the Badr Brigade to push Sadr's fighters to the outskirts of Najaf, where U.S. forces would be waiting to finish them off.

"We all want to protect the holy places against danger and prevent any possibility that Najaf will be turned into a military bunker or the scene of street fighting," said Sheik Sadr-Eddine Koubansi, the council's representative in Najaf.

The U.S. could not withstand a unified Shi'ite uprising, but can easily deal with one rogue who the rest of the Shi'a want dealt with too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:07 PM


Bomb With Nerve Agent Explodes in Iraq (KIRK SEMPLE, 5/17/04, NY Times)

An explosive containing sarin nerve gas was discovered by American troops in Baghdad and detonated, an American military spokesman there said today. It was the first sarin shell the American military has found since the invasion of Iraq last year, the spokesman, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, said in a televised news conference.

Wanna make a million dollars? Quick, get to market with a solvent that will take "Bush Lied" stickers off the bumpers of Volvos, but leave the "Darwin Fish" and the pink triangle intact.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:19 AM


Bush closes gap in Illinois despite bad grade in Iraq (KRISTEN MCQUEARY, May 17, 2004, Chicago Sun-Times)

President Bush gained on Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry in Illinois in the last two months despite growing concern over Iraq and the administration's response to Iraqi prisoner abuse, a new Daily Southtown poll shows.

Almost half -- 46 percent -- of those polled think Bush is handling Iraq poorly. But that hasn't hurt him in polls on the presidential race.

Kerry leads Bush 48 percent to 43 percent among likely Illinois voters, but Kerry's margin narrowed considerably from a March 3 poll when he outscored the president by 13 points. At that time, focus on the Democratic presidential nomination created a Bush-bashing environment.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:56 AM


Does Islam have a prayer? (Spengler, 5/18/04, Asia Times)

Critics of Islam - in past essays I have cited Rosenzweig and Besancon - portray the religion as a throwback, a "monistic paganism" (Rosenzweig) or an "idolatry of the God of Israel" (Besancon). That cannot be quite right, for pagan religions express the aspirations for immortality of individual ethnic groups. The pagan knows not only that he will die, but that his people will die, that his language will be shut up in dusty books, and that a different people some day will occupy the hills and valleys where his people now live. "The love of the gentiles for their own ethnicity," said Rosenzweig, "is sweet and pregnant with the presentiment of death."
Islam acknowledges no ethnicity (whether or not one believes that it favors Arabs). The Muslim submits - to what particular people? Not the old Israel of the Jews, nor the "New Israel" of the Christians, but to precisely what? Pagans fight for their own group's survival and care not at all whom their neighbor worships. A universalized paganism is a contradiction in terms; it could only exist by externalizing the defensive posture of the pagan, that is, as a conquering movement that marches across the world crushing out the pagan practices of the nations and subjugating them to a single discipline.

If the individual Muslim does not submit to traditional society as it surrounds him in its present circumstances, he submits to the expansionist movement. In that sense the standard communal prayer of Islam may be considered an expression of jihad. Again Rosenzweig: "Walking in the way of Allah means, in the strictest sense, the spread of Islam by means of the holy war. The piety of the Muslim finds its way into the world by obediently walking this way, by assuming its inherent dangers, by adhering to the laws prescribed for it."

What threatens the ummah today is not the invasion of territory, but creative destruction: social mobility, equality of the sexes, global communications, and all the other pallbearers of traditional society. The encounter of mainstream Islamic practice with the creative destruction of the West is tragic.

No one asks much anymore "Why do they hate us?," since our readiness to use even military force to alter the region amply demonstrates that the meeting of the West with Islam will result in a radical transformation of the latter.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:28 AM


U.S. drug needs would overwhelm Canada (Julie Appleby, 5/16/04, USA TODAY)

Canada has doubled its imports of prescription drugs since 1999 — a period that saw U.S. residents increasingly buying drugs from Canada — and would be unable to meet the demand created if U.S. law allowed greater access.

That's the conclusion of a University of Texas-Austin researcher, who studied the issue at the request of two congressmen, using government data from both countries. The study, out Monday, attempts to quantify the potential impact of U.S. demand for pharmaceuticals on Canada and will likely spur further debate about opening U.S. borders to medications from abroad.

The report finds:

• If all U.S. residents bought their prescription drugs from Canada, that nation's supply would be exhausted in 38 days.

• If just half of the elderly in the USA were to buy drugs from Canada, it would have to boost its drug supply by 2.5 times.

• Canada doubled the value of its drug imports since 1999, from $2.3 billion to $4.7 billion last year. In 2003, 44% of those drugs came from the USA. The rest came from more than 80 countries, including Ireland, Italy, Mexico, India, Cuba, Colombia and Guyana.

The study by Marv Shepherd, director of the Center for Pharmacoeconomic Studies at the university, comes as Congress weighs several proposals that would give U.S. citizens more access to lower-cost drugs from Canada and a short list of other countries. That legislation has gained momentum in recently. There's intensifying interest in the issue: Attorneys general from 18 states wrote Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson in early May urging him to allow importation of drugs; several governors sent a similar letter last week to President Bush.

Critics of importation may use the report to question how the United States would ensure that drugs coming from all over the world meet U.S. quality standards. The Food and Drug Administration says it cannot ensure the safety of drugs from plants it doesn't inspect.

Bah, they're mostly placebos anyway...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:55 AM


Ownership society, anyone? (Michael Barone, May 17, 2004,

It is an economy in which the ordinary citizen over the course of a lifetime accumulates significant wealth, well into six figures today for 55- to 65-year-olds, mostly in the form of residential real estate and financial investments. It is wealth they can tap by credit card borrowing and mortgage refinancing.

In the 1940s and 1950s, the FHA and VA home mortgage guarantee programs helped convert America from a nation of renters to a nation of homeowners. In the 1980s and 1990s, 401(k) plans and similar tax-free vehicles have helped convert America from a nation of noninvestors to a nation of investors. In 2002, about 60 percent of Americans were investors. And many of the young, who have not yet accumulated any net worth, expect to be, and will.

Government programs helped most Americans accumulate wealth in the form of real estate. For today's economy, George W. Bush has proposed government programs that would help most Americans accumulate more wealth in the form of financial investments. The most important of these is inclusion of personal retirement accounts in Social Security, which Bush campaigned on in 2000 but has not pushed in Congress. They also include deferred savings plans in his budget this year, programs to increase homeownership and expansion of health savings accounts, a form of which were included in the 2003 Medicare bill. On occasion, Bush has referred to them together as programs designed to create an "ownership society," to help people accumulate wealth and economic independence.

But he hasn't sounded that theme much lately. He missed occasions like his 2004 State of the Union Address and other speeches on economic themes. Word is that the White House has had trouble making the numbers for these programs add up.

Whatever the case, Bush risks missing the chance to be as consequential a domestic president in a second term as he has been a foreign-policy president in his first. Unless he campaigns hard for personal retirement accounts in Social Security, he will not have the political capital to get Congress to pass them in 2005 or 2006.

Who cares if the numbers add up? This kind of transformation has to be the centerpiece of the second Bush term and he'll need 60 Senate seats to achieve it. He had a mandate to privatize Social Security in 2001 but Senate Democrats fobade it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:44 AM


Dominicans make history: Expatriates vote in Boston, elsewhere as island nation changes hand at helm (Johnny Diaz, May 17, 2004, Boston Globe)

With yesterday's election, in which presidential challenger Leonel Fernandez defeated the incumbent, President Hipolito Mejia, the Dominican Republic became the latest country to allow expatriate voting. Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, and Honduras are among others.

At least 52,000 Dominicans who are registered to vote headed to voting booths set up in schools and community centers in heavily Dominican enclaves in the United States and overseas. Dominicans in cities such as New York, Miami, San Juan, and Madrid cast their ballots by picking a color that represented their candidate's party.

In New England, the Dominican Consulate organized voting places in Boston, Lawrence, Salem, Worcester, and Providence. Ever since Dominicans began immigrating to Boston and beyond, they have pushed for the right to vote in their homeland's elections. In previous elections, some Dominicans flew back to the island nation to make their political voice heard.

"Even though we are here, we are very aware of what is going on back in the Dominican Republic," said Alba Rosado, who was helping at one of the voting tables yesterday at the John F. Kennedy Elementary School. "By voting, we are looking out for what is going on there."

While the number of overseas registered voters may seem paltry for a country with 8.8 million residents, Dominicans' strong ties with family abroad can influence votes. The election has been scrutinized by Dominicans on the island and abroad because the Caribbean nation's economy has plummeted in the last year.

"A lot of Dominicans come here, work hard, and pay their taxes, and they send a great part of their checks to relatives back home," said Angel Amy Moreno, professor of a course on the history of Latinos in Boston at Northeastern University.

Dominican citizens living abroad have sent back an estimated $2 billion a year in family remittances, according to the US Department of State's website.

"So that money they earn here is sustaining the economy in many ways back in the Dominican Republic," Moreno said. "Public officials and the politicians in the Republic know very well the role these countrymen play in supporting the economy and influencing their families."

Interesting enough that, contra the anti-immigrationists, such folk are a source of stability for their nations of origin, even more fascinating is to compare the D.R. to Haiti, with which it shares an island. Haiti has followed the example of the French, the Dominican Republic of Franco, with predictable results.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:54 AM


No hatred in keeping marriage laws sacred (Janet Albrechtsen, The Australian, May 12, 2004)

It's true that in Scandinavia, co-habitation and out-of-wedlock births were on the rise before gay marriage became legal. But a decade or so of legal gay marriage has done nothing to make marriage stronger. Indeed, sanctioning gay marriage has only served to send the message that all family forms are equal, increasing the trend to out-of-wedlock births and cohabitation.

None of that would matter but for one simple fact: all family forms are not equal. De facto relationships are much likelier to come unstuck than marriage. And the cost of these fragile, unstable relationships is borne by children.

Few would challenge the need for parity of rights for gays in certain areas, such as pension rights. But should that translate into parity of rights in every area? That question brings us to what must surely be the next agenda item after gay marriage: adoption rights. Adoption won't be the rarity it is in heterosexual marriages. It will become the norm for gay parents, especially lesbians, one having a child via in vitro fertilisation, the other woman becoming the adoptive parent.

Have we, as a society, reached the point where we no longer believe a child is entitled to a mother and a father? Why is a child's right to a mother and a father of less value than the rights of the gay minority to marry and adopt?

The Scandinavian experience suggests that gay marriage is less about love than about politics. Gay lobby groups want recognition of gay relationships on their terms, and hang the consequences for marriage. Scandinavian gays have not exactly rushed to the altar; the number of gay marriages is, according to Kurtz, "exceedingly small". And yet the message from gay marriage, that all family forms are equal, remains powerful. That is the power of laws.

Henning Bech, described by Kurtz as "perhaps Scandinavia's most prominent gay thinker", says the conservative case for gay marriage – that it would enhance marriage – was a mainly tactical argument made during a once divisive gay marriage debate.

In the end, this debate comes down to whether the needs of children are more important than the desires of adults. Since the 1960's, the general answer has been that they are not. Of course, no one admits that, even to themselves, so we simply deny any connection between the two, all the while insisting how much we adore the little darlings and always put their interests first.

Unable to confront the fact that we are lying, we define children as infinitely adaptable and able to thrive in whatever setting, provided we “love” them. In so doing, many of us have pretty much stopped believing in any objective standards of care and upbringing. Neither gay nor single parenthood nor multiple marriages need harm a child provided he or she can “talk” about feelings, increasingly to professionals. We are losing any common understanding of what education entails beyond basic literacy. Discipline is confusing, as we see them as both wise beyond their years and as fragile as fresh eggshell, so many just pass. Religion and tradition are nice for the young ones, but oppressive beyond the age of about twelve. Whether they themselves engage in premarital sex, get married, have children, etc. is not really our business and we pride ourselves on the maturity of having no viewpoint and giving no direction. In short, beyond providing baseline needs, we do not comprehend anymore what children want and need, starting with a mother and a father who bestow security, adoration, discipline and wisdom and commit to them unconditionally. And the hard truth is that many do not want to comprehend.

But we do understand our right to sex.

May 16, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:59 PM


Surprise, Security, and the American Experience by John Lewis Gaddis (Booknotes, May 16, 2004, 8 & 11pm, C-SPAN)

September 11, 2001, distinguished Cold War historian John Lewis Gaddis argues, was not the first time a surprise attack shattered American assumptions about national security and reshaped American grand strategy. We've been there before, and have responded each time by dramatically expanding our security responsibilities.

The pattern began in 1814, when the British attacked Washington, burning the White House and the Capitol. This early violation of homeland security gave rise to a strategy of unilateralism and preemption, best articulated by John Quincy Adams, aimed at maintaining strength beyond challenge throughout the North American continent. It remained in place for over a century. Only when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941 did the inadequacies of this strategy become evident: as a consequence, the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt devised a new grand strategy of cooperation with allies on an intercontinental scale to defeat authoritarianism. That strategy defined the American approach throughout World War II and the Cold War.

The terrorist attacks of 9/11, Gaddis writes, made it clear that this strategy was now insufficient to ensure American security. The Bush administration has, therefore, devised a new grand strategy whose foundations lie in the nineteenth-century tradition of unilateralism, preemption, and hegemony, projected this time on a global scale. How successful it will be in the face of twenty-first-century challenges is the question that confronts us. This provocative book, informed by the experiences of the past but focused on the present and the future, is one of the first attempts by a major scholar of grand strategy and international relations to provide an answer.

We've been discussing his thesis--that George W. Bush is a revolutionary figure at least as regards America's approach to the world--for awhile now. Here are some prior, link-rich, posts:


-GRAND STRATEGY (continued) (February 08, 2004)

-PARADIGM'N IN THE ROUGH (February 11, 2004)

-AS ROVE LICKED HIS CHOPS (March 01, 2004)

-EXCERPT: It's Not too Early to Begin Writing the History of 9-11: Chapter one of Surprise, Security, and the American Experience (John Lewis Gaddis)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:02 PM


The Hawks Loudly Express Their Second Thoughts (JOHN TIERNEY, May 16, 2004, NY Times)

Some hawks are staying the course. Donald H. Rumsfeld, the defense secretary, is still defended by The Wall Street Journal editorial page and columnists like Charles Krauthammer, of The Washington Post, and William Safire, of The New York Times, who has dismissed the idea of speeding the transition as "cut and walk fast." Rush Limbaugh has accused liberal journalists of overreacting to the prison scandal.

When asked on Friday about the criticism from his fellow neoconservatives, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz acknowledged difficulties but seemed unfazed. "Saddam's murderers and torturers who abused the Iraqi people for 35 years have proven to be a tough as well as ruthless enemy," he said. "But no one should have expected a cakewalk and that's no reason to go wobbly now. I spend most of my time with officers and soldiers, and they're not defeatists - not even the ones who suffered terrible wounds in Iraq."

But many hawks across the political spectrum are having public second thoughts. The National Review has dismissed the Wilsonian ideal of implanting democracy in Iraq, and has recommended settling for an orderly society with a non-dictatorial government. David Brooks, a New York Times columnist, wrote that America entered Iraq with a "childish fantasy" and is now "a shellshocked hegemon." Journalists like Robert Novak, Max Boot and Thomas Friedman have encouraged Mr. Rumsfeld to resign.

Robert Kagan and William Kristol, two influential hawks at the neoconservative Weekly Standard, warned in last week's issue of the widespread bipartisan view that the war "is already lost or on the verge of being lost." They called for moving up the election in Iraq to Sept. 30 to hasten the transition and distract attention from American mistakes.

"There's a fair amount of conservative despair, which I respect," Mr. Kristol, the magazine's editor, said in an interview. "My sentiments are closer to anger than to angst. My anger is at the administration for having made many more mistakes than it needed to have made. But we still have to win and we still can win."

Andrew Sullivan, the conservative blogger, has questioned whether it was foolish to trust the Bush administration to wage the war competently. After the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, Mr. Sullivan posted such pained thoughts questioning the moral justification for the war that he was inundated with e-mail messages telling him to buck up.

Oh, please. Kagan and Kristol panic every time there's a slow patch; Novak's never met an Arab tyrant he didn't support; Friedman's a liberal; and Andrew Sullivan opposes everything George Bush does now, including breathing, in a fit of pique over the President not endorsing gay marriage.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:21 PM


Poland's unruly politics: When populism trumps socialism: Over the next year, Poland's political climate could turn unsettled (The Economist, May 6th 2004)

GEORGE BUSH should go on trial for invading Iraq. Poland should set about leaving the European Union unless it can rewrite its terms of entry to get a better deal. Half the Polish National Bank's reserves should be used to subsidise cheap loans for farmers and homebuyers. And if that causes the zloty to slump, no tragedy: the currency is overvalued as it is.

A far-fetched manifesto? Maybe not. As many as 20-30% of Polish voters support the author of these ideas, Andrzej Lepper, a former boxer who still keeps a punch-bag in his office. That clout puts his left-wing populist party, Samoobrona (or Selfdefence), first or second in most opinion polls. Its main rival is a right-wing party called Civic Platform, which leans to liberalism on economic issues and conservatism on social ones. [...]

Selfdefence and Civic Platform both accept the principle of EU membership, but they dispute fiercely some aspects of it. Mr Lepper wants the EU to increase Poland's quotas for milk and steel production, and has said that he will “begin the process of secession” if these and other concessions are not granted. Civic Platform's parliamentary leader, Jan Rokita, coined the catchphrase “Nice or death” to denounce a planned reduction in the voting weights promised to Poland four years ago in the Nice treaty. The change from Nice forms a central plank of the EU's proposed constitutional treaty, making it essential to find a face-saving way for Poland to climb down if the constitution is to be saved.

The combative approach of Messrs Rokita and Lepper has helped to feed public doubts in Poland about the benefits of EU membership—as did disagreements over policy towards Iraq last year, which left Poland and other new countries feeling patronised or snubbed by France and Germany. Of all the EU's new members, Poland seems the likeliest to reject the draft constitution if it holds a referendum, which domestic political pressure is making increasingly likely. [...]

Mr impatient for government. And the next election may get him there, if he can knit together a coalition in which Civic Platform is backed by Law and Justice, a smaller conservative party, and perhaps also by the new social democrats. This could be a promising combination, but it would have to work quickly—getting spending cuts out of the way early, avoiding any hint of sleaze or scandal, and aiming to preside over a steady inflow of EU funds, falling unemployment and high growth by the time it went to the country again four years later. Only that outcome could force Selfdefence and its like into retreat. A failure by Civic Platform, on the other hand, could leave Poland to purge its populism by the only means left: put the populists in power and let them make a mess of it—but also make a mess of the country.

Better to avoid the New Deal/Great Society experiment if you can.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:13 PM


Moore Is Less (Michelle Cottle, 05.07.04, New Republic)

[Michael] Moore, a darling of the left, does not deny that Fahrenheit 911 slams the president. Disney, in turn, does not deny that it objects to the political nature of the documentary. But that is pretty much where agreement ends. Citing a chat he had last spring with Disney chief Michael Eisner, Moore's agent claims that Disney fears the film would irritate presidential brother and Florida Governor Jeb Bush, prompting the younger Bush to reassess the sweet tax deal currently enjoyed by the Orlando-based Disney World. Company execs reject this claim, instead citing concerns that Moore's overly partisan film would offend the millions of pro-Bush families who patronize their parks and movies.

Whatever the particulars of Disney's objection, Moore has gone nuclear in response. On his website, the filmmaker portrays himself as a courageous, long-suffering truth-teller, lamenting the "profound censorship obstacles" he often encounters and characterizing this latest "struggle" as part of a larger "lesson in just how difficult it is in the country to create a piece of art that might upset those in charge." Fortunately for the American people, the resolute Moore vows to keep fighting for our right to view his latest masterpiece--"because, after all, it's a free country."

Yes, it is a free country, but it is not a perfect one. Because in a perfect country, an irresponsible, intellectually dishonest windbag like Moore would not be a rich, successful, Oscar-winning documentarian. He would instead be just another anonymous nutter, mumbling about fluoride in the water and penning anti-establishment tracts by candlelight in some backwoods Appalachian shack. And he would never, ever find another funder for his "art."

Gotta figure a Michael Moore helps the President more than he hurts.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:08 PM


Dig More Coal, The Hybrids Are Coming: The all-electric car doesn't have much of a range. Hybrids don't save much gas. But just plug in the hybrid, and you have a winner. (Peter Huber and Mark P. Mills, 05.24.04, Forbes)

Coming this Fall: a backup generator from General Motors that you can also use as a pickup truck. The technology under the hood could have quite an impact. Indeed, it could allow the U.S. to displace 200 million barrels of foreign oil per year with 40 million tons of U.S. coal.

A coal-powered car? Absurd though that may sound, that's exactly what a hybrid becomes if configured to allow its battery to be recharged from an electrical outlet when the car is parked. Chevy's new Silverado hybrid isn't--it sends electric power the other way, through a 2.4-kilowatt AC power outlet that can run your kitchen appliances out in the middle of nowhere. In your own garage, however, it would make more sense to treat the truck as the appliance and recharge its batteries by plugging it into the wall.

A plug-in hybrid would save most drivers a lot on fuel, because big power plants generate electricity a lot more cheaply than little ones. Running on $2-a-gallon gasoline, the Silverado delivers electric power at a marginal cost of 60 cents per kilowatt-hour. Compare that with electric power from the grid. The average residential price is 8.5 cents per kwh. Off-peak prices, at utilities that offer them, are far lower. You could charge your truck at night. Opportunistic recharging would play a role. Once the plug-in hybrid catches on, recharging terminals will proliferate, acting and even looking a whole lot like parking meters. Mall owners will validate your recharge card when you shop in their stores.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:56 PM

ALLOW, BUT LABEL (via Tom Morin):

EU Capitulates on Biotech Corn (Associated Press, May 14, 2004)

The European Union's head office said Friday it would approve a type of genetically modified corn for human consumption, ending a six-year biotech moratorium that the United States has challenged at the World Trade Organization.

European farmers will still be prohibited from growing the Bt11 insect-resistant corn, however. And companies trying to import such foods face an uphill battle in convincing European shoppers that the products are safe.

Under new EU rules that took effect last month, "any import of canned vegetables will have to show clearly on the label in the list of ingredients that the corn has been harvested from a genetically modified plant," European Commission spokesman Reijo Kemppinen said.

That would likely be the kiss of death for any company that tried to sell it in Europe, where genetically modified foods are widely mistrusted and avoided.

Superstition and hysteria are legitimate market forces, even if refutations of homo economicus.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:41 PM


Baseball Notes (Gordon Edes, May 16, 2004, Boston Globe)

Legend holds that Hall of Fame shortstop Luke Appling, known as Old Aches and Pains, once fouled off 17 consecutive pitches before lining a triple. Already the stuff of legends is the at-bat Alex Cora of the Dodgers had last Wednesday night in Los Angeles. Facing Matt Clement of the Cubs, Cora fouled off 14 straight pitches with a 2-and-2 count, then launched a home run, the Dodger bench exploding in celebration. Dodgers manager Jim Tracy called it the greatest at-bat he'd ever seen in the major leagues. Cora's brother, Joey, is the third base coach for the White Sox, and when his game was rained out, he said he turned on the Dodger game. "That was awesome," Joey Cora said. "I was so proud of him I almost cried. I was with [manager] Ozzie [Guillen], and we had a beer on the first pitch and by the end of the at-bat we were so drunk that we had to call a cab to take us home." Just a slight exaggeration there. And for aches and pains, Alex Cora didn't escape unscathed. The next day, Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano plunked him in the elbow. Apparently, the Cubs weren't impressed by the way Cora flipped his bat after taking Clement deep . . .

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:26 PM


The State of Iraq: an Update (ADRIANA LINS de ALBUQUERQUE, MICHAEL O’HANLON and AMY UNIKEWICZ, May 16, 2004, NY Times)

While the overall situation is disconcerting, there is still hope — especially if the standard for success is defined realistically as an absence of civil war, a gradually improving economy, and slowly declining rates of political and criminal violence. The scheduled transfer of sovereignty to an Iraqi caretaker government on June 30 may at least begin to defuse the growing anti-American anger that is helping fuel the insurgency. And most American assistance, tied up in bureaucratic red tape until now, should begin to jump-start Iraq's economy in the coming months, with a likely beneficial effect on security as well.

Which is why the media will pretty much stop reporting and John Kerry stop mentioning the story after June.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:39 AM


Evening Grosbeak (Coccothraustes vespertinus) (Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:08 AM


Warily, a Religious Leader Lifts His Voice in Politics (DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK, 5/13/04, NY Times)

James C. Dobson, the child psychologist who is widely regarded as one of the nation's most influential evangelical leaders, has always sought to keep his public persona at a safe distance from the battlefield of partisan politics.

But this year, amid the debate over same-sex marriage and the presidential election, he is throwing himself into the fray, creating a political organization, stumping for candidates, drawing a crowd of 20,000 to a rally against same-sex marriage and backing a drive to register conservative Christian voters.

Because of Dr. Dobson's wide following among conservative Christians, his new activism promises to help social conservative candidates and causes. It could be a particular boon for President Bush, whose chief political adviser, Karl Rove, has made getting sympathetic churchgoers to the polls one of the Bush campaign's priorities.

But motivating evangelical Christians to go the polls is a delicate and risky endeavor, political scientists and strategists say, because many are suspicious of the worldly pursuit of political power.

Dr. Dobson, founder of the nonprofit organization Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, owes his following mainly to his trademark mixture of psychological and biblical expertise, and his millions of admirers know him primarily as a source of folksy advice about children and families who insists he has no love for politics. Getting too close to partisan politics risks undercutting Dr. Dobson's spiritual and psychological authority, just as evangelical conservative leaders like the Rev. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson have lost some of their influence, political scientists and other influential Christian conservatives say.

"When Pat Robertson started running for president, his ministry took a big hit, because a lot of people tuned in to 'The 700 Club' for spiritual reasons, not political reasons," said John Green, a political scientist at the University of Akron who studies religion and politics.

A friend of Dr. Dobson, Charles W. Colson, the Watergate figure who founded Prison Fellowship Ministries, also questioned the wisdom of endorsements, saying: "I think anybody who is a Christian leader or a pastor has to be very careful not to divide his flock. I think you can be a good Christian and not necessarily agree with me politically."

In an interview in early May, Dr. Dobson acknowledged the risks, but said he felt compelled to act.

"There are dangers, and that is why I have never done it before," he said, speaking on the phone from Washington, where he was lobbying for an amendment banning same-sex marriage. "But the attack and assault on marriage is so distressing that I just feel like I can't remain silent."

Caesar & Conscience (Patrick Henry Reardon, May 2004, Touchstone)
The Christian submits to civil authority, St. Paul says, not only because civil authority has the power to exact that submission, but also “for the sake of conscience” (Romans 13:5). In view of Paul’s high respect for conscience, his assertion that submission to civil authority is a conscientious concern is truly remarkable.

Conscience (syneidesis), a word that Paul uses seventeen times in his epistles, refers to man’s inner light, the faculty by which he discerns moral differences and directs his ethical decisions. Paul’s use of this word contains, in addition, the sense of “consciousness” and pertains to the reflecting self-possession of the moral person (Romans 2:15; 2 Corinthians 1:12). It designates the critical moral discourse that man conducts within his mind (synoida). It refers to his human intentionality, his transcendent capacity as a conscious moral agent.

The Christian’s conscience, therefore, is the necessary and inseparable companion of his faith. It is to man’s conscience, his reflective faculty of cognitive intention, that the gospel itself is addressed (2 Corinthians 4:4; 5:11), and it is conscience that receives the witness of the Holy Spirit (Romans 9:1).

When Paul appeals, therefore, to the conscience with regard to civil authority, he exalts political responsibility to a very high order, recognizing that the Christian stands within a social context of grave and radical obligations. For the Christian, that is to say, political responsibility, including civil obedience, is not optional. He can flee from the responsibilities of the political order no more than he can abandon his own humanity, for the first are necessary components of the second.

For this reason also, man’s relationship to civil authority has to do with his relationship to God. It pertains to those essential matters about which every conscience is finally answerable to the Judge of history. Although the things of Caesar are not to be confused with the things of God, God himself requires that to Caesar be rendered his due, and that conscientiously.

Consequently, disobedience to civil authority is no light thing and never warranted except for the sake of conscience itself. What is commonly called “civil disobedience,” therefore, must not degenerate into a form of political fun and games. It is a very serious undertaking, and in order to be morally legitimate, such disobedience must express a stern dictate of conscience and never be employed simply as a mechanism of political influence. [...]

Another important inference is to be drawn from these considerations about conscience and the civil order, and St. Paul does, in fact, draw that inference. If civil government truly acts as “God’s servant,” then the political order can hardly be amoral, or morally neutral. On the contrary, the Apostle regards civil authority not only as subject to the restraints of the moral law, but also as charged with a special oversight of the moral foundation of human life. He describes this oversight in both negative and positive terms.

First, in a negative way, civil government serves the moral order by discouraging evil, and specifically by punishing people who do evil things. In doing so, it is not inspired solely by political or economic purposes. It functions, rather, as the proper political agent of sanctions supportive of the moral law. For example, the government throws bank robbers in jail, not because bank robbing is harmful to the economy, but because the bank robber violates the moral law in a very serious manner. The government punishes murderers, not because murder adversely affects the census report, but because the murderer violates the moral law in a very grave way. It is precisely to vindicate moral principle that the civil authority possesses the jus gladii, and “it does not bear the sword in vain” (Romans 13:4). This truth seems obvious enough to everybody but anarchists.

Our assertion here does not mean, obviously, that the sanctions of civil law should cover every conceivable moral situation, and certainly there is no proper execution of civil justice apart from political prudence, even wisdom. We do mean, however, that the sanctions of civil government are not arbitrary; they are, and in principle must be, buttressed by the moral law and presuppose a moral foundation. That is to say, it is certainly a function of government to “legislate morality,” not in the sense of establishing the moral law by its legislation (for that would put Caesar in the place of God), but by consulting moral principles in the crafting of that legislation.

Second, in a positive way, civil government serves the moral order by encouraging the good. “Do what is good and you will have praise from the same,” wrote St. Paul, thereby affirming the pedagogical value of civil law. Government does not exist solely for the restraint of evil, but also for the advancement of the good, appreciating and fostering such things as tend to improve the moral existence of men. Good government, in short, will not only respect conscience; it will endeavor to inspire and to inform conscience.

Those who wish to separate religion from politics are asking for unilateral disarmament.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:07 AM


'Smarty' plants a pasting on Preakness pretenders (JIM O'DONNELL, May 16, 2004, Chicago Sun-Times)

Only two questions lingered after the 129th running of the Preakness Stakes on Saturday:

No. 1, why did they wait until after the race to paint the championship colors of Smarty Jones on the Old Clubhouse cupola near the infield of Pimlico Race Course?

No. 2, what will Ol' Smarty's margin of victory be in the Belmont?

The apparently invincible 3-year-old answered all other questions and once again took the breath of the racing nation away, moving closer to the first Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978 with a historic 11-1/2-length romp in the 1-3/16-mile Maryland classic.

The margin of victory was a Preakness record, shattering the 131-year-old standard set by Survivor, who won the inaugural in 1873 by 10 lengths. Funny Cide came close last year, winning by 91/2 lengths.

The roll on the Old Hilltop delighted a record on-site crowd of 112,668 and kept Smarty Jones ($3.40) a perfect 8-for-8 in his career. He is expected to attempt to become the first unbeaten Triple Crown winner since Seattle Slew (1977) in the $1 million Belmont on June 5.

''If he tells us he wants to go, we go to the Belmont,'' trainer John Servis said. ''This is one sensational race horse.''

The sensational race horse more than lived up to his hype, awakening the echoes of Secretariat's 31-length victory in the 1973 Belmont as he laid waste to nine foes. His closing kick -- just as in recent victories in the Kentucky and Arkansas Derbies -- seemed positively celestial.

The kick he put on yesterday was breathtaking. He put up that margin with plenty left in his tank. The amazing thing about Secretariat though is that even with that 31-length victory, and obviously no pressure from anybody, he still set the track record that day. In fact, not just the track record but the world record for the distance. It's as if he was racing history that day, and whupped it good.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:47 AM


Saddam said to fear torture by new Iraq leadership (PHILIP SHERWELL, May 16, 2004, Chicago Sun-Times)

They are also trying to exploit a newfound obsession of the former dictator with hygiene and careful food preparation to persuade him to begin giving information after five frustrating months of questioning.

Lengthy daily interrogation sessions have been structured around an apparent attempt to prepare Saddam to be handed over to the interim government that takes power after June 30. The 67-year-old, who admitted that he feared torture soon after he was arrested last December, has been told that his transfer will be delayed if he begins to cooperate.

Saddam is due to face trial at a new war crimes tribunal in Baghdad after the transfer of sovereignty.

The White House wants to hold on to Saddam for as long as possible in the run-up to November's presidential election, in the hope that he may yet reveal the existence of an illicit program to build weapons of mass destruction.

Saddam has good reason to fear that his Iraqi opponents might seek revenge for his brutal 24-year reign. Many survivors of his prisons, and relatives of those who were killed by his regime, now hold positions in the interim governing council.

Saddam has remained defiantly reticent under questioning but is said to be depressed and prone to angry outbursts when he insists he is still the Iraqi president.

He is also showing increasing signs of medical anxiety and tension, fueled by phobias he has developed over cleanliness, physical contact and food preparation.

So we get to keep our skirts clean, but have him tortured anyway, as we do when we hand folks to the Syrians, Jordanians & Egyptians.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:48 AM


The Fed: lessons of 1972 (Alan Reynolds, May 13, 2004, Townhall)

On the question of inflation, Arthur Burns was only one of many high-profile economists (Ken Galbraith was another) who actively promoted an "incomes policy" in 1971 to stop what they called "a wage-price spiral." That is why I submitted "The Case Against Wage and Price Controls" to National Review weeks before President Nixon announced the wage-price freeze on Aug. 15, 1971. I regard the advocacy of price controls as definitive evidence of incompetence.

Nixon's New Economic Policy emerged after a meeting at Camp David attended by men whose names still remain in the public spotlight, such as Peter G. Peterson and Paul Volcker. Treasury Secretary John Connally was an enthusiastic advocate of controls, as were Nixon's infamous assistants H.R. Halderman and John Ehrlichman. Budget Director George Schultz was skeptical. Only Nixon's honorable Council of Economic Advisors chairman, Paul McCracken, resigned in protest.

That fateful Camp David meeting was documented in Joanne Gowa's 1983 book, Closing the Gold Window. Gowa noted that "tensions had emerged during the previous six months between Burns and the administration, due in part to Burns's public advocacy of wage and price controls. The Nixon administration ... objected to the Federal Reserve chairman's outspoken campaign. ... Connally and Burns had been pressing the president to implement an income policy."

I met Burns years later, introduced to him by Friedrich Hayek at a Washington, D.C., event. Even in 1971, however, Burns' advocacy of both easy money and wage-price controls was no surprise to me. In his 1958 book, "Prosperity Without Inflation," Burns was skeptical about using monetary policy to restrain inflation, arguing that printing money was equivalent to printing jobs.

"Many of those who today are worried about the cost of living," he wrote, "will be worried still more about their jobs if unemployment spreads." He thought, "A credit policy that is sufficiently restrictive to bring down the price level ... would in all likelihood bring down also the volume of employment." Therefore, said Burns, "it would be unwise to depend on the Federal Reserve System as our sole or principal guardian of the stability of the dollar." But who else should be held responsible for preserving the value of Federal Reserve notes?

Burns advised running a "sizable" budget surplus -- as though selling fewer Treasury bills would make it safe for the Fed to buy more Treasury bills (printing money to pay for them). That loony idea -- that a budget surplus could substitute for cautious Fed policy -- led to the 10 percent surtax in 1968. The policy mix of high taxes and easy money doubled the inflation rate and collapsed the real economy by the end of 1969.

When his fiscal nostrum failed to fix a monetary meltdown, Burns imagined that inflation could be kept down by economic dictatorship -- the government dictating to businessmen what they could charge for their products, and to workers what their time was worth. With government thus declaring inflation illegal, what harm could there be from an easy money policy? So, the Fed minutes promised to "foster financial conditions consistent with the aims of the new government program."

By March 1, 1972, the Fed had pushed the funds rate down from 5.6 to 3.2 percent. The funds rate rose only slightly to 5 percent by the time of the election, but it was doubled to 10.4 percent nine months later. A severe 16-month inflationary recession began one year after the election. By the end of 1974, inflation was 12.3 percent -- only slightly below the peak fed funds rate of 13.6 percent in July 1974.

I am not sure Burns was primarily motivated by politics when he promoted and pursued terrible policies. He was clearly motivated by terrible economic theories, which were ubiquitous at the time.

Don Rumsfeld had a great bit about this disastrous era in a speech honoring Milton Friedman:
[G]eorge Shultz came to me and asked me if I would run the wage price controls for the United States of America. (laughter) It was the country's first peacetime experiment. As I recall, it was not Milton Friedman, but H. L. Mencken who once said, "For every human problem there is a solution that is simple, neat and wrong." Richard Nixon found it.

(laughter and applause)

Early on, I figured out that the key to success was not to even try to manage wages and prices. Senator Proxmire's law, I think written on the back of an envelope, was only a paragraph or two, and it embarrassed the President because inflation was coming along and the President wasn't stopping it. So he passed a law saying that the president shall have the right to control wages and prices. I put the law on the floor in my office, next to my desk. And then every time The Wage Board, or The Price Commission, or The Health Services Board, or The Rent Board, or The Construction Stabilization Industries Board, any one of those alphabet boards that were spawned by this Economic Stabilization Act — every time they issued a regulation, we stuck on top. Before too long it started working its way up to the ceiling. As a reminder for everybody for the potential damage we were doing.

He's not here and I hate to talk behind people's back, but I think the record should show that Vice President (Richard) Cheney, of course, was part of that operation, (laughter) and I have never once seen it on his resume. (laughter) But he was there.

There was one other thing we did early on was to get agreement that any employee of the wage price controls could be fired within 30 days. The goal was to not allow a permanent bureaucracy to self-perpetuate, and it worked. So we worked and we worked we kept letting out everybody, we kept freeing up all of these categories. We had tiers and we would let this group free at wages and controls, and this group free at price controls, because it was an option or because of something else, or because it was food and the answer to (inaudible) prices is high prices.

And after a while, Milton Friedman called me up and he said, "You have got to stop doing what you are doing." And I said, "Why? Inflation used to be up at around 6 or 7, it's now down to about 4 or 5. We're freeing up all kinds of activities. We're not doing much damage the economy." He said, "I know, I know that. But you're not the reason inflation is coming down, and YOU know that! (laughter) I said "That's true." And he said the problem is that people are going to think that you're doing it, and you're not — you're letting everybody out and Inflation's coming down and they're going to learn the going to learn the wrong lesson. And it's important he did not quite go as far as to say that I should start damaging the economy, but that was right underneath what he was telling me. (laughter) And of course he was correct.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:37 AM


Iran’s own Father Ted angers clerics but draws in cinemagoers (Dan De Luce, 16 May 2004, Sunday Herald)

Flirting with young women and breaking into houses, Reza is not the sort of figure Iran’s clerical regime would like to celebrate. But he’s rapidly turning into a folk hero.

The Lizard is a comic film that tells the story of Reza, a thief who escapes prison by posing as a cleric. Well on the way to becoming the most popular movie in Iranian history, The Lizard is shown at 2am to meet demand, and cinemas are still having to turn away customers.

To an outsider the film seems tame and hardly an attack on the country’s powerful clergy, but for Iran’s theocratic regime, the film is akin to producing Father Ted in the Middle Ages. Satire of the clerical establishment is the ultimate taboo in a country that grants clergy near-absolute power. They decide what clothes women can wear, what programmes television can broadcast and what books Iranians can buy. [...]

President Mohammad Khatami’s reformist government may have approved the film for screening, but hardliners in and outside the clergy are outraged that such satire has received legal sanction.

“The movie is part of a series of efforts to weaken the Islamic system and the clerical establishment, and the judiciary must confront such measures,” wrote the daily Jomhuri Islami, an ultra-conservative newspaper.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 AM


Brown and Prescott agreed Blair succession at Loch Fyne (James Cusick, 16 May 2004, Sunday Herald)

John Prescott and Gordon Brown had a lengthy private discussion at the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar last Sunday to discuss the Labour party succession and how to minimise a damaging leadership contest when Tony Blair leaves Downing Street.

The deputy Prime Minister and the Chancellor met in private for an hour and half last Sunday at around 5pm in the back of a “ministerial” black Jaguar in the parking area of the restaurant in Argyll. Bodyguards were in evidence round the car park.

The discussion was broken only once when Brown got out of the car to make a call on his mobile phone.

According to sources close to Prescott, the two men discussed the potential of a “peaceful succession” and how Prescott could use his influence to help organise a leadership contest that would unite and not divide the Labour Party.

Both men were in Scotland for a special memorial service on Iona marking 10 years since the death of the former Labour leader John Smith.

The meeting is said to have been pre-arranged in London amid growing concern inside the Cabinet that Tony Blair was losing control of the government over Iraq and that senior ministers were beginning to manoeuvre themselves for a possible leadership contest before the next general election.

The Conservatives have never recovered from dumping Margaret Thatcher for being anti-Europe. Labour isn't likely to do themselves any favors dumping Blair for being too pro-American.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:12 AM


Toronto Star Editor Should Resign Now (Nicholas Stix, May 15, 2004, Mens News Daily)

On May 9, the Toronto Star newspaper published an editorial entitled, “Donald Rumsfeld should resign now.” The demand was of course based on the media-manufactured “atrocities” of Abu Ghraib.

That’s odd, I thought. I couldn’t recall ever seeing an American newspaper demand that an official of a foreign country resign. [...]

[I] sent the following letter to the Star...

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:07 AM


Ban genetic bias, says Nobel scientist (Ian Sample, The Guardian, May 15, 2004)

The government's genetics advisers, the Human Genetics Commission, is considering proposals for a law to prevent people being discriminated against on the basis of their genetic make-up.

The proposed legislation is designed to prevent the emergence of a genetic underclass, where people find themselves rejected by employers and unable to get life insurance, as a result of having genetic tests for medical conditions.

The proposal comes from Sir John Sulston, the Nobel prize-winning scientist who led Britain's effort to unravel the 3bn letter sequence of the human genetic code at the Sanger Institute in Cambridge. Professor Sulston, who sits on the Human Genetics Commission, has asked the committee to back his call for a tough mandate on genetic equity to prevent medical data from tests being misused by companies.

The proposal appears in a consultation document passed to members of the commission this week. In an interview with the Guardian, Prof Sulston said: "What we have to establish, right across the board, is the right for people to be treated equally, regardless of their genetic make-up. We can't just keep on fudging the issue."

The proposal was submitted with the backing of John Harris, a Manchester Law School professor and adviser to the British Medical Association, and Simona Giordano, a bioethicist at Manchester, both of whom sit on the commission.

The proposal states: "We affirm that humans are born equal, that they are entitled to equality of opportunity, and that neither genetic constitution nor genetic knowledge should be used to limit that equality ... this principle should be incorporated into UK legislation and practice."

Here is a good illustration of the conceit and moral cowardice of so many scientists. Dr Sulston and his colleagues unraveled the genetic code while promising us no end of wondrous benefits, primarily medical. Having won glory and honour by preying unabashedly on the hopes of the afflicted and their families, they now recoil in horror from the chilling implications and throw the whole mess onto the rest of us to clean up through laws and regulations. Far from expressing any misgivings at what they have wrought, or offering any moral reflections, they confuse themselves with Divine Providence and, from their privileged Olympian heights, thunder certainties about the eternal nature of man (did they pick those up in their arts electives?) and strident commands as to how the rest of us can and cannot use their labours.

It will not be clear to all why “companies” (the fount of evil and greed) should be denied information that scientists and doctors (the source of all beneficence) should have, but even if one admits some kind of regulation is needed, it is folly to imagine such simplistic solutions will last long. There will be too many necessary exceptions. For example, once the genetic code is claimed to reveal psychological predispositions, as it surely will, we will perceive a compelling public interest in knowing all we can about those in high risk professions, law enforcement and childcare. What aspiring politician will dare decline to make his genetic blueprint public after the first one does? Will lovers exchange full genetic reports before agreeing to marry? Inevitably this information will become as mundane as the results of an annual check-up.

The question of how to control the terrible beauties of modern science is not new, but what is new here is that, after all is said and done, we are talking about scientific claims to see the future. It appears we may be heading towards a society where all are marked at birth with putative foreknowledge of their health and character. They will be condemned to struggle against the terrifying legal, emotional and spiritual implications of that til the end of their days.

May 15, 2004

Posted by David Cohen at 10:14 PM


Cop who spanked boy gets punished himself (Michael Ko, Seattle Times, 5/3/04)

By the time Seattle police officer Richard Roberson met him, the 8-year-old boy was known around West Seattle as a real troublemaker. He ran away from home so often his mother sometimes had to handcuff her wrist to his.

The boy would hop on Metro buses without paying and take off to places such as Enumclaw, Everett, Issaquah and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. One time, he tried to get to Mount Rainier. Another time, after his mother hid his shoes, he was found wandering downtown Seattle — in roller skates.

"For some reason," Roberson would say later, "I felt after seeing this child, I felt there was some reason I needed to step in." So the officer became a father figure, helping the boy with homework, taking him to movies and even giving him his work cellphone number.

And when the boy kept running, Roberson did one more thing.

He spanked him.

Roberson's actions raise a question that isn't easily answered: How far can an officer go in doing his or her job?

Roberson is appealing a recent five-day suspension without pay for spanking the boy on at least five occasions, arguing that he was trying to solve a long-term community problem with good, independent police work.

The boy's mother said she gave Roberson permission each time to spank her child. To protect the boy's identity, neither the boy nor his mother is being named. . . .

"Both prior to and after (each spanking), he explained to my son what was going on, what he was doing wrong, like any parent would," the mother said last month.

"Yes, I thought it was having a positive effect on my child because there was a male figure monitoring him. He was trying to shape up; he had somebody interested in him."

Roberson, 50, is a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Army who is married, has three grown children and helped run a day-care center with his wife. He said he chose police work as a second career because he thought he could "make a difference." . . .

Specifically, state law says: "Physical discipline of a child is not unlawful when it is reasonable and moderate and is inflicted by a parent, teacher or guardian for purposes of restraining or correcting the child. Any use of force on a child by any other person is unlawful unless it is reasonable and moderate and is authorized in advance by the child's parent or guardian for purpose of restraining or correcting the child." . . .

According to his mother, the boy has emotional and mental problems, including extreme defiance to authority and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which have required counseling or medication since he was 3 years old.

She said she suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, which makes it difficult to run after her son. In addition to the plastic handcuffs — she received permission from state social workers to use them — she contemplated buying a harness. . . .

Cheryl Brush, a Seattle police community-service officer . . . , suggested "wraparound services," in which the state pays for a full-time, around-the-clock aide for kids characterized as society's least-manageable. . . .

Roberson said he conferred with his wife, his sergeant and finally the mother and decided to take the child under his wing.

"I really admire the man (Roberson), because he came forward when no one else would," the mother said last week. . . .

"Every day, someone says to you, 'Go out there and make a difference. Go out there and do this for the kids,' " Roberson testified. "I'm not a rogue officer. This is an officer who cares. If I'm going to get slapped down for caring, what's the use? That's the way I'm starting to feel about this whole thing."

Anyone who thinks that Officer Roberson did anything wrong is an imbecile. (Yes, Paul Moore, I mean you.)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 PM


Back to The Source: a review of Russell Kirk and the Age of Ideology by W. Wesley McDonald (KEVIN HOLTSBERRY, National Review)

W. Wesley McDonald, a professor of political science at Elizabethtown College, has moved to fill this void by offering a stimulating intellectual biography of his mentor and friend. Russell Kirk and the Age of Ideology avoids hagiography, and provides a serious and thought-provoking discussion of the philosophical underpinnings of Kirk's work. McDonald seeks to make Kirk's ideas understandable and accessible by examining them from the philosophical ground up; the result is a careful and engaging account of the battle of ideas at the heart not only of modern American conservatism but of Western political thought.

Central to Kirk's philosophy is the connection between order in the soul and order in the commonwealth. A society's politics reflects its culture, and hence its morality. Kirk sought — in McDonald's words — to "rediscover, articulate, and defend those enduring moral norms, now blurred in our consciousness, by which civilized peoples have governed their conduct." McDonald situates this effort within the concept of "ethical dualism," as fleshed out in the work of Irving Babbitt and Paul Elmer More. In this view, man is torn between two natures: his lower self, which focuses on selfish and momentary goals, and his higher self, which has the ability to envision something nobler. The moral man checks his lower self and seeks to strengthen his higher self.

Out of this inner tension comes an outer tension, one between order and freedom. For Kirk, true freedom is not the libertarian's total lack of external restraint but rather the opportunity to attain one's own natural potential, and to live in harmony with the moral order. "Liberty," writes McDonald, "can be found neither in individual self-gratification (as the utilitarian would hold) nor in flowing with one's spontaneous impulses (as the Rousseauists would affirm), but resides instead in [what Babbitt called] the individual's 'ethical self; and the ethical self is experienced not as expansive emotion, but as inner control.'"

Just as man must check his lower self, so must society restrain man's wilder impulses to build community. For Kirk, the goal of politics was the preservation of this genuine community. And in the same way man uses his moral imagination to envision something higher than his ego, society uses tradition, habit, ritual, and prescription to mold and protect community. McDonald sees this as central to an understanding of Kirk: "[Aristotle, Cicero, de Tocqueville, and Burke], among others, form within Western political thought an intellectual tradition in which community in its moral and social dimensions is valued as indispensable to civilized existence. The conservative thought of Kirk is, in fact, a summary and development of this tradition applied to the contemporary problem of community."

In his terrific little book, The American Cause, Kirk laid out his vision of the American civic religion as follows:
In essence, then, the Christian faith is this. God exists, a stern judge but a loving father to all mankind. Man has been made in God's own image; but man, an imperfect image of God, torments himself by his tendency to sin. The world is always a battleground between good and evil in human nature. All men are brothers in spirit, because they have a common spiritual father, God; and they are enjoined to treat one another as brothers. Because they are made in the image of God, and are brothers in Christ, they possess human dignity. From this human dignity comes rights peculiar to man which no one is morally free to violate. The revelations by God establish the way in which men are to live with one another. Justice and peace and charity all flow from God's commandments, given in a spirit of love. Christ will redeem from sin the man who accepts him as savior. The reward of loving obedience to God is eternal life, perfection beyond this world. The self-punishment of defiant sin is never to know God, and thus to lose immortality. Human nature and society never will become perfect in the course of history. Yet God's love rules the world; and happiness, if we are to find it at all in this life, comes from God's will. As the essence of man is more than merely mortal, so the destiny of man is more than merely human. The spirit will survive the flesh, and when the end of all earthly things arrives, those who love God shall find a peace that the mortal world never knows. Men who expect to create a heaven upon earth, in defiance of the laws of man's nature and the revelation of God, can create only hell upon earth.

Such is the Christian creed. Whether one subscribes to this religious faith or not, indisputably this is the religious framework upon which American society is built. Christian morality is the cement of American life; and Christian concepts of natural law, natural rights, and necessary limitations to human ambitions all govern our politics and even our economic system.

In an interesting way, this faith prevents Americans from deteriorating into what Eric Hoffer called True Believers. Kirk's American citizenry fits Hoffer's description of free men precisely:
Free men are aware of the imperfection inherent in human affairs, and they are willing to fight and die for that which is not perfect. They know that basic human problems can have no final solutions, that our freedom, justice, equality, etc. are far from absolute, and that the good life is compounded of half measures, compromises, lesser evils, and gropings toward the perfect.  The rejection of approximations and the insistence on absolutes are the manifestation of a nihilism that loathes freedom, tolerance, and equity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:47 PM


A Fascist Philosopher Helps Us Understand Contemporary Politics (ALAN WOLFE, April 2, 2004, Chronicle of Higher Education)

To understand what is distinctive about today's Republican Party, you first need to know about an obscure and very conservative German political philosopher. His name, however, is not Leo Strauss, who has been widely cited as the intellectual guru of the Bush administration. It belongs, instead, to a lesser known, but in many ways more important, thinker named Carl Schmitt.

Strauss and Schmitt were once close professionally; Schmitt supported Strauss's application for a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship to Paris in 1932, the same year in which Strauss published a review of Schmitt's most important book, The Concept of the Political. Their paths later diverged. Strauss, a Jew, left Germany for good and eventually settled in Chicago, where he inspired generations of students, one of whom, Allan Bloom, in turn inspired Saul Bellow's Ravelstein. Schmitt, a devout Catholic who had written a number of well-regarded books -- including Political Theology (1922), The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy (1923), and Political Romanticism (first printed in 1919) -- joined the Nazi Party in 1933, survived World War II with his reputation relatively unscathed, and witnessed a revival of interest in his work, from both the left and the right, before his death in 1985 at the age of 96. [...]

[T]he most important lesson Schmitt teaches is that the differences between liberals and conservatives are not just over the policies they advocate but also over the meaning of politics itself. Schmitt's German version of conservatism, which shared so much with Nazism, has no direct links with American thought. Yet residues of his ideas can nonetheless be detected in the ways in which conservatives today fight for their objectives.

Liberals think of politics as a means; conservatives as an end. Politics, for liberals, stops at the water's edge; for conservatives, politics never stops. Liberals think of conservatives as potential future allies; conservatives treat liberals as unworthy of recognition. Liberals believe that policies ought to be judged against an independent ideal such as human welfare or the greatest good for the greatest number; conservatives evaluate policies by whether they advance their conservative causes. Liberals instinctively want to dampen passions; conservatives are bent on inflaming them. Liberals think there is a third way between liberalism and conservatism; conservatives believe that anyone who is not a conservative is a liberal. Liberals want to put boundaries on the political by claiming that individuals have certain rights that no government can take away; conservatives argue that in cases of emergency -- conservatives always find cases of emergency -- the reach and capacity of the state cannot be challenged.

There are, of course, no party lines when it comes to conservatives and liberals in the United States. Many conservatives, especially those of a libertarian bent, are upset with President Bush's deficits and unenthusiastic about his call for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. And, on the other side of the fence, there are liberals and leftists who want to fight back against conservatives as ruthlessly as conservatives fight against them.

Still, if Schmitt is right, conservatives win nearly all of their political battles with liberals because they are the only force in America that is truly political. From the 2000 presidential election to Congressional redistricting in Texas to the methods used to pass Medicare reform, conservatives like Tom DeLay and Karl Rove have indeed triumphed because they have left the impression that nothing will stop them. Liberals cannot do that. There is, for liberals, always something as important, if not more important, than victory, whether it be procedural integrity, historical precedent, or consequences for future generations.

If all that sounds defeatist, at least for liberal causes, Schmitt, inadvertently, offered a reason for hope. Searching for examples of liberalism to dismiss, he happened upon Thomas Paine and the American founders. Here, in his view, were liberals typically afraid of power; indeed, he wrote with some astonishment, they naïvely tried to check and balance it through the separation of powers. In that, Schmitt was correct. John Locke, not Thomas Hobbes, was the reigning social-contract theorist of the American experience. Our tradition owes more to Montesquieu than to Machiavelli, and even when we relied on the latter, we were influenced more by his thoughts on the Florentine republic than by his apologia for The Prince. America, Schmitt seemed to be saying, is the quintessential liberal society, a point rendered with great gusto, long after Schmitt's Concept of the Political appeared, in Louis Hartz's The Liberal Tradition in America (1955). Liberal to its very core, the United States has never been as attracted to the realpolitik tradition in political thought as the Germans; in fact, our best thinkers in that tradition, Hans J. Morgenthau and Henry Kissinger, were immigrants from Germany. Because he showed so little appreciation for the American liberal tradition, Schmitt, supposedly a theorist of power, misunderstood the most powerful political system in the world.

To the degree that conservatives bring to this country something like Schmitt's friend-enemy distinction, they stand against not only liberals but America's historic liberal heritage.

Which prompted this excellent response, The Shadow of Fascist Philosophy on Today's Conservative Politics (Chronicle of Higher Education, May 14, 2004)

To the Editor:


Where to begin? First, there is Wolfe's gratuitous insinuation that Strauss somehow shared Schmitt's fascist politics. In fact, in 1932 Strauss wrote a still unsurpassed critique of Schmitt's The Concept of the Political, and Strauss devoted much of his career to fortifying the foundations of liberal democracy.

Second, Wolfe promulgates a basic misunderstanding of Schmitt. The distinction between friend and enemy does not apply to individuals, party politics, or domestic affairs. It pertains to peoples, or nations in relation to other nations, and it revolves around a threat to one's way of life. From Schmitt's point of view, Rush Limbaugh is as much a liberal individualist as Al Franken.

Third, Wolfe's choice of conservative standard-bearers is, to say the least, tendentious. What of public intellectuals such as Charles Krauthammer, George Will, and William Kristol, and of office holders such as Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice?

Fourth, Wolfe's contention that American liberals are characterized by moderation, compromise, and reason betrays an odd inattention to today's left, which prominently features Michael Moore, Howard Dean, and the embrace of Bush hatred. ...

Fifth, by suggesting that one party in America is in its essence un-American while the other embodies the true spirit of the nation, Wolfe encourages the deplorable tendency, of which he claims himself incapable and that he purports to oppose, to view tens of millions of his fellow citizens as the enemy.

Peter Berkowitz
Associate Professor of Law
George Mason University
Arlington, Va.
But perhaps the easiest way to destroy Mr. Wolfe's absurd claim of political virginity for the Left is to just cite the recent piece froim the Atlantic Monthly--hardly a conservative bastion--which wondered whether liberals would accept effective policies to deal with homelessness when they originate with conservatives.

In that regard it's worth recalling that not a single Clinton staffer resigned when it was revealed that he was a serial sex harasser, even a rapist, but several quit over his signing the GOP's welfare reform bill.

-Carl Schmitt (July 11 1888 - April 7 1985) (Science Daily)
A Forgotten Thinker On Nation-States vs. Empire (Paul Gottfried, V-Dare)

Schmitt is properly criticized for having joined the Nazi Party in May 1933. But he clearly did so for opportunistic reasons. Attempts to draw a straight line between his association with the Party and his writings of the twenties and early thirties, when he was closely associated with the Catholic Center Party, a predecessor of the Christian Democrats, ignore certain inconvenient facts. In 1931 and 1932, Schmitt urged Weimar president Paul von Hindenburg to suppress the Nazi Party and to jail its leaders. He sharply opposed those in the Center Party who thought the Nazis could be tamed if they were forced to form a coalition government. While an authoritarian of the Right, who later had kind words about the caretaker regime of Franco, he never quite made himself into a plausible Nazi. From 1935 on, the SS kept Schmitt under continuing surveillance.

There are two ideas raised in Schmitt's corpus that deserve attention in our elite-decreed multicultural society. In The Concept of the Political (a tract that first appeared in 1927 and was then published in English in 1976 by Rutgers University) Schmitt explains that the friend/enemy distinction is a necessary feature of all political communities. Indeed what defines the "political" as opposed to other human activities is the intensity of feeling toward friends and enemies, or toward one's own and those perceived as hostile outsiders.

This feeling does not cease to exist in the absence of nation-states. Schmitt argued that friend/enemy distinctions had characterized ancient communities and would likely persist in the more and more ideological environment in which nation-states had grown weaker. The European state system, beginning with the end of the Thirty Years War, had in fact provided the immense service of taming the "political."

The subsequent assaults on that system of nation-states, with their specific and limited geopolitical interests, made the Western world a more feverishly political one, a point that Schmitt develops in his postwar magnum opus Nomos der Erde (now being translated for Telos Press by Gary Ulmen). From the French Revolution on, wars were being increasingly fought over moral doctrines - most recently over claims to be representing "human rights." Such a tendency has replicated the mistakes of the Age of Religious Wars. It turned armed force from a means to achieve limited territorial goals, when diplomatic resources fail, to a crusade for universal goodness against a demonized enemy.

A related idea treated by Schmitt is the tendency toward a universal state (a "New World Order"?). Such a tendency seemed closely linked to Anglo-American hegemony, a theme that Schmitt took up in his commentaries during and after the Second World War.

German historians in the early twentieth century had typically drawn comparisons between, on the one side, Germany and Sparta and, on the other, England (and later the U.S.) and Athens - between what they saw as disciplined land powers and mercantile, expansive naval ones. The Anglo-American powers, which relied on naval might, had less of a sense of territorial limits than landed states. Sea-based powers had evolved into empires, from the Athenians onward.

But while Schmitt falls back, at least indirectly, on this already belabored comparison, he also brings up the more telling point: Americans aspire to a world state because they make universal claims for their way of life. They view "liberal democracy" as something they are morally bound to export. They are pushed by ideology, as well as by the nature of their power, toward a universal friend/enemy distinction.

The Sovereignty of the Political: Carl Schmitt and the Nemesis of Liberalism (S Parvez Manzoor)
Undoubtedly, the easiest access, and the best introduction, to Schmitt's radically original and disturbing vision of politics is afforded by his slim but immensely suggestive treatise, The Concept of the Political. Far more insinuative than what its modest title claims, the treatise forms, according to Leo Strauss, perhaps the most incisive and astute commentator of this infamous text, 'an inquiry into the "order of human things",... into the State.' Instead of offering an exhaustive and academic definition of the political, Schmitt conceptualizes it 'within the totality of human thought and action', in terms of the primordial and seminal antithesis between 'friend' and 'enemy': 'just as in the field of morals, the ultimate distinctions are good and evil, in esthetics, beautiful and ugly, in economics, profitable and unprofitable, so the significantly political distinction is between friend and foe.' For Schmitt, then, the political is primordial; it comes before the State and transcends its mundane and routine policies. It reveals itself, historically, at the foundational moment of the polity, and conceptually, in the unwritten metaphysics of the constitution. Indeed, the political in the specifically Schmittian sense incarnates existential totality and determines a choice between being and nothingness.

The totalizing thrust of Schmitt's argument is directed against liberalism, which by the postulation of a false universalism, according to him, obscures the existentially paramount nature of politics and replaces it with the struggle for purely formal notions of rights. Thus, Schmitt is at pains to underscore that, within the purview of his theory, friend and foe are not to be construed as metaphors or symbols, for they are 'neither normative not pure spiritual antitheses.' Elsewhere, he elaborates the same point in the following manner: 'The distinction of friend and enemy denotes the utmost degree of intensity of a union or separation, of an association or dissociation. It can exist, theoretically and practically, without having simultaneously to draw upon all those moral, aesthetic, economic, or other distinctions. The political enemy need not be morally evil or aesthetically ugly; he need not appear as an economic competitor, and it may even be advantageous to engage with him in business transaction. But he is, nevertheless, the other, the stranger; and it is sufficient for his nature that he is, in a specially intense way, existentially something different and alien, so that in the extreme case conflicts with him are always possible. These can neither be decided by a previously determined norm nor by the judgement of a disinterested and therefore neutral third party.' (26-7; emphasis has been added.)

The political enemy, furthermore, must not be confounded with the private adversary whom one hates. For 'an enemy exists only when, at least potentially, one fighting collectivity of people confronts a similar collectivity. The enemy is solely the public enemy, because everything that has a relationship to such a collectivity of men, particularly to a whole nation, becomes public by virtue of such a relationship.' (28; my emphasis.) Given Schmitt's quintessentially tribal and bellicose conception of politics, it is not surprising that he is not disturbed by the New Testament exhortation: 'Love your enemies' (Matt: 5:44; Luke: 6:27) for the Bible quotation, he claims, does not touch the political antithesis, and 'it certainly does not mean that one should love and support the enemies of one's own people.' Thus, loving one's (private) enemy and pursuing the politics of the Holy Crusade are accepted as two complementary religio-political activities. Carrying his argument about the legitimacy of the two-tier, public-private, morality further, Schmitt then appeals to the logic of history itself: 'Never in the thousand year struggle between Christians and Moslems did id occur to a Christian to surrender rather than defend Europe out of love toward the Saracens or Turks.' (29) Thus, defining one's enemy is for him the first step towards defining the innermost self: 'Tell me who your enemy is and I'll tell you who you are,' Schmitt has pronounced on more than one occasion. Little wonder that he claims that 'the political is the most intense and extreme antagonism.'!

Given the possibility of actual, physical killing in a friend-enemy encounter, the political cannot be made subordinate to any other set of values or institution, whether religious, moral, aesthetic or economic. The political transcends all norms and upholds the sovereignty of the existential over the theoretical. Thus, 'war, the readiness of combatants to die, the physical killing of human beings who belong on the side of the enemy - all this has no normative meaning, but an existential meaning only, particularly in a real combat situation with a real enemy. There exists no rational purpose, no norm no matter how true, no programme no matter how exemplary, no social ideal no matter how beautiful, no legitimacy or legality which could justify men in killing each other for this reason. If such physical destruction is not motivated by an existential threat to one's own way of life, then it cannot be justified. Just as little can war be justified by ethical and juristic norms. If there really are enemies in the existential sense as meant here, then it is justified, but only politically, to repel and fight them physically.' (48-9; my italics) The justification for war, then, does not reside in its being fought for ideals or justice, or economic prosperity, but in its being fought for preserving the very existence of the polity.

In the final analysis, the political, inasmuch as it is sovereign, cannot be evaluated and measured by norms that are external to it; nor can it be avoided. The political is the fundamental fact of existence, the basic characteristic of human life from which man cannot escape; or, expressed differently, man would cease to be man by ceasing to be political. From the inevitability of the political, it also follows that pacifism is a lost cause and conciliatory visions of a universal humanity are nothing but pious delusions: 'The political entity presupposes the real existence of an enemy and therefore coexistence with another political entity. As long as a state exists, there will always be in the world more than just one state. A world state that embraces the entire globe and all of humanity cannot exist. The political world is a pluriverse, not a universe.' (53). It is hardly surprising that Schmitt's concept of the political has been understood as a strongly polemical text that exposes the hypocrisy of liberal humanism. Liberalism, with its predilection for vacuous abstractions, its burdensome legal formalism, its vacillation between military pacifism and moral crusading, its sham universalism of rights and its real espousal of inequality, remains for him the ultimate enemy of the political man. As for liberalism's moral claim to universal humanism, Schmitt is mercilessly candid: 'The concept of humanity is an especially useful ideological instrument of imperial expansion, and in its ethical-humanitarian form it is a specific vehicle of economic imperialism.'

-Essay: Helmuth Plessner and Carl Schmitt: Closeness and Distance (Marek Cichocki, Centre for Political Thought)
In Schmitt's book on the concept of the political we find a key passage devoted to the problem of relation between anthropological assumptions and political theories. He argues there that all political and state theories can be classified and analysed in terms of their underlying assumptions on human nature. Some of these theories are based on the concept of human nature being intrinsically good, while others are founded on the assumption that human nature is irreversibly evil. Schmitt stresses that this fundamental anthropological difference should not be understood in any substantial moral or religious terms. It is only a regulative difference referring to the main question whether we have to do with a problematic or non-problematic concept of human being, and whether we can infinitely trust it, or maybe we should, rather, stand in awe of it as an unpredictable and in fact dangerous creature. Has the human being a definite and clear-cut character or not - this is for Schmitt the decisive question opening any political reflection. And in deliberating that question he makes a direct reference to Plessner's anthropological concept of the open character of the human being.

Plessner's concept of political anthropology is based on his philosophy of life and constantly acting man. According to that philosophy, acting man is like a king in the sense that he grows into what he is, he realizes all his potential possibilities and controls his destiny only thanks to his activity and creativity. It is not any aim but, rather, acting itself as a permanent process, that gives acting man sense and the ultimate justification. Only by acting, which is of course always an occasional, historical and temporal phenomenon, is the human being able to find access to its essence, greatness and its human nature. No physis exists in the sense of a universal pattern placed beyond the historical and temporal existence of human beings, which should be reflected or imitated in human life. The only unquestionable facts concerning human nature we can ascertain beyond doubt are its impenetrability and openness. An approximate insight into human nature is provided only through the countless human acts rooted in each historical situation. Our nature is impenetrable in terms of knowledge and science, but we receive an occasional and very narrow, mediated access to it through our acts. This point of view allows Plessner to give an anthropological definition of man as a subject responsible for his own world, a creative place from which all timeless systems and norms have come out, giving man a deeper sense and justifying his existence.

We can find a very similar argument in Schmitt's paper of 1929: Das Zeitalter der Neutralisierung und Entpolitisierung. Schmitt points out there that all ideas from the spiritual sphere are pluralistic and therefore understandable only through instances of their concrete political existence. Accordingly, each nation has its own idea of nation, and each period in culture has its own way of understanding the idea of culture. In conclusion, Schmitt argues that all the relevant ideas of the spiritual sphere have an existential, rather than normative, character.

That brings us to another important point shared by Plessner and Schmitt, to the problem of decision and its anthropological foundation. According to Plessner's political anthropology, the creativeness of the human being is probably not one of the most important but simply the only guarantee of the emergence, and preservation, of a single, subjective autonomy. Autonomy results from the power able to create it. This situation we all as human beings are confronted with is our destiny we can neither overcome nor repeal. This means that every limit and every horizon enabling one to perceive one's own subjectivity as autonomous, amicable, familiar and existentially different from others, aliens, has to be first generated and then preserved. From that point of view, every kind of identity and difference between human beings is always rooted in a decision and has, in that sense, a historical, changeable and impermanent character. For Plessner, these existential decisions have no links to any kind of physis in the ancient sense of the term, and they are each historical, unexpected and unaccountable. Creative power construed as the destiny of the human being faced with its historical condition is the only source of, and justification for, these decisions and their normative results. This means that every normative rule lasts and is obligatory to the extent defined by that power, which has to be always behind it. There is no normative rule and no normative obligation without a link to the personal, subjective power of creativeness.

For a very similar reason, Schmitt attacked the argument of legal positivism proposed in the theory of Hans Kelsen as an unjustified claim to objectivity and universality placed above and beyond any human historical condition. His concept of sovereignty is based on the same assumptions of the unaccountability of human decisions, which are always 'incurably' deeply rooted in the occasional historical context. Precisely for that reason, no-one can justify the legitimacy of any sovereign decision through reference to the logic of history, to the absolute necessity of the progressive process or to the rational nature of tradition. History and tradition as such have no autonomous meaning and, being ta ton anthropon pragmata and absolutely profane, cannot be treated as a universally binding foundation for the acting human being. Schmitt's definition of nomos, which we find in his Der Nomos der Erde, seems to be decisive for his understanding of normative power. Defining the Greek term nomos as the ruler or the sovereign, Nomos Basileus, Schmitt adduces the famous fragment from Pindar, quoted also by Herodotus and Plato in his Gorgias, where law was described as a ruler acting all-powerfully and vehemently. Keeping his distance from the sophist Callicles and interpreting his statement in Gorgias as agreement to the simple normative force of the existing facts (Die normative Kraft des Faktischen) and the arbitrary right of the stronger, Schmitt argues that the original sense of the Greek nomos is, rather, the absolute immediateness and directness of the power creating the legal order, a pure act of legitimacy. This kind of creation of normative lines and horizons could be compared with the situation when someone has put down the first line on an entirely blank sheet of paper, or with the first land measurements taken on a newly discovered continent.

To sum up the main assumptions underlying Schmitt's concept of the political and Plessner's political anthropology, the political as a historical phenomenon arises from the human condition that should be perceived and understood, in some sense, as a lack (according to Christian tradition) and as an immanent openness and impenetrability (in accordance with the philosophy of permanently acting man). From that point of view they both, Schmitt and Plessner, cannot approve of the old understanding of human nature in the sense of physis, as we find it in the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle. This rejection of that fundamental idea of ancient political philosophy seems to be a decisive common feature in their philosophical approach to the problem of the political in modern times. The question whether to reject or not to reject the Greek concept of nature need not be solved automatically by declaring oneself in favour of modernity. In any case, the rejection of the Greek physis in political philosophy is not self-evident in the context of modernity, as the case of Leo Strauss clearly shows. In particular, Strauss gives a very clear definition of political philosophy, and of philosophy in general, reconstructed on the basis of the ancient concept of the political. To him, philosophy simply means an attempt to replace the widespread opinions (doxa) on the notion of the whole with the authentic knowledge (episteme) of the whole. By no means does he reject history: on the contrary, he perceives it as the only possible and attainable way for modern man to learn and retrieve the ancient and lost meaning of human nature. In a letter of 1946 addressed to Karl Loewith he makes a very significant remark on Loewith's approach to philosophy, which applies to Plessner and Schmitt, too. Strauss raises objections to Loewith that, instead of understanding philosophy as replacing doxa with episteme, he prefers philosophy in the sense of a mere self-understanding and self-interpretation of man, which in that particular case means man evidently historically determined. Finally, this point of view on philosophy inevitably leads, so Strauss, to a split between history and nature, and results in a complete philosophical rejection of any strong approach to human nature. Against that kind of Strauss' argument, Plessner would probably assert that his approach to nature does not mean its total rejection in favour of history. It is just a frank assertion that the link between nature and historical man necessarily has a paradoxical shape. That is the only thing that can be established from the human standpoint. Historically determined doxas are the one and only way available to man to provide him with any approximate idea of what his ahistorical nature can be. That situation is in itself paradoxical. Schmitt agrees in point of fact with this paradoxical view of human nature as an impenetrable phenomenon, and in that sense he stands entirely by Plessner and Loewith in their controversy against Strauss and his view on political philosophy. One can argue that Plessner's and Schmitt's position aims to recover that sense of the political which was rejected in Plato's political philosophy, as ta ton anthropon pragmatta - a sphere of human activity and human business. To avoid completely reducing politics to the simple techne and identifying them with material, worldly needs, Plessner ennobles ta ton anthropon pragmatta with the concept of the creative nature of human activity, and Schmitt with his concept of sovereignty. The political is thereby closed within the limits of the human, historical world, and any further deliberations on its metaphysical, rational or religious contexts are cut short.

-Carl Schmitt (1888-1985) (
-LECTURE: Carl Schmitt and Thomas Hobbes on violence and identity (Gabriella Slomp)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:25 PM


Execution of Mexican Is Halted (ADAM LIPTAK, 5/14/04)

In the first case to put in effect a sweeping ruling by an international court in the Netherlands concerning Mexicans on death row here, an Oklahoma appeals court yesterday halted the execution of one of those inmates, Osbaldo Torres. He had been scheduled to be executed on Tuesday.

Hours later, Gov. Brad Henry commuted Mr. Torres's death sentence to life without parole.

The court and the governor cited the decision six weeks ago of the International Court of Justice in The Hague and noted that Mr. Torres's right to contact Mexican officials under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations had been violated.

The international court ruled in April that 51 Mexicans on death row in the United States must be given fresh opportunities to argue that they were harmed by such violations.

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, the state's highest court for criminal matters, yesterday ordered just that, holding that Mr. Torres was entitled to a new hearing.

The commutation is certainly up to the governor, but for American courts to accept this ruling as binding is outrageous. Congress and the President should act quickly to either clarify or break any such treaty obligation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:05 PM


Dukakis says Kerry would bring Truman-like style to White House (The Associated Press, 5/15/04)

Former Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis said he's hoping John Kerry, should he win the presidency this fall, applies the sort of wisdom to issues like the Middle East turmoil and universal health care that Harry Truman would have in his administration.

Great, not just one of our worst presidents, but the one who--even if we agree with his action--helped cause the Middle East turmoil by recognizing the state of Israel over Secretary Marshall's strong objection. At least he was a one-termer, too unpopular to even run for re-election.

Posted by Robert Duquette at 5:36 PM


Nick Berg's executioners all too clearly enjoyed beheading him (Theodore Dalrymple, 5/13/04, The Daily Telegraph)

My vision of humanity has darkened, not since I read about Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, which seemed to me exotic and distant, culturally and politically, but since I began to investigate the lives of ordinary British people in modern conditions. I have come to the conclusion that the default setting of man is to evil and that, if not all, then many or perhaps most men will commit evil if they can get away with it.

Where there is neither social nor legal pressure to behave decently, there will be a festival of evil. We have created a society in which often there is neither such pressure; as a consequence, I am confronted every day in my work by new evidence of man's propensity to evil, in the conduct of my patients or that of the people with whom they consort. The gratification that people derive from inflicting suffering on others is unmistakable. Furthermore, it is quite obvious that evil exerts a fascination and attraction for others who do not themselves indulge in it. [...]
If the Kingdom of God is within you, so is the Kingdom of Evil. I know this from my experience of myself. When I was about nine, there were often ants' nests at the base of our house. I used to love pouring boiling water on the ants, seeing them transformed from living beings into little boiled black dots.

How easily I persuaded myself that, by killing them, I was defending our house, preventing it from being undermined! Yet even as I told myself this, I knew that it was the killing I loved, not the structure of our house.

Both self-examination and my experience of others tells me that evil lurks within all of us, waiting for its opportunity to spring. Civilisation may be a veneer, but it is the veneer that separates us from barbarism. Never forget Original Sin and its consequences.

It is arguable whether working in a prison is the best place from which to judge human nature. One can forgive Dalrymple such an overly pessimistic view of men, as you would not expect a man who was given the dregs from the wine press to live on to have a very good opinion on the product of the vineyard. But neither should we, who are spared the unpleasant experience of such people by the very efficient operation of the criminal justice system, naively congratulate our race with platitudes of nobility and goodness. The next time that you let a petty insult pass, or fail to maket the universal hand gesture for automotive disapproval, take some satisfaction in the fact that you are helping to preserve that thin veneer of civilization.

Posted by David Cohen at 11:02 AM


Undeterred by McCain Denials, Some See Him as Kerry's No. 2 (Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Jodi Wilgoren, New York Times, 5/15/04)

Despite weeks of steadfast rejections from Senator John McCain, some prominent Democrats are angling for him to run for vice president alongside Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, creating a bipartisan ticket that they say would instantly transform the presidential race.

The enthusiasm of Democrats for Mr. McCain, an Arizona Republican, is so high that even some who have been mentioned as possible Kerry running mates — including Senator Bill Nelson of Florida and Bob Kerrey, the former Nebraska senator — are spinning scenarios about a "unity government," effectively giving Mr. Kerry a green light to reach across the political aisle and extend an offer.

"Senator McCain would not have to leave his party," Mr. Kerrey said. "He could remain a Republican, would be given some authority over selection of cabinet people. The only thing he would have to do is say, `I'm not going to appoint any judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade,' " the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, which Mr. McCain has said he opposes.

I know that there is some panic out there among conservatives. I, too, would prefer that the President's poll numbers were pulling away (although it really isn't possible for the President to be in a statistical dead heat nationally and in California). But, this story reflects true panic. Even the Democrats suspect that Democrats can't win.


Is Zogby Right? Is the Election Kerry's to Lose? (Rasmussen Reports, 5/15/04)

What little movement we have seen suggests that the President loses a couple of points every time a new level of bad news comes from Iraq. After a few days or a week, however, the numbers return to the toss-up range. Senator Kerry loses a few points every time the spotlight focuses on him. Kerry's numbers bounce back when the focus returns to the President.
Unfortunately, the challenger can't use a Rose Garden strategy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:50 AM


The problem with the 17th (Bruce Bartlett, May 12, 2004, Townhall)

The 17th amendment was ratified in 1913. It is no coincidence that the sharp rise in the size and power of the federal government starts in this year (the 16th amendment, establishing a federal income tax, ratified the same year, was also important).

As George Mason University law professor Todd Zywicki notes, prior to the 17th amendment, senators resisted delegating power to Washington in order to keep it at the state and local level. "As a result, the long term size of the federal government remained fairly stable during the pre-Seventeenth Amendment era," he wrote.

Zywicki also finds little evidence of corruption in the Senate that can be traced to the pre-1913 electoral system. By contrast, there is much evidence that the post-1913 system has been deeply corruptive. As Miller put it, "Direct elections of senators ... allowed Washington's special interests to call the shots, whether it is filling judicial vacancies, passing laws or issuing regulations."

Miller also lays much of the blame for the current impasse in confirming federal judges at the door of the 17th amendment. Consequently, on April 28 he introduced S.J.Res. 35 in order to repeal that provision of the Constitution.

Over the years, a number of legal scholars have called for repeal of the 17th amendment. An excellent summary of their arguments appears in Ralph Rossum's recent book, Federalism, the Supreme Court and the Seventeenth Amendment. They should at least get a hearing before Zell Miller departs the Senate at the end of this year.

How did they get the pre-17th Senators to vote through the Amendment?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:03 AM


Heresy and History: The war on terror will be won only when Islamís Wahabi heresy is defeated -- by orthodox Islam. Europeís own religious history shows why. (Angelo M. Codevilla, 5/14/2004, American Spectator)

Ibn Abdul Wahab, born around 1700 in a remote village in a remote region of Arabia, was early impressed with the central tenet of Islam, as well as with the deviations from it both of the Ottoman Empire's sophisticates, who, in Abdul Wahab's view, had adopted Christian ways, and of village simpletons who idolized shrines and trees. He wrote that Islam is "above all a rejection of all gods except God, a refusal to allow others to share in that worship that is due to God alone (Shirk). Shirk is evil, no matter what the object, whether it be king or prophet or saint or tree or tomb."

Wahab destroyed the tombs of the Prophet's earliest disciples because they had become objects of veneration. Wahab declared ancient Islamic scholars "unbelievers" and "polytheists," those who held not only to Shi'a Islam, but also to the Sufi spiritual tradition and Islamic law, and burned their books. His quest for purity alienated his village's authorities, including his father. [...]

In our time...Western civilization has not given that kind of indirect support to Muslim orthodoxy against the Wahabi heresy. On the contrary: rather than giving the Wahabis defeats, the West has given them victories that have strengthened the movement's hand immeasurably in its decisive intramural battles. In sum, the West has let the Wahabis set up bases outside the reach of their Muslim enemies, has let its terrorism run rampant, and has safeguarded its main base, Saudi Arabia, from the natural consequences of its rulers' Faustian bargain.

More than shielding the Saudi regime, Americans enabled it to spread Wahabism to a heretofore unimaginable extent when, in 1973, they agreed to give Saudi Arabia the power to set the world price of oil. The Saudi royals' money, we must not forget, is theirs only because America's best and brightest think it proper to assign property rights to persons who contribute nothing to the product. In the end, the Wahabi heresy intimidates Muslims around the world because it is fueled by U.S. money directed to them through Saudi Arabia by American judgment, the validity of which is not self-evident.

The Wahabis attract other Muslims as well as threaten them. Successful anti-Western terrorism has been its main instrument of that attraction. Weak governments cannot possibly take sides against a sect whose exploits excite their peoples' atavistic pride more than they do. Indeed, in our time, some orthodox Muslims have forgotten how deep is the Wahabis' hatred for them and rather take pride every time a Wahabi-inspired terrorist act humiliates and cows the West on behalf of Muslim causes. When Westerners react to Wahabi terrorist acts by indicting ordinary, traditional Muslim practices -- veils, sexual customs -- they make it even more difficult for orthodox Muslims to go after the heretics.

Also, the Wahabis attract all rulers of Muslim peoples who live un-Muslim lives because, just as medieval Christian heretics supported their hierarchs' outrageous lives, they buy secular support by selling religious legitimacy. Hence Wahabi support for outrageously corrupt Saudis. The glaring case is Iraq's Saddam Hussein -- an atheist, theologically speaking the personification of everything Wahabism lives to destroy -- who persecuted Islam to the limit of his power, but who nevertheless managed to make himself the leader of an Islam increasingly redefined as violent anti-Westernism. The Wahabis held their nose and supported him too.
This heresy can be defeated only after the destruction of Saudi rule -- preferably by other Muslims. The Saudis' Wahabism makes them the natural enemies of all the world's orthodox Muslims, especially Shi'ites. Iran, the great power of Shi'a Islam, is Wahabism's main enemy. America's elites, however, have supported the Saudis against the Iranians because they understand only the categories of "moderate vs. fundamentalist" and see neither Shi'ites nor Wahabis, neither orthodoxy nor heresy.

In short, violent heretics are winning their war with Islamic orthodoxy. The religion is being redefined. Hijacked. That is due in part to the support the heretics enjoy, nonetheless powerful for being indirect, from the West in general and America in particular. The point of all this is that even the best and brightest of officials need to know what they are about and, with that, do no harm.

Fortunately, the extremists have begun directing their attacks at the Sa'uds themselves and given the regime reason to help us reform the sect. In the meantime though, it seems obvious that we share common interests with the Shi'a.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:06 AM

DAY LATE (via Tom Morin):

Vatican Warns Catholics Against Marrying Muslims (Shasta Darlington, 5/14/04, Reuters)

The Vatican warned Catholic women on Friday to think hard before marrying a Muslim and urged Muslims to show more respect for human rights, gender equality and democracy.

Calling women "the least protected member of the Muslim family," it spoke of the "bitter experience" western Catholics had with Muslim husbands, especially if they married outside the Islamic world and later moved to his country of origin.

The comments in a document about migrants around the world were preceded by remarks about points of agreement between Christians and Muslims but they seemed likely to fuel mistrust between the world's two largest religions.

The document said the Church discouraged marriages between believers in traditionally Catholic countries and non-Christian migrants.

So where were you dopes when we were liberating the women of Iraq?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:01 AM


Fast Track to Oblivion: Though the Triple Crown is nearly impossible to win, changing its terms would diminish horse racing's only magic moment. (JOHN JEREMIAH SULLIVAN, 5/15/04, NY Times)

Think about baseball's so-called perfect game, in which one pitcher holds the mound for his team through all nine innings without allowing a single batter on base. It's an all but impossible feat, in large part because tremendous skill is only the first of the elements that have to be in place for it to happen. There's toughness. And nerve. Versatility, too: a pitcher's performance has to be maintained at the highest level even as the game moves through different phases, as his body changes in response to the strain, as the opposing team tries different strategies to unseat him. And once all these are in place, a final requirement remains: huge amounts of luck.

Now imagine a sport in which an accomplishment roughly analogous to the perfect game was the central point around which the whole season revolved, the climax not just of one athlete's ability but of each year's competitive cycle. Imagine, in other words, if the perfect game were to assume the place of the World Series in terms of importance and public attention. And should it ever be the case that, in a given year, no pitcher could pull it off (this would in fact almost always be the case), well . . . get over it. And please come back next season.

Such a sport exists. It's American thoroughbred racing. And thoroughbred racing's version of pitching the perfect game is to win the Triple Crown. [...]

This is a bit of a problem for the sport, because last year, when Funny Cide failed to win the Belmont Stakes after having taken the Derby and the Preakness, we entered a record Triple Crown drought. The last horse to pull it off was Affirmed, in 1978. That makes 26 years and counting. When the immortal Secretariat won, in 1973, it had been 25 years since Citation won in 1948, and fans were wondering then if we'd ever see another one. Suddenly, there came the "decade of champions," as the 1970's are known in racing circles — after Secretariat in '73, it was Seattle Slew in '77, then Affirmed in '78. And then, no less suddenly, the stream of champions dried up. More than a quarter-century later, we're still waiting for rain.

This year's hope is Smarty Jones, the Pennsylvania-bred colt who won the Derby two weeks ago and goes into the Preakness today as the favorite. If he wins this afternoon (a bet, of course, but a smart one), only the Belmont Stakes in June will stand between his owners and the Triple Crown. All the relevant statistics argue that he has a decent shot. He's not an especially fast horse, but he seems to do what it takes to win, over and over. Amid the unfamiliar competition that he'll face today, or that he might face two weeks later at the Belmont, no obvious threats pop out.

Why, then, will Smarty Jones almost certainly not win the Triple Crown?

Triple Crown season always brings to mind one of the most moving obituaries ever written. For those who remember him the first two paragraphs will make your scalp tingle.

Forecast good for Smarty Jones (JIM O'DONNELL, 5/15/04, Chicago Sun-Times)

The weather outside may be frightful for the 129th running of the Preakness Stakes this afternoon. But it may also prove to be happily reminiscent for the ascending new people's champion of thoroughbred racing.

Smarty Jones, the Philadelphia-based commoner who would be king, might once again face rain and thunder as he tries to annex the second jewel of racing's Triple Crown in the $1 million Preakness.

Two weeks ago at Churchill Downs, the 3-year-old son of Elusive Quality overcame a pre-race deluge and the hot-footed front-end speed of Lion Heart to win the Kentucky Derby on a sloppy surface. Both of his last victories -- in the Kentucky Derby and the Arkansas Derby -- have come on ''off'' tracks.

Baltimore-area weather forecasters are predicting the same sort of framing for the Preakness. They are listing a 60 percent chance of afternoon thunderstorms for the neighborhood around Pimlico Race Course with humid conditions and a high temperature in the mid-80s expected.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:46 AM


Powell Says U.S. Will Withdraw Troops From Iraq if New Government Makes Request (STEVEN R. WEISMAN and WARREN HOGE, 5/15/04, NY Times)

Here's an issue where you can see just how delusional the neocons are, as they insist they we could not just leave because we were asked to. Are they proposing that we fight 20+ million Iraqis and the new regime we helped install? Such would be a completely illegitimate war.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 AM


Velvet Hand, Iron Glove (NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF, 5/15/04, NY Times)

The embarrassing point for us is that while Iran is no democracy, it has a much freer society than many of our allies in the Middle East. In contrast with Saudi Arabia, for example, Iran has (rigged) elections, and two of its vice presidents are women. The Iranian press is not as free as it was a few years ago, but it is now bolstered by blogs (Web logs) and satellite TV, which offer real scrutiny of government officials.

I was astonished that everywhere I went in Iran, people would immediately tell me their names and agree to be photographed — and then say something like, "There is no freedom here."

All this means, I think, that the Iranian regime is destined for the ash heap of history. An unpopular regime can survive if it is repressive enough, but Iran's hard-liners don't imprison their critics consistently enough to instill terror. [...]

Many Iranians believe that the Iranian leadership is pursuing a "Chinese model," in which the authorities tolerate personal freedoms but rigidly control politics. But it won't work. In China, the greatest expansion of personal freedoms was followed, in 1989, by the biggest antigovernment demonstrations in Chinese history.

In one country after another (including Iran in 1979), repressive governments have tried to buy time by easing up a tad, and dissidents have used that as leverage to oust the oppressors. I'm convinced that Iran will be the same (although I should acknowledge that my Iranian friends, who know the situation much better, tend to be more pessimistic).

One can follow all of that except for why it's embarrassing to us? They don't want their regime, neither do we. They realize the Shah was a worthy ruler, so did we. Soon this brief experiment with Islamicism will be over and we'll be allies again. Why should we be embarrassed?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:45 AM

50-0 FILES:

KGW poll: Oregonians split over presidential race (ABE ESTIMADA, May 14, 2004,

Among Oregonians who voted in two of the past four elections, President Bush leads John Kerry in a race for the White House, according to a Northwest NewsChannel 8 poll.

That doesn’t bode well for Kerry because likely voters who have consistently cast ballots in the past are likely to turn out again for November’s general election, said Mike Riley, head of Portland-based Riley Research Associates that conducted the scientific poll for Northwest NewsChannel 8.

If the Senator were going to have any shot in this race he'd have put away the Pacific states by now. Instead this is a state where a seemingly safe Democratic Senate seat could be in danger in a big enough blowout.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:41 AM


Saudis desert the euro after series of blows (Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Daily Telegraph, May 15, 2004)

Saudi Arabia has abandoned its policy of diversifying foreign reserves into euros, deeming the eurozone unfit to manage a major world reserve currency.

Muhammad Al-Jasser, the deputy chief of Saudi Arabia's monetary agency, said the dollar remained the safest bet for central banks in the Middle East, despite America's trade and budget deficits. "The euro has not yet gained a competitive status against the dollar as a major reserve currency. People are not going to switch to euros until European financial markets become more competitive, deeper, more liquid and diversified," he said.

A spokesman for Frits Bolkestein, the European single market commissioner, said the criticism is harsh but true. Mr Bolkestein has devoted much of the last five years trying to break down barriers to free capital movement, but has met with implacable resistance from vested interests.

The disenchantment of the Saudis - who have about $200billion in reserves and government investment funds at their disposal - is a blow to the European Central Bank, which is keen to promote the euro as a competitor to the dollar. Just a year ago the Saudis seemed to be infatuated with the euro, accumulating an estimated €30 billion in foreign reserves between April and June 2003. But the eurozone has suffered a series of blows in recent months, including the collapse of the Stability Pact rules needed to curb inflationary spending.

The banking firm Morgan Stanley warned in January that the euro could disintegrate within five years as the markets begin to drive up interest rates in Italy and other heavily indebted states. The euro accounts for 13pc of total foreign reserves, compared to 68pc for the dollar, according to IMF data.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:33 AM


Globe Grows Darker as Sunshine Diminishes 10% to 37% (KENNETH CHANG, 5/13/04, NY Times)

In the second half of the 20th century, the world became, quite literally, a darker place.

Defying expectation and easy explanation, hundreds of instruments around the world recorded a drop in sunshine reaching the surface of Earth, as much as 10 percent from the late 1950's to the early 90's, or 2 percent to 3 percent a decade. In some regions like Asia, the United States and Europe, the drop was even steeper. In Hong Kong, sunlight decreased 37 percent.

No one is predicting that it may soon be night all day, and some scientists theorize that the skies have brightened in the last decade as the suspected cause of global dimming, air pollution, clears up in many parts of the world.

Yet the dimming trend — noticed by a handful of scientists 20 years ago but dismissed then as unbelievable — is attracting wide attention. Research on dimming and its implications for weather, water supplies and agriculture will be presented next week in Montreal at a joint meeting of American and Canadian geological groups.

The lights went out all over the world in 1914, but we'll get them back on eventually.

May 14, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:38 PM


Book Details U.S. Protection Of Former Nazi Officials (Charles Lane, May 14, 2004, Washington Post)

Declassified government documents shed new light on the secret protection and support given to former Nazi officials and Nazi collaborators by U.S. intelligence agencies in the years following World War II, according to a book released yesterday by historians who have been reviewing the records for the government.

The book, "U.S. Intelligence and the Nazis," is based on 240,000 pages of FBI records, 419 CIA files on individuals and 3,000 pages of U.S. Army information detailing the Army's postwar relationship with former officers of the German Wehrmacht's intelligence service, which are now available to the public through the National Archives. The records are the latest portion of about 8 million pages declassified since 1999 under two post-Cold War federal laws that opened up secret government files relating to war crimes by the World War II German and Japanese governments.

The book is "an outstanding contribution to our understanding of the Holocaust and the world of intelligence," Steve Garfinkel, chairman of the Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group, said in a statement.

Iraqis now fight alongside U.S. (RICHARD SISK, 5/14/04, NY DAILY NEWS)

This time, Iraqi soldiers are not running away as U.S.-led troops battle the forces of a renegade cleric in the southern holy cities of Najaf and Karbala.

The U.S. went back to square one trying to get Iraqis to fight for their country after much of the force threw down their arms last month when insurgents rose up in Fallujah and other parts of the Sunni triangle near Baghdad.

"There's some respect for the fact that they're standing and fighting," Army Maj. Gen. Martin Dempsey said of his attempts to stiffen the backs of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps.

On his own initiative, Dempsey, commander of the 1st Armored Division, scrapped what he called the "bottom-up" formula for building the new Iraqi army by hiring recruits off the street for $54 a month.

Instead, Dempsey resorted to old-fashioned patronage and went to political, religious and clan leaders to get recruits from their private militias that the U.S. had nominally banned.

"I'm looking for political parties who, let's face it, have had militias," Dempsey said, and asking them "to give up their young men who maybe have been part of their militia, give them to me."

Ah, the Bad War...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:22 PM



Nick Berg, the young American beheaded by terrorists in Iraq, had an earlier encounter with a Muslim fanatic - and inadvertently provided accused 9/11 al Qaeda operative Zacarias Moussaoui with his e-mail password.

The bizarre twist was confirmed by the Justice Department and Berg's father. In what one Justice official described as a "coincidental" link, both the telecommunications whiz from West Chester, Pa., and the accused 9/11 conspirator were in Norman, Okla., in 2000.

Berg was a student at the University of Oklahoma and Moussaoui was newly settled and hoping to learn to fly jetliners.

The FBI questioned Berg in 2002 after discovering Moussaoui had used his e-mail account. The agency determined Berg had innocently given it to someone, who passed it along to Moussaoui, the official said.

No wonder he was approached by American officials while in custody in Iraq.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:17 PM


Medic let HIV pair work in brothel (Kelly Ryan, May 15, 2004.,

TWO HIV-positive men were hired as prostitutes after a Prahran doctor signed medical certificates giving them a clean bill of health.

By clearing his two patients of sexually transmitted diseases, Dr Eric Salter had endangered the lives of Victorians, the Medical Practitioners Board heard yesterday.

What's Australia coming to when you can get an STD from a hooker?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:13 PM


Study: Brain prefers working instead of money for nothing (AP, 5/13/04)

Lottery winners, trust-fund babies and others who get their money without working for it do not get as much satisfaction from their cash as those who earn it, a study of the pleasure center in people's brains suggests.

Emory University researchers measured brain activity in the striatum — the part of the brain associated with reward processing and pleasure — in two groups of volunteers. One group had to work to receive money while playing a simple computer game; the other group was rewarded without having to earn it.

The brains of those who had to work for their money were more stimulated.

"When you have to do things for your reward, it's clearly more important to the brain," said Gregory Berns, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral science. "The subjects were more aroused when they had to do something to get the money relative to when they passively received the money."

Berns and other researchers said the study has broader real-world implications, particularly in the age of multimillion-dollar lottery jackpots.

He said that other studies have shown "there's substantial evidence that people who win the lottery are not happier a year after they win the lottery. It's also fairly clear from the psychological literature that people get a great deal of satisfaction out of the work they do."

Sha na na na, sha na na na na...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:06 PM


Arabs, Nazis and Comrades (Cali Ruchala, May 6, 2004, Sobaka)

IT WAS IN 1937 that the foreign diplomats in Moscow became accustomed to a different Soviet official answering the telephone each time they called. The Great Purge was in full-swing, and the most powerful posts in the USSR were entered through a corridor that led to Siberia. The foreign community in the capital - followed by secret police at every turn and under virtual house arrest - twittered nervously amongst themselves over what might be happening in the rest of the country.

Enter one of the greatest modern adventurers you've never heard of: Sir Fitzroy Maclean. [...]

His reports for the Foreign Ministry - vast, lurid tales that might have appealed to the readers of dime-store novels - caused a sensation in London. No other country knew what was going on outside of Moscow and Leningrad, in cities with "perfumed names" like Tashkent, Baku and Samarkan. Maclean's reports - between descriptions of his arrests by the NKVD - drew on his interviews with locals and observations of a country ripped apart by the most intense, savage streak of repression in history.

In these reports, former American diplomat Charles Thayer remembered, "Maclean recounted his adventures in that lively, lucid style which is the specialty of the English public schools and the envy of so many of us in the American service." [...]

In his semi-retirement on a sprawling 4,500 acre estate near Holy Loch in Scotland, Maclean recounted his life in several books - paramount among them, Eastern Approaches - as well as what was probably the best biography of Tito published while he was still alive, The Heretic.

Though vilified by the Left for his Tory pedigree, and by the Right for his part in the Communist takeover of Yugoslavia, Maclean became something of a grand old man in British politics after the war. But the most persistent rumour - and what he's best known for - was his supposed role as the model for James Bond. (Maclean himself didn't believe the story, though he had been friends with Ian Fleming.)

A more fitting epitaph for Fitzroy Maclean were the words of Sir John Colville, who once described him as "A man of action who is also a master of the English language." And one of the greatest, if least acknowledged, of the "new explorers" of the last hundred years.

Haven't read MacLean, but for an awesome account of the various British and Russian adventures in the region, we can't recommend this one enough: The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia by Peter Hopkirk.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:44 PM


Purists go home: it's a new era for baseball (May 14, 2004, Jewish World Review)

I'm past the purist stage, longing for an era that will never again exist. In fact, in 30 years it's inevitable that my own sons will tell their children about the simple pleasures of baseball in 2004.

Once you're done grousing about the marketing of baseball and all the other abominations it's easy to concentrate on what really matters. Which, in my case, is rooting for the Red Sox, year after year, to win a championship in my lifetime. And the pleasure of seeing Derek Jeter, the most overrated shortstop in the game, hitting below .200 as of May 10, is a salve that keeps on giving. And was there a funnier story than the revelation that the Cub's Moises Alou pisses on his hands to keep them in shape rather than wearing batting gloves?

And a number like this: Edgar Martinez just became the sixth player with 300 homers, 500 doubles, 1,000 walks, a .300 batting average and .400 on-base percentage. Who does he join? Stan Musial, Rogers Hornsby, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Ted Williams--that's select company.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:15 PM


Remarks by the President to the American Conservative Union 40th Anniversary Gala (Marriott Hotel, Washington, D.C., 5/13/04)

Some here tonight were there for that first meeting of the ACU in the fall of 1964. Back then, as David mentioned, you weren't feeling too good about the President from Texas. As a matter of fact, you stood behind a good man from Arizona, Barry Goldwater. (Applause.) You knew that the principles he represented -- freedom and limited government and national strength -- would eventually carry the day. And you were right. And that day came when President Ronald Reagan, I might add, supported by a great Vice President -- (laughter and applause) -- came to Washington, D.C. President Reagan taught America the power of an optimistic spirit. He also understood the power of ideas to transform our country and to change the world.

The conservative movement has become the dominant intellectual force in American politics, on the strength of writers and thinkers like Whitaker Chambers and Bill Buckley and Russell Kirk. The movement has inspired many hundreds of fine Americans to run for office and to serve in government. It's easy to understand why. On the fundamental issues of our times, conservatives have been right. (Applause.) Conservatives were right that the Cold War was a contest of good and evil. And behind the Iron Curtain people did not want containment, they awaited for liberation. (Applause.) Conservatives were right that the free enterprise system is the path to prosperity, and that free enterprise is the economic system consistent with human freedom and human dignity. (Applause.) Conservatives were right that a free society is sustained by the character of its people, which means we must honor the moral and religious heritage of our great nation.

These convictions, once defended by a few, are now broadly shared by Americans. And I am proud to advance these convictions and these principles as I stand for reelection in 2004. (Applause.) [...]

I look forward to taking on the big issues, setting big goals, with optimism and resolve and determination, and I will make it clear to the American people, I stand ready to lead this nation for four more years. (Applause.)

A big issue for every family in America is the federal tax burden. The largest tax relief since Ronald Reagan was President, we've left more money in the hands that earned it. By spending and investing and to helping create new jobs, the American people have used their money far better than the federal government would have. (Applause.)

This economy is strong, and it is getting stronger. Last month, America added 288,000 new jobs. Manufacturing jobs have increased for three straight months. Since August, our economy has added more than 1.1 million new jobs. (Applause.) In the first quarter of 2004, the economy grew at a strong rate of 4.2 percent. And over the past year, economic growth has been the fastest in nearly two decades. (Applause.) Business investment is up, inflation is low, mortgage and interest rates are near historic lows, the home ownership rate in America is the highest ever. (Applause.) America's economy is the fastest growing of any major industrialized nation. The tax relief we passed is working. (Applause.)

There's a difference o[n] taxes in this campaign. My opponent has a different view. When we passed an increase in the child credit to help families, he voted no. When we reduced the marriage penalty, he voted against it. When we created a lower 10-percent bracket for working families, he voted no. When we reduced taxes on dividends that helps our senior citizens, he said no. When we gave small businesses tax incentive to expand and hire, he voted against it. When we phased out the death tax, he voted no. I think we got a trend here. (Laughter.)

It's easier to get a yes vote out of him when it comes to raising taxes. That's his record. Senator Kerry has voted over 350 times for higher taxes on the American people. He supported higher gas taxes 11 times, and once favored a tax increase of 50 cents a gallon. That would cost you another $5.00 or more every time you fill up your tank. With that kind of money, you'd think he'd throw in a free car wash. (Laughter and applause.)

My opponent has proposed a lot of new spending, and we're counting. At last count, he's proposed $1.9 trillion of new spending, and the election is six months away. (Laughter.) He's going to have to pay for that somehow. Of course, you've heard the old, tired rhetoric of how he's going to pay for it, he's going to tax the rich. But there's not enough money to pay for all those new programs by taxing the rich. He's got what we call a tax gap. That gap needs a lot of money to pay for all his promises. And given his record, there's no doubt where that money is going to come from -- it's going to come from the working people in America. The good news is, we're not going to give him the chance. (Applause.)

The American people know what you and I know, that higher taxes would undermine growth and destroy jobs, just as this economy is getting stronger. No, I have a better idea -- we should keep taxes low. We will not raise taxes on the American people. (Applause.)

We must do more to keep this economy growing and make sure America is the best place to do business in the world. (Applause.) We need to maintain spending discipline in our Nation's Capital. I look forward to working with members of the United States Congress to do just that. We have a plan to protect small business owners and employees from frivolous and needless lawsuits. We need tort reform out of the United States Congress. (Applause.)

I've developed plans and a strategy to help control the cost of health care by giving people better access through association health care plans and tax-free health savings accounts. And for the sake of affordability and availability of good medicine, we need to pass medical liability reform out of the United States Senate. (Applause.)

As we are learning at our gas pumps, this country needs an energy plan. We need an energy strategy, one that encourages conservation; one that develops alternative uses for energy; one that modernizes the electricity grid. But we need to make sure we use our coal resource, our natural gas resources, our nuclear resources. We need to become less dependent on foreign sources of energy. (Applause.)

In order to make sure we grow our economy, we need to reject economic isolationism. We've opened our markets, for the sake of consumers, to other countries. Rather than walling ourselves off and stopping the creation of new jobs, we need to get other countries to open up their markets for us. When you're good at something, we ought to promote it. We're good at manufacturing things; we're good at growing things; our technology sector is the best in the world. We need to be opening up markets so people can find jobs here in America. (Applause.)

What I'm telling you is, if you're interested in job creation in America, you need to reelect a President who's pro-growth, pro-entrepreneur, and pro-small business, and that's George W. Bush. (Applause.)

I'll tell you something else we understand loud and clear, and that is a hopeful society is one that encourages ownership. We want more people owning their own home. There's a -- there's a home ownership gap in America. Not enough minorities own their own home. We've got plans to make sure people from all walks of life have a chance to say, this is my home. Welcome to my home.

We want more people owning their own small business. We want people owning and managing their own health care plan. We want younger workers to own and manage their own retirement accounts. See, we understand, when people have assets to call their own, they gain independence and security and dignity. See, I believe in private property so much, I want every American to have some. (Applause.)

On issue after issue, the American people have a clear choice. My opponent is against personal retirement accounts; against giving patients more control over their medical decisions through health savings accounts; against providing parents more choices over education for their children; against tax relief for all Americans. He seems to be against every idea that gives Americans more authority and more choices and more control over our own lives.

The other side will make a lot of promises over the next six months. The American people need to listen closely, because there is a theme. Every promise will increase the power of politicians and bureaucrats over your income, over your retirement, over your health care, over your children's education. It's the same old Washington mind-set: They'll give the orders, and we'll pay the bills. I've got news for him. America has gone beyond that way of thinking, and we are not going back. (Applause.)

Our future also depends on America's leadership in the world. The momentum of freedom in our time is strong, but we still face serious dangers. Al Qaeda is wounded, but not broken. Terrorists are testing our will in Afghanistan and Iraq. Regimes in North Korea and Iran are challenging the peace. If America shows weakness and uncertainty in this decade, the world will drift toward tragedy. This will not happen on my watch. (Applause.)

This nation is strong and confident in the cause of freedom. We know that freedom is not America's gift to the world. Freedom is the Almighty's gift to every man and woman in this world. (Applause.)

Because of our principled stand and clear speaking, today, no friend or enemy doubts the word of the United States of America. America and our allies gave an ultimatum to the terror regime in Afghanistan. The Taliban chose defiance, and the Taliban is no longer in power. (Applause.) America and our allies gave an ultimatum to the dictator in Iraq. He chose defiance, and now, he sits in a prison cell. (Applause.)

September the 11th, 2001 taught a lesson I will never forget, and America must never forget. America must confront threats before they fully materialize. (Applause.) In Iraq, my administration looked at the intelligence, and we saw a threat. Members of the United States Congress from both political parties looked at the intelligence, and they saw a threat. The United Nations Security Council looked at the intelligence, and it saw a threat. As a matter of fact, the previous administration and Congress looked at the intelligence, and made regime change in Iraq the policy of the United States.

In 2002, the U.N. Security Council, yet again, demanded a full accounting of Saddam Hussein's weapons programs. They remembered what we remember. They remembered he attacked countries in his neighborhood. They remembered that he paid suiciders to kill innocent Israelis. They remembered he had ties to terrorist organizations. They remembered that he used weapons of mass destruction against his own people. As he had for over a decade, Saddam Hussein refused to comply with the demands of the free world. So I had a choice to make: Either trust the word of a madman, or defend America. Given that choice, I will defend America every time. (Applause.)

Thank you.

My opponent admits that Saddam Hussein was a threat. He just didn't support my decision to remove Saddam from power. Maybe he was hoping Saddam would lose the next Iraqi election. (Laughter.) We showed the dictator and a watching world that America means what it says. Because our coalition acted, Saddam's torture chambers are closed. Because we acted, Iraq's weapons programs are ended forever. Because we acted, nations like Libya have gotten the message, and have renounced their own weapons programs. (Applause.) Because we acted, an example of democracy is rising at the heart of the -- at the very heart of the Middle East. Because we acted, the world is more free, and America is more secure. (Applause.)

We face challenges in Iraq, and there's a reason why. Illegal militias, remnants of the regime, and foreign terrorists are trying to take the power they can never gain by the ballot. They hate free societies. They can't stand the thought of freedom arising in a part of the world that they want to control. They know that a free Iraq will be a major defeat in the war on terror. They find little support amongst the Iraqi people. And they will find no -- they will find no success in their attempt to shake the will of the United States of America. (Applause.) They don't understand us in this country. We will never be intimidated by thugs and assassins. (Applause.)

We're on the offense in Iraq. We will defeat them there so we do not have to face them in our own country. (Applause.) And we're not alone. Other nations are helping. They're helping because they understand the historic opportunity we have. They understand the stakes. They know that a free Iraq will be an agent for change in a part of the world that so desperately needs freedom and peace. (Applause.)

The Iraqi people want to run themselves. And so, on June 30th, a sovereign Iraqi interim government will take office. And there will be tough times ahead. These are not easy tasks. They are essential tasks. And America will finish what we have begun, and we will win this essential victory in the war on terror. (Applause.)

On national security, Americans have a clear choice. My opponent says he approves of bold action in the world -- but only if other countries don't object. (Laughter.) I'm for united action. I believe in building coalitions. We have built coalitions in Afghanistan. We have built coalitions in Iraq. We have built coalitions to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. But I will never turn over America's national security decisions to leaders of other countries. (Applause.)

Some are skeptical that the war on terror is really a war at all. My opponent said, the war on terror is far less of a military operation, and far more of an intelligence-gathering, law enforcement operation. I disagree. Our nation followed this approach after the World Trade Center was bombed in 1993. The matter was handled in the courts, and thought by some to be settled. And yet, the terrorists were still training in Afghanistan; they were still plotting in other nations; they were still drawing up more ambitious plans. After the chaos and carnage of September the 11th, it is not enough to serve our enemies with legal papers. With those attacks, the terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States of America -- and war is what they got. (Applause.)

Winning the war requires us to give our troops the best possible support. I want to thank the members of Congress who are here for supporting the $87-billion appropriations -- called a supplemental -- that I encouraged them to spend last fall. We owe it to our troops to support them. Not everybody voted for the $87 billion, however. When asked why my opponent didn't vote for it, here is what he said. "I actually did vote for the $87 billion -- before I voted against it." (Laughter.) The American President must speak clearly and mean what he says. (Applause.)

Our men and women in the military are taking great risks on our behalf. We've got a fantastic United States military. (Applause.) The conduct of a few inside an Iraqi prison was disgraceful. Their conduct does not represent the character of the men and women who wear our uniform. Nor does it represent the character of the United States of America.

At bases across our country and the world, I've had the privilege of meeting with those who defend our country and sacrifice for our security. I've seen their great decency and unselfish courage. And I assure you, ladies and gentlemen, the cause of freedom is in really good hands. (Applause.)

This nation is prosperous and strong, yet we need to remember that our greatest strength is in the hearts and souls of our citizens. We're strong because of the values we try to live by: courage and compassion, reference and integrity. We're strong because of the institutions that help give us direction and purpose: our families, our schools, and our religious congregations. These values and institutions are fundamental to our lives, and they deserve the respect of our government.

We stand for the fair treatment of faith-based groups so they can receive federal support for their works of compassion and healing. We stand -- (applause) -- we stand for welfare reforms that require work and strengthen marriage, which have helped millions of Americans find independence and dignity. (Applause.) We stand for a culture of life in which every person matters and every person counts. (Applause.) We stand -- we stand for institutions like marriage and family, which are the foundations of our society. (Applause.)

And we stand for judges who strictly and faithfully interpret the law. (Applause.) I have nominated people from all walks of life to serve on our bench, highly-qualified, decent Americans, men and women who will not undermine democracy by legislating from the bench. Yet, because a small group of United States senators are willfully obstructing the process, many of my nominees have been forced to wait months, years, for an up or down vote. The needless delays in the system are harming the administration of justice. And they are deeply unfair to the nominees themselves. It is time for liberal senators to stop playing politics with American justice. (Applause.)

The culture of this country is changing. It is changing from one that has said, if it feels good, do it, and if you've got a problem, blame somebody else, to a culture in which each of us understands we are responsible for the decisions we make in life. If you are fortunate enough to be a mother or a father, you're responsible for loving your child with all your heart. If you're worried about the quality of the education in the community in which you live, you're responsible for doing something about it. If you are a CEO in corporate America, you are responsible for telling the truth to your shareholders and your employees. (Applause.) And in the responsibility society, each of us is responsible for loving our neighbor just like we'd like to be loved ourself.

For all Americans, these years in our history will always stand apart. There are quiet times in the life of a nation when little is expected of its leaders. These aren't one of those times. You and I are living in a period when the stakes are high, the challenges are difficult, a time when firm resolve is needed.

None of us will ever forget that week when one era ended and another began. On September the 14th, 2001, I stood in the ruins of the Twin Towers. It is a day that I will never forget. There were firefighters and policemen in the crowd shouting, "Whatever it takes." A guy in a hard-hat looked at me and said, "Don't let me down." As we all did that day, these men and women searching through the rubble took it personally. I took it personally. I have a responsibility that goes on. I will never relent in bringing justice to our enemies. I will defend the security of America, whatever it takes. (Applause.)

In these times, I've also been witness to the character of this nation. Not so long ago, some had their doubts about the American character, our capacity to meet serious challenges, or to serve a cause greater than self-interest. But Americans have given their answer. I've seen the unselfish courage of our troops. I've seen the heroism of Americans in the face of danger. I've seen the spirit of service and compassion renewed in our country. And we've all seen our nation unite in common purpose when it mattered most.

We'll need all these qualities for the work ahead. We have a war to win, and the world is counting on us to lead the cause of freedom and peace. We have a duty to spread opportunity to every corner of this country. This is the work that history has set before us. We welcome it, and we know that for our blessed land, the best days lie ahead.

May God bless you all.

The most radically conservative president in our history.

Rolling Back the 20th Century (William Greider, May 12, 2003, The Nation)

In the months after last November's elections, the Bush Administration rattled progressive sensibilities with shock and awe on the home front--a barrage of audacious policy initiatives: Allow churches to include sanctuaries of worship in buildings financed by federal housing grants. Slash hundreds of billions in domestic programs, especially spending for the poor, even as the Bush tax cuts kick in for the well-to-do. At the behest of Big Pharma, begin prosecuting those who help the elderly buy cheaper prescription drugs in Canada. Compel the District of Columbia to conduct federally financed school voucher experiments (even though DC residents are overwhelmingly opposed). Reform Medicaid by handing it over to state governments, which will be free to make their own rules, much like welfare reform. Do the same forhousing aid, food stamps and other long-established programs. Redefine "wetlands" and "wilderness" so that millions of protected acres are opened for development.

Liberal activists gasped at the variety and dangerous implications (the public might have been upset too but was preoccupied with war), while conservatives understood that Bush was laying the foundations, step by step, toward their grand transformation of American life. These are the concrete elements of their vision:

§ Eliminate federal taxation of private capital, as the essential predicate for dismantling the progressive income tax. This will require a series of reform measures (one of them, repeal of the estate tax, already accomplished). Bush has proposed several others: elimination of the tax on stock dividends and establishment of new tax-sheltered personal savings accounts for the growing "investor class." Congress appears unwilling to swallow these, at least this year, but their introduction advances the education-agitation process. Future revenue would be harvested from a single-rate flat tax on wages or, better still, a stiff sales tax on consumption. Either way, labor gets taxed, but not capital. The 2003 Economic Report of the President, prepared by the Council of Economic Advisers, offers a primer on the advantages of a consumption tax and how it might work. Narrowing the tax base naturally encourages smaller government.

§ Gradually phase out the pension-fund retirement system as we know it, starting with Social Security privatization but moving eventually to breaking up the other large pools of retirement savings, even huge public-employee funds, and converting them into individualized accounts. Individuals will be rewarded for taking personal responsibility for their retirement with proposed "lifetime savings" accounts where capital is stored, forever tax-exempt. Unlike IRAs, which provide a tax deduction for contributions, wages are taxed upfront but permanently tax-sheltered when deposited as "lifetime" capital savings, including when the money is withdrawn and spent. Thus this new format inevitably threatens the present system, in which employers get a tax deduction for financing pension funds for their workers. The new alternative should eventually lead to repeal of the corporate tax deduction and thus relieve business enterprise of any incentive to finance pensions for employees. Everyone takes care of himself.

§ Withdraw the federal government from a direct role in housing, healthcare, assistance to the poor and many other long-established social priorities, first by dispersing program management to local and state governments or private operators, then by steadily paring down the federal government's financial commitment. If states choose to kill an aid program rather than pay for it themselves, that confirms that the program will not be missed. Any slack can be taken up by the private sector, philanthropy and especially religious institutions that teach social values grounded in faith.

§ Restore churches, families and private education to a more influential role in the nation's cultural life by giving them a significant new base of income--public money. When "school choice" tuitions are fully available to families, all taxpayers will be compelled to help pay for private school systems, both secular and religious, including Catholic parochial schools. As a result, public schools will likely lose some of their financial support, but their enrollments are expected to shrink anyway, as some families opt out. Although the core of Bush's "faith-based initiative" stalled in Congress, he is advancing it through new administrative rules. The voucher strategy faces many political hurdles, but the Supreme Court is out ahead, clearing away the constitutional objections.

§ Strengthen the hand of business enterprise against burdensome regulatory obligations, especially environmental protection, by introducing voluntary goals and "market-driven" solutions. These will locate the decision-making on how much progress is achievable within corporate managements rather than enforcement agencies (an approach also championed in this year's Economic Report). Down the road, when a more aggressive right-wing majority is secured for the Supreme Court, conservatives expect to throw a permanent collar around the regulatory state by enshrining a radical new constitutional doctrine. It would require government to compensate private property owners, including businesses, for new regulations that impose costs on them or injure their profitability, a formulation sure to guarantee far fewer regulations [see Greider, "The Right and US Trade Law," October 15, 2001].

§ Smash organized labor. Though unions have lost considerable influence, they remain a major obstacle to achieving the right's vision. Public-employee unions are formidable opponents on issues like privatization and school vouchers. Even the declining industrial unions still have the resources to mobilize a meaningful counterforce inpolitics. Above all, the labor movement embodies the progressives' instrument of power: collective action. The mobilizations of citizens in behalf of broad social demands are inimical to the right's vision of autonomous individuals, in charge of their own affairs and acting alone. Unions may be taken down by a thousand small cuts, like stripping "homeland security" workers of union protection. They will be more gravely weakened if pension funds, an enduring locus of labor power, are privatized.

Looking back over this list, one sees many of the old peevish conservative resentments--Social Security, the income tax, regulation of business, labor unions, big government centralized in Washington--that represent the great battles that conservatives lost during early decades of the twentieth century. That is why the McKinley era represents a lost Eden the right has set out to restore. Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform and a pivotal leader in the movement's inside-outside politics, confirms this observation. "Yes, the McKinley era, absent the protectionism," he agrees, is the goal. "You're looking at the history of the country for the first 120 years, up until Teddy Roosevelt, when the socialists took over. The income tax, the death tax, regulation, all that." (In foreign policy, at least, the Bush Administration could fairly be said to have already restored the spirit of that earlier age. Justifying the annexation of the Philippines, McKinley famously explained America's purpose in the world: "There was nothing left for us to do but to take them all, and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them, and by God's grace do the very best we could by them, as our fellow men for whom Christ also died.")

But the right employs a highly selective memory. McKinley Republicans, aligned with the newly emergent industrial titans, did indeed hold off the Progressive advocates of a federal income tax and other reforms, while its high tariffs were the equivalent of a stiff consumption tax. And its conservative Supreme Court blocked regulatory laws designed to protect society and workers as unconstitutional intrusions on private property rights.

But the truth is that McKinley's conservatism broke down not because of socialists but because a deeply troubled nation was awash in social and economic conflicts, inequities generated by industrialization and the awesome power consolidating in the behemoth industrial corporations (struggles not resolved until economic crisis spawned the New Deal). Reacting to popular demands, Teddy Roosevelt enacted landmark Progressive reforms like the first federal regulations protecting public health and safety and a ban on corporate campaign contributions. Both Roosevelt and his successor, Republican William Howard Taft, endorsed the concept of a progressive income tax and other un-Republican measures later enacted under Woodrow Wilson.

George W. Bush does not of course ever speak of the glories of the McKinley era or acknowledge his party's retrograde objectives (Ari Fleischer would bat down any suggestions to the contrary). Conservatives learned, especially from Gingrich's implosion, to avoid flamboyant ideological proclamations. Instead, the broader outlines are only hinted at in various official texts. But there's nothing really secretive about their intentions. Right-wing activists and think tanks have been openly articulating the goals for years. Some of their ideas that once sounded loopy are now law.

Seldom has a politician been more open about his aims.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:30 PM

SUPERMODEL (via John Resnick):

Fair Elections: An econometric model has Bush all the way. (Donald Luskin, May 14, 2004, National Review)

While polls show Bush and Kerry neck-and-neck, a sophisticated econometric model operated at Yale University — the same kind of model used for simulating the entire U.S. economy — is calling Bush the winner by a wide margin, with almost 58 percent of a two-party vote.

The model is the brainchild of Professor Ray Fair, a fellow at the International Center for Finance at Yale, and one of the world’s most respected authorities on econometrics. He came up with the model in 1978, and published it in a book called Predicting Presidential Elections and Other Things. [...]

Fair thinks the most relevant risk is the potential gap between perception and reality about the economy. Fair says that his model’s prediction of a Bush victory in 1992 was thwarted despite a recovering economy, because public perceptions of recovery lagged the reality.

This time around polling data suggest that the same thing might be happening, with voters’ negative perceptions of the economy strikingly at variance with its true health. But Fair notes that the current economic recovery has already been underway longer than the one in 1992, and the next election is still six months away.

Fair’s model is no political deus ex machina, but it has the virtue of grounding our subjective appraisals of a very emotional matter in solid historical reality. With the beating that George W. Bush is taking every day in the liberal media over real and imagined problems in Iraq, Fair’s model may go a long way toward explaining why Bush’s poll numbers are staying surprisingly strong, and Kerry’s surprisingly weak.


Posted by David Cohen at 4:10 PM


New Polls Show Support for Bush Has Slipped to New Low (Janet Elder, NY Times, 5/14/04)

Support for the Bush administration's policies in Iraq are at the lowest point since the war began, even as a majority of Americans say the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American military personnel is confined to a few isolated incidents and a few soldiers, according to polls out this week.

For the first time since the war began, a majority of the respondents to the Gallup poll — 54 percent — say the war in Iraq has not been worth the costs, while 44 percent said it has been worthwhile. When the war first began in March 2003, 29 percent of Americans said the war was not worth it, while 68 percent said it was.

Gallup mentions in its first paragraph that the President remains tied with Senator Kerry. The New York Time's story does not include the words "Kerry" or "election".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:59 AM


Riding high: Smarty Jones story a true Hollywood tale as Chapman family revels in good fortune (Kevin Paul Dupont, May 14, 2004, Boston Globe)

The Chapmans — Pat and ‘‘Chappy’’ among friends and family — today are the somewhat unsuspecting senior citizens sitting tallest in the saddle of all thoroughbred horse racing. Their sensational Kentucky Derby-winning colt, Smarty Jones, tomorrow afternoon will tackle the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the prestigious Triple Crown, and in three weeks could total career winnings of more than $15 million, making him by far the biggest money-winner in the history of North American horse racing.

All this from a 3-year-old chestnut colt:

* Who shattered his skull and nearly died less than a year ago, months before running his first race, in a freak gate accident while training here at Philadelphia Park — a humble, if not backwater Bucks County facility some 20 miles northeast of Center City.

* Whose first trainer, Bob Camac, was murdered, along with his wife, while sitting on his front porch — shot by the wife’s son, reportedly in a dispute over money and track-related business.

* Whose owners, because of 78-year old Roy Chapman’s health issues, sold their 100-acre horse farm near Bensalem and only a couple of years ago stood but weeks from fully divesting their breeding and racing interests.

* Whose aging jockey, a high school dropout and former Suffolk Downs noname (for the record: Stewart Elliott), once quit the sport for more than a year, his weight ballooning beyond the saddle after suffering a back injury.

* Whose current trainer, West Virginia-born John Servis -- in 20-plus years of prepping charges for the track -- had never had a horse in the Kentucky Derby.

It is a tale that even the 62-year-old Pat Chapman, who in 1976 met her foxhunting, car dealing husband in one of his auto showrooms, figures borders on fantasy.

"It really is pretty incredible, isn't it," she said, shortly before departing late this week for Baltimore. "It's whatever you want to call it, I guess . . . a fairy tale, a fantasy . . . it's just awesome."

Nice to have some real horse racing excitement, now if we could just revive boxing.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:53 AM


The bankrupt culture of lies (Melanie Philips, Jewish Chronicle, 14 May 2004)

For the past two decades or more, post-modernism has written the very concept of truth out of our culture’’s philosophical script. Objective reality was replaced by ‘‘truth-for-me’’ as everything was reduced to a matter of personal opinion.

In journalism, this was translated into the view that, since all journalists had views, the pursuit of objectivity was a dishonest pretence and should be abandoned for the ‘‘journalism of attachment’’ ——more vulgarly known as twisting the facts to fit a prejudice. This doctrine first shot to prominence during the war in the Balkans, when journalists justified inventing descriptions, characters and quotes on the grounds that these reflected a ‘‘broader truth’’. So broad, in short, that it was a lie.

Only this week, I heard an academic dismiss concerns about a dodgy educational initiative for schools by saying: ‘‘But everything [ital ‘‘everything’’] is propaganda’’. The consequences of such contempt for truth is that propaganda based on lies is accepted as fact, if it accords with prevailing prejudices. Both Israel and the US in Iraq are victims of this phenomenon, with public opinion manipulated by a culture of pathological delusion in which lies, distortion and prejudice are substituted for facts, balance and rationality.

Both the Iraq war and Israel are routinely presented in the worst possible light and events misrepresented, distorted or fabricated to fit. The outcome is a moral and intellectual inversion, in which those defending free societies are presented as even more diabolical than the tyrannies attacking them.

In the Guardian this week Richard Overy, a history professor at London university, likened the coalition soldiers in Iraq to the Nazi Wehrmacht. Moreover, he said that the term ‘‘terrorist’’ had been used by the Nazis to demonise resistance movements throughout occupied Europe. Thus he implied that President George Bush was like the Nazis, while Islamic terrorists were akin to the wartime resistance.

In similar vein Peter Oborne, the political editor of the Spectator, wrote in the London Evening Standard of the ‘‘evil and bestial occupation of Iraq’’ and said: ‘‘America under Bush is a rogue state, no longer fit to belong to the community of nations, and it needs to be contained’’.

These outbursts were prompted by the appalling pictures of ill-treatment meted out to Iraqi prisoners by US forces. Of course, this was disgusting, indefensible behaviour which has besmirched the US army and shamed America. But it was the unspeakable beheading of Nick Berg which was the real barbarism. And to compare the Americans to the Nazis and ascribe heroism to terrorists bespeaks a moral and intellectual bankruptcy which would be astounding in anyone, let alone a professor of history.

Yes, many very serious mistakes have been made by the Americans in Iraq, whose fate remains perilously uncertain and where insurgency still poses a desperate threat. But to call the occupation ‘‘bestial and evil’’ when its aims were principled, it has already delivered tranquillity, growing prosperity and a return of civil society in much of the country, and is welcomed by most Iraqis as a deliverance from the true bestiality and evil of Saddam’’s regime, amounts to distortion of a high order. [...]

For in a culture of lies, it is the real forces of evil and bestiality which are always the winner.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 AM


SpaceShipOne Soars To 212,000 Feet (UPI, May 14, 2004)

A privately-built manned spacecraft has reached a record altitude of 212,000 feet over California on one of its final tests before officially entering space.

The craft, called SpaceShipOne, was built by aerospace pioneer Burt Rutan, who hopes to win the Ansari X-Prize of $10 million for the first private flight into space.

What do you figure it costs to insure this?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:46 AM


The Once and (Probably) Future First Family of India: Written off as out-of-touch and nepotistic, the Nehru-Gandhi family dynasty is poised once again to lead India. (AMY WALDMAN, 5/14/04, NY Times)

If agreement with Congress Party allies can be reached over the weekend, Mr. Gandhi's mother, Sonia Gandhi, 57, will become India's next prime minister, following her late husband, Rajiv Gandhi, who led India for five years in the late 1980's.

He, in turn, had followed his mother, Indira Gandhi, who served as prime minister for 16 years.

And she had followed her father, Jawaharlal Nehru, who was India's prime minister for its first 17 years after independence, and a key architect of its quasi-socialist economy, its constitutional democracy and its secular foundations.

In the 1930's his father, Motilal Nehru, a successful lawyer, was president of the Congress Party, which traces its roots to 1885.

The family's almost uninterrupted dominance over more than half a century of Indian politics broke down over the last 15 years, and ended in 1996.

But throughout its reign, the family acquired an aura that mixes the right-to-rule of the British royals, the tragedy of the American Kennedys — complete with the assassinations of both Indira and Rajiv Gandhi — and traditional South Asian respect for family and public sacrifice.

In truth, India's election results seem less a Congress victory than a defeat of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, in which the traditionally anti-incumbent Indian voters roundly turned against their governing coalition.

Nor is there evidence Nehru ever envisioned a dynasty.

"It was Indira Gandhi who created the dynasty," an Indian historian, Ramachandra Guha, wrote in a recent essay in The Telegraph. "She brought her sons into the Congress, and made it clear to all, within and outside the party, that she expected them to succeed her."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 AM


The Heart of the Matter: Is Dick Cheney physically a good risk as Vice President? Seven cardiologists weigh in (Howard Markel , June 2004, Atlantic Monthly)

Although our discussions hardly met the rigorous criteria of an opinion-research poll, all seven cardiologists concurred that the subject was at significantly higher risk for premature death from a heart attack than the average sixty-three-year-old American male. (Upon learning that the patient was Cheney, a cardiologist from Boston observed, "It's a pretty impressive history. I had no idea he'd had all this happen to him," and added, "It's a testament to medical science that he's alive.") All seven did note, however, that although the subject's condition—which doctors call "malignant atherosclerosis"—was hardly characteristic of patients in their practices, his situation is not uncommon. They agreed that his treatment regimen was appropriate.

Five of the seven cardiologists felt that so long as the subject had no evidence of impaired blood flow to his heart (a condition that would be easily determined by a cardiac stress test), the decision to stay on the job was really a matter of personal choice. But after hearing the blinded case history a Cleveland cardiologist said, "I would first ask, How is he doing financially? Can he retire?" When I told him that the patient was financially independent, the physician said that at a minimum he would advise a major cutback of work hours. In contrast, a cardiologist in Ann Arbor cautioned, "You can do a patient a big disservice by telling him to stop working. As long as he is functioning well, which he is, he should keep working, but under a tight watch by his doctors. He should lose some weight. But as long as his exercise tolerance is fine and risk factors under control, I don't know if he could do much more [to protect his health]."

After finding out that the patient was Cheney, a cardiologist in Washington, D.C., insisted that as long as he passed his medical examinations, the Vice President was "still fit to do the job." When asked if the job itself was a risk to Cheney's health, the cardiologist's only response was "The world is a stressful place." The Boston physician said he would not recommend restricting the Vice President's work activities or canceling his reelection bid, but he did add that since "the vessels used in a coronary-artery bypass graft do often close up over time, it's well possible he'll need a repeat procedure within five years." A cardiologist in Detroit strongly disagreed with those willing to give Cheney medical clearance for such a demanding job. "There is not a simple right answer," he observed, "but when you are in a position where a lot of lives depend on you, it's more than a personal choice."

Even setting aside the idea that Mr. Bush was never likely to keep Mr. Cheney on for the second term--because a man trying to transform his party would naturally be expected to handpick a successor--the fact that we're at war and the vice president's fitness to take over is in question very nearly requires that he be replaced on the ticket. The stability of the Republic is too important a concern to be treated as cavalierly as it was by FDR.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:18 AM


Aging octopus finds love at last (Mary Pemberton, Boston Globe, 14/05/04)

It looks like J-1 is in love. After meeting the very fetching and slightly younger Aurora, he changed color and his eight arms became intertwined with hers. Then, the two retreated to a secluded corner to get to know each other better. We're talking about giant Pacific octopuses here.

Aquarists at the Alaska SeaLife Center introduced the 5-year-old J-1 to Aurora on Tuesday morning. The two really hit it off. Spermatophores were seen hanging from J-1's siphon.

"We really were not sure he had it in him," SeaLife Center aquarium curator Richard Hocking said Wednesday.

Love almost passed J-1 by. At 5 years of age and 52 pounds, he's reaching the end of the line for his species, the largest octopus in the world. J-1 is in a period of decline that occurs before octopus die. His skin is eroding. His suckers have divots.

"He's not as strong as he used to be," said aquarist Deanna Trobaugh.

With so little time left, J-1 wasn't going to let the sweet Aurora slip through his eight octopus arms. While she had to make the first move, he caught on quickly, especially for an octopus who was collected on a beach near Seldovia in 1999 when he was about the size of a quarter and has lived the bachelor life since.

To get the two together, aquarium staff put Aurora in a plastic bag and then gently poured her into J-1's 3,600-gallon exhibit tank. She sank to the bottom of the tank and then made the first move, going over to J-1, who was hanging on a rock wall.

She reached out an arm and touched him. Only then did he wake up to the fact he had company. Contact made, she went back to her corner of the tank. J-1, dispelling water from his siphon to get quickly across the tank, was in hot pursuit.

"They both were gripping the back wall of the tank. He just about covered her completely," Hocking said. [...]

Hocking said it seemed only right to give J-1 a chance to do what octopuses normally do before he dies.

In his younger days, J-1 was an easygoing sort who did not try to escape his tank a lot, Hocking said. When aquarium staff would come by to clean, the octopus would reach out and grab hold of someone's arm or a window cleaning tool.

"The goal for this was to let him lead a full life," Hocking said.

Fine, fine, but since the magical night she has been nagging him non-stop about cleaning up his space and not being nice enough to her mother.

Meanwhile, in other news, some people slaughtered lots of other people somewhere.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:56 AM

FLAGSCAM? (via Tom Morin):

FLAGGING ENTHUSIASM (Mark Steyn, April 9th 2004, The Western Standard)

Canada is officially beyond parody. The latest development in Flagscam is that those Sheila Copps Maple Leafs – the flags needed to keep Quebec in Confederation, the flags only a $6 million Government program could organize, the flags whose $6 million Government program ballooned to $45 million, the flags whose free distribution wiped out the profits of Canadian flag retailers, the flags that no-one in Canada could make fast enough and so wound up being secretly imported from overseas, the flags for which millions of dollars were paid to well-connected Liberal Party middle-men for doing nothing, the flags for which the luckier Grit cronies got paid twice over for doing nothing – it turns out these flags don’t even fly.

On the CBC the other night, Doreen Braverman, who runs Canada’s biggest flag retailer, held up one of the Sheila Maple Leafs. No eyelets, no sleeve, no halyard line for your rope and toggle, no nothing. The Canadian taxpayers paid $45 per “flag” for a “flag” that can’t be flown. If what’s left of our armed forces ever gets round to seizing Hans Island back from the Danish imperialist aggressors and tearing down the viking marauders’ flag, I hope they don’t make the mistake of taking a Sheila $45 special to replace it with. One doesn’t want to think of the lads from JTF2 standing around on the barren windswept rock holding the Maple Leaf in position while someone radios back to base to ask if DND can parachute in a tube of Superglue.

Why do we need the government to spend $45 million on free flags? Well, go back to 1995. “We came within a few thousand votes of losing the greatest country in the world,” wrote Warren Kinsella a few weeks back in an impassioned defence of the Chretien years. “Under Brian Mulroney’s watch, there were no Canadian flags flying at post offices in Quebec… No flags in citizenship courts, even. Canada, as a concept, barely existed in the Province of Quebec.” It was one big no-fly zone.

Call me a pessimist, but I can’t think making a rural postmaster in the Gaspe lean a ladder up against the flagpole each morning so he can nail Sheila’s Maple Leaf into position is likely to endear him to the concept of Canada.

No idea what he's even talking about, but it's still funny.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:44 AM


THE PERILS OF TORTURING SUSPECTED TERRORISTS: Does the use of coercive interrogation techniques lead inevitably to abuses such as those committed at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq? (Stuart Taylor Jr., June 2004, Atlantic Monthly)

How can we get potentially lifesaving information from suspected terrorists without trashing human rights and staining our souls? Is torture ever morally justifiable? Is it ever legal? Should it be legal? What about less extreme forms of coercive interrogation, which range from polite but persistent questioning to covering prisoners' heads with black hoods, keeping them naked in cold, damp cells, depriving them of sleep, denying them adequate food, forcing them into uncomfortable "st