August 31, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:58 PM


Bush poll surprise: Internal numbers show Wisc.,Mich., Pa. tilt to President (Bob Cusack, 8/31/04, The Hill)

Internal Bush-Cheney campaign polling shows that the president is beating Sen. John Kerry in three states that Al Gore carried in 2000, campaign staff members told GOP operatives this week.

And John Thune has pulled ahead of Tom Daschle with 50%.

If you were betting today would you give Mr. Kerry more than: DC, HI, CA, IL, MD, ME, NY, & MA? (note that five of those 8 have Republican governors, making them quite winnable in a true landslide)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:44 PM

One gets the feeling that Sportsmen for Kerry/Edwards aren't.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:14 PM


Sources: Democratic leaders urge Kerry campaign changes: Campaign refutes reports of shake-up (CNN, 8/31/04)

Democratic leaders, increasingly concerned that John Kerry's presidential campaign is adrift, are urging the presidential nominee to make changes in his staff before Labor Day, according to some party sources.

If not, said one party strategist, "it could be too late." Sources say major changes could come at the campaign's highest level.

Given the Torricelli precedent, they could mean the candidate himself.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:03 PM


Bjork's war (Aaron Wherry, National Post, August 31st, 2004)

A relative latecomer for a 9/11-inspired artistic statement, Medulla comes long after Bruce Springsteen, Steve Earle, Toby Keith, Madonna and all the other usual and unusual suspects have picked through the rubble for any bit of scrap they might fashion into a three-and-a-half-minute expression of defiance. As such, there should be little left for Bjork to say; little more she could possibly do that hasn't been done. But, of course, the Idea persists.

In Bjork's case, this means restraint -- at least of the sort that might force her to find new freedom -- and so Medulla is an album crafted (almost) entirely from the human voice, though it sounds nothing like what you might expect from such a premise (see Ono, Yoko). Not just a departure from her instrumentally copious last album, 2001's Vespertine, Medulla is meant as a departure from, well, everything.

"Something in me wanted to leave out civilization," she told the Independent, "to rewind to before it all happened and work out, 'Where is the human soul? What if we do without civilization and religion and patriotism, without the stuff that has gone wrong?' "

More pointedly she told The Telegraph: "This album was supposed to be a response to 9/11 and all this rubbish ... I wanted to show those gentlemen that there are still insects crawling, people jumping in swimming pools, building houses, having children, making songs and having abstract thought processes or whatever. That's at least 98% of what humans are doing out there."

Yes, but that other 2% of what they are doing is the kicker, isn’t it? Time was the debate was between conservatives who thought civilization was hard-won and easily lost and old-fashioned liberals who saw it as a mighty oak that could withstand constant pruning and grafting. Today, more and more, we confront those who view it as a blight to be extinguished.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:58 PM


Being There: What does 9/11 tell us about Bush? Nothing. (William Saletan, Aug. 31, 2004, Slate)

For the past month, a group of veterans funded by a Bush campaign contributor and advised by a Bush campaign lawyer has attacked the story of John Kerry's heroism in Vietnam. They have argued, contrary to all known contemporaneous records, that Kerry was too brutal in a counterattack that earned him the Silver Star, and that he survived only mines, not bullets, when he rescued a fellow serviceman from a river. President Bush, who joined the National Guard as a young man to avoid Vietnam, has been challenged to denounce the group's charges. He has refused.

Now the Republican National Convention is showcasing Bush's own heroic moment. As John McCain put it last night: "I knew my confidence was well placed when I watched him stand on the rubble of the World Trade Center with his arm around a hero of September 11 and, in our moment of mourning and anger, strengthen our unity and our resolve by promising to right this terrible wrong and to stand up and fight for the values we hold dear."

Pardon me for asking, but where exactly is the heroism in this story? Where, indeed, is the heroism in anything Bush has done before 9/11 or since?

Set aside for a moment the likelihood that flying a Guard jet was more dangerous than working a swift boat when Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry chose their forms of national service during the Vietnam War. Consider this instead:
Assassinations and Attempts in U.S. Since 1865
* Roosevelt, Franklin D. (president-elect of U.S.): Escaped assassination unhurt Feb. 15, 1933, in Miami.

* Truman, Harry S. (president of U.S.): Escaped assassination unhurt Nov. 1, 1950, in Washington, DC, as 2 Puerto Rican nationalists attempted to shoot their way into Blair House.

* Kennedy, John F. (president of U.S.): Shot Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas, Tex., allegedly by Lee Harvey Oswald; died same day. Injured was Gov. John B. Connally of Texas. Oswald was shot and killed two days later by Jack Ruby.

* Ford, Gerald R. (president of U.S.): Escaped assassination attempt Sept. 5, 1975, in Sacramento, Calif., by Lynette Alice (Squeaky) Fromme, who pointed but did not fire .45-caliber pistol. Escaped assassination attempt in San Francisco, Calif., Sept. 22, 1975, by Sara Jane Moore, who fired one shot from a .38-caliber pistol that was deflected.

* Reagan, Ronald (president of U.S.): Shot in left lung in Washington by John W. Hinckley, Jr., on March 30, 1981; three others also wounded.
Add in the plot to kill George H. W. Bush and the nuts who crashed a plane into the White House and sprayed shots at it while Bill Clinton was in office and you've got one of the most dangerous jobs in America. Indeed, the President was probably the target of the 4th jet on 9-11. Mr. Saletan's point is unbelievably stupid even for Slate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:46 PM


India's US trade gamble (Arun Bhattacharjee, 8/31/04, Asia Times)

Following a series of unpublicized negotiations with the US Department of Commerce, the Treasury Department, Department of State and the Pentagon, India feels the time has come for a comprehensive bilateral treaty with the US in the service sector.

This development comes as Delhi announced its new long-term foreign trade policy late on Tuesday. This will replace the country's half a century old exports-imports policy, which has a tenure of only one year and deals with excise and taxes without any long-term trade strategy. The new policy contains far-reaching measures for large employment-generating export sectors like agriculture, textiles and handicrafts, all part of efforts to capture 2% of global trade by pushing up annual exports to US$300 billion by 2009. At present, India contributes a mere 0.8% to global trade.

Aimed at achieving over 16% annual trade growth on the back of 25% growth in the first quarter, the policy contains a slew of measures to boost India's special economic zones, 27 of which have already been approved for operation.

Given India's lofty goals, it makes strategic sense for New Delhi to sign a comprehensive bilateral trade agreement with the US, regarded as the most preferred trading destination for Indian industry and outsourcing companies by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). At stake is $1.5 billion in outsourcing business and $5 billion in textiles and other trading, beyond January next.

That is not all.

If nothing else, Mr. Kerry's apparent belief that France is a more important ally than India and his opposition to free trade should disqualify him from the presidency in the 21st Century.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:38 PM


Our daughter, who started kindergarten yesterday, just asked her brother, a 2nd-grader, if he'd said his prayers to the Egyptians in school today. Thinking as little as we do of the public schools, we naturally feared that her teacher was inducting her into the cult of Isis or something.

Turns out it was just the Pledge of Allegiance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:15 PM


Police brace for day of disobedience after ugly turn in protests that left detective injured (MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN, 8/31/04, Associated Press)

Police are bracing for more confrontations with protesters after a violent march to Madison Square Garden in which a plainclothes detective was pushed from his scooter and pummeled by a protester, witnesses and authorities said.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly called it "a blatant, vicious attack" on detective William Sample, who was briefly knocked unconscious Monday and was hospitalized with head injuries that were not life-threatening. His assailant was being sought by police.

"People started tugging at his bike and pushing him around," said Rob Raney, a 22-year-old Ohio college student. "Finally they just pushed him off his bike."

Hundreds of police in riot gear and on horses swept in to disperse the crowd, shouting, "Move!" Less than a dozen arrests were made as protesters yelled back, "Whose streets? Our streets!"

Police were preparing for further unrest Tuesday as protesters promised to demonstrate wherever delegates and Republican Party heavyweights were celebrating and sightseeing.

Real and engaging people, eh? To our eternal shame as a nation we gave in to such street thuggery the last time John Kerry was a national figure--in the early 70's--we'll not do so again.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:03 PM


Investors Bet for Bush Over Kerry (Reuters, 8/30/04)

Opinion polls show support for President Bush and his Democratic rival as almost dead even, but as the Republican convention began on Monday investors trading presidential futures did not believe the race would be nearly so close.

Trading in the Iowa Electronic Markets showed Bush pulling ahead of his rival, Democratic Sen. John Kerry, with a 54.8 percent probability of victory, compared to a 45.4 percent for Kerry.

The Iowa presidential futures contracts, which were launched by professors at the University of Iowa to study the forecasting power of markets, have had an average 1.37 percent margin of error in predicting the winner of the popular vote, a better record than most opinion polls. [...]

The Kerry contracts had a similar rally before the Democratic convention in Boston in July. At that time, the Bush contract showed a 50 percent probability of victory to Kerry's 49 percent. But since then, Bush has regained the lead.

Traders have placed similar bets at another online exchange, Intrade, which shows Bush at just under 58 percent to Kerry's roughly 43 percent. The Bush contract traded as low as 49 percent this summer.

Rallying to a point where you're still losing seems dissimilar to rallying to the point where you're near a landslide, but why quibble.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:24 PM


Go On, Snicker -- Bush May Well Laugh Last (Chris Bray, August 31, 2004, LA Times)

Ignoring U.S. political history, Bush's most virulent opponents are engaged in a staggeringly obtuse cultural offensive that defines most of the country outside their circle. Attacking his instances of inelegant speech, people who loudly and publicly criticize Bush attack the inelegant. Anyone who has spent some time around the humanities division will recall the comfortable claim that most highly educated people live on the political left. Granting that self-aggrandizing and highly debatable point for the sake of argument, we might stop to note that only one American in four graduates from college — from any college, all grade-point averages included. That's a pretty narrow path to political success, folks. Most people can smell contempt.

So rant on, and take note of every stupid-sounding thing that the president says. But remember what the horrified New York Times Book Review had to say about Huey Long, the wildly successful governor and senator from Louisiana, when he published his autobiography in 1933: "There is hardly a law of English usage or a rule of English grammar that its author does not break somewhere." And remember one other thing: 1934 was a very good year for Sen. Huey "Kingfish" Long, as he polished his platform, "Every man a king," for a presidential run.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:06 PM


Flying cars nearly ready for take-off (DUNCAN FORGAN, 8/31/04, The Scotsman)

WE ALREADY have amphibious cars that can take us over land and sea and jet packs that allow us to take off like a spaceman.

Now some of the world’s leading engineers are trying to advance the technology of travel further by developing cars that can fly.

The new vehicles are seen as becoming necessary, with motorways growing more clogged, and commuters prepared to travel further.

California-based company Moller International has built a prototype of its Skycar. The streamlined vehicle - think sports car meets the hovercraft Luke Skywalker drove in Star Wars - is designed to make vertical take-offs, fly around 700 miles and drive short distances.

Jack Allison, who retired as a vice-president at Moller but still works there, said Skycars were expected to start at about $1 million and require pilot’s training.

It’s not clear when they’ll be available, but Mr Allison says more than 100 people have put down a $5,000 deposit.

Major corporations are trying to take the concept on to the mass maket.

A Flying Leap for CarsM (Olga Kharif, 8/25/04, Business Week)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:13 PM


Leaders of Russia, France, Germany Hold Talks on Iraq (VOA News, 31 Aug 2004)

It's like chimps discussing the Calculus.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:10 PM


The unspecial relationship: Britain's Entrapment by the French: The Triple Anniversary of 2004 (Professor Christie Davies, Bruges Group)

2004 is a year of three sad anniversaries in the unhappy relationship between Britain and France. Ninety years ago in August 1914 Britain was dragged into a war between France and Germany for which France was largely to blame. It was that French war that fatally undermined British power and thus Britain's ability and willingness to withstand the Nazi and Soviet threats that were the very consequence of the war that France began. [...]

"Why ", some readers may ask "are you telling us all these unpleasant truths about the wretched French?" Even those who do not doubt the facts may feel that to deploy these arguments in a modern context will only exacerbate our already difficult and adversary relationship with them. Why then does their argument not apply to the Germans? German political leaders are rightly annoyed at the way history is taught in British schools, what has been termed the Hitlerisation of British history teaching. In Britain German history is taught badly and tendentiously to seventeen year olds who have no knowledge of the German language by concentrating on the twelve quite atypical disaster years of National Socialism, 1933-1945. I have taught such students after they had entered the university where I have been appalled at their lack of analytical skills and their inability to think their way outside the interpretations that they had been fed. Those who designed the school syllabuses should be ashamed of themselves; they went for cheap popularity not true learning and have unfairly villainised an entire people by concentrating on a tiny segment of its history. It verges on Vansittartism. The idea that is put in their heads is one that in its extreme version was propounded by Sir Robert Vansittart in his pamphlet Black Record. German history becomes a tale of almost continuous brutal aggression from Arminius' (Hermann) ambush of Varus' legions in the Teutoburgerwald through to the Teutonic knights and the Prussian army, to blood and iron under Bismarck, to the Schlieffen plan, to the shooting of francs-tireurs and Edith Cavelle in Belgium, to the " unfair" waging of war by U-boats and Zeppelins. Everything that doesn't fit is left out and the aggressive episodes in the history of Germany's neighbours are not mentioned, particularly those that have involved repeated invasions and devastation of Germany. In this way all German history has evolved inevitably towards the Third Reich. In a world where everyone else was becoming benign and democratic, Germany was an "exception" and somehow this is the fault of certain inherent aspects of the German character that constitutes the very essence of the German people. If it were said about anyone else it would be immediately denounced as racist nonsense but it is still open season on the Hun. Vansittartism is alive and well.

National Socialism should be studied as sociology not as history. It is part of a wider set of vicious phenomena that are not limited to Germany - a continent wide anti-Semitism that was to be found from Paris to Odessa, the rise of stratification by militant parties which later became Continental Europe's deadly export to China, Cambodia and Iraq, the worship of force and collectivism as an antidote to Anglo-American "materialism". None of these things are peculiar to Germany. That they triumphed together in a singularly horrible form under National Socialism is due to defeat , reparations, the rise of Communism and the failure of the American economy in 1929 rather than anything specifically German. It could not have happened in Britain because we are not part of that Continental world but it could easily have happened in France if that country had been defeated early on in World War I, crushed with reparations and forced to cede core French-speaking areas of France to Germany along with Morrocco and bits of central Africa. There would soon have arisen a National Socialist French workers party with a screaming anti-semitic fanatic to lead it. All the elements to build a Nazi party in France had long been present.

In particular, we should not forget the anti-Semitism of the condemners of Dreyfus, Action Française and the Croix de Feu (the party Mitterand's first joined) which found in its final expression in the rounding up of Jews for deportation by the Milice. During the second world war, after the French defeat, Marshal Pétain, the legitimate ruler of France, placed in his high office by a free vote of the French parliament and an overwhelming majority of those votes would sit and glumly contemplate the ruin of France. After much thought he would say "C'est les Juifs" to a former President of the Senate from Martinique who would reply "Oui c'est les Juifs". At the end of the war when Charles Maurras the anti-Semitic leader of Action Française was expelled from the Academie Française he commented " Dreyfus has won". Fanatical anti-Semitism was not a German monopoly. [...]

The moral of the story is that neither in 1904 nor in 1914 should we have shown or have any sympathy with France's fear of being dominated by Germany , nor should we have any in 2004. A Europe dominated by Hitler would have been horrendous but a Kaiserly Europe would have been better than a war in which over a million British and Imperial troops were killed. What would it have mattered if the Germans had come to dominate the Balkans and run Baghdad for the Turks? As countries like Germany grow in wealth and power they have to be accommodated much as Britain chose to cultivate the growing United States after the Civil War and settle grievances on American terms. For Britain to ally itself with a nation on the way out like France was inane. It was also undemocratic. The conversations and implicit agreements between the British and French General Staffs after the Entente Cordiale were kept secret from the British people because of their traditional distrust and dislike of the French. Edward VII's direct discussions with the French were unconstitutional and his Francophilia was probably based on nothing more than his gratitude to a nation that had invented devices to raise and lower that corpulent king or his two female partners during innovative forms of sexual congress on a specially designed chair. How much better it would have been for the world if Edward VII had been gay! He could have taken his holidays with Krupp in Capri and established a rapport with Wilhelm through the camarilla led by Prince Philip zu Eulenberg, a shrewd, far-sighted and restraining influence on his Kaiser . Better Gomorrah than Armentières.

In recent decades we have gone on making the same mistake. It is taken for granted that the French still have a legitimate interest in reining Germany in, in tying Germany ever tighter in a European Union lest it become too powerful. Many in France opposed and were fearful of German reunification precisely because it recreated a populous and powerful nation in the heart of Europe that will once again overshadow France. Yet why should a democratic and peaceful Germany not dominate Europe and not impose its commercial and agricultural interests on France. It should be Britain's policy to encourage such a development, much as we should have done in 1904-14. It would be better for Britain than the present unnatural Franco-German alliance in which the French, once again struggling to maintain the delusion of their own importance, exercise an influence out of all proportion to their real power. If Germany were to gain her rightful position at the heart of Europe, the French would soon discover the necessity for treating the Americans with a suitable degree of deference or even fawning. It is time for Britain slowly to disentangle itself from Europe and leave the French to their fate and the Germans to their inheritance.

Except that the Germans can't even run their own country never mind dominate the continent. Britain though would be well rid of both the French and the Germans.

N.B.--Was anyone else hoping and anticipating that Rudy Giuliani would declare war on Germany last night?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:02 PM


Liberals don't recognize one of their own in White House (JOHN O'SULLIVAN, August 31, 2004, Chicago Sun-Times)

When the vast anti-Bush and anti-Republican demonstration rolled over Manhattan on Sunday, did the demonstrators realize that they were shaking their fists at the president who has single-handedly revived big government? Well, perhaps not single-handedly -- President Bush has had assistance from Republicans and Democrats in raising domestic discretionary federal spending by a whopping 8.2 percent in the last two years.

But Bush can take special credit for out-of-control federal spending because the president is given the constitutional power of the veto in order to keep congressional spending under control. Bush has not used that veto once in four years. In addition, he has largely abandoned the GOP's rhetorical attachment to limited government -- saying on one occasion that when someone was hurting, the government should step in to do something about it. So much for that grand old piece of conservative skepticism about government programs: "Don't just do something -- stand there."

The best measure of Mr. Bush's radicalism is that he's hated by both the Left and the traditional Right. This is entirely appropriate since the synthesis he's bringing about--the Ownership Society--will render both wings of the spectrum obsolete--as witness what Tony Blair has done to both the anti-union Labour Party and whatever the Tories have decided to call themselves.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:42 PM


Immoderate Night (New Dem, Daily, 8/31/04)

One of the few mysteries of the Republican National Convention has been resolved. Many observers wondered if the high billing of John McCain and Rudy Giuliani last night would represent another effort to depict the GOP as a moderate, inclusive party. Instead, these speakers lent their moderate credentials to the proposition that nothing matters in this election other than the duty of a grateful nation to re-elect George W. Bush to thank him for his leadership in the war on terrorism. If elections are indeed, as the saying goes, about the future rather than the past, Republicans are not off to a very good start.

Other than their remarkable lack of forward-looking perspective, there were three striking things about these speeches:

First, neither McCain nor Giuliani mentioned domestic issues even once. That's amazing. For all the talk about the message discipline of the Democratic Convention, and the disproportionate attention paid to John Kerry's Vietnam service, there were no speeches in Boston that failed to mention domestic as well as international issues.

Second, both speeches were very, very aggressive on Iraq. They depicted Bush not as a chief executive making a tough call for better or for worse (which is often how the president himself describes his decision to invade Iraq), but as a deeply principled, and even visionary warrior for freedom. Giuliani was especially stark on this point, shoehorning the Iraq war with the Afghanistan operation as part of the immediate reaction to 9/11. Nobody said a word about the administration's management of the occupation of Iraq, which has not exactly been Churchillian.

And third, both speeches departed from the 2000 template by offering Republican delegates some immediate red meat. McCain avoided any attacks on Democrats, but took a shot at lefty filmmaker Michael Moore, who was conveniently visible in a press skybox. This sideshow reinforced the GOP's efforts to depict anti-Bush, and largely anti-war demonstrators in New York as the face of the Democratic Party.

Pity the poor DLC--they still haven't figured out that Michael Moore, Ted Kennedy , Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi and John Kerry are the face of the Democratic Party, not Sam Nunn or Joe Lieberman.

Posted by Matt Murphy at 2:15 PM


The text of John Kerry's 1971 book The New Soldier -- now going for a cool $699 on Amazon -- is currently available on the Internet.

The introduction and the epilogue are really the only things that matter, as the middle of the book is stuffed with ravings from many people who claimed to have fought in Vietnam but probably served kitchen duty--as B.G. Burkett and others have attested. Of these, the introduction contains a snippet from Kerry's testimony before the Senate and the short epilogue showcases Kerry's inability to support his country when it matters, and even when it doesn't.

As the American people are unabashedly patriotic, the public posting of this book only adds to the potential for another magnificent creaming of the senator's war record and his many subsequent trips to the waffle house. Picture an ad putting the following two quotes side-by-side -- the first a passage from Kerry's book, the second a line from his presidential nomination acceptance speech:

* We will not quickly join those who march on Veterans' Day waving small flags, calling to memory those thousands who died for the "greater glory of the United States." We will not accept the rhetoric. We will not readily join the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars -- in fact, we will find it hard to join anything at all and when we do, we will demand relevancy such as other organizations have recently been unable to provide. We will not take solace from the creation of monuments or the naming of parks after a select few of the thousands of dead Americans and Vietnamese. We will not uphold traditions which decorously memorialize that which was base and grim.

* I'm John Kerry, and I'm reporting for duty.

As usual, if you want to make a liberal politician look ridiculous, use his words and not your own.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:52 PM


Bush Cites Doubt America Can Win War on Terror (ELISABETH BUMILLER, Aug. 30, 2004, NY Times)

President Bush, in an interview broadcast on Monday, said he did not think America could win the war on terror but that it could make terrorism less acceptable around the world, a departure from his previous optimistic statements that the United States would eventually prevail.

In the interview with Matt Lauer of the NBC News program "Today," conducted on Saturday but shown on the opening day of the Republican National Convention, Mr. Bush was asked if the United States could win the war against terrorism, which he has made the focus of his administration and the central thrust of his re-election campaign.

"I don't think you can win it," Mr. Bush replied. "But I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world."

As recently as July 14, Mr. Bush had drawn a far sunnier picture. "I have a clear vision and a strategy to win the war on terror," he said.

At a prime-time news conference in the East Room of the White House on April 13, Mr. Bush said: "One of the interesting things people ask me, now that we are asking questions, is, 'Can you ever win the war on terror?' Of course you can."

It was unclear if Mr. Bush had meant to make the remark to Mr. Lauer, or if he misspoke. But White House officials said the president was not signaling a change in policy, and they sought to explain his statement by saying he was emphasizing the long-term nature of the struggle.

You obviously can't end terrorism--it's been around for hundreds--if not thousands--of years and is a useful tactic for folks who can't take on their enemies on the battlefield.

Nor can you wipe out Islamicism any more than winning the Civil War and WWII brought an end to white supremacist ideology and neo-Nazism. You can render it nugatory though, as those other pathologies are today. That will require the radical transformation of the Middle East towards liberal democratic protestant capitalism. There won't be a V-I Day we can celebrate, where Islamicism officially surrenders, but it will be obvious to everyone that those militants who remain represent only a very marginal part of otherwise healthy and decent societies.

Perhaps this is an appropriate measure: we'll have won when they get to the point where when they have an Oklahoma City Bombing of their own--and they will--their populaces hold such an action to be unacceptable and insist that their elected leaders hound the perpetrators and their fellow travelers the same way we did.

Bush reverses course, says we'll win terror war (Associated Press, August 31, 2004 )

As Bush continued a pre-convention journey through one closely contested state after another, aides scrambled to clarify the president's remark and contain the story. And in Tuesday's speech before the American Legion, with popular Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona by his side, Bush himself sought to hit back.

``In this different kind of war, we may never sit down at a peace table,'' Bush said. ``But make no mistake about it, we are winning and we will win.''

Bush also defended his decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Though no weapons of mass destruction have been found, he said Saddam had the capability to make them.

``Knowing what I know today I would have taken the same action,'' he said. ``America and the world are safer with Saddam Hussein sitting in a prison cell.''

Bush's war on terror remark was the latest in a string of recent comments in which the president seemed to backpedal previous certainties.

In a flurry of interviews timed to coincide with this week's convention, Bush acknowledged a ``miscalculation'' about what the United States would encounter in postwar Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime and said the ``catastrophic success'' of a swift military victory there helped produce the still-potent insurgency.

"reverses course"? How about "clarifies"?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:33 PM


Scaled-Up Darkness: Could a single dark matter particle be light-years wide? (George Musser, 8/30/04, Scientific American)

In 1996 Discover magazine ran an April Fools' story about giant particles called "bigons" that could be responsible for all sorts of inexplicable phenomena. Now, in a case of life imitating art, some physicists are proposing that the universe's mysterious dark matter consists of great big particles, light-years or more across. Amid the jostling of these titanic particles, ordinary matter ekes out its existence like shrews scurrying about the feet of the dinosaurs.

This idea arose to explain a puzzling fact about dark matter: although it clumps on the vastest scales, creating bodies such as galaxy clusters, it seems to resist clumping on smaller scales. Astronomers see far fewer small galaxies and subgalactic gas clouds than a simple extrapolation from clusters would imply. Accordingly, many have suggested that the particles that make up dark matter interact with one another like molecules in a gas, generating a pressure that counterbalances the force of gravity.

The big-particle hypothesis takes another approach. Instead of adding a new property to the dark particles, it exploits the inherent tendency of any quantum particle to resist confinement. If you squeeze one, you reduce the uncertainty of its position but increase the uncertainty of its momentum. In effect, squeezing increases the particle's velocity, generating a pressure that counteracts the force you apply. Quantum claustrophobia becomes important over distances comparable to the particle's equivalent wavelength. Fighting gravitational clumping would take a wavelength of a few dozen light-years.

That would be a case of art imitating art.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:10 PM


Born-again vs. perfect (Marvin Olasky, August 26, 2004, Townhall)

John Kerry graduated from Yale in 1966. George Bush graduated in 1968. I graduated from said institution in 1971. With the Kerry campaign in full panic mode about the swift boat charges, maybe I can provide some perspective on the environment that has led to the current confusion. [...]

Neither Kerry nor Bush nor I wanted to fight in Vietnam, and we all did what we could in our situations: Naval Reserves (Kerry), Texas Air National Guard (Bush), draft lottery No. 278 (me), which meant immunity from having to serve. In his circumstances, Kerry's choice was smart: Navy or Coast Guard folks were much less likely to see combat service than their counterparts in the Army or Air Force, and the safest Navy spot may have been that of a Naval Reserve officer. [...]

My point, having lived through the 1960s-1970s confusion, is that the era was not one of uncommon resolution, at least not of the patriotic variety. I relished my high draft lottery number. George W. Bush played it smart like John Kerry and found a soft gig. He and I took different rotten paths -- he drank heavily, I became a communist -- but both of us could say the same thing: "When I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible."

The other thing both of us can and do say is that we did not save ourselves: God alone saves sinners (and I can surely add, of whom I was the worst). Being born again, we don't have to justify ourselves. Being saved, we don't have to be saviors.

John Kerry, once-born, has no such spiritual support, nor do most of his top admirers in the heavily secularized Democratic Party. It would be great if he could say: "I was young and vainglorious and often self-absorbed. I exaggerated and lied at times, and since then have thought it necessary not to disavow the fantasies I wove. But I do deserve credit for being there and serving my country in a mixed-up era in which I at times was also mixed-up."

Kerry can't say that because he evidently does not believe that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

The belief in the perfectibility of human beings is at the core of the Left's politics and is the source of their disastrous belief that the State can be used to hammer us lumps of clay into idealized shapes (see the kibbutz story below). That is, of course, antithetical to the Founding principles of our nation.

More surprising though than the dissent from those principles would be a belief that you yourself are unflawed. The Senator's inability to admit error even as he flip-flops leaves him open to such an interpretation. He's going to have to apologize for at least his Senate testimony if not his opposition to Vietnam entirely if he's going to get out from under the storyline, but he's left it until far too late in his career to do so--the middle of a presidential campaign--and may be incapable of it even now.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:14 AM


He's young, good looking, and Hispanic - could he be the next George Bush in the White House? (Dan Glaister, August 31, 2004, The Guardian)

The polished young man speaking on Univision, the biggest Spanish-language TV channel in the US, might have been a movie star. Or perhaps, with his fluent Spanish and handsome features, a sports star.

Or he might be the next member of the Bush dynasty to take to the political stage and become possibly, just possibly, the first Hispanic president of the US.

Meet George P Bush, 28, nephew to W, grandson of H, son of Jeb.

"George P Bush is a tremendous asset to the family," said Dario Moreno, director of Florida International University's Metropolitan Centre. "He's obviously Hispanic, he's an attractive young man, he's articulate and he's a Bush. That's a powerful combination. It raises the dynastic possibility, and it could be a hoot if the first Hispanic president of the US is a Bush." [...]

George P first emerged as a political asset in the 2000 presidential campaign, when he gave a well-received speech at the Republican national convention and appeared in Spanish-language TV commercials for his uncle's campaign. He also became a minor celebrity, making his way on to a list of the nation's 100 most eligible bachelors.

He studied law at the University of Texas at Austin, where he met his wife, Amanda, whom he married earlier this month at a ceremony attended by the entire Bush family. Earlier this year he left his position as an assistant to a Dallas judge and spent the summer as an intern with two leading south Florida law firms.

"That strengthens the family's political base in Miami," said Mr Moreno. "And it lays the groundwork for an eventual entry into politics. It seems clear to me that he's being groomed."

One of the most noticable atmospheric differences between New York and Boston is that the buzz at the Republican Convention surrounds peoples' bright political futures and the battle of heavyweights that is shaping up for the '08 nomination. The only Democrat who anyone seems to think has any kind of future is Hillary Clinton. They ended up with their awful nominee thisb time because they have no bench strength and they don't appear to be developing a next generation of leaders. That's one of the catastrophic effects of being in the permanent minority, as the GOP discovered from 1932 to 2000.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:05 AM


Israel's kibbutzim swap socialist ideals for personal profit in struggle to survive (Chris McGreal, August 31, 2004, The Guardian)

For the older residents of this kibbutz, the break with the ideal came the day that some pay packets were fatter than others. And being asked to pay for lunch.

But they realised the tide had turned irrevocably with the hiring of Koby Lamm. Not only was he paid the market rate for running the sprawling agricultural and manufacturing kibbutz near the Sea of Galilee, but he was an outsider. A manager. Not a socialist.

"This is a big, big revolutionary change," said Aryeh Wolfin, who moved to Kibbutz Kfar Hanasi from London in 1958. "The kibbutz as it was is dead. The egalitarian socialist society belongs to the past. Forget about it. This is the future of the kibbutz.

"Some people still yearn for the days of the old kibbutz. Some people who haven't adapted have a bitter taste. But I think we've saved the kibbutz."

The kibbutz has iconic status in Israel, and shaped the world's view of the Jewish state over the decades when it was popularly seen as struggling for social justice as well as its survival.

But the weight of an ageing population, young people more interested in personal enrichment than equality, and modern economic realities, have largely killed the guiding philosophy of "from each according to their ability to each according to their needs".

In the past 20 years the population of Israel's 270 kibbutzim has fallen by about a quarter to 116,000. Three times as many people are leaving as joining.

Most of those who go are young, leaving behind a population with an average age approaching 55 years. As a result, most of the communities can no longer afford the cradle-to-grave support for their members, with potentially tragic results for many older people who put in a lifetime of work in the belief that they would spend a secure retirement in the bosom of the kibbutz.

Few own property, and if their kibbutz collapses - as several have - they face destitution.

Europe's future writ small.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:59 AM


Crude Oil Drops as Threats to Supply From Iraq, Russia Diminish (Bloomberg, 8/31/04)

Crude oil futures fell close to a one-month low on expectations a cease-fire in southern Iraq will reduce the sabotage of oil pipelines and supplies from Russia will increase.

Attacks on pipelines to southern Iraqi export terminals have decreased, allowing for near-normal exports of 1.75 million barrels a day today, according to two local shipping agents. Russia, which alternates with Saudi Arabia as the world's top oil producer, will boost output 6.9 percent this year to 450 million tons, President Vladimir Putin said.

"Iraq's sustained exports and Putin's positive declarations are calming the market,'' said Renzo Mejia, a broker at Sucden (U.K.) Ltd. in London. "The market is looking for any security improvements to lower the risk premium'' in prices, which had exceeded $10 a barrel, he said.

Crude oil for October delivery tumbled as much as 56 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $41.72 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange and was trading at $41.90 at 1:44 p.m. London time. It has dropped 16 percent from its Aug. 20 intraday record of $49.40. In London, October Brent crude fell as much as 3.1 percent to a one-month low of $39.40.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:31 AM


Selling The Ownership Society: Bush & Co. are pitching self-sufficiency, urging voters to take control of health-care and Social Security decisions (Lee Walczak, Richard S. Dunham, and Mike McNamee, with Howard Gleckman and Rich Miller, in Washington, 9/06/04, Business Week)

In New York, the President will take the wraps off a second-term domestic agenda built around the idea of an "Ownership Society" in which Americans would be empowered to save and invest more, playing a larger role in managing their own health care and retirement finances. By promising to fight for private accounts in Social Security and a simpler and more investor-friendly tax code, Bush will return to the big reform themes that served him well in his 2000 campaign. Given his track record for bold and surprising strokes, he may also use his convention speech to hint at an even more ambitious second-term reform agenda that would tilt the tax balance further away from investment and toward consumption.

While hardly original, Bush's Ownership Society approach is worlds away from the expanded government safety net that Kerry proposes to help strapped workers. The Democrat is making inroads with swing voters by promoting near-universal health coverage, tuition aid, and tax credits for new jobs.

Whatever else it does, Bush's throwing down the gauntlet will open one of the more striking debates of the campaign. That's because there's a philosophical gulf between liberals' evocations of social equity and the comfort of a government helping hand vs. conservatives' paeans to individualism and entrepreneurship. As he barnstorms the country, Bush promotes the virtues of ownership with near-religious fervor, seizing upon one economic number in particular that shines from a so-so record: the torrid pace of home buying. "If you own something, you have a vital stake in the future," the President said in St. Paul, Minn., on Aug. 18.

What's under the ownership umbrella? There's a renewed call, to be voiced in Bush's convention speech, for an aggressive trade-promotion agenda and for private Social Security accounts. The President also will talk up a health system built on individual -- rather than employer-provided -- insurance.

Bush is saving his biggest ownership flourish for last, however. All year his economists have debated whether the White House can commit to broad reform of the tax code as a second-term goal. Bush has now signed on and will promote the ideas of "pro-growth" reform in his address without dwelling too much on specifics. Says former Council of Economic Advisers Chairman R. Glenn Hubbard, a key architect of Bush's first-term tax cuts: "The President is a problem-solver. He's keenly interested in fixing the tax code's complexity and anti-savings bias."

In New York, Bush is expected to embrace a major tax initiative, vowing action on three fronts: He will fight to make existing tax cuts permanent; push for new individual retirement accounts that protect family savings from taxes; and direct the Treasury Dept. to outline changes that make the revenue code "fairer and simpler." That will trigger a foot-stomping celebration on the floor of Madison Square Garden, since GOP partisans equate those words with "lower and less onerous" rates.

But what is Bush's ultimate goal? The steps the President is taking to trim marginal rates and exempt bigger and bigger chunks of investment income are marching the tax code toward a long-time dream of mainstream GOP reformers -- retaining the core of the basic income tax while gradually easing the tax bite on savings and investment. Bush must tread cautiously, however, to quell voters' fears that he aims to throw out the existing tax code and replace it with a pure flat tax or national sales levy. To calm those worries, he will insist that any changes keep both the home mortgage deduction and the write-off for charitable giving.

Taken together, the Ownership Society themes resonate broadly, White House officials contend. The slogan returns Bush to the "reformer with results" rhetoric of his 2000 campaign. It permits the Texan to cast himself as a modernizer running against a Big Government liberal, as individual investing and exploding homeownership transform society. It fires up the GOP base with appeals for low taxes and property rights. And by turning the Social Security debate into a discussion of investor returns, Bush may lure young voters who have abandoned him. "The idea is to control your affairs through ownership, starting with homeownership and running to health care and retirement," says Dan Bartlett, White House communications director. "The question is: Do I trust myself more, or the government more?" [...]

Thus, in the election, two strains of the American character will collide: risk-taking and pioneering vs. a government safety net protecting citizens from the excesses of capitalism. "Americans are optimistic and aspire to ownership," says Darrell West, a Brown University political scientist: "But pushing the Ownership Society is still risky, because it plays to future aspirations without addressing people's current economic problems."

Over the long term, the ownership concept holds both power and promise given that it reflects profound changes in the way Americans live. George Bush's problem, though, is that he has a messy short term to traverse.

As Mayor Giuliani said last night, our great leaders--Churchill and Reagan--have had a unique ability to see past the troublesome moment to the promise that the future holds and their vision has always been rooted in the triumph of freedom. One of the ways in which Providence seems to have been at work on 9-11 is that President Bush started the war with Islamicism seeing that we were destined to win it and to transform the Middle East. His confidence--like Reagan's that we would leave the Evil Empire on the ash heap of history--by itself changed the political dynamics within the Islamic world. The question was no longer would the nations of the Arab world reform but how fast and whether from within or without.

Similarly, Mr. Bush's vision of the transformation that democratic society can achieve by following the Third Way--bringing free market principles to the concept of the social safety net--is so compelling that the terms of the conversation have already been drastically altered. In stories like this the argument of the Democrats is not that the Ownership Society can't or shouldn't be done or that it won't work but that this is not the optimal moment for what they're forced concede is a good and powerful idea.

When the reactionaries are reduced to arguing only the pace of reform the revolutionaries have already won.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:00 AM


Delegates mock Kerry with 'purple heart' bandages: Democrats: GOP 'mocking our troops' (CNN, August 31, 2004)

Delegates to the Republican National Convention found a new way to take a jab at Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's Vietnam service record: by sporting adhesive bandages with small purple hearts on them.

Morton Blackwell, a prominent Virginia delegate, has been handing out the heart-covered bandages to delegates, who've worn them on their chins, cheeks, the backs of their hands and other places.

If you were a Democrat mightn't you think it wise to just shut up about the mockability of your candidate?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:53 AM


A convention village of GOP fantasies (Thomas Oliphant, August 31, 2004, Boston Globe)

The problem at the outset here is that the Potemkin village clashes with the surprisingly real and engaging one in the streets. Anything that jars political conventions' calculations or clashes with the party line is to be celebrated, but the surprise through the weekend and first day was that "the other convention" overshadowed the real one.

Grigori Potemkin's acolytes plopped Dick Cheney down on Ellis Island, with the Twin Towers-missing Manhattan skyline perfectly framed for TV in the background. About 100 "people" and a marching band were transported to cheer as he declared that President Bush was strong and tough. Local icon Rudy Giuliani, completing his makeover from leader to cashing-in mascot, lent his presence.

Across the harbor, hundreds of thousands of people marched up Seventh Avenue to Madison Square Garden and stole the show. No speeches, no big shot Democrats in the wings or even in the march, just people. The country does not agree with the views of most of them about getting out of Iraq, but the real political impact was a combination of immense size and genuineness of commitment as a contrast to what is turning into a demeaning, ritualistic, borderline cynical embrace of 9/11.

New York City became the convention venue while the Bush White House was in the grip of its Mission Accomplished delusion, the result of what Bush now actually claims was a mess created by the "catastrophic success" of the Iraq invasion. The consensus here is that the real New York City -- with fewer police and firefighters than before the attacks, with gigantic fiscal and economic problems traceable to Bush administration policies, and an informed view of the wasteful diversion from fighting terror that Iraq has proved to be -- would not be the Republicans' choice today.

The problem is not that John Kerry is likely to carry it by as much as a 5-1 margin. The problem is that New York doesn't fit Bush's Potemkin Village view; in fact, it mocks it.

John Kerry might cringe, but during Sunday's march I walked part of the way with a delightful group of a hundred or so repentant Naderites, striding behind a banner that was a tad rough but at least honest: Kerry Sucks Less.

Mr. Oliphant's surprisingly real protestors are, of course, fresh off their victory in stopping the march to war for oil.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:48 AM


Watching Romney's suitcase: Governor spent most of August out of Bay State (Scott S. Greenberger and Elise Castelli, August 31, 2004, Boston Globe)

Governor Mitt Romney has had a busy August, but he hasn't spent much of it conducting state business: As of tonight, after his second evening at the Republican National Convention in New York City, Romney will have spent just seven of the month's 22 working days at the State House.

Romney began the month with a trip to Salt Lake City to promote his book, chronicling his revival of the 2002 Winter Games, and then he did similar events in New York and Washington. A week later, he jetted to Athens to receive an award for his Salt Lake City achievements. The governor spent the next eight weekdays in New Hampshire, vacationing with his family on Lake Winnipesaukee. And yesterday he campaigned with President Bush in Nashua, N.H., before heading back to New York for the convention.

The travels of a governor widely thought to have aspirations for higher office are grist for Democrats, who have accused Romney of being disengaged from his Massachusetts job and increasingly focused on a possible nationwide run. A party spokeswoman yesterday articulated the case.

''Whether you're a Democrat or Republican or independent, it's quite obvious to everyone that Romney's focus has shifted from performing the work of the people here in Massachusetts to serving his own special interest," said Democratic Party spokeswoman Jane Lane. ''Obviously, his focus right now is on raising his national profile and his political future, rather than the job at hand."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:46 AM


Freed Radicals: WOULD REAGAN RECOGNIZE THE GOP? (John B. Judis, 08.29.04, New Republic)

"The party of George W. Bush is very much the party of Ronald Reagan," declared Ed Gillespie, the chairman of the Republican Party, in September 2003. It's a contention that one speaker after another will echo at the Republican National Convention. But they will be largely wrong. While there is continuity between the Reagan and Bush GOPs--as evidenced by Bush's tax cuts, for example--the outward similarities conceal a deeper truth: Bush's Republican Party is far more conservative than Reagan's ever was. [...]

Reagan's GOP brought together Sun Belt conservatives, such as Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, who were hostile to labor unions and the New Deal but who also opposed government interference in citizens' lives; Deep South conservatives, such as Strom Thurmond, who had turned Republican when the Democrats backed racial desegregation; a large group of moderates or "Old Guard" Republicans, such as Kansas Senator Robert Dole, who supported the New Deal but worried about budget deficits and welfare and who, unlike the Deep South Republicans, still identified themselves as members of the party of Lincoln; and a few Northeastern liberals, such as Pennsylvania Senator John Heinz.

This diversity was reflected in Reagan's administration, but his White House was actually dominated by moderates. These included Vice President George H.W. Bush, who had criticized Reagan's "voodoo economics"; White House Chief of Staff James Baker, who had run Gerald Ford's and Bush's primary campaigns against Reagan; and others like Treasury Secretary Donald Regan and Secretary of State George Shultz. The most extreme Cabinet officials, such as Interior Secretary James Watt, a fundamentalist who wanted to hand over the wilderness to energy and timber interests, were forced to resign. Republicans in Congress were even more centrist. They were led by Dole, who advocated a tax increase in 1982 to keep the deficit under control; Tennessee Senator Howard Baker, who was reviled by conservatives for his support of the Panama Canal treaty; and Illinois Representative Robert Michel, whom The Washington Post described as an advocate of "consensus-oriented, non-ideological politics."

Today's Congress, by contrast, is dominated by hard-line conservatives. Texas Representative Tom DeLay, now the majority leader, has virtually run the House of Representatives since Newt Gingrich resigned six years ago. DeLay, Speaker Dennis Hastert, and Majority Whip Roy Blount all boast 90-plus percent ratings on the American Conservative Union and Christian Coalition scorecards, as do all seven of the GOP's elected Senate leaders, from Majority Leader Bill Frist and Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell to Chief Deputy Majority Whip Bob Bennett and Policy Committee Chairman Jon Kyl.

Bush's administration reflects this conservative predominance. The most influential members are White House political adviser Karl Rove, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Attorney General John Ashcroft. The administration's most notable moderate, Secretary of State Colin Powell, has been marginalized, and will be conspicuously absent from this year's convention (see Notebook, page 10). Its two other well-known moderates, former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christie Whitman, have resigned.

If you told Mr. Reagan his legacy would be a party where the White House insiders didn't conspire to get the president to raise taxes just because of a little deficit spending he'd be overjoyed.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:25 AM


The Milosevic trial is doing its job (Bogdan Ivanisevic, International Herald Tribune, August 30th, 2004)

Expect some fireworks Tuesday when Slobodan Milosevic takes up his own defense at the war crimes tribunal in The Hague. Over the last few years, as the prosecution presented evidence that the former Serbian strongman orchestrated Europe's worst crimes of the late 20th century, he used every opportunity not only to challenge the facts but to tell the Serbian audience back home that they were all victims of an international conspiracy. Now this grandstanding will take center stage.

Critics contend the process is a failure that is harming the cause of justice for the Balkan wars, rather than helping it. But although the trial is complex and difficult, it is progressing normally by almost every criterion that makes a criminal trial fair and efficient.

And that is precisely the problem.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:09 AM


Bright outlook for drizzle
(Roger Highfield, The Telegraph, August 31st, 2004)

Drizzle, long associated with dull days and the lowering of human spirits, is something to be celebrated, an American scientist says.

Dr Robert McGraw has developed a theory that it falls most readily when the atmosphere is unpolluted.

Research by his team at the United States department of energy's Brookhaven laboratory could lead to more accurate weather forecasts.

Hell is a drizzly place populated by millions of scientists all boasting non-stop about the results of their research and the benefits they promise to bring.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Giuliani Plays Role of Backer With Relish (MICHAEL SLACKMAN, 8/31/04, NY Times)

Rudolph W. Giuliani's spirited address last night at Madison Square Garden followed weeks of marathon campaigning for President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. From personal appearances on the campaign trail to television spots and radio and newspaper interviews, Mr. Giuliani seemed to be everywhere aiding the re-election effort, a role that is tailor-made for the former mayor.

The speech was a high point for Mr. Giuliani as he repeatedly brought the crowd to its feet, trying to take the moral high ground, invoking the memories of Sept. 11, while also throwing the crowd political red meat, attacking the Democratic nominee John Kerry.

"Maybe this explains John Edwards's need for two Americas - one where John Kerry can vote for something and another where he can vote against the same thing," Mr. Giuliani said at one point, drawing a huge roar from the crowd.

It was the return of the combative, in-your-face mayor whom New Yorkers had come to know well, and whom the nation may be hearing more from.

The last few weeks have been the highest public profile Mr. Giuliani has had since he left City Hall. His role as cheerleader-in-chief has fueled speculation that Mr. Giuliani hopes to emerge as the party's strongest presidential hopeful in 2008. Polls show that Mr. Giuliani has tremendous support among the party faithful and among voters nationwide, though he says it is too soon to begin thinking about 2008.

"I may run for office again, but I will wait until after this election to see what makes sense, what works, what do I want," Mr. Giuliani said in an interview before the speech.

The recognition of Mr. Giuliani and Mr. McCain that their path to the White House requires their being seen to help re-elect George W. Bush provides the President with a couple poiwerful weapons.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


* It took this first night of the GOP convention to drive home how oddly silent the Democrats were about 9-11--the singular moment in our recent history.

* The 9-11 effect is aided greatly by the NYC locale, obviously, for which the GOP has Terry MacAuliffe to thank.

* Speaking of whom, his complaints over the delegates who are wearing band-aids with purple hearts on them only calls attention to a funny shot at Senator Kerry that would have been ignored otherwise.

* As Senator McCain was speaking you couldn't help thinking how inadequate he--or Al Gore--would have been to the task of summoning the nation after 9-11. Of our recent presidents--and near misses--only Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have been up to such an oratorical occasion. To his credit though, Mr. McCain's closing paragraphs were stirring.

* These were the GOP's moderates.

August 30, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:50 PM


Procession of Speakers Invoke Bush's Leadership After 9/11 (ADAM NAGOURNEY, 8/31/04, NY Times)

The Republican Party opened its convention yesterday with a searing evocation of the Sept. 11 attacks that leveled the World Trade Center three years ago, as former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York asserted that Senator John Kerry did not have the fortitude to lead the nation through a war on terror.

A procession of speakers - including a former New York City police commissioner, the current mayor of New York and a former terrorism prosecutor - invoked Mr. Bush's leadership after Sept. 11, 2001, using the city where the attacks took their greatest toll as a platform to recount the event that the president's aides view as the linchpin to his re-election. [...]

"The contrasts are dramatic," Mr. Giuliani continued. "They involve very different views of how to deal with terrorism. President Bush will make certain that we are combating terrorism at the source, beyond our shores, so we can reduce the risk of having to confront it in the streets of New York. John Kerry's record of inconsistent positions on combating terrorism gives us no confidence he'll pursue such a determined course."

Mr. Giuliani spoke at the end of a day in which the party adopted without dissent a platform that sets up a sharp contrast with the Democrats, particularly in its strong worded opposition to same-sex unions and legalized abortion.

The remarks by Mr. Giuliani on the opening night of the Republican convention in New York left no doubt that this gathering would strike a notably different tenor than did the Democratic gathering in Boston, where Mr. Kerry instructed fellow Democrats to refrain from excessive attacks on Mr. Bush.

By contrast, Republicans have increasingly argued that the best hope for Mr. Bush's re-election was to use these four days in New York to tear down Mr. Kerry, given that voters know so much and have set opinions about their president.

Mr. Giuliani's speech was especially good and blessedly overlong and understructured. One devastating bit was the way he turned the entirety of John Edwards political being--his inane two Americas metaphor--into an anti-Kerry joke. It's quite amusing that after a Democratic convention where the speakers were terrified of seeming critical of the President the GOP is quite joyfully ripping into Senator Kerry.

Here;'s the quote, which continues the bold strategy of reducing the Democratic ticket to objects of ridicule:

My point about John Kerry being inconsistent is best described in his own words when he said, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it."

Maybe this explains John Edwards' need for two Americas — one where John Kerry can vote for something and another where he can vote against the same thing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:20 PM


Michael Moore draws boos at Republican convention (AP, August 30, 2004)

Already a box office sensation, filmmaker Michael Moore got another loud reception Monday at the Republican convention. This time, it was boos.

When Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told the delegates about "a disingenuous film maker who would have us believe that Saddam's Iraq was an oasis of peace," they knew he was referring to the maker of "Fahrenheit 9-11." The film, which savages Bush's Iraq policy, has set a box office record for documentaries, grossing $115 million so far.

McCain's comments prompted prolonged booing and chants of "Four more years." Many of the delegates faced Moore, who was seated in the press seats at Madison Square Garden because he is writing a column this week for USA Today.

Republicans looked like they were having an awful lot more fun than the Democrats did in Boston. However, any accusation that they were exploiting 9-11 would have to be blunted by the crowd shots which showed them all weeping.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:00 PM


The Pressure-Cooker Theory (Charles Krauthammer, August 27, 2004, Washington Post)

Upon losing a game at the 1925 Baden-Baden tournament, Aaron Nimzowitsch, the great chess theoretician and a superb player, knocked the pieces off the board, jumped on the table and screamed, "How can I lose to this idiot?"

Nimzowitsch may have lived decades ago in Denmark, but he had the soul of a modern American Democrat. After all, Democrats have been saying much the same -- with similar body language -- ever since the erudite Adlai Stevenson lost to the syntactically challenged Dwight Eisenhower in 1952. They said it again when they lost to that supposed simpleton Ronald Reagan. Twice, would you believe? With George W. Bush, they are at it again, and equally apoplectic.

Actually, this time around, even more apoplectic. The Democrats' current disdain for George Bush reminds me of another chess master, Efim Bogoljubov, who once said, "When I am White, I win because I am White" -- White moves first and therefore has a distinct advantage -- "when I am Black, I win because I am Bogoljubov." John Kerry is a man of similar vanity -- intellectual and moral -- and that spirit thoroughly permeates the Democratic Party.

Democrats feel a mixture of horror and contempt for the huddled masses -- so bovine, so benighted, so besotted with talk radio -- who made a king of an empty-headed movie star (Reagan, long before Arnold) and inexplicably want the Republicans' current nitwit leader to have a second term.

The Democrats have become Bobby Fischer.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:00 PM


Kerry Loses Edge On Issues Of Security (Richard Morin and Christopher Muste, August 31, 2004, Washington Post)

The new poll found that a slight majority of registered voters -- 53 percent -- say Bush is more qualified than Kerry to be commander in chief, while 43 percent say they prefer the Democratic nominee. At the end of the Democratic convention, Kerry enjoyed an eight-point advantage over Bush on that question. Taken together, the results of the poll suggest that Bush's recent gains have come from eroding perceptions of Kerry and not as a consequence of improved views of Bush's performance as president. [...]

A total of 1,207 randomly selected adults was interviewed Aug. 26-29, including 945 registered voters and 775 likely voters. The margin of sampling error for the subsample of likely voters is plus or minus three percentage points; it is slightly smaller for all voters.

Bush's job approval rating stands at 50 percent, where it has largely been for the past six months. Fewer than half of all voters -- 45 percent -- approve of the job Bush is doing on the economy, unchanged from recent Post-ABC News polls. Fewer than half also approve of the way he is dealing with the situation in Iraq, also unchanged.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:41 PM


U.S. Rep. Schrock drops re-election bid over ''allegations'' (The Virginian-Pilot, August 30, 2004)

U.S. Rep. Ed Schrock abruptly withdrew from his re-election race this afternoon, citing unspecified allegations.

Over the past two weeks, a Washington-based Web site has spread claims that Schrock was gay, despite having voted against gay-rights issues such as marriage.

"In recent weeks, allegations have surfaced that have called into question my ability to represent the citizens of Virginia's Second Congressional Distict," Shrock said in a press release.

Schrock, who would have been seeking his third term, did not elaborate on the nature of the allegations.

"After much thought and prayer, I have come to the realization that these allegations will not allow my campaign to focus on the real issues facing our nation and region," the statement said. "Therefore, as of today, I am stepping aside and will no longer be the Republican nominee for Congress in Virginia's Second Congressional District. [...]

The allegations emerged two weeks ago, on Aug. 19, when a Web site called posted claims that Schrock was gay, and accused Schrock of being a hypocrite for opposing gay rights issues.

The Web site – a one-man operation out of Washington that focuses on gay issues – has a history of “outing” gay members of Congress.

The site did not offer any proof of its allegation that Schrock was gay.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:36 PM


France rejects Iraqi PM's declaration as "unacceptable" (Xinhuanet, 2004-08-31)

Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's declaration, which came after the kidnapping of two French journalists in Iraq and accused France's position towards terrorism, was "unacceptable," the French Foreign Ministry said Monday.

"This declaration seems in fact to have cast doubt on France's determination in the fight against terrorism ... France is leading untiringly a resolute action against this scourge and it is always bringing its support and contribution to all the initiatives of the international community in this field," said Cecile Pozzo di Borgo, spokeswoman of the French Foreign Ministry. [...]

Allawi declared earlier Monday that the kidnapping of two French journalists showed that there was "no possible neutrality" in Iraq and that those who do not fight at the government level can not escape terrorism.

"None of the civilized countries can escape," he said, noting "there is no possible neutrality, as shows the kidnapping of the French journalists." "The French deluded themselves if they would hope to stay outside," he added.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:15 PM


Democratic strategists say Bush has made 'unmistakable' gains in August (Will Lester, August 30, 2004, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

President Bush has gained ground on Democrat John Kerry in the month of August because of "relatively small but unmistakable" shifts in the political environment, Democratic strategists said in a memo released Monday.

The polling memo by Democracy Corps, a group led by pollster Stan Greenberg and strategist James Carville, said the subtle gains by Bush have knotted the race again after Kerry had a slight advantage after the Democratic National Convention in late July.

The task before Mr. Bush at his convention is pretty modest--he needs to bump his approval ratings up about 3% to the 55% range, which positions him for a landslide victory (over 10%).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:56 PM


Undecided Voters Speak Out (

On the eve of the Republican National Convention, President George W. Bush is favored by twenty-five points over Massachusetts Senator John Kerry (35%-10%) among undecided likely voters when Libertarian, Constitution and Green Party presidential candidates are factored into the 2004 presidential race, according to a new Zogby/Williams Identity poll.

Their undecided status would seem to be nothing more than an affectation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:48 PM


Poll: Ohioans Support Amendment (10TV, 8/30/04)

Sixty-two percent of Ohioans responding to a poll by The Columbus Dispatch support a proposed state constitutional amendment that would limit marriage to one man and one woman.

Supporters say the proposed amendment reinforces the state's Defense of Marriage Act that took effect earlier this year. The act denies some state benefits to unmarried employees' partners.

Twenty-six percent of respondents were opposed to the proposed amendment, according to the poll published Monday.

Voters in Missouri passed a similar gay marriage ban earlier this month with 71 percent in favor, and several other states will consider the issue in the general election. [...]

The Dispatch Poll used the same language approved earlier this month by the Ohio Ballot Board. The mail survey of 3,176 randomly selected Ohio voters was conducted Aug. 18 through Aug. 27. It has a margin of sampling error of 2 percentage points.

Support for the gay marriage amendment is divided among backers of President Bush and Democratic challenger John Kerry.

Among Bush supporters, the proposal is ahead 84 percent to 9 percent. The measure is opposed 43 to 40 by those behind Kerry.

The proposal was supported by voters in all regions of Ohio - especially in the southeast - and from all demographic groups except Jewish respondents and those who said they have no religion.

The fact that every wedge issue works in Republicans favor by such a wide margin is why Karl Rove thinks you can win just by carrying the conservative base.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:36 PM


Shades of '44: It's time for the president to rally his "natural majority." (FRED BARNES, August 30, 2004, Wall Street Journal)

The Republican convention that opens in New York today will be unusual. Its chief purpose is the re-election of President Bush--nothing out of the ordinary about that. But it won't remind anyone of the 1972 or 1984 Republican conventions that propelled President Nixon and President Reagan, respectively, to second terms. The Nixon convention was devoted largely to demonizing his Democratic opponent, George McGovern. The message at Reagan's convention was stay the course and good as things are, they'll get even better if Reagan is re-elected.

Amazingly enough, the 2004 convention aims to achieve what the 1944 Democratic convention did. At the time, President Franklin Roosevelt was a commander in chief whose popularity had been worn down by nine years of economic downturn and three of world war. He was politically vulnerable. But he rallied the natural Democratic majority in the country with a convention speech vigorously defending his war record and presenting an attractive vision of a new term. He won going away, 54% to 46%.

George Bush would like to do the same. His political adviser, Karl Rove, an admirer of FDR's 1944 speech, believes there's a natural Republican majority waiting to be gathered together. An appealing convention with a strong message climaxed by an engaging speech by Mr. Bush could set the stage for his re-election this fall--and more. The creation of a stable Republican majority is a potential side-effect.

Mr. Roosevelt's decision to run for re-election despite his ill health, and with no consideration given to the quality of his successor, was the most irresponsible action of any president in U.S. history--some other comparison would be preferable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:29 PM


U.S. mulls U.N. action on Lebanon (KRISHNADEV CALAMUR, Aug. 30, 2004, UPI)

The United States and France are discussing a U.N. resolution that would support Lebanon's sovereignty, following a Syrian-backed Lebanese Cabinet decision to endorse a draft bill that would allow President Emile Lahoud to stay in power for three years after his six-year term ends in November.

"We are discussing with the French a possible resolution at the Security Council that would stand up for Lebanon's right to decide its own fate," a senior State Department officials told reporters on condition he not be identified.

The Lebanese Parliament is expected next month to debate a draft constitutional amendment that would give Lahoud a three-year extension to his six-year term. The draft bill was endorsed by the Cabinet Saturday, after being pressured by Syria.

Although most Lebanese -- across a wide variety of political groups oppose an amendment -- Syria, the main power broker in Lebanon, supports the move. There are some 16,000 Syrian troops in the country and most political decisions need Damascus' assent.

The presence of Syrian troops in Lebanon is a bone of contention between Washington and Damascus.

"It is our view, and I think the view of many in Lebanon, that it's about time, 15 years after the Taif Accords, to live up to the spirit of those accords and have all foreign forces removed from Lebanon," U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Monday.

So given French support, the Democrats must approve of defending Lebanon's sovereignty from Syrian interference, right?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:22 PM


Police Confirm Pipe Bomb Blast at Stem-Cell Lab (Reuters, 8/27/04)

An explosion that blew out a number of windows at a Boston-area laboratory specializing in stem-cell research was caused by a pipe bomb, local police said on Friday.

No one was wounded in Thursday's early morning blast at Watertown, Massachusetts-based Amaranth Bio, which says on its Web site its technology is focused on organ regeneration and that it is working on cures for diabetes and liver disorders.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:00 PM


Palestinians take back the night in Ramallah: With new upscale restaurants, bars, and theater, the West Bank city is undergoing a cultural revival. (Joshua Mitnick, 8/31/04, CS Monitor)

Just a few minutes drive from Yasser Arafat's half-destroyed headquarters, Usama Khalaf's version of upscale Ramallah dining is taking off.

His restaurant called Darna occupies a grand renovated stone villa with high-ceilinged archways and a second-floor patio that draws scores of young Palestinians. It serves large dishes of innovative Middle Eastern fare, but, more importantly, offers fragments of normalcy, which has become so elusive during the past four years.

The $800,000 spent by the restaurateur to open Darna - where waiters sport snappy bow ties and tuxedo vests - represents more than a shrewd bid to attract the city's bourgeois; it signals a revival of the cultural scene that made Ramallah a cosmopolitan capital for Palestinians.

In recent months new eateries have opened and the city's offerings have expanded despite Israel checkpoints and military raids. For Khalaf, opening Darna was simultaneously the fulfillment of a life's dream and an act of political defiance.

"I had an obligation to my hometown," Khalaf says. "When they saw someone investing despite the closures and incursions, it gave people the willingness to stay."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:56 PM


Schroeder’s ‘stunts’ wear thin (Melanie Haape, 8/29/04, Sunday Herald)

[I]n the heat of ongoing street protests against upcoming Hartz IV changes to Germany’s unemployment and social security laws , Schroeder is appealing to German sentimentality to halt his plummeting popularity.

Faced with mass demonstrations against cuts to social security benefits and his lowest popularity rating in his six-year term, he has recently opted to adopt a three-year-old Russian orphan girl, Victoria.

The latest Forsa Institute survey shows that fewer than one in three Germans would vote for the Social Democratic party right now, and the reformed communist Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) is gaining ground because of widespread rejection, especially in the former East Germany, of his reform policies.

Gosh, the Euros loved it when his stunt was anti-Americanism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:50 PM


Hunt for militants steps up as Pakistan takes on al-Qaeda: Arrest of 10 and search for four others linked to suicide-bomb plot highlights scale of anti-terror fight. (Paul Anderson, 8/29/04, Sunday Herald)

Pakistan’s crackdown started in mid-July with the arrest of computer expert Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan. This led to the arrest of a Tanzanian al-Qaeda figure, ranked number eight in the network, accused of masterminding the bombings of the US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1988.

Hayat explained: “Two years ago, al-Qaeda and its affiliates sought refuge in the urban centres of Pakistan. We carried out major operations against some of the topmost figures of al-Qaeda: Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. When the terrorists found the urban centres were no longer safe, they relocated to the western borders close to Afghanistan.

“As a result of the operations carried out by the military there in the past eight months, they were again flushed out and some again sought refuge back in the cities. And they know now that they have no options left available to them. They are on the run and we will catch them.”

Musharraf has claimed that as a result of the latest security push, 90% of all militants have been caught. However, anti-terrorism experts estimate there are at least two dozen new outfits on Pakistan’s militant scene which didn’t exist two years ago, when there were a spate of attacks against Americans, French, Christian and minority Shia targets. Dozens of people were killed by known Sunni extremist organisations. Several Sunnis were also targeted by Shia extremists. Since then, sources in the police say, the scene has changed completely, testifying to the talent which militants have for adapting under pressure.

“Jundallah, for example, didn’t exist 18 months ago. It came on the scene only after Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was arrested 18 months ago,” added Hayat.

Jundallah, or Army of God, carried out several attacks against police and paramilitary rangers in Karachi this year. In June, it attempted to assassinate the commander of the army’s Karachi corps. Most of Jundallah’s members, including its founder, Attaur Rehman, have since been rounded up.

Pakistani security forces are worried that Jundallah attracts support for jihad, or holy war, from middle-class and well-educated professionals opposed to the US and its allies, rather than the rural poor. Attaur Rehman himself is a former maths student from an affluent district of Karachi. Several of his followers were senior medical professionals and members of the Pakistan Islamic Medical Association.

“They haven’t the capacity to attack the United States abroad,” said Hayat. “So they go for the next best option: Pakistan’s leaders.”

The War on Terror would seem to be working out just about ideally.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:20 PM


The Republican Convention (Washington Post, August 30, 2004)

In looking back to four years ago, we are struck by the ways in which the Bush presidency has been different from the way it was originally sold to the country. Mr. Bush promoted himself to voters in the 2000 campaign as a bipartisan uniter, not a divider, but in office he has too often embraced a my-way-or-the-highway style of governing that has served to polarize voters.

Didn't the Democrats give away the game on this one in Ron Brownstein's piece?:
Even some Democrats agree that in the 2000 campaign's final stages, Bush scored points against Gore by hammering at that same argument, declaring, "He trusts the government, I trust the people."

Democrats acknowledge that the themes of choice, ownership and individual control that Bush is expected to stress could have long-term appeal in a society where more Americans own homes and businesses and participate in the stock market. But Democrats also believe the president will have difficulty selling his agenda when so many Americans are feeling insecure about their jobs, the costs of healthcare and the security of their pensions following drops in stock prices and corporate scandals.

"There may be a moment for [Bush's] argument, but not after three years of decline," said Democratic strategist Stanley B. Greenberg, Gore's pollster in 2000.

If they agree that the Third Way is the way to go but have worked to stop it then who is being divisive?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:55 PM


The 9/11 Report: A Dissent: a review of THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT
Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (RICHARD A. POSNER, 8/29/04, NY Times Book Review)

Combining an investigation of the attacks with proposals for preventing future attacks is the same mistake as combining intelligence with policy. The way a problem is described is bound to influence the choice of how to solve it. The commission's contention that our intelligence structure is unsound predisposed it to blame the structure for the failure to prevent the 9/11 attacks, whether it did or not. And pressure for unanimity encourages just the kind of herd thinking now being blamed for that other recent intelligence failure -- the belief that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.

At least the commission was consistent. It believes in centralizing intelligence, and people who prefer centralized, pyramidal governance structures to diversity and competition deprecate dissent. But insistence on unanimity, like central planning, deprives decision makers of a full range of alternatives. For all one knows, the price of unanimity was adopting recommendations that were the second choice of many of the commission's members or were consequences of horse trading. The premium placed on unanimity undermines the commission's conclusion that everybody in sight was to blame for the failure to prevent the 9/11 attacks. Given its political composition (and it is evident from the questioning of witnesses by the members that they had not forgotten which political party they belong to), the commission could not have achieved unanimity without apportioning equal blame to the Clinton and Bush administrations, whatever the members actually believe.

The tale of how we were surprised by the 9/11 attacks is a product of hindsight; it could not be otherwise. And with the aid of hindsight it is easy to identify missed opportunities (though fewer than had been suspected) to have prevented the attacks, and tempting to leap from that observation to the conclusion that the failure to prevent them was the result not of bad luck, the enemy's skill and ingenuity or the difficulty of defending against suicide attacks or protecting an almost infinite array of potential targets, but of systemic failures in the nation's intelligence and security apparatus that can be corrected by changing the apparatus.

That is the leap the commission makes, and it is not sustained by the report's narrative. The narrative points to something different, banal and deeply disturbing: that it is almost impossible to take effective action to prevent something that hasn't occurred previously. Once the 9/11 attacks did occur, measures were taken that have reduced the likelihood of a recurrence. But before the attacks, it was psychologically and politically impossible to take those measures. The government knew that Al Qaeda had attacked United States facilities and would do so again. But the idea that it would do so by infiltrating operatives into this country to learn to fly commercial aircraft and then crash such aircraft into buildings was so grotesque that anyone who had proposed that we take costly measures to prevent such an event would have been considered a candidate for commitment. No terrorist had hijacked an American commercial aircraft anywhere in the world since 1986. Just months before the 9/11 attacks the director of the Defense Department's Defense Threat Reduction Agency wrote: ''We have, in fact, solved a terrorist problem in the last 25 years. We have solved it so successfully that we have forgotten about it; and that is a treat. The problem was aircraft hijacking and bombing. We solved the problem. . . . The system is not perfect, but it is good enough. . . . We have pretty much nailed this thing.'' In such a climate of thought, efforts to beef up airline security not only would have seemed gratuitous but would have been greatly resented because of the cost and the increased airport congestion.

The problem isn't just that people find it extraordinarily difficult to take novel risks seriously; it is also that there is no way the government can survey the entire range of possible disasters and act to prevent each and every one of them. As the commission observes, ''Historically, decisive security action took place only after a disaster had occurred or a specific plot had been discovered.'' It has always been thus, and probably always will be.

It's too bad he's unconfirmable because Judge Posner possesses one of the great legal minds of our time.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:47 PM


Edwards Says Kerry Plans to Confront Iran on Weapons (Glenn Kessler and Robin Wright, August 30, 2004, Washington Post)

A John F. Kerry administration would propose to Iran that the Islamic state be allowed to keep its nuclear power plants in exchange for giving up the right to retain the nuclear fuel that could be used for bomb-making, Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards said in an interview yesterday.

Edwards said that if Iran failed to take what he called a "great bargain," it would essentially confirm that it is building nuclear weapons under the cover of a supposedly peaceful nuclear power initiative. He said that, if elected, Kerry would ensure that European allies were prepared to join the United States in levying heavy sanctions if Iran rejected the proposal. "If we are engaging with Iranians in an effort to reach this great bargain and if in fact this is a bluff that they are trying to develop nuclear weapons capability, then we know that our European friends will stand with us," Edwards said.

It's not clear why Iran can't keep its nuclear power plants now if it doesn't pursue weapons, but the follow-up question for Kerry/Edwards is pretty straightforward and dispositive of the Iraq war argument: If the Iranians refuse the offer and France and Germany say that's fine by them, would President Kerry accept this European diktat or act unilaterally to prevent Iran from developing a potential nuclear capability?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:28 PM


Kerry lead fades in two battleground states: Bush numbers are promising among likely voters in Pa., Wis. (Susan Page, 8/30/04, USA TODAY)

President Bush has eroded John Kerry's lead in two big battleground states that voted Democratic four years ago, complicating the Massachusetts senator's electoral landscape.

USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup polls show Bush narrowly ahead in Wisconsin and the candidates even in Pennsylvania, a state that is crucial to Democratic hopes of winning in November.

As the Republican convention opens today, the president's prospects seem to be brightening in some states that could determine the outcome Nov. 2.

“This is historically a challenger's strongest time,” before the incumbent's convention, says Ken Mehlman, Bush's campaign manager. “For John Kerry to have not gained ground and perhaps even be losing ground has to be very troubling to their campaign.”

Just because his candidacy is imploding doesn't mean this isn't John Kerry at his strongest.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:21 PM


Sentient Non-Idiots For Kerry: Repubs pick a fight about Vietnam while Bush ruins America right now? Is the nation drunk? (Mark Morford, August 27, 2004, SF Chronicle)

And isn't it funny how at least 13 members of Congress have actually requested that the United Nations monitor this year's U.S. presidential election, just because, just in case, just to ensure there's no voter rolling and election rigging and chad hanging and outright shameless Florida reaming like last time?

And isn't it even more funny how, when firebrand U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, from Florida, brought the issue up on the floor of Congress, she was actually shouted down by the Republicans, scolded that she was out of order and told her comments should be stricken from the record?

And they all screamed and stomped and huffed and puffed and said no way should there be any oversight of this year's election, even though there is indeed a gross pile of mounting evidence that there's nothing stopping BushCo from simply stealing the election all over again. Isn't that funny?

It's enough to make you laugh 'til you gag. And choke. And move to Canada.

They always make the threat but they never move, except to dodge the draft.

Let us agree for the moment though--for the sake of argument and obviously not on the basis of any evidence extant--that Mr. Kerry is not completely incompetent when it comes to politics: don't you think that if the state of affairs in America "right now" favored him he'd be talking about it instead of about leading us all up the river like he led his swift boat?

Posted by David Cohen at 2:45 PM


Reuters Editor's Email 'Sad But Revealing,' Pro-Life Group Says (, 8/30/04)

A Reuters news service editor sent an e-mail to a pro-life group last week, criticizing the group's stance on abortion as well as its support of the Bush administration. The angry email has prompted the pro-life group to question the editor's journalistic integrity. . . .

Eastham's email read as follows: "What's your plan for parenting & educating all the unwanted children you people want to bring into the world? Who will pay for policing our streets & maintaining the prisons needed to contain them when you, their parents & the system fail them? Oh, sorry. All that money has been earmarked to pay off the Bush deficit. Give me a frigging break, will you?"

That a Reuter's editor is pro-choice would not be surprising. That he is so adamantly pro-abortion -- as a law enforcement issue, no less -- is as surprising as it is distasteful.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:03 PM


It Takes Real Courage... (Michael Moore,

Dear Mr. Bush,

I know you and I have had our differences in the past, and I realize I am the one who started this whole mess about "who did what" during Vietnam when I brought up that "deserter" nonsense back in January. But I have to hand it to you on what you have uncovered about John Kerry and his record in Vietnam. Kerry has tried to pass himself off as a war hero, but thanks to you and your friends, we now know the truth.

Differences? Mr. Moore has been so helpful to the Bush campaign one suspects he's really a rovebot.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:57 PM


Muqtada al-Sadr orders nationwide ceasefire (Aljazeera, August 30, 2004)

Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr has ordered a nationwide ceasefire and announced his armed movement will enter the political arena, one of his aides said in Baghdad.

"The commander of the Sadr movement, leader Muqtada al-Sadr, announced today in Najaf the end of all fighting [throughout] Iraq and the integration of his movement in the political process," Shaikh Naim al-Qaabi said on Monday.

Al-Sadr has in recent weeks spearheaded the largest resistance to US occupation and Iraqi government forces since the fall of Saddam Hussein last year.

"This decision shows that the al-Sadr movement wants peace and participation in the country's political process, and within the next two days the al-Sadr movement will explain its political vision on this participation," the official told reporters.

And so they become the Sinn Fein of Mesopotamia.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:49 PM


Oil Slips Below $43 a Barrel (Reuters, 8/30/04)

U.S. oil prices fell below $43 on Monday on continued profit-taking as producer-group OPEC eyed increases in the coming months in its tight spare capacity, countering worries over stumbling Iraqi oil exports.

U.S. light crude fell 58 cents to $42.60 a barrel, nearly $7 below a record hit earlier this month as hedge funds unwound their speculative long positions.

What exactly do these hedge funds hedge against since they seem to get markets wrong so often?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:26 PM



How bad has it gotten for Democrats at summer's end: A paid TV advertisement from Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, President Bush's top congressional foe, features the South Dakotan hugging and embracing President Bush!

While Democrat party officials of all stripes decend on New York City to blast the president, Daschle has quietly purchased air time in his home state for the minute-long campaign commerical -- a commerical insiders have dubbed: "Bush Hug."

Daschle faces a tough campaign against South Dakota Republican challanger John Thune.

"This is delightful!" laughed one republican official in New York on Monday morning. "Senator Daschle now concedes supporting the president can score him votes in the fall!"

So when the President flies in and says he needs John Thune in the Senate, what's left for Mr. Daschle to say in response?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:25 AM


For Federal Workers, Bush a 'Mixed Blessing' (Stephen Barr, August 29, 2004, Washington Post)

As Republicans gather in New York to nominate Bush for a second term, his appointees are engaged in one of the largest governmental restructuring efforts seen in the past 20 years. Planning is underway to overhaul pay and personnel rules in two large departments -- Defense and Homeland Security -- and it appears likely that the CIA, FBI and other parts of the intelligence community also will undergo substantial reorganizations.

Administration officials hope to launch the Defense and Homeland Security workforce changes next year and put the government on a path to more rigorous, performance-based pay systems.

Gaining the power to restructure the civil service without being bound by antiquated regulations was the main reason the Administration accepted the Homeland Security bill and they'll surely get the same powers under the new Intelligence reform. It's these sub rosa actions that are the President's least noticed conservative legacy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:14 AM


Consumer Spending Rebounds Sharply (Reuters, August 30, 2004)

U.S. consumer spending rebounded sharply July, government data showed on Monday, erasing the disappointment of June and bolstering hopes that the U.S. economy has recovered from its recent soft spot.

Personal spending rose 0.8 percent, more than making up for a revised 0.2 percent fall in June, the Commerce Department said. The improvement in consumption was actually even larger since June's spending had been initially reported as a 0.7 percent decline.

But personal income advanced at a more modest pace than expected, posting a 0.1 percent rise compared with a 0.2 percent gain the previous month. July's advance was the weakest reading since November 2002. [...]

In striking evidence that U.S. inflation is well under control, both the price index for consumer purchases and core prices, one of the Federal Reserve's favorite measures of inflation, were unchanged last month.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:54 AM


Northeast Loses in Reshuffling of Housing Aid (DAVID W. CHEN, 8/30/04, NY Times)

The Bush administration is replacing the nation's three-decade-old financing system for public housing with a new formula that will redistribute billions of dollars, chiefly from New York and other big, urban areas in the Northeast and Midwest to small, rural places in the South.

The plans represent one of the most far-reaching changes in housing policy in decades, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development is still working out many of the details. But already, housing authorities in the Northeast, including New York City, Baltimore and upstate New York, are talking about the need to lay off security guards, close day care programs or charge tenants for snow removal, air-conditioning and other services. Agencies in the South and the West, meanwhile, say they may finally be able to pay for their public housing maintenance needs.

Set to take effect in 2006, the new formula stems from the Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act of 1998 that was sponsored by former Representative Rick A. Lazio, Republican of Long Island, and signed by President Clinton. It mandated a new way of calculating the federal government's $3.6 billion annual budget for day-to-day housing operations, such as labor, maintenance, insurance and utilities.

The existing formula, which dates to 1975, essentially allows established agencies to receive lump-sum payments to run public housing projects with minimal documentation. The new formula for calculating federal subsidies is based on the actual expenses incurred by a housing agency, and it is twinned with a new carrot-and-stick philosophy requiring all agencies to meet new performance standards.

Smaller housing authorities, especially in the South, have long complained that the old formula favors older housing authorities by paying them more than their actual expenses, while ignoring the growing costs of new agencies. A study by Harvard University last summer echoed those concerns, and recommended that the subsidy be reformulated to reflect housing costs better.

In theory, at least, many agencies and housing groups welcome the overhaul as a fairer formula. But the reality of slicing up the subsidy pie has provoked visceral reactions among winning and losing housing authorities similar to those in voter redistricting: it all depends on whether they get more or less than they did before.

About four-fifths of the nation's 3,100 or so public housing agencies are expected to gain money over the next two years, according to preliminary HUD data analyzed by the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials. Dallas is scheduled to receive an extra $7.6 million, or a 70 percent increase. Hundreds of small agencies in the South, led by Texas and Florida, are poised to gain at least 50 percent.

The shift from Blue areas to Red is conspicuous, no?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:31 AM


Reaching out or caving in?: New shows spur charges that PBS is trying to appease conservative critics in Congress (Mark Jurkowitz, August 30, 2004, Boston Globe)

Tucker Carlson and Paul Gigot are more than just new PBS hosts. They are central figures in an ideological war. "I've been accused of being an instrument in some conspiracy," says Carlson, one of CNN's "Crossfire" conservatives, who anchors a new public-affairs show on PBS.

"I don't want to be anybody's tool for balancing something," adds Gigot, the editor of The Wall Street Journal's famously conservative editorial page, whose PBS show debuts next month.

Public television -- home of Big Bird, "Frontline," and Jim Lehrer -- has traditionally been a lightning rod for conservative complaints about liberal bias. But these days it is the left that is unhappy with the programming mix and fretting about a right-wing conspiracy.

The evidence, they say, is in a series of ominous lineup changes. In are conservatives such as Tucker and Gigot and possibly cultural commentator Michael Medved. Out is liberal icon Bill Moyers, who is retiring from "Now With Bill Moyers" after the election, although the program will continue in a shorter format.

"I definitely think that PBS is trying to appease conservative critics in Congress," says Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, who calls PBS president Pat Mitchell "the captain of the noncommercial Titanic. Instead of throwing people overboard, she's grabbing conservatives on board." [...]

Michael Pack, a former independent filmmaker who is now the CPB's senior vice president for television programming, is considered a conservative in public TV circles. Asked how he feels about being in the middle of an ideological storm over PBS, Pack says, "If you're going to make public-affairs shows, that's what happens. I think we as a system have shied away from controversy."

Pack makes no bones about what he sees as the need to shake up the menu. "One thing I feel strongly is public television needs to bring in new people, new life," he says.

What they're caving in to is popular taste, which has grown more conservative. There's a funny bit in the film The Mighty Wind where the PBS programmer talks about how bringing in any viewers who aren't baby boomers--the folks who've turned the network into an unending cycle of self-help shows and reunion concerts--whould be fantastic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:19 AM


Strategist focuses on president's devotees (Anne E. Kornblut, August 30, 2004, Boston Globe)

Despite an expected showcasing of the ''softer side" of the Republican Party at the convention in New York this week -- an attempt to win undecided and moderate voters to the GOP cause -- the heart of the strategy is to drive up the turnout of hard-core believers.

Bush spends a striking amount of time in Republican-leaning areas of swing states, seeking to ratchet up enthusiasm. His campaign has run advertising on cable networks tailored to such Republican-friendly viewers as golfers and fishermen. To Rove, an obsessive number cruncher, it all boils down to a simple empirical fact: There are more potential Republicans out there in battleground states than undecided moderates. Get the Republicans to show up on Election Day and the race is won.

But the approach breaks from conventional wisdom, and it is, by all accounts, a gamble -- one that could cement Rove's reputation as a political legend and shift the paradigm of future elections if it succeeds, as it apparently did in the congressional midterm elections in 2002, or offer an embarrassing indictment of Rove's master plan if it fails. [...]

Ralph Reed, a conservative strategist and a Bush campaign adviser, would not characterize Rove's approach as divisive, but did agree that the Bush campaign has shed the conventional wisdom that reveres moderate swing voters.

''I think not only Karl would say, but a lot of people would say, that the number of true independent and swing voters is actually very small," Reed said. ''Over time, as we get more precise in the polling and in identifying them, there is a consensus emerging that the swing vote is not what it was 20 years ago -- and may not have been as large as we once thought it was."

Rove and other Bush campaign advisers vehemently deny that the divided electorate is their doing.

''American politics over the last decade has become increasingly polarized by party," Rove said in an interview with the Globe. ''You don't want to read too much into that, but you don't want to read too little into the fact that the pool of true independents has been shrinking. And even more than that, if you step back, the two parties are now at parity, which is not the way it has been through most of our adulthood."

In other words, Rove said, there are now as many Republicans as Democrats, liberating the GOP from the need to pick off sizable chunks from the opposition.

Asked whether it is now mathematically possible to win a presidential race without any swing voters, Rove did not skip a beat. ''Yes," he replied.

''But I think that's a very risky strategy," he quickly added. ''You have to be persuading people who are for you, as well as driving up turnout."

Rove describes his focus as ferreting out ''suspected Republicans" -- people who live in predominantly Republican areas and are predisposed to vote for the president, but are either unregistered or unmotivated to go to the polls. These, Rove argues, are the voters who are most capable of tipping the balance in a narrowly divided race, comprising an arguably more potent bloc than the meager few who have not yet made up their minds.

To that end, Bush often visits Republican-leaning pockets of battleground states, traveling to places he won by comfortable margins -- such as the western panhandle of Florida or York, Pa. -- rather than devote himself exclusively to evenly divided counties, or venture into hostile territory, as Senator John F. Kerry, the Democratic nominee, often does. Over the weekend, traveling in Ohio, Bush visited Miami County (which he won in 2000, 61 percent to 36 percent), Allen County (which he won 65 percent to 32 percent), and Wood County (which he won 53 percent to 44 percent).

Democrats revel in the Rove strategy, frequently arguing that if Bush is tending to his conservative base, he must be worried about defections.

But there is no evidence to suggest that trend, and Rove scoffs at critics who would misread the Republican strategy in that way.

''Karl does not believe there's a true 'middle,' " one Bush adviser said. ''Everyone is a 'leaner,' and the leaners are affected by the actions of the base, much like an earthquake. If the base is excited, the closer you are to the epicenter, you're going to have a pretty strong shock."

Which certainly seems to be supported by this--Battleground Poll August 2004 - The Growing Conservative Majority (Bruce Walker, August 29, 2004, Mens News Daily)--and suggests the possibility that an FDR type transformation has already taken place in the electorate, which would usher in several decades of GOP dominance.

MORE (via Kevin Whited):
Republicans working to reinforce conservative base (Dave Montgomery, 8/30/04, Dallas-Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess of Flower Mound describes constituents in his staunchly Republican district as hard-working Americans who "believe in their God and believe in their country."

Those conservative North Texas voters overwhelmingly support President George W. Bush, says the freshmen Republican congressmen, but there are fragments of discontent. Some are angered by the president's immigration policies. Others worry about the direction of the war in Iraq, or that Bush hasn't done enough to limit federal spending.

The mood in the 26th district -- which includes Denton County and part of Tarrant County -- is reflective of national sentiments among conservative Republicans as President Bush prepares to receive his party's nomination for a second term at the Republican National Convention this week in New York.

From the outset of his presidency, Bush has worked diligently to shore up his party's conservative base, particularly among evangelical Christians who make up an estimated fourth of the electorate. Karl Rove, Bush's chief political adviser, has estimated that 4 million social conservatives sat out the 2000 election, and much of the Republican strategy has consequently been aimed at drawing them into the fold for 2004.

While Bush is coasting toward re-nomination on a wave of partisan euphoria that characterizes national political conventions, he nevertheless faces a bit of restiveness from the right.

This is the kind of misreporting you get if the journalist doesn't understand what Rove is up to.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:10 AM


Caterpillar labor situation shows union's predicament: experts (JAN DENNIS, August 30, 2004, Chicago Sun-Times)

Twice in eight months, Caterpillar Inc. workers have crushed take-it-or-leave-it contract offers, then headed back to production lines instead of setting up picket lines.

With just one fleeting whiff of a strike so far, the on-the-job standoff is rare for Peoria-based Caterpillar and the United Auto Workers, who have agreed to only two contracts without a work stoppage in more than a half-century of bargaining.

Labor experts say the deadlock is rooted in a power shift that has given management the upper hand over the last quarter-century, as U.S. union membership waned and the 1981 firing of federal air traffic controllers emboldened companies to counter strikes with replacement workers.

Caterpillar is among just a handful of major companies that have flexed the newfound bargaining muscle, they say, foiling two strikes in the 1990s by using patchwork crews to maintain production and profits.

''The fact that talks have gone on this long is vivid evidence that union leaders understand their weakened position. Twenty-five years ago, the union would have gone on strike immediately,'' said Peter Feuille, head of the University of Illinois' Institute for Industrial and Labor Relations.

Folks generally understand the credit that the Fed (Paul Volcker) deserves for defeating inflation but don't give Ronald Reagan (and Margaret Thatcher) credit for their crushing of trade unionism. Where's inflation pressure going to come from when employees can't command ever higher salaries and, thanks to free trade, companies can't raise prices?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:02 AM


Despite poverty, violence, Haiti limping back: Haiti shows some improvements six months after President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted, but political tensions and sporadic violence continue in the Western Hemisphere's poorest country. (MICHAEL A.W. OTTEY, 8/29/04, Miami Herald)

Six months after the ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, schools and businesses are open, some electricity is back, streets are cleaner, and millions in foreign aid is starting to trickle in.

Yet persistent political tensions, armed gangs, kidnappings, violent crime and sporadic pro-Aristide protests threaten to hurl this impoverished country back into chaos.

The carnage and destruction of the armed revolt that forced Aristide into exile on Feb. 29 laid low what was already the hemisphere's poorest nation. About 300 people were killed, and damage was estimated at up to $300 million.

Today, there are signs of a resurgence.

Is there anywhere regime change isn't working out better than expected?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:57 AM


hina's economic evolution: Private sector hit hardest in efforts to slow overheated economy (PETER S. GOODMAN, 8/30/04, Washington Post)

Only a few months ago, the privately owned Jiangsu Tieben steel plant seemed an archetype of China's emerging entrepreneurialism, the brainchild of a small-town construction worker turned industrialist. Now it is an abandoned void, its half-finished smokestacks standing idle under the summer glare as weeds creep across the grounds and a security guard dozes on a bench in front of locked gates.

Founder Dai Guofang sits in jail facing charges that he violated financial and land-use regulations. Local government officials who secured land for the project have been rebuked by the central government for ignoring land-use regulations, and a Bank of China official has been fired for helping finance the venture.

In the evolving world of Chinese capitalism, officials from Premier Wen Jiabao down have pledged to open the way to a new crop of entrepreneurs, encouraging them to create jobs and expand the economy even as many of the old state-owned companies disintegrate, deprived of the connections to government officials and finance that have sustained them for decades.

But the shutdown of Tieben, along with the slowing of other private projects around the country, has called into question just how far China is willing to go in allowing private capital to compete with state-run enterprises, and how far its central bureaucrats are willing to step back from their traditional role of picking who succeeds economically.

As the government tries to cool an overheated economy, it is tightening credit and cracking down on the sort of corrupt financial and land trading that has been an everyday part of doing business during China's period of swift growth. But the burden of these new policies appears to be falling disproportionately on private entrepreneurs.

One of the ways in which the U.S. debt confuses people is that they think the Chinese are carrying us when in fact we're carrying them. There are no safe places to put your money in China.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:49 AM


Poll: Bush seizes momentum in state (LESLEY CLARK, 8/30/04, Miami Herald)

The Herald/St. Petersburg Times survey suggests new challenges for the Democrat, who had been leading the president before many voters knew who he was.

Now, a month after the Democratic National Convention, Bush has taken the momentum from Kerry in the largest of the presidential battleground states, pulling 48 percent of registered voters surveyed, compared with 46 percent for Kerry. In a similar poll in March, just after his string of primary victories, Kerry held a five-percentage-point lead over Bush. [...]

The Florida poll suggests that after months of lagging popularity, Bush is getting a boost from voters impressed with his leadership, with nearly six in 10 voters calling him a ''strong leader.'' He made gains among independent voters -- who in March were far more likely to back Kerry -- and among women.

Is any Red State in play?

Bush Leads Kerry in 3 Key States (Ronald Brownstein and Kathleen Hennessey, August 26, 2004, LA Times)

President Bush has moved past Sen. John F. Kerry in three of the most hotly contested Midwestern battleground states despite continued doubts about the country's direction and the president's policies, new Los Angeles Times polls have found.

According to the surveys, Bush has opened leads within the margin of error in Ohio, Wisconsin and Missouri — states at the top of both campaigns' priority lists.

In Missouri, Bush leads among registered voters 46% to 44%; in Wisconsin, he leads 48% to 44%; and in Ohio, the president holds a 49% to 44% advantage, the surveys found.

Ohio is nearly out of the margin of error now and some polls show the President ahead in PA.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:45 AM

ON TO '08:

Tryout Time: The 2008 presidential campaign gets under way in New York. (John H. Fund, August 30, 2004, Jewish World Review)

Party conventions no longer determine presidential nominees, but they still serve two major purposes: pep rallies for the party's themes and a chance for political reporters to have a giant reunion. There's another item of business at this year's GOP conclave. Like actors on Broadway, a raft of candidates are quietly auditioning for the 2008 nomination, when the fight for the GOP nomination is guaranteed to be wide open.

The editors of National Review have gone so far as to schedule time for one-on-one interviews with potential 2008 candidates. None of them would openly acknowledge they are running, but when they heard who had already accepted, they quickly made known their availability. Here is a quick field guide to the possible 2008 GOP field, arranged in alphabetical order:

The vice president--whoever replaces Cheney--will obviously have a big advantage and John McCain--if he's not the replacement--will be a favorite because he's run, he remains popular outside the Party and he won NH. But Mitt Romney will be the other guy to watch for the same reason that the Democratic race this time was simply a choice between Dean and Kerry: politicians from neighboring states win the NH primary.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:37 AM


Election Forecasts: A Numbers Game (Charlie Cook, August 29, 2004)

The vast majority of political scientists and economists who forecast elections based on computer models will be presenting their papers at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association this week in Chicago, and they are projecting a Bush victory over Sen. John Kerry -- in a landslide, some say. Other analysts, myself included, think Bush faces an uphill

The boldest prediction is from Yale University economist Ray Fair, the dean of the election-forecasting academicians whose model projects that Bush will get a whopping 57.48 percent of the major-party (combined Democratic and Republican, no independent) vote. Fair's model is based entirely on economics -- the real gross domestic product growth rate and inflation -- and it carries, he says, a standard error rate of 2.4 percent in either direction. In his July 31 "Note to the Media" on his Web site, Fair cautions that a change in economic data could affect his forecast but that "no realistic economic values can bring the predicted
vote share to even about 53 percent."

Another bullish Bush prognosticator is political scientist Helmut Norpoth of the State University of New York (Stony Brook), who gives 20-1 odds that Bush will be re-elected. His model shows a Republican two-party-vote victory of 54.7 percent to 45.3 percent. Norpoth's model focuses on how well the nominees performed in their respective party's primaries, on long-term partisan trends, and on how long the incumbent's party has held the presidency.

Slightly more conservative is a model developed by Oxford University's Christopher Wlezien and Columbia University's Robert S. Erikson that projects a 52.8 percent Bush share of the two-party vote. They say that Bush has slightly better than a two-out-of-three chance of re-election.

The Wlezien/Erikson model relies upon the index of leading economic indicators, as well as on Gallup job approval ratings and trial heat data.

A model developed by the University of Iowa's Michael Lewis-Beck and Hunter College's Charles Tien shows a two-party-vote edge for Bush of just 51 percent to 49 percent. They say that "the narrow difference makes the race too close to call." The "Jobs Model," as the authors call it, focuses on job creation and presidential job approval.

At Emory University, Alan Abramowitz's "Time for a Change" model uses three variables: the incumbent's job approval in June, the change in real GDP during the first two quarters of the election year, and the amount of time -- whether one term or longer -- the incumbent party has held the White House. While Abramowitz's model projects a Bush win of 53.7 percent of the two-major-party vote, he is doubtful about whether it will work this time; he concludes that "it seems unlikely that [Bush] will receive anything close to 53.7 percent."

I had a psychology professor in college who had served on a bunch of committees with my grandfather, who'd been on the Board of Trustees for twenty years. Taking attendance on the first day of class he stopped at my name and mentioned what a great man the elder Orrin had been. When we went to his office at the end of the semester, several classmates stood dumbfounded as he announced that his first gradescale had given me a C+ but he "knew what I expected" so I redid the scale to give me a B-. Now, to begin with, a C+ would have raised my GPA and been perfectly satisfactory, even undeserved, but in the second place, Charlie Cook seems to be forecasting this race by using the same "what I expected" theory. It seems less likely to work in a presidential election than in college.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 AM


I watched Kerry throw his war decorations (Thomas Oliphant, April 27, 2004, Boston Globe)

ON THE WAY to the fence where he threw some of his military decorations 33 years ago, I was 4 or 5 feet behind John Kerry.

As he neared the spot from which members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War were parting with a few of the trappings of their difficult past to help them face their future more squarely, I watched Kerry reach with his right hand into the breast pocket of his fatigue shirt. The hand emerged with several of the ribbons that most of the vets had been wearing that unique week of protest, much as they are worn on a uniform blouse.

There couldn't have been all that many decorations in his hand -- six or seven -- because he made a closed fist around his collection with ease as he waited his turn. I recall him getting stopped by one or two wounded vets in wheelchairs, clearly worried that they wouldn't be able to get their stuff over the looming fence, who gave him a few more decorations. Kerry says he doesn't remember this.

It is true that Kerry was one of the veterans group's "leaders," but in this eclectic, aggressively individualistic collection of people who had been through a pointless war, there were no privileges of rank. Kerry was in the middle of a line of perhaps 1,000 guys -- only a third or even less of the total who had assembled on the Washington Mall that astonishing week.

At the spot where the men were symbolically letting go of their participation in the war, the authorities had erected a wood and wire fence that prevented them from getting close to the front of the US Capitol, and Kerry paused for several seconds. We had been talking for days -- about the war, politics, the veterans' demonstration -- but I could tell Kerry was upset to the point of anguish, and I decided to leave him be; his head was down as he approached the fence quietly.

In a voice I doubt I would have heard had I not been so close to him, Kerry said, as I recall vividly, "There is no violent reason for this; I'm doing this for peace and justice and to try to help this country wake up once and for all."

With that, he didn't really throw his handful toward the statue of John Marshall, America's first chief justice.

The Kerry I Know: So he's not Mr. Charisma. But he has courage, judgment, and intellect. Imagine that! (Thomas Oliphant, 08.01.04, American Prospect)

What Kerry did in the spring of 1971 still amazes me. The power and eloquence of his statement to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee gets most of the attention because the film survives, but what amazed me more was the quiet leadership he and a few pals showed in guiding perhaps 2,000 veterans -- many severely wounded, angry, bitter, and passionate -- for a week that stunned the country with its nonviolent effectiveness.

At the time, Kerry told me that he assumed his actions had precluded a political career, a sentiment experience had taught me to share.

They were right, these actions do preclude a national political career.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 AM


In Speech, Bush to Stress 'Ownership': President will seek to draw distinctions with Kerry on healthcare and retirement, aides say. (Ronald Brownstein, August 30, 2004, LA Times)

President Bush plans to stress themes of "ownership" and government reform in his acceptance speech Thursday, positioning himself to reprise one of his most effective arguments against Democrat Al Gore in the 2000 campaign.

Without offering many specifics, Bush is likely to pledge to restructure Social Security, the tax code and the healthcare system with the common goal of shifting more control and ownership away from government toward individuals, according to sources familiar with the speech's preparation.

"The big label will be reform — Social Security reform, reform of our institutions of government, reform of healthcare, and the concept of ownership," said one senior GOP strategist who asked not to be named.

Bush strategists believe this agenda will allow them to frame the campaign's domestic debates as a choice between the president's push to empower individuals and proposals by Sen. John F. Kerry that they will portray as a return to big government.

Even some Democrats agree that in the 2000 campaign's final stages, Bush scored points against Gore by hammering at that same argument, declaring, "He trusts the government, I trust the people."

Democrats acknowledge that the themes of choice, ownership and individual control that Bush is expected to stress could have long-term appeal in a society where more Americans own homes and businesses and participate in the stock market. But Democrats also believe the president will have difficulty selling his agenda when so many Americans are feeling insecure about their jobs, the costs of healthcare and the security of their pensions following drops in stock prices and corporate scandals.

"There may be a moment for [Bush's] argument, but not after three years of decline," said Democratic strategist Stanley B. Greenberg, Gore's pollster in 2000.

That's the difference between the President, who's a revolutionary, and his reactionary opponents--even they have to concede the virtues of the Third Way, but they never think the time is right; he always does.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 AM


Close, but Bush will win (Marc Erikson, 8/30/04, Asia Times)

In Las Vegas you can bet on most anything - but not on US elections. It's a federal law. British bookmakers, who are not under such restrictions, offer odds of 5/6 for both Kerry and Bush. Most recent US polls project a statistical dead heat. It is nonetheless likely that Bush will eke out a victory on November 2. Americans' basic attitudes on the major issues, the likely course of events over the coming two months, and key economic-demographic factors favor the Republican. [...]

We've left some important economic/demographic indicators for last. They may prove the most important. Contrary to Kerry's contention in his convention speech that the US middle class is shrinking and its income declining, US Internal Revenue Service (the federal tax collector) statistics show that the number of tax returns in the $75,000-$100,000 bracket increased by 8% between 2000 and 2002 while the number of returns in the above-$200,000 categories dropped by anywhere from 10-50%. Incomes of those earning $100,000 or less advanced marginally, while incomes of the big earners above $100,000 declined substantially.

Overall, some 75% of Americans now consider themselves middle-class, 4% are upper-class, and the remainder working- or lower-class. The upper and working/lower classes in 2000 voted overwhelmingly Democratic and are now pro-Kerry. Al Gore, the Democratic candidate in that election, got fully 56% of the upper-class vote. And as the middle class has expanded, it has moved into the suburbs. In 2000, 50% of voters were suburbanites; this year it will be nearly 52% - and upward mobility out to the suburbs from the inner cities generally favors Republicans.

Upper-upper-class members, whether George Soros, Warren Buffet or Steve Jobs, have made no secret of their political preferences. On Wall Street, contrary to popular perception, Bush's support is soft. The rich don't much care about entrepreneurship, wealth creation and new-home ownership. They've got it. They worry about wealth preservation (and hence don't like deficits that drive down bond prices). The middle class does worry about fiscal and regulatory measures designed to create wealth and ownership. It's their principal preoccupation. Bush's "ownership society" will favor them and they'll favor it.

And then, of course, there's the Hollywood-Nashville divide. Nashville's country crooners like Bush; Hollywood's stars hate Bush and will vote Kerry by default. California and New York are solidly in Kerry's camp. But Gore in 2000 lost Tennessee, his own state. Tennessee again will be the better predictor this year.

It's great fun watching foreigners throw in the towel.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:27 AM


Dingo superpack on Fraser Island (The Age, August 30, 2004)

Dingoes have formed a superpack on the same south-east Queensland island where a young boy was mauled to death three years ago, a dingo expert said today.

University of Queensland researcher Nick Baker said the dingoes of Fraser Island appeared to have developed a tolerance for each other which was uncharacteristic of their breed.

He said dingoes traditionally lived and hunted in small territorial packs which would defend their food and territory to the death against invasion, especially from other packs.

"But here the whole island is like one big pack, with the smaller groups working together," Mr Baker told AAP.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:01 AM


Canadian sites look overseas for drug supply: To combat shortages, online pharmacies used by U.S. consumers are seeking new sources. Safety could be an issue. (Daniel Costello, August 30, 2004, LA Times)

Millions of Americans now buy drugs from Canadian-based Internet pharmacies in an effort to save money. So far, the quantity and quality of the drugs has seemed relatively assured.

But during the last year, U.S. customers using Canadian websites have faced increasing difficulty getting top-selling medications such as Celebrex to treat arthritis and the antidepressant Effexor. That's because several of the world's biggest pharmaceutical makers are restricting supply to online Canadian pharmacies that ship to the U.S., leading to delays of several weeks for many customers. In severe cases, some sites have stopped accepting new clients looking for the hardest-to-get medications.

Faced with the growing shortages, Canadian Internet pharmacies are looking abroad themselves and increasingly selling U.S. consumers drugs that originate through pharmacies in England, Fiji, Israel and Chile. Depending on the country, that is raising concerns that U.S. consumers — many of them senior citizens — are getting medications from countries with less-stringent safety regulations than those in North America.

"It's a potentially scary situation" that a significant number of Canada-to-U.S. prescriptions could soon originate from other countries, says Marv Shepherd, a pharmacy professor at the University of Texas, Austin, and an expert in the field of cross-border prescription sales. It's particularly worrisome if Canadian companies "start to partner up with some of the more shaky countries," he says.

On the bright side, the whole outrsourcing of our pharmaceutical purchases that the Left is pushing could both collapse other countries socialized systems and make the quality of medications so iffy that folks will be less likely to use them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


How to Beat Bush: The former campaign manager for Gore-Lieberman 2000 offers four critical tips to the Kerry-Edwards campaign (Donna Brazile, Aug. 29, 2004,

It’s hard to travel across the country these days without seeing an old familiar bumper sticker: “Somewhere in Texas, a village is missing its idiot.” Perhaps the slogan rang true for many progressive voters in this highly partisan, highly charged and highly polarized electorate. But, if the bumper-sticker crowd believes it refers to George W. Bush, they are sorely mistaken.

Sen. John Kerry can win this election by understanding that he is running against a shrewd, clever and an extremely intelligent opponent who was trained in political combat by the late GOP strategist Lee Atwater. [...]

[T]o defeat George W. Bush, Team Kerry-Edwards must do four things well (and avoid any strategic mistakes we made in 2000 that would place him on the defense) for the rest of the electoral season. [...]

Message Matters

During the final months of the 2000 presidential campaign, we struggled to create a strong, compelling message on how Gore could stand up and fight for ordinary people and build on the Clinton-Gore record of prosperity. [...]

Minimize Mistakes

In an election this close, the candidate who wins may be the one who makes the fewest mistakes. [...]


Don't approach these crucial presidential debates like they are a Harvard-Yale Society debate. This will serve as Kerry’s chance to show voters who he is as a person. [...]

The bottom line is Kerry should feel, look and act like a winner.

She's telling this--message, mistake-free, personality, winner-like-- to a guy whose only message is now mired in the banks of the Mekong, who has run the worst campaign in modern presidential politics, who is considered--even by allies--to be personally unlikable, and who's never won a tough race?

August 29, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:49 PM


"Good Will Come Out Of This": The First Lady talks to TIME about gay-marriage, stem-cell research and dealing with the criticism of her husband (MATTHEW COOPER, Aug. 29, 2004, TIME)

She has been called the perfect wife for her devotion to George w. Bush and the Comforter in Chief for her calming demeanor after 9/11. But it would be a mistake to think of Laura Bush as a latter-day Mamie Eisenhower, who once said, "Ike runs the country; I turn the pork chops." The First Lady has views of her own, and just before jetting off to Florida with the President last week, she sat down in her East Wing office to speak with TIME's Matthew Cooper about a wide range of topics, including gay marriage, stem-cell research and how she deals with criticism of her husband. [...]


Critics throw out so many charges against the President. Is there any one that you found the most unfair?


I think they're all very unfair. [Laughter.] I really do.


Do you think these swift-boat ads are unfair to John Kerry?


Do I think they're unfair? Not really. There have been millions of terrible ads against my husband.

The Democrats basically accused her husband of helping drag James Byrd to death last time and the charges since 9-11 have only gotten more scurrilous--why would she think questioning John Kerry is unfair?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:42 PM


War over war crimes: A new ad takes Kerry to task over what he said in 1971, but the truth is complicated (Dan Gilgoff, 9/06/04, US News)

Until a few weeks ago, John Brenner, department commander for Pennsylvania's Veterans of Foreign Wars, was leaning toward George W. Bush. Then he caught wind of a TV ad launched by an anti-John Kerry group accusing the Democratic candidate of lying to get medals in the Vietnam War. "I don't want to see them question anybody's record," says Brenner, 61, a Vietnam vet. "Especially if they got a Purple Heart and . . . shrapnel in their leg." But last week, Brenner saw a second ad from the anti-Kerry outfit--Swift Boat Veterans for Truth--which blasted Kerry for telling a Senate committee in 1971 that U.S. forces had committed atrocities in Vietnam. This time, Brenner's anger turned to Kerry and other antiwar protesters, who, he says, prolonged Vietnam and made it "hard on troops that were still over there."

By late last week, Kerry was scrambling to rebut the first ad, producing vets to corroborate his version of events. But the second ad could prove more troublesome since it shows Kerry more broadly raising questions about the actions of all Vietnam vets. Its use of Kerry's own words casts his testimony in black and white; in reality, it was anything but.

The second ad--which, like the first spot, ran in just three states but was replayed in the national media--features testimonials from former prisoners of war set against footage of Kerry before the Senate committee, relating tales of U.S. soldiers who "cut off limbs . . . [and] razed villages in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan." The testimony "hurt me more than any physical wounds," says one POW in the ad. The Kerry camp and some independent observers say the commercial misrepresents Kerry's '71 testimony by implying that he accused all U.S. troops of committing war crimes.

It's hard to see any way the Senator can defuse the testimony, but arguing that he didn't mean what he said will be a disaster. In order to make the argument they have to call further attention to the testimony and those candidacy-killing attacks on America and his fellow soldiers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:35 PM


So, Why is this man laughing?: Karl Rove just may hold the key to George Bush's re-election bid (Kenneth T. Walsh, 9/06/04, US News)

Mostly, though, Rove's raison d'être these days is to quietly build the best grass-roots organization ever. His goal is to name a Bush coordinator in 29,000 crucial precincts in 17 key target states, and the campaign is 95 percent of the way there right now. Similarly, Rove says the campaign has now recruited 980,000 of the 1 million pro-Bush volunteers it hoped to have signed up by Election Day.

Yet Rove's influence is not purely political; he also has a hefty policy portfolio. White House Chief of Staff Andy Card says Rove "doesn't play very much in foreign policy" but has a pivotal role on domestic affairs, pushing a conservative agenda that includes cutting taxes, encouraging charities to do more social work, opposing abortion, and reforming education by promoting accountability for teachers and schools.

The question asked increasingly in Washington is whether, by encouraging Bush's already strong conservative convictions, Rove exerts too much influence. Argues John Podesta, a Democratic activist and former White House chief of staff for Bill Clinton: "He may go down as making the worst political move in history by taking the post-9/11 period and trying to lurch the country to the right not just on war with Iraq but on energy, on economics." If Rove and Bush had tried to unite conservatives and liberals on a common agenda after 9/11, Podesta says, "it would have produced Republican dominance . . . for a generation."

Mr. Podesta is thinking small, like a Clintonite. The GOP is guaranteed dominance--Mr. Bush wants to continue the revolution.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:28 PM


Battleground Poll August 2004 - The Growing Conservative Majority (Bruce Walker, August 29, 2004, Mens News Daily)

The rock solid statistic in the latest Battleground Poll, the number that actually means something, the salient political fact that I have been raising in articles for the last several years, is found in the "housekeeping" section of the questionnaire: Question D3 on Page 11 of the sixteen page questionnaire.

It bears repeating: "When thinking about politics, do you consider yourself to be..." and then it lists six options for responders, which are "Very conservative," "Somewhat conservative," "Moderate," "Somewhat liberal," "Very Liberal," and "Unsure/Refused."

Precise recitation of these options is important because Leftists typically respond to polls which show that America is conservative by saying something like "Oh, no - it is really moderate, not conservative" or "Most people do not really have an ideological position."

That is completely false. This Battleground Poll, like the five before it over the last four years, have given Americans the easy option of calling themselves a "moderate" or of simply saying that the "don't know" or "refused to answer."

Those Americans who call themselves conservative in this latest Battleground Poll constitute exactly sixty percent of the American public. The rest - all of the rest, including "moderates" and "unsure" and "refused to answer" and every shade of "liberal" - constituted exactly forty percent of the American public.

If Bill Kristol is right about McCain replacing Cheney this week, the GOP ticket will get to 60%.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 PM


Something tells me Bush holds all the aces (Mark Steyn, 29/08/2004, Daily Telegraph)

At the beginning of the year, Thomas Lifson, who was at Harvard Business School with George W Bush, made an interesting observation about the President. He notes that young George "was a very avid and skillful poker player" when he was a Business Administration student and that "one of the secrets of a successful poker player is to encourage your opponent to bet a lot of chips on a losing hand. This is a pattern of behavior one sees repeatedly in George W Bush's political career".

Indeed one does. In the months following Mr Lifson's observation, the President sat back, as John Kerry's consultants, the Iowa caucus voters, the Democratic Party at large, and the media convinced themselves that the one card that trumps Bush's leadership in the war on terror was Kerry's four months in Vietnam, and bet everything on it. They have just lost that hand. [...]

The Bush-haters are right about him: he is a radical President, just not in the cartoon manner they believe. So it will be interesting to hear what he has to say about tax reform and Social Security - two areas where he's got big ambitions. The rest of the week will be a soft-focus infomercial just like the Democratic Convention, but the Republican speakers - Rudy Giuliani, Arnold Schwarzenegger, John McCain and dissident Democrat Senator Zell Miller - make a much stronger line-up than the old lions on display in Boston - Jimmy Carter, Ted Kennedy, Bill and Hill, effective speakers all but strictly for the true believers. Rudy, Arnie and co have far more cross-party appeal. [...]

So the most likely outcome this November is an increased Republican majority in the House, a couple of extra Senate seats, and a second term for Bush. I might be wrong. Anything is possible. But the reluctance of the British press to admit the possibility that Bush isn't a loser suggests that they too have over-invested in John Kerry's very weak hand.

One of the things that Democrats and pundits--with the exception of a few wise souls like Mr. Steyn--just don't seem to get is that the President enjoys raising the stakes at exactly those moments when they think they've caught him bluffing. And when they accept he tends to crush them. After the stolen election he was supposed to mark time untril Al Gore could be awarded his rightful crown, but instead he rammed through his tax cuts. After Jim Jeffords jumped the President was supposed to be permanently, but he just went ahead and passed NCLB and Fast Track Trade Authority and the like anyway. After 9-11 he was supposed to not do anything partisan lest it change the color of the global mood ring, but he went to war in Iraq anyway. Presidents are supposed to lose seats in the congressional midterm but the President staked his reputation on them and won seats. Economy doing badly? He'd have to repeal tax cuts, right? Wrong, he went for more and got them. Iraq going unsmoothly, better apologize to the U.N. and hide behind it, right? Wrong, he invited them in only to use them like rented mules. Senator Kerry served in Vietnam while the President was "only" in the Guard--better avoid that issue right? And so on, and so forth, seemingly ad infinitum.


A lifetime of risk-taking shapes Bush's leadership (Michael Kranish, Globe Staff | August 29, 2004, Boston Globe)

When George W. Bush accepted the presidential nomination four years ago, he laced his speech with extraordinary clues about his governing style. ''I do not need to take your pulse before I know my own mind," Bush told Americans. Mocking criticism that his platform was filled with ''risky schemes," Bush told the story of a patriot who ignored warnings that he would lose his property if he signed the Declaration of Independence, saying, ''Damn the consequences, give me the pen."

In retrospect, the Texan left no doubt: He intended his presidency to be built on a foundation of bold and broad risks.

Now, as Bush again prepares to accept his party's presidential nomination, his candidacy is based on at least two major ventures fraught with risk -- the war in Iraq and massive tax cuts -- as well as on his reliance on risk as a style of governing. A former oilman who bet and sometimes lost tens of thousands of dollars on dreams of gushers, Bush has taken that wildcatting style into the White House, determined to show that, unlike his father, George H.W. Bush, he has the ''vision thing" and is unafraid of the consequences.

''He is a big risk taker," Senator Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, said. ''If you look at the way he ran his oil business, this is a guy who was skating on the edge. I think it goes to a deep personality characteristic."

Conrad, who opposed the Iraq war resolution, is no fan of Bush's approach and laments being one of many Democrats who feel shut out by the White House. But Bush's admirers see it another way: A president must be sure of himself and take risks in order to be a leader, and must trust those he is advising in order to lead well. Caution in a time of terrorism would be a weak way to run the White House, his defenders say.

Indeed, one of Bush's campaign refrains is that his policies don't create wealth but create an environment for risk-takers to be rewarded -- and he has followed that philosophy himself in pursuing the war, tax cuts, and a governing style that has alienated many Democrats and some foreign leaders.

''He is not afraid of risk and he is confident obviously in what he believes, and it has kind of shaped his political career," said White House communications director Dan Bartlett. ''It is that whole mentality that was very much shaped by his West Texas upbringing and in business; being in the oil business you have this frontier attitude about taking risk and entrepreneurship."

So, to the surprise of some observers, Bush has become the country's ultimate entrepreneur, gambling his political future and that of millions of Americans on the biggest stage of all. [...]

The Sept. 11 attacks transformed Bush from being a peace president who had time to leisurely examine stem cell research, to being a war president whose top concern is to defend America.

''Whatever you may think of the wisdom of his policies, you cannot deny that he has been bold and aggressive in pursuing them," said Bruce Buchanan, a University of Texas government professor who has long followed Bush's career. ''Bush the elder was cautious, pragmatic, not a real risk taker. Bush the younger seems willing to take the bit in his teeth.

''In his [2000] acceptance speech, he said, 'They have not led, we will.' By God, he has," Buchanan said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 PM


Laura Branigan (Daily Telegraph, 30/08/2004)

Laura Branigan, who died on Thursday aged 47, will be best remembered for her classic 1983 pop-disco anthem Gloria.

By rights the song should not have been a hit. It was a reworking of an up-tempo Italian chart-topper of 1979, sung by Umberto Tozzi, which had been given decidedly obscure, somewhat paranoid English lyrics by Branigan: "Are the voices in your head calling Gloria?" Moreover, disco's moment had very much come and gone.

Yet Gloria was redeemed by Branigan's powerful delivery, and it found an audience in clubgoers who were hungry for high-energy (or, in the parlance of the day, Hi-NRG) tunes. The song had that happy knack of lodging unbidden in the brain, and soon there were few teenagers who could not hum it. At the end of December 1982, it reached No 2 in the American charts, remaining in the Hot 100 for a further eight months. In Britain, it peaked at No 6 at the start of 1983.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 PM


McCain Says Kerry's Anti-War Protests Open for Debate (Bloomberg, 8/29/04)

Republican U.S. Senator John McCain said Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry's anti-war activities after he returned from Vietnam are an appropriate subject for political debate.

McCain, 68, of Arizona, said on the CBS News program ``Face the Nation,'' that he disagreed with Kerry throwing his ribbons from his medals on the steps of the U.S. Capitol when he returned from the war.

"Every American is entitled to protest,'' McCain said. ``Whether he did that appropriately'' is a legitimate subject for debate, he said.

Who'll be the first Democrat to call Senator McCain a "partisan hack."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:54 PM


Crucial voters group unhappy with both major party candidates (STEVEN THOMMA, August 28, 2004, Detroit FREE PRESS)

There are only about 2.6 million of them, but they could hold the future of the nation in their hands.

They are undecided voters juggling whether they'll opt for George W. Bush or John Kerry. If this year's election is as close as expected, they are likely to decide it. [...]

In perhaps a bad sign for Bush, more of the undecideds voted for him in 2000 than for Democrat Al Gore, indicating that Bush hasn't persuaded them to stay with him after nearly four years in office. In 2000, 58.7 percent who had been undecided voted for Bush and 24.7 percent for Gore.

That means this election may go down to the wire and render an excruciatingly close decision, just like in 2000, that reflects a deeply divided country with a shrinking political center between two polarized parties.

Those conclusions emerge from an unusually detailed mid-August look at persuadable voters -- those undecided or those who are leaning one way or the other but are open to changing their minds -- by the Zogby/Williams Identity Poll. The Free Press and Knight Ridder Newspapers obtained exclusive access to the findings on the eve of the Republican National Convention.

Polled were 501 people who said they were likely to vote but were undecided or persuadable. Of them, 54.7 percent are men, 60.2 percent are married and 79.5 percent are white. Just 12.9 percent are NASCAR fans.

They tend to be more educated than most voters; 63.6 percent have a college degree and 29.5 percent have at least some college education.

They reject party labels; 46.1 percent call themselves moderate, 20.3 percent conservative and 9.7 percent liberal or progressive.

More favor abortion bans than abortion choice, 43.5 to 36.8 percent; more are pro-gun than for gun control, 49.8 to 32.4 percent; 19 percent favor gay marriage, 36 percent favor civil unions and 38 percent favor a ban.

[B]ush still has strengths with this group.

A slight 51.4 percent majority has a favorable opinion of him, while 47.7 percent are unfavorable. Two-thirds said they like Bush as a person; only 14.8 percent don't.

Asked to name Bush's most significant accomplishment, 45.7 percent said his leadership after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks; 20.2 percent said the war in Iraq.

Kerry also has openings -- and challenges.

His most formidable obstacle is that more than half -- 51.6 percent -- said they don't like him.

There was a sidebar accompanying this story in the local paper which made it even more apparent that these guys are conservative Republicans in all but name. The idea that John Kerry can carry the group seems lunatic, especially given that the President's favorable rating with them remains over 50% and they like him quite a bit while they dislike the Senator.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:29 PM

IRANAMOKAGAIN (continued):

Iran-Contra II?: Fresh scrutiny on a rogue Pentagon operation. (Joshua Micah Marshall, Laura Rozen, and Paul Glastris, September 2004, Washington Monthly)

On Friday evening, CBS News reported that the FBI is investigating a suspected mole in the Department of Defense who allegedly passed to Israel, via a pro-Israeli lobbying organization, classified American intelligence about Iran. The focus of the investigation, according to U.S. government officials, is Larry Franklin, a veteran Defense Intelligence Agency Iran analyst now working in the office of the Pentagon's number three civilian official, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith.

The investigation of Franklin is now shining a bright light on a shadowy struggle within the Bush administration over the direction of U.S. policy toward Iran. In particular, the FBI is looking with renewed interest at an unauthorized back-channel between Iranian dissidents and advisers in Feith's office, which more-senior administration officials first tried in vain to shut down and then later attempted to cover up.

Franklin, along with another colleague from Feith's office, a polyglot Middle East expert named Harold Rhode, were the two officials involved in the back-channel, which involved on-going meetings and contacts with Iranian arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar and other Iranian exiles, dissidents and government officials. Ghorbanifar is a storied figure who played a key role in embroiling the Reagan administration in the Iran-Contra affair. The meetings were both a conduit for intelligence about Iran and Iraq and part of a bitter administration power-struggle pitting officials at DoD who have been pushing for a hard-line policy of "regime change" in Iran, against other officials at the State Department and the CIA who have been counseling a more cautious approach.

If the Administration isn't working with dissidents on regime change in Iran and North Korea the President should be investigated.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:22 PM


A New Money Machine for the U.S.: The old ways can't keep up. We need a value-added tax to meet revenue demands. (Bruce Bartlett, August 29, 2004, LA Times)

The United States needs to adopt a value-added tax. [...]

The tax was originally adopted as part of European integration in order to avoid double taxation by national sales taxes. Its key feature is refundability at the border. This requires tax authorities to know exactly how much tax is embedded in the prices of all exports. The VAT provided that paper trail. In its classic form, the tax is paid at each stage of production and distribution, with a credit for taxes paid at earlier stages. Because producers and retailers need to show that they paid the tax to be credited for the taxes included in the prices of the goods they purchased, the system is largely self-enforcing. And the invoice trail allows governments to refund the entire tax on exports at the border.

From the point of view of consumers, a value-added tax is embedded in prices, which tends to make it less transparent than the state and local sales taxes Americans pay. And because a VAT falls only on consumption, it doesn't burden saving or investment. This makes it a highly efficient tax in the sense it discourages less economic output — what economists call the "deadweight" cost of taxation — than income taxes of similar magnitude.

The lack of transparency and the low economic cost of a value-added tax make it possible for this tax to raise substantial revenues relatively easily, both politically and economically. The average VAT in Europe is 20%, and European governments raise about one-third of their total revenue from consumption taxes, including excise taxes on gasoline, tobacco and other items. The U.S. raises about half that, including sales taxes at the state and local levels.

This suggests there is substantial room for raising broad-based consumption taxes in the U.S. without overburdening the economy. A very broad value-added tax levied on virtually all personal consumption could raise about half a percent of GDP in revenue for each 1% tax rate. But this sort of value-added tax is highly unlikely, though it would be best to treat all consumption equally. In practice, it is unlikely that more than 30% of GDP would be taxed, meaning that a 10% VAT would raise revenues equal to 3% of GDP — about $350 billion this year. We could raise twice that at a rate no higher than now exists in most European countries.

The great bugaboo of a value-added tax is its regressive feature — taking more from the poor than the rich. In the short run that's true, because the lower one's income, the higher one's consumption is as a share of income. Over a lifetime, however, consumption is roughly proportional to income, so a VAT would also be proportional — taking about the same from rich and poor alike in percentage terms.

It's kind of amusing to watch the Right debate what kind of fundamental tax reform it should undertake next year while Senator Kerry's only proposal is tax hikes under the old system.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:15 PM


Voting With One Hand on Bible in Oklahoma: Voters in the GOP stronghold say they identify with President Bush over moral issues. (Maria L. La Ganga, August 29, 2004, LA Times)

They crowded into a cavernous auditorium in this hard luck city for their marching orders, more than 2,000 soldiers in what was described as the fight for "the most important issue facing Western civilization in our time": the preservation of marriage "as a holy covenant between God, a man and a woman."

Pray, they were told. Vote in November. Write your senator; here's the address. Men were advised to do the dishes at home, and women to hug their husbands, whether they wanted to or not. Equal parts religious revival, campaign event and counseling session, the greater Tulsa "pro-marriage rally" last week ) was living proof that a key way to influence the ballots of many Oklahomans is through their Bibles — not their billfolds.

The state has lost nearly 20% of its manufacturing jobs during the Bush administration, and has lagged the nation in recovery. Tulsa and its surrounding communities, for example, have lost about 24,000 jobs as three major industries — oil and gas, telecommunications, and aerospace — took hits.

In many areas, that would be a blueprint for change, a sign that the incumbent should be shoved out of the Oval Office. But not in Oklahoma, one of the reddest of the red states — the designation for places where support for President Bush is especially strong.

Voters here tend to view boom-and-bust cycles as outside of the presidential purview. And in state polls, Bush's lead hovers near 20 percentage points.

Democrats were daydreaming last year about OK being in play, after the Steve Largent implosion, and as late as this Summer about winning the Senate seat. Dream on.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:12 PM


Iraq's Premier Receives High Marks From U.S.: Allawi 'is the perfect leader ... at the moment,' one former official says, echoing the sentiments of others. (Tyler Marshall, August 29, 2004, LA Times)

In his first two months as head of the American-backed interim Iraqi government, Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has produced something rare for U.S. policymakers dealing with the turmoil in Iraq: a pleasant surprise.

In his first 60 days, they say, Allawi has stamped his authority over the fledgling interim government he leads, focused almost exclusively on the crucial issue of security and, in the process, emerged as a credible Iraqi political figure visibly trying to establish a semblance of law and order.

"He's smart, he's tough, he's resolved," said Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who frequently has challenged the administration's postwar strategy. "In light of the capacity he possesses, he's done a remarkable job."

So much for the war as an issue.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:09 PM


In His Father's Shadow, a Son Charts His Course (Robin Abcarian, August 29, 2004, LA Times)

Yale and military service, the Texas oil business and politics: George W. Bush has traveled a route similar to that of his accomplished father, sometimes seeming diminished by his father's long shadow. Even when he became president, the son's lack of foreign policy experience was shrugged off by many who thought his father's expertise and former aides would guide him.

But this week, as he accepts the Republican nomination for a second term, President Bush is clearly more than his father's son. The man who will stand before the nation on Thursday is a product of his father's example, his high expectations and expansive advantages, but he is also someone who has bristled at them enough to establish his own style: openly religious, politically combative and aggressive in his approach to foreign policy and tax cuts.

The path Bush has chosen also has put him in one more competition with his formidable father. If he wins in November, he will have surpassed the career of the first President Bush, who was defeated after a single term.

If he loses, Bush will end up repeating his father's fate as a one-term president in part because he worked so hard in the White House to cut a different path.

Every paper in the country is probably running some variation on this nonsense this week, but it's completely thoughtless. Imagine a political science or history textbook fifty years from now and, regardless of whether the son wins a second term, which Bush is likely to get more paragraphs? The elder Mr. Bush is a footnote to history. The younger has already played a significant historical role--both at home and abroad--and has a chance to be a truly pivotal figure in the spread of freedom in America--via the Ownership Society--and in the Islamic world--via war and Reformation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:51 PM

MORE WOLF (via Robert Duquette):

The Great American Savings Grab (Stephen Roach, 8/27/04, Morgan Stanley)

Never before has the world’s leading economy been saddled with such a severe shortfall of saving. Ironically, America has not had to pay a price for its extraordinary profligacy -- at least not yet. The US has borrowed freely from abroad and converted asset-based saving into newfound purchasing power. In my view, this cannot continue. There’s nothing sustainable about the growth dynamic of an increasingly saving-short US economy.

The numbers speak for themselves. Driven by a veritable collapse in personal saving, in conjunction with a dramatic deterioration in the federal government’s budget position, America’s gross national saving rate -- the combined saving of households, businesses, and the government sector -- fell to an all-time low of 12.8% of GNP in early 2003. Nor has it recovered much since, rebounding to only 13.8% in early 2004. Stripping out the depreciation of worn-out capital in order to get a cleaner read on the domestic saving available to fund net growth in productive capacity, America’s net national saving rate plunged to a record low of just 0.4% in early 2003. While there has since been a modest rebound to 2.0% in early 2004, there can be no mistaking the sharp break from historical trends; by comparison, the US net national saving rate averaged 5.3% in the 1980s and 1990s and 9.6% in the 1960s and 1970s.

In a world where saving must always equal investment, America’s saving shortfall has profound implications.

Or, at least, it would if there were one. It's helpful when you look at a situation that common sense tells you can not exist to assume you aren't seeing the whole picture. Here's what Mr. Richter has missed:
Household Wealth Rebounds (Spotlight on Financial Services, February 2004)
A year ago in this column we wrote that “uncertainty is the enemy of growth,” and so it apparently was. The looming conflict with Iraq was depressing expectations, holding down stock prices, and discouraging business investment. Otherwise, fundamentals for a strong recovery were in place. As Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan predicted in February 2003, a speedy resolution of the uncertainty associated with military action would remove those impediments to growth. This forecast proved to be right on the money.

We know that overall growth surged in the second half of 2003. Now we see from newly released Federal Reserve data that American household wealth has rebounded almost to the historic high that it reached when the stock market peaked early in 2000. A rebound in equity prices that began in March 2003, coupled with rising home prices, propelled U.S. household net worth to $42.1 trillion by the end of the third quarter of 2003. Given that stock prices rose an additional 12% in the fourth quarter, household net worth probably reached $43 trillion by the end of 2003, not far below the record of $43.6 trillion reached in the first quarter of 2000. Net worth has jumped $3.5 trillion since the cyclical low reached in September 2002, with 43% of the increase attributed to rising value of stocks and mutual fund holdings, 8% due to rising home equity, and the remainder due to larger holdings of bank deposits, pensions and other financial assets. Household net worth is defined as the value of all household assets (stocks, mutual funds, pension savings, deposits, ownership of small businesses) minus liabilities (mortgages and other consumer debt).

In essence, what's happening is this: we're borrowing money from foreigners at 2% (or whatever) so we can invest our money at 6%. You have to be blinded by ideology to see that as a bad deal.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:36 PM


Je ne regrette rien: After a tumultuous first term, George Bush has much to be proud of—and much to reconsider (The Economist, Aug 26th 2004)

Radicalism can be good—but Mr Bush's brand has turned a compassionate conservative into a contradictory one. What is conservative about allowing government to grow faster than under Mr Clinton? What is humble about announcing that you are trying to introduce democracy to the Middle East? Where is the compassion in his support for a federal ban on gay marriage, the limitations on stem-cell research or his other moves to accommodate the zealots of the Christian right?

In a race where Mr Kerry now seems to be the narrow favourite, the president is going to Madison Square Garden promising, in large part, more of the same. Yes, there will be an attempt to reach out to independent voters: moderates such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rudy Giuliani have been given prominent speaking slots. But Mr Bush is undaunted. His message is that America should stick with a man who faced hard choices and took the right decisions. Il ne regrette rien.

For this newspaper, that verdict looks mostly right for Mr Bush's foreign policy. The charge that he set off in a needlessly unilateralist direction on taking office is vastly overdone; he sought allies throughout; and in many ways his forthright style was a breath of fresh air after the muddle and evasions of the Clinton era. Yes, he dropped out of the Kyoto Protocol in a tactless way; but that was a bad treaty which America was never going to accept in any case (the Senate voted against it by a margin of 95-0). Mr Bush upset many people by ripping apart the outdated anti-ballistic-missile defence treaty with Russia—then baffled his critics by getting both Russia and (more hesitantly) China to go along with him.

But it was the thunderbolt of September 11th that counted most. Those atrocities set the course for the remainder of his presidency. Since then, we continue to think that Mr Bush has got the big foreign-policy decisions right. He understood the nature of the war that had been declared against America and the western world. He made it clear that it is not a war between civilisations, let alone religions; but he has also served notice to Arab regimes of the need to change. He rightly decided to destroy al-Qaeda's home in Afghanistan—and, yes, on the evidence that presented itself at the time, he rightly decided to invade Iraq.

Are they really asking what is compassionate about deficit spending in a national emergency, democratizing oppressed nations, and Christianity?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:32 PM


Rethinking red ink (Sophie Roell, August 29, 2004, Boston Globe)

IN LATE 2002, on the eve of the Bush administration's second round of massive tax cuts, Dick Cheney shocked deficit-wary Paul O'Neill, then the treasury secretary, by declaring that "Reagan proved deficits don't matter." Since Cheney's comment came to light earlier this year in Ron Suskind's book "The Price of Loyalty," administration officials have been vigorously back-pedalling, reassuring voters that deficits do matter - and that those projected for the next decade aren't nearly as large as some predict.

While Cheney's quip is unlikely to be repeated at this week's Republican National Convention in New York, some economists and political scientists say that the vice president may have had more of a point than he realized. Today, the view that large deficits are a "fiscal cancer that will erode any recovery and threaten the prospect of lasting prosperity" (as John Kerry said of the Bush deficits earlier this year) has become conventional wisdom in both parties. But deficits, some scholars argue, are not always a bad thing. In fact, they have often played an important role in advancing and solidifying democracy - and today may be a long-term political boon to the right.

In his recent book A Free Nation Deep in Debt: The Financial Roots of Democracy, the Oxford-based historian James Macdonald argues that debt and liberty have been powerfully intertwined since the 18th century.

Indeed, every student of British history knows that the development of a national debt in England after the Glorious Revolution of 1688 played an important part in bringing political stability to the country. And on these shores, Alexander Hamilton, the first secretary of the treasury, argued against Thomas Jefferson and others that a debt could be a "national blessing" and "a powerful cement" to the nation. "A national debt attaches many citizens to the government who by their numbers, wealth and influence, contribute more perhaps to its preservation than a body of soldiers," he wrote.

Macdonald argues that debt has also played a critical role in the triumph of democracy over authoritarianism. Thanks to their more trusting relationship with the creditors - their own citizens - democracies can borrow vast sums of money extremely cheaply and so gain an advantage in war over more despotic regimes. In 1815, for example, when England defeated Napoleon, England's debt-to-GNP ratio stood at 300 percent - far above the 65 percent that precipitated the fall of the French monarchy in 1789.

America's current national debt of $7.34 trillion, or around 60 percent of GDP, Macdonald writes, falls far short of the debt incurred by Britain between 1760 and 1860, which never fell below 100 percent of GDP. "Simplistic notions that national power and national debt are mutually incompatible are disproved by this single historical fact," he concludes.

It's certainly possible to make a coherent argument that we should try to lower our debt--if for no other than moral reasons--but it's impossible to make a sensible argument that we should have no debt and pretty hard to make one that the current level of debt, or any level we're likely to arrive at over the next few decades, matters much to our standing as the global hyperpower. Indeed, if you track the level of debt for Great Britain and America it seems to peak at those moments when our respective military/geopolitical powers have peaked, suggesting that the former may be at least an effect and possibly a cause of the latter.


Posted by Peter Burnet at 4:22 PM


Cheeseburger bills attempt to take lawsuits off the menu (Globe and Mail, August 29th, 2004)

Bills to protect restaurants and food companies against lawsuits by people who claim the meals or snacks made them fat are moving ahead in the states like hamburgers passed out a drive-thru window.

Measures known as "cheeseburger bills" bar people from seeking damages in court from food companies for weight gain and associated medical conditions, including heart disease and diabetes.[...]

So far this year, a dozen states have enacted laws against such suits, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.[...]

Class-action lawyers will find ways around the state laws, and big fast-food companies could be their targets, predicts John Banzhaf, professor of public interest law at George Washington University.

Banzhaf, who favours the suits, said companies could be vulnerable for failing to tell customers how much fat is in their food.

"Is it a shoo-in? No," said Mr. Banzhaf, who helped mastermind suits against the tobacco industry. "But if we pick our plaintiffs carefully, the guy who eats there every day, we can make our cases stick."

I’m suing Mom for all those pancake and syrup breakfasts she made me eat and for her triple layer chocolate fudge cake. Dammit, she knew what was in them but all I ever heard was "Eat, eat..."

Mmm... chocolate fudge.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:14 PM


Now for the hard part: America needs a global strategy to fight not only Al Qaeda but the radical ideology it represents. Has anyone in the Bush and Kerry campaigns read Chapter 12 of the 9/11 Commission Report? (Walter Russell Mead, August 29, 2004, Boston Globe)

IN ALL THE BROUHAHA over the recommendations for intelligence reform contained in the 9/11 Commission Report, the commission's most important and sweeping recommendations - those on foreign policy - have been largely ignored.

Those recommendations, which appear in Chapter 12 of the report, entitled "What To Do? A Global Strategy," go far beyond reforming the CIA and other parts of the intelligence community. They lay out a plan for fighting and winning the war on terror. Who is the enemy? What do they want? And how can we win? These are the questions the commission tries to answer in Chapter 12.

"Our enemy," the commission notes, "is twofold: al Qaeda, a stateless network of terrorists that struck us on 9/11; and a radical ideological movement in the Islamic world. . .." In short, says the commission, "the United States has to help defeat an ideology, not just a group of people. . .. How can the United States and its friends help moderate Muslims combat the extremist ideas?"

These are the issues the presidential election needs to be about - but so far neither presidential campaign seems to want to put them front and center. Senator Kerry, who says he has accepted "all" of the report's recommendations, hasn't said whether the recommendations in Chapter 12 - which amount to the first systematic attempt by a bipartisan group to develop a new grand strategy for a new kind of war - are included in that blanket endorsement. President Bush, for his part, has said surprisingly little about how he will prosecute the war on terror if he wins a second term.

Vote near, Saudis push to modernize (Charles A. Radin, August 29, 2004, Boston Globe)
Even as Saudi Arabia struggles internally with violent extremists and externally with its image as the country that produced most of the attackers of Sept. 11, 2001, the desert kingdom's rulers are moving on multiple fronts to modernize and moderate their nation.

Partial local elections are scheduled, starting in October, for the first time in the kingdom's history.

A series of highly publicized national dialogues is opening public discussion on religious and social topics, ranging from the sensitive to the previously taboo.

Women are increasingly outspoken in asserting their rights to participate in society, both economically and politically.

And the rigid religious hierarchy that a few years ago was sending morality police into the streets to enforce an extremely strict version of Islam is seeing its powers erode.

None of this means irrevocable change has occurred toward moderation or liberalism in Saudi Arabia, the world's most austere Muslim nation. Critics say that the pace is far too slow and that change is coming not because it is seen as good for the average citizen but because since Sept. 11, the United States is demanding it.

It's hard to criticize Mr. Mead for not reading the Globe, but you'd think its editors might have noted that their front page piece on Saudi reform directly contradicts their lead Ideas piece. The Bush administration has: dispatched two Middle Eastern tyrannies; forced a change in the behavior of Libya's regime; driven such a wedge between Yassir Arafat and his own prime ministers that he is now thought of by even the Palestinians as superfluous; negotiated a Free Trade agreement with Morocco; established radio and television outlets in the region; formulated a Middle Eastern democracy initiative; forced crackdowns on Islamicists in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia; etc.; etc.; etc.

Chapter 12 adds nothing to that mix. He's right about Senator Kerry though.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:59 PM


What you won't hear: GOP hopes images can beat reality (Kevin Phillips, August 29, 2004, Boston Globe)

Here are some key issues to note, either in their image-making intentions or in their all-but-certain omission.

* Terrorism and homeland security: No one should expect the convention to let disillusioning facts and the results of 2003-2004 investigations get in the way of attempts to cast George W. Bush as a reincarnation of Superman and the Lone Ranger, dedicated to the fight against evildoers like Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. Whether it will be politic to mention the not-yet-apprehended Osama bin Laden, though, is one of the few unpredictables. [...]

* War with Iraq: No US war policy has been more thoroughly bungled since James Madison let the British burn Washington during the War of 1812. [...]

* The uncertain economic future: It's unclear which flaw in administration economic policy is the most dangerous -- weak job creation, feckless global oil strategy, or the ballooning US trade and current account deficits.

Under the circumstances, economic boasting is unlikely to be a hallmark of this week's speeches, save for the obligatory salutes to tax cuts and the inevitable cliches about how focused George W. Bush is on small business and the jobs it creates. If current trends continue, though, he is about to finish the autumn of 2004 as the first president since Herbert Hoover to preside over a net four-year loss of jobs. If the TV pundits are interested, even George Bush Senior did somewhat better.

* The influence of the religious right: Don't look for the Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons to be in the spotlight at this convention. Back in the 1980s, the religious right didn't trust Bush Sr., and at the 1992 convention in Houston, he had to pander -- letting Pat Buchanan make a prime-time speech and then jetting up to Dallas for a presidential meeting with preachers and televangelists.

Anyone want to bet that the President himself won't mention the war on al-Qaeda and the noticeable lack of domestic terrorism since 9-11; the victory in Iraq and the handover of sovereignty; the growing economy; and the Culture of Life?

Posted by Peter Burnet at 10:00 AM


Court ruling tightens net on Pinochet (The Australian, August 29th, 2004)

Former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet is a step closer to being tried for atrocities committed under his 1973-1990 regime after a court stripped him of immunity from prosecution.

The 9-8 vote by the Supreme Court opens a new legal front against the 88-year-old general, who is also facing accusations of corruption over revelations he holds millions of dollars in secret US bank accounts.

The decision upholds a May 28 ruling by the Santiago Appeals Court to scrap Pinochet's immunity in a human rights case involving Operation Condor -- the massive crackdown by 1970s military dictatorships in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia.

Although Pinochet has never been charged in connection with Operation Condor, government spokesman Francisco Vidal signalled the ruling cleared the way for a possible investigation. At least 3000 Chileans were murdered or disappeared under the Pinochet regime.

The ruling was the latest of dozens of human rights abuse cases working their way through the courts accusing Pinochet of using the secret police and military to kidnap, torture and murder left-wing opponents of his dictatorship.

Give the left credit. Over the past two generations, it has succeeded in converting almost every effort to thwart or destroy Marxist (or Ba’athist) regimes from political to legal dramas. It knows it can't sell its discredited political and economic nonsense to anyone anymore, but it can capture the sympathies of millions with heart-rending tales of the torture of the innocents.

Here is a man who checked an attempted communist coup by a well-organized left with the result that Chile, instead of wallowing in Cuba-like misery, is now the most peaceful and prosperous nation in South America. This counts for naught when the international lawyers and human rights activists sharpen their swords. Indeed, it seems to fuel their zeal.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 9:36 AM


Secret US plot to steal Moscow's Olympic flame (Chris Hastings, The Telegraph, August 29th, 2004)

Britain and America tried to bolster support for an international boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics by proposing a rival event in the West African state of Ivory Coast, according to newly declassified documents.

The papers, from the United States State Department, show that American diplomats lobbied the former French colony about holding "Olympic-type events" on its soil.

President Jimmy Carter, who called for a boycott of the 1980 games in protest at Russia's invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, believed that a sporting competition in Africa would solve two problems.

He hoped that it would encourage developing countries that were not aligned to either superpower to join the boycott of the Moscow games and offer Western athletes - who were largely sceptical of a ban - the chance to compete in an alternative event.

A memo from the US State Department to the American embassy in Ivory Coast dated February 1980 said: "Action requested: At your discretion, embassy should seek earliest opportunity to approach the government of Ivory Coast at high level to review results of February 12 meeting in Washington.

"You might also broach subject of getting Ivory Coast to serve as a site for some Olympic-type sporting events in late 1980. Request embassy report on its approach to government of the Ivory Coast by immediate cable, as department wishes to call in Ivorian ambassador for parallel discussions with department's Olympic boycott co-ordinator."[...]

The documents do not address the issue of what sort of games could be staged in a country where the primary exports were cocoa, coffee, and mangoes, or how they would compare with the Moscow Olympics, which were held in July and August 1980 and which cost an unprecedented £100 million.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 9:21 AM


Russians Find Explosives on 2nd Plane (Steven Lee Myers, New York Times, August 29th, 2004)

Investigators found traces of explosives on the second of two passenger airliners that crashed simultaneously in Russia, security officials announced Saturday, confirming that they consider the twin air disasters to be terrorist acts.

Facing a menacing turn in Russia's fight against terrorism and eager to calm travelers, the officials announced that they would increase security at the country's airports. The new measures included having Interior Ministry officers screen passengers, starting immediately, and installing sensors able to detect the presence of explosives.[...]

Investigators have reportedly focused attention on two passengers - both women, apparently from Chechnya - who bought tickets for the flights shortly before departure. Izvestia reported that one of the women, who registered for Flight 1303 as Amanta Nagayeva, 27, was born in the Chechen village of Kirov-Urt.

The newspaper quoted the village's administrator, Dogman Akhmadova, as saying that one of Ms. Nagayeva's three brothers had been seized by Russian forces three or four years ago and never seen again.

It is now five days since Russia’s worst airline terrorist incident. There appears to have been no statement from Putin or other leaders, no national call to arms and no marshaling of any public resolve to confront and destroy those responsible. Imagine this happening in the States with the only response from Washington being a promise to beef up airport security.

The left likes to argue that defter, more respectful diplomacy would bring more of the world on board in the war on terror. This misplaced argument assumes the horror, anger and resolve Americans felt ethically and spiritually in the wake of 9/11 would be shared by other countries if it happened to them. It wouldn’t. The Russians, Chinese and even the French see terrorism as an inevitable fact of political life to be managed and checked strategically rather than an abomination to be eradicated.

The American “zero tolerance” attitude is basically shared only by those in the Anglosphere, and by no means all of them. Most of the rest of the world will fight terrorism if they perceive it to be in their short term material national interests, and they wrongly assume Americans do the same. If ducking or quitting rather than fighting seems safer for the moment, they will duck or quit.

On the other hand, when they do move, they don’t get sidetracked by Abu Ghraib type scandals or let their courts give the terrorists a helping hand.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:18 AM


Interesting Times: It's not about Israel (Saul Singer, Jerusalem Post, August 26th, 2004)

After nine speeches in four cities on both coasts on my "vacation," I've got a better idea of how American Jews are torn by the coming election. Most are not so torn on how to vote - they'll vote Kerry. But there is a chink in their "anybody but Bush" armor: Bush is better for Israel.

Even anti-Bush Jews accept this. Kerry can wax lyrical about his trip to Masada, his "perfect" pro-Israel voting record, his Jewish brother, and his Bush-clone position paper, but no one can really imagine him stiffing Yasser Arafat and embracing Ariel Sharon the way Bush has.

Yet here's the riff I kept hearing between the lines: I know the "pro-Israel" vote is for Bush but I am so repulsed by him on so many other issues that I can't do it.

I understand this way of thinking, but consider a subtle modification. The dividing line in the American Jewish mind is in the wrong place. It should not be Israel on one side of the scale and everything else on the other. The real choice is between foreign policy, as it impacts on America and Israel, and domestic policy, in all its facets.

For the sake of argument, I'm prepared to accept that regarding economic, tax, and social policy Bush is, in American Jewish eyes, akin to Attila the Hun. Not living in America, who am I tell someone who is appalled at what the president is doing to their country, not to be concerned?

But as a citizen of the world, not just of America and Israel, I feel a right to say this: This is not about Israel, but where America is going on a global scale. As strange as it may sound, I don't want American Jews to vote on Israel, but on their own security and who they prefer for the de facto leader of this planet.

Which is why non-Americans who go ballistic when anyone interferes in their elections hold such vocal views about yours. Take it as a compliment.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:03 AM


Howard: election to be about trust (Sydney Morning Herald, August 29th, 2004)

The Prime Minister, John Howard, announced an October 9 election date today saying the six-week campaign would be one fought on the issue of trust.

Announcing the election date at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Mr Howard said it would be a decision for voters about who they trusted most to look after Australia and its economic future.

Right now the two leaders seem to be feinting with bromides about trust and the future, but this could be interesting and very close. Voting is compulsory in Australia and they have a preferred ballot (sometimes called an instant runoff) where voters rank their preferences. Early polls show Labor with a slight lead.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:01 AM


GOP to Show a New Face to Minorities: More delegates will be black and Latino, but Bush's record may be a hindrance. (Johanna Neuman, August 29, 2004, LA Times)

A record 16% of the 5,000 delegates will be members of minority groups, and 44% will be women — a 70% increase in the diversity of delegates from 2000 and the most varied crowd of delegates in GOP history. Republican leaders call it a "milestone achievement in our party's connection with American minorities."

Republican leaders also plan to portray President Bush as a man who has advanced the interests of minorities by deeds, not words — highlighting his faith-based initiatives to help the disadvantaged, his No Child Left Behind education policy, the acceleration of minority homeownership on his watch and his support for historically black and Latino colleges.

They will also point to the diversity of his top advisors, among them Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, national security advisor Condoleezza Rice, Education Secretary Rod Paige, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson.

"Our government has a very diverse face, a diverse presence," said Terry Holt, spokesman for the Bush-Cheney campaign.

Far from conceding the minority vote to Democrats — in 2000, Al Gore won 90% of the black vote and 67% of the Latino vote — the GOP will promote all of Bush's policies as beneficial to minorities, Holt said, including the war on terrorism, tax cuts and healthcare reform.

"It's not just political rhetoric," he said. "President Bush has led by example."

It would be nice to get more black voters but all that's really necessary is that they not have motivation to turn out to vote against you. Why would any black voter make a special effort to vote against Mr. Bush and for Mr. Kerry?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:39 AM


The Sleep of Reason: a review of Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont (Thomas Nagel, The New Republic)

Although Sokal and Bricmont focus on the abuse and misrepresentation of science by a dozen French intellectuals, and the cognitive relativism of postmodern theory, it broaches a much larger topic -- the uneasy place of science and the understanding of scientific rationality in contemporary culture.

The technological consequences of mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology permeate our lives, and everyone who has been around for a few decades has witnessed the most spectacular developments. That alone would give science enormous prestige; but it also reinforces the purely intellectual aura of science as a domain of understanding that takes us far beyond common sense, by methods that are often far more reliable than common sense. The problem is that it is not easy for those without scientific training to acquire a decent grasp of this kind of understanding, as opposed to an awareness of its consequences and an ability to parrot some of its terminology. One can be infatuated with the idea of theory without understanding what a theory is.

To have a theory, it is not enough to throw around a set of abstract terms or to classify things under different labels. A theory, whether it is true or false, has to include some general principles by which fresh consequences can be inferred from particular facts -- consequences not already implied by the initial description of those facts. The most familiar theories embody causal principles that enable us to infer from present observation what will happen or what has happened, but there are other kinds of theories -- mathematical, linguistic, or ethical theories, for example -- that describe noncausal systematic relations. A successful theory increases one's cognitive power over its domain, one's power to understand why the particular facts are as they are, and to discover new facts by inference from others that one can observe directly. Most important of all, it provides an understanding of the unifying reality that underlies observed diversity.

You don't have to understand quantum mechanics to appreciate the nature of science. Anyone who has taken introductory chemistry and is familiar with the periodic table of the elements has some idea of how powerful a theory can be -- what an extraordinary wealth of specific consequences can be derived from a limited number of precise but general principles. And understanding classical chemistry requires only a basic spatial imagination and simple mathematics, nothing counterintuitive. But it should be clear that not everything in the world is governed by general principles sufficiently precise and substantive to be embodied in a theory. Theories in the social sciences are possible which depend on principles, even if they are only probabilistic, that apply to large numbers of people; but to employ theoretical-sounding jargon in talking about literature or art has about as much effect as putting on a lab coat, and in most cases the same is true for history.

Unfortunately, the lack of familiarity with real scientific theories sometimes results in imitation of their outward forms together with denigration of their claim to provide a specially powerful source of objective knowledge about the world. This defensive iconoclasm has received crucial support from a radical position in the history and philosophy of science, whose authority is regularly invoked by writers outside those fields: the epistemological relativism or even anarchism found in the writings of Thomas Kuhn and Paul Feyerabend.

As Sokal and Bricmont explain, Kuhn and Feyerabend were writing in the context of an ongoing dispute over the relation of scientific theories to empirical evidence. The logical positivists tried to interpret scientific propositions so that they would be entailed by the evidence of experience. Karl Popper denied that this was possible, but held that scientific propositions, if they were to have empirical content, had to be such that at least their falsehood could be entailed by the evidence of experience. Yet neither of these direct logical relations appears to hold, because the evidentiary relation pro or con between any experience and any theoretical claim always involves auxiliary hypotheses -- things apart from the proposition and the evidence themselves that are being assumed true or false. There is nothing wrong with relying on many assumptions in the ordinary case, but it is always logically possible that some of them may be false, and sometimes that conclusion is forced on us with regard to an assumption that had seemed obvious. When that happens with a truly fundamental aspect of our world view, we speak of a scientific revolution.

So far, none of this implies that scientific reasoning is not objective, or that it cannot yield knowledge of reality. All it means is that a scientific inference from evidence to the truth or falsity of any proposition involves in some degree our whole system of beliefs and experience; and that the method is not logical deduction alone, but a weighing of which elements of the system it is most reasonable to retain and which to abandon when an inconsistency among them appears. In normal inquiry, this is usually easy to determine; but at the cutting edge it is often difficult, and a clear answer may have to await the experimental production of further evidence, or the construction of new theoretical hypotheses.

This means that most of our beliefs at any time must in some degree be regarded as provisional, since they may be replaced when a different balance of reasons is generated by new experience or theoretical ingenuity. It also means that an eternal set of rules of scientific method cannot be laid down in advance. But it does not mean that it cannot be true that a certain theory is the most reasonable to accept given the evidence available at a particular time, and it does not mean that the theory cannot be objectively true, however provisionally we may hold it. Truth is not the same as certainty, or universal acceptance.

Another point sometimes made against the claim of scientific objectivity is that experience is always "theory-laden," as if that meant that any experience which seemed to contradict a theory could be reinterpreted in terms of it, so that nothing could ever rationally require us to accept or reject a theory. [...]

As Sokal and Bricmont point out, the denial of objective truth on the ground that all systems of belief are determined by social forces is self-refuting if we take it seriously, since it appeals to a sociological or historical claim which would not establish the conclusion unless it were objectively correct. Moreover, it promotes one discipline, such as sociology or history, over the others whose objectivity it purports to debunk, such as physics and mathematics. Given that many propositions in the latter fields are much better established than the theories of social determination by which their objectivity is being challenged, this is like using a ouija board to decide whether your car needs new brake linings.

Relativism is kept alive by a simple fallacy, repeated again and again: the idea that if something is a form of discourse, the only standard it can answer to is conformity to the practices of a linguistic community, and that any evaluation of its content or its justification must somehow be reduced to that. This is to ignore the differences between types of discourse, which can be understood only by studying them from inside. There are certainly domains, such as etiquette or spelling, where what is correct is completely determined by the practices of a particular community. Yet empirical knowledge, including science, is not like this. Where agreement exists, it is produced by evidence and reasoning, and not vice versa. The constantly evolving practices of those engaged in scientific research aim beyond themselves at a correct account of the world, and are not logically guaranteed to achieve it. Their recognition of their own fallibility shows that the resulting claims have objective content.

There are few authors who it's more fun to watch try and extract themselves from the traps they accidentally laid than Mr. Nagel. Take just the last paragraph, which includes the following assertions: (1) that objectivity exists because there are domains we can get outside of; (2) that agreement in science only follows evidence and reasoning, never precedes; (3) that scientists uniquely aim at a "correct account" of the world and search for it beyond themselves; and (4) that so long as you acknowledge you are fallible you are therefore being objective. Relativism may indeed be nothing more than a fallacy repeated again and again, but can you really overcome that fallacy by simply asserting a countervailing fallacy of objectivity over and over again?

The problem, as always, is that folks like Mr. Nagel refuse--to their credit--to follow where a genuine skepticism would lead them, The Gay Science: Book V: We Fearless Ones (Friedrich Nietzsche)

How we, too, are still pious. In science convictions have no rights of citizenship, as one says with good reason: only when they decide to descend to the modesty of hypotheses, of a provisional experimental point of view, of a regulative fiction, they may be granted admission and even a certain value in the realm of knowledge—though always with the restriction that they remain under police supervision, under the police of mistrust.— But does this not mean, if you consider it more precisely, that a conviction may obtain admission to science only when it ceases to be a conviction? Would it not be the first step in the discipline of the scientific spirit that one would not permit oneself any more convictions? ... Probably this is so: only we still have to ask, to make it possible for this discipline to begin, must there not be some prior conviction, even one that is so commanding and unconditional that it sacrifices all other convictions to itself? We see that science also rests on a faith, there simply is no science "without presuppositions." The question whether truth is needed must not only have been affirmed in advance, but affirmed to such a degree that the principle, the faith, the conviction finds expression: "Nothing is needed more than truth, and in relation to it everything else has only second-rate value."— This unconditional will to truth: what is it? Is it the will not to allow oneself to be deceived? Is it the will not to deceive? For the will to truth could be interpreted in the latter way, too: if only the special case "I do not want to deceive myself" is subsumed under the generalization "I do not want to deceive." But why not deceive? But why not allow oneself to be deceived?— Note that the reasons for the former principle belong to an altogether different realm from those for the second: one does not want to allow oneself to be deceived because one assumes that it is harmful, dangerous, calamitous to be deceived,—in this sense, science would be a long-range prudence, a caution, a utility, but one could object in all fairness: how? is wanting not to allow oneself to be deceived really less harmful, less dangerous, less calamitous: what do you know in advance of the character of existence to be able to decide whether the greater advantage is on the side of the unconditionally mistrustful or of the unconditionally trusting? But if both should be required, much trust and much mistrust: from where would science then be permitted to take its unconditional faith or conviction on which it rests, that truth is more important than any other thing, including every other conviction. Precisely this conviction could never have come into being if both truth and untruth constantly proved to be useful: which is the case. Thus—the faith in science, which after all exists undeniably, cannot owe its origin to such a calculus of utility; it must have originated in spite of the fact that the disutility and dangerousness of "the will to truth," of "truth at any price" is proved to it constantly. "At any price": oh how well we understand these words once we have offered and slaughtered one faith after another on this altar!— Consequently, "will to truth" does not mean "I will not allow myself to be deceived" but—there is no alternative—"I will not deceive, not even myself":—and with that we stand on moral ground. [...]

[I]t is still a metaphysical faith upon which our faith in science rests—that even we seekers after knowledge today, we godless ones and anti-metaphysicians still take our fire, too, from the flame lit by a faith that is thousands of years old, that Christian faith which was also the faith of Plato, that God is the truth, that truth is divine ... But what if this should become more and more incredible, if nothing should prove to be divine any more unless it were error, blindness, the lie—if God himself should prove to be our most enduring lie?

Or, as Karl Jaspers summarized: "once godlessness becomes a reality, the interest in truth will finally cease." Fortunately, hardly anyone--besides the occasional syphilitic German--is willing to contemplate such a reality.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:01 AM


The death of religion & the fall of respectable Britain (Christie Davies, Summer 2004, New Criterion)

There has, then, been a series of linked changes in Britain, that I have termed the rise and fall of respectable Britain. In the late-nineteenth century, crime rates fell dramatically, as did drug and alcohol abuse, and illegitimacy became less common. All these indexes of deviance were fairly steady between World War I and 1955. After 1955 they all rose massively to create a U-curve of deviance, over the period from 1847 to 1997. Behind it lies the rise and fall of British respectability, of which the rise and fall of the Sunday Schools is both an index and a cause. In the late nineteenth century, the Sunday Schools grew rapidly in numbers and influence to a peak in the decade 1901-1911. After the First World War they declined slowly, and after a brief revival in the early 1950s, they collapsed totally in the last half of the twentieth century. The two patterns fit together very well indeed.

The story outlined above may well have many echoes in the American
experience-but, given the greater religiosity of the United States, it might
have to be told in a very different way. I leave that to American observers
and historians to decide.

There is, however, another story to be told, and one that contrasts a
totally secular Britain with a much more religiously diverse United States,
substantial sections of which are intensely Christian. The only comparable
region in the United Kingdom is the province of Northern Ireland, where both
Protestants and Roman Catholics have retained an intense attachment to their

This second story relates not to the daily behavior of the people but to a
political phenomenon. The politics of homosexuality, abortion, and capital
punishment have taken a very different form in Britain: there has been no
American-style culture war, but rather an overwhelming and unchallengeable
victory for the forces of secular liberalism. [...]

Only in Northern Ireland has there been any strong opposition to this trend;
indeed, hostility to homosexuality is one of the few issues on which the
Protestants and Catholics of the Province agree. The laws of both Northern
Ireland and of the Republic of Ireland (the old pre-1967 English law),
however, have been struck down by the European Court of Human Rights, a
secular institution of a secular Europe. In both parts of Ireland there was
strong support for the laws against homosexual conduct on religious grounds,
but Europe is an overwhelmingly secular continent and the Irish lost out.
Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland constitute an odd anomaly that
in religious terms resembles the United States rather than Europe.

Ireland also remains one of the few countries in Europe where there is
significant opposition to abortion being easily available. In Britain there
is in effect abortion on demand, and women from both the province of
Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland travel there to obtain
abortions. Attempts to prevent such travel by blocking the dissemination in
Ireland of information about clinics in other countries, by the government
and courts of the Republic of Ireland (where the ban on abortion is built
into the very constitution of the Republic), have been struck down by the
European Court of Human Rights. [...]

By a curious convention adhered to by the main British political parties, capital punishment is not used as an electoral issue. Also, although a majority of the people are in favor of capital punishment, murder is a rare crime even in the violent and increasingly violent Britain of the twenty-first century, and capital punishment is not a sufficiently important question for the majority-who would like to see it restored-to disturb the established convention that has kept it out of politics.

The Labour and Liberal politicians are strongly united against capital
punishment on ideological grounds, and the Conservative politicians are
divided and uncertain. If the Conservatives had campaigned strongly in favor
of capital punishment in the last half of the twentieth century it would
have gained them votes but split their party. The Conservatives did,
however, refuse to sign Protocol 6 of the European Convention on Human
Rights, which outlawed capital punishment permanently and completely on the
grounds that it was a matter for the British parliament to decide. In 1998,
the Labour government, which had come to power in 1997, did sign Protocol 6.
It was a further step by which Britain was absorbed into the shared secular
liberal ideology of Europe that sets that continent apart from a more
vigorous and more religious United States.

It seems an unlikely coincidence that Ireland combines one of the few thriving economies in Europe with a higher level of religiosity than the rest.

August 28, 2004

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:21 PM


Asian farmers sucking continent dry, scientists say (New Zealand Herald, August 26th, 2004)

Asian farmers drilling millions of pump-operated wells in an ever-deeper search for water are threatening to suck the continent's underground reserves dry, a science magazine warned on Wednesday.

"This little-heralded crisis is repeating itself across Asia and could cause widespread famine in the decades to come," London-based New Scientist said in a report on scientists' findings at a recent water conference in Sweden.

The worst affected country is India.

There, small farmers have abandoned traditional shallow wells where bullocks draw water in leather buckets to drill 21 million tube wells hundreds of metres below the surface using technology adapted from the oil industry, the magazine said.

Another million wells a year are coming into operation in India to irrigate rice, sugar cane and alfalfa round-the-clock.

While the US$600 ($939) pumps have brought short-term prosperity to many and helped make India a major rice exporter in less than a generation, future implications are dire, New Scientist said.

"So much water is being drawn from underground reserves that they, and the pumps they feed, are running dry, turning fields that have been fecund for generations

Tushaar Shah, head of the International Water Management Institute's groundwater station in Gujarat, said there was no control over the expansion of pumps and wells.

"When the balloon bursts, untold anarchy will be the lot of rural India," he said at the annual Stockholm Water Symposium.

Water supply and management is a far more serious long term environmental issue than the hocus-pocus about global warming and ozone holes (remember them?). The market and a not-so-expensive international effort to supply clean drinking water will provide the answers, but conservatives will largely ignore the question until long after it has been captured by Club of Rome-like think tanks and UN sub-committees calling for rigid state economic planning, huge wealth transfers and drastic cutbacks of water consumption in Idaho.

In the meantime, isn’t this article a perfect statement of the modern progressive’s image of the old Yellow Peril? A hundred years ago they were out to ravish our women. Today, they are sucking out Earth’s precious bodily fluids before our very eyes!!!

Posted by Peter Burnet at 4:15 PM


Parents in fight to keep their baby alive (Stewart Payne, The Telegraph, August 28th, 2004)

The parents of a premature baby were yesterday preparing to challenge doctors who have said they will not resuscitate their child when it develops life-threatening breathing difficulties.

The hospital trust has supported the stance taken by its medical experts and said it will seek a court ruling if the parents insist on 10-month-old Charlotte Wyatt being resuscitated in an intensive care unit. Darren and Debbie Wyatt said they would challenge the trust if the matter goes to court.

Charlotte was born three months premature at St Mary's Hospital, Portsmouth, weighing just one pound and measuring only five inches.

She has never left hospital, has stopped breathing three times due to serious heart and lung problems, and doctors say she would not survive in the long term because her lungs are so severely damaged.

When, as anticipated, she requires a ventilator again, the hospital has told the Wyatts it is prepared to keep her alive long enough for them to attend at her bedside, but insists it would be "against the child's interests" artificially to resuscitate her.

Her parents spoke of their dismay at the hospital's decision and described their daughter, who is now 18 inches long and weighs 10lbs, as a "fighter" who should be given every chance of life.[...]

Dr Joanna Walker, clinical director of paediatrics at St Mary's Hospital, said: "When a child has a life limiting condition we work cooperatively with the parents and family always to act in the child's best interests."

Doctors can decide to withhold treatment if they believe they are acting in the patient's best interests and have discussed the decision with the patient or relatives.

After all, everybody knows how frequently death is in a child's best interests.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:21 PM


End to Najaf fighting leaves something for all (JIM KRANE, 8/28/04, Chicago Sun-Times)

If the agreement brokered Thursday by al-Sistani holds, Allawi could be the biggest winner.

The government not only gains sovereignty over Najaf, it stands to receive a boost in legitimacy among Iraqi Shiites for working with al-Sistani, the most senior Shiite cleric in Iraq and one of the most respected people in the country.

It was a shrewd move by Allawi, who introduced the idea that al-Sistani and the Iraqi government were working toward a common objective, said a Bush administration official in Washington.

But the resolution also points to the power of al-Sistani, who -- even ailing after heart treatment in London -- could resolve a crisis that government negotiators and troops could not.

The outcome for the U.S. military was less impressive. But it's hard to see how the Americans could have ended the Najaf standoff on a better note.

The only potential losers are al-Sadr and the rest who proved afraid of martyrdom.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:14 PM


Dems' bid to keep Keyes off ballot fails (STEVE PATTERSON, August 28, 2004, Chicago Sun Times)

Just when you thought the U.S. Senate race in Illinois couldn't get any stranger, Democrats showed they have a few more tricks up their sleeve.

With Republicans turning their attention to New York for their national convention, Democrats on the Illinois Board of Elections raised legal questions Friday that threatened to keep Alan Keyes off the ballot as the GOP nominee.

But after a four-hour standoff at the Thompson Center, it took just a three-minute phone call from a top Republican attorney to settle the matter -- at least for now -- and put Keyes on the fall ballot.

Keyes' camp immediately blamed supporters of Democrat Barack Obama for orchestrating the ambush, though Obama's aides insisted they were "blindsided" by the move and called it "outrageously stupid." Polls show Obama way ahead of Keyes.

Mr. Obama looks less and less ready for primetime.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:15 AM


Howard ire over Bush rift report (BBC, 8/28/04)

Tory leader Michael Howard has hit out at White House aides after he was told he would never meet President Bush.

The Sun reported senior aide Karl Rove told Mr Howard in February: "You can forget about meeting the president full stop. Don't bother coming."

The officials were reportedly furious at the Conservative leader's call for Tony Blair to resign over the Iraq war.

Mr. Bush meets regularly with Britain's conservative leader: Tony Blair.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 10:28 AM


Honda marks 25 years of manufacturing in United States (John Porretto, National Post, August 28th, 2004)

A quarter century ago, Honda Motor Co. would have been on few lists of companies poised to alter the American automotive industry.

Recognized more for motorcycles than for cars, Honda was Japan's fifth-largest automaker at the time, relatively small and unheralded in a market dominated by Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co.

Facing an uncertain future, founder Soichiro Honda decided in the late 1970s to invest heavily in manufacturing facilities in the United States, looking to join German-automaker Volkswagen as the only foreign transplants building vehicles on American soil.

Honda's venture was considered risky - even a make-or-break proposition - given its size and standing, but the company never wavered. The resulting operations in central Ohio were the start of a revolution that would far surpass VW's endeavor, which ended in 1988, and change the landscape of American carmaking.

Industry observers say Honda's flexible and efficient manufacturing systems - which were followed in the United States by Nissan and Toyota - caused America's Big Three automakers to take notice and helped foster quality improvements industrywide.

One of the most irrational sights in modern politics is to see the left rally around the plaintive whines of inefficient businesses trying to avoid foreign competition by pulling patriotic heartstrings. This happens frequently in Canada, where artists, academics and left-wing politicians rally to the cause of protecting struggling companies which are suddenly transformed from greedy exploiters to guardians of the distinct national heritage. Fortunately for the welfare of Canadians, they rarely succeed.

But they do succeed in Europe and Japan, which are both inclined to identify the ownership of businesses with the national interest and make foreign access to markets and enterprise ownership difficult. The United States is the only large and powerful country which largely abjures this damaging line of thinking, one reason it ranks first along with a group of smallish, exporting countries in prosperity and competitiveness.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 9:49 AM


US public sector learning lessons from single-sex private schools (Alex Massie, The Scotsman, August 28th, 2004)

Kristielle Pedraza has chosen books over boys - she’s so busy with the former she has no time for the latter. Boys are for losers. Winners read books.

The 13-year-old is adamant that she will not miss the boys while she attends the Irma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School, Dallas’ first all-girl public school and one of a growing number of such schools nationally.

"Usually it’s the guys that distract the whole class. They’re usually the class clowns," says Kristielle, who began the new school year last week. "With no guys in the school, I can know we will really get busy without much distraction."

She is not alone in thinking that. At least 11 more single-sex, publicly funded schools will open this autumn in six states - Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, South Carolina and Oregon.

Advocates maintain that separating the sexes can improve learning by easing the peer pressure that can lead to misbehaviour as well as low self-esteem among girls.

"John Kerry, George W. Bush, his father and Al Gore all went to all-boys schools. We don’t think that’s a coincidence," argues Dr Leonard Sax, a Maryland physician and psychologist who has founded a nonprofit group that advocates single-sex public education.

"We think single-sex education really empowers girls and boys from very diverse backgrounds to achieve."

Not everyone agrees. Indeed, some women’s groups and the American Civil Liberties Union say segregation of any kind is wrong.

"We think segregation has historically always resulted in second-class citizens," says Terry O’Neill, a National Organisation for Women vice president.

Dr. Sax might be a tad more careful with the role models he trumpets, but anyone who has taught or worked with children in their middle-school years knows full well that boys and girls generally are very different in aptitude, interests and emotional make-up. They respond to completely different kinds of discipline and encouragement. They have little to gain and much to lose from each other’s constant presence, and the smart ones don't even like each other much. Ideological progressives and feminists can try to force silly parallels with civil rights all they want, but at least the black leadership isn’t embarrassed by Afro-Americans calling publically for a return to Jim Crow.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 9:15 AM


Sexed-up reports, pressure on the UN ... here we go again (Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, August 27th, 2004)

There are differences from the anti-Iraq campaign two years ago. This time the US is taking the lead in going to the UN. Bolton wants the IAEA board to say Iran has violated its commitments under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and take the matter to the security council for a decision on sanctions or other stern action. France and Germany are resisting a move to the UN.[...]

The biggest difference, though, is in Britain's stance. Unlike with the Bush campaign against Saddam Hussein, Britain is siding this time with France and Germany. It is part of a "troika" which promotes constructive engagement rather than confrontation with Iran. Their dialogue ran into a sticky phase this summer with allegations of bad faith on both sides, but the three European states are willing to keep it going.

They have powerful arguments. The disaster of the Iraq war and the failure to bring peace, stability or order make them want no repetition in Iraq's more populous and larger neighbour. Even "limited" air-strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities would unify the country and harden hostility to the west throughout the Middle East, especially if Washington subcontracted the attacks to the Israeli air force.

Most Iraqi resistance to the Americans is based on nationalist resentment, and Iranians are no different. People of all political persuasions in Tehran support their country's right to have nuclear power, and probably even bombs. Threatening them with force is not the most intelligent way to persuade them otherwise.

The defeat of Iran's reformist MPs in this spring's unfair elections, as well as the certainty that President Mohammad Khatami will be replaced by a less liberal figure next year, have not ended the chance of dialogue with Tehran. European diplomats detect the emergence of a group of "pragmatic conservatives" in the Iranian leadership who could be easier to deal with than the beleaguered liberals of the past seven years. Many are non-clerical veterans of the Iran-Iraq war who are influenced by nationalism and economic imperatives more than the revolutionary Islamic ideology of the Khomeini generation. They want better relations with the west.

Here is the voice of the left in all its mendacious fantasy. Nowhere in this article does Mr. Steele question that Iran is hellbent on acquiring nuclear weapons. Such a prospect is presumably far less worrisome than trigger-happy Americans swaggering around the globe pushing around freedom-loving peoples concerned with global warming and human rights. Although the anti-regime liberals have been crushed, he sees a quiet cabal of “pragmatic conservatives” ready to hold the mullahs back and save the day provided nobody wounds their pride by daring to put pressure on Iran about anything. Presumably, that is why the British were so clever a few months ago in allowing their sailors to be captured and publically humiliated without protest. It is called constructive engagement.

This article might have been lifted verbatim from the 1930's with only the names changed to protect the guilty.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:55 AM


Witchcraft blamed as man grows genital organ on face (Japhet Dube, 24 Aug 2004,

IN a bizarre incident, a Bulawayo man allegedly developed a female genital organ on the right side of his face stretching up to the chest in what is suspected to be a case of witchcraft.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:51 AM


Playing Catch-Up With Sheffield (JACK CURRY, 8/26/04, NY Times)

The now familiar-looking 11-year-old with slits for eyes, a space between his two front teeth and the beginning of a mischievous grin announced himself to a national audience during the introductions for the 1980 Little League World Series.

"Gary Sheffield. Catcher."

Yes, that is the Yankees' Gary Sheffield as an 11-year-old staring into the television camera to give his name and what now seems like an odd position for him to be playing on the team from Tampa, Fla. Gary Sheffield, a catcher?

When Sheffield finished his introduction, he turned to the right and smiled at two teammates, flashing the kind of smile that he said expressed how cool it felt to be 11, to be playing for a world championship and to be doing it on ABC's "Wide World of Sports."

"I was even hitting third," said Sheffield, laughing over his little-boy voice and mannerisms.

Sheffield watched a videotape of the game - played 24 years ago - for the first time last week in a Minneapolis hotel. The normally subdued Sheffield was excited to see the tape, but during the 75-minute session, his emotions veered from being happy about some sweet memories and permanent friendships to being disappointed about some lost chances that day and unfulfilled potential in subsequent years.

Even nearly 25 years later, Sheffield still wonders how his Belmont Heights team lost to Taiwan, 4-3.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:41 AM


Dare to eat a peach: ... or plum or nectarine; a luscious crop awaits (Los Angeles Times)

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?

I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach ...

From The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot

This year's luscious crop of peaches, nectarines and plums would bowl over Eliot's timid protagonist. Thanks to hot weather early in the season, California stone fruit is sweeter than usual.

What's more, new, late-ripening varieties mean you'll have until early October to indulge. Peach pie? Why not? Cobblers and crisps? Of course.

It doesn't get any better than Prufrock and peach cobbler.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:40 AM


Kerry's Cambodia Whopper (Joshua Muravchik, August 24, 2004, Washington Post)

[O]ne issue, having nothing to do with medals, wounds or bravery under fire, goes to the heart of Kerry's qualifications for the presidency and is therefore something that each of us must consider. That is Kerry's apparently fabricated claim that he fought in Cambodia. [...]

The most dramatic iteration came on the floor of the Senate in 1986, when he made it the centerpiece of a carefully prepared 20-minute oration against aid to the Nicaraguan contras.

Kerry argued that contra aid could put the United States on the path to deeper involvement despite denials by the Reagan administration of any such intent. Kerry began by reading out similar denials regarding Vietnam from presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. Then he offered this devastating riposte:

"I remember Christmas of 1968 sitting on a gunboat in Cambodia. I remember what it was like to be shot at by Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge and Cambodians, and have the president of the United States telling the American people that I was not there; the troops were not in Cambodia. I have that memory which is seared -- seared -- in me."

However seared he was, Kerry's spokesmen now say his memory was faulty. When the Swift boat veterans who oppose Kerry presented statements from his commanders and members of his unit denying that his boat entered Cambodia, none of Kerry's shipmates came forward, as they had on other issues, to corroborate his account. Two weeks ago Kerry's spokesmen began to backtrack. First, one campaign aide explained that Kerry had patrolled the Mekong Delta somewhere "between" Cambodia and Vietnam. But there is no between; there is a border. Then another spokesman told reporters that Kerry had been "near Cambodia." But the point of Kerry's 1986 speech was that he personally had taken part in a secret and illegal war in a neutral country. That was only true if he was "in Cambodia," as he had often said he was. If he was merely "near," then his deliberate misstatement falsified the entire speech.

Next, the campaign leaked a new version through the medium of historian Douglas Brinkley, author of "Tour of Duty," a laudatory book on Kerry's military service. Last week Brinkley told the London Telegraph that while Kerry had been 50 miles from the border on Christmas, he "went into Cambodian waters three or four times in January and February 1969 on clandestine missions." Oddly, though, while Brinkley devotes nearly 100 pages of his book to Kerry's activities that January and February, pinpointing the locations of various battles and often placing Kerry near Cambodia, he nowhere mentions Kerry's crossing into Cambodia, an inconceivable omission if it were true.

Now a new official statement from the campaign undercuts Brinkley. It offers a minimal (thus harder to impeach) claim: that Kerry "on one occasion crossed into Cambodia," on an unspecified date. But at least two of the shipmates who are supporting Kerry's campaign (and one who is not) deny their boat ever crossed the border, and their testimony on this score is corroborated by Kerry's own journal, kept while on duty. One passage reproduced in Brinkley's book says: "The banks of the [Rach Giang Thanh River] whistled by as we churned out mile after mile at full speed. On my left were occasional open fields that allowed us a clear view into Cambodia. At some points, the border was only fifty yards away and it then would meander out to several hundred or even as much as a thousand yards away, always making one wonder what lay on the other side." His curiosity was never satisfied, because this entry was from Kerry's final mission.

Holiday in Cambodia: The "Christmas Eve" attack on Kerry is cheap and almost certainly wrong. (Fred Kaplan, Aug. 23, 2004, Slate)
[S]ome anti-Kerry veterans are saying he was never in Cambodia. John O'Neill, who has been dogging Kerry more than 30 years, told Matt Drudge that the senator's Christmas-in-Cambodia stories "are complete lies." As evidence, he cites Kerry's own wartime diary, as quoted in Douglas Brinkley's Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War. That book—according to Drudge's account of it—places Kerry in Sa Dec, 50 miles away from Cambodia, on Christmas Eve, and seemingly at peace. "Visions of sugarplums really do dance through your head," Kerry wrote in his diary that night, "and you think of stockings and snow and roast chestnuts and fires with birch logs and all that is good and warm and real."

That passage is on Page 219 of Brinkley's book. But O'Neill, Drudge, and the other sneerers choose to ignore the 10 preceding pages—the opening pages of a chapter called "Death in the Delta." On Christmas Eve 1968, Brinkley writes, Kerry and his crew:

headed their Swift north by the Cho Chien River to its junction with the My Tho only miles from the Cambodian border. … Kerry began reading up on Cambodia's history in a book he had borrowed from the floating barracks in An Thoi. … He even read about a 1959 Pentagon study titled "Psychological Observations: Cambodia," which … state[d] that Cambodians "cannot be counted on to act in any positive way for the benefit of U.S. aims and policies." [Italics added.]

Brinkley also quotes from Kerry's diary: "It was early morning, not yet light. Ours was the only movement on the river, patrolling near the Cambodian line." [Italics added.] Brinkley continues: "At a bend just as they were approaching the Cambodian border, two [U.S. river-patrol boats] met the Swift." Then, again from Kerry's diary: "Suddenly, there is an explosion and a mortar lands on the bank near all three boats." The next few pages detail a ferocious firefight, one part of which involved (as his diary noted) "the ridiculous waste of being shot at by your own allies."

Only a few hours later, in the evening, did Kerry's boat reach the stationing area of Sa Dec. "The night for once is comforting," Kerry wrote in his diary, "and you take a Coke and some peanut butter and jelly and go up on the roof of the cabin with your tape recorder and sit for a while, quietly watching flares float silently through the sky and flashes announce disquieting intent somewhere in the distance." It is in this context that Kerry then wrote, in a letter to home, about "visions of sugarplums" and thinking of "snow and roast chestnuts."

So let's review the situation. On Christmas Eve 1968, Kerry's Swift boat and at least two river-patrol boats were doing something unusual (Kerry wrote that he'd never been so far in-country) at least in the vicinity of the border—"near the Cambodian line," as he put it in his diary. And Kerry had with him a book that described a Pentagon study on psychological operations against Cambodia.

Looking back at the journals I kept as a kid, I see I read The War of the Worlds on Christmas Eve 1968--doesn't mean the Martians attacked.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:39 AM


Swift boat ad joins classics -- little expense, big impact (Michael Doyle, August 25, 2004, Sacramento Bee)

Call it what you will, the ad that launched the current attacks on John Kerry's Vietnam record has proved incredibly cost-effective.

In a textbook example of how small-time buys can bring big returns, an ad originally purchased for a few battleground states has taken over the nationwide presidential campaign. If nothing else, that makes the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth effort a case study in political technique and journalistic practice.

"They've gotten substantially more free (media) time than paid time," Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, noted in an interview Tuesday.

This places the swift boat ad in classic company, including the Republicans' 1988 Willie Horton ad and the Democrats' 1964 "Daisy" ad. Both were frighteningly vivid. The 1988 ad showed the mug shot of a convicted murderer and rapist; the 1964 ad showed a young girl threatened by nuclear annihilation. Both ads ran only once, both drew considerable criticism and both enjoyed a long political afterlife.

And both targeted candidates who ended up losing badly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:20 AM


Hooked on winning: Sharon knows it's time to cash in his chips and claim the prize of Greater Israel, but his party wants to gamble on (Jonathan Freedland, August 25, 2004, The Guardian)

Sharon is on a winning streak: each spin brings more chips to his pile. He calmly stacks up his winnings, calculating the odds. His partner is not so cool: she's getting excited. Finally, Sharon decides he has hit his peak; the heap of chips before him is not going to get any bigger. He wants to cash in his winnings.

"You can't leave now!" insists his companion, firmly pushing him back into his seat. "We're winning. Let's keep playing! Who knows? We might take the lot!" Sharon is determined to quit while he's ahead; his Likud partner won't let him.

OK, so the bit about Sharon looking slim in his tux is a bit fanciful - but that, in essence, is the situation currently playing out in Israeli politics. Ariel Sharon has spent the best part of four decades gambling for the prize that is Greater Israel: a Jewish state in roomier, more spacious borders than those that confined it until 1967. Bit by bit his pile of chips - in the form of the network of settlements that dot the West Bank and Gaza - has got larger.

About a year ago he calculated that it was time to visit the cashier and realise his gains. Sure, he would have to leave behind the last prize on the table - the Gaza Strip - but, in return, he would be able to keep choice cuts of the West Bank. Not Greatest Israel, perhaps, but Greater Israel most definitely. What's more, he would do so with the explicit backing of the US president, defying all those who insisted that any gains Israel made after 1967 would eventually have to be handed back.

Sharon reached his assessment by looking around the table. He concluded that his Palestinian rival was weaker than ever before. Ostracised internationally, faulted for failing both to improve security and to reform the way the Palestinian Authority does business, Yasser Arafat now faces an internal revolt. Last month it came on the streets of Gaza, with anti-Arafat riots; yesterday it took the form of a vote of no-confidence, slated for a meeting of the Palestine Legislative Council. Hobbled by long-standing accusations of corruption, the only peace process Arafat is engaged in right now is between himself and the disaffected within his own ranks.

The Israeli prime minister also noticed a change in the demeanour of the dealer at the table. For years the US sought to be an honest broker, insisting it showed no favour to either of the competing players. But since George W Bush took up the job, that neutrality has been shelved. Washington won't so much as meet the Palestinian leader; meanwhile the White House's Middle East coordinator takes his summer holidays in Israel. With an election looming, and a Bush campaign determined to peel off at least some of the 80% of Jews who traditionally vote Democrat, Sharon gambled that this was the year when Washington would not dare refuse him.

Taken together, these amount to the most conducive circumstances advocates of Greater Israel are ever likely to enjoy. Wait around and the weather could change, Sharon reasons, bringing either a renewed Palestinian leadership or a John Kerry presidency - either of which could revive the old demand that Israel give up most of the territories it gained in 1967.

Interesting that even the Guardian recognizes a Kerry election as being bad for Israel.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:18 AM


Founders' Quote Daily (8/26/04)

It is the duty of all men in society, publicly, and at stated
seasons, to worship the SUPREME BEING, the great Creator and Preserver of the universe. And no subject shall be hurt, molested, or restrained, in his person, liberty, or estate, for worshipping GOD in the manner most agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience; or for his religious profession or sentiments; provided he doth not disturb the public peace, or obstruct others in their religious worship.
--John Adams

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:13 AM


The Role Of Particle Physics In A New Universe (SPX, Aug 26, 2004)

A string of recent discoveries in astronomy has left scientists with an unsettling realization: The stuff we know and understand makes up less than 5 percent of the universe. The rest has to be yet-unknown forms of "dark matter" and "dark energy."

At a time of momentous changes in our basic understanding of the universe, a new document outlines the essential role of particle physics in deciphering the laws of nature that govern dark matter, dark energy and more.

Hey, did you hear about that stupid tribe of Indians that can't count? If only they were as wise as we.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:08 AM


Kerry’s Scariest Choice (Joan Swirsky, Aug. 24, 2004, NewsMax)

After less than a year of campaigning, John Kerry has already given the American public a chilling preview of the misguided choices he would make in the unlikely event he is elected president.

Kerry hired leftist Joseph Wilson – proven liar – as a foreign-policy advisor, only to dismiss the Pinocchio-like former ambassador after the bi-partisan Senate Intelligence Committee unanimously discredited his claims that there were no attempts by Iraq to buy uranium from Niger and that his wife had no role in getting the CIA to send him to Niger.

Kerry hired leftist Sandy Berger – self-admitted pilferer – as another of his foreign-policy advisors, only to dismiss him after the former national security advisor under Clinton was caught appropriating secret documents from the National Archives.

Kerry hired leftist Dr. Susan E. Rice to replace Berger. A former NSA advisor to Berger, former secretary of state for African affairs under Clinton, and former advisor to Howard Dean, Rice’s stellar credentials included playing a central role in the former administration's appeasement of Osama Bin Laden and in the decision to refuse an offer from the Sudan to hand him over in 1996-1997 – before his murderous henchmen bombed the U.S. embassies in Africa. An advocate of fighting terror through “law enforcement” and “neighborhood watches,” Rice now whispers in Kerry’s ear on matters of international terrorism.

Kerry hired former Dean advisor and Marxist-embracing, anti-Catholic Mara Vanderslice as his so-called religious outreach advisor, fully aware that among her hateful activities was spitting on the Eucharist at a protest at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, only to dismiss her when the Catholic League waged a successful protest.

Kerry than hired Rev. Brenda Bartella Peterson, who was again slammed by Bill Donohue, the president of the Catholic League, for being one of 32 members of the clergy to file a court brief on behalf of the atheist who challenged the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, whereupon Peterson resigned after only two weeks.

These are but a few examples of Kerry’s impaired judgment about whom and which philosophies are good for the United States of America.

It gets worse.

Thank goodness for Providence.

August 27, 2004

Posted by Peter Burnet at 3:02 PM


Winnipeg makes crack smoking safer (Oliver Moore, Globe and Mail, August 26th, 2004)

Social workers in Winnipeg have begun handing out ““high-quality”” crack pipes and instructions to addicts on the city's streets, part of a harm-reduction strategy put in place by local health officials.

The program is modelled on one in Toronto and comes decades after Winnipeg began giving injection-drug users clean needles in return for dirty ones.

Although fully approved, the program was launched with no public notice and has only this week become widely known, said Dr. Margaret Fast, a medical officer of health who works for the city.[...]

Dr. Fast said that the program was launched because patrolling social workers with an outfit called Street Connections had noticed that some injection-drug users were switching to crack and that others were using the cocaine derivative in addition to their habitual drug. With that shift came a new slate of health concerns.

Using makeshift or poorly-made crack pipes can cause oral cuts or burns. If shared, these pipes can also help spread blood-borne diseases, particularly if the group includes drug users who also sell sex. The transmission of both hepatitis and HIV is a concern in such a situation, Dr. Fast said, describing the grim scenario of a pipe passing from mouth to mouth, repeatedly coming into contact with bleeding lips and cracked gums.

Winnipeg's new harm reduction strategy –– dubbed the ‘‘safer crack use kit' –– is designed to minimize these dangers. It is intended for use by a single person only and includes a good-quality glass pipe less likely to injure users. It also includes metal screens, alcohol swabs (for those users who do end up sharing), pipe cleaners, matches, lip balm, at least one condom and information about where addicts can get help. It also includes instructions on how to use the kit.

Given that notions of right and wrong have largely been replaced by concepts of healthy and unhealthy, that addiction is now always defined as a disease and that most of the beneficiaries are undoubtedly aboriginals (and therefore not really accountable for their actions), does this policy not make perfect sense?

Posted by Peter Burnet at 2:53 PM


Terrorism on the cheap (Globe and Mail, August 27th, 2004)

The Al-Qaeda terror network spent less than $50,000 (U.S.) on each of its major attacks except the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackings, and one of its hallmarks is using readily available items such as cell phones and knives as weapons, a UN report says.

The report released Thursday by a new team monitoring the implementation of UN sanctions against al-Qaeda and the Taliban detailed just how little it cost to mount terror operations.

For example, the report said the March attacks in Madrid, in which nearly 10 simultaneous bombs exploded on four commuter trains, used mining explosives and cell phones as detonators and cost about $10,000 to carry out. The blasts killed 191 people, Spain's worst terror attack.

Only the sophisticated attacks in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, using four hijacked aircraft “required significant funding of over six figures,” the report said. Nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks, the vast majority in the collapse of the twin towers of New York's World Trade Center.

The report said UN sanctions have only had “a limited impact,” primarily because the UN Security Council has reacted to events “while al-Qaeda has shown great flexibility and adaptability in staying ahead of them.”

When have UN sanctions ever had more than a limited or ambiguous impact? The idea that Islamicism can be defeated through sanctions is as laughable as the 1930's belief that sanctions would bring Japan to heel. Time and again comfortable Westerners grossly underestimate the privations fanatics are willing to suffer and that fanatical regimes are prepared to impose on their people.

Sanctions exist to give weak nations an illusion of influence and an excuse for inaction, and to provide progressives the world over with a justification for opposing more direct American actions against terrorism and rogue states. Sadly, this leaves ordinary folks in the political center torn between alternatives they have been led to believe are equally effective. Betrayed by so many politicians and intellectuals who know better, is it any wonder so many of them are drawn to what appears to be the easier course?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:29 PM


Md. Budget Surplus Surpasses Forecasts (John Wagner, August 27, 2004, Washington Post)

Maryland finished its budget year with a $309.7 million surplus as tax collections came in well above projections, state officials announced yesterday, reflecting a trend that has boosted revenue in Virginia and the District, as well.

Turns out you can grow your way out of deficits...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:13 AM


Dial M for Murderer: Fritz Lang's M is a must-see movie (SHANNON SUTLIEF, 8/26/04, Dallas Observer)

[Fritz] Lang--known best for his 1927 silent sci-fi classic Metropolis--is honored with Friday and Saturday midnight screenings of M, a first and best in many categories, including movies with sound, crime dramas, film noir and serial-killer profiles. M slowly and deliberately unveils the identity of a child murderer using seemingly innocent scenes and intimating at the violence off-screen through the bleak, empty scenes used. It takes a turn when both the police department and the criminal underground (whose "businesses" are hurt during the increased police attention) begin the manhunt, using different tactics.

Besides being a required film, M is one of those rare pieces of cinema that force the viewers to notice the filmmaking.

Scarlet Street and The Big Heat are both terrific too, but a real treat has just come out on DVD, a serial he did that's set in India and features tigers, snake gods, and statuary out of Russ Meyers--it's being marketed as Fritz Lang's Indian Epic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:56 AM


Daytime TV Gets Judgmental (Harry Stein, Spring 2004, City Journal)

Forget Janet Jackson’s notorious Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction”; forget the soul-deadening sexuality constantly displayed on MTV; Exhibit A in the argument that television is a purveyor of rotten values remains the longtime champ: The Jerry Springer Show. Only, here’s the weird thing: in its current incarnation, Springer’s latter-day freak show also provides evidence of a growing resurgence in this country of higher standards of decency and morality. It’s a trend nowhere more evident than on daytime television. [...]

Generally speaking, [...] daytime reality television gets more recognizably real as the day goes along. Considerably more reputable than Springer (for however much that’s worth) is the show that follows him in the New York market: Maury. For while Maury Povich, husband of newscaster Connie Chung and son of legendary Washington Post sportswriter Shirley Povich, also presides over an exploitation fest—airing shows, for instance, on mothers accused of seducing their daughters’ boyfriends—he is clearly far more willing to cast the proceedings as socially beneficial and even morally instructive.

Trading largely in messy interpersonal relations, Maury likes to present himself as a seeker of truth. Among his staples: using a lie detector to determine if one party in a relationship, usually the guy, is guilty as accused of cheating (he usually is). But Povich’s real specialty, the gimmick around which almost every other broadcast revolves, is the paternity test. The formula never varies. A woman, usually very young and very often black or Hispanic, comes onstage and declares, either angrily or tearfully, that she knows a given man fathered her child. After a couple of minutes of this drama, the accused male walks out—often, depending on how he’s just been characterized, to audience jeers—and just as vigorously denies that he is the father. The denial routinely involves the guy pointing toward a large picture of the kid in question, which is displayed at the back of the set, and emphasizing how dramatically the child’s features differ from his own. He’ll often cast aspersions on the mother’s character, too, peppering them with variations of the words “slut” and “whore.”

At this point, Maury says something along the lines of, “Well, let’s find out.” Ripping open a large manila envelope, he withdraws a sheet of paper and solemnly pronounces, “When it comes to two-year-old Jadiem, Corey, you are the father,” or, just as often, “When it comes to ten-month-old Treasure, Earnell, you are not the father.”

If the woman finds herself vindicated, she is apt to leap to her feet, exultant, and berate the man. One mother I saw spun around, thrust her backside to the camera and, pointing, screamed at the newly established dad, “Kiss my ass!” When the man is victorious, he is likely to strut, or throw up his hands in triumph like an athlete, while the woman, bursting into tears, runs backstage, Maury trailing—and both followed by a cameraman who records the host consoling her.

This human drama makes, I’m embarrassed to admit, for riveting television. But there is also enough sociology at play to leave one feeling only slightly unclean. For what we are witnessing here are flesh-and-blood examples of underclass pathology. The supply of accusers and accused seems inexhaustible. On one recent installment, the mother was back for a fifth time, testing two men (the seventh and eighth she’d had tested overall) for paternity of her toddler Mustafa—neither proving a match, as it turned out.

The host’s attitude toward all this dysfunction is somewhat ambivalent. Unfailingly, if the DNA establishes a given man as a child’s father, Maury forthrightly asks the guy if he now intends to become part of the child’s life. The typical response: “Yeah, I’m a man, I’ll step up to the plate.” Or: “I’m a man, I take care of my business.”

Nor, at least occasionally, does Povich try to hide his distress over what is unfolding before his cameras. “Sophia, let me ask you a question, because a lot of people are wondering this,” he said gently to one young woman before the results were in. “You say you got pregnant with him [once before], and had a miscarriage, and you say he laughed at you. So why would you sleep with him again?” Of course, she could offer no plausible answer. “You’ve got two children together,” he said to another couple, screaming profanities at each other after the show had established the man’s paternity. “Don’t you want them to grow up in a home where their mother and father respect each other? Don’t you want that?” The thought seemed not to have pierced the consciousness of either.

Yet from Maury there is never any real condemnation. Though the show pays lip service to the resurgent traditionalist virtue of accepting personal responsibility, the host often still seems to embrace the doctrine, so fashionable among post-sixties elites, that no sin is greater than passing judgment. The show typically ends not just without any expression of commonsense outrage—“You’ve had six kids by five different women? What is WRONG with you?!”—but also without any attention paid to the obvious, larger issue: the utter moral chaos of the world these guests inhabit. (The same moral schizophrenia appears in the commercials between segments. Nearly half the ads are pitches for job training—in air-conditioning or automotive repair, say, or hairdressing or secretarial work. The rest seem to be for sleazy ambulance-chasing law firms: “If you’ve been injured in an accident, tell the insurance company you mean business!”)

The one word almost never heard on Maury is “marriage”—the practice of which offers the best hope of refuge for these desperate women and their fatherless children. Of course, this neglect of marriage, too, is of a piece with contemporary elite attitudes, which not only tend to portray matrimony as confining but, with celebrity unwed mothers like Calista Flockhart in mind, often celebrate single motherhood as a valid alternative life-style—as if the decision of an unmarried Hollywood starlet to have a child is remotely akin to that of a 17-year-old girl in the South Bronx.

Even as I was monitoring the Povich show, the New York Times ran a hostile lead editorial on the Bush administration’s $1.5 billion initiative in support of marriage. “The whole idea of encouraging poor people to get married and stay married through classes and counseling sessions,” the Times complained, “ignores the main reason that stable wedlock is rare in inner cities: the epidemics of joblessness and incarceration that have stripped those communities of what social scientists call ‘marriageable’ men.”

The Times editorial board might well take a few mornings off to watch Maury. Many of the men who appear on Povich’s stage for paternity tests are neither jobless nor criminally inclined. More than a few, in fact, are bright and charming. As one explained himself, moments before being nailed as the father (possessed of all the breezy confidence of billionaire producer Steven Bing before a DNA test established him as the father of Elizabeth Hurley’s child): “Any time I wanted a booty call, I’d call her. . . . She’s the neighborhood ‘ho.’ ” And, he added for good measure, “The baby does not look like me at all.”

But if Povich tends to avoid passing judgment, daytime television from late morning into the afternoon now offers an array of other personalities whose job is to judge: the TV judges ruling on real cases in their courtroom sets.

In recent years, these judge shows have proliferated at an astonishing rate. In the New York market alone there are now seven on view every weekday—five ruled over by bona fide ex-jurists gone showbiz (the other two “judges” are lawyers). These shows provide yet another snapshot of latter-day American culture and mores—and not an especially pretty one, since it reveals a culture in considerable ethical disarray. Though this ethical breakdown is not exactly news, these shows powerfully demonstrate the degree to which moral laxity can wreak havoc in individual lives. Here we find parents ready to explain away even the most egregiously antisocial behavior by their children; motorists who believe the requirements of registration and insurance need not apply to them; legions of people who readily justify having trashed others’ property; and many, many jerks who borrow money from friends and lovers and later blithely insist that the loans were gifts.

At the same time, the collective success of such shows signals something more encouraging: the public’s yearning for real accountability and rigorously enforced standards. For though the TV judges vary a good deal in personal style, in the end what they share is of vastly greater importance: each is an unapologetic advocate of old-fashioned, no-excuses, responsible behavior. Indeed, in their judicial robes, dispensing commonsense justice between commercial breaks, they are probably the closest many Americans come to having authority figures in their lives. And though the shows are entertaining, each judge clearly takes his or her educative role extremely seriously.

The ascending level of moral judgementalism over the course of the day almost certainly corresponds to the gender difference of the viewership as it gets later. A famous poll asks folks whether they'd enforce the law strictly against a man who stole bread to feed his family and women were far more reluctant to do so than men.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 10:46 AM


Fair Play’s Farewell (Radio Netherlands, August, 27th, 2004)

The Olympics in Greece has seen the usual wave of doping stories, athletes have been stripped of medals, others have disputed test results and some have avoided tests altogether.

But the current chaos may be a golden age of fair play in comparison to what will be on offer by the Beijing Games of 2008.

Advances in gene therapy designed to help the ill and elderly are being eagerly eyed by top athletes. For them an extra fraction of a percent in performance can make the difference between glorious victory and the prospect of being an obscure also-ran.

Professor Lee Sweeney, Chairman of the Department of Physiology at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, has demonstrated in lab rats that gene therapy alone can make muscles 15 percent bigger and stronger.

Once the genetically enhanced rats trained, this improvement shot up to 30 percent.

If this isn't enough of an attraction to a top sports star then add in the fact that gene therapy may be totally undetectable in tests. Here you have a performance enhancer no-one need ever know about.

It's hard to know who to blame more--the training rats or the ill and elderly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:29 AM


A Strategic Divorce?: America pulls more of its troops out of Europe (CHARLES P. WALLACE, Aug. 22, 2004, TIME Europe)

When George W. Bush announced a major recall of around 70,000 U.S. troops from Europe and Asia, he kicked off an argument in the U.S. — but the reaction in Europe was muted. Challenger John Kerry said the plan shortchanges U.S. allies and the war on terrorism: "This is clearly the wrong signal to send at the wrong time," he said in a speech to veterans. But in Germany, where the cuts will hurt the most, they were portrayed as an overdue change in mission that will mostly be felt in the small towns where the soldiers are based; one trade union forecast the loss of 7,500 German jobs.

"This is a serious loss for those regions," says Defense Minister Peter Struck. There was little criticism of the change in U.S. strategy. "Let's face it, the cold war is over," says Jean-Vincent Brisset, a military expert at France's Institute for International and Strategic Relations. "The U.S. forces came to save Europe, but their presence today doesn't fit with current doctrine."

Posted by Peter Burnet at 10:02 AM


Bishop aims to woo worshippers back with sweet talk (Jonathan Petre, The Telegraph, August 27th, 2004)

A bishop who warned that the Church of England was facing extinction is to launch a campaign to lure 50-somethings back to the pews with bars of chocolate and their favourite hymns.

The Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch, is attempting to swell attendance figures at harvest festival services next month by distributing thousands of credit card-style invitations and "goody" bags of free gifts, including chocolate.

The initiative, which is being sponsored by a Christian businessman, is largely aimed at over-50s who have drifted away from worship rather than the under-20s, the age group Church leaders normally seem most anxious to attract.

The "Back to Church Sunday" scheme has been inspired by glitzy PR launches and marketing campaigns that give away gift bags to promote their products. [...]

Canon Roger Hill, the rector of St Ann's church, Manchester, said he was very enthusiastic about the scheme. "We come across dozens of people who say they have slipped out of the habit of going to church and want to come back. We have found that personal invitations are a very effective way to achieve this. The bar of chocolate just brings an extra element of pleasure."

All well and good, but a nasty rumour has it the Catholics will be offering air miles and the Unitarians, Viagra.

Nonetheless, you can't stop progress.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:01 AM


Why I Hate Social Security (Robert Brokamp, August 19, 2004, Motley Fool)

Dang, he did it again. Just take a look at that. I work all week, slaving over a hot keyboard, and Uncle Sam has taken 6.2% of my paycheck to fund someone else's Social Security check. The Motley Fool, as my employer, had to kick in an additional 6.2%. My wife, who's just starting her own business, will have to pay the entire 12.4% of her income.

In case you didn't know it, most of those taxes taken out of Americans' paychecks don't go to a piggy bank. They go to today's beneficiaries. Sure, some of it goes into the so-called trust funds, but the Social Security Administration says they'll be depleted right after I retire.

Have you ever thought about what you could do with that 12.4% of your income? As for me and my wife, we'd use our 12.4% to fund a mighty big nest egg, and we'd make sure it would last as long as our retirement.

OK, so those taxes aren't just for retirement. We also get life and disability insurance (sorta). If you die and leave behind a family, your kids will receive monthly checks, as might your spouse. And if you become disabled, you and your dependents will get a monthly check.

Clearly, the folks in the government don't trust that you can buy your own insurance and invest for your own retirement. So they do it for you. Which is why I hate Social Security. [...]

According to the Census Bureau, the average household earned approximately $50,000 in 2002 (the most recent numbers available). Including an employer's contributions, such a household adds $6,200 a year to Social Security. Would that household be better off having that money, buying its own insurance, and investing the rest?

To answer that question, first ask yourself this: If Social Security were eliminated and every family's after-tax income instantly jumped several grand, would families rush out to their neighborhood Allstate (NYSE: ALL) agent -- or would they rush out to their neighborhood-sized Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT)? What do you think most of us would say: "I'm going to max out my 401(k)!" or "I'm going to Disney (NYSE: DIS) World!"

Double-dang. Maybe Uncle Sam is right.

That's why the solution is to gore the ox of both sides of the political spectrum: privatize the accounts but require people to contribute to them and give them a fairly limited range of choices of what to do with the money they invest.

August 26, 2004

Posted by David Cohen at 10:16 PM


Testimony of John F. Kerry on Legislative Proposals Relating to the War in Southeast Asia (United States Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, Washington, D.C. 4/22/71)

Senator Aiken: I was going to ask you next what the attitude of the Saigon government would be if we announced that we were going to withdraw our troops, say, by October 1st, and be completely out of there-air, sea, land- leaving them on their own. What do you think would be the attitude of the Saigon government under those circumstances?

Mr. Kerry: Well, I think if we were to replace the Thieu-Ky-Khiem regime and offer these men sanctuary somewhere, which I think this Government has an obligation to do since we created that government and supported it all along. I think there would not be any problems. The number two man at the Saigon talks to Ambassador Lam was asked by the Concerned Laymen, who visited with them in Paris last month, how long they felt they could survive if the United States would pull out and his answer was 1 week. So I think clearly we do have to face his question. But I think, having done what we have done to that country, we have an obligation to offer sanctuary to the perhaps 2,000, 3,000 people who might face, and obviously they would, we understand that, might face political assassination or something else. But my feeling is that those 3,000 who may have to leave that country-

Senator Aiken: I think your 3,000 estimate might be a little low because we had to help 800,000 find sanctuary from North Vietnam after the French lost at Dienbienphu. But assuming that we resettle the members of the Saigon government, who would undoubtedly be in danger, in some other area, what do you think would be the attitude, of the large, well-armed South Vienamese army and the South Vietnamese people? Would they be happy to have us withdraw or what?

Mr. Kerry: Well, Senator, this obviously is the most difficult question of all, but I think that at this point the United States is not really in a position to consider the happiness of those people as pertains to the army in our withdrawal. We have to consider the happiness of the people as pertains to the life which they will be able to lead in the next few years.

If we don't withdraw, if we maintain a Korean-type presence in South Vietnam, say 50,000 troops or something, with strategic combing raids from Guam and from Japan and from Thailand dropping these 15,000 pound fragmentation bombs on them, et cetera, in the next few years, then what you will have is a people who are continually oppressed, who are continually at warfare, and whose problems will not at all be solved because they will not have any kind of representation.

The war will continue. So what I am saying is that yes, there will be some recrimination but far, far less than the 200,000 a year who are murdered by the United States of America, and we can't go around- President Kennedy said this, many times. He said that the United States simply can't right every wrong, that we can't solve the problems of the other 94 percent of mankind. We didn't go into East Pakistan; we didn't go into Czechoslovakia. Why then should we feel that we now have the power to solve the internal political struggles of this country?

We have to let them solve their problems while we solve ours and help other people in an altruistic fashion commensurate with our capacity. But we have extended that capacity; we have exhausted that capacity, Senator. So I think the question is really moot.

Senator Aiken: I might say I asked those questions several years ago, rather ineffectively. But what I would like to know now is if we, as we complete our withdrawal and, say, get down to 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 or even 50,000 troops there, would there be any effort on the part of the South Vietnamese government of the South Vietnamese army, in your opinion, to impede their withdrawal?

Mr. Kerry: No; I don't think so, Senator.

Senator Aiken: I don't see why North Vietnam should object.

Mr. Kerry: I don't for the simple reason, I used to talk with officers about their- we asked them, and one officer took great pleasure in playing with me in the sense that he would say, "Well, you know you American, you come over here for 1 year and you can afford, you know, you go to Hong Kong for R. & R. and if you are a good boy you get another R. & R. or something you know. You can afford to charge bunkers, but I have to try and be here for 30 years and stay alive." And I think that that really is the governing principle by which those people are now living and have been allowed to live because of our mistake. So that when we in fact state, let us say, that we will have a cease-fire or have a coalition government, most of the 2 million men you often hear quoted under arms, most of whom are regional popular reconnaissance forces, which is to say militia, and a very poor militia at that, will simply lay down their arms, if they haven't done so already, and not fight. And I think you will find they will respond to whatever government evolves which answer their needs, and those needs quite simply are to be fed, to bury their dead in plots where their ancestors lived, to be allowed to extend their culture, to try and exist as human beings. And I think that is what will happen.

I can cite many, many instances, sir, as in combat when these men refused to fight with us, when they shot with their guns over tin this area like this and their heads turned facing the other way. When we were taken under fire we Americans, supposedly fighting with them, and pinned down in a ditch, and I was in the Navy and this was pretty unconventional, but when we were pinned down in a ditch recovering bodies or something and they refused to come in and help us, point blank refused. I don't believe they want to fight, sir.

Senator Aiken: Do you think we are under obligation to furnish them with extensive economic assistance?

Mr. Kerry: Yes, sir. I think we have a very definite obligation to make extensive reparations to the people of Indochina.

Senator Aiken: I think that is all. [Emphasis added]

NORTH VIETNAM TAKES CONTROL (THIRD INDOCHINA WAR) (Timeline from the 1st Battalion 50th Infantry Association Website)

30 Apr 75   Saigon surrenders.

Apr-Aug 75   Per UC Berkeley demographer, Jacqueline Desbarats' article "Repression in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam: Executions and Population Relocation," research show an extremely strong probability that at least 65,000 Vietnamese perished as victims of political executions in the eight years after Saigon fell. Desbarats and associate Karl Jackson only counted executions eyewitnessed by refugees in the USA and France to project the rate of killings for the population remaining in Vietnam, and so discarded about two-thirds of the political death reports received, so their figures are likely very conservative. Their death count did not include victims of starvation, disease, exhaustion, suicide or "accident" (injuries sustained in clearing minefields, for example). Nor did they count Vietnamese who inexplicably "disappeared."

2 Jun 75   Official Communist Party newspaper "Saigon Gai Phong" declares that the Southerners must pay their "blood debt" to the revolution.

1975-1985   Within Viet Nam, postwar economic and social problems were severe, and reconstruction proceeded slowly. Efforts to collectivize agriculture and nationalize business aroused hostility in the south. Disappointing harvests and the absorption of resources by the military further retarded Viet Nam's recovery.

1975-1985   A massive exodus from Vietnam began with the change in government; eventually, 2 million people tried to escape. Many braved typhoon-lashed seas only to languish for years in detention camps throughout Southeast Asia. Hong Kong took in many Vietnamese refugees in the 1970s and 1980s. By the mid-1980s, Asia and the rest of the world was suffering from what was dubbed "compassion fatigue" and Hong Kong started trying to force Vietnamese to repatriate, efforts that produced regular riots in the camps.

1976   The first Vietnamese "boat people" come ashore on the northern beaches of Australia after travelling 4,800 km in leaky fishing boats. Over the next decade, tens of thousands of Vietnamese will flee Vietnam as boat people.

1976   South Vietnam and North Vietnam are united in a new Socialist Republic of Viet Nam. . . .

1978   Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Van Dong declared that a million people who had "collaborated with the enemy" (about 7% of the South Vietnamese population) had been returned to civilian life from reeducation camps and jail.

Posted by David Cohen at 7:27 PM


Anarchists hot for mayhem: Police on guard vs. violent tactics (Patrice O'Shaughnessy, Daily News, 8/25/04)

Fifty of the country's leading anarchists are expected to be in the city for the Republican National Convention, and a handful of them are hard-core extremists with histories of violent and disruptive tactics, according to police intelligence sources.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:54 PM


The Carter-Chavez Connection (Steven F. Hayward, August 26, 2004,

In this morning’s Wall Street Journal online edition, Jimmy Carter attempts to respond to critics of his role in legitimizing the recent Venezuelan referendum on the loathsome Hugo Chavez regime. The nub of the problem is this: While exit polls conducted by the very reliable American firm of Penn, Schoen, and Berland showed Chavez losing by a large margin (59 – 41), the official results put Chavez free and clear by a vote of 58 to 41 percent.

How could the exit polls be nearly 40 points off? The short answer is, they weren’t. Chavez, whose anti-democratic, pro-Castro sympathies are openly proclaimed (he tried to block the constitutionally-mandated referendum for months), stole the election. [...]

Carter has a long history of coddling dictators and blessing their elections, and among his complex motivations is his determination to override American foreign policy when it suits him. In the famous 1990 election in Nicaragua, Carter, along with most of the liberal Democratic establishment in Washington, openly hungered for a Sandinista victory as a way of discrediting the Reagan-Bush support for the Contras. Sandinista strongman Daniel Ortega had visited Carter in the U.S. and called him “a good friend,” and Carter consistently downplayed or excused reports of Sandinista pre-election thuggery and voter intimidation. When the early vote count showed the Sandinistas losing by a landslide, the Sandinista junta ordered a news blackout and appeared on the brink of canceling the election. Although Carter pressured the Sandinistas to relent, he also told opposition candidate Violetta Chamorro not to claim victory until Ortega had conceded defeat—potentially disastrous advice if Ortega had ignored Carter and nullified the election. Carter returned to the U.S. bitterly disappointed that his Sandinista pals had been turned out. (Among other ridiculous things Carter said about Nicaragua under Communist rule was that there was “as much free enterprise, private ownership, as exists in Great Britain.”)

There is speculation that Carter blessed Chavez’s stolen election to prevent further violence, but it should also be kept in mind that Carter also enjoys seeing the interests of the United States, especially when defined by Republican presidents, humiliated. Chavez’s anti-Americanism will now intensify, thanks in part to the worst ex-President in American history, who has never been content to let his four years of ruinous rule be his last public deed.

Why couldn't the rabbit have won the fight?

Posted by David Cohen at 4:41 PM


A third Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ad is up here.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:33 PM


Ranks of Poor, Uninsured Rose in 2003 (Joel Havemann, August 26, 2004, LA Times)

Median income remained essentially unchanged last year at $43,318 per household, the Census Bureau reported today, but 1.3 million more people lived under the poverty line.

The poverty rate rose another four-tenths of a percentage point to 12.5% — one out of every eight Americans — and the number of people without health insurance grew by 1.4 million to 45 million, propelled by a decline in the number of people with private health insurance.

The unchanged level of median income suggests, barely two months before President Bush faces reelection, that the middle class is holding its own.

Helpful when one of these reports comes out to recall that the U.S. poverty level (for a family of four) is set so high that it equals the per capita GDP of Portugal.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:39 PM


Football isn't exactly a font of great literature, but one of the exceptions is Friday Night Lights, the film version of which is coming out soon. You can see the trailer here.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:32 PM


Media-Ready Crib Sheet: Twenty questions for John Kerry. (Peter Kirsanow, 8/26/04, National Review)

Senator Kerry has been pretty successfully avoiding the media, but sometime between now and November 2 he'll have to sit down for a far-ranging interview on a program other than The Daily Show on Comedy Central. Thus far, most Kerry interviews have been less-than-penetrating (one recent poll even indicates that nearly a third of the electorate knows very little about John Kerry) and certainly not hostile (in comparison, see, among other things, President Bush's press conference of last spring). Bill Clinton was subjected to far-greater scrutiny by this time in the 1992 election cycle. Kerry's legendary policy flip-flops as well as his campaign's shifting stories related to the current controversy compel questioning at least as tough as that directed at Kerry's critics.

Here are only a few of the questions Kerry hasn't adequately addressed. They don't even have anything to do with swift boats. There are no "gotcha" questions. They're posed in a respectful manner. In fact, many are softballs. After all, few interviewers would wish to alienate Kerry and foreclose the possibility of follow-up interviews. With that in mind, here goes:

1. The Bush campaign maintains that you spent 20 years in the Senate with no signature legislative achievements. What do you consider to be the five most important pieces of legislation that you've authored?

It just gets uglier from there and each question is a reminder of how badly the Democratic Party blundered by having uncontested primaries. Whatever else you may think of George W. Bush, so far in his political careeer he's knocked off a popular incumbent governor, a popular war hero in the GOP primaries in '00, and a popular incumbent vice president in a time of unprecedented peace and prosperity. That is an unrivalled track record of success and, for all the gallons of ink that have been spilled about his stupidity, indicates he's a pretty formidable candidate. John Kerry built his career in a yellow dog Democrat state and had the presidential nomination handed to him by a party that was terrified of Howard Dean's passionate advocacy of its core principles. Mr. Kerry's only serious rival, John Edwards, ran as if there were a category for "Mr. Congeniality." Now a battle-tested (political battle anyway) Mr. Bush squares off against the anointed Senator Kerry and it should be no surprise that the fight is lopsided. These unanswered questions suggest that the following rounds will be even bloodier. If there a ref he'd be thinking about when to stop the fight.

Posted by Robert Duquette at 3:15 PM


IRRATIONAL MARKET BUBBLES: Are They "Post-Modern"? (Elliott Wave International's
Robert Folsom, Editor of Market Watch, August 25, 2004, Financial Sense Online)

Newsweek magazine recently ran an article with the headline "Mind Reading," and the subhead, "The new science of decision making. It's not as rational as you think."

The piece rehashes a bit of year-old news about an experiment conducted by economists at Princeton University, known as the Ultimatum Game. The game has two players and goes like this:

"Subject A gets 10 dollar bills. He can choose to give any number of them to subject B, who can accept or reject the offer. If she accepts, they split the money as A proposed; if she rejects A's offer, both get nothing.... A makes the most money by offering one dollar to B, keeping nine for himself, and B should accept it, because one dollar is better than none."

The rational choice is to accept the dollar, yet the outcome was consistently irrational:

"People playing B who receive only one or two dollars overwhelmingly reject the offer. Economists have no better explanation than simple spite over feeling shortchanged. This becomes clear when people play the same game against a computer. They tend to accept whatever they're offered, because why feel insulted by a machine?"

As I said, this story was in the news more than a year ago. The only new twist in Newsweek had to do with a scanning gizmo that apparently spots which region of the brain produces the irrational choice. Yet what got me was Newsweek's claim that this research will "help understand some of the most vexing problems in postmodern society," such as "irrational market bubbles." Now, I'm a big fan of science 'n'all. I really am. But ... we're supposed to believe that market bubbles are "postmodern"? HEL-LO!! Calling all search engines! Tulip Mania? South Sea Bubble? The panics of 1837, 1857, 1873? And wasn't there a little episode in 1929?

Another question: Were market bubbles in the good old days something besides "irrational"?

The answer to the "irrational choice" paradox is so obvious that it would take a PHD in Economics to miss it. The game is not about choosing to receive a benefit, but about the valuation of relative self worth between two people. It is a social transaction, not a monetary transaction. Player A, in his choice of how much to offer player B, is making a statement about how he views his own social worth in comparison to B, with the expectation that B views the comparison similarly. Any offer to B that is less than $5 is a statement of social superiority, or dominance. An offer above $5 is a statement of social inferiority. Likewise, B's acceptance of an offer below $5 is an admission of inferiority, while a rejection of an offer of $5 is a statement of superiority. The "socially" rational offer by A is $5.

In a larger sense, market decisions are mainly a statement about beliefs which may or may not indicate statements of self worth, but which often are. Refusing to liquidate a losing position is often based on a belief that "I deserve to get my money back", not on the rational assessment of the likelihood of recovering it. Worldviews and expectations bias our ability to rationally calculate probabilities based on the available information, which often is contradictory. Bulls stay bullish in the face of bearish news, and Bears stay bearish in the face of bullish news. The human psyche requires a narrative, but market randomness offers none.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:18 PM

KEYES 13, OBAMA 1 (via mc):

Keyes on 'right side of the issues,' Ditka says (ART GOLAB AND SCOTT FORNEK, 8/26/04, Chicago Sun-Times)

"Da Coach" met "Da Candidate" Wednesday night, and he treated Alan Keyes to a meal at his Gold Coast steakhouse while they talked about politics and their families.

Former Bears coach Mike Ditka, who himself had turned down the chance to run for the U.S. Senate as a Republican, used the occasion to put his seal of approval on Keyes, who moved here from Maryland to take on Democrat Barack Obama after Jack Ryan dropped out of the race.

"I support him because he's a conservative and on the right side of issues I already believe in," Ditka said of Keyes as he left his namesake restaurant, trademark cigar clenched between his teeth. "We're very close philosophically about what we believe, about politics and issues."

How'd you like to try and get a word in edgewise when those two start talking?

Posted by David Cohen at 12:55 PM



In Anoka, MN, John Kerry challenged President Bush to weekly debates on the issues.

BUSH CAMP REAX: "There will be a time for debates after the convention, and during the next few weeks, John Kerry should take the time to finish the debates with himself. This election presents a clear choice to the American people between a President who is moving America forward and a Senator who has taken every side of almost every issue and has the most out of the mainstream record in the U.S. Senate," said BC'04 spokesman Steve Schmidt.

Is the Kerry Campaign being run by people whose only qualification is that they once read a book about a presidential campaign? This is the traditional loser's ploy, so I guess they felt they had an obligation to go through with it. Two things, though. First, do they realize that they're announcing that they've taken over the loser's role in the campaign? Second, have any of these people ever met John Kerry? Let's say that the Bush Campaign loses it's mind and agrees to weekly debates. Short of lightening striking, letting people see John Kerry side-by-side with President Bush week after week after week would be their worst possible tactic. They must start paying attention to Mickey Kaus: keep John Kerry away from the cameras and maybe they can avoid a blowout.

Posted by David Cohen at 12:44 PM


Bush to Urge Court to End Independent Political Ads (Update1) (Bloomberg, 8/26/04)

President George W. Bush plans to seek a court order to force the U.S. Federal Election Commission to stop all political advertising by independent groups, said spokesman Scott McClellan.

Bush asked Senator John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, to help end advertising by political organizations known as 527 groups, named for the section of the Internal Revenue Service code that grants them tax-exempt status. McCain told the New York Times he disapproves of ads attacking Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, one of the 527 groups.

In one move, the Bush campaign puts John Kerry, the establishment media and John McCain in an impossible situation. This is politically brilliant and yet terrible. We here at BrothersJudd give the President lots of room to stray from the conservative path, either because of the realities of mainstream politics or to achieve some greater goal. This time, though, he strays too far. We can't even say, as we did (wrongly) when it came to CFR, that filing suit is just for show, because the courts will never go for it. Who knows what the courts will do? If only some basic rules were written done somewhere so everyone could refer to them when they have questions like this.

More (Via The Note):

McCAIN REAX: "I enthusiastically applaud President Bush's commitment to ensuring that 527s operate under the same funding rules that apply to federal candidates and parties. I look forward to working with the President, both in the courts and through legislation, to force the Federal Election Commission to regulate 527s, as they are already required by the law and affirmed by the Supreme Court, to do," said McCain in a statement.

KERRY TO TAKE DOWN McCAIN AD: "We respect John McCain's wishes, and will stop running the ads of him challenging Bush to denounce the attacks on his service. It's long past time that George Bush also take John McCain's advice and do the right thing by putting an end to the smears and lies attacking John Kerry's military service. George Bush needs to say this is wrong, he needs to say it must end," said Kerry spokesperson David Wade.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:44 PM


The jobs numbers that you're not hearing about (Timothy Kane and Andrew Grossman, 8/26/04, USA Today)

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently snuck out a telling confession beneath everyone's radar: Its flagship payroll survey is likely undercounting hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Most economic observers were too busy fretting over the lackluster gain of 32,000 payroll jobs in July to take notice of the other positive indicators, let alone the quiet little study that acknowledges payrolls have a problem.

The study describes how job-changing can inflate the payroll survey's numbers artificially. When worker turnover is brisk, as in the late 1990s, millions of workers are counted twice when they switch jobs. About 3.9 million people changed employers during a typical month during the 1990s, but only 3.1 million do so now.

Why is job-changing dropping? Maybe stability is preferred since 9/11. Perhaps lower turnover is a reflection of the aging workforce and low participation rate of current teens. Or maybe more workers are becoming self-employed. The reason doesn't matter, but the effect on payrolls does.

For months, the debate has been raging over how to measure jobs. Being that we're in a presidential election year, the issue has been magnified. But why should the average person care? Because only an accurate reading can gauge the country's true economic health and affect everything from interest rates to consumer confidence.

Ironic that businessmen, who generally disdain the government, follow the economic numbers it generates like lemmings off a cliff.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:15 PM

BOUGHT BROTHER (via Kevin Whited):

A $136,000 Link: Max Cleland, Bush political appointee. (Rich Lowry, 8/26/04, National Review)

Max Cleland, who made a staged appearance at the Bush ranch Wednesday, was appointed by President George W. Bush to the board of directors of the Export-Import Bank in 2003. The same Max Cleland who is spending nearly all of his time attacking President Bush is, amazingly enough, a Bush political appointee.

According to a bank spokesman, Cleland makes $136,000 a year off this very cushy job. A couple of questions come to mind here: If Cleland had any decency, wouldn't he resign? Why would he accept a political appointment from a man he so loathes and thinks represents the very worst in American politics? Max Cleland's extremely partisan activities are being subsidized by the American taxpayer.

But, wait, it gets more sinister. There is now a definitive link between President Bush and the attacks against him. This link is as direct as most of the links that have been highlighted between Bush and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth: Bush gave a $136,000 job to one of his attackers and a key member of Kerry's "band of brothers." By the logic of most of the press corps, this means George W. Bush must be responsible for the activities of Kerry campaign's band of brothers.

He's certainly acting as if he were a Bush operative--yesterday's little skit was humiliating.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:09 PM


Married? Single? Status affects how women vote (Susan Page, 8/25/04, USA TODAY)

[M]ost married women say they'll vote for President Bush. By nearly 2-to-1, unmarried women say they support John Kerry.

The "marriage gap" — the difference in the vote between married and unmarried women — is an astonishing 38 percentage points, according to aggregated USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Polls. In contrast, the famous "gender gap," the difference in the vote between men and women, is just 11 points. [...]

Why do married and unmarried women tend to see the political world so differently?

For one thing, conservative women are more likely to be married, though of course many liberal women are married, too. Democratic pollster Celinda Lake says unmarried women as a group start out as more liberal-leaning than married women. And they are often hard-pressed economically.

Most unmarried women — 54% — have annual household incomes below $30,000, according to the Census; that's twice the percentage of married women with incomes that low. Most married women — 51% — have household incomes of $50,000 and above; that's double the number of single women with income that high.

That makes single women more anxious than their married friends about bread-and-butter issues, less confident of having health coverage and more likely to take an expansive view of what the government can and should do to maintain safety-net programs.

Having children seems to intensify views on both sides. Married women with children are even more Republican that those who don't have children; single women who have children are even more Democratic than those who don't.

Today folks imagine that the main reason for the historic opposition to the aristocracy was nothing more than a matter of class hatred, but a classic definition (from John Adams) reveals that it was based on basic power politics: "By aristocracy, I understand all those men who can command, influence, or procure more than an average of votes...." One of the great defects of the welfare state is that the government itself wields inordinate influence over the votes of those who are dependent on it for their economic security. Combine this with the atomization of families and society in general, which increases the number of dependents and the level of their dependency, and you've a situation where a constitutional regime which originally intended to limit the concentration of power anywhere, but especially in the hands of the central State, has gradually seen the shift of more and more power precisely to that State. The final piece of this puzzle, of course, is that every expansion of the franchise has added more of the very people who are most likely to demand security and be prone to dependency. It's been a campaign of real genius: the statists have managed to create and purchase the loyalty of a vast pool of captive voters who can be counted on to support the State and oppose freedom.

There are a number of ways that conservatives (or originalists, if you will) are trying to combat this state of affairs--chiefly by the creation of an Ownership Society, which makes people dependent on themselves for welfare; and by restoring the primacy of family, civic groups, churches, and the other sinews of civil society. But one means that is too seldom considered is a re-restriction of the franchise, limiting it once again to those who are not likely to be dependent on the State. Barring a surge in gender-selection abortion it's out of the question to repeal the 19th Amendment entirely, but there's no reason the vote shouldn't be limited to those (women and men) who are married.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:48 AM


It's Getting a Bit Dodgy: John Kerry has evaded his Senate record, his plans for the war on terror, and a host of other issues. Will he be able to get out of his Vietnam troubles? (Fred Barnes, 08/25/2004, Weekly Standard)

The dodge has worked well for Kerry. At the Democratic convention last month, he didn't bother to defend his Senate positions on defense and foreign policy. In his acceptance speech, he devoted only 73 words to his two decades in the Senate. Instead, he surrounded himself with Vietnam veterans and insisted the best window on his leadership as president was that the men who'd served with him in Vietnam were now backing his presidential campaign. The result: little discussion in the media or the political community of his Senate record at the convention and since then.

That may change as early as next week when Republicans gather for their convention in New York City. No doubt Republican speakers will go after Kerry for favoring cuts in intelligence and Pentagon spending, endorsing the nuclear freeze and deployment of Pershing missiles in Europe, opposing the Reagan doctrine of supporting anticommunist guerillas in Nicaragua and elsewhere, and voting against the Iraq war.

Worked well?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:12 AM


The Passing of an Era? (Wilfred McClay, 8/24/04, Democracy Project)

I’m hardly the only one to be struck by the vehement, uncontained rage of media figures like Chris Matthews and Tom Oliphant, and the sweeping, completely unearned condescension of the New York Times and Washington Post, directed at the Swift Boat Vets and their gallant campaign against John Kerry’s candidacy. Why such an angry, petulant---but also, be it noted, completely self-righteous---reaction? Why the shift in tone, the loss of control? It seems to me that, aside from the obvious partisan particulars, there are two larger and interlocking reasons for this, and taken together, they suggest why the struggles now underway may have consequences far beyond their immediate content.

First, it seems we are experiencing one of those moments when history shifts its gears, and the accredited elites cannot seem to grasp what is happening, and cling desperately to the pieces of their fraying reputation. It’s a shift that the army of talented bloggers out there, part of one of the most genuinely populist movements ever to arise in modern American politics, has been announcing for a long time---perhaps a little prematurely and self-interestedly, but what they have been predicting is now clearly upon us. The baby-boomer generation’s journalistic and academic elites sought, and gained, control over the nation’s chief organs of knowledge production, accreditation, and communication, with all the enormous power and influence that has entailed. But now the Gramscian monopoly is crumbling, and they cannot see how they are themselves largely to blame for their own discrediting. [...]

There is a second deeper reason why people like Matthews, Oliphant, et al. are reacting with such uncontained fury and condescension. It’s because the case of Kerry is a proxy for a whole set of assumptions that the boomer elites have made about the world, and managed to install as our conventional wisdom, about the arrogance of American power, the unmitigated evil of Nixon, the goodness and altruism and truthfulness of the antiwar movement (and therefore themselves), and so on. That whole complacent and self-congratulatory narrative---which is, in some sense, encapsulated in Kerry’s famous testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee---is being implicitly challenged now. Bush’s foreign policy challenges it, and if it can be shown that Kerry is a comprehensive liar---and in fact the Cambodia lies alone, which have been admitted to, would surely have been enough to end a Republican candidate’s entire career---it calls into question everything about the great boomer narrative. It threatens their sense of world-historical rectitude, their moral amour-propre. Hence the indignant reactions.

Chris Matthews demonstrated an archetypal disconnect last night when he badgered his conservative guests about the Swift Boat ads but then revealed that his sister (sister-in-law?) had written to him and said that her husband, who served in Vietnam, and all his friends from the service just loathe the Senator and have since his Senate testimony.

The country has never forgiven the Boomers their protest years and they still don't get that simple fact.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:48 AM


Bush skips GOP protocol, lays down the law (ROBERT NOVAK, 8/26/04, Chicago Sun-Times)

Because there is little difference between the president's and mainstream Republican thinking, however, it is a basically conservative document. Conservatives can take issue with stem-cell research, gay marriage and particularly immigration provisions, but the right is essentially happy with this platform.

But why did drafting this political manifesto resemble the Manhattan Project developing the atomic bomb? The process fits the Bush White House's authoritarian aura that has tempered enthusiasm within the party on the eve of its national convention.

Actually, the big issues -- taxes and abortion -- that formerly generated fervent Republican platform battles have been decided. Past presidential nominees, even incumbents, did not always win those struggles. In 1984 at Dallas, the platform committee beat back the Reagan White House's desire for wiggle room on raising taxes. In 1996 at San Diego, candidate Bob Dole's attempts to fudge on abortion were turned back. George W. Bush faced no such confrontations.

Nevertheless, the Bush White House completely abandoned the old platform process. While Democrats went through a seemingly democratic procedure to create a sham platform skirting contentious issues, Republicans have a real platform that was handed down like the Ten Commandments.

Well, it is based on them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:38 AM


Cuban woman ships herself to Miami in a wooden crate (LUISA YANEZ, 8/26/04, Miami Herald)

Workers on the late shift at a DHL warehouse at Miami International Airport were processing cargo from a Nassau-to-Miami flight when they heard a voice coming from a plywood crate.

Apprehensively, they approached and pried open the package.

A young Cuban woman unfolded herself from her cramped position and stepped out into the night air, in good condition.

In a twist on a 40-year-old tradition that usually involves rafts or speedboats, she had entered the United States by stuffing herself, a jug of water and a cellphone into a crate not much bigger than a small filing cabinet and having herself shipped.

The gamble paid off. The woman, still not publicly identified, will be allowed to stay in this country under the wet-foot, dry-foot policy that allows undocumented Cubans who reach U.S. soil to avoid immediate deportation, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Wednesday.

Officials hope the practice doesn't catch on.

Then drop the vile "wet foot" proviso or get rid of Castro.

Posted by at 10:26 AM


An unexplained effect during solar eclipses casts doubt on General Relativity (The Economist, August 25, 2004)

"ASSUME nothing" is a good motto in science. Even the humble pendulum may spring a surprise on you. In 1954 Maurice Allais, a French economist who would go on to win, in 1988, the Nobel prize in his subject, decided to observe and record the movements of a pendulum over a period of 30 days. Coincidentally, one of his observations took place during a solar eclipse. When the moon passed in front of the sun, the pendulum unexpectedly started moving a bit faster than it should have done.

[H]is suggestion would fit in with another odd phenomenon: the fact that
the Pioneer 10 and 11 space-probes, launched by NASA, America's space
agency, in the early 1970s, are receding from the sun slightly more slowly
than they should be.

Sometimes breakthroughs are made by smart people who are not specialists in the required field. They have the advantage of seeing phenomena with fresh eyes, and haven't absorbed the Conventional Wisdom that can often harden to dogma. Peter Frey was an English Professor at Northwestern but helped popularize a time-control technique known as iterative deepening for computer chess. Thomas Gold is an astronomer and geophysicist who made contributions to audiology (and defends an abiogenic theory of the origins of oil). Dr. Allais is a Nobel Prize winner in economics, as the article states.

The Theory of Relativity has to be a strong contender for the most crank-prone theory in the history of science. It is wildly counterintuitive, and the Special Theory portion has just enough mathematics (a gasp square root!) to attract attention. Nonetheless, when people of the caliber of Maurice Allais make a suggestion, it is worthy of a followup.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:21 AM


Pelosi visits LV to support Gallagher: Both Democrats question Kerry's stance on Iraq (PAUL HARASIM, 8/26/04, Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Calling President Bush's invasion of Iraq "a grotesque mistake," Nancy Pelosi, the highest-ranking Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives, said in Las Vegas Wednesday that she can't understand why John Kerry has said he still would have "voted to give the president the authority to go to war" even had he known there were no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, Bush's original justification for war.

Labeling Bush an "incompetent" who didn't have the judgment, experience or knowledge to risk American lives in Iraq, the House Minority Leader then said she "can't answer" why Kerry continues to support a position that seemingly gives Americans little choice between the presidential candidates when it comes to the war in Iraq.

Asked why Kerry holds that position on Iraq, Pelosi answered "I don't know"...

Who's got the wobbly base?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:20 AM


Shots Hit Kerry's Weak Spot (Max Boot, August 26, 2004, LA Times)

This political punch-up raises a couple of interesting points. First, it once again confirms that, for all the conservative caterwauling about the insidious power of liberal reporters, the establishment media have little ability anymore to control the national agenda. The press would have been happy to parrot Kerry's version of his war story as reported by his authorized chronicler, Douglas Brinkley, in "Tour of Duty." But the iron triangle of Rush Limbaugh, Fox News Channel and Regnery Publishing (which released the bestselling book, "Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry") elbowed conflicting claims onto the front pages.

Just as with the Clinton scandals, which were publicized by the same conservative crew, the rhetoric about Kerry's supposed wrongdoing has outpaced any verifiable facts. The story nevertheless has struck a chord with the public, because it plays to existing concerns about Kerry's character.

Once a general impression forms about a candidate — and this is the second point raised by the Vietnam brouhaha — a seemingly trivial event can assume outsized importance. Thus Gerald Ford's reputation as a bumbler was inadvertently confirmed when he tripped on the Air Force One gangway. Likewise, Jimmy Carter's reputation as a wimp when he claimed to have been attacked by what the press happily dubbed a "killer rabbit"; Michael Dukakis' as a soft-on-defense liberal when he posed for a ludicrous photo inside a tank; George H.W. Bush's as an out-of-touch aristocrat when he professed befuddlement at encountering a supermarket scanner; and Al Gore's as an insufferable android when he dominated the first debate with George W. Bush.

Kerry's problem has been the persistent perception that he is a consummate opportunist who is willing to say anything to advance his own career. The New Republic unearthed a classic example when it found letters his office had sent to one of his constituents in 1991: One explained why he favored the Gulf War, the other why he opposed it. The Swift boaters' stories fit his image as a slippery schemer.

Much to Democrats' chagrin, the claim that George W. Bush was AWOL during his National Guard service hasn't caused as much of a stir, perhaps because it doesn't fit his image — Bush is generally seen as too hawkish, not as someone who ducks a fight.

Mr. Boot dismisses the Cambodia story as an inconsequential lie, but it has resonance for a particular reason: like Joe Biden borrowing Neil Kinnock's speech about his own life story but then relating it as if it were personal, it is Mr. Kerry's rhetoric about how the memory was "seared" iinto him and his effort to use the false memory (we'll avoid calling it a lie) for political purposes--and purposes opposed to American interests--that makes the episode so damaging.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:52 AM


Study Says Illegal Immigrants Cost U.S. $10 Billion a Year; Analysis Is Disputed (Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, August 26, 2004, LA Times)

Illegal immigrants cost the federal government more than $10 billion a year, and a program to legalize them would nearly triple the figure, a study released Wednesday said.

The analysis by the Center for Immigration Studies, which opposes efforts to legalize the estimated 8 million to 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, comes as Republicans are bracing for a fight over immigration at their convention next week in New York.

So bringing in the 12 million ambitious folks who do our scut work only costs us about as much as a bookkeeping error in the federal budget, even when the estimate is coming from a bunch of nativists? And folks wonder why we're the world's only hyperpower.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:46 AM


Second Fiddles Attuned to Very Different Scores (Richard Simon, August 26, 2004, LA Times)

The two candidates have this much in common: They play to their strengths. In both cases their strengths correspond to their campaign strategy.

For Cheney, who is highly regarded by the Republican right but anathema to moderates, that translates to audiences that are mostly die-hard Republican. Edwards, more moderate than presidential nominee Sen. John F. Kerry, is more likely than Cheney to seek out audience members of both parties.

Cheney sometimes plays the traditional role of the vice presidential candidate as attack dog against the opposition so that the presidential candidate can remain above the fray.

Edwards shuns the attack role, finding that it conflicts with his sunny, I'm-for-the-underdog image.

The main difference being that Mr. Cheney doesn't have a political future to protect, while Mr. Edwards--like Jack Kemp, another recent fiasco of a running mate--is trying to maintain his position for '08. Bad enough that Mr. Kerry chose someone who's unprepared to govern the nation, but choosing someone who isn't really interested in helping the ticket win is a colossal misjudgment.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:23 AM


Spotlight Is Now on Top Cleric: In asking his supporters to flood Najaf, Sistani is staking his influence to effect an end to standoff. (Alissa J. Rubin, August 26, 2004, LA Times)

There is no guarantee that Sistani's call for his followers to flood into the holy city will end the siege at the Imam Ali Mosque. If the move fails, Sistani's prestige could decline. But each time the widely esteemed senior cleric has stepped onto the political stage, he has vastly altered the dynamic, forcing shifts in U.S. policy and deference to his views.

Sistani, 74, arrives this time at a critical moment. The shrine is occupied by Sadr's militiamen, who have kept Sistani and his supporters from entering for months. Sadr's forces are in turn under siege by U.S. and Iraqi troops. The fighting has left scores dead and destroyed parts of the Old City.

Numerous attempts to reach a peace deal have failed. The people of Najaf are exhausted by the fighting. The Iraqi government has vowed to storm the shrine unless Sadr's forces give up. And Shiite Muslim clerics around the world have warned that any direct attack on the holy site could have disastrous consequences.

Sistani faces the challenge of threading his way through these various interests while maintaining a certain distance from all of them. In particular, though he shares the government's aim to expel Sadr's forces from the mosque and tamp down popular support for the anti-American cleric, he does not want to be seen as overly sympathetic to the U.S. and the closely allied and dependent Iraqi forces.

To that end, Sistani has given a simple but direct challenge to both Sadr and the U.S.-backed Iraqi forces: Leave the shrine and the Old City and let Shiite religious authorities, led by him and three other grand ayatollahs in Najaf, take over again.

Whether both sides will accede to Sistani's wishes remains to be seen. But both are well aware that Sistani wields enormous clout, and his followers are nothing if not loyal and legion.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:07 AM


Kerry's Lost Opportunity: He could have healed the wounds of Vietnam. Instead, he tried to exploit them. (HERMAN JACOBS, August 26, 2004, Wall Street Journal)

Whenever the question of Vietnam percolated to the surface of the nation's collective political consciousness, as it did briefly during Bill Clinton's first presidential campaign, the protagonists on either side only became yet more distrustful and disdainful of the other. And so years ago, wearied by their own arguments as much as by the arguments of their antagonists, sensible majorities of both the supporters and the opponents of the Vietnam War yielded to an unwritten domestic truce, composed of two principles:

* Those who participated in the war, with the exception of anyone at or above the rank of general officer, are entitled to public honor for their service.

* Those who actively opposed the war, with the exception of the most extreme Jane Fonda-types, are not to be branded as cowards or traitors to their country.

Depending on one's political bent, one or the other of the two prongs of the domestic truce might be accepted only grudgingly, but it was accepted nonetheless, because most of us had become convinced that the best way to handle any question involving Vietnam was just to "let it alone."

Yes, there would still be occasional flare-ups when the domestic truce would be tested. Until recently, the most notable episodes involved Dan Quayle and Mr. Clinton, who--because they had neither very actively opposed the war nor fought in it--did not seem to be entitled to the truce's honors and amnesties. Those petty skirmishes over Mr. Clinton's ROTC dodge and Mr. Quayle's "alternative" service stirred up some old antagonisms but quickly subsided when the larger public declined to enlist. And so, the truce held.

We were aware that even the Left had been forced to accept that the war was honorable (though to some misguided), but when did the Right ever forgive those who opposed their own nation? It wasn't a truce, the Left lost the argument.

Kerry's Testimony (LA Times, August 26, 2004)

It turns out that the attack on John Kerry's war record was just Act 1. Now the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (and, miraculously, all the right-wing media) have turned to Kerry's antiwar record.

"Turns out"? What did they think it was about?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:52 AM


Interviews show Bush tuned in to right-wing radio (Brian C. Mooney, August 26, 2004, Boston Globe)

On the White House website,, nearly all of the administration radio interviews featured since April are with conservative commentators, hosts at stations in battleground states, or both.

A White House spokesman, Ken Lisaius, flatly denied that political considerations are involved in making administration officials available to radio stations, or any other news media.

"We're not concerned with politics," he said. "It's the Bush-Cheney campaign that's focused on politics."

Moreover, the interviews on the website, which has audio links, are merely a sampler of those of good audio quality or on timely subjects of public interest, he said. In addition, interviews on less-than-conservative National Public Radio (the Globe found at least 10 in recent months in the transcript archives of NPR's website,,) cannot be posted.

"NPR doesn't allow us to use their audio," Lisaius said.

"We try to make members of this administration available in any number of media formats so that people around the country know what their government is doing because this administration has a very solid record of accomplishment," said Lisaius. Those media include radio stations "of all stripes in all parts of the country," he said.

But of 61 interviews featured on the White House website since April in which the interviewer and station or network is identified, 54 were conducted either by conservative commentators or by hosts in markets located in battleground states, a Globe analysis shows.

They include 27 interviews with stations in Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Missouri, Florida, New Hampshire, Oregon, Washington, New Mexico, and Arkansas -- all among the 20 or so states being contested by both sides with paid advertising.

Another 27 were with conservative hosts; ABC Radio's Sean Hannity had seven interviews on the White House site, and Hennen had five.

Some of the interviewers are not only supportive of Bush but active in the campaign. For instance, Steve Gill of WTN in Nashville, with three interviews on the White House site, spoke at the opening of the Bush-Cheney headquarters in Clarksville, Tenn. Syndicated talk-show host Laura Ingraham served as MC at a Bush campaign rally in St. Paul last week. Another, Premiere Radio Networks talkmaster Glenn Beck, is selling "John Kerry's Waffle House" T-shirts for $14.95 on his website, capitalizing on the Bush campaign's "flip-flopper" assault on the Democrat.

Among other interviews on the White House site are three each by personalities of the Radio America network (self-described as "driven by a commitment to traditional American values, limited government and the free market") and the Salem Radio Network ("the largest network serving religious radio").

If, as the White House contends, the concentration of administration interviews in battleground state stations is mere coincidence, the daily flurry of radio appearances by Bush campaign officials in those same states is not.

"It's part of our effort to do what we call `flood the zone,' " said Bush campaign spokesman Kevin A. Madden. "When you have a campaign designed around `echo politics,' we try to get our message out there every which way possible."

These guys are good.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 AM


Jibes at gay governor cost 2 their jobs (AP, Aug. 26, 2004)

The public address announcer for the Atlantic City Surf of the independent Atlantic League was fired and the scoreboard operator resigned after poking fun at Gov. James E. McGreevey's sexual orientation.

Announcer Greg Maiuro dedicated a between-innings rendition of the song "YMCA" to McGreevey during a game on Aug. 17, less than a week after New Jersey's governor announced that he had had an extramarital affair with a man and would resign. The 1970s hit song by the Village People is widely considered a gay anthem.

The following night, scoreboard operator Marco Cerino posted the message "Sponsored by Gov. Jim McGreevey" on the scoreboard when the song was played. Cerino resigned over the incident, the team said.

They're out of their jobs but he isn't out of his?

August 25, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:42 PM


One of the more obvious instances of media bias we've seen in recent years was the way the United States Congress suddenly became the Republican Congress in 1994. You can't change the media though, so you just grin and bear it. But there was just a clip from a ad on MSNBC in which they referred not to the government of the United States but to the "Bush government." Do we even need to say these folks are anti-American when they apparently don't recognize the American government if they aren't running it?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:41 PM


Dearth of new wells drilled could keep oil prices high (Carola Hoyos, August 24 2004, Financial Times)

The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries this week revealed that its members drilled 6.5 per cent fewer wells in 2003, suggesting that the global supply crunch and high oil prices could last longer than expected, analysts said. The numbers appear to contradict statements by Opec members that they are actively building extra capacity. [...]

Part of the explanation, in particular for Nigeria and Qatar, lies in the fact that companies are drilling fewer but more sophisticated wells. In Iran, Kuwait and Venezuela, investment has been stifled by political disagreements and leaders' eagerness to spend the additional petrodollars on other investments or the enrichment of a powerful minority. But as big consumers such as the US become more desperate for oil, the pressure is growing for countries such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to open their doors to international oil companies.

Mohammad Hadi Nejad Hosseinian, Iran's deputy oil minister, blamed Opec's lack of investment on weak oil prices. “Most Opec countries have been unable to supply extra oil as a result of inadequate investment during the period when oil prices were weak,” he said, adding: “Iran expects to rely heavily on foreign investments to implement its ambitious plans [to increase oil production by nearly 2m b/d].”

Opec's capacity has remained at about 31.5m b/d since autumn 2000, though demand increased by 6m b/d and prices recovered from the Asian crisis of the late 1990s during that time, the CGES said. During that time almost three-quarters of the increased capacity needed to satisfy the extra demand came from outside Opec.

But ageing fields, a difficult investment climate in Russia and a dearth of discoveries in other parts of the world mean that consumers will not be able to rely on countries outside Opec for additional oil.

Oil Prices Sink Below $44 on Profit - Taking (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 8/25/04)
Oil prices plummeted below $44 a barrel Wednesday, sinking for the fourth consecutive day, as supply fears receded, gasoline futures plunged and profit-taking took over.

``This is overdue, this is so overdue,'' said Fadel Gheit, an oil industry analyst at Oppenheimer & Co. in New York. ``Oil prices have been extremely inflated.''

Light crude for October delivery settled at $43.47, down $1.74. The price of Nymex-traded oil futures has fallen by 11 percent since last Thursday, when they settled at $48.70 -- the highest Nymex settlement on record.

When adjusted for inflation, oil is more than $13 cheaper than it was leading up to the first Gulf War.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:35 PM


Tests of a Smear Campaign (E. J. Dionne Jr., August 24, 2004, Washington Post)

You would have thought that if the issue of who served under fire during the Vietnam War became a big deal at this point in the presidential campaign, it would be a major advantage to John Kerry. [...]

This episode is a great test of how politics work in our country. It is, first, a test of George W. Bush.

Bush claims that his highest priority is uniting the country in the war against terrorism. A president who would be a uniter and not a divider knows that cheap-shot politics can only further rend our nation and weaken his own ability to lead.

At this point we should probably expect folks like Mr. Dionne--who expected the imminent return of liberalism to power in America--to stop making sense for awhile, but this is especially sill. Did anyone who knows anything about politics really think Vietnam was going to be a helpful issue for the Senator? Even better, does Mr. Dionne think that when the President says he wants to unite the country he doesn't mean unite it behind his own leadership?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:19 PM


MPs plan to impeach Blair over Iraq war record (David Hencke, August 26, 2004, The Guardian)

MPs are planning to impeach Tony Blair for "high crimes and misdemeanours" in taking Britain to war against Iraq, reviving an ancient practice last used against Lord Palmerston more than 150 years ago.

Eleven MPs led by Adam Price, Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, are to table a motion when parliament returns that will force the prime minister to appear before the Commons to defend his record in the run-up to the war. Nine of the MPs are Welsh and Scottish Nationalists, including the party leaders, Elfyn Llwyd, and Alex Salmond, and two are Conservative frontbenchers, Boris Johnson, MP for Henley and editor of the Spectator, and Nigel Evans, MP for Ribble Valley.

A number of Labour backbenchers are considering whether to back the motion, though it could mean expulsion from the party. [...]

Under the ancient right, which has never been repealed, it takes only one MP to move a motion and the Speaker has to grant a debate on the impeachment. This means, at the least, Mr Blair will have to face a fresh debate on his personal handling of the war and there will have to be a vote in parliament on whether to institute impeachment proceedings.'s got to be better to have it be for liberating a nation than for lying in a sexual harassment suit, eh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:10 PM


Bush Overtakes Kerry in Latest L.A. Times Poll (Ronald Brownstein, August 25, 2004, LA Times)

President Bush heads into next week's Republican national convention with voters moving slightly in his direction since July amid signs that John F. Kerry has been nicked by attacks on his service in Vietnam, a Los Angeles Times Poll has found.

For the first time this year in a Times survey, Bush led Kerry in the presidential race, drawing 49 percent among registered voters, compared to 46 percent for the Democrat. In a Times Poll just before the Democratic convention last month, Kerry held a 2 percentage point advantage over Bush.

That small shift from July was within the poll's margin of error. But it fit with other findings in the Times Poll showing the electorate edging toward Bush over the past month on a broad range of measures, from support for his handling of Iraq to confidence in his leadership and honesty. [...]

The Times Poll, supervised by polling director Susan Pinkus, interviewed 1,597 adults, including 1,352 registered voters nationwide, from Aug. 21-24. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. [...]

The poll spotlighted another challenge for Kerry. After a Democratic convention that focused much more on Kerry's biography than his agenda, just 58 percent said they knew even a fair amount about the policies he would pursue as president; nearly four in ten said they knew not much or nothing at all.

By comparison, even though Bush has put forward few specifics about his second-term priorities, 70 percent said they had a good idea of the policies he would pursue. Compared with the trend of modest erosion for Kerry in the poll, Bush either slightly gained ground or stabilized his position on several measures.

Bush's overall approval rating, which many analysts consider the best single gauge of his prospects in November, stood at 52 percent, with 47 percent disapproving; the numbers last month were 51 percent to 48 percent.

Still not paring down to likely voters but even that can't save the Senator. If you think he's been acting crazy this week just wait.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:04 PM


Knowles, Murkowski to face off in November (DAN JOLING, August 25, 2004, Associated Press)

Tony Knowles and Lisa Murkowski say nothing's going to change now that they've posted primary victories.

They figured all along they'd face each other in November for the right to represent Alaska in the U.S. Senate.

"I'm going to work hard, shake hands, talk to Alaskans, listen to Alaskans and continue the message I've heard from so many Alaskans over the past months," Knowles said Tuesday night. With 426 of 439 precincts reporting, he had 34,962 votes, or 95 percent. [...]

Murkowski led former state Senate President Mike Miller 38,653, or 58 percent, to 24,575, or 37 percent, with 426 of 439 precincts reporting. Former U.S. Attorney Wev Shea was in third place with 2,492, or 4 percent.

I know even less about Alaska than about most things, but those vote totals are startling. Even with a serious challenger she still smoked Knowles?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:30 PM


State police shuttled McGreevey to Cipel rendezvous (Newsday, August 25, 2004,)

Gov. James E. McGreevey used state troopers assigned to protect him to escort him to the apartment of the aide with whom he is believed to have carried on an gay extramarital affair, according to a published report.

The Star-Ledger of Newark, citing two sources with knowledge of the visits, reported for Wednesday that drivers from the state police's Executive Protection Unit began shuttling McGreevey to Golan Cipel's apartment soon after McGreevey was elected governor in November 2001. [...]

The law enforcement source told the Star-Ledger that many of the visits took place when McGreevey and Cipel lived in the same neighborhood in Woodbridge, where McGreevey had been mayor. McGreevey moved into Drumthwacket, the governor's mansion in Princeton, about three months after his January 2002 inauguration.

The visits were always after business hours, sometimes at night, and ranged from a few minutes to a few hours, the source told the newspaper. At least once, the source said, McGreevey kept his driver waiting from 11 p.m. until 1 a.m.

The source said McGreevey sometimes would have his security drop him off at Cipel's apartment, then pick him up later. Sometimes, McGreevey dismissed the troopers, telling them he would walk home.

Geez, the Governor even helped him pick out an apartment closeby, you'd think he could have walked all the time.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:55 PM


G.O.P. Group Says It's Ready to Wage Ad War (GLEN JUSTICE, 8/25/04, NY Times)

A day after President Bush called for an end to campaign spending by independent groups, one such Republican organization said on Tuesday that it had raised $35 million to counter Democratic attacks on television and hoped to wage a $125 million advertising campaign through Election Day.

The organization, the Progress for America Voter Fund, is the first Republican group to announce that it had raised a substantial amount of money to compete with Democratic-leaning groups that have collected tens of millions of dollars to attack the Bush-Cheney campaign on television.

Others may be poised to follow.

"We don't disagree with the president's take," the president of the group, Brian McCabe, said. "But we can't unilaterally disarm. There is extensive activity by the liberals, and we still need to counter them and level the playing field."

On Wednesday, the organization will begin commercials in Iowa and Wisconsin that attack Senator John Kerry's record on national security. Mr. McCabe said his group hoped to keep the spots running in the two states through the election and to add states as it raised money.

The President has already moved ahead in IA and WI and ad buys like this are going to leave a rapidly imploding Kerry campaign trying to defend blue states that it badly needed to be able to take for granted. By October the campaign may well have been reduced to a desperate bid by the Democrats to cling to states like CA, NY, IL, and MA.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:24 PM


TO: The National Endowment for the Arts--Film Division

FROM: The Brothers Judd


BUDGET: $50,000

(1) PT Cruiser

(10) cases Sam Adams

(1) black Labrador Retriever

(1) DVD movie camera

(5) nights at the Days Inn hotel in Anacostia

(?) Buckets of KFC (+ mashed potatos and biscuits)

(2) pair Ray-Ban sunglasses


In the spirit of Michael Moore's Roger & Me the filmmakers will prowl the halls of Congress and the Washington news bureaus of the major media desperately seeking any professional politician or political pundit who still thinks that Senator John Kerry's Democratic Convention speech--with set design by Max Fischer--was a good idea.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:31 PM


Can a Constitution Be Unconstitutional?: The battle for state marriage amendments leads to a power grab in Michigan. (Ted Olsen, 08/24/2004, Christianity Today: Weblog)

No one denies that Citizens for the Protection of Marriage has enough signatures to put a state constitutional amendment on Michigan's November 2 ballot. The organization needed around 317,700 signatures, but got 480,000 of them.

But yesterday, the four-member Michigan Board of State Canvassers deadlocked, thus blocking the amendment from appearing on the ballot.

"Democratic Canvasser Doyle O'Connor said the board should not place an amendment before voters that would be 'patently unlawful' and certain to be struck down by the courts if approved," the Detroit Free Press reports. "O'Connor sided with opponents of the marriage proposal who claim it would nullify existing benefits for unmarried partners offered by universities, local governments and private corporations, in addition to restricting marriage to heterosexual couples. To do so, he said, would violate other constitutional protections and 'could never be enforced. We know the courts would set it aside.'"

Huh. A constitutional amendment would be unlawful? That's odd. I wonder what other constitutional clauses are unlawful. Ooh! Maybe the whole separation of powers thing is illegal! Maybe Article II Section 2 of the Michigan Constitution is illegal! Here's what it says, after explaining how many signatures a petition to amend the constitution requires:

Any amendment proposed by such petition shall be submitted, not less than 120 days after it was filed, to the electors at the next general election. Such proposed amendment, existing provisions of the constitution which would be altered or abrogated thereby, and the question as it shall appear on the ballot shall be published in full as provided by law.

Huh. Nothing in there about the Board of State Canvassers needing to prophesy about what the courts might say.

Say this for the Left: they're going to make the rest of pry power from their cold, dead hands.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:49 PM


Deadline looms in Sudan crisis: Khartoum agrees to allow more African Union troops and monitors in Darfur. (Danna Harman, 8/26/04, CS Monitor)

Four days from a United Nations deadline to disarm and punish those responsible for killing an estimated 30,000 people during the 18-month crisis in western Sudan, two key questions remain: Has the Sudanese government made sufficient progress to stave off possible UN sanctions? Probably. And, critically, does the UN have the will to follow through with its threats? Probably not.

"Khartoum remains adept at saying and doing just enough to avoid a robust international response; but the fact is they have not satisfactorily fulfilled their obligations within the time period established by the [July 30 UN] resolution," charges John Prendergast, an Africa expert at the International Crisis Group (ICG), based in Washington. "What we need now is direct, concerted pressure - otherwise, the Security Council risks being part of a long cycle of threats that have rarely been followed up meaningfully." [...]

The main area of progress is on the humanitarian front. Back in June, aid groups were waiting months to get visas and travel permits, and supplies were getting blocked by customs. But this month at least six new nongovernmental organizations were given permits to operate in the region, and existing ones added staff and programs. Wednesday, the International Committee of the Red Cross announced plans to launch a major airlift to the region. It said it intends to make six trips into the region, carrying equipment and medical supplies, by Sept. 5.

"Pressure on the government has worked," says Adam Koons, director of Save the Children-USA in Sudan. "As horrible as the situation is, and much effort is still needed, we have averted enormous loss of life."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:06 PM


That '70s Show (JAMES TARANTO, August 25, 2004, Best of the Web Today)

"I called the media. . . . I said, 'If I take some crippled veterans down to the White House and we chain ourselves to the gates, will we get coverage?' 'Oh, yes, we will cover that.' "
--John Kerry, testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, April 22, 1971

"Kerry is sending to Crawford former Sen. Max Cleland of Georgia, a frequent companion of Kerry's on the campaign trail and a fellow Vietnam War veteran who lost three limbs during the war. Cleland . . . will try to deliver a letter protesting the [Swift Boat Veterans for Truth] ads to [President] Bush at his heavily guarded ranch, Kerry aides said."
--Reuters Aug. 25, 2004

Hi. I'm Max, but you can call me "some crippled veteran."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:41 PM


If He Only Had a Heart: John Kerry tanks on The Daily Show. (Dana Stevens, Aug. 25, 2004, Slate)

When my boyfriend and I heard that John Kerry was slated to be the guest on last night's Daily Show, we all but raced to the TiVo to set it on record. (Not that we ever miss The Daily Show anyway, but this would be one worth keeping.) What a "get" for Jon Stewart, the court jester of the 2004 election! And finally Kerry would have the chance to step down from the campaign stump and show people who are desperate for a reason to vote for him what he's really made of: his passion, his conviction, his much-vaunted (at least by his wife) sense of humor. Except, as Jon Stewart has been known to say: Eh, not so much.

From the moment the senator appeared and sat down on the gray sofa where, just last week, Bill Clinton basked in the audience's applause like a cat lapping up cream, Kerry's charisma was less than zero: It was negative. He was a charm vacuum, forced to actually borrow mojo from audience members. He was a dessicated husk, a tin man who really didn't have a heart. His lack of vibrancy, his utter dearth of sex appeal made Al Gore look like Charo.

Every time some Mexican-hating crank on the Right pens a screed for a journal read only by folks who miss Der Sturmer about how George Bush is a tool of the conniving cabal of hook-nosed neocons, people start barking about how he's in trouble with his base. Meanwhile, normal people in what we are informed is now called the MSM (or Main Stream Media) are just burying John Kerry for being a horrendous candidate, but somehow that same frenzy hasn't started yet. When it does it's hard to see how he stops the slide. Even when folks were pretending he had a shot at winning this election they had to acknowledge that no one likes him personally and that Democrats were picking him only because of his "electability." If he's not electable what does he have left? His medals are on the White House lawn and the money belongs to his wife, who doesn't seem too likely to pleased with her cabana boy if he costs her that First Lady gig. Maybe he will keep that Senate seat after all--though Paul Cellucci seems likely to win it from him in a couple years.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:02 PM



A new statewide poll of 400 registered voters conducted by KAET-TV/Channel 8 and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University August 19 - 22, 2004, found that President George Bush has increased his support in Arizona against Senator John Kerry in the last 30 days but the race is still a statistical dead heat. Forty-seven percent said they would vote for Bush, 39 percent were supporting Kerry and 14 percent were undecided. In July, 41 percent of those surveyed were supporting Bush, 42 percent were for Kerry and 17 percent were undecided. In the current poll, when undecided voters were asked who they were "leaning toward" supporting, 53 percent said they will vote for Bush and 47 percent for Kerry.

Among voters with the highest probability of voting,* the race tightened. Forty-five percent were voting for Bush, 42 percent for Kerry and 13 percent were undecided. The race for president in Arizona remains highly polarized. Eighty-six percent of Bush's supporters and 94 percent of Kerry's supporters said they are very firm in their commitment and are unlikely to change their mind between now and November.

The poll suggests that Bush's increasing support is largely coming from registered independents. While 14 percent of the Republicans said they would cross over to vote for Kerry and 14 percent of the Democrats said they would choose Bush, independents were supporting Bush by a two-to-one margin (52 percent to 26 percent). The survey also found that people who regularly attend religious services are much more supportive of Bush than Kerry (61 percent to 29 percent). No "gender gap" was found in this poll.

Fifty-one percent of those interviewed approved of the job Bush is doing as president, 43 percent disapproved and 6 percent had no opinion.

Posted by David Cohen at 3:21 PM


Letter to John Kerry (, 8/25/04)

August 25, 2004

Senator John Kerry
304 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Kerry,

We are pleased to welcome your campaign representatives to Texas today. We honor all our veterans, all whom have worn the uniform and served our country. We also honor the military and National Guard troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan today. We are very proud of all of them and believe they deserve our full support.

That’s why so many veterans are troubled by your vote AGAINST funding for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, after you voted FOR sending them into battle. And that’s why we are so concerned about the comments you made AFTER you came home from Vietnam. You accused your fellow veterans of terrible atrocities – and, to this day, you have never apologized. Even last night, you claimed to be proud of your post-war condemnation of our actions.

We’re proud of our service in Vietnam. We served honorably in Vietnam and we were deeply hurt and offended by your comments when you came home.

You can’t have it both ways. You can’t build your convention and much of your campaign around your service in Vietnam, and then try to say that only those veterans who agree with you have a right to speak up. There is no double standard for our right to free speech. We all earned it.

You said in 1992 “we do not need to divide America over who served and how.” Yet you and your surrogates continue to criticize President Bush for his service as a fighter pilot in the National Guard.

We are veterans too – and proud to support President Bush. He’s been a strong leader, with a record of outstanding support for our veterans and for our troops in combat. He’s made sure that our troops in combat have the equipment and support they need to accomplish their mission.

He has increased the VA health care budget more than 40% since 2001 – in fact, during his four years in office, President Bush has increased veterans funding twice as much as the previous administration did in eight years ($22 billion over 4 years compared to $10 billion over 8.) And he’s praised the service of all who served our country, including your service in Vietnam.

We urge you to condemn the double standard that you and your campaign have enforced regarding a veteran’s right to openly express their feelings about your activities on return from Vietnam.


Texas State Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson
Rep. Duke Cunningham
Rep. Duncan Hunter
Rep. Sam Johnson
Lt. General David Palmer
Robert O'Malley, Medal of Honor Recipient
James Fleming, Medal of Honor Recipient
Lieutenant Colonel Richard Castle (Ret.)

I know some of you are pessimistic but, really, is this campaign going to lose to that campaign?

MORE (from OJ)
Cleland Tries to Deliver Letter to Bush (The Associated Press, Aug. 25, 2004)

Former Democratic Sen. Max Cleland tried to deliver a letter protesting ads challenging John Kerry's Vietnam service to President Bush at his Texas ranch Wednesday, but neither a Secret Service official nor a state trooper would take it. [...]

Encountering a permanent roadblock to Bush's ranch, Cleland left without turning over the letter to anyone. [...]

A Texas state official and Vietnam veteran, Jerry Patterson, said someone from the Bush campaign contacted him Wednesday morning and asked him if he would travel to the ranch, welcome Cleland to Texas and accept the former senator's letter to Bush.

"I tried to accept that letter and he would not give it to me," said Patterson. "He would not face me. He kept rolling away from me. He's quite mobile."

Patterson, who spoke with the president on the phone, said the campaign asked him to give Cleland a letter for Kerry written by the Bush campaign and signed by Patterson and seven other veterans.

"You can't have it both ways," the letter said. "You can't build your convention and much of your campaign around your service in Vietnam, and then try to say that only those veterans who agree with you have a right to speak up."

Here's the second letter--in cards you'd call it a trump:
August 25, 2004

Senator John Kerry

304 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Kerry,

We are pleased to welcome your campaign representatives to Texas today. We honor all our veterans, all whom have worn the uniform and served our country. We also honor the military and National Guard (search) troops serving in Iraq (search) and Afghanistan (search) today. We are very proud of all of them and believe they deserve our full support.

That's why so many veterans are troubled by your vote AGAINST funding for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, after you voted FOR sending them into battle. And that's why we are so concerned about the comments you made AFTER you came home from Vietnam. You accused your fellow veterans of terrible atrocities - and, to this day, you have never apologized. Even last night, you claimed to be proud of your post-war condemnation of our actions.

We're proud of our service in Vietnam. We served honorably in Vietnam and we were deeply hurt and offended by your comments when you came home.

You can't have it both ways. You can't build your convention and much of your campaign around your service in Vietnam, and then try to say that only those veterans who agree with you have a right to speak up. There is no double standard for our right to free speech. We all earned it.

The pitiful thing--besides wheeling out ole Mad Max for the sympathy vote--is that the thousands of Kerry advisers think stunts like this, which only keep the story alive, are clever.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:17 PM


So Much for Free Speech (Robert J. Samuelson, August 25, 2004, Washington Post)

The presidential campaign has confirmed that, under the guise of "campaign finance reform," Congress and the Supreme Court have repealed large parts of the First Amendment. They have simply discarded what were once considered constitutional rights of free speech and political association. It is not that these rights have vanished. But they are no longer constitutional guarantees. They're governed by limits and qualifications imposed by Congress, the courts, state legislatures, regulatory agencies -- and lawyers' interpretations of all of the above.

We have entered an era of constitutional censorship. Hardly anyone wants to admit this -- the legalized demolition of the First Amendment would seem shocking -- and so hardly anyone does. The evidence, though, abounds. The latest is the controversy over the anti-Kerry ads by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and parallel anti-Bush ads by Democratic "527" groups such as Let's assume (for argument's sake) that everything in these ads is untrue. Still, the United States' political tradition is that voters judge the truthfulness and relevance of campaign arguments. We haven't wanted our political speech filtered.

Now there's another possibility. The government may screen what voters see and hear. The Kerry campaign has asked the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to ban the Swift Boat ads; the Bush campaign similarly wants the FEC to suppress the pro-Democrat 527 groups. We've arrived at this juncture because it's logically impossible both to honor the First Amendment and to regulate campaign finance effectively. We can do one or the other -- but not both. Unfortunately, Congress and the Supreme Court won't admit the choice. The result is the worst of both worlds. We gut the First Amendment and don't effectively regulate campaign finance.

The First Amendment says that Congress "shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or . . . the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government" (that's "political association''). The campaign finance laws, the latest being McCain-Feingold, blatantly violate these prohibitions.

Campaign Cops and Car Ads (George F. Will, August 22, 2004, Washington Post)
Russ Darrow -- "The Right Russ," his bumper stickers say -- is running in the Sept. 14 primary for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat held by Russ Feingold (D-Wis.). Feingold is a saint in the church of campaign finance reform because of the McCain-Feingold legislation enacted in 2002 to solve the supposed problem of "too much money in politics."

In 1965 Darrow founded a business -- Russ Darrow Group Inc. -- that now includes 22 dealerships selling new and used vehicles. It is operated today by Russ Darrow III. It runs broadcast, print and electronic (e-mail and other) advertising using the now valuable brand name "Russ Darrow."

McCain-Feingold's blackout provision says that 30 days before a primary, it is illegal for corporations -- a category that includes thousands of advocacy groups from Planned Parenthood to the National Rifle Association -- to finance any "electioneering communication" via radio or television that "refers to" a congressional candidate and is "targeted to the relevant electorate."

Because of that law, the company felt compelled to ask the Federal Election Commission whether it can continue to advertise when its founder is running for federal office. Common sense says the law was not intended to pertain to, and its language cannot be tortured to extend to, commercial advertising. But Common Cause thinks otherwise.

Clearly, car ads are not "electioneering communications." Hence mentioning Darrow's name as a brand name in a communication with no relevance to any election cannot consti- tute making a reference to a political candidate.

Nevertheless, Jay Heck, director of the Wisconsin operations of Common Cause, the national advocacy organization for enlarged government regulation of political advocacy, says: "Why should [Darrow] have an unfair advantage and be able to pay to have his name out there with corporate money, where his opponents have to use regulated, disclosed money?"

It is breathtaking. It is a measure of how many forms of speech have been made problematic by the campaign reformers' itch to extend government supervision of speech.

It would be a great time for the President to make a major campaign finance reform speech, putting down a marker so that he and the wider Republican majorities in Congress can revisit the law first thing in 2005 and make it consistent with the First Amendment.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:05 PM


Kerry's Dueling Promises on Economy: Position on Reducing Deficit Conflicts With Campaign Commitments (Jonathan Weisman, August 25, 2004, Washington Post)

Sen. John F. Kerry's pledge to reduce record federal budget deficits is colliding with an obstacle that may be growing higher by the week: his own campaign commitments.

A Washington Post review of Kerry's tax cuts and spending plans, in addition to interviews with campaign staff members and analyses by conservative and liberal experts, suggests that they could worsen the federal budget deficit by nearly as much as President Bush's agenda. If projected savings from unspecified cuts do not materialize, Kerry's pledges could outstrip those of the president, whom the Democrat has repeatedly accused of unprecedented fiscal recklessness.

"I wish Senator Kerry was providing a starker contrast," lamented Leonard E. Burman, a tax policy analyst at the Urban Institute, who was a Treasury Department official in the Clinton administration. "The [Bush] policies with respect to the deficit are insane. They have to be reversed. But it will take presidential leadership to do it."

"You have to begin with the premise that the steps you need to take to reduce deficits are almost diametrically opposed to the steps you need to take to win elections," said Leon E. Panetta, Bill Clinton's first budget director. "You can cut spending and raise taxes or you can cut taxes and raise spending."

Remember how economic conservatives were going to vote for Anybody But Bush because they'd have to be more fiscally responsible and pro-free trade?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:47 PM


Man Overboard (Richard Blow, 8/25/04,

The danger of the anti-Kerry attack is not that it will change many people’s minds about the Democratic candidate. As the Democratic convention showed, and the GOP convention will show, the vast majority of voters already know who they’re casting their ballots for. This polarized election is now about two things: Turning out your voters, and winning the undecideds, who are probably about five to 10 percent of the electorate. Near the end of a tight race, undecideds usually break for the challenger. If the incumbent hasn’t won them over after 46 months in office, he’s not likely to in the 60 days before Election Day. These voters are Kerry’s to lose, and that’s just what he may be doing.

Undecideds are finicky voters. They don’t like political brawls. They vote on the issues, and that’s good for Kerry: If this election is about Iraq, the economy and whether Americans are better off than they were in 2000, he wins. So Kerry has to give five to 10 percent of American voters a positive reason—a bold agenda, a plan for change—to vote for him. On the flip side, he must steer clear of an extended controversy that will alienate the undecideds.

But in his counterattack to the Vietnam question, Kerry has waded right into that controversy. This should have been a fringe issue, as Bush’s National Guard service has always been. (And it won’t work for Kerry to attack Bush on the National Guard question; it’s a vetted issue by now.) Instead, Vietnam has been dominating the headlines for days. People who would never even have known what a Swift boat is are now debating just how much blood John Kerry lost in Vietnam. Bob Dole, who appears to be losing some of his mental clarity but still has enormous credibility, said that Kerry should apologize to Vietnam vets. Ouch. Inevitably, some of the undecided voters will conclude that Kerry deserved his medals. Others won’t. Some will just get turned off, and not vote, which hurts Kerry more than it does Bush.

What's remarkable is that the Kerry campaign has managed to make such a mess in a slow news month when Americans should be debating Paul Hamm’s medal, not John Kerry’s. Misunderstanding the media this badly isn’t easy. Meanwhile, Bush has stayed above the fray, opining that the political ads of all independent groups should be prohibited. Such a ban will never happen—certainly not before November. But calling for it does make Bush sound statesmanlike.

If the economy and the war on terror worked in Mr. Kerry's favor he'd be running on them. Instead, the President is.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:39 PM


Get Mad. Act Out. Re-Elect George Bush.: Protesters risk playing into GOP hands (Rick Perlstein, August 24th, 2004, Village Voice)

One of the most exhilarating moments in Lewis Koch's life came in the summer of 1968. He was a producer for NBC News, based in Chicago, specializing in the anti-war movement—of which he was a sympathizer. Now, at the Democratic National Convention, he was an actor in what he thought was one of its glorious episodes. Cops were beating kids without provocation, and with the footage he was putting on the air, Middle America might finally realize that justice rested more with those protesting the war than those so violently defending it.

"I remember my self-satisfaction," Koch recalls, "and saying to myself, 'Oh, did you do a terrific job!' "

Then came the most traumatic moment in Lewis Koch's life.

"The phones would ring off the hook. People were furious. . . . Nothing I had intended had gone through. Actually what they saw were clear pictures of these young kids rioting. Chaos in their city." Next thing he knew, Richard Nixon had swept to presidential victory on the wings of a commercial proclaiming—above those selfsame pictures—that "the first civil right of every American is to be free from domestic violence."

Now Lew Koch senses déjà vu all over again in the loose talk among protesters of staging similar scenes at next week's Republican convention—talk that by putting the ugliness of the Bush regime on display, protesters thereby might end it. Koch's frustration is overwhelming. "What the protesters are saying is the same thing as the Weathermen: 'Bring the war home.' And you know what happens? You lose the war! They have guns. And they'll have the judges that Bush will appoint to the Supreme Court in the next four years."

It recalls the old philosopher's conundrum: When a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound? If resistance against Bush actually plays into Bush's hands, is it really resistance?

The parallels between Chicago 1968 and New York 2004 are striking.

It is resistance, it's just unpopular. That's the Left's problem and it has been for decades now--they have to hide their message from the citizenry.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 12:13 PM


Pollutants cause huge rise in brain diseases
(Juliette Jowit, The Guardian, August 15th, 2004)

The numbers of sufferers of brain diseases, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and motor neurone disease, have soared across the West in less than 20 years, scientists have discovered.

The alarming rise, which includes figures showing rates of dementia have trebled in men, has been linked to rises in levels of pesticides, industrial effluents, domestic waste, car exhausts and other pollutants, says a report in the journal Public Health.

In the late 1970s, there were around 3,000 deaths a year from these conditions in England and Wales. By the late 1990s, there were 10,000.

'This has really scared me,' said Professor Colin Pritchard of Bournemouth University, one of the report's authors. 'These are nasty diseases: people are getting more of them and they are starting earlier. We have to look at the environment and ask ourselves what we are doing.'

Well, Professor, what we are doing and have been for years is cutting pollution to record low levels, banning vices like smoking, inventing more and more miracle drugs and encouraging everyone from childhood on to work, play and eat with a view to living as long as they possibly can. However, if you want your funding renewed, you are well-advised to blame economic growth and enterprise. Your donors are getting on and would prefer not to confront the unsettling truth.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:45 AM


When to Hold 'Em: The U.S. should detain suspected terrorists—even if it can't make a case against them in court. (Thomas F. Powers, Sep/Oct 2004, Legal Affairs)

A number of prominent legal scholars and government officials, ranging from the liberal constitutional expert Laurence Tribe to the conservative federal judge Michael Chertoff, have begun to give serious consideration to the idea of preventive detention. Even Justice John Paul Stevens, who supports civil libertarian positions, admitted in the Padilla case that "[e]xecutive detention of subversive citizens, like detention of enemy soldiers to keep them off the battlefield, may sometimes be justified to prevent persons from launching or becoming missiles of destruction."

What about international law? The point is not that the United States should defy international law. It must not. But under the Geneva Conventions terrorists do not fit into the only two categories provided, POW or war criminal. Preventive detention responsibly addresses the question of what to do with fighters who do not wear uniforms or otherwise distinguish themselves from civilians in combat.

The government's critics explain the Administration's current policy either in terms of some institutional perversity (executive overreach) or by reference to some pathological "authoritarianism." But the failure thus far to devise a comprehensive policy reflects, at least in part, a liberal democratic hesitation in the face of a practice that appears to be fundamentally illiberal. The time has come to face terrorism squarely, and to craft a legal response that reflects our constitutional principles.

EXISTING U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE POLICIES extend some limited procedural rights to detainees. Most notable is the annual status review of every individual detained by the recently created Office for the Administrative Review of the Detention of Enemy Combatants. This, together with Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's insistence in Hamdi that all detainees be granted a hearing before a "neutral decisionmaker," and with the aid of legal counsel, provides a starting point.

How we proceed from there should be decided in light of the experience of other countries that have struggled to combat terrorism. If preventive detention is justified in large measure by the scope and intensity of the actual threat of terrorism, then England and Israel both surely qualify. More than 3,000 terrorism deaths are associated with the conflict in Northern Ireland, and more than 1,200 people have been killed by terrorists in Israel in the past decade alone.

Great Britain's indefinite internment policy, formalized in 1973 following the recommendations of a famous report authored by Lord Diplock on the situation in Northern Ireland, was allowed to lapse in 1980. Lord Diplock was reacting to a legally murky use of police power, one he termed "imprisonment at the arbitrary Diktat of the Executive Government." Though his reform proposal, incorporated in the 1973 Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act, made preventive detention a matter of administrative, not judicial, oversight, the new policy reasserted civilian control and included due process safeguards. No less a figure than the secretary of state for Northern Ireland made initial detention determinations. Within a period of 28 days, an administrative official would then review each case with the option to extend the detention. Those detained also had a right to be informed of their status hearing in advance, and they were granted the right to an attorney paid for by the government. After September 11, in the 2001 Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act, a limited version of the internment policy, applying only to non-citizens, was reintroduced in Britain.

In 1948 Israel inherited from the British an unofficial detention policy that was formally articulated in the 1979 Administrative Detention Law. Partly in response to provisions of international law, administrative detention is justified, as it is in England, only under a state of emergency—a status Israel has invoked and lived under continuously since 1948. The minister of defense must authorize each case. Detention orders are issued for six months at a time and may be renewed at the end of that period. In Israel the civilian courts provide oversight, first by "confirming" the initial detention order and then by reviewing the status of each detainee every three months, overlapping with the review, every six months, by the minister of defense. Detainees have the right to an attorney, and the right to be present at their confirmation hearing and at all subsequent judicial proceedings.

THE POLICIES OF BRITAIN AND ISRAEL each moved in the same direction: toward greater legal clarity and toward more extensive due process protections. The United States should take advantage of those countries' experiences to find ways to build due process into preventive detention. Current U.S. policy reflects a reactive and piecemeal approach. Designing a preventive detention policy means, in effect, creating a separate legal system that applies only to a small class of persons, a system running parallel to criminal law on the one hand, and to the laws governing POWs and war criminals on the other.

A comprehensive policy must specify standards and procedures in six key areas: 1) preliminary screening and determination of status; 2) a hearing at which detainees may challenge their status; 3) the right of appeal; 4) periodic reconsideration and renewal of status, or release; 5) general legal support, including notification and access to attorneys, evidence, and witnesses; and 6) clear standards of treatment for detainees. Some of this is already in place in Defense Department practices, but it needs to be pulled together, clarified, and made explicit for anyone who wants to know about the country's policy. [...]

In England and Israel, preventive detention has been highly controversial. Though Lord Diplock was essentially a reformer, and though his report on Northern Ireland brought legal clarity and constraint to what he and others perceived to be runaway executive power, his name is often associated with authoritarian excess. Fashioning a preventive detention policy is likely to be a thankless task here as well. The name of the architect of America's preventive detention policy may well become associated with an innovation that will be loved by none and hated by many. But the benefit would be to bring the rule of law to bear even here, where the Bush Administration has made clear that it is only so willing to check its own power.

The glory of republicanism is not that liberty is unlimited but that it is protected from arbitrary and capricious interference. However, the competition between our understandable reluctance to give government too much power and our inevitable demand that government protect us from threats at any cost, tends to force us into precisely the kind of situation where
we do restrain liberty arbitrarily.

As Mr. Powers argues, it would be far better to be honest with ourselves and accept that we are going to take the steps necessary to guard against the threat of terrorism and to craft a careful and consistent set of laws and regulations that apply universally. Measures like preventive detention and torture may be distasteful, but we expect and want them to be utilized on our behalf. It's incumbent upon us as citizens then to set grant permission to and set guidelines for those government officials we wish to do our dirty work.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:00 AM

BRIGHT IDEA, EDISON (via Charlie Herzog):

'Sense of hope' on schools (Susan Snyder, Connie Langland and Alletta Emeno, 8/25/04, Philadelphia Inquirer)

In a dramatic improvement, the Philadelphia School District nearly tripled the number of schools that met achievement requirements under the federal No Child Left Behind law, statistics released yesterday show.

The success mirrored statewide improvements.

Of the district's 264 schools, 160 met the mark for making "adequate yearly progress," which is based largely on test scores, graduation and attendance rates. Only 58 were at the standard in the 2003 report. This is the second year that the state has identified schools that need improvement.

In Philadelphia - which was taken over by the state three years ago because of dismal academic performance and financial struggle - education advocates were thrilled.

"I think we've given people a sense of hope that we can turn around an urban school system," said State Rep. Dwight Evans (D., Phila.), speaking at a news conference at school district headquarters. [...]

In Philadelphia, improvement was charted in all kinds of district schools - those run by outside managers, such as Edison Schools Inc., charter schools and regular district schools.

"The results show that each partner's unique approach under the district's managed instruction model has contributed to today's success," said James Nevels, chairman of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission.

Of the 45 city schools run by outside managers, 23 met the performance standards, up from seven last year.

Edison Schools Inc., which came to the city under controversy because of its for-profit status, increased from one of its 20 schools making adequate progress to 12.

"The controversy, the complicated entrance to Philadelphia, was, frankly, worth it," Edison spokesman Adam Tucker said.

(The firm, however, did not fare quite as well in the Chester Upland School District, where it manages eight schools. Two made the target, up from one last year.)

Charter schools in Philadelphia also posted strong gains. Twenty of the 43 charters met adequate yearly progress, compared with only four last year, district officials said.

Is Senator Kerry for or against this kind of progress this week?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:47 AM


Vast New Energy Source Almost Here (SPX, Aug 25, 2004)

Australian scientists predict that a revolutionary new way to harness the power of the sun to extract clean and almost unlimited energy supplies from water will be a reality within seven years.

Using special titanium oxide ceramics that harvest sunlight and split water to produce hydrogen fuel, the researchers say it will then be a simple engineering exercise to make an energy-harvesting device with no moving parts and emitting no greenhouse gases or pollutants.

It would be the cheapest, cleanest and most abundant energy source ever developed: the main by-products would be oxygen and water.

"This is potentially huge, with a market the size of all the existing markets for coal, oil and gas combined," says Professor Janusz Nowotny, who with Professor Chris Sorrell is leading a solar hydrogen research project at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Centre for Materials and Energy Conversion.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:24 AM


Kerry Makes Illegal Phone Call to Swift Boat Veteran (NewsMax, 8/25/04)

Kerry's latest faux pas: calling Vietnam veteran Robert "Friar Tuck" Brant and asking if he knew about that awful group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

"I said, 'I am one, John,'" Brant said.

The Massachusetts Democrat failed to note that Brant had appeared at a news conference announcing the group in May.

"There was a moment of hesitation, and he said, `I appreciate your honesty.' He said, `Well, why are you?'"

Brant reminded Kerry of his depiction of veterans as war criminals. "I said, `You know that's not true,'" Brant recalled to the Associated Press. "That's been simmering in me about 35 years."

The New York Post reported today: "Sean McCabe, a spokesman for the 264-member organization, said it plans to send a cease-and-desist letter warning Kerry 'to stop calling our members,' because it's an independent '527' group and it's illegal for campaigns to contact them."

The senator was breaking the law and should have immediately ended the call when Brant said he was a member of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, Fox News Channel's "Fox & Friends" reported this morning.

Nothing new for a guy who negotiated with the North Vietnamese illegally.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:13 AM


Orders for Durable Goods Make Big Gain: U.S. factories see orders for durable goods rise by 1.7 percent in July (JEANNINE AVERSA, August 25, 2004, Associated Press)

U.S. factories saw orders for costly manufactured goods in July post the biggest gain in four months, an encouraging sign that the economy is emerging from an early summer funk.

The Commerce Department reported Wednesday that orders for durables goods - big-ticket items expected to last at least three years - rose by 1.7 percent in July from the previous month - lifted by stronger demand for goods including airplanes, machinery and communications equipment.

The increase - the largest since March - followed a 1.1 percent advance in June. The showing in July was stronger than the 1 percent rise that some economists were forecasting.

The latest snapshot of manufacturing activity joins some other recent economic reports suggesting the economy may be picking up a bit of momentum after being stuck in a rut in June.

Asked for its reaction, the Kerry campaign responded that the Senator was in Cambodia on December 28th 1968, not the 25th.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:56 AM


Would Kerry have won the Cold War? (Terence Jeffrey, August 25, 2004, Townhall)

Reagan's conventional military buildup, European missile deployment and refusal to cave on SDI broke the will of an evil empire.

Now, here's why this is important today: Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry opposed all the key policies Reagan used to win a bloodless victory in the Cold War.

In his first Senate race in 1984, Kerry championed the nuclear freeze. In September 1985, two months before Reagan met Gorbachev in Geneva, when freezeniks held their own Geneva summit, Kerry was their star. "Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., keynote speaker for the Geneva freeze meeting," United Press International reported at the time, "told the activists that 'if it were not for the freeze movement, I am confident that the government of the United States would not be in Geneva today talking with its Soviet counterparts.'"

In August 1986, two months before Reagan met Gorbachev in Reykjavik, Kerry fought to pre-emptively scuttle SDI. After a measure to steeply reduce SDI funding failed in the Senate, Kerry, according to the Associated Press, "called Star Wars 'a cancer' and said 'what we must do is deny this program the funds that would enable this cancer on our nation's defense to grow any further.'"

What about Reagan's buildup of conventional weapons (which still benefits U.S. forces today)? "(C)andidate Kerry in 1984 said he would have voted to cancel many of them -- the B-1 bomber, B-2 stealth bomber, AH-64 Apache helicopter, Patriot missile, the F-15, F-14A and F-14D jets, the AV-8B Harrier jet, the Aegis air-defense cruiser, and the Trident missile system," the Boston Globe reported.

So the Vietnam portion of the Kerry campaign lasts at least until the GOP convention, then we get a few weeks of him justifying his anti-war activities and Senate testimony, and only then do we get to the point where he has to defend his abysmal record as an elected official. Maybe the Democrats should have had contested primaries after all?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:38 AM


July fails to chill housing market (JEANNINE AVERSA, 8/25/04, Associated Press)

Sales of previously owned homes declined in July but still posted their third-best sales pace on record -- a sign that the housing market, while slowing a bit, remains in good shape.

The National Association of Realtors reported Tuesday that sales of existing homes fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.72 million units, representing a 2.9 percent decrease from June's record-high pace of 6.92 million units. [...]

Even though the drop nationwide in July was steeper than the 2 percent decline some economists were forecasting, the level of sales was still considered buoyant. July's sales were running 8.6 percent higher than the pace for the same month last year.

''We're off the highs, but the levels we are at are very, very healthy,'' said David Lereah, the association's chief economist.

He said he expects sales of previously owned homes to set record highs for all of 2004.

Richard Yamarone, an economist at Argus Research Corp., agreed with that assessment, saying he has no worries about the health of the housing market.

Just because we have a growing economy, rising population and record employment doesn't mean the housing market can stay strong....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:30 AM


Putting Caps on Teenage Drinking: A nationwide plan to reduce underage drinking is long overdue. ( JIM GOGEK, 8/25/04, NY Times)

Bold government initiatives can be effective. This summer, we're celebrating the 20th anniversary of the minimum drinking age of 21, signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1984. That legislation has saved an estimated 20,000 lives. An adequately financed, nationwide plan to reduce underage drinking, adhering to the National Academy report, would save even more lives. But so far, it looks like underage drinking will only be fought by impoverished advocacy groups, a scattering of state officials and trial lawyers who see the story of tobacco litigation about to repeat itself.

You don't need more money, just take away the driver's license of anyone under 21 who's caught drinking or using drugs and don't let them have it back until they're over 21. You'd be using the same peer pressure that gets them to misbehave in the first place. The humiliation of not being able to drive when all your friends can would be a powerful motivator.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:24 AM


Panama leader may pardon 4 Castro foes to spite Cuba: Angry over criticism from Havana, Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso said she will consider a pardon for four jailed anti-Castro Cuban exiles. (NANCY SAN MARTIN, 8/25/04, Miami Herald)

Angered by Cuban attacks, Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso Tuesday was considering pardoning four anti-Castro Cuban exiles jailed in Panama -- and ordered the ''immediate'' departure of Havana's ambassador to Panama.

In Miami, leaders of a group of exiles who have supported the four by raising $400,000 for their defense said they were ''elated'' with Moscoso's announcement but denied reports that they had lobbied the Panamanian president for pardons.

The twin actions by Moscoso, whose term expires next Monday, plunged Panama-Cuba relations to a historic low and may leave the incoming government of President-elect Martin Torrijos with a diplomatic mess on its hands. [...]

The four men jailed include three Miami exiles and Luis Posada Carriles, an El Salvador resident labeled by Havana as its most wanted terrorist. They were arrested in 2000 in Panama City after President Fidel Castro, visiting for a heads-of-state summit, alleged at a news conference that the exiles were plotting to kill him.

They were cleared of the murder charges and possession of 33 pounds of explosives but were convicted in April of endangering the public safety and given sentences of up to eight years in prison. Posada and the three Miamians -- Pedro Remón, Guillermo Novo and Gaspar Jiménez -- claimed they were in Panama to help a Cuban general who was to accompany Castro and supposedly had planned to defect.

And people think Sadr has held Najaf for too long?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:17 AM


Sistani's rescue bid (Peyman Pejman, 8/26/04, Asia Times)

In the latest twist, supreme Shi'ite leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said that he would return to Iraqi on Wednesday and ask all Iraqis to "march to Najaf in order to rescue the city". Sistani has been receiving medical treatment in London, where he arrived a day after the latest bout of fighting began three weeks ago.

"We want a stop to this bloodshed in the city of Najaf," said an aide to Sistani, Sheikh Ali Smaisem. "We will negotiate with the same delegation from the [Iraqi] National Conference, and we want them to bring a representative from the government." Smaisem was referring to a delegation of eight Iraqi dignitaries who visited Najaf last week and were unable to broker a peaceful end to the crisis.

"His eminence Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani will arrive in beloved Iraq in a few hours and he will return to the holy city of Najaf to rescue it from its ordeal," spokesman Hamed al-Khafaf said in an e-mail sent to The Associated Press in Beirut on Wednesday morning.

This could have no better outcome than to strengthen al-Sistani.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:13 AM


Alan Keyes's Daffy Idea to Repeal the 17th Amendment (Lewis Gould, HNN)

Alan Keyes, the Republican senatorial candidate in Illinois, has now joined Senator Zell Miller of Georgia and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay in calling for repeal of the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution, the one that provides for the direct election of United States senators. Senator Miller, who has introduced his own amendment to repeal the Seventeenth, contends that the direct election of senators “was the death of the careful balance between state and federal governments.” Once the Senate was the province of members “who thoughtfully make up their own minds, as they did during the Senate’s greatest era of Clay, Webster, and Calhoun.” Now senators, in Miller’s view, “are mere cat’s paws for the special interests.” Miller favors returning the right to elect senators to the state legislatures who had that job until the Seventeenth Amendment was ratified in 1913. Keyes agrees since it seems likely that the Illinois electorate is not going to prove receptive to his bid for that state’s open Senate seat. Before this flawed idea gets any traction, it would be well to recall the historical circumstances that led to the adoption of the direct election amendment in the first place.

Why did Americans in the Progressive Era endorse this change in the nation’s fundamental law?

Articles about Mr. Obama are a function of his race, about Mr. Keyes a function of his ideas. Would you rather be the token or the provocateur?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:07 AM


9/11 Panel Leader Has Praise for Plan to Split C.I.A.: Thomas H. Kean called a proposal to break up the C.I.A. and move other intelligence agencies outside the Pentagon a "constructive alternative" to the commission's proposals. (PHILIP SHENON, 8/25/04, NY Times)

The testimony Tuesday from Mr. Kean and the commission's deputy chairman, Lee H. Hamilton, may be useful to Mr. Roberts in pursuing his legislation, which has been fiercely attacked by several influential members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike, and has clearly shocked officials at the C.I.A. and the Pentagon.

Their comments suggested that Mr. Kean and Mr. Hamilton were willing to work with Mr. Roberts and his allies in the Senate and House to fashion legislation that would accomplish their common goal, an intelligence overhaul far more sweeping than anything that the Bush administration has suggested it would accept.

In a statement issued late Monday to employees of the C.I.A., the acting director of central intelligence, John E. McLaughlin, described Mr. Roberts's plan as a "step backward" and said, "We are nowhere near the end of this debate." He predicted that there would be no "breakup of the C.I.A. given the agency's vital front-line role in the war on terror."

President's don't often get handed opportunities to radically restructure the bureaucracy--Mr. Bush should seize this one. Centralization is a terrible idea; but you can do a lot of other constructive things--not least getting rid of CIA and tossing the civil service rules--under cover of the Roberts plan.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:56 AM


Democrats Travel to Bush's Ranch Asking Him to Denounce Ads (Bloomberg, 8/25/04)

Former Democratic Senator Max Cleland plans to travel today to President George W. Bush's ranch to demand that he denounce television ads accusing Democratic challenger John Kerry of lying about his war record.

Cleland, 61, who lost both legs and his right arm during the Vietnam War, is to be accompanied on his trip to the Crawford, Texas, ranch, by former U.S. Army Green Beret Jim Rassmann, who credits Kerry with rescuing him from a river in Vietnam.

Boy, Max Cleland has no pride, huh? His official role in the campaign is to be a stage prop.

The Sampan incident (Pat Buchanan, August 25, 2004, Townhall)

Steve Gardner will not forget the night as long as he lives. It was mid-January 1969. He was manning the double .50 caliber machine-gun mount in Lt. John Kerry's swift boat. "The PCF 44 boat, engines shut off, lay in ambush near the western mouth of the Cua Lon River," writes John O'Neill in his best-seller "Unfit for Command."

Kerry was in the pilothouse monitoring the radar. But, Gardner claims, Kerry had given his crew no heads-up when, suddenly, a sampan appeared right in front of them. The swift boat lights were thrown onto the sampan. Kerry, however, still had said nothing and was nowhere in sight. Gardner yelled to the sampan to stop. No reaction.

Then, as Gardner and crew thought they saw a man on the sampan holding or reaching for a weapon, they cut loose with the machine guns.

But when the crew boarded the sampan, they found no man on the boat, just a woman clutching a child no more than 2 years old and the shattered body of a boy. The man who had been piloting the sampan was believed to have been blasted into the water.

Here was a tragedy of war. But it is the contention of O'Neill and Gardner that Kerry bears responsibility for the boy's death.

Can't wait for the claim that Pat is a tool of Karl Rove.

Posted by David Cohen at 8:02 AM


Kerry does "The Daily Show" (Mary Dalrymple, AP, 8/24/04)

As Kerry launched into one of his lengthy monologues about why President Bush avoids talking about issues like the economy, jobs and the environment, the comedian interrupted.

"I'm sorry," Stewart said. "Were you or were you not in Cambodia?"

Stewart and Kerry then lean in and stare each other down over the comedian's desk before Stewart asks about some of the other things Kerry's opponents are saying about him. . . .

Kerry said the debates would be a challenge. "The president has won every debate he's ever had," Kerry said. "He beat Ann Richards. He beat Al Gore. So, he's a good debater."

One of the things that Al Gore was good at (notice how kind I'm being) was self-deprecating humor. It always led one to suspect, all evidence to the contrary not withstanding, that there might actually be a human being somewhere inside. Apparently, John Kerry is no Al Gore.

He's also not much of a politician. He didn't answer the Cambodia question. What the heck is the point of going on a comedy show if you're not going to take the opportunity -- friendly questioner, no follow up, relatively uninformed audience, inherent deniability -- to say anything you want ("It's a little embarrassing, but... actually, we were looking for weapons of mass destruction."). The only thing he does here that even approaches good politics, and it is so basic that having to credit him for it is a little sad, is try to lower debate expectations. Too bad that ship has sailed. If your supporters are calling your opponent a chimp and a moron, how do you tell them that you might not be up to the task of debating him?

*The only joke I came up with was lame, so here's a contest. We are looking for a good Cambodia joke, from John Kerry's POV, making light of the Cambodia controversy (John Kerry's version of Reagan's "I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent's youth and inexperience"). The best joke left in the comments by midnight Wednesday will receive my used copy of James Lilek's book, "Mr. Obvious."

The contest is now closed. The winner will be announced this evening. Thanks to everyone who participated.

And the winner is ... Mike Earl. The actual John Kerry couldn't deliver this line properly, but a competent politician could use a line like this to move the focus back to the President and to what the Democrats have to hope is their ace in the hole. Mike: Send me an email with the address to which you would like the book sent.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:08 AM


Report: Russian Jet Sent Hijack Signal (The Associated Press, Aug. 24, 2004)

The Russian plane that went missing around the time as another jet crashed issued a signal indicating a hijacking or seizure before disappearing from radar, the Interfax news agency quoted an unnamed government source as saying Wednesday.

The signal came at 11:04 p.m. Tuesday from the Tu-154 airliner that went missing in southern Russia's Rostov region, Interfax quoted the source in Russia's "power structures" as saying.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 AM


Oil Prices Fall for 3rd Day as Fears Ease (JAD MOUAWAD, 8/25/04, NY Times)

Oil prices fell for a third day on Tuesday, retreating from the record highs of near $50 a barrel set last week, as exports from Iraq resumed and traders worried less about supply shortages.

In New York, light low-sulfur crude for October delivery fell 84 cents, to $45.21 a barrel, on Tuesday. On Friday, the last day for trading September contracts, the price briefly hit $49.40 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange before falling to $48.70.

Oil prices remain about a third higher than they were in July, run up by a succession of geopolitical threats to supply - renewed fighting in Iraq, legal squabbling in Russia and political infighting in Venezuela. Most oil-producing countries are pumping all they can, leaving the market little capacity to adjust if a big producer halts exports.

Events in Iraq have dominated trading on the oil markets this month. Prices rose when Iraqi exports were halved, then fell this week on reports that exports had resumed in the north of the country and returned to normal in the south.

"There's a lot of politics in the price, a lot of expectations of the worst," said Mehdi Varzi, senior energy consultant at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein in London.

Since the price hikes have been almost entirely psychological it could fall a long way once it starts down.

August 24, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:43 PM


Campaign Journalists: Has Swift Boat Story Gone on Too Long? (Joe Strupp, August 24, 2004, Editor & Publisher)

As Sen. John Kerry spoke to supporters at a campaign event in New York City's East Village Tuesday afternoon, the swift boat controversy that has enveloped his run for the White House in recent weeks was on the minds of many of the journalists present.

After the speech, when approached by an E&P reporter as he worked the crowd, Kerry declined twice to answer when asked what he thought of press coverage of the swift boat issue. After a third time, the candidate finally said, "I'm talking about the economy, jobs, health care and things that matter to Americans."

Kerry had raised the issue briefly during the speech at Cooper Union, declaring "we have seen a calculated effort to evade the debate. The Bush campaign and its allies have turned to the tactics of fear and smear because they can't talk about jobs, health care, energy independence, and rebuilding our alliances."

Some of the reporters covering Kerry said that the candidate had become less accessible on the campaign plane in recent weeks, with a few speculating that it might be because he did not want to face questions about the swift boat issue. But among them, different views arose over the swift boat story, with some saying it had gone on too long and others believing it was news that had to be covered.

"What I've heard from colleagues is that people feel it probably has had too long a life," said Frank James, a Chicago Tribune reporter. "We wish someone would put a stake in this vampire."

James also said some wondered why Kerry did not take on the issue himself earlier on. "He should have knocked it down early, but the campaign clearly thought it would go away."

A candidate can survive a press corps that doesn't like him personally, but not one that doesn't respect him professionally. The press and fellow Democrats would appear to have begun questioning the Senator's competence.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:24 PM


A LIGHTER TOUCH OF EVIL (Alexander Zaitchik, NY Press)

TO GRASP HOW much has changed in the last five years, consider this: During the Seattle WTO protests of 1999, one of the protestors' biggest nemeses in the media was a rookie New York Times columnist named Paul Krugman. Krugman's articles attacking the protestors weren't as snide as Tom Friedman's—the mustachioed one penned a piece that week called "Senseless in Seattle," in which he claimed the protestors were just out for a "1960's fix"—but they were close. The Princeton professor had no patience for the anti-corporate-globalization demonstrators who chanted, "This is what democracy looks like," and descended to inventing the Friedman-esque tag "Seattle Man" to describe people who don't know what they were talking about. Activists spat Krugman's name in disgust when they passed around his columns that week.

That was then. It isn't necessary to recount how a free-trade economist emerged as a guiding spirit of this week's RNC protest. It's enough to note that the globalization debate has been sidelined by the radical policies and undemocratic thrust of the current administration, which Krugman has heroically helped bring into crisp focus. Those who cursed Krugman in Seattle five years ago may still disagree with him about steel tariffs and the benevolence of large corporations, but most have put all that aside to join him in the Popular Front this November.

One of these days, when he returns to his senses, Mr. Krugman will feel like Bill Murray's character did in Lost in Translation when he woke up and realized he'd just slept with the lounge singer.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:18 PM


Kerry Says 'I Stood Up' Against Vietnam War (Carol Giacomo, 8/24/04, Reuters)

John Kerry on Tuesday firmly defended his outspoken opposition to the Vietnam War, saying when the United States was in moral crisis over the conflict in the1970s "I stood up and was counted."

Confronting an issue that has embittered some veterans and helped fuel an election year attack on his military service, the Massachusetts senator said voters "can judge my character" by his Vietnam record.

"Because when the times of moral crisis existed in this country, I wasn't taking care of myself. I was taking care of public policy. I was taking care of things that made a difference to the life of this nation," Kerry told a fund-raiser in this critical battleground state.

"You may not have agreed with me, but I stood up and was counted and that's the kind of president I will be," he added.

"Where's that shark tank?"

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:37 PM


Kerry backs off on medal claim: After WND story on journal discrepancy spokesman says no enemy fire 'possible' (Art Moore, August 24, 2004,

After WorldNetDaily's report last week of a discrepancy in John Kerry's personal account of his first Purple Heart, his presidential campaign has backed off on claims that he was wounded from enemy fire.

WND reported that nine days after Kerry claims he was hit by hostile fire in 1968, he wrote in his journal as he set out on a subsequent mission, "A cocky feeling of invincibility accompanied us up the Long Tau shipping channel because we hadn't been shot at yet, and Americans at war who haven't been shot at are allowed to be cocky."

The Kerry campaign has not responded to repeated requests from WND for a response, including a call this morning. But yesterday, Fox News host Major Garrett confronted John Hurley, national coordinator of Veterans for John Kerry, asking him on camera if it is possible the first Purple Heart did not result from an incident involving enemy fire.

Hurley replied, "Anything is possible ... ."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:59 PM


Swift Boats And Old Wounds (David S. Broder, August 24, 2004, Washington Post)

I remember precisely when this premonition of perpetual division first struck me. On Aug. 19, 1992, the third night of the Republican National Convention in Houston, Barbara Bush and Marilyn Quayle were the featured speakers. The first lady praised her husband's fine qualities and Mrs. Quayle turned her fire on the Bill Clinton Democrats, who had just finished their convention in New York.

Through almost gritted teeth, Marilyn Quayle declared that those people in Madison Square Garden, who were claiming the mantle of leadership for a new generation, were usurpers. "Dan and I are members of the baby boom generation, too," she said. "We are all shaped by the times in which we live. I came of age in a time of turbulent social change. Some of it was good, such as civil rights; much of it was questionable."

And then she drew the line that has not been erased: "Remember, not everyone joined in the counterculture. Not everyone demonstrated, dropped out, took drugs, joined in the sexual revolution or dodged the draft. Not everyone concluded that American society was so bad that it had to be radically remade by social revolution. . . . The majority of my generation lived by the credo our parents taught us: We believed in God, in hard work and personal discipline, in our nation's essential goodness, and in the opportunity it promised those willing to work for it. . . . Though we knew some changes needed to be made, we did not believe in destroying America to save it."

When she finished, I turned to my Post colleague Dan Balz, a contemporary of the Clintons and the Quayles, and said, "I suddenly have this vision -- that when you guys reach the nursing homes, you're going to be leaning on your walkers and beating each other with your canes, because you still will not have settled the arguments from the Sixties."

Of course John Kerry and his ilk should be forgiven, just as soon as they apologize for trying to destroy the village and ask forgiveness. That the Senator realizes he should not be proud of his anti-war past is amply demonstrated by the fact that he's trying to hide it and run on his war service instead.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:50 PM


Democratic mayor backs Bush (JOE GORMAN, 8/24/04, Tribune Chronicle)

YOUNGSTOWN - Mayor George McKelvey announced Monday that he is endorsing President Bush for re-election in November.

The two-term Democratic mayor, who also has served as 3rd-Ward councilman and county auditor, said he will not switch parties, but may speak at the Republican convention later this month in New York if he can work out the logistics of flying there from a family vacation in the Caribbean.

"I have a 24-hour pass,'' McKelvey joked.

The mayor also added that he may have an opportunity to address the convention if he attends.

McKelvey said he usually does not issue an endorsement during a presidential campaign, but he said he decided to come out publicly for Bush because this election is "the most important of my lifetime.'' [...]

McKelvey said that for more than a century, area voters unflinchingly supported Democrats in national elections and have very little to show for it.

"During the campaign, they promise us they will deliver the beef, and after we give them our overwhelming support, not only do they not give us the beef, we don't even get the bun,'' McKelvey said.

McKelvey also said that Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., Bush's rival for the presidency, has a bad habit of promising everything to voters.

"In my book, when you stand for everything, you stand for nothing,'' McKelvey said.

In other words, Ohio isn't actually in play.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:18 PM

NO, SERIOUSLY, WOLF! (via Robert Duquette):

The Funding of America (Stephen Roach, Morgan Stanley)

With the United States pushing the envelope on macro imbalances, the funding of its “twin deficits” -- budget and trade -- has taken on great importance in shaping world financial markets. In the end, these deficits matter only if they have consequences for asset prices and/or the real economy. So far, that has not been the case. Courtesy of massive foreign capital inflows into dollar-denominated assets, America has not been penalized for its profligate ways. Can this continue? [...]

Ever-widening current account deficits and ever-falling domestic saving rates are simply not sustainable developments for any economy. All foreign and US officials can do in such a climate is step up their efforts in containing sharp adjustments in asset prices and attempt to buy time. That’s the essence of the strategy that seems to lie behind the dramatic pick-up in foreign official buying of US securities since last fall. Despite the falloff in May and June, TIC data reveal that official purchases accounted for fully 35% of total net foreign purchases of dollar-denominated securities over the September 2003 to June 2004 period; that’s more than double the longer-term norm of 14% and fully four and half times the 7.6% share prevailing, on average, over the 2000-02 period. There can be little doubt as to why foreign policy makers -- especially those in Asia -- have intensified their campaign to support the dollar; lacking in domestic demand and fearful that their external demand support would be eroded by stronger home currencies, they simply can’t afford to face the alternative.

There is a worrisome precedent for this shifting mix of foreign capital inflows from private to official funding. The last time it happened in the context of a US current account problem was in the months leading up to the stock market crash in October 1987. During the pre-crash period, private foreign buying of US securities started to falter as America’s external adjustment put further downward pressure on the dollar. In an effort to stem the decline of the US currency, foreign officials stepped up to fill the void. Over the January to September 1987 period, TIC data reveal that the official share of foreign purchases averaged 47.3% -- nearly four times the 13% share of 1986. This strategy was aimed at offsetting the natural venting function of financial markets that normally comes into play during a current account adjustment. However, as the Crash of 1987 indicates, this approach was ultimately destined to fail. In my view, that’s precisely the risk today -- especially with the US current account deficit (5.1% of GDP in early 2004) well in excess of what it was in the mid-1980s (3.5% at its peak in late 1986). As this earlier episode reveals, official support for currencies of economies that have large current account deficits turned out to be a last-gasp, losing effort. The lesson: For economies in disequilibrium, the venting function of financial markets ultimately cannot be denied. [...]

The bottom line in all this is that the external funding of a saving-short US economy is on exceedingly shaky ground. While foreign demand for dollar-based securities moved back to its recent trend in June, that hardly eases the burden of America’s massive financing imperatives. Meanwhile, with the US trade deficit exploding and the current account gap likely to keep widening, there is nothing stable about America’s dependence on the “kindness of strangers.” The day will inevitably come when foreign investors -- already heavily exposed to dollars -- will reassess risk-adjusted return expectations of US securities. That’s what happened in the fall of 1987, and there are increasingly worrisome signs of a replay of that same ominous chain of events.

These problems are of little concern to the average investor. The same is true of US politicians -- those largely responsible for this sad state of affairs. After all, goes the logic, the world has learned to live with America’s outsize deficits. Why can’t it continue to do so indefinitely? In my view, this is yet another example of the “greater fool theory” that took NASDAQ to 5000 four and a half years ago. All the classic symptoms of a US current-account adjustment are now evident. At the same time, the stewards of globalization -- the IMF, the BIS, the OECD, and even the Federal Reserve -- are now all on the same page in sounding the alarm. It’s high time to take these warnings seriously. The funding of America is an accident waiting to happen.

All of us are old enough to remember the Depression of the late '80s; the wrenching process by which we were forced to balance our trade and our budgets; the difficulties we faced funding our war against the Soviets; the punishment the Republicans took in the '88 election for leading us into disaster; and we still pity those poor investors who were saddled with American stocks and bonds which are today only worth....oops, wait, never mind.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:07 PM


Vietnam Boomerang: John Kerry's "war crimes" libel returns to haunt him. (Wall Street Journal, August 24, 2004)

The issue here, as I have heard it raised, is was he present and active on duty in Alabama at the times he was supposed to be. . . . Just because you get an honorable discharge does not in fact answer that question.
--John Kerry, questioning President Bush's military-service record, February 8, 2004.

A good rule in politics is that anyone who picks a fight ought to be prepared to finish it. But having first questioned Mr. Bush's war service, and then made Vietnam the core of his own campaign for President, Mr. Kerry now cries No mas! because other Vietnam vets are assailing his behavior before and after that war. And, by the way, Mr. Bush is supposedly honor bound to repudiate them.

We've tried to avoid the medals-and-ribbons fight ourselves, except to warn Mr. Kerry that he was courting precisely such scrutiny ("Kerry's Medals Strategy," February 9). But now that the Senator is demanding that the Federal Election Commission stifle his opponents' free speech, this one is too rich to ignore.

What did Mr. Kerry expect, anyway? That claiming to be a hero himself while accusing other veterans of "war crimes"--as he did back in 1971 and has refused to take back ever since--would somehow go unanswered? That when he raised the subject of one of America's most contentious modern events, no one would meet him at the barricades? Mr. Kerry brought the whole thing up; why is it Mr. Bush's obligation now to shut it down?

Because Mr. Kerry can't?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:40 PM


The Fight in Illinois: Alan Keyes vs. Barack Obama (Phyllis Schlafly, Aug 24, 2004, Human Events)

Alan Keyes has upset the liberal game plan to crown law school lecturer Barack Obama as the new leader of blacks in America. Ted Kennedy and Hillary Clinton like Obama because he imitates their votes, but Americans like Keyes because he is straightforward about issues we care about.

The Keyes-Obama race for the U.S. Senate from Illinois reminds locals of a similar contest in 1950. Then a conservative Republican traveled up and down the Land of Lincoln and toppled one of the most powerful liberals of that time, Senate Majority Leader Scott Lucas.

The victor in that race, Everett McKinley Dirksen, played to the grassroots rather than to the media. His stunning upset showed that the voters were ready to break with New Deal liberalism and join the Republican landslide in 1952.

Everett Dirksen, the greatest orator of his time, won because he articulated public opposition to the follies of the Truman Administration. Dirksen was equally persuasive whether he was negotiating with a small group over an arcane section of legislation or declaiming broad themes without a microphone to a thousand voters on the hillsides of southern Illinois.

Illinois voters have the opportunity this year to hear Alan Keyes, perhaps the greatest orator of our time and a man with a fund of knowledge about issues that matches his eloquence.

No matter how much one reveres the great Phyllis Schlafly, the parallel to her 1964 paean to Goldwaterism brings bad juju.

Posted by David Cohen at 1:06 PM


KERRY PHONES SWIFT BOAT FOES (Drudge Report "World Exclusive", 8/24/04)

Dem presidential hopeful John Kerry personally phoned anti-Kerry swift boat vets, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned.

Kerry reached out to Robert "Friar Tuck" Brant Cdr., USN (RET) Sunday night, just hours after former Sen. Bob Dole publicly challenged Kerry to apologize to veterans. . . .

KERRY: "When we dedicated swift boat one in '92, I said to all the swift guys that I wasn't talking about the swifties, I was talking about all the rest of the veterans."

Kerry is desperate to find something that will move the debate. Look for either an address in which the Senator tearfully reexamines the Vietnam war (he'll either celebrate brothers-in-arms nobly defending the country or denounce war-mongerers sending young men off to commit war crimes) or some bold new policy (either immediate withdrawal from Iraq, or national health care).

Posted by at 12:52 PM


Over Money
(Tom Walker, August 23, 2004, Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Terrorism is a new chapter of "behavioral finance," which deals with the emotional side of money management. Some experts believe emotion plays a bigger role in people's financial and investment decisions than is recognized by the traditional Wall Street theory -- that investors make rational decisions on the basis of their financial self-interest.

Behavioral finance is based on the unspectacular notion that human beings
are emotional creatures whose behavior is guided only partially by

"I'm extremely skeptical, bordering on total cynicism, that any of this
stuff actually works," Richard Michaud, president and chief investment
officer at New Frontier Advisors LLC in Boston, said in a Bloomberg
News report.

Markets are obviously irrational to some extent. The question is, can a few smart souls take advantage of this information? There is a story, perhaps apocryphal, that a famous financier sold his positions just before the 1929 Crash when he realized his shoeshine boy was giving him stock advice (variously attributed to Joe Kennedy and J P Morgan). Also, the Peter Lynchs and Warren Buffetts of this world, while not getting it right every time, seem to have special insight into this hall of mirrors and can outperform the market to an extent. The article (registration required, unfortunately), makes the case for the war on terror exacerbating the irrationality of the current market.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:31 AM


The Return of the Third Way (Katy Harwood Delay, August 24, 2004,

A group of Democrats are working to revive the
"third way" fashion from the 1990s. Led by Evan Bayh in the Senate, the
group The Third Way seeks a shift away from the left-liberal-labor dogma
toward "market-oriented" economic policies.

According to its inventor Tony Blair, speaking with Clinton and other heads
of state at a 1998 NYU School of Law banquet, "[the Third Way] leaves
behind, if you like, the old left that was about big government or
state-controlled tax-and-spend, and [here he gets a little vague] it is not
the politics of laissez-faire, either . . . it is essentially a belief that
we can construct a different type of politics for the 21st century based on
the values of what I would call progressive politics, but rigorously, in a
really disciplined way, applying those in an entirely fresh perspective for
the problems that we face today."

This admittedly lacks specificity, but I think we can safely say that the
Third Way is an attempt at compromise between capitalism and socialism, a
new-age effort to reestablish free-market roots while preserving and
grafting onto them the aforewilting progressive leaf system. Just as I
thought. [...]

[D]on't let them fool you. Third-Way economics is merely another political
trial balloon. The politicians are still simply trying to twist fattened,
round socialism into a lean, square, free-market hole, mainly to solicit our
vote. The problem extends beyond the Labour-Democrat nexus to encompass the
Tory-Republican nexus as well. Here we find Third-Way governance combined
with free-market rhetoric.

The core problem is the one Mises identified. Every form of intervention
generates an imbalance that seems to call forth a next step toward markets
or toward further intervention. The choice determines whether the social
system will be pushed toward the economics of prosperity or that of poverty.
The Third Way, in short, attempts to combine policies that are internally
contradictory. To attempt a pivot between laissez-faire and socialism is to
be caught in precisely the imbalance that afflicts the US and Europe today.

The problem with this analysis is that the population is rather evenly divided between those who favor freedom and those who favor security. It's entirely possible, maybe even likely, that Compassionate Conservatism/Third Way/New Democratism can't successfully strike a balance between the social safety net that the majority demands and the free market mechanisms that are the only way to pay for it in the long run. But if so then the future is probably pretty bleak. As examples throughout Europe amply demonstrate, people won't stop demanding welfare just because it's driving their nation into the ground.

Followers of Mises seem to have the utopian belief that they can somehow do away with that powerful demand for security--despite the fact that it is as old as Man--or that some imaginary system exists whereby freedom can be vindicated despite the political controls that would be necessary to stop the majority from voting itself a welfare regime. Their argument is with reality.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:11 AM


Roberts will be two busy to work (Chicago Sun-Times, August 24, 2004)

Julia Roberts, who is pregnant with twins, plans to take a break from movies. In fact, she's throwing most plans out the window.

''I'm not planning anything," Roberts told Newsweek magazine. "I can't imagine how big I'm going to get in the next three months, but ... you just kind of play it as it comes. I'm allowed to do that, aren't I?''

Guess who else appears to be taking a break for the next few months.

Posted by David Cohen at 9:48 AM


Holiday in Cambodia: The "Christmas Eve" attack on Kerry is cheap and almost certainly wrong (Fred Kaplan, Slate, 8/23/04)

Having pretty much failed at their efforts to disprove the official U.S. Navy account of Kerry's valor in battle as skipper of a "Swift boat" patrolling the Mekong Delta, the veterans against Kerry have moved to discredit his more obscure claim—made a few times over the years, in interviews and Senate floor speeches—that, on Dec. 24, he took CIA or special ops forces across the border into Cambodia, even while Washington claimed no American troops were there. . . .

O'Neill, Drudge, and the other sneerers choose to ignore the 10 preceding pages—the opening pages of a chapter called "Death in the Delta." On Christmas Eve 1968, Brinkley writes, Kerry and his crew:

headed their Swift north by the Cho Chien River to its junction with the My Tho only miles from the Cambodian border. … Kerry began reading up on Cambodia's history in a book he had borrowed from the floating barracks in An Thoi. … He even read about a 1959 Pentagon study titled "Psychological Observations: Cambodia," which … state[d] that Cambodians "cannot be counted on to act in any positive way for the benefit of U.S. aims and policies." [Italics added [by Kaplan].] . . .
But one thing is for sure: Lieut. Kerry did not spend that Christmas Eve just lying around, dreaming of sugarplums and roasted chestnuts. He had plenty of time to cover the 40 miles from the Cambodian border to the safety of Sa Dec (he did command a swift boat, after all). More to the point, the evidence indicates he did cover those 40 miles: He was near (or in?) Cambodia in the morning, in Sa Dec that night.
Kerry's Cambodia Whopper (Joshua Muravchik, Washington Post, 8/24/04)
Now a new official statement from the campaign undercuts Brinkley. It offers a minimal (thus harder to impeach) claim: that Kerry "on one occasion crossed into Cambodia," on an unspecified date. But at least two of the shipmates who are supporting Kerry's campaign (and one who is not) deny their boat ever crossed the border, and their testimony on this score is corroborated by Kerry's own journal, kept while on duty. One passage reproduced in Brinkley's book says: "The banks of the [Rach Giang Thanh River] whistled by as we churned out mile after mile at full speed. On my left were occasional open fields that allowed us a clear view into Cambodia. At some points, the border was only fifty yards away and it then would meander out to several hundred or even as much as a thousand yards away, always making one wonder what lay on the other side." His curiosity was never satisfied, because this entry was from Kerry's final mission.
It's always amusing when the press keeps fighting for their man long after he's thrown in the towel.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:05 AM


Democracy Matters Are Frightening in Our Time (Cornel West)

A decade ago I wrote Race Matters in order to spark a candid public conversation about America’s most explosive issue and most difficult dilemma: the ways in which the vicious legacy of white supremacy contributes to the arrested development of American democracy. This book—the sequel to Race Matters—will look unflinchingly at the waning of democratic energies and practices in our present age of the American empire. There is a deeply troubling deterioration of democratic powers in America today. The rise of an ugly imperialism has been aided by an unholy alliance of the plutocratic elites and the Christian Right, and also by a massive disaffection of so many voters who see too little difference between two corrupted parties, with blacks being taken for granted by the Democrats, and with the deep disaffection of youth. The energy of the youth support for the Howard Dean campaign and avid participation in the recent anti-globalization protests are promising signs, however, of the potential to engage them.

It would take real determination to write a book stupider than Race Matters--which contained the warning: "We are living in one of the most frightening moments in the history of this country. "--but Mr. West seems equal to the task. Presented with a nation in which over 80% of his fellow citizens are Christians and about 40% describe themselves as evangelicals and where Howard Dean made nary a ripple in even Democratic primary voting, while a new free trade pact comes along every week, what conclusions does Mr. West draw? That governance according to the politics of that overwhelming majority represents the failure of democracy and that the rout of the secular Left is a sign of its long term promise. And then folks wonder why America has always been so contemptuous of intellectuals?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:50 AM


In Najaf, Iraqi Politics Dictate U.S. Tactics (Karl Vick, August 24, 2004, Washington Post)

The company commanders had their maps, their orders and their rules of engagement.

"As for the timeline, I'm going to ask you to remain flexible," said Army Maj. Doug Ollivant, who was running the pre-battle briefing one day this month. "You've just entered the world of political war, and it's not a guy wearing a uniform who is going to be making the final decision on where and when this happens."

Ollivant was, in fact, flexible when the order to scrub the mission reached his armored Humvee that night, on the way out of the main gate of the principal U.S. base in Najaf with a column of Abrams tanks raring to go behind him. But three nights later, when his radio crackled with the same message -- no go -- passed down from the same guy not wearing a uniform, the 1st Cavalry Division officer slapped the dashboard and cursed.

"Welcome to my world," he ruefully told a Special Operations officer who also had been whipsawed for two weeks by the shifting political calculations dictating how U.S. forces go about defeating a Shiite Muslim militia fighting from inside the holiest shrine in Shiite Islam.

"We're in the same world," the officer said with a smile. "Especially down here."

If there is any doubt that the new Iraqi government is calling the shots in this country, the supporting evidence is mounting daily in Najaf.

Here's a case where the neocons were fooled as badly as their critics. The President meant it when he said he was transferring sovereignty. Never have so many been deceived so often by a man who keeps his word.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 AM


New Bush Ads Target Kerry's Senate Record (Nick Anderson, August 24, 2004, LA Times)

President Bush assailed John F. Kerry's record as a senator in two new television commercials Monday, amid ongoing controversy over other Republican-backed attacks on the Democratic presidential nominee's record during the Vietnam War.

One of the new Bush advertisements, airing on national cable channels and in local broadcast markets in several key states, depicts Kerry as a longtime backer of tax increases for the middle-class. The other, airing in Nevada, says he has cast votes in favor of a nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain. [...]

Today, the Swift Boat Veterans group is expected to air another ad charging that Kerry tarred the service of other Vietnam veterans through his antiwar protests in the early 1970s.

The group is funded primarily by Texas Republicans who are Bush supporters, which has caused the Kerry campaign to charge it is a "front" for the president's reelection bid. Bush and his aides have strongly denied any such connection.

But the president's campaign has intensified its advertising attacks on Kerry, focusing on his record since he was first elected to the Senate almost 20 years ago.

New data from TNSMI/Campaign Media Analysis Group show Bush spent more than $12 million on TV ads from Aug. 8 through Saturday, while other Kerry critics spent nearly $1 million more. "A fairly good one-two punch," said Evan Tracey, chief operating officer of the ad monitoring group.

During the same two weeks, Kerry spent almost nothing, saving money for September and October. But his cause was helped by various pro-Democratic groups that, although independent of his campaign, spent nearly $19 million promoting him and attacking Bush.

The new Bush ad targeting Kerry's tax policy uses footage from the Democrat's speech last month accepting the presidential nomination. The 30-second spot shows Kerry saying, "We won't raise taxes on the middle class."

"Really?" responds the ad's female narrator. "John Kerry's voted to raise gas taxes on the middle class 10 times. He supported a 50-cent-a-gallon gas tax increase. Higher taxes on middle-class parents 18 times. He voted to raise taxes on Social Security benefits. Ninety-eight votes for tax increases. There's what Kerry says, and then there's what Kerry does."

Kerry did vote for a major 1993 tax bill that included provisions raising taxes on gasoline and Social Security benefits for certain retirees. And he has often opposed GOP-sponsored tax cuts.

Note the $19 million to $1 million ratio? Is the Senator sure he wants to bar all 527 ads? No wonder Kim Jong-il dreams of negotiating with him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 AM


Fed-Up Residents of Najaf Turn Against Rebel Cleric
: Sadr and his militia are blamed as families and livelihoods suffer during fighting around shrine. (Raheem Salman and T. Christian Miller, August 24, 2004, LA Times)

Haydar Hasan Abdullah wandered the twisting streets of this ancient city on Monday looking for a fight.

He was not seeking to battle American troops who have encircled one of Islam's holiest shrines for nearly three weeks. Instead, he wanted a shot at militants loyal to cleric Muqtada Sadr who are hiding beneath its gleaming gold dome.

"There are some fighters among the group of Muqtada who are actually saboteurs who have done such bad things to the city of Najaf," said Abdullah, who was searching for the police station on Monday to offer himself as a recruit. "We feel so sorry for what is happening to kids, women and innocent other people. We are quite prepared to do whatever the government wants us to do."

Sadr built his support among the poorest Shiites, Iraq's majority religious sect that was oppressed by the Sunni-dominated government of Saddam Hussein. In fiery speeches, the youthful preacher has promised an end to the U.S.-led occupation.

Sadr's message has resonated with his supporters in some parts of Iraq, including Baghdad's sprawling Sadr City slum.

But in Najaf, there is growing frustration with his lengthy standoff at the Imam Ali shrine, revered among Shiites around the world as the burial place of their sect's founder, Ali, the son-in-law of the prophet Muhammad.

How did al-Sadr manage to get himself stuck in this quagmire?

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:34 AM


Here's the Olympian point: We ogle the flesh (Margaret Wente, Globe and Mail, August 24th, 2004)

The Olympics have become like Field Day in Grade 3. There are so many medals on offer that, eventually, every country's bound to get one, so long as it shows up. No nation is allowed to go home empty-handed, not even a scrawny little one like us. Besides, artistic gymnastics is nothing to sneeze at. It is definitely higher on the athletic status ladder than synchronized swimming, another event that has frequently stood between us and global shame. I don't know why we're so good at it. Perhaps synchronized swimming is simply too silly for anybody else to bother with.[...]

Are all sports equally worthy? The ancient Greeks didn't think so. They didn't go in for synchro-anything. Unlike Canadians, who love playing nicely together, they were strictly individual competitors. They did not believe in team sports, artistry or nose plugs. They believed in running, jumping, wrestling and hurling heavy objects through the air. Unlike synchronized swimmers, they approved of gouging and pummelling their opponents to death. This made determining the victor a whole lot easier than it is today. You never had to worry about scoring 9.787. You knew you'd won when you'd killed the other guy.

Not everybody minds that the pure spirit of the Olympics has been diluted by the addition of women and all kinds of silly pseudo-sports. My husband, for example, rather likes it. He is an avid student of women's beach volleyball, which he thinks is a noble addition to the Games. He also loves the Amazons who run around the track. He adores the female wrestlers, and wonders what it would be like if Tonya Verbeek got him in a headlock. Speaking for myself, I don't know beans about the men's backstroke or the fly, but I appreciate the broad shoulders and narrow hips of the swimmers and the gymnasts in their itty-bitty skin-tight suits. My husband swears that half of them are gay, but I think he's just being mean.

After these Games, they will debate adding sports like skateboarding, squash and rugby to the Olympics. Frighteningly unattractive women now wrestle and weightlift while announcers never dare say what is on everyone’s mind. Disabled athletes are demanding full participation with that defiant sense of entitlement that characterizes modern victimhood (Can seniors be far behind?). Judging is suspect in most sports where “presentation” is scored. It now takes a decade for the host to prepare because the entire city must be rebuilt and the Games can only be financed by forcing us to watch two minutes of cutesy, repetitive commercials for every one of competition. Drug cheating remains endemic and threats to suspend countries or entire sports are never carried out. Yet, like Ozymandias’ kingdom, the movement is incapable of even the most minor retrenchment and we watch the whole silly, boring extravaganza with artificially induced excitement, knowing full well we are witnessing a modern Roman circus destined to collapse.

It is enough to make a poor boy yearn for a good soccer match.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 AM


The Vietnam Passion (DAVID BROOKS, 8/24/04, NY Times)

I'm launching a major investigation into whether the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth organization is being secretly financed by the Kerry campaign. For today that organization begins airing ads drawing attention to John Kerry's 1971 testimony against the Vietnam War.

If voters see that testimony, they will see a young man arguing passionately for a cause. They will see a young man willing to take risks and boldly state his beliefs. Whether they agree or not, they will see in John Kerry a man of conviction.

Many young people, who don't have an emotional investment in endlessly refighting the conflicts of the late 1960's, might take a look at that man and decide they like him. They might not realize that man no longer exists.

That conviction politician was still visible as late as the 1980's. When Senator Kerry opposed aid to the contras, or took on Oliver North, he did it with the same forthright fire.

But then in the early 1990's, things began to evolve.

It's fine to have convictions but why are his always wrong when it comes to fighting totalitarianism?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:44 AM

Word of the Day for Tuesday August 24, 2004

fungible \FUHN-juh-buhl\, adjective:

1. (Law) Freely exchangeable for or replaceable by another of like nature or kind in the satisfaction of an obligation.

2. Interchangeable. [...]

Fungible comes from Medieval Latin fungibilis, from Latin fungi (vice), "to perform (in place of)."

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:11 AM


Boy blames a pill for murders (Barry Meier, International Herald Tribune, August 23rd, 2004)

Christopher Pittman said he remembered everything about that night in 2001 when he killed his grandparents: the blood, the shotgun blasts, the voices urging him on, even the smoke detectors that screamed as he drove away from their rural South Carolina home after setting it on fire.

"Something kept telling me to do it," he later told a forensic psychiatrist. Now, Christopher, who was 12 at the time of the killings, faces charges of first-degree murder. The decision by a local prosecutor to try him as an adult could send him to prison for life. While prosecutors portray him as a troubled killer, his defenders say the killings occurred for a reason beyond the boy's control - a reaction to the antidepressant Zoloft, a drug he had started taking not long before the slayings.

Such defenses, which have been used before, have rarely succeeded. And most medical experts do not believe there is a link between antidepressants and acts of extreme violence.

Yet as we have seen from previous posts, the medical establishment is coming to believe anti-depressants may be a cause of suicide in children. Why one and not the other?

The explosion in pharmacology (and soon perhaps genetic engineering) means the cost we pay for indulging unthinkingly in the noble human instinct to relieve pain and distress leaves us less and less able to judge the actions of others through the common understandings of human nature we use to impose responsibility and decide the appropriateness of guilt, innocence, mercy, forgiveness, punishment and retribution. It is slowly turning each one of us into a distinct and alien species.

August 23, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:37 PM


Turning Up the Heat (DONALD MACINTYRE, 8/30/04, TIME)

Pyongyang hinted last week that it might pull out of the next round, slated to be held next month, citing a hostile U.S. "smear campaign." With the U.S. presidential election approaching, some say Kim is stalling, hoping that John Kerry will win—and that the North will be able to get a better deal from a Democratic Administration.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:11 PM


Despite its blatant racism, 'Nation' still needs to be seen (Renée Graham, August 17, 2004, Boston Globe)

The first and only time I watched D.W. Griffith's "The Birth of a Nation" in its entirety, I was a college student enrolled in a class on the African-American image in film. Though I'd heard of Griffith and what is widely acknowledged as his masterpiece, I knew nothing about the film when the black-and-white images began flickering across the screen in our small classroom.

Three hours later, we all sat slack-jawed, unable to even make eye contact with one another. It was the only occasion during my four years of college when I can recall a roomful of know-it-all students being rendered completely silent. That the 1915 film, based primarily on Thomas Dixon's play, "The Clansman," is considered one of cinema's groundbreaking achievements (it's regarded as the first epic narrative and a pioneering work in technical structure and editing) was totally lost on us. What resonated was its virulent racism. Blacks (actually played by white actors in blackface) are depicted as dumb and dangerous brutes, while the Ku Klux Klan is hailed as a group of gallant heroes protecting the virtue of white womanhood and uplifting the South after its defeat in the Civil War.

In the past 20 years, I've watched bits and pieces of "The Birth of a Nation," and my initial revulsion always gets the better of me. Still, even though it's unlikely I'll ever sit through this film again, I do not believe it should be consigned to some dusty closet, never to be shown in public again.

Last week, a Los Angeles theater owner canceled a planned screening of "The Birth of a Nation" after civil rights groups promised protests outside the venue. In launching a series on cinema's most important silent movies, Charlie Lustman, who runs the Silent Movie Theatre, described the film as "the biggest and most cinematic gem in history." Still, he intended to show a disclaimer denouncing the film's overtly racist content.

That wasn't good enough for Los Angeles NAACP president Geraldine Washington, who maintained the film possesses "no positive value whatsoever" and charged its screening would "run the risk of creating unrest and hate crimes." When the film opened in 1915, it all but served as a Klan recruitment tool, attracting more than 25,000 marchers to celebrate the movie's Atlanta premiere. The NAACP blamed the film, which President Woodrow Wilson allegedly compared to "writing history with lightning," for inciting racial violence.

People should see it for the same reason they should see Triumph of the Will, Inherit the Wind, and Battleship Potemkin--they demonstrate the capacity of brilliant propaganda to make myths that are more powerful than reality.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:00 PM


Everyone Wants a Piece of the $18-Billion Man in Iraq: Rebuilding czar from U.S. has little to show for efforts. Better times are coming, he says. (T. Christian Miller, August 23, 2004, LA Times)

The man with $18 billion to spend is taking a beating.

Where's the money to rebuild Iraq? The jobs for broke Iraqis? The promised health clinics and schools, bridges and dams, electricity and clean water?

Retired Rear Adm. David Nash gives the same answer to the skeptics who quiz him on America's long-delayed effort to rebuild Iraq: Better times are coming.

"This country is going to take off," said Nash, 61, the head of the U.S. effort to rebuild a nation devastated by a dozen years of sanctions, three wars and a simmering insurgency.

After long delays and broken deadlines, there are signs that the largest reconstruction effort since World War II's Marshall Plan is poised to get rolling.

New and refurbished power stations are starting up weekly. Private contractors are finishing plans for building thousands of schools, clinics and infrastructure projects. Iraqi jobs in the program have soared from 5,300 daily employees to more than 88,000.

Were Baghdad post-War Berlin the Marshall Plan would still be a year away from even being proposed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:52 PM


Disparate Jobs Data Add Up to a Mystery (David Streitfeld, August 23, 2004, LA Times)

According to the government's regular survey of the nation's households, 629,000 people started work in July. But when the government asked companies how many jobs they had added to their payrolls, the answer was only 32,000.

If they're not working in a store, office or factory, what are those 597,000 other folks doing? Working as consultants? Selling bric-a-brac on EBay? Mowing their neighbors' lawns?

Or are they actually unemployed but so ashamed that they're lying about it?

"I can't tell you," said Tom Nardone, chief of the Division of Labor Force Statistics of the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. "We just don't know why there's a difference between the surveys." [...]

These new workers resemble the dead in the movie "The Sixth Sense": Only some people can spot them.

Those catching a glimpse seem to be mostly Republicans. Vice President Dick Cheney, for instance, can see them clearly. They're freelancers, private contractors, people working at home. They're not on the roster of any corporation's human resources department but are prospering anyway.

They're people, for example, like his wife.

At an Aug. 11 campaign appearance in Missouri, the vice president said Lynne Cheney "does very well in terms of her own professional career and line of work, but she doesn't work for anybody…. If you're in business for yourself, if you've got your own small business and so forth, you don't get picked up by those other numbers."

The "other numbers," the corporate payrolls, have been slumping this summer.

That's an ominous sign for the reelection prospects of Cheney and President Bush. Whatever attention isn't being focused on Iraq is on the economy, which means jobs. Rising employment makes people feel secure. They know that if their own job doesn't work out, there are many more out there.

Calculating employment is a massive task. To estimate payroll levels, the Bureau of Labor Statistics queries 400,000 so-called work sites every month about their hiring activities.

Whether the reason is outsourcing to China and India, rising corporate healthcare costs, increased efficiencies from technology or just general queasiness, the work sites haven't been in a hiring mode for a long time. Since March 2001, two months after the Bush administration took office, company payrolls are down a cumulative 1.2 million.

But when the government asks 60,000 people directly about employment, as it also does every month, the jobs picture looks healthier. Although the 629,000 jump in July was unusually high, the cumulative increase in the household survey since March 2001 is 1.8 million jobs.

We try as hard as we can to fashion a dynamic economy, one premised on the long-term value of creative destruction, then we're perplexed when static measures don't make sense.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:42 PM


Senators propose dismantling of CIA (Bryan Bender, August 23, 2004, Boston Globe)

The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday proposed a sweeping overhaul of US intelligence agencies that would break up the CIA and the Pentagon's vast spy bureaucracy, split off the FBI's intelligence mission, and centralize control of most of the functions of the executive branch's distinct espionage, counterterrorism, and intelligence analysis organizations.

The proposal by Senator Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas, goes well beyond the recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission and the Bush administration to reconstruct the nation's intelligence bureaucracies, including removing the largest intelligence-gathering operations from the CIA and the military.

Speaking on CBS's "Face the Nation," Roberts said, "My worry is that, if the administration comes out and does not go far enough in regards to the 9/11 Commission and the families, or for that matter with my friends across the aisle, and then they simply introduce a bill that encapsulates the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, that's not a bill. It's a good list of recommendations. . . . We have an urgent need to move but we have to get it right. This was not an idle thing."

The draft legislation would effectively do away with the intelligence structure that has defined the national security apparatus since the years after World War II, replacing the landmark National Security Act of 1947 that established much of the modern model for US intelligence and defense.

The proposed 9/11 National Security Protection Act, supported by eight committee Republicans, met with immediate criticism from longtime government bureaucrats, many of whom have warned against a hasty reshuffling of intelligence agencies.

Already yesterday, intelligence and defense officials who asked to remain anonymous described the plan as "unworkable" and "counterproductive."

It's a great idea to dismantle the current agancies and start over, a terrible one to just reconstitute them in a more centralized structure.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:38 PM


First-Time Voters for Life: What a Pace Poll suggests about new registrants and abortion rights. (Duncan Currie, 08/20/2004, Weekly Standard)

ACCORDING TO A RECENT POLL, new voters are trending pro-life on abortion. The nonpartisan Pace University/Rock the Vote survey, conducted by the Pace Poll in mid July, is the first in a three-part nationwide study of first-time voters, defined as "voters who registered after the 2000 presidential election." Most news coverage of the survey has focused on its implications for the general election. Namely, that in a head-to-head Bush-Kerry race, post-2000 registrants support Kerry over Bush by 50 percent to 40 percent; and in a three-way Bush-Kerry-Nader race, Bush garners 44 percent of the vote to Kerry's 42 percent and Nader's 6 percent. But the press has largely ignored first-time voters' opinions about abortion rights.

On abortion, Pace Poll researchers slice the new voter demographic into four groups. There are those who believe "abortions should be legal and generally available" (21 percent); those who feel "regulation of abortion is necessary, although it should remain legal in many circumstances" (23 percent); those who say "abortion should be legal only in the most extreme cases, such as to save the life of the mother, incest, or rape" (41 percent); and those who think "all abortions should be made illegal" (13 percent). The survey shows that, essentially, 44 percent of new voters are pro-choice while 54 percent are pro-life. Among first-time Latino voters, pro-lifers outnumber pro-choicers 61 percent to 34 percent; among blacks, the pro-life/pro-choice breakdown is 59 percent/42 percent. Self-described "moderates" similarly tend to be more pro-life (52 percent) than pro-choice (45 percent).

Pro-life views also have surprising traction among new voters who identify themselves as John Kerry supporters. A plurality (34 percent) of Kerry voters, not to mention pluralities of new independent voters (36 percent) and new undecided voters (35 percent), believe "abortion should be legal only in the most extreme cases, such as to save the life of the mother, incest, or rape." On the other hand, some 31 percent of Kerry voters say "abortions should be legal and generally available," the most extreme pro-choice position available. But still, first-time Kerry voters are more likely to be pro-life than they are to favor abortion on demand, according to the Pace Poll.

These findings come on the heels of an April 2004 Zogby poll, which showed that 56 percent of Americans either believe abortion should never be legal or would restrict it to cases of rape, incest, and when the mother's life is in danger.

A nation that could confront such popular but immoral institutions as slavery and segregation can confront abortion.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:49 PM


Bush Urges End to Attack Ads by Outside Groups on All Sides (MARIA NEWMAN, 8/23/04, NY Times)

"All of them," the president said, when asked whether he specifically meant that the veteran's group's ad against Mr. Kerry should be stopped. "That means that ad, every other ad. Absolutely. I don't think we ought to have 527's. I can't be more plain about it, and I wish — I hope my opponent joins me in saying — condemning these activities of the 527's. It's — I think they're bad for the system."

Mr. Bush was asked whether he agreed with the charges made in the ads by the anti-Kerry group that the Democratic nominee had portrayed his war record inaccurately.

"I think Senator Kerry served admirably, and he ought to be proud of his record," Mr. Bush said. "But the question is who's best to lead the country in the war on terror, who can handle the responsibilities of the commander in chief, who's got a clear vision of the risks that the country faces."

"I think we ought to be looking forward, not backward," he said.

Could Mr. Kerry have made this any easier for him?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:46 PM


More Canadians look to U.S. for treatment (Mark Kennedy, August 20, 2004,
CanWest News Service)

Canadians will increasingly travel to the United States to pay for medical care unless governments in this country finally devote the public funds to the health system that it needs, says the new head of the country's medical profession.

In an interview with CanWest News, Canadian Medical Association president Dr. Albert Schumacher added that if the "crisis" isn't fixed, public pressure will only intensify for a parallel private system in which Canadians can pay for faster treatment in their own communities.

Schumacher, a Windsor, Ont., general practitioner, said that Canadian patients are not getting the timely access they need to a range of medically necessary health treatments.

"There is a patient demand. Where I live in Windsor, I see people go across the border on a continuous basis because they want to buy more."

Yet this is the system the Democrats promise us?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:17 PM


Bush Yet to Flesh Out Domestic Agenda
: Many likely small steps in taxes and savings would add up to 'radical change,' analysts say. (Warren Vieth, August 23, 2004, LA Times)

With only a week to go before the Republican National Convention, the lack of details in President Bush's second-term domestic policy agenda has left some conservative activists worrying aloud about the Vision Thing.

But analysts from both parties make the case that although the individual pieces of Bush's emerging agenda may not appear that weighty or new, they still add up to something big.

Bundled within overlapping themes of tax reform and economic "ownership," they say, are initiatives that would, if enacted, move the country toward fundamentally different systems of taxation and social insurance.

Wage income would be taxed at something close to a flat rate instead of today's graduated rates. Investment income would be largely tax-free. And individuals would shoulder more of the risk for their retirement, in return for potentially greater rewards.

"If you tell liberals that we're going to have a flat tax, that's like putting a cross in front of a vampire: They start cringing," said Stephen Moore, president of the Club for Growth, a conservative fundraising organization. "By doing these things in little bitty steps at a time, it's sort of like a slippery slope, but in the right direction."

"What they're trying to do is a radical transformation of the tax code," said Peter Orszag, a former economic advisor to President Clinton and now a senior fellow at the centrist Brookings Institution. "They're trying to do it in little pieces rather than all at once. The sum of all those pieces would be a radical change."

Amazing what you can achieve if you're patient and persistent.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 1:05 PM


Teenage 'judges' may sit in court (John Steele, The Telegraph, August 23rd, 2004)

Teenagers could be involved in delivering justice in a ground-breaking scheme for a new style of "community" court being considered by the Government.

The court would bring together criminal, civil, family and other areas of law under an experienced judge, with access to agencies such as probation.

It is envisaged that the court, which will be tested in a pilot scheme in north Liverpool, would involve representatives of the local community. The most far-reaching idea under consideration is the possibility of training young people, aged between 14 and 17, to become involved in aspects of the running of the court.

A number of British Government ministers and officials are said to have visited the Red Hook justice centre in Brooklyn, New York, where "teen courts" deal with petty offenders up to the age of 16.

One of the hallmarks of the modern decline is the growing inclination to involve children in weighty moral and political issues and accord them a perspective or expertise that adults are lacking. Contrary to modern myth, this is not because today’s children are any smarter or more qualified than they ever were. It is because adults are steadily losing any sense of the principled groundings and convictions upon which they could offer order and guidance to the inexperienced. As many of us no longer have any settled ideas of what teenagers should and should not be doing, what motivates them or what they need, we have less and less of practical use to tell them. But instead of admitting our confusion and abdication, we hide behind the fantasy that teenagers are little adults and their views on issues far beyond their experience and understanding can be just as important as ours.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:27 PM


Impose Africa troops in Darfur says analysis group (Reuters, 8/23/04)

The U.N. Security Council should impose an African Union force of at least 3,000 troops on Sudan with a mandate to protect civilians in the western region of Darfur, the International Crisis Group said on Monday.

The U.N. Security Council, which has already given Sudan till the end of August to prove its commitment to solving the conflict in Darfur, should also impose sanctions on named government officials, the analysis group said in a report.

The African Union has discussed sending a force of 3,000 to Darfur, but Sudan rejected the idea on Monday.

The ICG report said Sudan's government had acted in bad faith throughout the crisis in Darfur and was "adept at saying and doing just enough to avoid a robust international response".

It criticised the U.N. Security Council's first resolution, passed on July 30, for failing to take action against Khartoum and giving Sudanese officials the impression they can continue to fend off international pressure.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 12:23 PM


Guilt-free dessert? (Globe and Mail, August 21st, 2004)

A U.S. government dietary advisory panel is considering whether its revision of nutrition guidelines should let some people treat themselves to guilt-free desserts.

Such treats would be bonuses for healthful living, under proposals being considered by the advisory panel that's drafting an update of the nutritional guidance.

The experts are looking at what are called “discretionary calories.” Those could be allowed for people who get nutritious meals while staying below the calories they need to burn for energy.

The panel is looking at ways to write discretionary calories into the recommendations that the government is to issue early next year, in tandem with an update of the food guide pyramid.

Discretionary calories are what's left when the calories needed to meet all of a person's nutrient needs are subtracted from the greater number of calories needed to meet energy needs.

It is relatively easy to rally around the struggle for freedom when one is threatened by tyrants like Hitler or Hussein, but how does one confront well-meaning bureaucrats who believe the world is a better place when we feel state-approved levels of guilt as we munch our Twinkies?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:18 PM


When John Kerry's Courage Went M.I.A.: Senator Covered Up Evidence of P.O.W.'s Left Behind (Sydney H. Schanberg, February 24th, 2004, Village Voice)

Senator John Kerry, a decorated battle veteran, was courageous as a navy lieutenant in the Vietnam War. But he was not so courageous more than two decades later, when he covered up voluminous evidence that a significant number of live American prisoners—perhaps hundreds—were never acknowledged or returned after the war-ending treaty was signed in January 1973.

The Massachusetts senator, now seeking the presidency, carried out this subterfuge a little over a decade ago— shredding documents, suppressing testimony, and sanitizing the committee's final report—when he was chairman of the Senate Select Committee on P.O.W./ M.I.A. Affairs.

Over the years, an abundance of evidence had come to light that the North Vietnamese, while returning 591 U.S. prisoners of war after the treaty signing, had held back many others as future bargaining chips for the $4 billion or more in war reparations that the Nixon administration had pledged. Hanoi didn't trust Washington to fulfill its pro-mise without pressure. Similarly, Washington didn't trust Hanoi to return all the prisoners and carry out all the treaty provisions. The mistrust on both sides was merited. Hanoi held back prisoners and the U.S. provided no reconstruction funds.

The stated purpose of the special Senate committee—which convened in mid 1991 and concluded in January 1993—was to investigate the evidence about prisoners who were never returned and find out what happened to the missing men. Committee chair Kerry's larger and different goal, though never stated publicly, emerged over time: He wanted to clear a path to normalization of relations with Hanoi. In any other context, that would have been an honorable goal. But getting at the truth of the unaccounted for P.O.W.'s and M.I.A.'s (Missing In Action) was the main obstacle to normalization—and therefore in conflict with his real intent and plan of action.

We're as happy as anyone to bash the Senator and Mr. Schanberg has enough blood on his charge sheet from the war that he ought to be especially careful about making accusations, but it seems especially unfair to criticize Mr. Kerry for leaving behind bars people he's said were war criminals. Maybe he thought justice was being served?

Posted by David Cohen at 11:24 AM


Over Najaf, Fighting for Des Moines (Glen G. Butler, NY Times, 8/23/04)

Najaf, Iraq — I'm an average American who grew up watching "Brady Bunch" reruns, playing dodge ball and listening to Van Halen. I love the Longhorns and the Eagles. I'm you; your neighbor; the kid you used to go sledding with but who took a different career path in college. Now, I'm a Marine helicopter pilot who has spent the last two weeks heavily engaged with enemy forces here. I'm writing this between missions, without much time or care to polish, so please look to the heart of these thoughts and not their structure.
Major Butler's article is impossible to summarize or condense. If you have the time to spare and find reporting from the ground in Iraq interesting, or have a desire to become informed prior to the upcoming presidential election, you might wish to consider the possibility of reading this article in its entirety, if that's not to much of an imposition.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM


In N.J., Pondering a Run For Governor -- or Not (David Finkel and Brian Faler, August 23, 2004, Washington Post)

Sen. Jon S. Corzine for governor?

Maybe not. Or maybe so. It depends on how much weight one gives to what the New Jersey Democrat says vs. what he adds.

Echoing a written statement he issued Wednesday, Corzine said yesterday on NBC's "Meet the Press" that "I respect" and "I accept" the decision by New Jersey Gov. James E. McGreevey (D) not to immediately resign in the wake of his announcement that he is gay and had an extramarital affair with a man.

However, Corzine added, if McGreevey were to step down by the Sept. 3 deadline for there to be a special election, he would be ready to run.

"If Governor McGreevey changed his mind and said, 'All right, I'm resigning immediately, there will be a special election,' would you run for governor?" host Tim Russert asked Corzine.

"I suggested directly to the governor I was prepared to do that," Corzine said.

The thing to remember is that Senator Corzine is running the Democrats Senate campaign this year, so he knows they're not only not retaking the chamber but losing seats. One of the bitter lessons of the GOP's 60 years in the congressional wilderness is that being in the minority is no fun. Knowing you'll be there your whole career makes it hard to recruit candidates and to retain good incumbents. He sees the handwriting on the wall and he wants out.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 AM


Wounded by friendly fire: This has become one of the most nationalistic US elections in living memory - and it is all Kerry's doing (Gary Younge, August 23, 2004, The Guardian)

[I]f the method of attack by Republicans is underhand, the issue they have chosen for this attack is understandable. For it was Kerry, not Bush, who placed his military service centre stage in this election campaign. The logic of doing so was clear enough. Clips of Kerry striding through the delta carrying a gun while his band of brothers (those who served with him) offered testimony of his heroics, served as a double whammy. They established Kerry in the public mind as a strong leader in wartime while providing a contrast with Bush, who stayed at home.

But by the time of the Democratic convention, the party had elevated his service 35 years ago from one aspect of his personal history to his principle selling point in his campaign for the presidency. Refusing to spell out what plans he had for the future in Iraq or the war on terror, he was forced to exploit this one moment in his past for all it was worth.

"If we do not speak of it others will surely rewrite the script," said Vietnam veteran George Swiers shortly after returning. "Each of the body bags, all of the mass graves will be reopened and their contents abracadabraed into a noble cause."

And so it was that Kerry referred to his military service alone to qualify him for the presidency. He delivered a string of nationalist non sequiturs: "As president, I will wage this war with the lessons I learned in war"; "I defended this country as a young man and I will defend it as president"; and "I learned a lot about these values on that gunboat patrolling the Mekong delta".

Then towards the end he reached for the stars and stripes. "That flag flew from the turret right behind my head. And it was shot through and through and tattered, but it never ceased to wave in the wind. It draped the caskets of men that I served with and friends I grew up with."

In so doing, Kerry may have neutralised charges that he will be weak on defence. But he also made his war record fair game and set the ground work for one of the most nationalistic elections in living memory: a campaign that offers the choice between a Republican candidate who wants America to be obeyed and a Democrat who wants it to be "looked up to" and become "once again a beacon in the world".

Kerry is not only running for president, but in flight from a history he knows only too well. When he returned from Vietnam he testified before the Senate foreign relations committee that American troops had "raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to genitals and turned up the power, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians [and] razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Ganghis Khan." Just a few reasons why that beacon has burned so dimly for so long, and why Americans deserve a better choice.

That last bit is why Republicans hate him so much, because idiots like this author are still throwing his baseless accusations back in our faces--as if Vietnam, the Cold War, support for the contras, Afghanistan, and Iraq were causes we should be ashamed of. Why do they hate us? Because people like John Kerry told them they should.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 AM


Viewed from Kurdistan the future for Iraq is most likely partition. (Bashdar Ismaeel, 23/8/2004, Online Opinion)

It is often easy to forget that Iraq is a dynamic mixture of a number of ethnic groups. Its controversial composition in 1920, in the aftermath of World War I and the fall of the Ottoman Empire, is the very reason for the instability and terror experienced today. After the premature end of the liberation honeymoon, mistrust has quickly displaced harmony; tears have replaced hope and joy.

How the Iraqi cake will be cut is open to debate: federalism itself is a political hot potato and accepting federalism in principle does not constitute agreement on the finer details of its application. The problem in Iraq is that there are too many problems or hotspots. If you think you have resolved an uprising in Najaf, fighting erupts in Falluja; when the Kurds and Sunnis have reached agreement, the Shia and just about everyone else on the table are at war. It appears that just as one group is nearing satisfaction, another group emits groans of discomfort almost immediately. Although the Iraqi train has trudged along in the last year or so, not much has been achieved on the surface. The police and army are still small in numbers and lack the capacity to deal with Iraqi insurgents without the assistance and logistical support of the US army. Unemployment is still high – after all who would want to do business in an environment where shootings and kidnappings are commonplace. National elections are now a matter of months away without any real progress on the ground. For the Kurds, the last 18 months have been a game of wait and see. Their patience is slowly running thin.

It is open to debate just how long the Kurds are willing to co-operate with the Arab majority. It is clear that they want to press ahead with their own redevelopment, with or without the rest of Iraq. The keenness to encourage business development in Kurdistan is evident, the construction of two new airports in Arbil and Sulaminyia is testimony to this and Kurdish parliamentary members are openly seeking logistical support and training from as far a field as Taiwan. The deployment of South Korean troops around the outskirts of Arbil will, at least in theory, aid this goal of the Kurds.

The greatest fear for the Kurds is that continued patience and co-operation (however long that is sustained) may prove to be fruitless. After all the compromise and diplomacy of the Kurds, their ultimate goals of autonomy and federalism within a united Iraq have not been realised.
The Future

What the future holds for Iraq is unclear. What is clear, is bringing stability to Iraq will take much longer than first anticipated. Crucially, due to the volatile (and at times explosive) mix of the Iraqi population, there is no guarantee of peace and harmony. The possibility of an Iraqi civil war may soon become a question of “when” and not “if”. The numerous hot items on the table will not be resolved without someone getting their hands burnt. What is evident is that all parties want to handle the hot item for their maximum benefit without feeling its heat – which is not possible. We have already witnessed that compromise in Iraq is a scarce commodity. Who essentially loses out is key. Either way such losses will ultimately lead to what’s becoming increasingly predictable - Iraq’s disintegration.

One has to ask if the break up of Iraq is actually a bad thing.

There are growing voices that the only solution is for the Kurds, Sunni and Shia to buy separate houses and no longer reside under the same roof. This is a natural human reaction: if you do not get on with your housemate or landlord, it is simple, you move out. In this analogy, in a future Iraq, the landlord will essentially be the Shia, how they treat the Kurd and Sunni minority is crucial. Ultimately, the conflict of interests will prove too much leading to the partitioning of Iraq into three distinct states.

A Kurdish state will, for one, cause uproar in Iran, Syria and particularly Turkey. However this is now becoming an inevitability; many feel it is no longer a question of whether an independent Kurdistan will be established.

There was always going to be an independent Kurdistan, in fact we should have recognized it as a sovereign state shortly after the '91 war. But there's no reason the Shi'a need tolerate a Sunni state in their midst.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:39 AM


African Union 'Could Help Disarm Sudan' (The Scotsman, 8/23/04)

An African Union force in Sudan’s western Darfur region could help disarm insurgents and pro-government militias accused of killing civilians, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo said before the start of AU-sponsored peace talks today between the Sudanese government and Darfur rebels.

More than 150 AU troops from Rwanda are currently in Darfur protecting some 80 union monitors observing a largely ignored cease-fire, and another 150 soldiers from Nigeria are expected to arrive in coming weeks.

While the troops’ mandate does not spell out how far they can go to protect targeted civilians, Obasanjo, the current AU chairman, said yesterday that the soldiers and Sudanese government “must work together to garrison the rebels and put them somewhere where their arms can be collected.”

“While that is happening, the government of Sudan must weigh heavily” on Arab militia known as the Janjaweed to disarm, Obasanjo said in an interview broadcast on state television. “The Janjaweed have been ... armed by the government.”

This would be an ideal solution--Africans stopping Africans from killing Africans.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:27 AM


New Afghan Army asserts itself: Rivals in western Afghanistan agreed to a cease-fire last week after the arrival of the Afghan National Army. (Halima Kazem, 8/23/04, CS Monitor)

The recent fighting in Afghanistan's western province of Herat is seen by many as an effort to mar the country's first democratic presidential elections, but for President Hamid Karzai it has also provided the opportunity to flex his muscle and show how far his government has come in the last three years.

With 13,700 soldiers, the fledgling Afghan National Army (ANA) has become a force that Mr. Karzai has used to douse flareups between warlords who still rule a majority of the country.

Earlier this month the Afghan government rushed two ANA battalions to Herat, where a local commander of a neighboring province attacked Herat's governor, Ismail Khan. Although Mr. Khan has been known to disobey orders from the central government, sources close to the president say Karzai made a decision to defend Khan in order to show the power of his government and deter other warlord uprisings.

A cease-fire was signed last week after the ANA moved in - backed up by the threat of American warplanes above.

"The Afghan National Army is the spine of this country and of our president. The central government can defend itself now," says Faiz Mohammed, a lieutenant in the Afghan National Army.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Kerry Fires at Vietnam 'Smear' (Howard Kurtz, 8/22/04, Washington Post: Ad Watch)

Candidate: John F. Kerry

Images: U.S. soldiers on patrol; a long-haired worker; President Bush speaking; torn pages with the words "smears" and "lies"; John McCain against an American flag; split screen of Bush with Kerry as a rifle-carrying officer in Vietnam.

Time: 30 seconds

Audio: American soldiers are fighting in Iraq. Families struggle to afford health care. Jobs heading overseas. Instead of solutions, George Bush's campaign supports a front group attacking John Kerry's military record. Attacks called smears, lies. Senator McCain calls them dishonest. Bush smeared John McCain four years ago. Now he's doing it to John Kerry. George Bush: Denounce the smear. Get back to the issues. America deserves better.

Analysis: This rare Sunday-release spot marks the first time since clinching the nomination that Kerry has attacked Bush over a negative ad. It reflects anxiety and astonishment among Kerry advisers over how much media coverage a group of Swift boat veterans has generated with a $500,000 buy accusing the candidate of lying about his Vietnam service, despite numerous inconsistencies uncovered by the media.

There is no evidence that the Bush campaign "supports a front group" that produced the attack ad.

Those who know him have long warned that the Senator is rather thin-skinned and has no regulator on himself when he loses his temper, but you'd think one of those thousands of aides would tell him this just looks petulant while keeping alive an issue that's killing him.

It's impossible to imagine the Bush campaign losing its marbles like this over Michael Moore or Howard Dean or Terry McAuliffe or Max Cleland or any of the other Kerry surrogates who've said far worse things about the President. But then again, they're disciplined adults.

August 22, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:51 PM


Iraqi football players caution Bush (Al-jazeera, 19 August 2004)

Iraq's second coach, who filled the gap left behind when German manager Bernd Stange left the team due to security concerns, told that he believed US occupation forces destroyed everything in his country.

"My problems are not with the American people," Adnan Hamad told the sports monthly.

"They are with what America has done in Iraq: destroy everything. The American army has killed so many people in Iraq. What is freedom when I go to the [national] stadium and there are shootings on the road?"

Iraq upsets Portugal 4-2 in Olympic soccer (SERGIO CARRASCO, 8/12/04, Associated Press)
Iraq was a surprise addition to the Olympic tournament. The nation managed to cobble together a team amid ongoing conflict at home and efforts to rebuild an Olympic committee that was previously run by Saddam Hussein's late son, Odai, who allegedly ordered the torture of players who fell out of favor.

In May, Iraq clinched an Olympic soccer berth just three months after being reinstated by the International Olympic Committee. Two months later, the team's German coach, Bernd Stange, resigned, claiming authorities advised him to leave for his safety.

He was replaced by his assistant, Adnan Hamad, who coached Iraq's national soccer team to victory in the West Asian Championship in 2002 and played on the national team during the early 1980s.

Though we're stumped as to why anyone would listen to soccer players about anything, it's especially appalling to see the press hang on the words of Uday's pampered flunkies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:39 PM


Jungle tribe says 'no' to numbers (Reuters, 20 August 2004)

Members of a tiny, isolated Brazilian tribe have no words for most numbers and seem to have trouble counting, researchers report today.

The Piraha tribespeople are clearly intelligent, the U.S. researchers say, but have no words for numbers other than "one or a few" or "many".

The research, which is published online ahead of publication in the journal Science, raises questions about how language may affect thinking. [...]

There are only about 200 Piraha and they live in groups of 10 to 20. Their words for numbers appear limited to "one," "two" and "many," and the word for "one" sometimes means a small quantity.

There is no word for 'number', pronouns do not relate to number (eg, 'he' and 'they' are the same word), and most standard quantifiers like 'more', 'several', 'all' and 'each' do not exist.

Gordon arranged for the tribespeople to take part in some number matching tests.

"In all of these matching experiments, participants responded with relatively good accuracy with up to two or three items, but performance deteriorated considerably beyond that up to eight to 10 items," he said.

"Piraha participants were actually trying very hard to get the answers correct, and they clearly understood the tasks."

While Piraha adults had difficulty learning larger numbers, Piraha children did not.

"One can safely rule out that the Piraha are mentally retarded. Their hunting, spatial, categorisation and linguistic skills are remarkable and they show no clinical signs of retardation," Gordon said.

One of the central claims for the possibility of objective truth has always been the irrefutable "logic" of 2 + 2 = 4, which must be true everywhere. Here's a helpful reminder that it's not. That what we see as the inevitable product of reason is in fact just a shared social concept.

It'd be nice if we could just dismiss it as a case of an ignorant and backwards people, but when the spaceship lands why won't its crew think the same of us and our parochial notions of mathematics?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:24 PM


People flock to baby with 'tail' (, August 22, 2004)

A CAMBODIAN baby born with a 10cm "tail" has become the breadwinner for a poor family as hundreds of people flock to see her and make offerings, police say.

If only she were peppered...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:53 PM


Insurgents in Najaf begin to drift away (Stephen Farrell, August 23, 2004, The Times of London)

BEHIND the defiant rhetoric of Mahdi Army commanders, the reality in Najaf is that the number of Hojatoleslam Moqtada al-Sadr's guerrillas visible on the ground has fallen noticeably in the past three days, which saw heavy bombing of their positions by American warplanes and ground artillery.

On a visit to the front lines yesterday, The Times saw large clusters of fighters armed with belt-fed machineguns, grenades and Kalashnikovs stationed at every entrance to the old city — which houses the golden-domed shrine to Imam Ali — and at numerous ambush points within.

But their numbers and weaponry were considerably depleted from two weeks or even a few days ago.

Oh well, so they don't get to be martyrs and we aren't made to look like monkeys after all. Who'd have dreamt?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:44 PM


A very Kerry Christmas (John Leo, 8/30/04, US News)

Some people wondered how long the major media would be willing to ignore the Christmas-in-Cambodia story. Well, the answer is in: at least 10 or 11 days. I first noticed the story August 6 on Glenn Reynolds's Instapundit blog. Soon it was all over the Internet, the conservative press, talk radio, and some cable shows. But the networks, the New York Time s , the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and other major media didn't run the story. Some papers, like the Kansas City Star, got protests from readers on what appeared to be a news blackout. Finally, after an agonizingly slow response from the Kerry campaign, big media took account of the issue, muffling and burying the story they didn't want to carry in the first place.

The story is simple and by now well known. For 25 years John Kerry has said repeatedly that on Christmas or Christmas Eve of 1968 he took his swift boat into Cambodia on a covert and illegal mission. He said he got shot at by Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge and Cambodians or by "our South Vietnamese allies who were drunk and celebrating Christmas." In 1979, Kerry wrote a piece for the Boston Herald noting that "the absurdity of almost being killed by our own allies in a country in which President Nixon claimed there were no American troops was very real." Kerry was wrong about Nixon, who was not yet president at the time--a minor and unimportant slip--but he said the memory of the Cambodian Christmas "is seared--seared into me."

The anti-Kerry Swift Boat Veterans for Truth book, Unfit for Command, argued that Kerry had never been in Cambodia. That charge was easily challenged as partisan. But a book supportive of Kerry and written with his help, Douglas Brinkley's Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War, said Kerry was on patrol 50 miles from the Cambodia border on Christmas Eve 1968 and spent Christmas Day writing journal entries back at his base. As the Washington Times argued in an editorial, all living commanders in Kerry's chain of command denied that Kerry had been in Cambodia, and three of Kerry's swift boat crew denied they or their boat had been in Cambodia during Christmas 1968. Two others refused comment.

Like the issue of President Bush's National Guard service, the Cambodian Christmas story is important only for the light it may shed on a candidate's mind and character. But unlike the Bush story, Kerry's Cambodian story set off no media frenzy.

Until the Senator set off the frenzy himself.

Kerry won Vietnam vets' wrath describing what he couldn't see (HAROLD W. ANDERSEN, 8/22/04, Omaha WORLD-HERALD)

It is one of the bigger gambles of the presidential campaign. But with most of the news media looking the other way, John Kerry has been getting away with it so far.

I refer to Kerry's gamble that the news media won't finally take a hard look at his anti-war activities instead of concentrating on his four-plus months of combat-zone experience as a decorated, wounded veteran of the Vietnam War - experience that Kerry incessantly promotes as qualifying him to be president and commander in chief of the armed forces.

There have been occasional, brief news-media references to, but no details of, Kerry's controversial testimony to a U.S. Senate committee. It took place af- ter he opted out of the customary one-year tour of duty under a Navy policy that allowed such an early out if a serviceman so elected after receiving his third Purple Heart.

(The Marines stopped awarding a Purple Heart for a minor wound, even if the Marine received medical treatment. None of Kerry's wounds was serious enough to require hospitalization.)

Let's take a detailed look at Kerry's Capitol Hill testimony. It will, I think, help explain why many Vietnam veterans oppose Kerry's presidential bid.

Revealed: how 'war hero' Kerry tried to put off Vietnam military duty (Charles Laurence, 07/03/2004, Daily Telegraph)
Senator John Kerry, the presumed Democratic presidential candidate who is trading on his Vietnam war record to campaign against President George W Bush, tried to defer his military service for a year, according to a newly rediscovered article in a Harvard University newspaper.

He wrote to his local recruitment board seeking permission to spend a further 12 months studying in Paris, after completing his degree course at Yale University in the mid-1960s.

The revelation appears to undercut Sen Kerry's carefully-cultivated image as a man who willingly served his country in a dangerous war - in supposed contrast to President Bush, who served in the Texas National Guard and thus avoided being sent to Vietnam.

This is hardly a revelation given that he told the Boston Globe:
"I didn't really want to get involved in the war. When I signed up for the swift boats, they had very little to do with the war. They were engaged in coastal patrolling, and that's what I thought I was going to do."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:33 PM


Ever Felt Like Killing the IRS? (Judy Dugan, August 17, 2004, LA Times)

The sales tax idea is simple, and that's its biggest intellectual selling point. Instead of taxing income, the federal government would institute a really high sales tax, which would be collected by retailers and other sellers.

Unlike a flat income tax, it would succeed in eliminating the IRS. Because people would have so much more disposable income, goes the theory, they wouldn't be deterred from consumption by the tax, which would probably have to be in the 30%-plus range to replace current federal revenue. That's according to economists who've tried to add and compare, a notoriously slippery task when talking about trillions.

But the debate has to start with some kind of percentage. Proponents like the idea of a tax of about 20%, which probably is not enough to support anywhere near the current level of federal spending, much less provide for a bit of deficit reduction. State and local sales taxes would be on top of the federal slice. Shrinking government is a secondary aim of most flat-taxers, so they do mean it when they talk about 20%.

The distressing thing is that while the GOP is offering revolutionary ideas like a flat tax or a consumption tax the Democrats are offering naught but to defend the universally loathed current system. Around here we'd generally prefer that conservative ideas prevail, but we also think it healthy if the Democrats have an idea...or two.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:28 PM


A trait most unbecoming Canadians: We shouldn't be smug just because we disagree with George W. Bush (Hugh Segal, 8/22/04, Toronto Star)

There are few better ways to stop a dinner party cold than to offer, when the topic gets around to U.S. politics that, well, were one an American one would most likely vote for George W. Bush.

Stop a Canadian dinner party cold? When are they ever other than?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:36 PM


O'Neill Dares Kerry: 'Sue Me' (NewsMax .com, 8/22/04)

Swiftboat Veterans for the Truth spokesman John O'Neill dared Sen. John Kerry on Sunday to sue him for libel if, as Kerry's presidential campaign maintains, key claims in O'Neill's book "Unifit for Command" are not true.

"I invite him to sue me for libel," O'Neill, who co-authored the overnight bestseller with Jerome Corsi, told WABC Radio's Monica Crowley. "If he was actually in Cambodia on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day he should sue me. If, in fact, those other five [Swift]boats, on March the 13, [1969], if they all fled like he did, instead of staying like he knows they did, he should sue me."

O'Neill continued:

"If he didn't wound himself with a grenade - causing sort of a rice-fanny wound - and then reported it to the Navy as a water mine - if he didn't do that on March 13th should sue me."

Effectively trumping the Senator's silly demand that the President demand that the ad be pulled.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:33 PM


Dole Questions Kerry's Vietnam Wounds (PETE YOST, 8/22/04, Associated Press)

Former Republican Sen. Bob Dole suggested Sunday that John Kerry apologize for past testimony before Congress about alleged atrocities during the Vietnam War and joined critics of the Democratic presidential candidate who say he received an early exit from combat for "superficial wounds." Dole also called on Kerry to release all the records of his service in Vietnam.

It's so unusual for Mr. Dole to violate Senate collegiality that you just know he must hate John Kerry.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:24 PM


Exposed: Scandal of double voters: With debate over the 2000 election still raging, thousands of people illegally register in both New York City and Florida, which could swing an election. (RUSS BUETTNER, 8/21/04, NY DAILY NEWS)

With debate over the 2000 election still raging, thousands of people illegally register in both New York City and Florida, which could swing an election.
Some 46,000 New Yorkers are registered to vote in both the city and Florida, a shocking finding that exposes both states to potential abuses that could alter the outcome of elections, a Daily News investigation shows.

Registering in two places is illegal in both states, but the massive snowbird scandal goes undetected because election officials don't check rolls across state lines.

The finding is even more stunning given the pivotal role Florida played in the 2000 presidential election, when a margin there of 537 votes tipped a victory to George W. Bush.

It's a wonder Pat Buchanan isn't president.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:55 PM


Once more the origin of scholars.— The wish to preserve oneself is the symptom of a condition of distress, of a limitation of the really fundamental instinct of life which aims at the expansion of power and, wishing for that, frequently risks and even sacrifices self-preservation. It should be considered symptomatic when some philosophers, for example, Spinoza who was consumptive, considered the instinct of self-preservation decisive and had to see it that way:—for they were individuals in conditions of distress. That our modern natural sciences have become so thoroughly entangled in this Spinozistic dogma (most recently and worst of all, Darwinism with its incomprehensibly one-sided doctrine of the "struggle for existence"—) is probably due to the origins of most natural scientists: in this respect they belong to the "common people [Volk]," their ancestors were poor and undistinguished people who knew the difficulties of survival only too well at firsthand. The whole of English Darwinism breathes something like the musty air of English overpopulation, like the smell of the distress and overcrowding of small people. But a natural scientist should come out of his human nook: and in nature it is not conditions of distress that are dominant but overflow and squandering, even to the point of absurdity. -The Gay Science: Book V: We Fearless Ones (Friedrich Nietzsche)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:32 PM


Chains of hostility: a review of Occidentalism by Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit (Niall Ferguson, 16/08/2004, Daily Telegraph)

In Ornamentalism, David Cannadine portrayed Victorian colonial administrators as projecting their own romantic notions of a pre-lapsarian, Merrie England on to native cultures. Now, in Occidentalism, Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit have gone a step further. They argue that the most radical critics of the West today – including Osama bin Laden and other "Islamist" extremists – are not the upholders of pure, untainted Eastern values. Their extreme anti-Western ideologies are, paradoxically, in large measure Western in origin. [...]

Buruma and Margalit define "Occidentalism" as "a chain of hostility – hostility to the city, with its image of rootless, arrogant, greedy, decadent, frivolous cosmopolitanism; to the mind of the West, manifested in science and reason; to the settled bourgeois, whose existence is the antithesis of the self-sacrificing hero; and to the infidel, who must be crushed to make way for a world of pure faith". This combination is not peculiar to modern Islamic revolutionaries, they argue. It can also be found in the Russian Slavophilia of the 1880s and the extreme Japanese nationalism of the 1930s.

Their key point, however, is that the dichotomy between Western and Eastern civilisation – so dear to the heart of zealots such as bin Laden – is a fantasy. Whether it is simply the US they hate, or the increasingly ubiquitous Anglo-American style of urban, commercial and secular life, nearly all the most passionate critics of the West turn out to owe a surprising amount to the very object of their antagonism. Mohammed Atta, one of the leaders of the 9/11 hijackers, wrote a thesis on city planning at the Technical University in Hamburg.

In this he was following in a distinguished tradition of Western-educated haters of the West. Sayyid Qutb, perhaps the most influential ideologist of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, studied in New York and Colorado. The Iranian revolutionary Ali Shari'ati studied in Paris, where he translated the works of Che Guevera. As Buruma and Margalit note, this pattern goes back still further. Many of the most effective leaders of anti-colonial movements from Africa to Indo-China were graduates of European universities.

It is not just that such men studied in the West and were appalled (as Qutb certainly was) by what they saw. Many were able to draw inspiration from the numerous homegrown critics of the West – the likes of the German writer Ernst Jünger, whose Über die Linie was translated into Arabic by the Iranian radical Al-e Ahmed in the 1960s. It was Al-e Ahmed who later coined the ugly neologism "Westoxification" (which may sound better in Persian).

Paul Berman has been especially good at explaining the unfortunate Westernism/Rationalism of Islamicism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:27 PM


Marching to November: The politics of chest-thumping. (Andrew Ferguson, 08/30/2004, Weekly Standard)

Democrats need to reassure themselves they aren't wimps.

But now Republican activists are forcing on the campaign obsessions of their
own--almost a mirror image of the Democrats' desperate overcompensation. The dissonance and frustration this year's election rouses in the mind of the dedicated Republican cannot be underestimated. Conservatives actually do revere the military, without reservation. It is not their inclination to debunk combat heroes. Some Republicans, when they drink enough beer, really do wonder whether civilian control of the military is such a great idea. For them, it was never plausible that our boys in Vietnam had "personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads . . . cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians," and so on, as young John Kerry testified they did.

Yet in 2004, Republicans find themselves supporting a candidate, George W. Bush, with a slender and ambiguous military record against a man whose combat heroism has never (until now) been disputed. Further--and here we'll let slip a thinly disguised secret--Republicans are supporting a candidate that relatively few of them find personally or politically appealing. This is not the choice Republicans are supposed to be faced with. The 1990s were far better. In those days the Democrats did the proper thing, nominating a draft-dodger to run against George H.W. Bush, who was the youngest combat pilot in the Pacific theater in World War II, and then later, in 1996, against Bob Dole, who left a portion of his body on the beach at Anzio.

Republicans have no such luck this time, and so they scramble to reassure themselves that they nevertheless are doing the right thing, voting against a war hero. The simplest way to do this is to convince themselves that the war hero isn't really a war hero. If sufficient doubt about Kerry's record can be raised, we can vote for Bush without remorse. But the calculations are transparently desperate. Reading some of the anti-Kerry attacks over the last several weeks, you might conclude that this is the new conservative position: A veteran who volunteered for combat duty, spent four months under fire in Vietnam, and then exaggerated a bit so he could go home early is the inferior, morally and otherwise, of a man who had his father pull strings so he wouldn't have to go to Vietnam in the first place.

Needless to say, the proposition will be a hard sell in those dim and tiny reaches of the electorate where voters have yet to make up their minds. Indeed, it's far more likely that moderates and fence-sitters will be disgusted by the lengths to which partisans will go to discredit a rival. But this anti-Kerry campaign is not designed to win undecided votes. It's designed to reassure uneasy minds.

Mr. Ferguson is one of our very favorite political writers and he's certainly entitled to be offended by the attacks on John Kerry, but his analysis of Republicans here seems quite wrong. The iconic figure on the Right is Ronald Reagan, who served stateside during WWII, not in combat. Republicans never warmed to their war heroes--George H. W. Bush and Bob Dole--and they chose George W. Bush over John McCain, whose entire campaign, like Mr. Kerry's, was based on his service in Vietnam. Mr. Bush paid no price whatsoever for attacks on Senator McCain that were just as tough as these on John Kerry. And while the folks at the Weekly Standard were among the few who did prefer John McCain to George Bush, there has never been a candidate more popular with the party faithful than George Bush is now.

The reasons for GOP hatred of John Kerry may indeed be psychological, but they do not derive from self-doubt. He is hated because of his opposition to the Vietnam War, a cause which the hyper-patriotic GOP believes to have been a just cause and opposition to which is viewed as nearly, if not actually, treasonous. Mr. Kerry thinks his service in Vietnam to have been his defining moment--for Republicans it is incidental, if not insignificant. For them (us) he is defined instead by his opposition to his own country and his support for regimes from Hanoi to Moscow to Managua to Baghdad. Millions of Americans have served their country honorably during wartime--including Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush even if they didn't make it into combat--but relatively few have fought to defeat America, as John Kerry did when he returned home. He represents everything that the Right hates about the self-indulgent 60s generation and the protest movement just as surely as Bill Clinton did. That may not be healthy psychologically, but it tells us something far different than the lesson Mr. Ferguson has mistakenly drawn.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:26 PM


Raising Kevion (JASON DePARLE, 8/22/04, NY Times Magazine)

Nearly a decade has passed since the country ''ended welfare'' with a landmark bill imposing time limits and work requirements, and low-skilled women like Jewell have entered the work force in record numbers. But low-skilled men have not. And low-skilled black men, the sea in which Jewell has spent her life swimming, have continued to leave the job market at disconcerting rates, even during the late-90's boom. In cutting the rolls and increasing work, the 1996 welfare law, and a related expansion of services, has been celebrated as a rare, even unique, triumph, and on one level it is. But with about 90 percent of welfare families headed by single mothers, it is also a lesson in the limits of a policy that is focused on one sex. Whatever it has done to put women to work, it won't really change the arc of inner-city life until it -- or something -- reaches the men.

I spent the last seven years following three welfare recipients in one extended family: Jewell, her cousin Opal Caples and their best friend, Angela Jobe, who by having kids with Jewell's brother Greg is counted as kin. Across six generations of poverty, the family story encompasses slavery, sharecropping (on the Mississippi plantation of the late Senator James O. Eastland) and the migration north, first to Chicago and then onto the welfare rolls of Milwaukee. A common assumption about ghetto life -- that generations have been raised without seeing anyone go to work -- ill fits this or most other welfare families. Growing up in Chicago, Jewell, Opal and Angie each had working mothers, and each of them worked sporadically themselves even while drawing a welfare check. The working mother with a passel of messed-up kids is a staple of the inner city.

What's really missing from the family story are stable fathers. None of the trio had one growing up, and neither -- until Kevion -- have their kids. At one point or another, virtually everyone in their network of family and friends -- mothers, grandmothers, boyfriends and children -- has described the absence of a father as a painful, life-altering loss. Dig down almost anywhere in their world, and you hit a geyser of father-yearning.

''Yeah, I wish I had a father,'' Jewell's oldest son, Terrell, said.

''I just know my life would be different if my father was around,'' Angie's son, DeVon, said.

''Way different,'' Jewell's middle son, Tremmell, said.

Of all the father-yearners, none is more vocal than Ken, who at 32 is still writing raps about his feelings of paternal abandonment and whose desire for a father runs so deep that he has nicknamed his son Daddy. Ken was in prison when I first met Jewell, serving two years for selling crack, and when I picked him up at the prison gate four years ago, I figured he would soon be back in jail. Instead, he has been working ever since, for the last three years as a delivery man for a chicken-and-pizza place, and in a world where missing fathers are the norm, he has been a notably present one, tending Kevion while Jewell is at work and then leaving for his nightly rounds. As Congress revisits the welfare bill to write the second act, there's a conversation under way about how to help more men make the new start Ken has made, toward employment, responsible fatherhood or (most ambitiously) marriage -- one step he has refused to take, despite Jewell's entreaties. Ken's story is a reminder that help is sorely needed and that the ground to be covered is immense. [...]

Debating welfare a decade ago, the authors of the 1996 bill weren't wholly unmindful of the men: three of the bill's four stated goals pay tribute to the two-parent family. The problem, then and now, was that no one knew how to legislate a dad. Moving millions of women from welfare to work was a challenge of vast proportions, but at least it proceeded from a template: there were past programs, evaluations, offices and staffs. In looking to shore up the two-parent family, Congress had no place to start -- not even any certainty that welfare had played a role in its decline. Scholarly evidence was slight. The bill spelled out how work programs would run (and bolstered child-support collection) but let the states decide what if anything to do to influence family structure. Most did nothing. If the bill had a theory about promoting fatherhood, it was that once poor mothers went to work, they would demand more from the opposite sex.

At about the same time in the mid-90's, the graph line took an intriguing turn: after galloping upward for decades, the share of children born outside marriage began to stabilize. But it has stabilized -- actually inched up a bit -- at a disturbing high. Thirty-four percent of American children are now born to single mothers -- 23 percent of whites, 43 percent of Hispanics and 68 percent of blacks. Even as the trend plateaued, the reasons remain unclear. Despite Wisconsin's famously tough crackdown on welfare, nonmarital births rose. In the District of Columbia, with permissive welfare rules, nonmarital births dropped the most. Along with tougher welfare laws, the past decade has brought a service expansion in child care, health insurance and wage subsidies. But since these efforts were mostly aimed at custodial parents, this new safety net mostly benefited women.

Here and there, some experimental programs arose to help poor men become better fathers. They typically offered services like job training and drug treatment in exchange for the fathers' agreement to acknowledge paternity and pay child support. Many included ''peer support'' sessions -- a kind of group counseling -- in which the men shared their thoughts about their relationships with their kids. The counseling, which was generally more successful than job-placement efforts, challenged the stereotype of the men as cavalier. Like Ken, many seemed deeply hurt by their own fathers' abandonment and talked of wanting to break the cycle, even as, unlike Ken, most perpetuated it. Marriage was sometimes discussed in these sessions, but often as a vague or distant goal.

For a moment, the programs attracted a swell of bipartisan support. A bill to provide modest federal support ($140 million over four years) passed the House in 2000 with more than 400 votes. ''If you're going to solve the problem of poverty, you've got to do what you can to make these guys marriage material,'' said Representative E. Clay Shaw Jr., a Florida Republican and leading supporter. But other conservatives feared that the programs blessed a status quo in which the father was out of the house. Even cohabitating parents -- like Ken and Jewell -- are inherently unstable, they said, since nearly 40 percent of such couples break up by the time their child turns 3. Responsible fatherhood, the case went, starts with a stable marriage.

In 2002, such arguments led to a sharp policy shift: a proposal by President Bush to redirect $200 million a year in federal welfare funds toward programs that help low-income couples form and sustain ''healthy marriages.'' The move from fatherhood to marriage, depending on your perspective, either incisively diagnoses the real problem or hubristically pushes government into a realm where it doesn't belong and can't succeed. Versions of the healthy-marriage proposal have passed the House twice, but the larger bill (to reauthorize the 1996 law) is deadlocked in the Senate over unrelated provisions.

Both supporters and critics of the Bush plan start with the same research finding: upon the birth of their child, about two-thirds of unwed parents say they strongly intend to marry. But within the next year and a half, only about 13 percent do. (The numbers come from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing study at Princeton, a treasure trove of data about poor, unmarried couples.) To Wade Horn, the Bush administration's ''marriage guru,'' that shows he has a product that's wanted. ''We're not going into low-income communities and saying, 'Hey, guess what -- there's this thing called marriage, and you ought to have one,''' he said. On the contrary, he said he sees himself ''matching our services to the aspirations they have.'' Horn argues that the needy have plenty of places to go for things like child care or training, while no social service bureaucracy takes seriously this ''primal'' need.

Horn, an assistant secretary in the Department of Health and Human Services, is a skilled spokesman for his cause, and he takes pains not to overpromise. There's a literature that shows marriage education to be helpful in preserving existing unions. But it's mostly a white, middle-class literature that doesn't speak directly to couples like Ken and Jewell. And there's hardly any good evidence to suggest that a program can encourage healthy marriages among those who haven't wed. The bill contemplates ''public advertising campaigns,'' ''education in high schools on the value of marriage'' and ''premarital education and marriage-skills training,'' with all participation voluntary. Under some conditions, services like job training or drug treatment could also be included, though how often that would happen is unclear. Some supporters of the administration plan suggest that it could happen quite a lot; the legislative language seems more restrictive. (How this plays out in practice could be essential both to the programs' effectiveness and to the political support they command.) What could a marriage course achieve, assuming that Jewell and Ken would attend? ''It might do a lot, and it might do nothing,'' Horn said. ''But we do know that if you do nothing, that's the result you'll get.''

To much of the left, the finding that the poor want to marry suggests that marriage education is beside the point. Some simply see no role for government in such an intimate decision. Some worry that marriage promotion will encourage women to stay with violent men. Many argue that what's holding poor men back is the lack of economic stability: make more men ''marriageable,'' they say -- by helping them get decent jobs -- and more men will marry.

Luis Palau, George Bush, and the Mall of America: An afternoon with the holy trinity of terror (Molly Priesmeyer, 8/17/04, City Pages)
Two middle-schoolers just completed their first big mission of the day: They helped save a six-year-old boy. With a touch on the shoulder, a quick prayer, and the signing of a response card, 14-year-old Alex Lundberg and 12-year-old Brad Boyd have given the young boy the ultimate gift of eternal life. Lundberg and Boyd are both decked out in white visors that cause their shaggy skater hair to flip out over the elastic bands, and both are wearing identical black T-shirts featuring a skateboarding Jesus. Jesus is in his signature sandals, sailing along in mid-ollie, his robe flailing behind him. The words "Xtreme Jesus" are written in skater-style letters across the bottom.

Since 1999, Twin Cities Festival organizer Luis Palau has been employing extreme means and extreme sports to reach an MTV-bred generation of kids worshipping MTV-made false idols. At Palau's insidiously titled Beachfest in Ft. Lauderdale in 2003, 300,000 people showed up to celebrate God, Jesus, and skateboarding.

Along with appropriating pop culture in an effort to make religion more relevant, Palau and his association also are capitalizing on the heightened sense of fear and panic that has caused a surge in duct tape sales and a wave of stories about the terror of traveling with a group of "suspicious" Syrian musicians. "You never know when you will die," Palau says. "Repent today, repent today, repent today," he repeats over and over during his speeches. In other words, the terror alert is on high, dude, and you just can't skate your way into heaven.

It's fitting that Palau would use fear as a vehicle to amass younger Christians, since he himself was struck by the fear of eternal damnation at the age of 12. He was on the cusp of becoming a delinquent teenager when a Christian camp counselor asked if he was going to heaven or hell: He decided at that moment to dedicate his life to Christ. After Palau served as translator and crusader for big-tent evangelist Billy Graham in the early '60s, Graham donated money to Palau's cause in 1978, allowing the Luis Palau Evangelical Association to become a separate organization, with headquarters in Portland, Oregon.

Though Palau claims he brings a message of hope to the Twin Cities, throughout the festival there's a pervading theme of doom. Not only is the Grim Reaper's sickle casting its shadow, but Satan's pitchfork has already pierced our confused souls. We are all born sinners who terrorize ourselves, our families, and our communities, resulting in a sort of sin storm that's spiraling out of control and wreaking havoc on society's values. If we don't make amends for our misdeeds, like Palau's nephew did before he died of AIDS at 25 because "he was living the gay lifestyle," we are condemned to a life of torture. [...]

Palau claims he doesn't talk politics. Yet his entire speech is peppered with tales that focus on the issues that so clearly divide the two political parties: abortion, homosexuality, and "family values." You can commit the sins that plague you every day, you can even "kill your baby," and God will forgive you, he says. But you must repent today, repent today, repent today, because you never know when you will die. He talks about how girls should remain clean, no one should have sex until marriage, sex can only be between a man and a woman, and that sex outside of marriage is sinful and empty. As if only able to reach kids through coy euphemisms, he also asks, "Who came up with the idea of ha-ha hoo-hoo?" God did. And he made the rules, dammit.

Jesus Christ calls his own by name, he says (hint: it's the guilt and shame you feel in the pit of your stomach). He interprets a Psalm and says, "Though my father and mother reject me, the Lord will lift me up." This makes my heart break into a million pieces. For lost and imperfect teenagers, whose lives become one hapless mistake after the next, even the onetime hippie Jesus sees them as a failure who must promise to never make the same mistake again in order to be accepted. "You're wild, you're out of control, Jesus knows you by name," Palau says, sounding about as impassioned and inspired as an auctioneer. Through fear, he encourages attendees to repent to God and stave off the fire pits of hell rather than preaching about living a more positive, passionate, and generous life. On top of the fear of rejection, the fear of death, and the fear of impending doom, Palau teaches us that the biggest thing we have to fear is ourselves. Hallelujah.

Regardless of what you think of the means of achieving them, it's impossible to argue with sociological studies demonstrating that religious faith and marriage are beneficial to such troubled communities, yet the reactionary Left is stuck opposing these remedies and has nothing to offer in their place. They're bereft of ideas of their own, but know they hate the ideas that have traditionally worked. They've put themselves in a position where their on the opposing side of not just majority opinion but of the very people they're supposedly more concerned about than the evil Right.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:20 PM


Two Cities: Augustine’s City of God (BreakPoint with Charles Colson, August 19, 2004)

On August 24, 410 A.D., the Visigoths, led by Alaric, sacked Rome. For the people of late antiquity, August 24 was even more traumatic than September 11 was for us. Rome, the capital of the greatest empire the world had ever known, was plundered by barbarians, people Rome regarded as uncouth and inferior.

In North Africa, these events prompted a Christian bishop to start writing about the lessons Christians should take away from the destruction of Rome. The result was a book that is every bit as relevant for our day as it was for his: The City of God by St. Augustine of Hippo.

In response to critics who blamed Rome’s demise on the fact that she abandoned the pagan gods and turned to Christ, Augustine introduced readers to two cities: the “City of God” and the “City of Man.” The City of Man is shaped by the love of self, even to the contempt of God, and the City of Godis shaped by the love of God, even to the contempt of self.

In describing the two cities, Augustine reiterated Jesus’ teaching that while Christians live in the City of Man, they do not belong to the City of Man. Their presence in the earthly city is like that of strangers sojourning in a foreign country. We are to enjoy the blessings the City of Man has to offer, including its rights, its protection, and its preservation of order, but we are always ready to move on. The City of Man is not our true home. No, our true home is in the City of God. And it is to that city that we owe our affections and our ultimate loyalty.

While this sounds like a recipe for withdrawal, it is anything but that.

Here's more on the healthy tension mentioned below.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:42 AM


Blair plans inheritance tax relief for middle class (BRIAN BRADY, 8/22/04, The Scotsman)

[D]owning Street and the Treasury are considering introducing a banding system, similar to income tax, with a base rate of 22% and higher bands of 40% and 50% for more valuable estates. The new thinking, on an issue which threatens to plunge the government into renewed protests during the crucial run-up to an election expected to take place next year, is reflected in a new report from a left-leaning think tank which is published today.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), which has put forward a number of initiatives picked up by the Government in recent years, claims that introducing a banding system would cut the inheritance tax bills for 87% of estates.

But IPPR researcher Dominic Maxwell said the reform would also generate almost £150m extra in tax receipts, over and above the £2.8bn claimed back by the Treasury from inherited property every year.

The financial burden would therefore shift from those benefiting from a relatively modest inheritance to heirs of estates valued at many times beyond the current threshold.

"A fairer inheritance tax would see the very wealthy, who are comfortably over the threshold, pay more, whilst the vast majority of families that are currently taxed would pay less," Maxwell said. "As well as being fairer to those who inherit assets, this reform would also benefit those born with nothing, through a beefed-up Child Trust Fund."

The Child Trust Fund will deposit £250 for all children, plus £250 more for the poorest, in accounts for children born from September 2002 onwards.

Invested over 18 years, the IPPR believes the extra funds raised from IT reform could provide an extra £662 for children from the poorest third of families, and £331 for the rest.

If only John Kerry had even one such idea, he wouldn't be stuck in Mekong mud.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:36 AM


Will Kerry be buried by New Joizee doyt? (Roger Franklin, August 22, 2004, The Age)

It's not often that New York's civic fathers can feel more upright and honest than their counterparts in other states. Corruption charges, accusations of sexual harassment, even of rape, pop up with such regularity that it's a wonder the newspapers don't list the latest market prices for buying an elected official.

Just now, however, with a jury watching surveillance videos of a senior judge accepting $US1000 ($1380) and a box of cigars to fix a trial, even New Yorkers can feel proud. All they need do is cast an eye across the Hudson River to neighbouring New Jersey, where that sum would be small potatoes indeed. In fact, by Joizee standards, it might even qualify as an honest transaction. In New York, at least the plaintiff secured the verdict he paid for.

Standards are different in New Jersey. There, as events leading to the downfall of Democratic Governor James McGreevey demonstrate, politics means everything from trying to put your gay poet lover in charge of homeland security to being at the beck and call of power broker Robert Kusher, who set up his brother-in-law with a hooker and then sent videotapes of the encounter to the man's wife, his own sister.

Anyone who has ever watched The Sopranos will have some idea of what New Jersey is all about. Charmless, smelly, down-at-heel and dirty, the landscape still manages to seem clean in comparison with the state's politicians. [...]

Kusher should be out of prison by the 2008 presidential race, and one suspects a Kerry loss wouldn't distress him too much. How so? Well, he has another potential horse in that race. According to federal electoral records, Kusher is the third-largest contributor to Senator Hillary Clinton's political war chest.

That's the kind of coverage the state is getting abroad, yet Democrats have decided to let the Governor stay?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:20 AM


Keyes: ‘The victory is for God’ (CATHLEEN FALSANI, August 22, 2004, Chicago Sun-Times)

First impressions can be misleading.

Two weeks ago, a wild-eyed Alan Keyes stood in front of news cameras in a hot, crowded Arlington Heights banquet hall sweating profusely, yelling and shaking his fist as he enthusiastically accepted the Republican nomination to run for U.S. Senate in Illinois.

"I will promise you a battle like this nation has never seen," Keyes shouted with the passion of a preacher talking about spiritual combat with the forces of evil, thrusting his fist heavenward for emphasis. "The battle is for us, but I have confidence because the victory IS FOR GOD!"

A few days after he delivered the fiery speech that was replayed time and again on television newscasts across the nation, a decidedly different Alan Keyes is seated behind the desk of a spartan office in what was until recently the Jack Ryan for Senate headquarters on North Clinton in Chicago. [...]

Keyes would never make himself out to be some sort of Biblical scholar, but when it comes to Scripture, he knows what he's talking about.

He reads Greek -- he travels with a laptop loaded with Bible software, including a copy of the Septuagint, the Greek version of Hebrew Scriptures -- and can wax eloquent at length about the etymology of certain words and how they correspond to theological principles.

"I try to read or think about some element of the Bible every day," he says, leaning back in his office chair, and propping his feet up on the desk.

When asked what portion of the Bible he most enjoys reading, he says, without hesitation, "Genesis."

"I often tell people that my greatest problem in the Bible is that in any serious way I've never been able to get past Genesis," he says, chuckling. "Now, I have read the whole Bible and I read other books, but what I mean is the book that I keep going back to over and over again is Genesis.

"For the longest time, I was really going back over and over again, thinking and writing about, the creation myths, because it seemed to me that there's an enormous depth of kind of philosophical implication," he says.

In addition to his Biblical studies, Keyes is a philosophy buff.

"People will think this is strange I suppose, but . . . there are books like Kant's Critique of Pure Reason and Hegel's Logic and things like that, and every once in a while I get hit by this mood and I have to wrestle with these books that are very abstract and that are kind of philosophy in the viewless realms where you are really dealing with concepts that have no corresponding material images or anything to go along with it," he says, excitedly. "You just have to go with pure concepts to think about things. And I think, in the sense of that kind of philosophical thinking, meditation and reasoning, Genesis is an enormously powerful experience." [...]

Keyes could be a preacher, a Biblical scholar, or professional apologist for Christ. But instead, he's chosen to enter the secular political realm.

Why choose a field that can so often obfuscate faith?

It's a question, apparently, that moves Keyes to tears.

His eyes turn red, he stops talking for several minutes, stares at the ceiling, drums his fingers on the desk, and apologizes for his loss of composure.

After several attempts to begin speaking, only to have his voice crack with emotion, Keyes tries again to explain what he's feeling.

"I'm sorry, I'm getting a grip," he says, eyes red with tears. "When I was young, I encountered a problem, I guess. A challenge. And I guess it was an encounter that disillusioned me, yes, in the literal sense. And that was my first encounter with the reality -- intellectually and emotionally . . ." he pauses again, his voice trailing off for a few moments. " . . . Of what the slave experience meant to my ancestors. And I think I've been working that out ever since.''

When pressed to explain just what this "encounter" was, Keyes reveals that it was, in fact, an intellectual incident.

When he was about 15, he read Lerone Bennett's book Before the Mayflower: A History of the Negro in America, 1619-1964. And it broke his heart, he says.

"It's sorrow," he says, explaining why 40 years later he's still so emotional about something he read as a teenager. "It's not a sorrow for yourself, it's not a sorrow for individuals, it's a sorrow for the reality of our kind of sad experience . . . of life without God."

And it's that sorrow and outrage that in part has led him into politics, Keyes says.

"It's a problem of justice and to understand it and resolve it somehow is not an intellectual exercise. You have to meet the challenge of it in your own time and life. And at some level, that's what politics remains at its heart, in America," he explains.

"It's impossible to be a Christian and really live out your relationship with God apart from life and action," he says. "And that action requires that you kind of be aware of and sensitive to how in fact the injustice that was involved in slavery is like one of those difficult plants where you cut off what appears on the surface but the root is still there. And it springs up again in another place, in what seems like another form, but it is the same evil. It's the same root."

Don't you hate when that wild-eyed conservative you hated from a distance turns out to be personable, thoughtful and compassionate?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:13 AM


Symbols of war, or just plain fun? (MAUDLYNE IHEJIRIKA, August 22, 2004, Chicago Sun-Times)

Jets roaring overhead drowned out the "Drop Bush, not bombs" chant of peace activists struggling to be heard.

It was the 46th annual Air & Water Show, and the "oohs" and "aahs" Saturday joined heckling from about 100 activists protesting the war in Iraq and the air show itself, which the activists described as an ad for military recruitment.

It's a pretty spooky experience, living in Chicago, the first time a Stealth jet roars over your building.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:04 AM


Kerry’s agenda faces questions as race heats up: His 100-day view called undefined (Patrick Healy, August 22, 2004, Boston Globe)

At political rallies this month, John F. Kerry has positioned himself as a centrist -- declaring that he is a fiscal conservative, a devout Roman Catholic, and a farm boy at heart -- even though the nominee is fashioning a presidential agenda that draws strongly on his party's liberal tradition and that aims to energize liberals to carry him to victory on Nov. 2.

Among undecided and independent voters, Kerry touts the commandment to "honor thy father and thy mother" and then uses it as a jumping-off point. He then pledges: "I will never privatize Social Security, I will never cut Social Security benefits."

He says: "God gave [the US] only 3 percent of the world's oil reserves" to explain his $30 billion plan for energy independence and antipollution measures, and he champions his Vietnam War record, which some veterans have been trying to sully.

Yet before smaller, traditionally Democratic audiences, such as senior citizens or union members, Kerry wins rousing applause when describing an agenda for his first 100 days in office. He would raise taxes on Americans making more than $200,000, and would use the revenue to make health care "a right" for all.

On Inauguration Day, he says, he would send a bill to Congress guaranteeing universal health coverage for children. Tens of billions more dollars would go to public schools. He would order a review of trade agreements, with labor playing a role. And Kerry would go to the United Nations to "rejoin the community of nations" and commit to "strong alliances."

As Kerry battles foes over the veracity of his Vietnam War heroism, he faces questions about his agenda for the country. He would expand government programs and create new ones, yet he has hinged funding them on tax increases. Increasingly, Bush partisans are dogging Kerry at his events with signs like one in Oregon this month, deriding "these lying, crying liberals," while he insists he does not stand for any one ideology.

"Kerry's trying to bat right and throw left, and still look consistent because people criticize him as inconsistent," said James Thurber, who heads the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University. "He's trying so hard to appeal to swing voters in the middle, but his message has left many Americans unsure about what he stands for."

Mr. Kerry can hardly be blamed for the fact that his Great Society liberalism is anathema to the American people, but the Democratic Party must surely be blamed for their inability to modernize their agenda, as Bill Clinton proposed in 1992 and as Tony Blair has succeeded in doing in Britain.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:53 AM


Are You Dead? (Daily Dig from, 8/22/04)

When we get our spiritual house in order, we'll be dead. This goes on. You arrive at enough certainty to be able to make your way, but it is making it in darkness. Don't expect faith to clear things up for you. It is trust, not certainty.
-"Letter to Louise Abbott" (Flannery O'Connor)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:45 AM


The general in his library (Ian Garrick Mason, August 22, 2004, Boston Globe)

TODAY, ALL BRANCHES of America's armed forces have lists of books they recommend to their personnel. On July 23, the chief of staff of the Army, General Peter Schoomaker, issued a significant update to the Army's list.

The Army's original list was issued in June 2000 by General Eric Shinseki. [...]

The Army's reading list is actually a collection of four sublists, each designed for personnel at different stages in their career. Sublist 1, which includes books like John Keegan's "The Face of Battle" and Stephen Ambrose's "Band of Brothers," is meant for officer cadets, soldiers, and junior noncommissioned officers (NCOs). Sublist 2 contains books meant for "company-grade" officers (lieutenants and captains) and mid-level NCOs, while Sublist 3 is designed for "field-grade" officers (majors and colonels) and senior NCOs. Perhaps most interesting is Sublist 4, targeted at "senior leaders above brigade level." These are the books that the chief of staff thinks his colonels and generals should be reading. [...]

Schoomaker's sublist is different in several ways. Summers's book on Vietnam is gone, but Vietnam isn't: See H.R. McMaster's "Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam," described on the list as "a cautionary tale about how the military and its civilian leadership failed at the highest levels." Clausewitz's "On War" has been moved to Sublist 3 to stand beside Sun Tzu's classic "The Art of War," while Donald Kagan's more accessible history of the Peloponnesian War has replaced Thucydides'. And a new emphasis on military transformation is obvious -- on this sublist alone there are four books on the topic. [...]

No list can be comprehensive, but Phillip Carter, a former Army officer who now writes on military affairs, sees several missed opportunities -- such as the lack of any books on Islam and Middle Eastern culture. And given the Army's recent missions, he adds, "There should be books on peacekeeping, or books like Samantha Power's `A Problem from Hell.' And Elizabeth Neuffer's `The Key to My Neighbor's House,' which really helps you understand the civilian side of the equation in a place like Bosnia or Rwanda -- or Iraq, for that matter."

Pretty revealing that even as late as 2000 General Shinseki didn't recognize that a massive transformation of the military was coming and they should be prepared.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:33 AM


A democratic & republican religion (Marc M. Arkin, Summer 2004, New Criterion)

The United States is without question one of the most religious countries in the industrialized world. Current surveys indicate that over 80 percent of Americans claim to believe in God, compared with 62 percent of the French and 52 percent of Swedes. About two-thirds of Americans claim church membership, 40 percent say they go to church once a week, 60 percent go monthly, and 43 percent describe themselves as born-again Christians. Three times as many people in the United States believe in the virgin birth as in evolution. Although twenty-nine million Americans say they have no religion, fewer than 5 percent of the population will admit to atheism or even agnosticism. Whether these figures reflect reality is irrelevant; the point is that the vast majority of Americans want to be seen as religious and think it unacceptable to be viewed otherwise, even by an anonymous polltaker. This is hardly surprising since 58 percent of Americans—as opposed to only 13 percent of the French and 25 percent of the British, but along with 89 percent of Pakistanis—think it necessary to believe in God in order to be moral.

Yet, at the very same time, thoughtful Americans of all denominations complain that religion is excluded from American public life. They point to the dominant secular culture and to the separationist constitutional regime that assertedly favors it. In fact, there are two separationist cases on the Supreme Court docket this term—whether a state must provide scholarship funds to support a student’s training for the Christian ministry and whether the phrase “under God” can remain in the Pledge of Allegiance. The irony is that the Court sessions that heard both cases—like every other Supreme Court session—began with the invocation, “God save the United States and this Honorable Court.”

This American inconsistency has a long pedigree; the same week that Congress passed the final draft of the First Amendment’s religion clauses, both houses also passed a measure providing funds for congressional chaplains. Indeed, the Non-Separating Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony—they who limited the franchise to adult male church members who had experienced a saving work of God in their own souls, and who were still hanging Quakers on Boston Common well after it was illegal in England—believed themselves to have established the most secular state in the world because they had no ecclesiastical courts and ministers did not hold public office. What is more, they were probably right. American religious history admits of no easy generalizations. [...]

In providing the foundation for a free social order and government, American religion was indubitably “republican.” Yet de Tocqueville was too astute an observer not to perceive that democratic mores themselves exerted an effect on religion. Even in the 1830s, de Tocqueville recognized a certain homogenization of religious doctrine—even between Catholics and Protestants—and the pervasiveness of a “passion for well-being” in religious exchange. Of American preachers, he remarked that “it is often difficult to ascertain from their discourses whether the principal object of religion is to procure eternal felicity in the other world or prosperity in this.” And, of democratic religiosity, he presciently noted a tendency to pantheism, an egalitarian desire to identify the Creator and His creation. Recent writers have seen in these tendencies a single, peculiarly democratic constellation of beliefs, a modern instantiation of the gnostic impulse, which plays itself out in the restless American hope for hermetic knowledge—preferably of a fabulistic variety—that will yield individual salvation in the form of personal well-being. However conceived, from the arrival of the first white settlers, American religious life has been characterized by a tension between the authority of organized denominations and the individual search for religious fulfillment, with its myriad spiritual experiments, a tension that the Puritans characterized as that between community and calling.

American is also characterized by the tension between God and Caesar and between Athens and Jerusalem. Perhaps the main lesson to draw is that a healthy society needs to be confident enough to welcome these various tensions. From that perspective the thing crippling Europe could be seen to be the desire of its people to avoid conflict of any kind--a tendency that may derive from their experience in several continent wide wars or from the rapidity with which its population is aging or from a lack of confidence in its own culture or some combination. Perhaps what makes America unique is the ability to walk these high tension lines without often falling off to one side or the other, no matter how much we wobble.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:21 AM


Chipping Away at the Wall: Americans shouldn't have to be religious in the closet, but that doesn't give public officials the right to exercise their religion at the expense of everyone they serve. (DAHLIA LITHWICK, 8/22/04, NY Times)

[N]early 80 years ago in Dayton, Tenn., an epic trial pitted the literal truth of the Bible against modern science. And when the Scopes monkey trial concluded, the presiding judge closed the proceedings as he'd opened them each day - with a prayer. [...]

The twin religious protections enshrined in the First Amendment - that one can freely exercise one's religion, and that the government cannot establish a state religion - are forced onto a collision course when public officials insist their personal religious freedom allows them to promote sectarian views in office. Yet with ever-increasing shrillness, we hear from elected or appointed officials that it's religious persecution to ask them to suspend sectarian prayer or practices on the bench, in the legislature or at the schoolhouse gate.

To be sure, the courts have made a hash of the First Amendment religion jurisprudence. A crèche on government property is constitutional so long as the manger includes a Malibu Barbie; and state aid to religious schools is constitutional if it's triangulated through the alchemy of parental choice. But the courts have not backed down from the principle that imposing sectarian religion in the public square violates the Constitution. Religious Americans have every right to insist they shouldn't have to be religious in the closet. But that doesn't give public officials some free-floating constitutional right to exercise their religion at the expense of everyone they ostensibly serve.

At the end of the monkey trial, H. L. Mencken wrote that Tennessee had seen "its courts converted into camp meetings and its Bill of Rights made a mock of by its sworn officers of the law." We are there again. Maybe the judge and the jury were right to convict Mr. Scopes for teaching something so absurd as Darwinism. We haven't evolved one bit.

Somehow she misses the point of her own vignette--no one considered the judge at the Scopes trial to be establishing a religion. It is only the modern assault on any exercise of religion in public that imagines this kind of traditional exercise to be violative of the "rights" of others.

She closes well though.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:55 AM


North and south: a review of The Root Causes of Sudan's Civil Wars by Douglas Hamilton Johnson (Bona Malwal, Times Literary Supplement)

Douglas H. Johnson is a specialist in the history of the Nuer people of South Sudan; he writes with a degree of sympathy and compassion unusual among scholars, making his book a practical contribution to the search for peace. War in Sudan has in fact been almost continuous since independence in 1956. Most analyses interpret this state of conflict in terms of the deep differences between the Muslim and predominantly Arabized Northern part of
the country and the non-Arab, largely non-Muslim South. The quest for peace has thus involved a search for some political, economic and cultural accommodation between the two regions that can serve to keep the country united. But this approach has never worked. The Root Causes of Sudan's Civil Wars seeks to go beyond this binary model, returning to the historical origins of the Sudanese state in order to understand its failure in the present day. As Johnson explains, until the twentieth century there was no state called Sudan. The country was a geographical entity that had never come fully under any government, let alone a single, united government.

The nineteenth-century Turko-Egyptian invaders brought the Arab and Islamic tribes of Northern Sudan under their control to some degree. So did the Anglo Egyptian Condominium that followed and ruled Sudan until independence. But even during the Condominium, South Sudan was never fully under a central authority. The tenuous pacification that was achieved during the fifty years of British administration was through indirect rule. Armed resistance continued up until the 1930s. Since the 1950s no attempt to subject the people of the South to direct authority has worked.

The critical period for the future of the entity called Sudan was the final decade of the Condominium, from 1946 to 1955, just before independence, when the colonial powers imposed the notion of a unitary state that yoked the North and South together. Before this, the relationship between the two parts of the country was one in which, as Johnson characterizes it, the North had, for generations, preyed on the South for slave soldiers and food supplies. South Sudanese contend that the raids for slaves and natural resources have not ended, even now.

Unfortunately, most Northern Sudanese believe to this day that the Arabization and Islamization of Sudan was interrupted by colonialism and that it should be resumed. As Johnson explains, the attempted incorporation of the South into the Arab-Islamic polity has been pursued by a divide-and-rule approach: successive governments have engaged in tactics aimed at securing themselves in power, rather than resolving the fundamental inequities in the country, playing one group of Southerners off against another, with offers of limited access to state privilege. No Northern government has seriously tried to find a formula of sharing the country with the peoples of the South.

Now, with the peace agreement in Kenya, there is a danger of the same thing happening again. The agreement is between just two belligerents, the Islamist Government that has ruled Sudan since 1989 and the principal armed southern rebel group, the SPLM/A. Here Johnson's clear vision of the importance of the South in the national question is blurred somewhat by his view of the negotiations, which seems overly influenced by the policies of the SPLM/A and other so-called liberation movements. In my view, these armed Southern factions do not present clear choices for the people of South Sudan.

On the central issue of the conflict, the SPLM/A has always been ambivalent.

And then we wonder how these places got so screwed up.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:47 AM


Bound by the law (KATE FOSTER, 8/22/04, The Scotsman)

IT WAS a dramatic police swoop that ended in a spectacular anticlimax. Costing £1.5m and tying up dozens of officers for months, the arrest of nine Algerians in Scotland sparked a nationwide terror alert and fears of an al-Qaeda Hogmanay bomb plot.

One year later, however, the men were cleared of terror charges. Human rights lawyers accused police of racist motives and the men, all Muslims, continued to seek asylum in Britain.

To any observer, the entire affair could seem at best misguided and at worst a stunt to allay public fears about possible attacks in Britain by Islamic fundamentalists.

But in the eight months since the charges were dropped, a worrying picture has gradually emerged that suggests police felt hamstrung by current criminal laws.

Already, the police have indicated they were unhappy at the way the investigation, which was led by Det Supt Bert Swanston, one of Scotland’s most senior detectives, ended. They have maintained that the evidence gathered raised strong suspicions.

Now sources have given Scotland on Sunday the most detailed picture yet of what they suspected: that the men were acting as a support cell that merged into the Edinburgh community.

And, worryingly, the police sources claim their hands were tied by "archaic" laws that could prevent them fully investigating terrorists in the future. [...]

The Home Office itself is concerned about its counter-terrorism powers and David Blunkett is planning to extend anti-terror legislation in the coming months. But there are concerns about how this will work.

He appears determined to keep the power to detain suspected international terrorists without trial. A total of 12 foreign nationals, including several at Belmarsh prison in south-east London, have been held under the power, rushed in shortly after the 11 September attacks in 2001.

Other proposals being examined by Blunkett include relaxing the ban on evidence gathered by police through bugging, creating an offence of ‘acts preparatory to terrorism’ to convict people on the edge of terrorist networks and staging pre-emptive trials of terror suspects in secret before state-selected judges and with vetted defence lawyers.

Consultation on proposed new anti-terrorism laws ends this month, with Blunkett due to present his conclusions in October or November. However he faces a major backlash with many of his cabinet colleagues fiercely opposed to the plans.

Do they really need their own 9-11 before they get serious?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


'I will do everything I can to stop John Kerry becoming the commander-in-chief of this nation's armed forces' (Charles Laurence, 22/08/2004, Daily Telegraph)

In his first interview for the British press, the Vietnam veteran leading the attack on John Kerry tells Charles Laurence why he must act
Need to get away

The Vietnam veteran at the heart of an increasingly vicious campaign to discredit John Kerry's "war hero" status has vowed to do "whatever it takes to stop that man becoming commander-in-chief of America's armed forces".

In an outspoken interview with the Telegraph, John O'Neill, speaking in his publisher's office in the shadow of Capitol Hill, denied being a Republican stooge, saying that his campaign to prevent Mr Kerry reaching the White House was driven by personal loathing of the Democratic presidential nominee. [...]

"John Kerry ravaged the souls of people," said Mr O'Neill, his face trembling with rage as he talked of events that happened more than 30 years ago. "I don't really care about the presidency, but that is why I will do everything I can, whatever it takes, to stop that man becoming commander-in-chief of our armed forces.

"I am not a Republican. I tend to support the Democrats more than the Republicans at home in Texas, and in this election I would have voted Democrat. I would vote for John Edwards [the vice-presidential candidate] for president. But I will do everything I can to stop John Kerry."

He admitted that it was the senator's behaviour following the war - Mr Kerry served just four months in Vietnam before being repatriated after receiving his third Purple Heart medal for combat wounds - that motivated his campaign. He pointed out that he had attacked Mr Kerry during a television debate about Vietnam as long ago as 1971.

According to Mr O'Neill, Mr Kerry was known in Vietnam as "the jerk who wants to be President" and returned home to make a name for himself as a leader of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. He testified to the Senate, led marches on Washington and - to Mr O'Neill's enduring ire - accused the American forces in Vietnam of routinely abusing the civilian population and of "war crimes".

Mr O'Neill said: "That buzzard got out after four months and betrayed the people he served with. Millions of people opposed the war. I have no problem with that. But it is a whole different world to come back and say that the kids you served with are war criminals, and the people in your command are war criminals.

"We were still riding the river and this buzzard was in Paris, on television, talking to a Viet Cong in their so-called peace delegation while the Viet Cong were killing our men. We lost 55 men in that campaign."

While Mr O'Neill accused Mr Kerry of "embroidering and exaggerating his war", and of "posing and posturing", surprisingly he also conceded that although publicly he supported specific claims about the accuracy of Mr Kerry's war record, much of the detail was in fact lost in the fog of war and conflicting memories.

So, the question is: how did Rove get to him in 1970.

Loophole lures Kerry into the fray (FRASER NELSON, 8/22/04)

A SPECTACULAR malfunction in laws designed to clean up US politics has sent almost $250m (£135m) into the hands of ‘para-political’ groups dedicated to negative campaigning in the race for the White House.

A cast of billionaires, including financier George Soros and film producer Stephen Bing, are bankrolling a new breed of pressure groups which can raise limitless cash as long as they agree not to support any one candidate.

The majority focus on attacking President George W Bush - ensuring a flood of the venomous political attacks which have characterised the race for the White House in recent weeks.

But it is the pro-Bush group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth that appears to be causing the most damage to a candidate.

Ironic, huh?

August 21, 2004

Posted by David Cohen at 10:18 PM


Swift Boat Accounts Incomplete: Critics Fail to Disprove Kerry's Version of Vietnam War Episode (Michael Dobbs, Washington Post, 8/22/04)

As they were heading back to the boat, Kerry and Rassmann decided to blow up a five-ton rice bin to deny food to the Vietcong. In an interview last week, Rassmann recalled that they climbed on top of the huge pile and dug a hole in the rice. On the count of three, they tossed their grenades into the hole and ran.

Evidently, Kerry did not run fast enough. "He got some frags and pieces of rice in his rear end," Rassmann said with a laugh. "It was more embarrassing than painful." At the time, the incident did not seem significant, and Kerry did not mention it to anyone when he got back on the boat. An unsigned "personnel casualty report," however, erroneously implies that Kerry suffered "shrapnel wounds in his left buttocks" later in the day, following the mine explosion incident, when he also received "contusions to his right forearm."

So, some of Senator Kerry's wounds were self-inflicted (which is not the same as intentionally self-inflicted). I assume that Chris Matthews will immediately apologize to Michelle Malkin.

Posted by David Cohen at 9:23 PM


Kerry Is Filing a Complaint Against Swift Boat Group (Glen Justice and Jim Rutenberg, NY Times, 8/21/04)

"We hope the F.E.C. will shut down these ads that are run on behalf of the Bush campaign,'' said Michael Meehan, a Kerry spokesman. He said the campaign planned to file its complaint on Monday.

Steve Schmidt, a spokesman for Mr. Bush, called the action frivolous and accused Mr. Kerry of his own violations involving Democratic-leaning groups like the Media Fund and America Coming Together, which have spent tens of millions of dollars to support Mr. Kerry and whose leaders have close ties with his campaign. The Bush campaign and the Republican Party have filed a complaint charging coordination between several groups and Mr. Kerry's campaign. . . .

Mr. Kerry's campaign argued that he was relating accusations made by others and that he had since described some of his past remarks as excessive. But some Democrats said privately they feared that this ad would have even more impact than the last, whose charges have not been substantiated.

"It's not something that can be easily or successfully discredited,'' said one party strategist, who requested anonymity because he did not want to be seen as undermining Mr. Kerry's campaign. "It's guys talking about how they felt and you can't discredit someone's description of his own feelings.''

The only way this could get better would be if the FEC decided to shut down the 527s after everyone has seen the second Swift Boat ad, preferably during network news reports.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:32 PM


Lost Cause (CHARLES McGRATH, 8/22/04, NY Times Magazine)

Once again, you can tell it is August merely by looking at the American League baseball standings. In the East, the Yankees are in their accustomed perch at first place; in second are the gasping Boston Red Sox, who when not quarreling among themselves have virtually conceded the top slot to the Yanks and are instead nervously calculating their wild-card chances. This is a late-summer pattern as regular and as predictable as the one that causes the goldenrod to begin turning yellow right about now.

If you're a Yankees fan, the standings are evidence of your team's lordly and effortless superiority; if you're a Red Sox fan, they're a sign that the universe is profoundly and unfairly rigged -- that there is a God and he plays favorites. And if you're a sportswriter they mean you can crank out yet more column inches on the storied rivalry between these two teams -- a competition that has variously been compared to the ancient struggles between Athens and Sparta, to the Renaissance rivalry between Florence and Venice and to a non-nuclear cold war. In this convention year, with John Kerry and some Democratic delegates making a ritual visit to Fenway Park and the Republicans soon to gather on Yankee turf, the stakes have been amped. If you're a New England scribe, it's now time to dust off words like ''fateful'' and ''Sophoclean.'' Almost as bad as the Curse of the Bambino, in fact -- the eternal fatwa supposedly visited upon the Sox in retaliation for Harry Frazee's improvident sale of Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1920 -- is the curse inadvertently summoned by John Cheever, who once declared, ''All literary men are Red Sox fans.'' Ever since, the team has been the subject of more damascened prose, more classical analogies, than any franchise in American sports.

Is there anyone who knows anything about baseball who thinks this Yankee team has a shot once the playoffs start? In baseball you can get through the postseason if you just have three good starting pitchers, because with the way the games are spaced out you can pretty much just keep using those three (a fourth if you lead the series or get desperate). The Yankees have one--Javier Vazquez--and he has one of the most abused young arms in the game and no playoff experience. He'll be matched against either Johann Santana or Mark Mulder twice. They won't get out of the first round.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:45 PM

DOES ANYONE THINK IT'S NOT? (via Political Theory):

America's most famous THINKER (Bryan Appleyard, AUG 15, 2004, The Straits Times)

When he speaks, presidents, prime ministers and pundits sit up and listen. If it's happening, if it's big, if you're arguing about it over dinner, he claims to have the answers. Francis Fukuyama, the man who famously announced the end of history, is back with a new book that examines whether failed states (think Iraq) can be rebuilt.

'WHASSYA business?' asks the bored but vaguely threatening Customs man at New York's Kennedy airport.

'I'm here to meet Francis Fukuyama - you know: The End Of History.'

'Oh yeah,' he chuckles. 'He sure got that wrong.'

In 1992, Francis Fukuyama, previously an obscure Washington policy wonk, made himself famous with everybody - Customs men included - by announcing that the collapse of Soviet communism signalled the end of history.

Triumphant liberal democracy was the last word in human organisation, the climax of a process of political evolution, the most productive system ever created and the one most in accord with human nature. History was over because there could be no further arguments about the best political system.

In the ensuing carnage - the Balkans, 9/11, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Iraq - many, Customs men included, concluded he was wrong.

Nevertheless, The End Of History and the Last Man sold by the million and made Fukuyama a global conference darling and arguably the world's most influential thinker. This, it seemed, was the issue. And he had a knack for finding the issue. [...]

[I]'ve always found him an infuriating figure. His arguments seem to be absolutely true on the surface and yet, beneath, profoundly implausible. Can anybody seriously believe that history is over?

A very wise man once explained the End of History so clearly and concisely that it's near inarguable:
Alright. Here's how it works. It order to be rich enough to dream of fighting the United States, you have to become the United States. Of course, by that time you won't want to fight the United States. You don't want to become the United States? Not to worry: plenty of room on the ash-heap of history.
-Lou Gots, August 21, 2004, 03:25 AM

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:15 PM


Pacifists Praising Fascists Killing Democrats (Phil Doré, 8/17/04, Butterflies and Wheels)

As someone who felt sufficiently opposed to the 2003 invasion of Iraq to join the protest marches and to attend Stop the War Coalition meetings, it is a source of great sadness to me what a shrivelled, irrelevant self-parody the British anti-war movement has become. It seems hard to believe it now, but for a couple of months in early 2003, the Stop the War Coalition seemed to be the vehicle for something huge. Schoolchildren were walking out of their classes in protest; between 750,000 and 2 million people (depending on whose estimates you believe) swarmed through the streets of London on February 15th; ordinary, middle-of the-road people - the kind you don’t normally see on a protest march - massed to vent their anger in virtually every city or major town in the UK. Celebrities like Ms Dynamite and Fran Healy queued up to go on stage at anti-war events.

By contrast, the Stop the War Coalition events you see occasionally in city centres these days are just plain embarrassing. Gone are the moderate, progressively minded individuals, leaving just an unsightly handful of dim-bulb Trotskyists, clapped-out Stalinists and Koran-thumping Islamists. The more respected campaigning organisations have either deserted them (e.g. Greenpeace) or had given them a wide berth from the beginning (e.g. Oxfam). STWC propositions rarely offer anything more intellectually complicated than shouting “Bliar!” and “End the occupation!” Their campaigns are uninspired and uninspiring, and the media stunts look increasingly cheap and desperate. You just walk pass them, put up your collar, try to avoid eye contact with them and no, I wouldn’t like a copy of the Socialist Worker, thank you very much.

The intellectual poverty of the Stop the War Coalition these days is staggering. Since so much of the STWC’s organisation now amounts to little more than a franchise of the Socialist Workers Party, they’ve adopted the SWP’s perennial habit of reducing complicated issues to placard-sized slogans. Hence, the cry on the street is not, “Develop an effective exit strategy that leaves a working democracy and a functioning civil society in Iraq!” but “End the occupation now!” The almost inevitable carnage and civil war that would follow the various foreign troops suddenly stopping whatever they’re doing and heading straight for the airport doesn’t appear to weigh all that heavily on the consciences of the protestors. If this is compassion for the people of Iraq, then it’s compassion that the Iraqi people could do without.

Naturally, none of this has the slightest impact on actual policy. One consequence of all those “Bliar” badges is that no non-awkward-squad Labour MP is going to have the slightest interest in what a STWC lobbyist has to say. But it does have the effect of cheapening discourse on Iraq within civil society - in our media, in our pubs and coffee shops, and in the streets and houses of Britain. The intellectual and moral bankruptcy reaches its absolute nadir with that section of the anti-war movement which romanticises and eulogises the various armed militias that have come to be dubbed “the Iraqi resistance.”

So here's the really troubling nettle that no one seems willing to grasp: if, as the relatively few decent folk on the Left have determined, there can be no Decent Left then what are they still doing over there? They're more than welcome over here--the neocons made the same journey for the same reasons.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:39 PM


Iraq's Air Force Launches First Flights Since U.S. Invasion (Todd Pitman, 8/21/04, Associated Press)

Iraq's new air force took to the skies this week for the first time since the U.S. invaded last year and disbanded the country's armed forces, the U.S. military said.

Iraqi pilots on Wednesday flew two Seabird Seeker SB7L-360 reconnaissance aircraft on what the U.S. military described as "limited operations missions intended to protect infrastructure facilities and Iraq's borders."

The two light reconnaissance planes are fitted with surveillance systems that can transmit live video images to ground forces. They are the first of a fleet that will eventually number 10 light aircraft of "similar capability," the statement said.

Coalition forces and neighboring Jordan have been training Iraq's 162-member air force, which is expected to grow to about 500 by December 2004.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:34 PM


China records first agricultural trade deficit (Business Day, 8/22/04)

China recorded its first-ever agricultural trade deficit in the first half of the year, casting doubts on its ability to remain a self-sufficient food producer, state press reported Friday.

The deficit came in at 3.73 billion dollars, the Ministry of Agriculture was cited as saying by the China Daily.

Agricultural officials said maintaining food surpluses China has enjoyed for years would likely no longer be possible due to the country's opening to foreign competition under its World Trade Organisation (WTO) obligations.

That's an unusual economic model they're running.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:25 PM


Jordan's Crown Prince Urges Reforms (FADI KHALIL, 8/21/04, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Crown Prince Hamzah of Jordan, a key U.S. ally in the war on terror, urged reforms in Muslim thinking and criticized Islamic extremism Saturday, but he said fanaticism results from injustices and oppression being suffered by Muslims

Hamzah, a half brother of Jordan's King Abdullah II and heir to the throne, said the Muslim world was facing pressures and challenges that "extend to every corner of the (Islamic) nation's potential and its sacred shrines."

Hamzah, addressing scholars and religious leaders from 40 countries at a three-day conference here, did not elaborate on the pressures Muslims were facing, saying only that fanaticism was caused by a "deprivation, oppression and absence of justice" that "provokes hatred."

That's strange, "Middle East experts" and "State Department officials" assure us that they aren't getting enough of our tax dollars to make this kind of thinking happen.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:21 PM


Four Surprises in Global Demography: Sub-replacement fertility rates are becoming the norm throughout much of the world. Specific nations--some poor, some wealthier--are experiencing unusually high mortality rates and unnatural gender imbalances. Almost alone among developed nations, the United States continues to grow. (Nicholas Eberstadt, August 20, 2004, AEI Online)

A final surprise involves what we might call America's "demographic exceptionalism." The United States is the singular and major exception to the demographic rhythms characterizing virtually all other affluent Western states.

In Western Europe, total populations are anticipated to decline between 2000 and 2025, with a substantial shrinkage in the under-fifty-five population and pronounced population aging. In the United States, overall population aging is much more moderate; the overall population is projected to increase, and a higher number of young people are expected in 2025 than today.

Part of this difference is attributable to a significant divergence in fertility patterns. As already noted, Europe's overall TFR stands in the 1.4 to 1.5 range, with Italy and Spain on the low end, at about 1.2, and France and Ireland on the high end, at about 1.8. The U.S. fertility rate has been over 2.0 since 1990 and is just under replacement today--somewhere between 2.0 and the 2.1 replacement level, making it about 40 percent higher than Europe's.

America's fertility levels have diverged not just from Europe's but from those of the rest of the developed world. The U.S. TFR is much higher than Japan's 1.3-1.4, and the gap is even greater with some of the other high-income East Asian countries. Even much of North America does not look so "American" these days: whereas the United States and Canada had nearly identical fertility levels back in the mid-1970s, Canada looks pretty European today, and the United States looks--well, pretty American. While the States is reporting a TFR of over 2, Canada's is around 1.5.

Much of the developed world is caught up in what Ron Lesthaege and Dirk van de Kaa have dubbed "the second demographic transition"--a shift to smaller desired family sizes and less stable family unions. If this is the new demographic revolution, Americans look to be the developed world's most prominent counterrevolutionaries.

America's relatively high TFR does not seem to be explained by any particular region or ethnicity. There are big fertility differences between some states, but forty-two states reported TFRs above 1.9 that year, and thirty-three reported TFRs of 2.0 or higher. In all of Europe, by contrast, the only country with an estimated TFR above 2.0 is Albania.

America's ethnic fertility differentials do not account for its demographic divergence from Europe. Hispanic Americans maintain relatively large family sizes in the United States, with a TFR of around 2.7, but excluding them by no means eliminates the gap between the United States and the rest of the developed world. Nor can the differential be explained by factoring out African-American fertility (which is higher than the "Anglo" rate, but much closer to the Anglo rate than to the Latinos'). In 2000, America's Anglo TFR was 1.84--about 10 percent less than the U.S. national average, but still more than 30 percent above Europe's.

So how can we explain this fertility discrepancy? Possibly it is a matter of attitudes and outlook. There are big revealed differences between Americans and Europeans regarding a number of important life values. Survey results highlighted in The Economist (November 2003) point to some of these. Americans tend to identify the role of government as "providing freedom," while Europeans are inclined to think of government in terms of "guaranteeing one's needs." Attitudes about individualism, patriotism, and religiosity seem to separate Americans from much of the rest of the developed world. Is it entirely coincidental that these divergences seem to track with the big cleavages between fertility levels in the United States and so much of the rest of the developed world?

The difference between a TFR of 2.0 and one of 1.5 or 1.4, other things being equal, is the difference between virtual long-term population stability and a population that shrinks by almost a third with each passing generation. A UN Population Division study estimates what levels of net immigration flows would be necessary for developed countries to maintain both their overall population and their working-age population (15-64 years of age) over a fifty-five-year horizon. [...]

While the rest of the developed areas gradually drop off the roster of the world's major population centers, the United States actually rises, from fourth largest in 1950 to third largest in 2000, which it is projected to remain in 2050 as well. Drawing international implications from such crude comparisons is hazardous. But from a purely demographic standpoint, the United States, virtually alone among developed nations, does not look set to be going off gently into the night.

Europe is kind of like the elder who we're leaving behind on an ice floe to die.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:08 PM


India needs to take hard decisions, shun populism: PM ( 2004-08-21)

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Saturday his three-month-old government will give top priority to tackling inflation and that "hard decisions" will have to be taken, eschewing "competitive populism".

Addressing the All India Congress Committee, the party convention, which was the first since the dramatic Congress win in the national elections, Singh said his government was committed to pursuing "higher economic growth" that will also be "equitable and people-centered," the Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) reported.

"(But) we will give highest priority to taming inflation," IANS quoted Singh as said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:59 PM

EVERY DAY IS 9/10...:

Pakistan Arrests 6 al-Qaida Suspects (VOA News, 20 Aug 2004)

Pakistani authorities have arrested at least six al-Qaida linked terror suspects who they say were plotting attacks on key sites in the country, including the U.S. embassy.

Speaking in Islamabad, Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said the arrests were made across the country this past week. He added that police are still searching for at least four other suspects.

Mr. Ahmed says the suspects, who included an Egyptian, were also planning to attack the residence of President Pervez Musharraf as well as military headquarters.

Earlier Saturday, Pakistani troops attacked suspected al-Qaida hideouts close to the Afghan border, near the village of Shakai, in the South Waziristan tribal region, where militants are believed to be hiding

...but now we're stopping them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:36 PM


Kerry Made a Bush League Error on Iraq: Refusal to recant war vote plays into president's hands. (Robert Scheer, August 17, 2004, LA Times)

It was a sucker pitch, and John Kerry fell for it like a rookie. I'm talking about President Bush's latest cheap gambit — turning his own unjustifiable and costly invasion of Iraq into his opponent's problem. Bush mocked Kerry's Iraq position for its "nuance" — a word that manages to sound both French and less than fully masculine.

At Bush's prompting, reporters asked Kerry if he, knowing what we all know now about Iraq's lack of weapons of mass destruction, would still have voted, as he did in October 2002, to authorize the president to use force against Iraq. Instead of smacking that hanging curveball out of the park by denouncing the Bush administration for deceiving Congress and the nation into a war, Kerry inexplicably said yes.

This is pretty nearly the only sensible thing Mr. Scheer has ever written, but isn't this redundant?: "both French and less than fully masculine"

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:31 PM


Bush Promises to Offer Detailed Plans at Convention (ADAM NAGOURNEY, 8/22/04, NY Times)

[M]r. Bush's aides said that after five months in which they have focused almost exclusively on attacking Mr. Kerry, the president will use his speech to offer what they asserted would be an expansive plans for a second term, in an effort to underline what they argued was Mr. Kerry's failure to talk about the future at his own convention.

"This speech has to lay out a forward-looking, positive prospective agenda," said Karl Rove, Mr. Bush's senior political adviser. "It has to show - and to defend in a way the American people want to hear - his policies on the war on terror."

Has any president since maybe FDR had such an ambitious second term platform? Among the President's proposals are: Social Security privatization to complete the Ownership Society; comprehensive Energy Policy; fundamental tax reform; immigration reform; democratization of the Middle East; and space exploration. With the kinds of majorities he may carry in they could all be doable, except immigration.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:22 PM


Withdrawal From Gaza Will Test Israeli Democracy (Uri Dromi, August 18, 2004, LA Times)

There is a group of Israelis who — regardless of any government or Knesset decision on evacuation of the settlements and regardless of the popular support for withdrawal — have vowed that they won't allow the pullout from Gaza to happen; these are the die-hard ideological settlers.

At stake is not only the future of the settlements, it's the future of Israel's democracy. Sharon's plan to pull out of Gaza is actually about the ability of Israel to turn the will of the people into political action in a democratic way. The execution of the plan will determine whether the Israeli democracy is still a functional one, or a democracy in name only, incapable of implementing its most important decisions because veto power has been surrendered to a few extremists.

How will the settlers react when it comes time to evacuate them? According to a survey conducted recently by the Israel Democracy Institute, a Jerusalem-based think tank, the vast majority will protest and use all means of legitimate resistance but will ultimately yield to the democratic imperative.

However, the study warns of a small group of radical settlers — many of whom are young and rebellious — who might engage in a civil revolt, including damaging the equipment of the removal forces. Even more dangerous are those few among them who are capable of opening fire on the soldiers who come to evacuate them or of initiating preemptive terrorist actions, mainly against Arabs, to create havoc and disrupt the evacuation process. [...]

Israelis vitally need a working democratic mechanism because Gaza is only the beginning: When it comes to the West Bank — more densely populated and closer to the heart of Israelis — their elected government will have to take and carry out much more painful decisions.

If they're willing to live in Palestine why not let them?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:06 PM


DOING THE 'RIGHT' THING IN L.A. (Page Six, August 21, 2004, NY Post)

IS there a growing cadre of closet conservatives in Hollywood?

In an exposé on secret Hollywood Republicans in its upcoming September issue, Details magazine unmasks a host of stealth celebrity conservatives, including Adam Sandler, Freddie Prinze Jr., Jessica Simpson and Shannen Doherty. [...]

In a piece appearing in the same issue, powerful young Sony producer Mike DeLuca comes clean on what it's like being an open Republican in Hollywood, telling horror stories full of screaming environmentalists, vandalized cars, and being looked at like "you've recently been exposed as a serial killer."

DeLuca blasts hypocritical Hollywood liberals: "They scream about the environment before they hop onto their private jets and blow 8,000 pounds of fuel getting to the Hamptons. Maybe the anger stems from the fact that the left is out of power, or maybe it's because creative people are passionate by nature and prefer emotion to facts."

The voters of California seem to like conservative actors.

QUESTIONS FOR VINCENT GALLO: Gallo's Humor (Interview by DEBORAH SOLOMON, August 22, 2004, NY Times Magazine)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:00 PM


Kerry Campaign Unfazed by Bush Attacks (Yahoo, 8/21/04)

Sen. John Kerry's campaign released a video Saturday comparing the controversy over Kerry's Vietnam service to attacks on John McCain during the 2000 Republican primaries.

One might note that today they are Senator McCain and President Bush.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:54 PM


An Oil Shock That Could Be an Economic Stimulus in Disguise (EDUARDO PORTER, 8/21/04, NY Times)

How much will expensive oil hurt?

Over the last 30 years, the United States has been driven into recession three times by abrupt surges in the price of oil. As the price of crude has surged over the last two weeks, reaching new heights almost daily, some economists have begun to worry that the current "oil shock" will slam the brakes on the nation's economic expansion again.

It probably won't. Despite the disquieting parallels with the oil shocks of the 1970's, the 1980's and the 1990's, the impact of the current oil spike on the American economy is likely to be much less intense than in previous surges.

Not only is the economy much more energy-efficient - gasoline prices have been stable in recent weeks - but, more important, in contrast to previous periods when oil shocks occurred, inflation remains under control. So rather than pushing up interest rates and compounding the economic slowdown, rising energy prices today are slowing the rise of interest rates, providing an unexpected dollop of economic stimulus on the side.

This would be funnier if it didn't reflect how seriously the conventional wisdom has disconnected from reality: "even with oil prices rising inflation is quiet, but the rising price of oil is preventing the Fed from raising interest rates as much as it normally would to fight the inflation that I just said is nonexistent."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:48 PM


The State of the George W. Bush Joke (JASON ZENGERLE, 8/22/04, NY Times)

IN December 1992, just weeks before departing office, President George Herbert Walker Bush invited Dana Carvey to the White House. Mr. Carvey had spent the previous four years impersonating Mr. Bush on "Saturday Night Live" as a patrician wimp, and turning Bushisms like "it's ba-a-ad" and "wouldn't be pru-dent at this juncture" into national punch lines. But as Mr. Carvey performed from behind a podium in the East Room, the president, according to press accounts, laughed and looked happier than he had in weeks. It wasn't hard to see why: the humor was gentle and apolitical, making light of minor personal foibles. Speaking with reporters afterward, Mr. Bush recalled a conversation with the comedian: "He said, `I hope I've never crossed the line.' And I knew exactly what he meant. And as far as I'm concerned he never has."

The second President Bush's relationship to comedy is a different story. To mangle a presidential line, the state of the George W. Bush joke is mean and partisan. On late-night shows, in political advertisements and in the fertile new realm of Internet comedy, jokes about the president are much harsher than were the jokes about his father or Bill Clinton, or even the jokes that were circulating when George W. Bush first took office. Back then, the president was teased about poor syntax and low I.Q. Now many Bush jokes portray the president as an irresponsible, duplicitous menace. In part, this change is due to an increasingly unpopular war and an unsteady economy. It also may be that all comedy has become harsher in recent years. But partly it is because, since Mr. Bush took office, the left has belatedly rediscovered humor as a political tool.

Not quite. It's because, just like with Ronald Reagan, they thought he was a joke until he got elected and started kicking their butts on legislative matters. Now they see him headed for easy re-election so of course they're increasingly bitter. The joke, as always, comes at their expense.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:41 PM


Going Negative: When It Works (JIM RUTENBERG and KATE ZERNIKE, 8/22/04, NY Times)

Political consultants cite a strikingly consistent pattern when it comes to darker, more confrontational commercials. "Focus groups will tell you they hate negative ads and love positive ads," said Steve McMahon, a Democratic strategist. "But call them back four days later and the only thing they can remember are the negative ones."

And studies have shown that not only are people more likely to remember attacks, it also takes fewer airings to remember them.

"There appears to be something hard-wired into humans that gives special attention to negative information," said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. "I think it's evolutionary biology. It was the wariness of our ancestors that made them more likely to see the predator and hence to prepare. The one who was cautious about strange new food probably didn't eat it, they sat back and watched other people die. There's a reason to be hesitant about that which is vaguely menacing."

Negative ads also pay dividends beyond what campaigns actually spend on them by getting more attention in the news media. The debate about the Swift boat ad, which accused Mr. Kerry of lying to get his war medals, has played out for weeks on talk radio and cable news, meaning it was played over and over at no cost to the group running it.

A new study by Ms. Jamieson's group found that nearly half of 2,209 people surveyed nationally said they had seen or heard about the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ad, though it has only been shown in three states at modest levels. And a new CBS News poll shows that Mr. Kerry's support among veterans has slipped from 46 percent to 37 percent since Democrats' convention.

Studies and focus groups have shown that people like ads that are based on policy, factually accurate and that forecast how a candidate would govern, giving them a reason to vote for a candidate - as well as a reason to vote against the opponent.

"Unless people think it's untruthful, you're not going to get a backlash out of it," Ms. Jamieson said. "If people think the source is credible, that the source is speaking out of a deep conviction, you don't get a sense of attack."

The infamous Willie Horton ad, for example, which portrayed Michael Dukakis as weak on crime in 1988, was based in fact and policy - namely, that, while Mr. Dukakis was governor of Massachusetts, felons were let out of prison on weekend furloughs.

The reality that the Democrats are having trouble coming to grips with is that their barrage of negatives didn't hurt the President at all, while one shot has managed to tumble the Senator.

Why 527 Is the Dems' Lucky Number: These fund-raising groups have discovered how to merge vast sums of money with political canvassing and get-out-the-vote efforts (Paula Dwyer, July 28, 2004, Business Week)

One of the more interesting inventions of the 2003-04 election cycle is the so-called 527 organization, a shadow group that's both a tax-exempt political action committee and recipient of soft-money contributions. You know -- the groups that accept the multimillion-dollar checks from fat-cat donors that the official parties are barred from taking, under the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform law. The two largest 527s are called The Media Fund and America Coming Together [ACT], sister groups under a common fund-raising structure called the Joint Victory Committee.

So how successful have they been? Phenomenally so. Media Fund and ACT alone have raised $80 million to pay for a vast -- and very sophisticated -- voter-turnout effort, as well as to place ads in 15 to 17 battleground states. Officials from both organizations say they will have no trouble reaching their goal of $125 million by November. That would be as much as the Kerry campaign has raised so far, itself a record sum for a challenger. [...]

Pity the GOP. It spent months screaming that the liberal 527s were illegal. After all, they were accepting now-banned soft money to work toward the defeat of President Bush. How is it that McCain-Feingold didn't mean to include such electioneering under the reform umbrella? If the 527s mobilize voters, help get out the candidates' message on the issues, and raise the money to pay for it all, why aren't these functions -- message, mobilization, and money -- the same ones a political party performs?

Many people believe that they are, and that the 527s ought to be regulated alongside PACs and other party-building groups. But the timid Federal Election Commission has punted the issue of whether to regulate the 527s until after the election, leaving the GOP out in the cold for now. So the Republicans are trying to catch up. But with most corporations and chief execs skittish about getting back into the soft-money game, the conservative 527s have raised just $1 for every $4 raised by the Dems.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:26 PM


Democrats in Red States: Just Regular Guys (TIMOTHY EGAN, 8/22/04, NY Times)

Sitting among the prized huckleberry jams and manicured hogs of the Western Montana State Fair, the lone representative of the Democratic Party tried to blend in.

With his jeans and rawhide face, Geoff Badenoch certainly looked the part. And as a native of Glendive, in the wind-seared ranching country of eastern Montana, he talked the part.

But there was the matter of that scarlet D attached to his booth. It made him stick out like someone eating corn on the cob with a fork.

As one of the poorest states in the country with a long tradition of scrappy unionism, Montana seems like it could be a Democratic stronghold. But it's not. Despite a populist roar, former Vice President Al Gore lost this state by nearly two to one in the last presidential election, and Republicans expect President Bush to win big again this year.

A big reason is the three G's in the Republican culture-wars deck - gays, guns and God - the issues that resonate in the heartland and overshadow economic issues that Democrats say should move poor and lower-middle-class voters here into their camp.

If the Left's analysis were right and most Americans valued the material over the spiritual things would be different. Brilliant.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:51 AM


The Crime (Max Beerbohm, August 25, 1920, New Republic)

On a bleak wet stormy afternoon at the outset of last year's spring, I was in a cottage, all alone, and knowing that I must be all alone till evening. It was a remote cottage, in a remote county, and had been "let furnished" by its owner. My spirits are easily affected by weather; and I hate solitude; and I dislike to be master of things that are not mine. "Be careful not to break us," say the glass and china. "You'd better not spill ink on me," growls the carpet. "None of your dog's-earing, thumb-marking, back-breaking tricks here!" snarl the books.

The books in this cottage looked particularly disagreeable--horrid little upstarts of this and that scarlet or cerulean "series" of "standard" authors. Having gloomily surveyed them, I turned my back on them, and watched the rain streaming down the latticed window, whose panes seemed likely to be shattered at any moment by the wind. I have known men who constantly visit the Central Criminal Court, visit also the scenes where famous crimes were committed, form their theories of those crimes, collect souvenirs of those crimes, and call themselves criminologists. As for me, my interest in crime is, alas, merely morbid. I did not know, as those others would doubtless have known, that the situation in which I found myself was precisely of the kind most conducive to the darkest deeds. I did but bemoan it, and think of Lear in the hovel on the heath. The wind howled in the chimney, and the rain had begun to sputter right down it, so that the fire was beginning to hiss in a very sinister manner. Suppose the fire went out. It looked as if it meant to. I snatched the pair of bellows that hung beside it. I plied them vigorously. "Now mind!--not too vigorously. We aren't yours!" they wheezed. I handled them more gently. But I did not release them till they had secured me a steady blaze.

I sat down before that blaze. Despair had been warded off. Gloom, however, remained; and gloom grew. I felt that I should prefer any one's thoughts to mine. I rose, I returned to the books. A dozen or so of those which were on the lowest of the three shelves were full-sized, were octavo, looked as though they had been bought to be read. I would exercise my undoubted right to read one of them. Which of them? I gradually decided on a novel by a well-known writer whose works, though I had several times had the honor of meeting her, were known to me only by repute.

I knew nothing of them that was not good. The lady's "output" had not been at all huge, and it was agreed that her "level" was high. I had always gathered that the chief characteristic of her work was its great "vitality." The book in my hand was a third edition of her latest novel, and at the end of it were numerous press-notices, at which I glanced for confirmation. "Immense vitality,'' yes, said one critic. "Full," said another, "of an intense vitality." "A book that will live," said a third. How on earth did he know that? I was. however, very willing to believe in the vitality of this writer or all present purposes, vitality was a thing in which she herself, her talk, her glance, her gestures, abounded. She and they had been, I remembered, rather too much for me. The first time I met her, she said something that I lightly and mildly disputed. On no future occasion did I stem any opinion of hers. Not that she had been rude. Far from it. She had but in a sisterly, brotherly way, and yet in a way that was filially eager too, asked me to explain my point. I did my best. She was all attention. But I was conscious that my best, under her eye, was not good. She was quick to help me: she said for me just what I had tried to say, and proceeded to show me just why it was wrong. I smiled the gallant smile of a man who regards women as all the more adorable because logic is not their strong point, bless them! She asked--not aggressively, but strenuously. as one who dearly loves a joke--what I was smiling at. Altogether, a chastening encounter; and my memory of it was tinged with a feeble resentment. How she had scored! No man likes to be worsted in argument by a woman. And I fancy that to be vanquished by a feminine writer is the kind of defeat least of all agreeable to a man who writes. A "sex war," we are often told, is to be one of the features of the world's future--women demanding the right to do men's work, and men refusing, resisting, counter-attacking. It seems likely enough. One can believe anything of the world's future. Yet one conceives that not all men, if this particular evil come to pass, will stand packed shoulder to shoulder against all women. One does not feel that the dockers will be very bitter against such women as want to be miners, or the plumbers frown much upon the would-be steeple-jills. I myself have never had any sense of fitness jarred, nor a spark of animosity roused in me, by a woman practising any of the fine arts--except the art of writing. That she should write a few little poems or pensées, or some impressions of a trip in a dahabieh as far as (say) Biskra, or even a short story or two, seems to me not wholly amiss, even though she do such things for publication. But that she should be an habitual, professional author, with a passion for her art and a fountain-pen and an agent, and sums down in advance of royalties on sales in Canada and Australia, and a profound knowledge of human character, and an essentially sane outlook, is somehow incongruous with my notions--my mistaken notions, if you will--of what she ought to be.

"Has a profound knowledge of human character, and an essentially sane outlook," said one of the critics quoted at the end of the book I had chosen. The wind and the rain in the chimney had not abated, but the fire was bearing up bravely. So would I. I would read cheerfully and without prejudice. I poked the fire and, pushing my chair slightly back, lest the heat should warp the book's cover, began Chapter I.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:46 AM


The punk paradox: Despite being surly and spotty, the Saints were never quite part of the punk scene (Michael Dwyer, August 13, 2004, The Age)

It's hard to believe now. In early 1977, before Johnny Rotten was a reviled household name, the average Australian parent's idea of shocking was Alice Cooper, who, presented with a chat-show microphone, played as nice as Olivia Newton-John.

So the first time my family witnessed Brisbane upstarts the Saints on television, it was as if a pall of indecency had descended on the living room. The way I remember it, Ray Burgess, the dimpled and twinkling host of ABC afternoon pop show Flashez, was speechless.

Chris Bailey - mop-haired, dead-eyed, pimpled, sneering, flicking cigarette ash - was even less articulate. This kid wasn't even blow-waved, let alone wearing satin trousers, much less appearing desperately grateful to cop his 15 minutes of mainstream approval.

"There was so much niceness in the room, it was pretty hard to compete," the singer recalls today from his adopted home of Amsterdam. "When you're surrounded by so much neatly pressed denim and teeth, it's very hard to pour on the charm."

Modesty, surely. In my limited, middle-class, rabid Kiss fan's understanding of the term, the Saints came across as definitively P-U-N-K. [...]

Rock'n'roll historians tend to agree that the Saints - Bailey, Kuepper, Ivor Hay and, briefly, Kym Bradshaw - were up there with the Ramones and the Sex Pistols as pioneers of the '70s punk revolution, even if the paradox of this conclusion is almost as well-known as the conclusion itself.

While their wilful, uncooperative attitude fitted the punk brief beautifully, the bandwagon was anathema to the Saints. Their first three albums, compiled on the new box-set All Times Through Paradise, traced a creative development way beyond the simplistic punk stereotype that British record companies so quickly harnessed in the late '70s.

The Saints' musical ambition was largely their undoing when they landed in London, at British EMI's expense, shortly after failing to impress Ray Burgess. The strain of misguided market expectations and other dislocation anxieties tore Bailey and Kuepper apart in 1978, just two years after their first album, (I'm) Stranded.

"We were very lucky to get the bus fares from EMI to be transported to London," Bailey says. "That in itself is remarkable, especially given that we weren't even part of the Australian music scene. There was a lot of hype by the time we got to London because the punky rock thing had taken off, but back in Oz we wouldn't have been pissed on if we were on fire."

According to the box-set's extensive essays, EMI London office's conviction about the Saints' place in the new punk order extended to presenting them with specially designed Saints Suits, "a suitably distressed green garment that understandably was not embraced by the band".

"I can still remember the guffaws all round," Bailey says. "Looking back, we were pretty surly and pretty stupid in a lot of our dealings with EMI. There was a lot of misunderstanding all round, but we weren't even vaguely tempted by that carrot.

"The Saints have often been called radical and revolutionary and all that sort of bollocks, but when you listen to the first album, it's fairly traditional. We thought we were a rock'n'roll band.

"I think we had an unusual sound for where we were at that time - Ed was using a particularly noxious amplifier that was a Brisbane invention. But (I'm) Stranded wasn't a million miles away from what Eddie Cochran did in the '50s. Rock'n'roll was already a fairly mature sort of beast, and we just kicked it around a bit, tried to reinvent it.

"I guess that's what's happening now, even though it's a bit more ... How do I say this politely? It does seem a bit more formulaic these days. But the sound comes out pretty damn similar."

All Fool's Day is quite lovely.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:40 AM


Imperial Neglect in Afghanistan (Mike Whitney, 8/21/04, The Progressive Trail)

Afghanistan's reconstruction has been woefully under funded with much of the resources devoted to the basic security apparatus provided for American stooge, Hamid Karzai. Other than that, improvements have depended mainly on the efforts of the citizens themselves.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:38 AM


Instilling Patriotism Then and Now (Ernest W. Lefever, July 12, 2004, VFW Magazine)

The other day I ran across an old book with an enduring message -- a nation without patriots cannot long endure. The 400-page volume, Manual of Patriotism, with an American flag on the cover was published 1n 1900 by the New York State department of schools.

At that time, New York, indeed all America, was receiving tens of thousands of European immigrants and the major institution for teaching them English and American history was the public school system.

Many of the immigrants were inspired by the words of Emma Lazarus inscribed on the Statue of Liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..."

In 1900, our flag had only 45 stars; Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska, and Hawaii had not yet entered the Union. Two years before, Admiral George Dewey had humbled the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay and Teddy Roosevelt had marched his Rough Riders up San Juan Hill in Cuba. America was flexing its muscles as a new great power and the great majority of its citizens were unashamedly patriotic. This was especially true of our public school teachers.

The Manual of Patriotism, addressed to those teachers, abounds with suggestions for fostering love of country. The public schools were expected to teach respect for America’s Founders, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the brave heroes who had died in their country’s wars. Solid patriotism, said the Superintendent of Schools, could best be fostered by teaching pupils to respect the flag and to learn about American history. The Manual reflected the unashamed patriotism of the famous McGuffey Readers that were widely used from 1880 to 1910.

Specifically, the Manual urged teachers to open the school day with the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag and the singing of a patriotic song. Pupils should be taught to revere the flag, commit to memory patriotic quotations, and study the lives of great American patriots

Young Americans should also observe patriotic events, including Lincoln’s birthday (February 12), Washington’s birthday (February 22), Flag Day (June 14), Independence Day (July 4), and memorial events for those who died in American wars. Teachers were encouraged to take their pupils to historic places such as Bunker Hill, Valley Forge, and Gettysburg. (Teachers in those days would be shocked to learn that less than a century later the national holidays given Washington and Lincoln by act of Congress would be merged into one Presidents’ Day.)

Understandably, the Manual, sensitive to "the separation of church and state," did not address religion directly. But among the patriotic songs it recommended, several mentioned God: "America" (better known as "My Country, ’Tis of Thee") refers to God as "the author of liberty"; "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" repeatedly exalts "Our God is marching on"; and "The Star-Spangled Banner" says "in God is our trust!"

A century ago patriotism, morality, and God seemed to coexist comfortably in our schools and in society generally.

This is where nativists should focus their energy, not on keeping immigrants out of America but on making all Americans better citizens.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:34 AM


Code Orange: Best-selling novelist and serial muckraker Carl Hiaasen is mad as hell about what they're doing to Florida. His revenge? Vicious mockery of Sunshine State sleazeballs and greedy eco-thugs. An equally pissed-off Bob Shacochis tags along for a day of fantasy bonefishing and literary whup-ass. (Bob Shacochis, August 2004, Outside Magazine)

FOR SERIOUS ANGLERS, reluctance is an unbecoming mood, vaguely sacrilegious, and yet here we are at eight in the morning piddling around. Carl Hiaasen, boffo mystery writer and Miami Herald columnist, is standing on the concrete skirt of the brand-new swimming pool at his house on Florida's Lower Matecumbe Key, staring grimly at the tentacles of the broken brand-new pool sweep, glowering at it as if this thing, this perfidious techno-object, had been crammed down his throat by the scoundrel-ridden government. Then, because I'm making cell-phone calls in my car and exhibiting an absolute lack of urgency, Hiaasen rearranges the garbage cans. Eventually we drag our feet down his dock and load gear onto the boat with icy fingers and half a warm heart between us. You get the picture.

We haven't seen each other in almost ten years, and here's our chance to get out on the water in pursuit of salvations wet and wild. But Carl knows it, and I know it, and the birds know it, too: This is a lousy day for bonefishing in the Florida Keys. It's crybaby cold, and a 20-knot spring wind is blowing straight out of the north, down the scrubby backbone of the archipelago, greatly diminishing any chance that we'll find schooling fish and a moment of glory to break like bread between us.

Hiaasen frowns behind the console of his 17-foot Hell's Bay flats skiff, the 90-horsepower Merc gargling as we push off from his dock. He's not sure how to handle this weather and, after a minute of pinched reflection, guesses we should head ocean-side and slams the throttle forward.

If we were anywhere near the U.S. Navy, they'd blow us out of the water. We resemble a pair of jihadists racing into Allah's arms, dressed in jackets bulky enough to conceal suicide belts. Hiaasen has on some sort of Al Qaeda–brand ski mask that hides everything under the bill of his cap except his nose and sunglasses, and water pours off my mullah's beard as we thunder toward the channel between two islands, the skiff bucking and yawing through the turquoise chop.

"Tarpon fishermen," Hiaasen shouts over the engine as we race past a small flotilla of anchored boats bobbing in our wake, a flick of contempt in his voice. A world-champion bonefisherman, Hiaasen has stalked these flats for decades, but these guys are just snoozing on their backsides, freelining live bait on floats.

We head offshore, speeding across deeper water, but another skiff off our starboard bow seems to have the same idea.

"Where's this moron going?" says Hiaasen, scowling, but the boat fades off to the south. It's worth noting that whatever faces of displeasure he makes have little effect on the sparkle of youth in his blue eyes: At 51, Carl looks like a tallish, lean, but graying college sophomore on summer break, driving an ice cream truck around the neighborhood.

But I appreciate his impulsive vitriol toward other boats; our mutual fantasy is selfish and mildly misanthropic and yet curative as well. We want the water, the Keys, the beaches, all of Florida all to ourselves, which is about as deep as you can get in the angry utopian eco-nostalgia that I seem to share with Hiaasen and I don't know how many other Americans. Maybe it's just a baby-boomer disease, but I doubt it.

My boat good, your boat bad? Yes, that's a boomer syndrome.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:24 AM


Running Scared (Andrew Ferguson, 1996-02-19, The New Yorker)

Another election year has dawned, bringing with it a host of ancient worries. Reporters and commentators, pollsters and social scientists, the concerned citizens of the League of Women Voters and the even more concerned ones of Common Cause—all will find good reason to fuss as the campaign grows old. What, they will ask, can be done about—and here you should feel free to fill in the blank. Low voter turnout? The influence of pacs? The single-issue voter? The sound bites of TV news? The polarized electorate? The decline of party discipline? The fretting grinds on and on, as each worry is adduced as evidence that the democratic process itself has been brought low.

One worry looms over all the rest, as a kind of Queen Bee of Concerns, for it seems to contain within it the cause and the consequences of every other worry. I refer, of course, to negative campaigning, or attack ads, as the worry is also known. These can polarize the electorate, drive voters from the polls, destroy party discipline, force even the most idealistic reporters to deal in sound bites—all at the same time. At least, that’s what political observers have decided, and so they will surely welcome the publication of “Going Negative: How Political Advertisements Shrink and Polarize the Electorate” (Free Press; $24), the first book-length study of the effects of negative campaigning. There’s enough here to make the most experienced worrier giddy with concern.

“Going Negative” is a work of political science, stuffed with charts and tables and algebraic equations, but it conforms in many of its essentials to the wisdom of the popular press. The authors—Stephen Ansolabehere, of M.I.T., and Shanto Iyengar, of U.C.L.A., both political scientists—begin with the premise that while politics, as Mr. Dooley said, ain’t beanbag, it has become increasingly un-beanbag-like over the last several years. Our political discussion, as reflected in Congress and elsewhere, is dominated as never before by the ideological extremes. Voter turnout is at an all-time low, voter cynicism at an all-time high. Political rhetoric drips with vitriol. The best lack all conviction, while Republicans are filled with passionate intensity. What’s more, the authors write, “the single biggest cause of the new, ugly regime is the proliferation of negative political advertising on TV.”

This, as I say, is the premise not only of the book but of most serious discussion among the political class. It is so widely accepted that it seems pointless to point out that it’s also highly questionable. The “regime” may be ugly, but it isn’t new. Andrew Jackson went to his grave believing that his wife had been driven to hers by the harshness of his opponents’ attacks. The cartoonists of Lincoln’s day routinely depicted him as a baboon. Until the late nineteenth century, fistfights could break out in the halls of Congress. The electorate of 1860, or of 1896, or of 1936, was far more polarized than the one today.

But the historical memory of most political commentators goes back only to the postwar placidity of the Eisenhower years. By then, a consensus had jelled about the role of government in national life—always the fundamental question of democratic politics—and the consensus held for thirty years. Democrats and Republicans alike were comfortable with the status quo, the one pushing gently this way, the other tugging ever so slightly that way. For a brief sunny moment, politics actually was beanbag.

The consensus has now broken down, owing to the failure of the status quo on many fronts, and the fundamental question has reasserted itself. The argument turns on ideology, and engages ideologues. Ideologues tend to be indecorous, their debates overheated. Most voters, not being ideologues, or even politically inclined, view the argument with distaste. In time, we can expect a new consensus to emerge, but for now the regime will indeed be ugly—as it has been, off and on, throughout American history. [...]

Political consultants like this joke: How do you tell a positive ad from an attack ad? Answer: the attack ad has a fact in it. The joke is a bit too defensive, and consultants are a cynical, not to say sleazy, bunch, but they have a point. Attack ads are cayenne in the jambalaya of American democracy. They may even have some nutritional value. But they will never be to the taste of people who prefer puffed wheat, or beanbag.

Can't find it on-line but Day-to-Day did a surprisingly good story on negative advertising this week making that last point quite forcefully: negative ads are far more accurate and informative than positive ads.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:09 AM


The Theology of the United States: An Interpretation of the Great Seal of the United States (Thomas G. West, December 1, 1996, Crisis)

The Great Seal of the United States is the most obvious example of the Founders' conviction that the government should "teach religion." The Seal was adopted in 1782 and reaffirmed by Congress many times afterwards. It is printed today on the dollar bill. The pyramid side of the Seal is a memorable representation of the theology of the Declaration of Independence.

This fact is not widely recognized, in part because practically everyone believes that the pyramid and eye symbols are Masonic in origin. I don't know how many times I have seen this asserted with complete confidence, yet I have been unable to find any substantial basis for it. The definitive history of the Seal (Patterson and Dougall's The Eagle and the Shield, 1976) finds no evidence to support the claim of Masonic inspiration or meaning. None of the Seal's designers were Masons, as far as we know. Founding-era Masons did use the eye to represent God (but not in a triangle). However, Patterson and Dougall report that that symbolism was well established outside of Masonic circles.

The myth of Masonic origins has distracted us from the most obvious and reliable way to understand the Great Seal's meaning: look at it and think about it. Of particular help is the report of the Seal's co-designer, Charles Thomson, which is part of the 1782 law officially approving the Seal.

The reverse side of the Great Seal consists of two parts: a heavenly eye and an earthly pyramid. Each part is labeled with a Latin motto.

In the earthly part, a pyramid rises toward the heaven. Thomson's report explains that "The pyramid signifies strength and duration." On the base of the pyramid is the Roman number MDCCLXXVI (1776), the date, as Thomson remarks, of the Declaration of Independence. The pyramid has thirteen rows of bricks, signifying the thirteen original states. (The number of rows is not specified in the law, but there are thirteen in co-designer William Barton's original drawing, and on the 1778 fifty-dollar bill from which the pyramid idea was originally taken.) The pyramid is the United States, a solid structure of freedom, built on the foundation of the Declaration. It is unfinished because America is a work in progress. More states will be added later.

"In the zenith" above the unfinished pyramid, the 1782 law calls for "an eye in a triangle, surrounded with a glory." This design and placement of God's eye suggests that America is connected to the divine in three ways.

First, the eye keeps watch over America, protecting her from her enemies. Thomson's report explains: "The eye over it and the motto allude to the many signal interventions of providence in favor of the American cause."

The Declaration of Independence had expressed "a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence."

Second, the complete triangle enclosing God's eye is a model for the incomplete or imperfect triangular shape of the pyramid below. The perfect divine shape symbolizes God's perfection, the divine standard for imperfect human beings. God's shape, in turn, guides and governs the construction of the earthly pyramid.

The Declaration says that America, grounded on "the laws of nature and of nature's God," seeks to secure the rights with which the Creator endowed all men. The incomplete triangular pyramid, in contrast to the perfect triangle of God, implies that America is a work in progress in a deeper sense than its number of states. No matter how many rows of bricks (new states) are added to the pyramid, America must always look to the Supreme Being as, and at, her "zenith," to be true to what she is and aspires to be.

In the spirit of this understanding of God, Lincoln said in an 1858 Chicago speech:

It is said in one of the admonitions of the Lord, "As your Father in Heaven is perfect, be ye also perfect." The Savior, I suppose, did not expect that any human creature could be perfect as the Father in Heaven. . . . He set that up as a standard, and he who did most towards reaching that standard, attained the highest degree of moral perfection. So I say that in relation to the principle that all men are created equal, let it be as nearly reached as we can.

Third, the all-seeing eye is not only America's protector and ruling guide. God is also her judge. This theme is not as obvious as the first two, but it is implied by the motto annuit coeptis, "He approves of what has been started." These words imply that God will no longer approve if America strays too far from the right path.

In the Declaration, America "appeal[ed] to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions." Facing the injustice of slavery, Jefferson therefore trembled for his country when he reflected "that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever."

In sum, America is a nation "under God" in three ways. God protects America; God is America's guide and goal; and God judges America.

The Seal has two Latin mottoes, one for the heavenly and one for the earthly part. The mottoes are taken from the great Roman poet Virgil.

The pyramid is labeled novus ordo seclorum, "a new order of the ages." Thomson's report explains, "the words under it signify the beginning of the New American Era, which commences from that date [1776]."

The phrase is a variant of a line in Virgil's fourth Eclogue: "a great order of the ages is born anew". This Eclogue describes the return of the golden age, an age of peace and plenty. The change of words is significant. America is a "new order," not just a "great order." Virgil's golden age has come before and will come again, but nothing like the American founding has ever happened. No nation has ever grounded itself on a universal principle, discovered by reason, affirmed by God, and shared by all human beings everywhere:

that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

"Over the eye," says the 1782 law, appear "these words, annuit coeptis." Literally translated, they mean: "he has nodded [or nods] in assent to the things that have been started" — namely, to the pyramid under construction, the "new order of the ages."

In Virgil's Aeneid, Aeneas leads a remnant of men from conquered Troy over the sea to a land far to the west. After they arrive in Italy, the natives mount a ferocious attack against them. In the midst of the battle, Aeneas's son Ascanius prays to Jupiter to "nod in assent to the daring things that have been started." Jupiter hears the prayer; Ascanius shoots, and his arrow pierces the enemy's head. That victory enables the small band of Trojan warriors to stay in Italy. They will eventually become Rome, the greatest empire in world history.

The two mottoes point to the founding of Rome (the Aeneid) and the golden age (Eclogue 4). Taken together they suggest that America, with divine approval and support, will become a New Rome, combining the glory of the old Rome with the freedom, prosperity, and peace of the golden age.

Meanwhile, the modern Left frets about "under God" in the Pledge?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:56 AM


WHAT'S REALLY WRONG WITH CORPORATIONS (Samuel Francis, 8/16/04, Chronicles)

[R]eal conservatives, as opposed to the Economic Men who pretend to be conservatives, have some good reasons to be wary of corporations.

Reason One is bureaucracy. Corporations from IBM and AT&T to MacDonald's and Wal-Mart are no less huge, faceless and unresponsive machines than the welfare state, the post office or the other publicly funded labyrinths that conservatives want to abolish. The difference, libertarian champions claim, is that the "private" bureaucracies are responsive to the market and the "public" ones aren't.

Well, not really. Corporate bureaucracies have a zillion ways of shielding themselves from market forces, from propaganda (advertising) that manipulates and massages their consumers to outright privileges squeezed out of the state itself. The market helps control "private" bureaucracies effectively when they're really private and small enough to be swayed by what consumers can see, know and deal with. On the national and global scales of corporations today, that's seldom possible. The result is that corporate bureaucracies can swallow small businesses like whales gobbling plankton.

Reason Two is Economism, the belief that economic values are all that's real or important and that human beings are motivated mainly by economic drives. Business people tend to believe this, but modern corporations, coupled with both Marxist and capitalist ideology, have encouraged the belief and made what should be an obvious myth a commonly held but unacknowledged assumption. [...]

Which brings us to Reason Three of what's wrong with corporations—disloyalty to nation and people. As corporations have gone global, they have simply ceased to be part of any nation or to identify with any people, race or civilization—as their managers love to boast. [...]

The people who could make that and other charges against corporations and the global grabfest that they want to replace Western and American civilization are conservatives—the real kind, not the fakes who are little more than hired guns for Big Business. Maybe if real conservatives started telling us what's really wrong with Big Business, Hollywood would put them in the movies.

The general criticisms are accurate, especially the first--the concentration of power in the hands of corporations is exactly as troubling as it is in the hands of government--but the anti-trade/anti-immigrant stuff is nonsense.

MORE (via Mike Daley):
Dystopia: Candidates' visions don't do justice to democracy's greatest good, freedom.
Part 2 (Honora Howell Chapman, 8/20/04, VDH)

For a fresh read on corporate greed in this film (The Manchurian Candidate), I turned to the socialists at the World Socialist Web Site ( and found David Walsh right on the mark (unlike some other reviewers who took the mistaken position that the movie was an attack solely on the Republicans): “Demme and screenwriter Daniel Pyne deliberately blur party lines, suggesting in that manner that the Democrats and Republicans increasingly resemble one another. Demme told the same interviewer: ‘Many people today really look slightly askance at the notion that we have a really legitimate two party system going on. There is nothing fresh about the ideas so ultimately, what’s the difference? Especially with certain parties, in which the politicians speak one set of beliefs and then they seem to vote a whole different way, if you look at their voting records. So is this still a functioning two party system?’” Darn good question.

This film asks: What possibly could stop such corporate abuse of the political system, whether figure-headed by a Democrat or a Republican? Nothing less than a human being’s ability to become fully human, even when the brainwashing seems to have been complete. Humanity can save itself through recognition of not only its weakness but also its strength and free will to do what is right in the face of overwhelming odds and a frightening dance partner. One man can look another in the eye and communicate a bond and message that far overpowers any bottom line of a corporate budget. Ultimately, no corporation can control the human spirit—if that’s not an uplifting message, I don’t know what is.

The corporate world, not so oddly enough, also lurks in the background of “The Village.” M. Night Shyamalan has once again dreamed up a “Signs”-like scenario where the dangerous “other” lurks beyond the boundaries of an “idyllic” community that appears anything but dystopian. [I did, however, at one point have this gnawing fear that Jodie Foster as Nell might wander in from North Carolina to disturb their tranquil, old-fashioned dialogue.] The question becomes whether this community can weather an assault from “the other.” Demons internal to this community, such as physical and mental illness and death, challenge all the citizens to question their safety when violence strikes close to home. And it is the blind but awfully spunky and resourceful girl who acts heroically to save the day. Behind all of this, however, is the spectre not of a red-feathered birdmonster but a Bad Corporation and the violence and societal degradation it produces.

Our new 21st-century American monsters, at least according to these films, are not just al-Qaeda and the “axis of evil,” but our own homegrown businesses like Enron that ruin a lifetime of saving for retirement or that capitalize on the acquisition of fossil fuels and the waging of war in general. And the politicians are in cahoots with these domestic monsters.

How can we escape this dystopian nightmare? Perhaps by going back to the drawing board, as Socrates did with his students, who were being groomed to be major players in the Athenian democracy, and asking questions such as “What is Justice?”—all while recognizing as they did that “a city—or a state—is a response to human needs; no human being is self-sufficient, and all of us have many wants.” (Plato, Republic 369b) If we start to ask our politicians the big questions and hold them truly accountable for meeting the various “needs” in society, perhaps we won’t have to continue viewing so many of these cinematic dystopian visions of corporations threatening our very way of life.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:32 AM


An Ocean Apart, a World of Difference (AMANDA FOREMAN, 8/21/04, NY Times)

[T]he tensions that exist now between the United States and Europe are not simply a matter of political differences, whether over Iraq, Israel or the Kyoto agreement. The psychological chasm between the New World and the Old has always defied easy crossing. Alexis de Tocqueville - who formulated the idea of "American exceptionalism" - saw much in 1830's America to praise. But he despised the way its politicians took it upon themselves to lecture Europeans on liberty and freedom. He suspected that it was a gnawing insecurity that made them posture so. "Do not lead an American to speak of Europe," he wrote. "He will ordinarily show great presumption and a rather silly pride."

Bring him back today and he'd apologize.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:26 AM


Staying Out Of Cell Hell (Robert J. Samuelson, August 18, 2004, Washington Post)

Someday soon I may be the last man in the United States without a cell phone. To those who see cell phones as progress, I say: They aggravate noise pollution and threaten our solitude. The central idea of cell phones is that you should be connected to almost everyone and everything at all times. The trouble is that cell phones assault your peace of mind no matter what you do. If you turn them off, why have one? You just irritate anyone who might call. If they're on and no one calls, you're irrelevant, unloved or both. If everyone calls, you're a basket case.

I'm a dropout and aim to stay that way.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:20 AM


Keyes' refreshing honesty could change GOP (THOMAS ROESER, 8/21/04, Chicago Sun-Times)

How I love the campaigning, cyclonic Alan Keyes! Let me count the ways. To appreciate the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, you must consider his two ingredients. First, an Old Testament prophet. ''Thus says the Lord,'' the prophets declared. So does Keyes, who announced the other day that Illinois politics is corrupt. He's right: I love it!

Next, add a heavy dose of Aquinas, who has shaped the Roman Catholic Keyes. Thomas Aquinas believed man has only one end: a supernatural end. So does Keyes. The state is a natural institution, founded on the nature of man. Every creature has its own end: Whereas some creatures (animals) gain their end necessarily or instinctively, man has to be guided by reason. There you have the compact, complete Keyes. It is immaterial that he may lose the election. What is material is how he shall change his party.

Mr. Keyes is exactly the kind of thoughtful, idealistic, articulate, empassioned candidate everyone always claims we need more of but tend to scorn when they show up.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:10 AM


Observers Rush to Judgment in Caracas - Jimmy Carter might have at least counted a few ballots (Mary Anastasia O'Grady, August 20, 2004, Wall Street Journal)

When Jimmy Carter went to Cuba in 2002, Fidel reveled in the photo-ops with a former U.S. president. Mr. Carter seemed to think he was heroically "engaging" the Cuban despot. But in the documentary "Dissident," celluloid captures something most Americans didn't see: Castro giggling sardonically as Mr. Carter lectures the Cuban politburo on democracy. That foreshadowed what happened when the media splash ended and the Nobel laureate went home: Dissidents he went to "help" today languish in gulag punishment cells.

I was reminded this week of how Castro so artfully used Mr. Carter when Chavez took a page from his Cuban mentor's playbook. On Monday, the Carter Center along with the head of the monumentally meaningless Organization of American States, Cesar Gaviria, endorsed Chávez's claims of victory in the Venezuelan recall referendum, rather too hastily it now seems.

The problem was that the "observers" hadn't actually observed the election results. Messrs. Carter and Gaviria were only allowed to make a "quick count," that is look at the tally sheets spat out by a sample of voting machines. They were not allowed to check this against ballots the machines issued to voters as confirmation that their votes were properly registered.

Mr. Carter would be perfectly happy to braid the rope with which our foes would hang us.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:02 AM


U.S. Chamber of Commerce targets Daschle (UPI, 8/20/04)

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce kicked off a campaign Friday to educate voters in South Dakota about Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle.

Daschle's agenda for America, the chamber said, is "vastly different" from the needs of South Dakota.

"Daschle has pursued an agenda that is seriously out of step with the needs of his constituents," said Bill Miller, the chamber's political director. "At every opportunity, Tom Daschle has chosen to stand in the way of legislative reforms that would spur business investment, grow the economy, create jobs and improve access to healthcare."

Right now we're seeing the first signs of Democratic panic as they realize they can't win the presidency--just wait'll they realize how ugly the congressional races could get. Speaker Hastert already sounds confident about picking up as many as ten seats in the House and even cautious estimates have the GOP picking up two Senate seats.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:19 AM


Group to Air Ad Attacking Kerry's 1971 Testimony: Democrats Counter on TV And With Legal Challenge (Jim VandeHei, August 21, 2004, Washington Post)

With polls showing attacks on Kerry's war record reaching large numbers of voters and resonating with many independents and veterans, the Democratic National Committee defended Kerry with a new ad, featuring retired Air Force Gen. Merrill A. McPeak -- a Bush supporter in 2000. "John Kerry has the strength and common sense we need in a commander in chief," McPeak says in the ad. Kerry will try to shift the focus back to President Bush with an ad that will be unveiled tomorrow, a top aide said. [...]

Debate over war and protests three decades ago drowned out discussion of issues such as Iraq, terrorism, the economy and health care. It is dominating the strategy sessions of the two campaigns and changing the political calculations of both parties.

Kerry hoped to focus on domestic matters but finds himself plotting a response to a veterans group that did not even exist a few months ago over an issue he thought had died. He has been forced to spend money and valuable time responding. Kerry talked with aides throughout the day about a strategy to put the issue of his Vietnam service and protests to rest. [...]

Underscoring how personal the dispute has become, Bush's campaign chairman, Marc Racicot, went on CNN and said the Kerry campaign has come "unhinged," and that Kerry himself "looks wild-eyed." Earlier yesterday, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Kerry is "losing his cool." In 2000, the Bush campaign used similar language to portray rival Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) as potentially too unstable to run the country.

The McPeak ad is pretty funny--no one has ever heard of the guy, but he was one of those who warned of the Holocaust we'd face in the street-fighting for control of Baghdad. He also signed one of those letters from retired military and State department guys whose main complaint with the Administration appears to be that we're too close to Israel for our own good. That's a valid strategic point but not exactly the pinnacle of moral reasoning.

The Kerry camp's decision to run to the FEC and ask them to stop the Swift Vets ads smacks of the little brother who runs for Mom anytime his big brother hits him back. If you want to run as the tough battle-tested veteran you sort of need to not act like a sissy.

Kerry hires online chief from MoveOn (John Mercurio, 4/07/04, CNN)

- John Kerry has hired an Internet-savvy Democrat to run his presidential campaign's online communications, a move that raises new questions about the link between his campaign and the independent groups that run TV ads on his behalf.

Zach Exley, the director of special projects for the MoveOn PAC, is going to the Kerry campaign to become its director of online communications and organization.

Exley also worked during the Democratic presidential primary for Howard Dean, helping Dean set up his web-based organization.

Since Kerry became the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee in early March, the MoveOn PAC has spent more than $2.5 million on TV ads that attack President Bush.

But under the new campaign-finance law, those efforts cannot be coordinated with the Kerry campaign.

A MoveOn statement said Exley and the staff of all MoveOn entities have agreed that they will not be in contact through the election period to avoid the appearance of coordination, "even though federal election rules permit some forms of communication."

MoveOn has spent roughly $17 million on ads since it started running its "misleader" campaign against Bush last year.

Republicans said Exley's move reinforces their accusations that Kerry and his Democratic allies are circumventing the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law they fought so hard to enact.

"It's another example of the coordination between and the Kerry campaign that is illegal under campaign finance law," a Bush campaign official said.

"The Media Fund and MoveOn are functioning as Kerry's slush fund, a shadow Democratic Party that's illegally using soft dollars."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:58 AM


Chinese Advocates of Reform Seek Help From Deng's Spirit (JOSEPH KAHN, 8/21/04, NY Times)

China's retired elders often are given latitude to explore delicate topics that incumbent leaders shy away from. But these comments by former leaders appear to reflect mounting internal pressure for Hu Jintao, the president and Communist Party chief, to put forward at least modest proposals for fighting corruption, introducing greater accountability and reducing censorship.

"Compared to economic reform, our political system lags far behind," Zhou Ruijin, a former top editor of People's Daily, the Communist Party's leading newspaper, wrote in The Bund, a Shanghai-based weekly.

"Now the calls for political reform from every quarter of society are very loud," he wrote, adding that the country needed a new "intellectual emancipation" that should start with remaking the ruling party.

Similarly, two prominent retired officials who served Deng, Tian Jiyun, a former Politburo member, and Ren Zhongyi, former party secretary of Guandong Province, asserted in essays this month in the political history journal Yanhang Chunqiu that Deng long envisioned, though never carried out, bold political changes. Mr. Ren said the country urgently needed a sounder legal system, fewer controls on the media and real protection of constitutional rights.

"A society ruled by guns and hack writers can never be a democratic one, and it can't enjoy lasting stability," wrote Mr. Ren, who is 90.

Beyond adulatory documentaries, scores of new books, an elaborate renovation of his boyhood home in Sichuan and the memorial watches - for sale to the public at $2,500 apiece - Deng's legacy is being celebrated by officials who would like to see a more open society and want to put pressure on Jiang Zemin, Deng's successor.

Mr. Jiang, who remains military chief even after retiring as president and party leader in 2002, is being urged to follow Deng's example and fully relinquish authority to Mr. Hu, one well-connected party elder said in an interview. Deng voluntarily handed the reins to Mr. Jiang in the late 1980's and early 1990's, though he retained ultimate authority on many matters.

By many accounts, Mr. Hu has little leeway to undertake pressing changes because he must share power with Mr. Jiang, who never tried opening the political system. Some officials say they hope Mr. Jiang will step aside as soon as this fall, though that now seems unlikely.

Communist reform is never about the Party giving up power, it's just a matter of putting lipstick on the pig.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:05 AM


Get to bottom of Kerry tale (Jim Wooten, 8/22/04, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Why does it matter?

It matters immensely for two reasons. One is that an awful lot of Vietnam veterans think Kerry caused them and their comrades harm by helping to turn the country against them and creating the false impression that atrocities were commonplace and condoned. The other, more pertinent reason, is Iraq. A parallel exists.

There's no question, in my mind at least, that the delegates to the Democratic convention are the spiritual and intellectual descendants of the middle-class antiwar activists who grew to adulthood largely distrustful of the military and all projections of military power. A party that rejects the reasoned balance of a Sen. Joe Lieberman and no longer has its Sam Nunn bearings is not to be trusted with my security or the lives of men and women in uniform. This is the party of Michael Moore, Al Gore, Al Sharpton and Howard Dean.

The left -- commentators, politicians, interest groups -- has never acceptede that military intervention in Iraq is justified on any basis and, furthermore, believes that every dollar spent there is at the expense of a needed social program.

The left is now where it was during the Vietnam War. It is attempting to convince the country that the war is pointless, immoral and futile and that men and women in uniform engage in abuses, if not atrocities, with the full knowledge of officers.

That is deadening to those who serve. Men and women in service to their country absolutely must feel value in what they're doing. Otherwise, morale and discipline begin to erode. And when the country becomes conditioned to reject what they're doing -- as John Kerry helped to condition this country three decades ago -- the war is lost.

That is the Vietnam experience. It can, too, be the Iraq experience.

Mr. Wooten is a bit ahead of the GOP storyline, but that's exactly where this ends.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Kerry Might Pay Price for Failing to Strike Back Quickly (ADAM NAGOURNEY, 8/20/04, NY Times)

The fierce back and forth over John Kerry's Vietnam War record may seem an odd storm to break out during the summer lull before the Republican convention. But it goes to the heart of his challenge to President Bush, and its resolution may prove pivotal in determining Mr. Kerry's hopes of victory this fall.

If there is one thing that Republicans and Democrats agree on, it is that Mr. Kerry's record as a decorated Vietnam veteran makes him a powerful opponent to Mr. Bush in a presidential campaign being conducted against a backdrop of terrorism and international turmoil.

That is so wrong it's hard to believe this guy writes for the Times. The only question really is whether he only talks to Democrats, for whom this was indeed conventional wisdom, or whether the GOP completely snowed him.

The White House was ecstatic when the Democrats handed the reigns to such an easy target--especially because of his abysmal Vietnam War legacy--as witness Karl Rove's gleeful comment: "By November, they won't even know whose side he fought on."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


U.S. Struggles to Win Hearts, Minds in the Muslim World (Robin Wright, 8/20/04, Washington Post)

The Bush administration is facing growing criticism from both inside and outside its ranks that it has failed to move aggressively enough in the war of ideas against Osama bin Laden (news - web sites)'s al Qaeda and other Islamic extremist groups over the three years since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The Sept. 11 commission last month called for a vigorous strategy for promoting the image and democratic values of the United States around the world, and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said yesterday that the administration is working hard on those efforts.

But Middle East experts -- and some frustrated U.S. officials -- complain that the administration has provided only limited new direction in dealing with anti-American anger among the world's 1.2 billion Muslims and is spending far too little on such efforts, particularly in contrast with the billions spent on other pressing needs, such as homeland security and intelligence. [...]

The dissatisfaction extends to some in the State Department who are involved in public diplomacy.

"This is all feel-good mumbo jumbo," said a State Department official familiar with public diplomacy efforts who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "Particularly in light of [people detained without charges at] Guantanamo Bay, it's unclear how this will make us safe. If this is so important, where's the money?"

Ms Wright is a fine reporter who seems to have some clue about the Middle East, but we need a story about how "Middle East experts" and "State Department official"[s] think the government should spend more money on them like we need another story about how the generals think they should have had a couple hundred thousand more troops. Everyone wants their piece of the pie. The Terminix guys probably think the government should subsidize termite colonies.

August 20, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:38 PM


Laura Bush Possibly Changes Her Mind on Abortion, Says She's Pro-Life (Steven Ertelt, August 19, 2004,

First Lady Laura Bush has possibly changed her position on abortion. When her husband George W. Bush was running for president in 2000, Laura Bush indicated she was pro-choice on the issue of abortion and did not favor overturning Roe v. Wade.

Last week, the First Lady came to the defense of her husband's policy on embryonic stem cell research.

In August 2001, President Bush put forward an executive order preventing taxpayer funding of any new embryonic stem cell research.

In response to critics who contend the decision stalls important scientific research, Laura Bush promoted the use of adult stem cells and sided with numerous doctors who say such cures, if they happen, are likely many years away.

Her actions prompted a Washington Times reporter to ask Laura Bush whether she has changed her mind on the issue of abortion.

Asked on Thursday whether she is now pro-life, the First Lady responded, "Yes, I think abortion should be rare."

Laura Bush also told Times reporter Bill Sammon that she agreed with President Bush that human life begins at conception.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:13 PM



Here's a peek behind the cable TV curtain. It's not pretty.

So, my publicist arranges for me to go on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews on Thursday night to talk about my recent columns on the FBI and national security profiling and my new book. Despite the show's basement ratings, we figure it's a good opportunity to reach out to a new audience. FOX News, with whom I have a contract, has generously allowed me to appear on some competing networks to talk about the book. Thursday was the second to the last day that I could make such appearances.

A few hours before the show, a producer calls to tell me I will be on for two segments--the first topic will be the Swift Boat Veterans, the second topic will be related to the book. Fine. This is the news business. I understand the need to go with the flow and cover the hot issues of the day. I am prepared to discuss both topics.

In a pre-interview, the producer goes over general questions about Kerry's response to the Swift Boat vets, whether the charges will be an issue in the presidential debates, and the basic themes of my book and its implications for the current War on Terror. I am originally scheduled to be on with the Washington Post's Dana Milbank. This was scratched and I am informed at the last minute that the other guest will be former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown.

As I am seated at the table with Matthews, who I am meeting for the first time, he cracks a joke--and not in a well-meaning way--about how I look. (There are quite a few people who are hung up on this.) "Are you sure you are old enough to be on the show? What are you? 28?" I grit my teeth. He badgers me again with the same question. I politely answer his question and supply my age.

(I wonder how Matthews' wife, the respected TV journalist Kathleen Matthews, who hosts a show about working women, would react if informed about her husband's treatment of a fellow female journalist. I've been in the business a dozen years and would be happy to talk to Mrs. Matthews about my firsthand experience with Neanderthal chauvinism in the workplace.)

Needless to say, things went downhill, fast and loud, from there.

The best part of the whole thing was Keith Olbermann, on his own show, referring to the exchange as, Ms Malkin making a "complete fool of herself."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:07 PM


KERRY CAMP FRETS OVER CAMBODIA TALE (Deborah Orin, August 20, 2004, NY Post)

THERE'S now some real angst in Democratic circles be cause of the growing evidence that Democrat John Kerry's claim to have a memory "seared in me" of spending Christmas 1968 in Cambodia was false — and just didn't happen.

But what worries some pro-Kerry Democrats is the fear that Kerry has, as one put it, "an Al Gore problem" — that he's a serial exaggerator.

Mr. Gore had at least been vp for eight years, so folks had some sense of the man. Most Americans have been introduced to John Kerry for the first time over the past month.

The Kerry Wars: Where was John Kerry December 24, 1968? Not in Cambodia. (Matthew Continetti, 08/30/2004, Weekly Standard)

The Swifties don't give Kerry the benefit of the doubt on any issue. They challenge the circumstances behind every medal he earned in Vietnam. Their accusations are of three broad types.

First, there are issues of fact that are difficult, if not impossible, to resolve. The controversy over how Kerry earned his Bronze Star and third Purple Heart, for example, in which the young lieutenant pulled special forces soldier Jim Rassmann from the Bay Hap river, revolves around whether or not there was enemy fire at the time. Kerry says there was; the anti-Kerry veterans--some of whom were present that day, in boats alongside Kerry's--say there wasn't. The documentary evidence available so far backs Kerry's story. For example, Washington Post reporter Michael Dobbs reported last week that a newly uncovered medal citation for Larry Thurlow, one of the veterans who challenge Kerry's account of the Rassmann incident, supports Kerry. Thurlow claims to have lost the citation over 20 years ago, but has refused to release his service records. Something similar happened in the case of Kerry's Silver Star, as one anti-Kerry vet told conflicting stories to the Boston Globe over the course of a year. In the final analysis, however, such claims boil down to Kerry's word versus his opponents'.

The second sort of accusation is even harder to pin down, because it delves into questions of intent. Personal scruples also play a role here. These are charges that Kerry was not entirely honest in the after-action reports he wrote from the field; that as time passed his version of battles grew exaggerated and distorted; that details in Douglas Brinkley's Tour of Duty, an account of Kerry's war years, conflict with those in the Boston Globe biography, John F. Kerry. The story of how Kerry earned his first Purple Heart falls into this category, as do the events surrounding an attack on a sampan by Kerry's crew in the late winter of 1969. The charge here is not that Kerry "lied," or even that he has "distorted" the truth, but that he has told inconsistent stories over the years, occasionally omitting certain details.

It is the third sort of charge--that Kerry has sometimes painted a demonstrably false picture of events--that is the hardest to dismiss. John O'Neill's group insists Kerry was not in Cambodia on Christmas Eve 1968, as the senator has repeatedly asserted that he was. They maintain that no one--including members of Kerry's crew who otherwise support the senator--has yet corroborated Kerry's presence in Cambodia that Christmas Eve. And indeed, after the charge had been vetted by a ravenous host of Internet bloggers, and broadcast on numerous talk radio and cable news programs, the Kerry campaign, along with Douglas Brinkley, was forced to concede: On this point, the anti-Kerry Swifties may be right.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:00 PM


The Bloody Shirt Is Back: Did you know John Kerry served in Vietnam? (Fred Barnes, 08/30/2004, Weekly Standard)

THERE'S NEVER BEEN a presidential campaign like John Kerry's. Never has a presidential nominee made his own experience in a war the centerpiece of his campaign for the White House. In 1960, John F. Kennedy didn't hide his World War II record as commander of PT-109, but he didn't talk it up either. When asked about being a hero, he mocked the idea and said it stemmed from having his boat shot out from under him. John McCain's experience as a POW in Vietnam was well known when he ran for the Republican nomination in 2000. But he rarely mentioned it, except to note that his longest place of residence was Hanoi. Kerry is different. His speeches, TV ads, interviews, the entire Democratic convention--all have dwelled on his four months in Vietnam and the five medals he was awarded.

And there's still another unique aspect. Never has a presidential nominee run on the basis of his role in a war he opposed. Dwight Eisenhower, Teddy Roosevelt, Andrew Jackson, William Henry Harrison, and the five ex-Union officers in the Civil War who became president benefited politically from their participation and leadership in a war. Most of them, in fact, were famous for their wartime service. Kerry, by contrast, became famous as a war protester, as the leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, who charged that war crimes were being committed by American troops in Vietnam on a daily basis. Now Kerry has stood the Vietnam issue on its head. He insists it's his war record that shows he would be a strong president.

Why is Kerry leaning so heavily on his performance in Vietnam? It's a bulwark against attacks on his weak record on defense and national security as a U.S. senator since 1985.

Has anyone elected president ever vocally opposed a war in his past, besides Lincoln who opposed the Mexican-American (Grant opposed it but fought in it)?

Some Veterans Still Bitter at Talk of Crimes: Senator's Activism Made A Lasting Impression (Josh White and Brian Faler, 8/21/04, Washington Post)

William Ferris was confined to a bed in a military hospital, his severed sciatic nerve reminding him of the attack on his Navy Swift boat in a Vietnamese river. A shot from a recoilless rifle had pierced the boat's pilothouse and then Ferris's body, leaving him in constant agony.

But it was what appeared on Ferris's television that really pained him. John F. Kerry, a decorated fellow Swift boat driver, was testifying before Congress about atrocities in Vietnam, throwing his medals away, speaking at antiwar rallies. Ferris, who was trying to rehabilitate himself back to active duty, felt betrayed.

"I was livid," Ferris, 57, of Long Island, N.Y., said yesterday, recalling how his dislike for the presidential candidate began in the early 1970s. "I said to myself at the time, this is someone who is using his experience for his own purposes, and this was long before he ever ran for office. I thought he was using, actually manipulating, what he had done in Vietnam. Just like he's doing now."

Ferris is one of 250 Swift boat veterans who in May signed an open letter to the Massachusetts senator asking for full disclosure of his military records, specifically focusing on events during a four-month tour in Vietnam for which Kerry was awarded medals for bravery in combat. The veterans group -- Swift Boat Veterans for Truth -- has criticized Kerry for using his military experience as a centerpiece of his presidential campaign, arguing that the Democrat has exaggerated his experiences at war for political gain.

"I thought he was just another hot dog just trying to build his reputation," said Wayland Holloway of Searcy, Ark., who says he crossed paths with Kerry in 1969, one day before the future presidential candidate pulled Jim Rassmann from a river. "The first time I met John Kerry, frankly, I thought he was a very disingenuous person."

But while the group appears to be rooted in Republican politics and big money, several veterans who signed the letter said in interviews yesterday that they are casually into politics and generally are not convinced that Kerry is lying, but they do not like the candidate because of his polarizing speeches in the 1970s.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 PM


Governor vetoes protection for homeowners with handguns (WQAD, 8/20/04)

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich today vetoed protection for homeowners who violate local gun ordinances by shooting intruders.
The legislation responded to the case of Hale DeMar. The Wilmette restaurant owner shot a burglar in December who had broken into his home twice.

The measure could still become law. It passed both houses of the General Assembly by large enough margins that another vote this fall could override the veto.

Look for Alan Keyes to seize this and force Mr. Obama to either take a position that's unpopular with voters or one that's anathema within his own party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:47 PM


Kerry Ads Underscore His Vietnam Service (DAVID ESPO, 8/20/04, AP)

Cutter sought to turn the argument over presidential readiness back on the White House. "Mr. McClellan needs to understand that John Kerry is not the type of leader who will sit and read 'My Pet Goat' to a group of second graders while America is under attack," she said.

Say this for the Senator, his very public displays of PTSD the past couple days may not be very presidential but he is willing to do his own dirty work.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 PM


What is keeping Italian men at home?: Experts warn of population fall as most prefer mamma's cooking (Claudio Lavanga, 8/20/04, NBC News)

For most Italian single men, inviting a girlfriend home is a dangerous affair: If the visit is not planned carefully, they run the big risk of bumping into the other woman in their lives — their mother.

Italian men, in fact, still find it too difficult to cleanly sever the umbilical cord, and end up staying at home with their parents well into their 30s.

Now experts believe that the nationwide Oedipal complex might cause more serious damage than the endless complaints of aspiring wives: men's chronic refusal to move on might be responsible for the drastic decline of Italy’s birth rate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 PM


'I Am Charlotte Simmons' (TOM WOLFE, NY Times Book Review)

The following is an excerpt from Tom Wolfe's new novel, ''I Am Charlotte Simmons,'' which will be published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in November. Here Charlotte, a smart, beautiful and innocent freshman at the prestigious Dupont University, writes a letter to her parents.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 PM


After 37 years, France's elder statesman is the laughing stock of his Cabinet: Authority seems to be slipping from Jacques Chirac as he is undone by arrogance while young pretender eyes his crown (Charles Bremner, 8/21/04, The Times)

IRREVERENT ministers have taken to giggling behind Jacques Chirac’s back at Cabinet meetings in the Elysée Palace. In Brussels, European Union leaders roll their eyes when the French President takes the floor. Aged 71 and in his 10th year in office, M Chirac may hold Europe’s most powerful executive post, but he no longer commands the respect he did.

M Chirac sees himself as the elder statesman of the Western world, but his hopes of securing a favourable place in history after a very bumpy decade are growing increasingly dim as his authority seems to be slipping from his grasp at home and abroad.

M Chirac entered the new political year in France this week fighting a rebellion from within his unpopular Government and struggling to retain his authority in the twilight years of his long presidency.

With 33 months left in office, the tall and physically imposing leader is close to losing control for the first time in the party that he built as his own vehicle in 1976.

If you want to get some sense of the revolution going on under George W. Bush, wrap your mind around this one: Democrats hate Labour's Tony Blair and Republicans hate the "conservative" Jacques Chirac.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:49 PM


Baffling friends and enemies (ARNAUD DE BORCHGRAVE, 8/20/04, UPI)

America in Europe enjoyed a comfortable marriage through the 25th silver anniversary of NATO and the 50th gold mark, but is now throwing away the wedding ring after 55 years, known as the emerald celebration.

So spoke a prominent NATO statesman who did not wish to be named.

Why did she think was going to happen when we found her in bed with Saddam?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:32 PM


India as a rising power (Yevgeny Bendersky, 8/21/04, Asia Times)

Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has undergone major strategic reassessments of its capabilities and geopolitical reach around the globe. As the threat of a single force - the USSR - receded and then disappeared altogether, new challenges arose. One such challenge was the relationship with several countries that have begun to gain clout and importance on the world's political, military and economic scene. While Washington's attention has been fixed on the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and China, a country somewhat neglected by US policymakers has steadily gained in importance and has the potential of being one of the world's major geopolitical players - India.

Well, except for the fact that the President has made an unprecedented effort to embrace India as a key ally.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:19 PM


Iran: The babble and the bomb (Ehsan Ahrari, 8/20/04, Asia Times)

Let's be clear about one issue. Neither Iran nor North Korea should develop nuclear weapons. We already have too many nuclear powers on this small planet of ours, armed with enough nuclear weapons to blow it up many times over. But what if Iran does develop nuclear weapons? A number of facts and fictions about this issue should be well understood.

The first fact is that Iran does not yet have nuclear weapons. Second, it aspires to develop such weapons, if not now, then certainly in the foreseeable future - say, within 10 years. Third, Iran is genuinely afraid of a militaristic United States whose military forces are lurking beyond Iran's eastern border in Afghanistan and its western borders in Iraq, and, like North Korea, considers its own nuclear weapons as a source of deterrence to potential US military action against the regime. [...]

Under a re-elected Bush, Iran has most to fear about America's potential exercise of regime change, for a variety of reasons.

You'll likely not be surprised that not listed among Mr. Ahrari's reasons is that the regime is unpopular with its own people who desire genuine democracy, economic development, and renewed friendship with the U.S.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:27 PM


Coping with Sky-High Oil Prices: Why are they surging -- and how will the economy fare? It's likely inflation will stay cool, but so will hiring and consumer spending (Stanley Reed in London and James C. Cooper in New York, with Stephanie Anderson Forest in Dallas, 8/12/04, Business Week)

What's behind today's high oil prices?

It starts with an unexpected hike in demand. Rapidly rising oil consumption has eaten away the margin of safety provided by the ample spare production capacity recently provided by OPEC. With little surplus capacity available, buyers are worried that potential disruptions in a number of producing countries including Russia, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela could lead to major shortages and further spikes in prices. In 2001, OPEC had almost 6 million barrels per day in extra capacity it could call on. Now it is pumping close to flat-out.

Not only are prices high, but day-to-day swings of $1 or more a barrel are increasingly common as traders react to such news as the temporary Aug. 9 shutdown of production in Iraq. "The impact of any event is greatly magnified," says Paul Horsnell, head of energy research at Barclays Capital in London.

Why has huge demand caught the world by surprise?

A synchronized global recovery is the key factor. For perhaps the first time, most of the planet is growing in tandem. Demand, according to the International Energy Agency, is likely to grow by a record 2.5 million barrels per day in 2004, a 3.2% increase from last year. Consumption growth in 2004 alone is likely to be close to the total reached between 1998 and 2002, even though many had been predicting relatively stagnant demand.

The hottest growth area has been China, which clocked sizzling year-on-year increases of more than 20% in April and May. This year China will suck up 830,000 barrels a day more oil than last year, the IEA estimates, accounting for a third of world demand growth. As their incomes boom, the Chinese are buying cars even as the government rushes to build more roads to accommodate all the new traffic. Switching manufacturing from the West and Japan to less efficient facilities in China just adds to the nation's thirst for oil.

The U.S., too, continues to defy predictions as the economic recovery chugs along and as Americans continue to buy gas-guzzling vehicles and energy-gobbling McMansions. In the second quarter, America's demand for oil grew by 3.5%, the biggest gain since 1999.

Why hasn't production capacity kept pace with demand?

Both the oil majors and the national oil companies that dominate OPEC production have underinvested in bringing new supplies to market. OPEC's foot-dragging developing the 76% of world oil reserves under its sands and swamps is the biggest problem. Incredible as it may seem, OPEC's production capacity has actually declined over the last quarter-century from about 34 million barrels per day in 1979 to about 30 million barrels now. With OPEC imposing production cuts on its members to prop up prices, governments have seen little point investing in new output.

Political turmoil, wars, and nationalizations have led to production declines in major producers including Iraq, Iran, and Libya. And most Middle East producers have also severely limited oil companies' access to their reserves

In many respects, today's supply constraints stem from the late 1990s, when OPEC overproduction undermined the market. With prices approaching $10 per barrel back then, the oil majors became ultraconservative -- and they remain so today because they fear OPEC will once again pull the rug out from under them. As a result, they won't touch projects unless they promise at least 15% returns. What's more, pressure from profit-hungry investors has prompted the majors to chop exploration budgets and avoid taking big risks. [...]

Today's inventory levels, which are slightly below the five-year average, would, in a calmer international environment, be expected to produce prices in the low $30s per barrel. But as long as the international situation remains tense, prices will remain higher. Says Edward L. Morse, senior adviser at trading firm hetco in New York: "Fifty dollars looks much more likely than $30, and even $100 cannot be ruled out."

Still, many analysts think it will take a major event to push prices up much higher than they are now. What's encouraging is that the markets are coping quite well. There have been no major shortages, and buyers are able to secure plenty of oil -- albeit at a price. The situation could even ease somewhat in the coming months as Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Algeria add another 1 million barrels a day or more to capacity. That probably means that unless something happens to considerably worsen the supply situation, prices could peak at the mid-$40s (see BW, 8/12/04, "Are Speculators Driving Up Oil?").

"The only thing that's going to drive prices much higher is some big disruption," says Michael Smith, the head of energy analysis at BP PLC in London. Of course, it wasn't that long ago that analysts thought oil prices in the $30s couldn't last.

Do high oil prices have the same impact on the economy as in the past?

The answer seems to be yes -- and no. High oil prices still act like a tax that hits consumers and businesses on a material and psychological level. But the recent spike will not ignite inflation this time round. Indeed, with the job market weak, workers aren't able to negotiate wage increases that in the past have fueled rising prices.

So higher oil prices aren't tied to shortages of oil nor are they inflationary. It's a suboptimal situation, but hardly disastrous.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:42 PM


Swift boat group launches new anti-Kerry ad: Survey finds earlier spot reaching wide audience (CNN, 8/20/04)

An anti-Kerry veterans' group released a new ad Friday, reaching back more than 30 years to take issue with some of the Democratic presidential nominee's comments as an anti-war activist.

The 30-second spot compares Sen. John Kerry's comments upon his return home from service to confessions sought through torture inflicted on American captives in Vietnam.

Gotta love the bit about "reaching back more than 30 years" after a Democratic Convention where the stage management for the Senator's acceptance speech looked like it had been borrowed from Max Fischer's production of Heaven and Hell.

-Text of Swift Boat Vets' Ad Against Kerry (NewsMax Wires, Aug. 20, 2004 )

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:28 PM


Cleric's followers remove weapons from shrine (Associated Press, August 20, 2004)

Militiamen loyal to rebel Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr removed weapons from the revered Imam Ali Shrine in Najaf but remained in control of the holy site Friday amid efforts to end their 2-week-old uprising.

Fighters from al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia were inside the shrine but left their guns outside. Armed militiamen continued to circulate around the walled shrine compound in Najaf's Old City.

The firebrand anti-U.S. cleric agreed to take a further step and surrender the site to Iraq's highest Shiite authority, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani.

But in the latest twist in the tortuous search for a resolution to the crisis, al-Sadr and al-Sistani aides late Friday night were still trying to agree on how to transfer control. An aide to al-Sistani insisted al-Sadr's followers must completely leave the site before religious authorities would take the keys to the shrine that symbolize control.

With lilly-livered "martyrs" like this it's no wonder He's withdrawn his favor.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:57 PM


Bush and Kerry in Tie Nationwide, CBS News Poll Finds (Bloomberg, 8/19/04)

Democratic challenger John Kerry has fallen into a statistical tie with President George W. Bush among voters nationwide, relinquishing a lead Kerry had after the Democratic National Convention last month, a CBS poll found.

Kerry, 60, a four-term Massachusetts senator, is supported by 46 percent of voters to 45 percent for Bush, within the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The survey of 835 registered voters conducted Aug. 15-18 found independent candidate Ralph Nader backed by 1 percent. Kerry led Bush by 5 percentage points in a July 30-Aug. 1 poll, CBS said.

Kerry's support among veterans fell 9 percentage points from the earlier poll, CBS said, down to 37 percent from 46 percent.

On the Diane Rehm show today, Steve Roberts baldly stated that Senator Kerry's little Swift Vet snit yesterday was provoked by how upset he was over the bad reception he got before the VFW--has anybody seen a print story to that effect?

At any rate, here's the remarkable thing: the questions over his service record are just the preliminaries. Republicans probably didn't even expect to hit such a mother load of inconsistencies in this vein, just to muddy the waters a bit. All of this is prepatory to a set of ads and questions that it seems unlikely a candidate for the presidency can withstand. These concern not his service to America but his subsequent service to North Vietnam and the Soviet Union, McCain: Hanoi Hilton Guards Taunted POWs With Kerry's Testimony (NewsMax, 2/17/04)

[A]fter he was released from the Hanoi Hilton in 1973, McCain publicly complained that testimony by Kerry and others before J. William Fulbright's Senate Foreign Relations Committee was "the most effective propaganda [my North Vietnamese captors] had to use against us."

"They used Senator Fulbright a great deal," McCain wrote in the May 14, 1973, issue of U.S. News & World Report. While he was languishing in a North Vietnamese prison cell, Kerry was telling the Fulbright committee that U.S. soldiers were committing war crimes in Vietnam as a matter of course.

Sen. Ted Kennedy, a key Kerry presidential backer, was "quoted again and again" by jailers at the Hanoi Hilton, McCain said. [...]

McCain biographer Paul Alexander chronicled the Arizona Republican's anger toward Kerry during their early careers in the Senate together.

"For many years McCain held Kerry's actions against him because, while McCain was a POW in the Hanoi Hilton, Kerry was organizing veterans back home in the U.S. to protest the war."

Where the goings on in the Mekong Delta are shrouded by the fog of war, the Senator faces the daunting--likely impossible--task of explaining away his own testimony before Congress in which he not only sounds stridently anti-American and deluded about the nature of communism and the future of the Vietnamese people under communism but claims to have participated in war crimes and to have knowingly negotiated illegaly with the North Vietnamese government at the Paris peace talks. If he can't get out from under the questions about his military record--a record he has justifiably bragged about--then how will he ever extract himself from the coming controversies over his anti-war/anti-American activism, a record his campaign has quite pointedly made no mention of?

August has been disastrous for the Senator and he hasn't even gotten to the tough stuff yet.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:14 PM


American Moralism: Why the World Needs More of It (BreakPoint with Charles Colson, August 20, 2004)

This election year, Christians can expect to be criticized for injecting moral values into American public life—of being moralists. This derisive term often puts Christians on the defensive and causes them to be apologetic for their convictions.

I have a better idea: Instead of being defensive, we ought to say, “You’re doggone right I’m a moralist.” And our fellow citizens ought to be glad that we are. That moralistic streak is why people all over the world look to America for leadership. It’s why America is different.

The impact of this moralistic streak, and the morally based public life it produces, can be seen in events all around the world. This attempt right now to bring democracy and freedom to the Middle East isn’t only about national security. It stems from the moral conviction that tyranny and despotism are bad and democracy is good.

The only reason we care about the freedom of people thousands of miles away is our moralism and commitment to universal moral principles. Our concern for human rights is a product of America’s Christian heritage. We refuse to sit idly by while the human rights of others are trampled.

Our moralism is why America, spurred on by its Christian citizens, works to combat the AIDS epidemic in Africa. It’s why we are trying to eliminate scourges such as the international sex trade. Neither of these directly affect most Americans, but our moralism won’t let us ignore the problem.

America and Britain generally enjoy good relations but the especially tight embrace right now is surely a function of the moralism of the two leaders.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:40 PM

FIRST THINGS FIRST (via Tom Corcoran):

Misusing Hayek: Jonathan Rauch’s formulation doesn’t work. (Jonah Goldberg, 8/19/04, National Review)

In his excellent book, Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America, Jonathan Rauch tackles what he calls the Hayekian argument against gay marriage (you can read the relevant excerpt from his book here). According to Rauch, the Hayekian problem with same-sex marriage is simply this: We do not, and most often cannot, know the full importance of some customs and institutions, specifically the mother of all institutions — marriage. In numerous books and essays, Friedrich Hayek explained how societies, like markets, develop organically into what he called "spontaneous orders." No single person possesses anything close to the invisible collective knowledge held by the society as a whole. In much the same way that the price of a given stock or commodity may not make sense to any individual, the collective actions of millions of individual actors via the market determine the best or most efficient or most intelligent price.

Indeed, in the abstract, some customs may not even be the most efficient or best way to do things, but simply because millions or billions of people have "invested" in that system, the costs of changing the system would be far, far greater than the benefits. Maybe, in the abstract, there's a better way to design traffic lights. Who cares? In the real world, our society is deeply invested the way we've always done it.

And still other customs may have entirely invisible or forgotten or unknowable benefits, which we might not even appreciate until after they were gone. How many social benefits were attached to the evening family meal that no one could have predicted or appreciated before women's liberation and the modern economy eroded its prevalence? Indeed, some recent studies indicate that a significant portion of the obesity "epidemic" is attributable to the decline in home cooking, predominately by housewives. Just imagine the response if critics of feminism had said, "If women join the workforce, kids will get fat and cost us billions in health care."

In short, the Hayekian opponent of same-sex marriage says that he doesn't necessarily need to give a good reason against changing marriage, because it's impossible to know all the functions and roles that marriage plays in a society. Tinkering with marriage is like reaching into your car's engine and monkeying around with the big round thingamajig without really knowing what it does.

Rauch is very sympathetic to this critique. His response is that there are two kinds of Hayekian argument, the strong and the weak. "In its strong version," Rauch writes, "the Hayekian argument implies that no reforms of longstanding institutions or customs should ever be undertaken, because any legal or political meddling would interfere with the natural evolution of social mores." He then cites all sorts of good reforms — like the abolition of slavery — to demonstrate that this argument is untenable. "Obviously, neither Hayek nor any reputable follower of his would defend every cultural practice simply on the grounds that it must exist for a reason," Rauch correctly observes. Hayek certainly did not believe that no reform was warranted, that no wrong should go unremedied, or that all traditions are valid simply because they are old and accepted.

So, Rauch instead relies on the second, or "weak," Hayekian argument. "This version is not so much a prescription as an attitude. Respect tradition. Reject utopianism. Plan for mistakes rather than for perfection. If reform is needed, look for paths that follow the terrain of custom, if possible. If someone promises to remake society on rational or supernatural or theological principles, run in the opposite direction. In sum: Move ahead, but be careful." This, Rauch adds, is "Good advice. But not advice, particularly, against gay marriage."

Mr. Rauch would appear to have gotten awfully far ahead of himself. Given the "terrain of custom" the Hayekian question would be whether homosexuality should even be tolerated.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:05 PM


Corrupt officials have cost China £330m in 20 years (Jonathan Watts, August 20, 2004, The Guardian)

More than 4,000 corrupt Chinese officials have absconded overseas with at least $600m (£330m) worth of public funds in the past 20 years, according to a government report.

The study by the ministry of commerce is thought to underplay the scale of the problem, but it highlights growing concerns that corruption could undermine the authority of the Communist party.

Describing China as the fourth-worst country in the world for capital flight, the report's authors said that bureaucrats illegally transferred 5 billion yuan (£330m) worth of dirty money to tens of thousands of firms registered in offshore finance centres such as the British Virgin Islands and the Bahamas.

The report's author, Mei Xinyu, cited the case of three officials in Henan province who fled overseas. Among them was Cheng Sanchang, a former party chief who reportedly set up a company in New Zealand through which he transferred 10m yuan (£660,000) before fleeing with his mistress.

But other figures released in the past year suggest the problem of capital flight is far worse than the commerce ministry's report suggests. In April, a Bank of China official was extradited from the US after allegedly embezzling £265m.

It has been reported that 8,000 Chinese officials fled overseas in the first six months of last year. According to the central committee of discipline inspection, 132,000 officials, including 17 ministers, were punished for corruption-related offences last year.

Admittedly, the idea of China challenging our global hegemony is even more amusing than that of the EU doing so.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:56 AM


Inflating the oil crisis (Joe Kaplinsky, 8/20/04, Spiked)

What's behind the rise in oil prices? Not scarcity, according to OPEC President Purnomo Yusgiantoro: 'OPEC already oversupplies, but oil prices are too high.... This is not a supply and demand balance problem. This is not because of fundamental factors.'

He's right. The problem is that the markets are worried by a series of risks, in Iraq, Venezuela, Russia, Nigeria, and elsewhere, rather than that there is an oil shortage. Are the markets right to be spooked? And if the real risks don't measure up to market expectations, why are they so concerned?

First it is worth noting that, despite the headlines, oil is not at historically high prices. The headlines are only justified by ignoring inflation - which is to say, they are not justified. Record oil prices followed in the wake of the Iranian revolution - in 1981 the average price of oil was $31.77 a barrel, the equivalent of roughly $60 today. The peak price, in February 1981, was $39.00, or about $73.50 in today's money. This is substantially more than the $48 (or so) that oil actually costs us now.

Even so, set against reasonable expectations, today's prices are high - and these high prices reflect broader worries in society about energy. The most immediate concern is instability in the Middle East, and Iraq in particular. There is a common view that reliance on Middle East oil imports is a big problem: President George W Bush, as well as his Democratic rival John Kerry, is offering a plan for American energy independence. [...]

But a more interdependent world is not necessarily a more risky one. In fact the opposite is true. With respect to oil, the markets have got it wrong. The developed world is actually less dependent on energy for economic growth, less dependent on oil for energy, and less dependent on the Middle East for oil.

If only markets reflected reason rather than emotion...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:44 AM


Bush's Withdrawal From the World (Ronald D. Asmus, August 18, 2004, Washington Post)

Harry Truman must be turning over in his grave.

The planned withdrawal of U.S. troops from Europe and Asia that President Bush announced this week, if allowed to stand, could lead to the demise of the United States' key alliances across the globe, including the one that Truman considered his greatest foreign policy accomplishment: NATO.

Mr. Asmus somehow manages to miss the salient point of his own first sentence: Harry Truman died 32 years ago. [He left the presidency fifty-two years ago.] Mr. Tuman wasn't a very good president but he was a pretty smart guy and extremely well-read in history--he'd have scoffed at the notion that any of the policies he adopted would be permanent. He'd have found especially ludicrous the idea that NATO, which was formed specifically to defend Europe from the Soviet Union, would need to remain unchanged fifteen years after the fall of communism.

In fact, were we to apply the Asmus standard to Mr. Truman he could not have formed NATO because the USSR was our ally and Germany our enemy just four years earlier.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:43 AM


GOP lukewarm toward Keyes (Ray Long and Christi Parsons, August 20, 2004, Chicago Tribune)

The beliefs that Keyes has espoused since joining the campaign aren't all that different from the conservative viewpoints of his predecessor Jack Ryan, who voluntarily dropped out of the race this summer. But Keyes' presentation of his anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage and pro-gun views has proven more strident, perhaps befitting his career as a popular radio talk show host.

Keyes added more heat to the discourse this week when he said he supports the idea of reparations for the descendants of slaves. He said he opposes the idea of "extorting" monetary damages, but that he would exempt slave descendants from federal taxes in order to encourage business ownership and create jobs.

Keyes reached high moments during the day's events, using eloquent speeches to win over even small and uncertain crowds.

The more he spoke at the noon talk, for example, the more the crowd responded until, at the end, they were whistling, applauding and giving him a standing ovation.

IL Republicans have never seen anything like Mr. Keyes before--their initial caution is understandable; their subsequent enthusiasm predictable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:39 AM


Is Bush an Israeli shill? Or a Saudi one? (Bret Stephens, Aug. 19, 2004, THE JERUSALEM POST)

Pretty soon, the Anyone But Bush crowd is going to have to decide: Is the American president an Israeli shill or is he a Saudi shill? Does he do the bidding of the insidious pro-Israel neocons or of the insidious pro-Arab oil lobby? Is his foreign policy everything his father's was not – and therefore disastrous – or is it an extension of it – and therefore equally disastrous?

Mr. Stephens is, of course, part of the conspiracy, otherwise he'd acknowledge that the Sa'uds are just a front for the Elders of Zion.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 AM



Golan Cipel's alleged extortion demand for millions of dollars from New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey was backed up by a threat to release embarrassing tapes and photos of him, The Post has learned.

The FBI wants to question McGreevey about the sensational gay sex case as early as next week and federal subpoenas for evidence are expected to be issued soon, sources said.

Might be wise for gays to choose their civil rights pioneers with a bit more care. The Gerry Studds, Barney Frank, Pim Fortuyn, James McGreevey group hasn't exactly covered themselves with glory.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:26 AM


Moving troops (Charles Krauthammer, August 20, 2004, Townhall)

The Democrats' response is a classic demonstration of reactionary liberalism, the reflexive defense of the status quo long after its raison d'etre has evaporated.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:51 AM


'When ya gettin' rid of him?': Tony Blair has become an embarrassment to Labour's natural allies across the Atlantic - the Democrats (Mark Seddon, August 20, 2004, The Guardian)

Out on the stump in Brooklyn with Democrat Congressional hopeful Frank Barbero came a chance to talk to the footsoldiers in an election that all agree is the most important in decades. America is polarised between red and blue - or, as some Democrats whisper, between progressive America and a revived Confederacy.

With George, the Vietnam vet turned transit worker, and Jeff Gold, the eternally optimistic full-time organiser, we leafleted passersby outside Tiffany's Diner, a hangout for hangover recoverers on any Sunday lunchtime. "The response is good this time," said Jeff. "It's close, it's important and everyone knows it. It's also beginning to turn dirty." But Barbero, who helped drive the Mob out of the docks as a union man, had one question for me: "Tony Blair! When ya gettin' rid of him?"

If it is holiday time for Blair, it must be Silvio Berlusconi's brash Sardinian villa, or an occasion for Downing Street staffers to mull over the fun idea of inviting the Iraqi placeman and former Ba'athist Ayad Allawi to visit Labour's conference - and then mercifully thinking better of it.

But, sadly, there appears to be little such enthusiasm or public support for the Democrat hopeful, John Kerry. Sophisticated commentators and campaigners are aware of the distinction between government and party. They understand that, as prime minister, Blair cannot weigh in personally behind Kerry. But many of those I spoke to in New York last week wondered about Blair's choice of friends and how he became trapped into supporting Bush and the neocons on Iraq.

He may not have governed that way but Bill Clinton at least ran on the Third Way. Now George Bush owns that turf and John Kerry is running as a kind of LBJ/Great Society throwback. Why would Tony Blair support a guy who wants to do to America all the stuff he's undoing in Britain?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:34 AM


A small sample and high margin of error, but the California results here might explain the Senator's seeming insanity today.

The Times has a big story on the Swift Vets ad tomorrow, Friendly Fire: The Birth of an Anti-Kerry Ad (KATE ZERNIKE and JIM RUTENBERG, 8/20/04, NY Times)

After weeks of taking fire over veterans' accusations that he had lied about his Vietnam service record to win medals and build a political career, Senator John Kerry shot back yesterday, calling those statements categorically false and branding the people behind them tools of the Bush campaign.

His decision to take on the group directly was a measure of how the group that calls itself Swift Boat Veterans for Truth has catapulted itself to the forefront of the presidential campaign. It has advanced its cause in a book, in a television advertisement and on cable news and talk radio shows, all in an attempt to discredit Mr. Kerry's war record, a pillar of his campaign.

How the group came into existence is a story of how veterans with longstanding anger about Mr. Kerry's antiwar statements in the early 1970's allied themselves with Texas Republicans.

Mr. Kerry called them "a front for the Bush campaign" - a charge the campaign denied.

A series of interviews and a review of documents show a web of connections to the Bush family, high-profile Texas political figures and President Bush's chief political aide, Karl Rove. [...]

It all began last winter, as Mr. Kerry was wrapping up the Democratic nomination. Mr. Lonsdale received a call at his Massachusetts home from his old commander in Vietnam, Mr. Hoffmann, asking if he had seen the new biography of the man who would be president.

Mr. Hoffmann had commanded the Swift boats during the war from a base in Cam Ranh Bay and advocated a search-and-destroy campaign against the Vietcong - the kind of tactic Mr. Kerry criticized when he was a spokesman for Vietnam Veterans Against the War in 1971. Shortly after leaving the Navy in 1978, he was issued a letter of censure for exercising undue influence on cases in the military justice system.

Both Mr. Hoffmann and Mr. Lonsdale had publicly lauded Mr. Kerry in the past. But the book, Mr. Brinkley's "Tour of Duty," while it burnished Mr. Kerry's reputation, portrayed the two men as reckless leaders whose military approach had led to the deaths of countless sailors and innocent civilians. Several Swift boat veterans compared Mr. Hoffmann to the bloodthirsty colonel in the film "Apocalypse Now" - the one who loves the smell of Napalm in the morning.

The two men were determined to set the record, as they saw it, straight.

"It was the admiral who started it and got the rest of us into it," Mr. Lonsdale said.

Mr. Hoffmann's phone calls led them to Texas and to John E. O'Neill, who at one point commanded the same Swift boat in Vietnam, and whose mission against him dated to 1971, when he had been recruited by the Nixon administration to debate Mr. Kerry on "The Dick Cavett Show."

Mr. O'Neill, who pressed his charges against Mr. Kerry in numerous television appearances Thursday, had spent the 33 years since he debated Mr. Kerry building a successful law practice in Houston, intermingling with some of the state's most powerful Republicans and building an impressive client list. Among the companies he represented was Falcon Seaboard, the energy firm founded by the current lieutenant governor of Texas, David Dewhurst, a central player in the Texas redistricting plan that has positioned state Republicans to win more Congressional seats this fall.

Mr. O'Neill said during one of several interviews that he had come to know two of his biggest donors, Harlan Crow and Bob J. Perry, through longtime social and business contacts.

A few thoughts occur:

(1) If you've seen the Dick Cavett tape, no one would have needed to prod Mr. O'Neill much to get him gung-ho about this.

(2) Pretty funny that after months of the Democrats crowing about all their 527 money and ads, the only one that matters is this little one which no one has seen broadcast, only on news shows discussing it.

(3) Folks are demanding that the President ask them to stop running it, but doesn't that violate CFR, which says these groups can't co-ordinate with the campaigns?

N.B. On Diane Rehm this morning, Steve Roberts said the Senator's response yesterday was a direct result of the tepid welcome he got from the VFW. First of all, what did he expect? Second, if he's that undisciplined a candidate why would we want him for president?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:24 AM


US senator Kennedy complains of falling on anti-terror no-fly list (AFP, 8/19/04)

He is among the most recognizable politicians in the United States, but liberal lawmaker Ted Kennedy said that even he has fallen victim to the tightened air security of the terror-conscious, post-9/11 era.

At a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday, the Massachusetts Democratic senator described having endured weeks of inconvenience after his name ended up on a watch list barring persons deemed to pose a threat to civil aviation or national security from air travel.

Kennedy said that on several occasions last March, he was nearly denied permission to board a US Airways shuttle from Washington to Boston because his name landed on a no-fly list in error.

In each instance, he said, an airline supervisor was called and he was eventually allowed to board the flight.

Given his own and his family's track record with airplanes, would you want him on board?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:21 AM


Tarnished silver? ( Jennifer Harper, 8/19/04, Washington Times)

Uneven military service records have proved toxic to John Kerry's campaign for president, prompting him to post his full military record on his Web site ( for critics to peruse.

But one sharp-eyed Washington Times reader — a former B-52 pilot and U.S. Air Force colonel — isn't buying Mr. Kerry's pre-emptive strike.

"I looked at that Web site and the first thing I looked at was Kerry's Silver Star citation. Guess what? It is for an action that took place in 1969, but it is signed by Secretary of the Navy John Lehman. Strangely, Lehman was secretary of the Navy from 1981 to 1987," he noted.

From what the talking heads are saying it would not be at all unusual to have lost paperwork and whatnot and need a new citation, but would be unheard of to have a new one written by a subsequent Secretary of the Navy.

August 19, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:32 PM


Bush's faith-based changes scrutinized: He has made changes without Congress' OK (Don Lattin, August 17, 2004, SF Chronicle)

President Bush has gone "under the radar" and around the Congress to spread his faith-based initiative throughout the federal government, according to a new study released Monday.

The study, compiled by researchers at the Rockefeller Institute of Government in Albany, N.Y., is one of the first comprehensive looks at the Bush administration's efforts to redirect government grants to churches and other faith-based groups.

"Religious organizations are now involved in government-encouraged activities ranging from building strip malls for economic improvement to promoting child car seats,'' the study states.

Taken together, the report finds that the Bush programs "mark a major shift in the constitutional separation of church and state."

"Few if any presidents in recent history have reached as deeply into or as broadly across the government to implement a presidential initiative administratively,'' said institute director Richard Nathan.

The study focuses on the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, which has set up faith-based branch offices in 10 federal agencies ranging from the Department of Health and Human Services to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Bush administration officials say the faith- based initiative is meant to merely "level the playing field" so churches and other religious groups can compete for billions of dollars the federal government hands out each year through government social service contracts.

Ever notice how any time the Left looks up from its "He's a moron" script they're forced to acknowledge that he's successfully revolutionized another facet of the Federal government.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:24 PM


Jimmy Cliff stays 'rock steady'Reggae legend Jimmy Cliff is touring, and the film that put him on the map is being remade. (Reed Martin, 8/20/04, CS Monitor)

His passion for performing was ignited more than 40 years ago when he was still James Chambers, an elementary school student in Kingston. "I started out as an actor in a school play, and one day when I was singing, some girls heard me and said they thought it was the radio. That was when I discovered that I had a voice.

I was rehearsing for the role of King Sugar in a play about when sugar was king in the Caribbean. I still remember my lines: 'I am monarch of all I survey/ My right there is none to dispute/ From the center all around to the sea/ I am lord of the West Indies!'" says Cliff with a laugh.

The ambition to be an international sensation is something Cliff shared with Ivan, the character he played in the 1973 film "The Harder They Come," a semiautobiographical story of a young musician's hardships that lead to a life of crime. That Jamaican film predated Bob Marley's superstardom and laid the groundwork for Marley's global popularity.

" 'The Harder They Come' was a movie without borders and it definitely helped break reggae into a wider market outside the Caribbean," says Cristy Barber, president of Bob Marley's own Tuff Gong record label, a subsidiary of Island Records. "When it first came out, the Vietnam War had ended and people in America were eager for something that was more than just protest music. They were looking for something to provide a little warmth and guidance - some 'positivity' and hope - and that's what 'The Harder They Come' did."

Cliff agrees: "It was a universal story, you know? The character I played could have been an Indian boy in Delhi or a Jewish boy in Jerusalem. And it came out at a time when it really captured the spirit and the energy in the universe. That's why it made the impact that it did."

In the Caribbean, Africa, and Latin America, the film gave the poor and disenfranchised a folk hero and awakened dreams of liberation and revolution. "When I made 'The Harder They Come,' we had just come into independence and were finding our voice as a country - as a culture - and defining a whole new society," says writer-director Perry Henzell. "Jamaicans were saying: 'We're a nation now and we have something to say.' " [...]

Such is the staying power of the film that New Line Cinema, the studio behind the "Lord of the Rings" franchise, has stepped up to produce a hip-hop-flavored remake of "The Harder They Come," directed by Stephen Williams, due out in 2005.

Cliff has no formal role yet in the remake, but he may serve as a consultant, and provide a song or two. But it doesn't disappoint him that rap - rather than reggae - fuels the soundtrack.

Why couldn't they remake Can't Stop the Music instead?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:18 PM


Japan, Russia to Lose Population (GENARO C. ARMAS, 8/18/04, Associated Press)

Japan, Germany and many other large industrialized countries face long-term population slowdowns or declines as more young adults have fewer children or delay child-rearing, demographers say.

While the world's population is expected to increase by almost 50 percent by 2050, Japan could lose 20 percent of its population over the next half-century, according to data released Tuesday by the private Population Reference Bureau.

Russia's population is expected to decline by 17 percent, and Germany's by 9 percent.

The United States is the biggest exception among industrialized countries, with its population expected to rise by 43 percent from 293 million now to 420 million at mid-century.

So much for there being a housing bubble in the U.S.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:12 PM



The sex attacker who landed a £7m lotto jackpot has drawn up a shopping list as he prepares to leave jail. [...]

Smug Hoare has told other cons: "Anything I want is mine. I'm unstoppable".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:01 PM


Setting Up War With Iran (Gary Leupp, CounterPunch)

One day the headlined fact of significance was that the 9-11 Commission found no Iraq/al-Qaeda link. This was a blow to the Bush administration, especially its neoconservative contingent, which must realize that it has diminishing credibility, even as it struggles to stay in power and doggedly implement its Southwest Asia regime change agenda. The next day the headlined fact was that the same commission found that eight of the 9-11 hijackers had passed between Afghanistan and Iran between October 2000 and February 2001, with Iranian border guards’ knowledge, and official orders to those guards not to stamp their passports. In other words, the report says: there’s been no al-Qaeda link to Iraq (now occupied by U.S. troops), but there has been one to Iran (not occupied by U.S. troops). Commission Chairman Thomas H. Kean has said specifically that this passage of Saudis through Iran raises the possibility that Iran and al-Qaeda had an operating relationship, There must be a lot of folks thinking (as some very much want them to think); “The CIA screwed up on the intelligence, so we didn’t attack the right country. Turns out Iran’s a much more serious enemy.”

The CIA, which understands how facts can be used and abused, immediately emphasized that there’s no evidence for any operational link between Teheran and the 9-11 attacks. (The CIA has itself, by the way, been abused by the Commission’s report that faults it--- for “intelligence failures,” rather than the Office of Special Plans---for collecting and disseminating pro-war disinformation.) Iranian officials predictably again denied any Iran/al-Qaeda connections, emphasized the difficulty of policing such a long border, and expressed willingness to improve relations with the U.S. The Iraqi “ambassador” to Washington (interestingly, an American citizen) told the press that Iran has actually cooperated with the present “handover” government, and has detained Afghan fighters, some of whom might have been headed to Iraq. (The new “government” of Iyad Allawi is probably not inclined to contribute to the Iran vilification campaign; Allawi is widely known as a long-term CIA operative, but he may have reasons to oppose U.S. plans for neighboring Shiite Iran.)

But this fact about these eight men, three or four years ago crossing the Afghan-Iranian border, is a potentially powerful piece of information, the sort that the neocons can be expected to maximally exploit. Regime change in Iran is, after all, a major neocon objective (although not official U.S. policy). A government official told Jenifer Johnston of the Sunday Herald that “there will be much more intervention in the internal affairs of Iran” in a second term. The neocons know that if Bush is reelected, they may be able to carry out their plans .


Posted by David Cohen at 6:58 PM


John Kerry: A Navy Dove Runs for Congress (Samuel Z. Goldhaber, The (Harvard) Crimson, 2/18/70)

At Yale, Kerry was chairman of the Political Union and later, as Commencement speaker, urged the United States to withdraw from Vietnam and to scale down foreign military operations. And this was way back in 1966.

When he approached his draft board for permission to study for a year in Paris, the draft board refused and Kerry decided to enlist in the Navy. The Navy assigned him to the USS Gridley which between December 1966 and July 1968 saw four months of action off the Vietnam coast. In August through November, 1968, Kerry was trained to be the skipper of a patrol boat for Vietnamese rivers. For the next five months, until April of 1969, Kerry was the commanding Lieutenant of a patrol boat in the Mekong Delta. He was wounded slightly on three different occasions and received a Silver Star for bravery. His patrol boat took part in Operation Sealords, mostly scouting out Viet Cong villages and transporting South Vietnamese marines to various destinations up and down narrow rivers covered with heavy foliage on either side. One time Kerry was ordered to destroy a Viet Cong village but disobeyed orders and suggested that the Navy Command simply send in a Psychological Warfare team to be friend the villagers with food, hospital supplies, and better educational facilities.

Pulling Out

Immediate withdrawal from Vietnam, Kerry said, would take about seven months due to complex logistics problems. During that interval he would allow only "self-defense return of fire." "Logistic suport is now what Nixon is talking about leaving there and I don't want to see that. I don't think we should leave support troops there and I don't think we should give Vietnam any more than the foreign aid given any other one country." He does not feel there would be a massive slaughter of American, sympathizers once the United States pulled out.

In America, "everybody who's against the war is suddenly considered anti-American," Kerry said. "But I don't think they can turn to me and say I don't know what's going on or I'm a draft dodger." Referring to the House Armed Services Committee, chaired by L. Mendel Rivers (D-S.C.), Kerry said, "I want to go down to Washington and confront Medel Rivers, who never fought in a war.

"I as effectively as anyone else in the country, can address myself to the issue of Vietnam," Kerry said. "I'm very realistic, though. I'm just going to be one man adding to the work of men like Lowenstein." . . .

He supports a volunteer Army, "if and only if we can create the controls for it. You're going to have to prepare for the possibility of a national emergency, however." Kerry said that the United Nations should have control over most of our foreign military operations. "I'm an internationalist. I'd like to see our troops dispersed through the world only at the directive of the United Nations."

On other issues, Kerry wants "to almost eliminate CIA activity. The CIA is fighting its own war in Laos and nobody seems to care."

It looks like the 20 years in the Senate can be safely ignored, as they seem to have had no effect on him whatsoever.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:45 PM


U.S. Eyes Money Trails of Saudi-Backed Charities (David B. Ottaway, August 19, 2004, Washington Post)

Nearly three years after the devastating Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, a number of Saudi-supported Islamic preachers, centers, charities and mosques remain under intense scrutiny. U.S. investigators continue to look into the tangled money trails leading from Saudi Arabia to its embassy in Washington and into dozens of American cities.

At the end of one trail is Mohamed. Another avenue of interest involves the global finances of the al Haramain Islamic Foundation, a large Saudi-government-supported charity set up to propagate Wahhabism and sometimes referred to as "the United Way of Saudi Arabia." Al Haramain, which has an office in Ashland, Ore., sent Mohamed $5,000.

The commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks stated in its July report that al Qaeda had relied heavily on international charities to raise money, "particularly those with lax external oversight and ineffective internal controls such as the Saudi-based al Haramain Islamic Foundation." The report added that al Qaeda found "fertile fund-raising groups" in Saudi Arabia, "where extreme religious views are common and charitable giving was both essential to the culture and subject to very limited oversight."

The Saudis say they have taken more steps than any other country to crack down on terrorist financing. They say the problem is not with their religion but with a small minority of deviants.

The Saudi government has severed ties with Mohamed, who is charged only with immigration violations, but he insists he did nothing wrong. A hearing is set for Sept. 1 in San Diego. The terrorist suspicions against Mohamed appear to rest on financial transactions that raise questions but do not provide answers, court records show. Global Relief denies it funds terrorism.

The Saudis are also shutting al Haramain offices worldwide. In June, the Treasury Department put the charity's former head in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on its list of known supporters of terrorism for providing "financial, material and logistical support to the al Qaeda network."

Wahhabism arose in the mid-18th century in central Saudi Arabia. Mohammad Ibn Abdul Wahab sought to purify Islam and return it to its 7th-century roots. He preached doctrines based on a strict adherence to the literal word of the Koran. He opposed music and adornment, insisted that women be cloaked and disdained nonbelievers, even members of other Muslim sects.

Scholars of Islam find it difficult to precisely assess the impact of 40 years of Saudi missionary work on the United States' multi-ethnic Muslim community -- estimated at 6 million to 7 million. But survey data are suggestive.

The most comprehensive study, a survey of the 1,200 U.S. mosques undertaken in 2000 by four Muslim organizations, found that 2 million Muslims were "associated" with a mosque and that 70 percent of mosque leaders were generally favorable toward fundamentalist teachings, while 21 percent followed the stricter Wahhabi practices. The survey also found that the segregation of women for prayers was spreading, from half of the mosques in 1994 to two-thirds six years later.

John L. Esposito, a religion scholar at Georgetown University, said the Saudi theological efforts have resulted in "the export of a very exclusive brand of Islam into the Muslim community in the United States" that "tends to make them more isolationist in the society in which they live."
The Export of Islam

The worldwide export of Wahhabi Islam began in 1962, when Saudi Arabia's ruling Saud family founded the Muslim World League in Mecca to promote "Islamic solidarity." The Sauds were seeking to counter the fiery pan-Arab nationalism of Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser, who was calling for the Saudi monarchy to be overthrown.

The family also saw the export of Islam, which they call "Dawah," as a sacred duty. Their land was the birthplace of Islam and their kingdom host to the religion's two holiest mosques, in Mecca and Medina.

Western diplomats stationed in Riyadh liken the Sauds' fervor to the zeal of the United States' own fundamentalist sects. "For Saudi Arabia to stop Dawah would be a negation of itself," said Sherard Cowper-Coles, the British ambassador to the kingdom. "It would be like Bush telling Evangelical Christians to stop missionary work abroad."

In the 1960s, the kingdom was sparsely populated and still relatively poor. It had no trained foot soldiers to run the Muslim league. So the royal family enlisted scores of Egyptian teachers, scholars and imams belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, a highly secretive movement of political activists dedicated to restoring Islamic rule over secular Arab societies.

By 1982, the Saud family was feeling threatened by the Islamic revolution begun by Shiite Muslim leader Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran and the extremism of some of its own citizens, who had temporarily seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca in 1979. Again, the family turned to Dawah.

King Fahd issued a directive that "no limits be put on expenditures for the propagation of Islam," according to Nawaf Obaid, a Saudi oil and security analyst. Saudi Arabia now had the money: Its oil revenue had skyrocketed after the 1973 oil embargo. King Fahd used the cash to build mosques, Islamic centers and schools by the thousands around the world. Over the next two decades, the kingdom established 200 Islamic colleges, 210 Islamic centers, 1,500 mosques and 2,000 schools for Muslim children in non-Islamic countries, according to King Fahd's personal Web site. In 1984, the king built a $130 million printing plant in Medina devoted to producing Saudi-approved translations of the Koran. By 2000, the kingdom had distributed 138 million copies worldwide.

Exactly how much has been spent to spread Wahhabism is unclear. David D. Aufhauser, a former Treasury Department general counsel, told a Senate committee in June that estimates went "north of $75 billion." Edward L. Morse, an oil analyst at Hess Energy Trading Co. in New York, said King Fahd tapped a special oil account that set aside revenue from as much as 200,000 barrels a day -- $1.8 billion a year at 1980s oil prices. Saudi oil expert Obaid confirmed such an account existed in the 1980s and 1990s but said it was recently closed.

So now it's time for the Sa'uds to put the same money and effort into Reforming Islam. It's in their best interest, ours, and the adherents.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:30 PM


Al-Sadr Tells Militia to Turn Over Shrine (ABDUL HUSSEIN AL-OBEIDI, 8/19/04, Associated Press)

An aide to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said the militant leader instructed his followers late Thursday to hand control of a revered shrine to top religious authorities in Iraq.

A top al-Sadr aide, Aws al-Khafaji, told the pan-Arab Al-Jazeera television station that the cleric asked his militia to give control of the Imam Ali Shrine compound to officials from the office of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's top Shiite Muslim cleric.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:21 PM


I was Cipel's lover...: ...and he's still in love with the gov, says prof (RALPH R. ORTEGA, ALISON GENDAR and NANCY DILLON, 8/19/04, NY DAILY NEWS)

The mystery man who claims to be Golan Cipel's ex-lover said yesterday that not only is the handsome Israeli gay - he's also still in love with Gov. Jim McGreevey.

"Golan says he's not gay? He could have fooled me," Dr. David Miller of Livingston, N.J., told the Daily News yesterday, as he claimed that he had a gay affair with the ex-McGreevey aide.

"We love each other. Is that a crime? We're lovers," said Miller, 51, an openly gay man and divorced father of two.

In a manic, disjointed interview, Miller said that Cipel had made a pillow-talk confession: He still carries a torch for McGreevey.

"Cipel never complained about the governor. They were in love," Miller said outside his home.

Miller also claimed to reporters that he is a CIA operative who takes pills doled out by the intelligence agency to make his skin darker so he can infiltrate unnamed groups.

Oh for the days of the closet...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:12 PM


Georgia senator to be GOP keynote speaker (The Associated Press, August 19, 2004)

Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia, a Democrat who long ago endorsed President Bush for re-election, will deliver the keynote address at the Republican National Convention, party officials announced Thursday.

Miller will speak on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden in New York on the third night of the convention.

"In 1992, Senator Miller delivered the keynote address in the very same arena at the Democrats' convention," GOP chairman Ed Gillespie said in making the announcement. "We're honored he'll be taking the stage at the Garden this year for President Bush."

The perfect capstone to the process by which the Democrats squandered the opportunity to be the party of the Third Way and left it to George W. Bush to seize it for the GOP. Mr. Miller hasn't changed, the parties have.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:40 PM


Kerry blowing election (Martin Schram, 8/18/04, Cincinnati Post)

Privately, but no longer quietly, Democrats are beginning to despair.

They cannot fathom why their man, John Kerry, cannot seem to fathom how easy it should be to put President Bush away, seize the high ground and take command of the issues of the war on Iraq and the war on terror. [...]

Democrats say privately they don't know what is wrong with Kerry. Here is what's wrong: The Democratic presidential nominee has no clearly defined conceptual framework that is the basis of what he thinks about the war on terror and the war in Iraq.

People with no inner being don't have conceptual frameworks for anything. Given the Senator's wild gyrations on every issue he's faced in his public life, especially the one--Vietnam--that he's made central to his campaign, suggest that he is so afflicted. On what basis then would anyone think he'd suddenly sprout a moral framework where Iraq is concerned?

The Party got rid of its best candidate--Howard Dean--because there was a distinct danger that he'd actual run as a Democrat. They chose instead a gray man who they were certain they could bend and fold into the kind of moderate-seeming cypher who might be able to beat an incumbent mired at 35% in the polls. Unfortunately for them, they face an incumbent who's over 50% and are stuck with Gumby for President.

They shouldn't blame him, they should blame themselves.

What's most amusing here is that, for all Mr. Schram's mewling about George W. Bush, the President has precisely the kind of moral framework that enables him to view and decide every issue with great clarity, as he explained to Larry King last week.

Also pretty funny is that the following story is linked from the same page as the Schram essay: Kerry: Bush Lets Groups Do 'Dirty Work' (RON FOURNIER, 8/19/04, AP). It demonstrates everything that's wrong with Mr. Kerry's candidacy: he is giving publicity to a charge no one but political junkies are even aware of; he is helping Bush/Rove keep the focus on Vietnam, a disastrous issue for him; he's complaing that it is the focus even though he made it so; he sounds like a sissy by complaining; etc.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:37 PM


Evidence of an electoral fraud is growing (Enrique ter Horst, August 18, 2004, International Herald Tribune)

The perception that a massive electronic fraud led to President Hugo Chávez's mandate not being cut short in the recall referendum on Sunday is rapidly gaining ground in Venezuela. All exit polls carried out on the day had given the opposition an advantage of between 12 percent and 19 percent. But preliminary results announced by the government-controlled National Electoral Council at 3:30 a.m. gave Chávez 58.2 percent of the vote, against 41.7 percent for the opposition.

Perception? Does anyone who didn't think the Sandinistas were popular actually believe these results?

U.S. Poll Firm in Hot Water in Venezuela (The Associated Press, Aug. 19, 2004)

A U.S. firm's exit poll that said President Hugo Chavez would lose a recall referendum has landed in the center of a controversy following his resounding victory.

"Exit Poll Results Show Major Defeat for Chavez," the survey, conducted by Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, asserted even as Sunday's voting was still on. But in fact, the opposite was true Chavez ended up trouncing his enemies and capturing 59 percent of the vote.

Any casual observer of the 2000 U.S. presidential elections knows exit polls can at times be unreliable. But the poll has become an issue here because the opposition, which mounted the drive to force the leftist leader from office, insists it shows the results from the vote itself were fraudulent. The opposition also claims electronic voting machines were rigged, but has provided no evidence.

Election officials banned publication or broadcast of any exit polls during the historic vote on whether to oust Chavez, a populist who has sought to help the poor and is reviled by the wealthy, who accuse him of stoking class divisions.

But results of the Penn, Schoen & Berland survey were sent out by fax and e-mail to media outlets and opposition offices more than four hours before polls closed. It predicted just the opposite of what happened, saying 59 percent had voted in favor of recalling Chavez.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:18 AM


Tiniest baby thrives as teenager: Premature infant challenges limits of survival. (Helen Pearson, 8/16/04, Nature)

A record-breaking baby weighing a minuscule 280 grams has grown up into a healthy young girl, US doctors report this week. But experts fret that the 'miracle' baby may raise false hopes among parents about the outlook for their premature infants.

Madeline was the smallest baby ever to survive when she was born in Chicago in 1989. Her mother suffered from the pregnancy disorder preeclampsia, which starved the child of essential nutrients. So Madeline was born at 27 weeks, weighing the equivalent of three bars of soap. She was about a third of the weight of babies of a similar age and only a fraction of the three kilograms that newborns normally weigh after a full 40-week pregnancy.

Jonathan Muraskas, who helped deliver Madeline and is based at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Illinois, says he thought at the time that she had a 60% chance of survival. Babies born with such drastically low birth-weights tend to suffer severe disabilities such as cerebral palsy, blindness or learning problems.

But 14 years on, Madeline is remarkably healthy, Muraskas and his colleagues report in the New England Journal of Medicine1. She is small for her age, at only 136 centimetres compared with the average 163 centimetres, but she is in the top 20% for high school entrance exams scores. "I think her development is a miracle," Muraskas says.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:03 AM


Troop Movement (David L. Englin, 08.18.04, New Republic)

[T]hough the plan seems like a good move on the surface, it is in fact a terrible idea. First and foremost, it would end probably the best thing America has had going in public diplomacy during the past 50 years--and at a time when public diplomacy is vital to U.S. security. Easily recognized by their jeans and baseball hats, military families have for decades been front-line ambassadors of American values and culture to the nations in which they have been stationed. Military personnel and their families come from every part of America; and they live, work, worship, and learn among citizens of the nations where they are stationed. Some live on base in military housing, while others live off base in whatever kinds of homes and neighborhoods the locals inhabit. But all spend time in the communities where they are stationed. Mandatory briefings, military public service announcements, and admonishments from commanders and teachers constantly remind them--even the children--that they are ambassadors of all things American. Locals and their American guests develop relationships and get to know each other as friends, neighbors, customers, tenants, and even congregants.

And the diplomacy works both ways. When those same military families return to the United States, they become, in effect, ambassadors to their fellow Americans of the countries in which they have lived.

Bad enough these guys have to go into combat, why should we make them live in Europe? Is there any evidence whatsoever for this nitwits core argument, that France and Germany have been better allies to us because we had troops there for fifty years? I seem to recall them stabbing us in the back repeatedly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:52 AM


Smoking rate for teens hits record low here (JIM RITTER, 8/19/04, Chicago Sun-Times)

The smoking rate among Chicago teenagers has dropped to the lowest level on record, the Chicago Public Health Department reported Wednesday.

A survey of high school students last year found that only 16.9 percent smoke, down from 26.8 percent in 1997.

The decline was steepest among black students: Only 11.2 percent smoked, down from 24.9 percent in 1997.

Reasons for the decline include higher cigarette taxes, smoking prevention programs and crackdowns on merchants who sell to minors, said Dr. Sandra Thomas, the health department's director of epidemiology.

And, Thomas added, smoking doesn't seem to be as cool among teens as it used to be.

"The message has gotten out to youth that it's not sexy or attractive to smoke," Thomas said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:48 AM


India's outsourcing flip-flop (Siddharth Srivastava, 8/20/04, Asia Times)

The outsourcing story has so far headed down a one-way street - with Indians and Indian firms accused of eating into jobs in the United States and the United Kingdom, and the latest estimates pegging India's offshore services growth rate at over 40%.

But as Indian information-technology (IT) firms reach global scales, a reverse trend is also evolving - Americans and others from the West are finding employment in the overseas operations of Indian firms. It is been termed "reverse outsourcing" and nobody, including presidential aspirant John Kerry, should find cause to complain about it - even if elections are looming in the US. This adds to the many out-of-work executives from the US who have moved to India in search of better opportunities.

In the latest instance, an affluent US county has invited Indian and Israeli firms to open branches, creating millions of square feet of vacant office space for such use. The Economic Development Authority of Fairfax County (Virginia), close to Washington, DC, has opened offices in Bangalore and Tel Aviv to persuade Indian and Israeli firms to set up offices in the county.

"We looked around to see where the hot technology markets are and how compatible they are with us," said Gerald L Gordon, president of the authority. "We are targeting as many as we can get. We tell them: 'You can do business here.'"

They get all those great hard-working, low-paying jobs and all we get back are high-paying management boondoggles?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:50 AM


ABC's GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: "Can you promise that American troops will be home by the end of your first term?"

SEN. JOHN KERRY: "I will have significant enormous reduction in the level of troops. We will probably have a continued presence of some kind, serge in the region if the diplomacy that I believe can be put in place can work, I think we can significantly change the deployment of troops not just there but elsewhere in the world. In the Korean peninsula, perhaps in Europe perhaps. There are great possibilities open to us." (ABC's, This Week, 8/1/04)

If the whole VP thing doesn't work out, John Edwards can always sue Senator Kerry for all the whiplash he's induced.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:44 AM


Bear downs 36 beers, passes out at campground (The Associated Press, Aug. 19, 2004)

When state Fish and Wildlife agents recently found a black bear passed out on the lawn of Baker Lake Resort, there were some clues scattered nearby - dozens of empty cans of Rainier Beer.

The bear apparently got into campers' coolers and used his claws and teeth to puncture the cans. And not just any cans.

"He drank the Rainier and wouldn't drink the Busch beer," said Lisa Broxson, bookkeeper at the campground and cabins resort east of Mount Baker.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:40 AM


World Exclusive: Economists Agree (Rob Norton, September/October 2004, Corporate Board Member)

[O]ne of the little-known secrets about economics is that on most questions, economists agree quite a bit. And nowhere is the consensus stronger than on the benefits of globalization.

Dan Fuller and Doris Geide-Stevenson, both professors at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, asked members of the American Economic Association whether they agreed, mainly agreed, or disagreed with 44 propositions about the economy. Many major questions of policy that seem widely disputed turned out to be anything but. These days, for instance, some economists who support the Bush administration argue that a large federal budget deficit has no adverse effect on the economy. A substantial consensus, however—80% of the 300 who responded to Fuller and Geide-Stevenson—begs to differ. Similarly, some liberal economists reject the idea that there is a long-run “natural rate of unemployment” below which the economy is likely to generate inflation. The study, which was published in the fall 2003 issue of The Journal of Economic Education, found that a 68% majority thinks there is indeed such a natural rate.

Substantial majorities support some propositions that favor market forces over government intervention. Economists largely agree, says the study, that the Federal Reserve should focus on keeping inflation low rather than trying to achieve other goals, such as full employment or economic growth. Most believe that the minimum wage can increase unemployment among young and unskilled workers. But economists also think laissez-faire has its limits. Solid majorities agree that income redistribution is a legitimate role for government and that antitrust laws should be vigorously enforced to reduce monopoly power.

The area in which economists concur most broadly, according to Fuller and Geide-Stevenson, is international economics and globalization. The propositions that produced the strongest consensus included:

• Tariffs and import quotas usually reduce the general welfare of society.

• Increasing globalization of the economy does not threaten national sovereignty in the area of environmental and labor standards.

• The increasing inequality in U.S. income distribution is not due primarily to the benefits and pressures of a global economy.

That doesn't leave much of the Democratic platform standing.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 9:37 AM


Vatican resists drive to canonise EU founder (Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, The Telegraph, August 19th, 2004)

A campaign to sanctify the European Union through the beatification of its founding father, Robert Schuman, has run into stiff resistance from the Vatican and now appears likely to fail.

For 14 years investigators under the diocese of Metz have combed through the life of the French statesman to determine whether he merits the title "Blessed Robert", the first step to sainthood.

The drive for his beatification and eventual canonisation was launched by a private group in Metz, the St Benoit Institute, but has acquired powerful backers, including President Jacques Chirac.[...]

The inquiry failed to find any evidence of miraculous healings or visions - a sine qua non for beatification.

A sealed chest containing 66 stacks of documents has now been shipped to Rome for a final decision by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Schuman supporters lobbied hard for a favourable interpretation of the rules, arguing that Franco-German reconciliation in the bitter aftermath of the Second World War was itself miraculous. So far, the Pope has responded coolly.

Whether the issue is sainthood, abortion, celibacy, the ordination of women or many others, it is striking how so many secularists are anxious to engage Christianity, especially the Catholic Church, in debate over it’s internal beliefs and rules. One would have thought non-belief would have left them supremely indifferent. But, for some reason, many atheists just can’t leave God alone.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:29 AM


The Big Squeeze: Republicans have always defended big business. But they’ve never done it quite like this. (David J. Sirota, 09.01.04, American Prospect)

For most Americans, the last four years have represented a low point in our economic history.

No intelligent and mildly well-informed person can read that sentence without laughing aloud.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:22 AM


Kerry faces tough veteran crowd (Frank James and Rick Pearson, August 19, 2004, Chicago Tribune)

Kerry's speech in Cincinnati drew about 6,000 people, fewer than half the 15,000 attending the VFW's national convention. The audience offered polite applause.

But many veterans did not clap at some standard stump-speech lines that usually draw applause, suggesting that numerous former warriors were skeptical if not hostile. At least two men heckled Kerry.

One word explained the tough crowd: Vietnam.

Kerry's public protests against the Vietnam War as a young veteran newly home from Southeast Asia were a sore point for many veterans.

As a leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Kerry, a highly decorated naval officer during the war, testified before Congress, repeating allegations by other soldiers of war crimes by U.S. servicemen.

NPR listeners know this is a tissue of lies, because Juan Williams says the Senator was greeted like a cross between Elvis and the Messiah yesterday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:12 AM


Pride or prejudice?: A formally taboo topic among Asian-Americans and Latinos comes out into the open as skin tone consciousness sparks a backlash (Vanessa E. Jones, August 19, 2004, Boston Globe)

Whether you call it "colorism" or the "color complex," the politics of skin tone play an active role in the African-American community. The groundbreaking 1992 book "The Color Complex" brought the phenomenon of favoritism toward light-skinned blacks into the mainstream. It traced its origins to America's slave-holding past, when white masters mated with their African slaves. But colorism's grip on society continues into the 21st century. You see it in the honey-colored hootchies who reign in R&B and hip-hop videos. You see it in the faces of golden-toned celebrities -- Halle Berry, Queen Latifah, and Beyonce -- whom major cosmetic companies hire to endorse their products.

What you hear less about is how the color complex threads through the Asian-American and Latino communities. In these worlds, elders caution children to stay out of the sun so they don't get too tan. The ideal spouse is often pale. These sentiments are the vestiges of home countries where skin color has everything to do with perceptions of class and wealth.

Cuban-American pop star Christina Milian, who scored a hit this summer with "Dip It Low," dragged colorism into the open in the July issue of Latina magazine. In a cover-story profile, she demanded people expand their idea of Latin beauty beyond the light-complexioned examples of Jennifer Lopez and Salma Hayek. Director Mira Nair explored the politics of skin color in the South Asian community in her critically acclaimed 1991 film "Mississippi Masala." The fair-is-best mentality prevails, however. Skin-whitening creams do big business in Hong Kong, the Philippines, Japan, and Malaysia. The stars of telenovelas, the Spanish-language soaps that air on Telemundo and Univision, are generally blond and pale. Flick on the TV and you may catch L'Oreal's ad for its True Brown hair color featuring Aishwarya Rai. With her striking blue-gray eyes and milky skin, the Bollywood actress could easily pass for white. Despite the pervasiveness of the message, the preference for light complexions among Asian-American and Latino communities is so minimally explored you most often read about it in scholarly articles or books.

This is dirty-laundry territory. Ethnic groups don't want this aspect of their culture publicized.

The story somehow leaves out the venue where this divide is being played out most prominently today: the Illinois Senate race, featuring the establishment favorite, Barrack Obama, against the populist Alan Keyes.

MORE (via Kevin Whited):
The Perversity of Diversity (William Voegeli, August 17, 2004,

The black alumni of Harvard are unhappy with the university's affirmative action program. It helps blacks—but the wrong ones. The New York Times says that there are 520 black Harvard undergraduates (8% of the total), but "the majority of them—perhaps as many as two-thirds— [are] West Indian and African immigrants or their children, or to a lesser extent, children of biracial couples." That leaves "only about a third of the students…from families in which all four grandparents were born in this country, descendants of slaves."

It's a sensitive topic for Harvard, other elite colleges, and defenders of affirmative action. (So sensitive that the Times had to say "perhaps" and "about"—Harvard does not compile this type of information about its students.) Putting the matter delicately, the Times says, "Many argue that it was students…disadvantaged by the legacy of Jim Crow laws, segregation and decades of racism, poverty and inferior schools, who were intended as principal beneficiaries of affirmative action in university admissions." Jesse Jackson's position, though not his syntax, is more direct: "Universities have to give weight to the African-American experience because that is for whom [sic] affirmative action was aimed in the first place. That intent must be honored."

It's hard for conservatives not to gloat: this is a dilemma that couldn't happen to a nicer public policy.

"Hey, you're helping the wrong colored's".

Posted by Peter Burnet at 9:09 AM


Global cooling, everywhere (Stephen Strauss, Globe and Mail, August 18th, 2004)

According to an analysis by scientists at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, July was the coldest worldwide since 1992. That year's cool spell was precipitated by the eruption of the Philippine volcano Pinatubo, which spewed 20 to 30 million tonnes of sunlight-deflecting dust into the atmosphere.

But scientists don't know why the Earth's thermostat has dropped this year.
In the Northern Hemisphere, July's temperatures were below the 20-year average by .14 degrees Celsius and in the Southern Hemisphere by .29 degrees. Both the tropics and Antarctica showed marked coolness.

The July weather tracks a drop in average worldwide temperature that has been going on since March, said John Christy, a professor of atmospheric science at the Alabama university.

What is not clear is whether a single physical phenomenon is responsible for the downward trend.

Well, umm, sure it’s getting cooler, but that’s because we’re getting warmer, generally speaking, and the warmth causes the coolness and in fact makes it worse, so the coolness shows that the warming is speeding up and will destroy everything fast if we don’t change everything about how we live, so please send us money now.

Posted by David Cohen at 9:04 AM


Teleseker Poll: Israelis prefers Bush over Kerry 48%:29% (Maariv, 8/6/04)

Adult Israelis (including Israeli Arabs) week of 6 August 2004:

If you could vote in the American presidential elections, who would you vote
Total Bush 48% Kerry 29%
Likud voters: Bush 69% Kerry 18%
Labor voters: Bush 36% Kerry 44%
Shinui voters: Bush 40% Kerry 37%

Remember 2000, when the Democrats hoped that absentee ballots from Americans living in Israel would help put them over the top? This year, not so much.

NOT SO FAST: Campaign Journal (Ryan Lizza,, 8/16/04)

[A] much larger poll out today by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research confirms that Bush has made no inroads. The numbers look almost identical to what VNS exit polls found in 2000. Here are the highlights:

Senator Kerry maintains a very strong lead over President Bush within the Jewish community. Senator Kerry leads President Bush by a margin of 75 percent to 22 percent. Senator Kerry's lead is as strong as the American Jewish vote was in 2000 for then-Vice President Gore over then-Governor Bush; respondents voted in 2000 for Gore over Bush by a margin of 76 percent to 21 percent.

Haven't they gotten Ariel's memo yet?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:45 AM


A painful anniversary (Thomas Sowell, August 17, 2004, Townhall)

The War on Poverty represented the crowning triumph of the liberal vision of society -- and of government programs as the solution to social problems. The disastrous consequences that followed have made the word "liberal" so much of a political liability that today even candidates with long left-wing track records have evaded or denied that designation.

In the liberal vision, slums bred crime. But brand-new government housing projects almost immediately became new centers of crime and quickly degenerated into new slums. Many of these projects later had to be demolished. Unfortunately, the assumptions behind those projects were not demolished, but live on in other disastrous programs, such as Section 8 housing.

Rates of teenage pregnancy and venereal disease had been going down for years before the new 1960s attitudes toward sex spread rapidly through the schools, helped by War on Poverty money. These downward trends suddenly reversed and skyrocketed.

The murder rate had also been going down, for decades, and in 1960 was just under half of what it had been in 1934. Then the new 1960s policies toward curing the "root causes" of crime and creating new "rights" for criminals began. Rates of violent crime, including murder, skyrocketed.

The black family, which had survived centuries of slavery and discrimination, began rapidly disintegrating in the liberal welfare state that subsidized unwed pregnancy and changed welfare from an emergency rescue to a way of life.

They tried to replace all the institutions of society with a state you could depend on and ended up with nothing but dependence on the State--it worked.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:07 AM


Bush-Haters Speak Loudly, And in Unlikely Venues (Richard Brookhiser, NY Observer)

The pulse of Bush hatred is best measured in unusual wrists.

There are the people who don't usually talk about politics. I was reading
Harold Bloom's The Best Poems of the English Language, a stout anthology
published by HarperCollins, from which I learned that Alexander Pope's
savage "Epistle to Augustus," written in (dis)honor of King George II, is
"as applicable to President George W. Bush .. " Did Moors blow up the Bank
of England during that king's reign, then? Mr. Bloom's remark doesn't
explain Pope or George II; it only eases his own mind, and coaxes a laugh
from the cheap seats. Yet he thinks nothing of sticking it into a book that
his publishers hope to keep in print for 10 or 20 years. [...]

There is a left which wants America to lose, whatever the war, whoever the
enemy. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, they were still. They began to
creep out during the slow-seeming start of the Afghan war, until the sudden
fall of Mazr-i-Sharif, and the spectacle of men playing music and women
lifting their veils shut them up once more. But they are a permanent feature
of life in all free countries.

Far more numerous, and far more important, are liberals, who can be dismayed
by specific blunders or setbacks. To them, the Iraq war is a colossal
example of both. The year-long occupation, and the fighting in Najaf even
now, bodes endless failure. The possibility that the costs of the Iraq war
have been slight in comparison to other wars means nothing to them; liberals
panic in the presence of violence, even as conservatives panic in the
presence of sex. War to them is what President Clinton's penis was to us.
The one-step-removed quality of the Iraq war also makes it repulsive to
liberals. They were willing to fight if Saddam had germ-filled warheads
sitting in a shed somewhere. They were not willing to fight if an
anti-American despot refused to tell us whether he had them or not.

Without care, however-and they are not showing much care these days-liberals
can become infected with left-wing arguments and attitudes, adopting them as
their own, or not balking when others do so. The idea that we are bombing
Iraq for oil is a perfect example. Where is it flowing? Who is pumping it?
What gas prices have dropped as a result? Another example of a left-wing
opinion that liberals toy with is the notion that the Palestinian situation
motivates the jihadists. This is a particular favorite of self-hating,
self-loving Jews: self-hating because they want Israelis to be at fault;
self-loving because they believe in their own omnipotence (if we were
perfect, all would be well). If you think that greedy oil men and malicious
Jews have led us into war in the desert, then you will speak in tongues, in
poetry anthologies and to passersby.

How many tongue-speakers are there in America? The red and blue county map,
the close balance of Congress and the polls suggest that they are about half
the country. Half the country, and more of the talk. If George Bush wins
re-election, it will mean that, though millions of people care about the
clothes, lovers and twelve-step programs of the stars, they do not give a
damn about their opinions.

They first give a president who'll drive them crazy.

August 18, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:56 PM


The Rightwing Roots of Bush's Foreign Policy (Jules Tygiel, 8/26/04, History News Network)

Polls show that Americans have grown increasingly disillusioned with President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. Most people view this as a product of the Bush administration’s hubris or mistakes rather than a failure of its ideology. Yet what is particularly striking is how much the problems in Iraq stem from longstanding conservative and neoconservative policies and strategies. Pre-emptive war, unilateralism, a disregard for international treaties, contorted legal interpretations, and the manipulation of intelligence reports, have characterized not merely President Bush’s efforts, but more than a half century of conservative thinking and leadership.

When President Bush proclaimed his doctrine of pre-emptive war at West Point in June, 2002, commentators described this as a bold departure. But many conservatives had long advocated an aggressive strike-first policy in its foreign affairs pronouncements. As early as 1950, James Burnham, one of the most influential fathers of modern conservatism, advanced a theory of “preventative war,” arguing that in the battle against the Soviet Union, it might be necessary for the United States to launch a war in order to secure peace. The notion remained at the core of conservative thinking as an alternative to Cold War policies of containment and détente. Throughout the lengthy and ominous confrontation with the Soviet Union, “preventative war” inspired relatively few adherents outside of the radical right. President Bush and his neoconservative advisers, however, resurrected it in the aftermath of September 11 and employed it as the primary basis for the Iraq invasion.

Conservatives similarly preached the virtues of unilateralism and aggressive military strength as the keys to foreign policy. This included not only the deep-seated hostility to the United Nations displayed by President Bush in the buildup to the Iraq war, but an imbedded suspicion of all international alliances and treaties. The Bush Administration has balked at enforcing even such basic agreements as the Geneva Conventions that govern the treatment of prisoners of war. The Justice Department, under John Ashcroft, sought and developed questionable legal opinions that would absolve the United States from applying the principles of the pact, leading in no small part to the disgrace at Abu Ghraib.

This legal manipulation to evade international standards also has a clear precedent in conservative thinking. In supporting Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), conservatives bristled under the constraints of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty.

Which is why it's so two-faced of the far Right Cold Warriors--like Pat Buchanan--to try to reclaim their maidenheads vis-a-vis the war on terror.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:50 PM

ALL SLOPES ARE SLIPPERY (via Fred Jacobsen):

Episcopal priest quits before 4th marriage (Don Lattin, August 18, 2004, SF Chronicle)

Bishop William Swing of San Francisco has his own policy on how many times priests in his Episcopal diocese can get divorced and still keep their clerical collars.

Three strikes, Swing says, and you're out -- if you want to remarry.

Enter the Rev. Richard Nelson Bolles, who's less known for being an Episcopal priest than he is for being the celebrated author of "What Color is Your Parachute?" the mega-selling book on changing careers during one's mid- life crisis.

On Sunday, the thrice-divorced Bolles will wed Marci Mendoza in a ceremony in the garden of his home in Alamo, the upscale bedroom community nestled in the shadow of Mt. Diablo.

Bolles, 77, says he has decided to renounce his ordination, and has been praying for a quiet weekend wedding.

Enter the Rev. Robert Warren Cromey, a retired Episcopal priest who is not known for keeping things quiet. [...]

Cromey, the former rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in San Francisco, says the bigger issue is Swing's three-strikes policy.

"There is nothing in the canons of the church or state law that punishes people who divorce more than three times,'' he said. "There is no evidence anywhere that three divorces are the result of character defects.''

Swing says he can't believe he's being portrayed as an ogre for limiting his priests to three divorces.

"In some dioceses,'' Swing said, "you're out as a priest if you have one divorce."

If you're going to let them marry you certainly shouldn't let them divorce.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:12 PM


France's fading EU clout (Gareth Harding, 8/18/04, UPI)

It used to be said, with little exaggeration, that when France sneezed, the rest of Europe caught a cold.

The European Union was founded almost half a century ago to put an end to the bloody rivalry between France and Germany, it was the brainchild of such French statesmen as Robert Schumann and Jean Monnet, and its institutions were largely modeled on those in Paris.

Successive generations of French leaders have kept Brussels on a tight leash. Former President Charles de Gaulle vetoed Britain's EU membership bid, and London stayed out in the cold for a decade. Francois Mitterand championed the euro, and national currencies were subsequently scrapped. And current French President Jacques Chirac has tied his colors to the German mast to maintain France's privileged position within the EU.

Until little over a year ago, it seemed to be a strategy that worked. Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder struck deals on such contentious issues as the EU constitution and future farm subsidies, and the rest of Europe marched in step. "We know that in Europe, little progress is made if Germany and France are not in agreement," said Schroeder last year.

In the past 18 months, however, the Franco-German grip on the EU has begun to loosen.

What's the opposite of collateral damage? Collateral constructive?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:36 PM


Maryland Dig May Reach Back 16,000 Years (Associated Press, August 18, 2004)

Robert D. Wall is too careful a scientist to say he's on the verge of a sensational discovery. But the soybean field where the Towson University anthropologist has been digging for more than a decade is yielding hints that someone camped there, on the banks of the Potomac River, as early as 14,000 B.C.

If further digging and carbon dating confirm it, the field in Allegany County could be among the oldest and most important archaeological sites in the Americas.

"You're talking about the time period of the first settlement of the New World by human beings," said Mark Michel, president of the Archaeological Conservancy. "It would be extremely significant if it pans out."

The discovery of a human presence in Maryland anywhere near 14,000 B.C. would feed the debate about when the continent was first peopled, and by whom.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:21 PM


'Frankenfish' and the hunt for invasive species: Snakeheads are drawing attention to the proliferation of non-native species nationwide. (Patrik Jonsson, 8/19/04, CS Monitor)

Tearing across the Potomac in his bass boat, Maryland's top snakehead hunter is on a mission: to bolster his reputation.

Cliff Magnus caught the nastiest keeper of his life this summer, up in the tight tidal channel of Little Hunting Creek, along a row of Washington cottages with their gardens and sea walls. It was a US-record-setting northern snakehead - an invasive species colloquially known as the Frankenfish, or The Fish That Ate Maryland - weighing almost 6 pounds and measuring 25 inches long, nearly 10 inches longer than the escaped fish that stirred America's gothic imagination two years ago.

Since then, snakeheads have slithered not just into the national consciousness, but into Washington's waterways: At least 17 have been caught this summer along a 14-mile stretch of the Potomac, as well as in a Philadelphia pond.

The hunt for Frankenfish has spawned "wanted" posters, a fishing tournament, and small-scale fame for those who've caught them, like Mr. Magnus, a former lumberjack and race-car driver turned professional fisherman, and Tom "Snakehead Slayer" Woo, who's caught three. But beyond the tide of local interest, snakeheads are drawing attention to the proliferation of invasive species mucking up American fauna nationwide.

How long before this is an Olympic event?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:15 PM


Albertan ordered to pay ex-wife $200 a month for pet support (CBC, 10 Aug 2004)

For the first time in Canada, a court has ordered a man to give his ex-wife monthly support payments for their dog.

Kenneth Duncan, a truck driver in Edmonton, was told to pay $200 a month in alimony towards the upkeep of Crunchy, a St. Bernard.

Well, it's not as if they have children in Canada anymore.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:38 PM


Communism still haunts east Europe (Robin Shepherd, 8/17/2004, UPI)

Obviously, no one could doubt the countries of central and eastern Europe have made huge strides since the end of communism. Compared with basket cases like Belarus and Turkmenistan, the Czech Republic and Poland look as though they are on different planets.

The transition in central and eastern Europe has certainly been successful. But this does not mean it is complete. Consider, for starters, the following observations about the adult populations of the region: every single adult who was born here was born under communism, the vast majority of adults knew nothing else until they were in their 20s or 30s, and a clear majority of all adults in the region have spent most of their adult and all of their childhood lives under communism.

The demographic breakdown on its own would therefore suggest caution to those ready to proclaim an end to the transition process. The legacy of attitudes and impressions from the communist era may well continue to feed through, in a variety of ways, for many years to come.

In more concrete terms, absolute economic performance will not match Western standards for decades. One study by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development predicted it would take, on average, 20 to 30 years for income per capita across central and eastern Europe even to reach 75 percent of the level enjoyed by the old, 15-member European Union.

Foreign investors in the region, while acknowledging big improvements, still complain about the difficulties of establishing a viable supply chain for their operations. The banking system is still far from offering its clients, domestic or corporate, the kind of services taken for granted in the West. Getting a mortgage, for example, in most countries still requires a 60 percent down payment. Compare that with the 95 to 100 percent mortgages routinely offered out in countries such as Britain, and you get a clear sense of just how different life expectations can be for ordinary people in the former communist countries of the east of Europe.

Economic hardships flowing from the communist legacy continue, naturally, to have an impact on the political system.

A helpful reminder for those befuddled souls who think Middle Eastern reform is going slower than it should. It also suggests a movie rental for this weekend: Goodbye! Lenin, James Bowman's review of which captures the film's brilliance precisely.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 PM


U.S. Forces Kill 50 Sadr Militia in Baghdad Suburb (Reuters, 8/18/04)

U.S. forces killed more than 50 Shi'ite militiamen on Wednesday in a significant advance into a Baghdad suburb that is a powerbase for radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, the military said.

The forces, backed by tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles, advanced some 1.5 miles into Sadr City, a slum of two million mainly Shi'ite inhabitants, meeting sporadic resistance.

A U.S. officer said soldiers killed "slightly over" 50 Iraqis identified as firing upon the advancing forces. There was no immediate independent confirmation of the death toll.

"This is the first time (Sadr's) Mehdi militia has had to fight across the entire width of Sadr City. So it's got to throw them off balance," Lieutenant-Colonel Lopez Carter told a pool reporter with the advancing force.

"We've never moved in and stayed like this before," Captain Jon Meredith, 28, commander of a tank company, said. "I think he (Sadr) realizes we're not going to leave this time until it's over with. As far as whether they'll really stop fighting, we'll see."

He's using that ultra-savvy trick the Japanese used in WWII where you make monkeys of the Americans by refusing to surrender.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 PM


Kerry war journal contradicts key claim?: At least 9 days after Purple Heart, wrote he had not 'been shot at yet' (Art Moore, 8/17/04,

A previously unnoticed passage in John Kerry's approved war biography, citing his own journals, appears to contradict the senator's claim he won his first Purple Heart as a result of an injury sustained under enemy fire.

Kerry, who served as commander of a Navy swift boat, has insisted he was wounded by enemy fire Dec. 2, 1968, when he and two other men took a smaller vessel, a Boston Whaler, on a patrol north of his base at Cam Ranh Bay.

But Douglas Brinkley's "Tour of Duty," for which Kerry supplied his journals and letters, indicates that as Kerry set out on a subsequent mission, he had not yet been under enemy fire.

While the date of the four-day excursion on PCF-44 [Patrol Craft Fast] is not specified, Brinkley notes it commenced when Kerry "had just turned 25, on Dec. 11, 1968," which was nine days after the incident in which he claimed he had been wounded by enemy fire.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:25 PM


Kerry shifts right on security: Despite campaign barbs, he and Bush share key positions. (Liz Marlantes, 8/19/04, The Christian Science Monitor)

As Sen. John Kerry criticizes President Bush's sweeping redeployment plan for US troops - and surrogates for both campaigns trade increasingly harsh attacks over the candidates' service during Vietnam - this latest round of sparring belies a fundamental reality: When it comes to defense and foreign policy, Senator Kerry and Mr. Bush agree on far more than they disagree on.

To an extent unusual for his party, Kerry has closely aligned himself with many of Bush's basic positions on national security, often quibbling more over matters of style and execution than the goals themselves. Unlike campaigns of past decades, such as the 1984 race between Walter Mondale and Ronald Reagan, Kerry is not questioning the Bush administration's enormous ramp up in military spending - and, in fact, says he wants to increase US troop levels. He stands by his vote to authorize the Iraq war, and while he would aim to start bringing some troops home from Iraq within six months, he also says he will keep them there until the job is done.

In fact, when Kerry challenges Bush, it's often from the right...

So the big difference is that the President wants to fight Middle Eastern terror in the Middle East while the Senator wants to fight it in the Alps?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:16 PM


Keyes says state needs an outsider: Illinois corrupt, Obama not for reform, he says (H. Gregory Meyer, August 18, 2004, Chicago Tribune)

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Alan Keyes charged Tuesday that politics in Illinois is chronically corrupt and that Democratic opponent Barack Obama wants to control the system, not reform it.

Keyes, a transplant from Maryland who had no ties with Illinois politics before he was selected as the GOP nominee this month, said his outsider status would be an asset in deodorizing what he called the "deeply smelly" nature of public corruption here.

"One of the problems in this state is this whole political machinery, in which bosses and their little cronies act in the interests of their little cliques," Keyes said after a news conference in Chicago. "People tell me, `Oh, Barack Obama has challenged the bosses.' He only challenges the bosses because he wants to be one of them. He doesn't want to end that system of corruption. He just wants to take it over."

Making the carpetbagger label work for you hasn't succeeded since the 1860s, but it's darn clever. What does Mr. Obama respond: it's not corrupt, which is laughable?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:18 PM


German men told they can no longer stand and deliver
(Kate Connolly, 18/08/2004, Daily Telegraph)

German men are being shamed into urinating while sitting down by a gadget which is saving millions of women from cleaning up in the bathroom after them.

The WC ghost, a £6 voice-alarm, reprimands men for standing at the lavatory pan. It is triggered when the seat is lifted. The battery-operated devices are attached to the seats and deliver stern warnings to those who attempt to stand and urinate (known as "Stehpinkeln").

"Hey, stand-peeing is not allowed here and will be punished with fines, so if you don't want any trouble, you'd best sit down," one of the devices orders in a voice impersonating the German leader, Chancellor Gerhard Schroder. Another has a voice similar to that of his predecessor, Helmut Kohl.

And people question the Time Zone Rule? If there were any straight men left on the continent they'd use the sink.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:12 PM


Mexico pharmacy hamlet may be selling fake meds (MARK STEVENSON, August 11, 2004, Chicago Sun-Times)

Mexican authorities are investigating the sale of fake or substandard medicine in a border town so popular among Americans seeking cheap medications that it has more pharmacies than streets.

U.S. officials said at least one pharmacy sold useless tablets labeled as Zocor, a cholesterol drug, to an American citizen in Algodones, a hamlet with 10 streets and about 20 drugstores across the border from Yuma, Ariz.

Algodones has one bar, one church and an estimated 250 doctors, dentists and opticians, almost all of whom cater to Americans, who make an estimated 15,000 crossings daily during winter's peak season for cheap drugs and health services.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an alert July 30 about the counterfeit Zocor -- which did not contain any active ingredient -- and a bogus version of Carisoprodol, used to treat muscle spasms, which had a very low level of its key ingredient.

Now here's a real outsourcing issue for you: Americans can make fake drugs just as cheaply as foreigners, so why do Democrats insist that the FDA monitor domestic pharmaceuticals but not cheap foreign imports?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:03 PM


They're coming to America ... and staying (Raja M, 8/19/04, Asia Times)

When Harpreet Singh left Mumbai in 1994 to study chemical engineering at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, he realized the dream of millions of Indians. From childhood, Harpreet wanted to go to America, so he built a little book of addresses, earned a scholarship, and is now one of more than 2 million Indians living in the United States.

In the 10 years since he arrived in the US, Harpreet abandoned chemicals and became a successful software engineer in Lexington, Tennessee. He married a college mate, Sudha Chidambaram, a relative of Indian Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram, has a two-year-old daughter, Kanika, and as yet has no plans to return to India.

Harpreet's younger brother Navjot, who has joined him, is a software engineer in Washington, DC. Their father, Chanchal Singh Chopra, and mother, Harvinder, manage the family real-estate properties back in Mumbai.

But a generation of such Indians share a transcontinental family life under clouds of market forces, such as the bitter outsourcing debate. Elderly parents live in India, rather than struggle to adjust to American culture. Meanwhile, the children do not wish to resettle in India.

We send them our scutwork and get back their most talented people--how cool is that?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:59 PM


Olympics ratings start off pace (Bloomberg News, August 17, 2004)

NBC's ratings for the first three days of the Summer Olympics, which includes Friday's opening ceremonies, fell 3 percent from the first three days of the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney.

The network telecasts for Friday through Sunday were watched by an average 14.1 percent of the 108.4 million U.S. households with televisions, compared with 14.6 percent that watched the Sydney games, NBC said today, citing data from Nielsen Media Research Inc.

NBC spent a record $793 million for the U.S. rights to the Athens Games, four times what it spends on all its other sports combined. Four years ago, NBC posted the lowest ratings for a Summer Olympics since the 1968 games in Mexico City. Television ratings for Friday's opening ceremonies fell 12 percent from the Sydney ceremony.

Professionalization, commercialization, medication, and the end of the Cold War have taken a big toll.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:47 PM


Bush-hating becomes a way of American life (The Scotsman, 8/18/04)

It is almost as if President Bush has driven the liberals mad.

In California, effigies of the president are sold in tourist shops, apparently to be burnt on the beach. Bush punchbags are doing brisk trade: "Anyone but Bush" stickers are on cars. Bush-hating has become a national sport.

And to Brits living in New York, the feeling is nostalgic. "It’s like having the poll-tax protests all over again," said one expatriate. "Everyone hates Bush, in the same way that everyone hated Thatcher."

But this was a Manhattan "everyone", meaning those crammed into the urban island which has long considered itself the centre of the universe. Outside the cities, America is evenly split - and utterly polarised.

The US is also wrestling with another ghost from Eighties Britain. Headlines in the American newspapers tell about unemployment rising, factories closing down, and towns being robbed of the jobs which kept the community together.

In the Eighties, these were called the "Thatcherite redundancies" as Britain closed down coal and steel factories, with workers being laid off as the government decided to import goods instead.

In America, the process of factory closures has a new label: "outsourcing" or "shipping jobs abroad", and fury on this front is driving the anti-Bush campaign in states such as Ohio, Missouri and Arkansas.

So should Mr Bush be worried that he is hated to the same degree that Margaret Thatcher was? Electorally, it is no bad thing: for all her detractors, the Iron Lady was never defeated in the polls.

Indeed, the only incumbent American presidents to inspire genuine hatred from their opponents--FDR, Nixon, Reagan & Clinton--all won re-election rather easily.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:41 PM


Pro-Abortion Madness: The abortion lobby has abandoned its rationales amid pro-life gains. (Ted Olsen, 08/17/2004, Christianity Today: Blog)

For Kerry, the basis for keeping abortion legal isn't based in science but in the "separation of church and state." The change of rationale could be great news. It's no Herculean task to explain why banning abortion doesn't establish a government religion.

But abortion advocates aren't rallying to Kerry's view of conception, so they're not arguing church-state separation, either. In summary, they have lost ground on science, emotional appeals, constitutional law … What's left?

Insanity. Meet Amy Richards, whose "When One is Enough" article in The New York Times Magazine told of how she unregretfully aborted two of her triplets because it would mean "shopping only at Costco and buying big jars of mayonnaise." Without the abortions, she exclaimed, "I'd have to give up my life!" That life is one where she's a Planned Parenthood leader, a consultant to Gloria Steinem, and founder of the Third Wave Foundation, which funds abortions. She's also one of the brains behind Planned Parenthood T-shirts that proudly proclaim, "I had an abortion."

Richards's article and those shirts have outraged even Planned Parenthood affiliates, but make no mistake: This is the direction that the movement is headed. Within days of the triplets article, the Times published another article on abortion. This time, Barbara Ehrenreich savaged women who regret their abortions or oppose those "socially motivated abortions" Benjamin was talking about. "Time to take your thumbs out of your mouths, ladies, and speak up for your rights," she said.

Not exactly the textbook method for winning hearts and minds. No wonder the tide is turning.

What's happening is that all the rhetorical clutter is being pared away until you get to the essence of the issue: the desire of [some] women to demonstrate that they have arrived by wielding the power of life and death over others--sanctioned killing being the ultimate form of political power. The abortion cause is especially weakened by the fact that society now takes the equality of women for granted and such theatrical demonstrations have been rendered superfluous.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:12 PM


The Fusionist Path (Kenneth Silber, 08/18/2004, Tech Central Station)

Like the man who's surprised to learn he's been speaking prose all his life, the fusionist is a political category whose members may operate without much awareness of their label. Fusionism is the idea, named and developed decades ago by Frank Meyer of National Review, that conservatism and libertarianism share a common agenda. Thus, the fusionist believes that conservatives and libertarians ought to be allies -- and indeed that their respective philosophies are largely or essentially combinable into a coherent body of thought.

Fusionism, whether going by that name or not, has long had both adherents and detractors on the rightward side of the American political spectrum. Columnist William Safire has frequently called himself a libertarian conservative (or even, with a linguist's flair, a "libcon"). Columnist George F. Will once wrote that people calling themselves libertarian conservatives have embraced "a label a bit like 'promiscuous celibates.'" [...]

Does fusionism have a future? I believe it does. For one thing, the publication you are now reading has a distinctly fusionist coloration. Moreover, "libertarian conservative" (unlike "promiscuous celibate") is in fact coherent. It describes someone who thinks libertarian institutions are worth conserving (and that a country embracing such institutions is worth defending). It implies a consistency in advocating both social and economic freedoms, and a recognition that both types of freedoms require responsibility and virtue.

Libertarian institutions? It is to laugh.

Here's Russell Kirk, a devoted foe of fusionism, on the conservative moment in which we find ourselves:

About 1950, the emerging conservative thinkers had perceived the character of national adversity long before the general public became aware of the difficulties into which the United States was sliding. Thus a measure of conservative imagination and right reason already existed as the public rather slowly and confusedly began to turn its back upon the politically dominant liberalism. The handful of conservative writers and scholars, and those public men capable of serious reflection, offered an alternative to the exploded dogmas and measures of liberalism. Those fresh or renewed conservative ideas, which can have consequences, worked upon the public's discontent with the circumstances into which liberalism had brought the country: this union of thought and circumstance brought about the present conservative movement.

At this point we require some definition. Any intellectual and political movement, if it is to achieve more than ephemeral popularity and influence, must possess a body of common belief. I do not mean that it must, or should, possess an ideology. As H. Stuart Hughes wrote once, "conservatism is the negation of ideology." Ideology is political fanaticism and illusion; as John Adams defined it, ideology is the art of diving and sinking in politics. Instead, I mean by "a body of common belief" those general convictions and healthy prejudices derived from long consensus and social experience.

Such a body of common belief still exists in the United States-perhaps more than in any other land. Here are some of its elements: persuasion that there exists a moral order, of more than human contrivance, to which we ought to conform human laws and customs as best we can; confidence in the American constitution, both the written constitution and the underlying unwritten constitution of tested usage and custom; attachment to representative government; suspicion of central direction in most matters; preference for an economy in which work and thrift obtain their just rewards; love of country-a love which extends beyond the present moment to the past and the future of the country. And there are other elements which have not lost their vitality.

These are conservative beliefs and impulses. Their roots are not altogether withered. I have sketched the origins of this body of common beliefs in my book The Roots of American Order. This being still the common American patrimony (even though, of course, the average citizen could not express these beliefs very coherently), it is not surprising that in a time of tribulation and discontent, the American public begins to listen to conservative voices.

In short, this present hour is an hour of conservative opportunity.

The promiscuity of the libertarians, their social permissiveness, is a denial of the moral order and an attack on the traditional institutions of society. It makes fusion impossible. What's more important though is that it is undesirable, because that permissiveness undermines the very virtue that liberalism requires.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:38 PM


Kerry: Troops Plan Could Hinder Security: Democratic Presidential Candidate John Kerry Contends Bush Plan to Redeploy Troops Could Hinder National Security (The Associated Press, Aug. 18, 2004)

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry on Wednesday criticized President Bush's proposal to recall up to 70,000 foreign troops as a hastily announced plan that raises more doubts about U.S. intentions and commitments than it answers.

"Nobody wants to bring troops home more than those of us who have fought in foreign wars," Kerry said in speech prepared for delivery to the Veterans of Foreign War. "But it needs to be done at the right time and in a sensible way. This is not that time or that way,"

The Sebator, in one of the few sensibles moves of his entire campaign, surveyed the field of foreign policy and recognized that the President had cornered the market on democratic idealism and so cast himself as the stony Realist--with a healthy dash of isolationist. But now he seems stuck in purely reactionary mode, opposing anything the President says. You certainly can't arguer that there's anything Realistic about conducting a war against Islamic terrorists by withdrawing the troops in the Middle East who are fighting them and leaving the troops in Europe who are poised to fend off the Red Army.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:32 PM


Sympathiser says Sadr will disarm after chilling government threat (Channel News Asia, 8/18/04)

The shock announcement came after Sadr had refused to meet delegates from Iraq's national conference, who had braved fierce fighting in Najaf to journey to the shrine of Imam Ali, Sadr's militia headquarters, for security reasons.

The brave government representatives...the scaredy-cat Mookie...this reads like a neocon press release.

Steadfast in Defiance, Cleric Gains Stature With Iraq Masses (Tyler Marshall and Henry Chu, August 18, 2004, LA Times)

Militant cleric Muqtada Sadr's refusal Tuesday to meet with a delegation of Iraqi religious and political leaders is the clearest indicator yet that recent fighting in Najaf has strengthened the anti-American leader, some analysts say.

The snub, which followed last week's breakdown of talks with envoys of interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, made it clear that Sadr expected any resolution to the two-week confrontation to proceed on his terms and timetable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:24 PM


Pakistan turns on itself (Syed Saleem Shahzad, 8/18/04, Asia Times)

Under immense pressure from the United States, a slow and gradual operation has begun in Pakistan against the strongest political voice of Islamists and the real mother of international Islamic movements, of which Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front is the spoiled child.

In a surprise move this week, Pakistan's federal minister of the interior, Faisal Saleh Hayat, listed a number of incidences in which members of the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), the premier fundamentalist party in the country, had been tied to al-Qaeda, and called on it to "explain these links".

"It is a matter of concern that Jamaat-e-Islami, which is a main faction of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal [MMA], has neither dissociated itself from its activists having links with the al-Qaeda network nor condemned their activities," Faisal said, adding that "one could derive a meaning out of its silence". [...]

The deciding factor in initiating action against the JI was video footage and the interrogation report of the confessions of two doctor brothers, cardiac surgeon Dr Akmal Waheed and orthopedic surgeon Arshad Waheed, sons of renowned educationalist Hafiz Waheeduddin Khan, who laid the foundation for the country's largest teachers' association, which takes its ideological inspiration from the JI.

The doctors themselves were members of the Pakistan Islamic Medical Association, an affiliate of the JI. The video film and report have them admitting to raising funds for militants and treating fighters in South Waziristan tribal agency, besides helping the families of Arab jihadis return to their countries of origin after leaving Afghanistan. This evidence was handed to the US consulate in Karachi by the Sindh governor, Dr Ishratul Ibad, which in turn passed it on to Washington. Washington then applied maximum pressure on Islamabad to take action against the JI.

Intelligence insiders tell Asia Times Online that initial operations are not targeted against the main JI structure, but at lower-rank workers suspected of involvement in underground militant activities. At the same time, once this operation starts, it will be inevitable that it extends to the highest level. Further, every JI leader is involved with senior army officers, both serving and retired, and they will not be spared in the process.

The JI is not only the largest, most organized and most resourceful organization in the country, it has deeper roots in the establishment than any other outfit. Tackling it will surely open a Pandora's box, and at the same time create a vicious backlash.

You could have made a pretty penny betting on Musharraf to do this, if any of the Islamophobes would ever put their money where their misunderstandings are.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 12:27 PM


Pool fool makes a splash (Ottawa Sun, August 28th, 2004)

After four days of Olympic competition, Canada can lay claim to a bronze medal in diving and the fool in the pool. With Greece spending 1.2 billion euros ($1.9 billion Cdn) on security for the Games, Olympic organizers were unamused yesterday after a 31-year-old from Montreal jumped off the three-metre board at the diving venue Monday night. [...]

The incident happened around 10:50 p.m. local time Monday during the synchronized diving competition.

The accompanying picture must be the ultimate statement on synchronized diving.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:57 AM


China's property market not in the pink of health (Straits Times, 8/18/04)

China has a serious problem these days, and its colour is pink.

Pink and similar hues - from rose-tinged brick to tangerine and even magenta - have been popular in the past few years with Chinese developers, who are also partial to tinted, highly reflective glass and rooftops in the shape of lotus blossoms.

The result is an extraordinary number of garish apartment buildings, office buildings, industrial parks and houses, especially here in south-eastern China.

But the big problem for China is not so much that these new buildings are hideous, though many are, but that an extraordinary number of them are empty.

A sixth of the luxury residential real estate in Shanghai is vacant, a quarter in Beijing and a third in Shenzhen. And in the next several years, the number of unoccupied buildings is expected to increase considerably.

Experts predict that the supply of office space will rise by as much as 50 per cent in the next couple of years, while forests of luxury residential buildings are being completed in Shanghai, Beijing and elsewhere.

Nobody knows who will buy up this pink profusion.

The Chinese have seen their future, it's Detroit.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:38 AM


Sadr agrees to accept peace mission demands (Midle-East Online, 8/18/04)

Shiite militia leader Moqtada Sadr has agreed to disarm and quit a holy shrine in Najaf as demanded by Iraq's key national conference, one of the organisers of the meeting said Wednesday.

"We have just received a letter from Moqtada Sadr's office in Baghdad that confirms 'in the name of God' ... Moqtada Sadr's acceptance to the conditions imposed by the conference," said Safia al-Suhair, who is also the wife of the human rights minister.

She then called on Jalil al-Shamari, a representative from Sadr's office in the Iraqi capital, who said he was carrying "the acceptance letter from the Sadr movement and from Sayyed (honorific) Moqtada Sadr on the three points put forward by the conference".

"Today, Moqtada Sadr accepted the three points to put an end to Iraqis' bloodletting and demonstrated his desire to take an active role in the new Iraq," she said.

The announcement followed an ultimatum from Defence Minister Hazem al-Shaalan that Sadr's Mehdi Army surrender or be crushed in battle.

"The coming hours will be decisive and we will teach them a lesson they will never forget," Shaalan told reporters on a visit to Najaf. "In the coming hours they must surrender."


Posted by The Wife at 11:14 AM


L.A. takes silly string seriously (Reuters, 8/18/04)

"Silly string," a colorful aerosol foam that children spray on each other, is not so silly after all, at least not in Los Angeles.

The city council gave preliminary approval Tuesday to an ordinance that would ban the use of the string-like plastic derivative in Hollywood on Halloween because of environmental and security concerns.

Liberal use of the stringy foam by Halloween revelers had sparked fights in years past on Hollywood Boulevard, officials said.

"People get a little crazed at the end of the evening and they shoot the spray into each other's faces," said Jane Galbraith, spokeswoman for ban sponsor Councilman Tom LaBonge.

He may be a nut, but my cabana boy husband is, sad to say, quite right about the Time Zone Rule.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:19 AM


McCain's Bipartisan Mirage (Mary Lynn F. Jones, August 17, 2004, The American Prospect)

Ever since Sen. John McCain ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000 against then-Gov. George W. Bush, he has been the Democrats' favorite Republican. McCain championed campaign finance reform, an issue Democrats pushed into law over GOP objections. He was thought to be in the running for Sen. John Kerry's vice-presidential nominee and defended Kerry against a recent ad criticizing Kerry's Vietnam service.

But McCain – who Democrats once hoped would pull a Jim Jeffords (by leaving the Republican Party) or a Zell Miller (by remaining in his party but acting like he's a member of the other party) – has also been a loyal Republican. Campaigning with George W. Bush in Florida earlier this month, he said Bush has "earned our admiration and our love," according to CongressDaily. McCain also plans to speak during primetime at the Republican National Convention in a few weeks.

All of the attention has been great for McCain, who has become the darling of both parties. A frequent guest on television shows, McCain is seen as a credible, articulate straight shooter. And it's never hurt an ego to be considered the most popular guy on campus. As a result, he's become untouchable in the sense that neither party thinks it can afford to alienate or even criticize him.

Numerous Democrats, such as Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and even Kerry in his Boston acceptance speech last month, keep touting their friendships with McCain to hitch themselves to his popularity and to show that they're bipartisan. But they also need to recognize that McCain is never going to join their ranks, and that, in the presidential election, he's working for everything they're working against.

Ah, the Left's version of abandon the GOP entirely and become a partisan Democrat.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 AM


Cosmic ray link to global warming boosted (New Scientist, 8/17/04)

The controversial idea that cosmic rays could be driving global warming by influencing cloud cover will get a boost at a conference next week. But some scientists dismiss the idea and are worried that it will detract from efforts to curb rising levels of greenhouse gases.

Can't let facts interfere with your political agenda...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:31 AM


Horn of Africa Lauds Counterterror Success (CHRIS TOMLINSON, 8/18/04, Associated Press)

Terrorist groups are still operating in the Horn of Africa, but a 2-year-old U.S. task force has built cooperation in the region's anti-terror operations and prevented militants from staging attacks, the unit's commander told The Associated Press.

In one of the latest joint operations, American troops are patrolling with Djiboutian and Kenyan forces to help secure their borders with Somalia, which remains a haven for some terrorist groups. U.S. soldiers also conduct joint exercises with Ethiopian and Eritrean troops and are helping countries across the region develop better intelligence capabilities.

The Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, set up in Djibouti in June 2002, is responsible for fighting terrorism in nine countries around the Horn of Africa: Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Somalia in Africa and Yemen on the southwestern corner of the Arabian Peninsula.

Brig. Gen. Samuel Helland, commander of the task force, said aggressive security measures in cooperation with U.S. forces have reduced the area where terrorists can hide and train.

``We've got forces now in almost every country and we've got representation in every country,'' except Somalia, Helland told AP in an interview late Monday.

He said U.S. training of regional militaries is increasing and the U.S. task force is averaging one civilian-military operation every three days to promote cooperation.

This administration has given Africa the kind of attention for which Bill Clinton took credit.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 AM

PLUS 2?:

Midsummer’s Senate Dreams: Approaching the GOP convention, Republicans are in a bit of a comfort zone. (John J. Miller, 8/17/04, National Review)

CALIFORNIA: [...] Latent good news for Jones: Only 48 percent of those surveyed say they're "inclined" to reelect Boxer, who also has an unfavorable rating of 40 percent. She should be doing better. LEANING DEMOCRATIC RETENTION [...]

SOUTH DAKOTA: Tim Russert of NBC's Meet the Press has pegged this as one of America's most important Senate races, scheduling an hour-long debate between Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle and former GOP congressman John Thune on his September 19 program. LEANING DEMOCRATIC RETENTION

WASHINGTON: Republican congressman George Nethercutt continues to wage a scrappy campaign against Democratic senator Patty Murray, but he remains a big-time underdog. LIKELY DEMOCRATIC RETENTION

WISCONSIN: With the GOP primary scheduled for September 14, this is the one race that won't have a nominated Republican candidate until after Labor Day. State senator Bob Welch probably represents the best chance for knocking off Democrat senator Russ Feingold, whose polls indicate a surprising level of vulnerability for a two-term incumbent. But even with Welch, who is no shoe-in for the nomination, it won't be easy. LIKELY DEMOCRATIC RETENTION

OVERALL: Republicans can breathe a little easier following Tom Coburn's primary victory in Oklahoma — they'll fight that contest with their best candidate. I've shifted my prediction there from "toss up" to "leaning Republican retention." That leaves four toss-up races: Alaska, Colorado, Louisiana, and North Carolina. It's hard not to notice that they're all red states — i.e., Bush carried them in 2000. For now, I'll split them down the middle and stick with last month's prediction. REPUBLICANS GAIN TWO SEATS

If George W. Bush wins the election, +2 would seem a worst case scenario.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 AM


Talking Turkey: She's a democracy - no qualifiers (Michael Rubin, August 6, 2004, National Review)

On June 27, President George W. Bush stood before a crowd of journalists in Ankara and praised Turkey. "I appreciate so very much the example your country has set on how to be a Muslim country and at the same time a country which embraces democracy and rule of law and freedom," he said. Bush may have sought to praise his hosts, but his well-intentioned statement has had unintended consequences in Turkey.

Last month, I visited Turkey for a series of meetings with Turkish government and military officials, as well as prominent journalists and public intellectuals. "Why have you abandoned us?" one Turkish parliamentarian asked as we drank tea in his office. "You toss aside an 80-year tradition for an experiment in political Islam," he explained. He cited not only the president's statement, but also that of U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. Speaking in Ankara last April, Powell called Turkey a model for Iraq, "a Muslim democracy living in peace with its friends and neighbors." National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice has made similar comments.

Nice words, infused with well-meaning Washington-style political correctness, but they raised hackles in Turkey. "We are a democracy. Islam has nothing to do with it," one professor said. "By calling us a Muslim democracy, Powell endorsed the [ruling] AKP [Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi]. If I called the United States a Christian democracy, what would that say to you?"

You know whereof you speak? But point taken.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:03 AM


Keyes has plan for reparations: He would exempt blacks from taxes (Allison Benedikt and David Mendell, 8/17/04, Chicago Tribune)

Prompted by a reporter's question, Keyes gave a brief tutorial on Roman history and said that in regard to reparations for slavery, the U.S. should do what the Romans did: "When a city had been devastated [in the Roman empire], for a certain length of time--a generation or two--they exempted the damaged city from taxation."

Keyes proposed that for a generation or two, African-Americans of slave heritage should be exempted from federal taxes--federal because slavery "was an egregious failure on the part of the federal establishment." [...]

The former ambassador said his plan would give African-Americans "a competitive edge in the labor market," because those exempted would be cheaper to hire than federal tax-paying employees and would "compensate for all those years when your labor was being exploited."

Under Keyes' plan, African-Americans would still have to pay the Social Security tax, because "it's not a tax in the strict sense," said Keyes, calling it instead a payment to support a social insurance program.

That'll have Mr. Obama squirming.

August 17, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:58 PM


Unwrapping Kerry's story of Christmas in Cambodia (John H. Hinderaker and Scott W. Johnson, August 18, 2004, Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

On March 27, 1986, John Kerry took the floor of the U.S. Senate and delivered a dramatic oration indicting the foreign policy of the Reagan administration. As is his habit, Kerry drew on his Vietnam experience in explaining his opposition to the policy.

"I remember Christmas of 1968, sitting on a gunboat in Cambodia. I remember what it was like to be shot at by Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge and Cambodians, and having the president of the United States telling the American people that I was not there."

To emphasize the importance of this incident to his subsequent political development, Kerry asserted: "I have that memory which is seared --seared -- in me, that says to me, before we send another generation into harm's way we have a responsibility in the U.S. Senate to go the last step, to make the best effort possible to avoid that kind of conflict."

The story of his 1968 Christmas in Cambodia is one that Kerry has told on many occasions over the years. He invoked the story in 1979 in the course of his review of the movie "Apocalypse Now" for the Boston Herald. Most recently, Kerry told the story -- with remarkable embellishments involving a CIA man who gave him his favorite hat -- last year on separate occasions to reporters Laura Blumenfeld of the Washington Post and Michael Kranish of the Boston Globe.

Certain elements of Kerry's Christmas in Cambodia story were incredible on their face.

As the story starts to sneak into the mainstream press...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:56 PM


N.J. Voters in a Pickle (NY Times, 8/18/04)

Gov. James McGreevey's exit strategy has put New Jersey voters, and democracy itself, in a terrible bind. Under the timetable announced last week during his bombshell news conference, Mr. McGreevey will resign his office on Nov. 15 and hand the reins of government to Richard Codey, the president of the State Senate. Executive power will thus reside for three months with a lame-duck governor crippled by scandal and then, for the next 14 months, with an interim governor who has no mandate from the voters.

The alternative is for the Republicans and the Democrats to get their acts together and organize a special election for this November so New Jersey voters will get a real choice and the winning candidate real legitimacy. To have a vote then, Mr. McGreevey will have to resign before Sept. 3.

There are drawbacks to a quickie election, not least of which is that it gives the parties little time in which to select plausible candidates. But it is preferable to Mr. McGreevey's plan, which denies New Jersey voters any say whatsoever in the matter.

Man, the rats can't get off this ship fast enough, huh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:42 PM


Reading Your Mind: How our brains help us understand other people (Rebecca Saxe, Boston Review)

Children's early understanding of what makes people do the things they do appears to develop in two stages. In the first stage, children understand that people act in order to get the things they want: that human beings are agents whose actions are directed to goals. At 18 months, a child already understands that different people can have different desires or preferences—that for instance an adult experimenter may prefer broccoli to crackers, even though the infant herself much prefers crackers. Toddlers not yet two years old talk spontaneously about the contrast between what they wanted and what happened. Even nine-month-old infants expect an adult to reach for an object at which she had previously looked and smiled.

Children in the first stage are missing something very specific: the notion of belief. Until sometime between their third and fourth birthdays, young children seem not to understand that the relationship between a person's goals and her actions depends on the person's beliefs about the current state of the world. Two-year-olds really do not understand why, if Sally wants the ball, she goes to the basket, even though the ball is in the box. They do not talk spontaneously about thoughts or beliefs, and have trouble understanding that two people could ever have different beliefs. Similarly, while a five-year-old knows that she has to see a ball to be able to tell whether its red, a three-year-old believes he could tell if the ball is red just by feeling it. In the first stage, children think that the mind has direct access to the way the world is; they have no room in their conception for the way a person just believes it to be.

The limitations of a stage-one understanding of the mind apply even to the child's own past or future beliefs. If you show a child a crayon box and ask her what she thinks is inside, all children will say that the box contains crayons. But if you open the box to show that it actually contains ribbons, re-close the box, and then ask the child what she thought was in the box before it was opened, the three-year-old children claim they thought all along that the box contained ribbons.

An impressive conceptual change occurs in the three- or four-year-old child. From American and Japanese urban centers to an African hunter-gatherer society, children make a similar transition from the first stage of reasoning about human behavior, based mainly on goals or desires, to the richer second stage, based on both desires and beliefs. What explains the change? How do children acquire the idea that people have beliefs about the world, that some of the beliefs are false, and that different people have different beliefs about the same world? Between three and five, children mature in so many ways: their vocabulary increases by orders of magnitude, their memory improves, they just know more facts about the world. Each of these changes might account for the advantages of a five-year-old over a three-year-old in solving the false-belief task.

But more than just an accumulation of knowledge is at issue. Rather, we seem to be equipped by evolution with a special mental mechanism—a special faculty or module in our minds—dedicated to understanding why people do the things they do. The maturation of this special mechanism between three and four, in addition to all the other changes happening around the same time, makes the difference between a child who simply doesn't get Romeo's decision and one who does.

A Mental Module

The idea that human beings are endowed with a special faculty for reasoning about other minds fits into a much wider and older tradition of debate about the origin of all concepts, especially relatively complex ones. Most psychologists would grant that some basic perceptual primitives—for example, color, sound, and depth—are derived from the physical world by dedicated innate mechanisms in the mind. But where do more abstract concepts come from—concepts such as house, belief, or justice? How, for example, does a child originally learn that other people have beliefs?

One answer is that the mind uses powerful general learning mechanisms—the same mechanisms that help us learn about any other subject matter—to detect correlations (or other, more complex statistical relationships) between occurrences of the primitives, and then builds abstract complex concepts out of patterns of simpler perceptual ones. John Locke, George Berkeley, and David Hume defended essentially this story in the 18th century, and many modern psychologists have found it compelling. To acquire the concept person, a child might join together her perceptual primitives corresponding to the visual appearance of people, the sounds people make, and the ways people move. The concept belief would require an even more complex conglomeration of primitives.

An alternative answer is that the acquisition of certain concepts is like the acquisition of language. We do not master the grammar of our native language—for instance, learn how to form questions—by applying general learning mechanisms, but by using a special set of principles specific to language acquisition: a so-called language faculty. Similarly, some of our more complex concepts themselves, and special learning mechanisms devoted to acquiring those concepts, may be programmed into our minds from the start. In the case of the human ability to explain and predict action by attributing and reasoning about beliefs, three kinds of evidence suggest that a special mental mechanism is at work.

Privileged reasoning. Reasoning about beliefs seems to be relatively privileged in most people: it develops earlier and resists degradation longer than other, similarly structured kinds of logical reasoning.

For a four-year-old, the false-belief task described above is a very hard problem. And early on, researchers thought that young children might find it especially difficult to reason about beliefs because they are invisible and intangible. But an ingenious experiment by Debbie Zaitchik indicated otherwise. Zaitchik devised a version of the false-belief task which is the same in every respect, except that it uses a (concrete, tangible) out-of-date photograph. In the false-photograph story, after Sally puts the ball in its original location, the brown basket, she takes a Polaroid photograph. (The preschooler subject is given a chance to play with the camera before the experiment begins). Then Anne moves the ball from the basket to the second location, the green box. Before the child is allowed to see the picture, he is asked to predict: where will the ball be in the picture?

If invisible, intangible beliefs make the false-belief task especially difficult, then the false-photograph version ought to be easier. In fact, Zaitchik found the opposite: for young children the false-photograph version is significantly harder than the original false-belief task. Counterintuitively, the need to reason about beliefs—rather than other representations of the world, such as photographs—makes the false-belief task easier for children. The same is true for Alzheimer's patients: reasoning about beliefs resists degradation by encroaching dementia longer than other kinds of logical reasoning, including the false-photograph problem. Even healthy young adults respond faster and more accurately to the false-belief version. Most people seem to have a natural fluency in thinking about beliefs, and this fluency helps to overcome the logical demands of a problem about the contents of another mind. [...]

Uniqueness. Some theories go one step further and argue that the ability to reason about other minds is not only universal among human beings, but unique to them, part of what marks us off from our nearest evolutionary neighbors. Many peculiarly human skills—language acquisition and use, cultural transmission of knowledge, and Machiavellian deception and counter-deception—depend on our ability to figure out what another person is thinking, whether this knowledge is then used to forward co-operative or competitive ends. What's more, experiment after experiment has failed to provide clear evidence that even our nearest relatives, chimpanzees, reason about the contents of other minds. The experimenters are getting more ingenious, though, and the question of species specificity remains open. [...]

What is still missing is definitive evidence that any non-human animal has ever gone beyond stage one, to make the three-year-old's impressive transition into a world of beliefs: a transition that enables us to predict one another's conduct, coordinate for the common good, and suffer the sorrows of Romeo and Juliet when we get things wrong.

We can hardly be surprised that thinking of others as subjects rather than just as objects would be limited to Man, nor the capacity to believe nor to work for the common good.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:23 PM


CNN LARRY KING LIVE: Interview With George W. Bush, Laura Bush (August 12, 2004)

KING: Nancy Reagan has come out very strong for embryonic stem cell research. I was at that dinner when she came out. She told me the other night she expects to speak more on the subject. Her son spoke very strongly about it at the Democratic convention. And the picture is that you are opposed to embryonic stem cell research, which many scientists say will provide many answers, not just to Alzheimer's, but Parkinson's, diabetes and others. What is your position?

B. BUSH: Well, I'm...

KING: And you have been speaking out.

L. BUSH: I have been speaking out, because there's not a ban on stem cell research. And that seems to be the buzzword now that you would read in the press. And the fact is, the president is the one who -- is the only person who's authorized any research on embryonic stem cell, and several countries have a complete ban on embryonic stem cell research.

KING: So what is the rub to you?

L. BUSH: There isn't a rub to me. It's very preliminary. I mean, I would say, the only rub is that from the talk, from what you hear or what you read, you'd think that there is a cure for Alzheimer's, you know, just around the corner, but that's not the way.


KING: They are very hopeful about it.

L. BUSH: They're hopeful, but it is very, very preliminary. There is adult stem cell research, which is very promising, but there's no ban on stem cell research. People can...

KING: So you're not opposed to it morally.

L. BUSH: No, I'm not. I mean, you know, my dad died of Alzheimer's. KING: What's the rub?

G. BUSH: Well, here's the decision I made. As Laura said, there had been no federal dollars given to embryonic stem cell research. I decided that there were existing lines which could provide promising potential discovery. As a matter of fact, there's 22 active lines now which has led to over a couple of hundred projects being explored off those lines.

When you say stem cell line, that stem cell line can yield different cells, groups that can be used by scientists. And there's hundreds of scientists now doing research based upon my decision.

What I did say was that because a stem cell is derived from the destruction of a human embryo, that there's an ethical dilemma as well. And I believe that the expenditure of taxpayers' dollar on future destruction of human embryos was something we ought to consider very carefully. As a matter of fact, I listened to a panel of ethicists and made the decision that the stem cell lines which existed was ample for federal research.

KING: Don't you think though that the good would outweigh the bad? There's good and bad in a lot of things.

G. BUSH: That's the big debate, Larry, and this country has got to be very careful on destroying life to save life. And it's a debate that needs to move forward in a very careful way. And I listen very carefully to ethicists who impressed me about being cautious and respecting human life, I guess, is the best way to put it. And that's one issue, embryonic stem cell.

The other issue is therapeutic human cloning which I am against. And I think that leads down a slippery slope for people kind of -- designer clones. And so it's a classic discussion between ethics and science.

KING: You don't see it as moral to you?

L. BUSH: No, I mean, I think the president's stand is right, that...

KING: Doesn't in vitro also involve cells?

L. BUSH: Sure. I mean...


L. BUSH: ... what these embryos are from.

KING: Right.

G. BUSH: These are embryos that represent life and the fundamental question, as a society, is: Does society continue to take life, destroy life?

And I made the decision that there was ample number of stem cells, 22 thus far, and we believe more, that can spawn a lot of research to determine whether or not the hopes of these scientists become real.

Now listen, nobody cares more about curing disease than Laura and me. I mean, that's one of our responsibilities. As a matter of fact, at the NIH I made sure that the NIH's budget was doubled, as I said, during the course of my campaign so that we could conduct more research.

As Laura said, there is more research for stem cells than just embryonic stem cells; there are adult stem cells. And a lot people believe that is a very hopeful aspect of the stem cell research field.

And we've increased spending quite dramatically.

KING: Do you understand Mrs. Reagan's viewpoint?

L. BUSH: Sure.

G. BUSH: Absolutely.

L. BUSH: And we have the same...

G. BUSH: Her dad had Alzheimer's.

L. BUSH: ... viewpoint. We all want a cure.

KING: He died.

L. BUSH: Yes, he died of Alzheimer's.

G. BUSH: I think my position is very reasonable. And you know, you say, well, why is it framed the way it is? Because it's a political season. Things happen -- people say things in politics in order to try to create division I guess. And but to say that we have banned embryonic stem cell research is simply not the truth.

But to say that I do care about human life is the truth.

KING: So doesn't that cause a quandary in you, even to include the 22 cells?

G. BUSH: No, they had already been established prior to when I needed to make a decision.

KING: So we're looking at new ones?

G. BUSH: Yes. New ones, that's right. These had already existed. And it's more than 22 stem cell lines.

L. BUSH: But there's no ban on -- this only federal funding that we're talking about.

KING: Only federal, I understand that.

L. BUSH: There is private funding... KING: The private funding can go on.

L. BUSH: Sure.

G. BUSH: I do think it's important for us to promote a culture of life in America. I think it's very important. I think a society which promotes a culture of life is a compassionate society and a decent society.

And it makes it easy to -- easier if you have a culture of life to wrestle with these very difficult decisions. I mean, there's -- should there be suicide -- allow people assisted suicides? I mean, there's a lot of issues that are very important.

KING: Isn't that a dilemma...

G. BUSH: There are a lot of dilemmas...


L. BUSH: They're all dilemmas.

G. BUSH: That's the whole point. They're not easy issues, but if you believe that the job is to promote a culture of life in society, the issues become more clear.

KING: We'll be right back with President and Mrs. Bush. Don't go away.


KING: We're back with the Bushs.

Senator Kerry got a huge ovation at his convention. Did you watch any of the Democratic convention?

G. BUSH: Not much of it.

KING: When he said he will not put his religion, carry his religion on his sleeve, implying that you do.

G. BUSH: Yes.

KING: Do you?

G. BUSH: I may -- when asked, I profess my faith.

KING: Does it come to the office? Does the faith come to the office? By that I mean...

G. BUSH: You can't separate your faith from your life. I make decisions on what I think is best for the country but my faith is important to me and a lot of times my faith comes up because I thank people for their prayers and I mean people from all religions. But, no, I think the church ought to be separate from the state, the state separate from the church but I don't see how you can separate your faith as a person and my faith is an integral part of my life.

L. BUSH: I think he's right. I mean, you know, whatever anyone's faith is is a part of their lives. But the great thing about our country is we have the right to worship if we want to, however we want to or not to worship. And, you know, as we look around the world right now that's one of our most important freedoms and they're -- you know, I know George knows that. I mean, I think that's the whole point of the separation of church and state but it's also our right.

KING: But you don't see this as a Christianity against the world.

G. BUSH: No, of course not. I see it as people who love freedom against those who prevent others from being free and I say that it a lot when asked about religion that the greatest thing about America is you can practice your faith, or have no faith at all and you're equally an American. And if you choose to -- if you believe in the Almighty, you can -- you're equally an American. If you're a Jew, Christian or Muslim or Hindi or whatever. It is one of the great traits and traditions of our country, where people can worship the way you see fit. And that is not the case in parts of the world.

KING: Where?

G. BUSH: Take Afghanistan: Not only could you not worship freely, but if you didn't worship according to the Taliban, you were whipped publicly. For example, if you were a woman, if you weren't in lockstep with these dictators and tyrants, that you would be brutalized. And America stands in stark contrast to that. We're the opposite end of that spectrum.

KING: The gay issue.

G. BUSH: Yeah.

KING: There are many gays in your party.

G. BUSH: Sure.

KING: Many gays in the Democratic Party. Many gays in America. You want a constitutional amendment to protect heterosexual marriage?

G. BUSH: Yes, I do.

KING: Why? Why do you need an amendment?

G. BUSH: Well, because I'm worried that the laws on the books that basically define marriage as between a man -- not basically, do define marriage between a man and a woman will be ruled unconstitutional, and then judges will make the decision as to the definition of marriage. And I think it's too important an issue for judges to make that decision. And I think that one way to guarantee that traditional marriage is defined as between a man and a woman is through the constitutional process...

KING: What about the union of gays? G. BUSH: Well, that's up to states, you know. If states choose to do that, in other words, if they want to provide legal protections for gays, that's great. That's fine. But I do not want to change the definition of marriage. I don't think our country should, from the traditional definition of marriage that's between a man or a woman.

The other thing about the constitutional process, it will get states involved. In other words, the people ought to be involved in this decision. And so that's why I took the stand I took.

KING: You do think...


G. BUSH: Well, listen, I...

KING: You don't amend easily.

G. BUSH: Yeah.

L. BUSH: That's right. It's a debate. I mean...

G. BUSH: Absolutely. But it's an important debate, Larry, and it's a debate that the people need to be involved with, and not courts. And that's what you're beginning to see. There was a decision here in California, it was a court decision. In other words, it's -- and it ruled that marriages in San Francisco were illegal according to California law. But the point is that this ought to be decided by people, and I just happen to believe and know that if you believe that traditional marriage ought to be the law of the land, that the way to guarantee that is through the constitutional process.

And I want to say something about this debate. It is a debate that must be conducted with the greatest respect for people. And that my judgment, I think our society is great because people are able to live their lifestyles, you know, as they choose or as they're oriented.

KING: Gay people would honestly say they want the benefits of a marriage.

G. BUSH: Well, you can do that through the legal process. You know, people have said to me, well, if you're gay, you can't inherit because -- and you don't get the exemption from income tax. Well, my answer there is get rid of the inheritance tax forever, the death tax, which I'm trying to do. And there are ways to make sure gays have got rights. And you can do so in the law.

Having core moral beliefs certainly seems to cut down on the advisors and the flip-flopping.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:12 PM


Perplexing Problem? Borrow Some Brains: You're smart but not that smart! Teams often defer to their best decision maker, but more is better than less when it comes to brain power. (Robert B. Cialdini, Harvard Management Communication Letter)

Group consultation has long been lauded as the best process for problem solving in organizations because it results in a wider range of solutions than most individuals can design on their own. Now there’s a new study, from psychologist Patrick Laughlin and his colleagues at the University of Illinois, that shows that the approaches and outcomes of cooperating groups are not just better than those of the average group member, but are better than even the group’s best problem solver functioning alone.

These findings underscore the importance of communication in problem solving and have important implications for managers and anyone else who works as part of a team. Far too often, a leader—who, by virtue of greater experience or wisdom or skill, is deemed the ablest problem solver in a group—fails to ask for input from team members. Equally dangerous, members of a team often relinquish problem-solving responsibilities to the leader and fail to provide her with important information for moving forward on a decision.

The consequences of this vicious circle? Suboptimal solutions, bad choices, wrong directions, and avoidable errors.

So what does the 9-11 Commission propose?: centralizing intelligence even further and feeding it all through one person.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:02 PM


The Real Battle of Najaf: for the Shiite Soul (Bartle Breese Bull, August 13, 2004, LA Times)

While Muqtada Sadr, Iraq's young Shiite firebrand, leads his insurrection from the holy city of Najaf, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani — the spiritual leader of Iraq's 15 million Shiite Muslims — sits silently in London, recovering from heart surgery. We are watching two battles for Najaf: the physical fight raging between Sadr's Mahdi militia and the U.S. military, and a subtler struggle for influence within Iraq's Shiite majority — a struggle that is in many ways a battle for the future of the country.

Najaf, as the resting place of Imam Ali, the founder of the Shiite branch of Islam, is the holiest city on Earth for the world's 200 million Shiite Muslims. The leaders of the city's clerical community are the natural leaders of the global Shiite community, whose members everywhere aspire to be buried in the cemetery where so much of the fighting is taking place. The spiritual prestige of these leaders produces enormous temporal power as well, and it is this political standing that Sadr seeks to usurp.

Sistani is the most senior of Najaf's four grand ayatollahs, and doubts about his health have highlighted the issue of who will replace him in the religious realm. Regardless of timing, any spiritual successor to Sistani could come only from among the other three. All three, like Sistani, eschew the sort of direct political rule exercised by the mullahs of Iran. All are in their 70s.

The only native Iraqi among them is Mohammed Said Hakim. Some observers believe he would lean toward the policies of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a Shiite political group that is run by his cousin and that has historical ties to Iran. The council allied itself with the U.S.-led coalition during the war and has been relatively cooperative with the occupation since then.

Bashir Najafi, a Pakistani who has been in Iraq most of his life, has been an outspoken critic of the occupation and, as the most radical and anti-American of Sistani's potential successors, could be expected to take a more activist line.

The third grand ayatollah is Mohammed Ishaq Fayyad, who, of the three, is the most committed opponent of Iran-style clerical rule.

No front-runner has emerged, and nobody knows for how many weeks or decades Sistani will survive the three blocked arteries that caused his trip to London.

What is certain, however, is that the conditions feeding the rage of the urban poor who currently dominate Iraqi Shiite politics will not disappear in the near future. Iraq's slums are some of the most demoralizing places on Earth — places like Sadr City in Baghdad, an urban wilderness of cinderblock and wire where families live nine to a room and sewage and engine oil bake in the gutters. There are no jobs and seemingly no prospects of them. The feeling of impotence is pervasive.

After 30 years of Sunni apartheid under Saddam Hussein, Shiites are impatient for change. They were betrayed by the British in 1930, with the arrival of a foreign prince who ruled through the Sunni minority. They were betrayed by the United States in 1991, when they followed George H.W. Bush's exhortations and rose against Hussein, only to be crushed. They form 60% of Iraq's population and have waited centuries to run their own affairs. They cannot understand why Hussein's fall has brought so little improvement to their lot.

Sadr draws his support largely from the disaffected male youth of Iraq's Shiite slums. Even though he is identified as a cleric, the power he wields does not derive from religious authority.

The bitter lesson, for folks like al-Sadr, of the End of History is that radicals can't bring economic and political progress while such progress, which is what people really desire, destroys radicalism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:02 PM


Challenging Darwinian Fundamentalism: a review of Uncommon Dissent. Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing, ed. William A. Dembski (Bruce Thornton, VDH)

If you believe what you hear in the mainstream media, the critics of Darwinian evolution are all wild-eyed creationists who believe that Genesis literally describes the origins of life, and so are equivalent, as William Dembski says in his Introduction, to a "holocaust denier, a flat-earther, or a believer in horoscopes." Arrayed against them are those presumed paragons of rational thought who simply believe what the facts of science have established as the truth. It doesn't take much to figure out who the media thinks wears the white hat-- all those enlightened sophisticates who are protecting us from the narrow-minded fundamentalists itching to take us and our children back to the dark ages of ignorance and superstition.

As usual, the media have it backwards. Although creationists use the work of
Darwin's critics, most of the latter are not advancing the creationist or any other religious view of life's origins. Instead, they are doing what scientists and intellectuals are supposed to do: exercise "a hungry mind and a willingness to question received opinion," as John Wilson says in his Foreword. After all, isn't that how science works, through a relentless skepticism that subjects each and every theory to the questioning of its assumptions and claims, not to mention the evidence that is supposed to support both? As this collection of essays shows, the best critics of Darwinian evolution are precisely that: intellectuals and scientists scrutinizing the claims of Darwinian theory, and pointing out its flaws and weaknesses. As Edward Sisson says in "Teaching the Flaws in Neo-Darwinism,"

"The proponents of intelligent design whom I find persuasive do not argue
that evolution must be suppressed because of some conflict with the Bible.
Instead, they argue that unintelligent evolution should be questioned
because the scientific evidence offered to support it is weak."

In fact, frequently it is the Darwinians who display an intolerance of dissent and impatience with criticism more typical of the fundamentalist mentality, as evidenced by the readiness with which some Darwinians resort to ad hominem attacks and personal disparagement of their critics. One tactic is simply to avoid any argument and label a critic with the scare-epithet "creationist," as arch-Darwinist-popularizer Richard Dawkins did in response to David Berlinksi's article in Commentary magazine (reprinted in Uncommon Dissent along with other readers' responses and Berlinski's replies). Elsewhere Dawkins has asserted that "if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid, or insane (or wicked, but I'd rather not consider that)." Such shrill, juvenile reactions suggest not a scientific but a quasi-religious sensibility threatened by any challenges to its orthodoxy.

If you were to bring any leading intellectual who died prior to the 1970s back to life today, you'd get a fair number who were surprised that liberal democratic capitalism had triumphed so utterly over Marxism/socialism, and not a few who'd be surprised that Freud is a laughingstock, but what would truly flabbergast them all is that modern Americans so thoroughly disbelieve in Darwin yet America is the most powerful modern state in human history while the nations of Europe, which embrace Darwinism, are in decline. Our very "ignorance" (only about 10% of Americans believe in Darwinism)--a benefit of our historic hostility to intellectuals--appears to be a key to our greatness.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:18 PM


Pullout of U.S. forces could skip Japan (NAO SHIMOYACHI, Aug. 18, 2004, The Japan Times)

If these movements come about, Japan would become a U.S. frontline Asia-Pacific command post, according to Hiromichi Umebayashi, president of Yokohama-based disarmament think tank Peace Depot and an expert on the U.S. military in Japan.

"The message is more political than quantitative," he said. "By concentrating command functions in Japan, the level of cooperation between the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military would increase.

"The U.S. may be counting on Japan, which is now a key ally in (Bush's) 'coalition of the willing,' " he said.

But Umebayashi warned that such moves, which would give U.S. forces in Japan command over operations in areas as far away as the Middle East, would inevitably violate the 1960 Japan-U.S. security treaty.

Some actions, however, may have already moved the two countries away from the bilateral pact. Researchers claim that U.S. forces in Japan in the past have engaged in activities that went beyond the scope of defending Japan and maintaining stability in the Far East.

At the start of the war in Iraq, for example, the 7th Fleet battle group, led by the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, was in the Persian Gulf and attacked Iraq with Tomahawk cruise missiles, according to the U.S. Naval Forces Japan.

Fighter jets from Misawa Air Base in Aomori Prefecture and Kadena Air Base in Okinawa also reportedly participated in the Iraq war.

Some 3,000 U.S. Marines based in Okinawa were sent to Iraq in January as reinforcements.

In addition, the U.S. military in Japan reportedly played pivotal roles in the 1991 Gulf War and the 2001 U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.

A 1995 U.S. Defense Department report on East Asia said: "There is no more important bilateral relationship than the one we have with Japan. It is fundamental to both our Pacific security policy and our global strategic objectives." [...]

Washington has often called Japan the most generous of any U.S. ally.

Japan pays nearly half of all the costs of the U.S. military here, including salaries for Japanese staff at U.S. bases and utilities. In the fiscal 2004 budget, 244 billion yen was allocated to host-nation support of the U.S. forces.

What's the over/under on how long it takes Democrats to figure out that the Atlantic Century is over?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:09 PM


How will postal privatization help? (The Japan Times, Aug. 18, 2004)

Japan's postal savings system, along with mail and insurance services, is to be privatized over a 10-year period beginning in 2007, according to the guidelines drawn up by the government's Economic and Fiscal Policy Council earlier this month. The question is how to transform the system into a viable institution that can compete with commercial banks on a level playing field.

Admittedly, bigness and inefficiency are the twin problems of the "yucho" (postal savings) system. Originally, the yucho was intended for small savers, with per capita deposits limited to 3 million yen. Beginning in the late 1980s, however, the ceiling was raised in stages to the current level of 10 million yen. The balance of postal deposits now exceeds 230 trillion yen, creating distortions in the financial system.

Privatizing such a gigantic deposit network will not be easy. That helps explain why the council, while setting a timetable for privatization, seems unable to work out a plan of action.

While Americans pump their savings into 401k's, IRA's, their houses, etc., the Japanese plop theirs into these moribund postal accounts.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:54 PM


Weekly wages rise 0.7 percent in July (UPI, 8/17/04)

Average weekly earnings in real terms increased by 0.7 percent in July from the previous month for U.S. workers, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Tuesday.

U.S. July Industrial Production Rises 0.4%; Plant-Use at 77.1% (Bloomberg, 8/17/04)
U.S. industrial production strengthened for the third time in four months in July led by business equipment such as computers and semiconductors, a sign the economy accelerated after a second-quarter slowdown.

The 0.4 percent increase in production at the nation's factories, mines and utilities followed June's revised 0.5 percent drop, the Federal Reserve said in Washington. The proportion of industrial capacity in use rose to 77.1 percent from 76.9 percent.

Companies' capital investments added more to growth in the second quarter than spending by consumers, the first time that balance has shifted since the first quarter of 1995. That business demand continued into July, helping the economy overcome slower consumer spending, economists said.

``The underlying momentum leaves the economy in good shape to weather any further increases in energy costs,'' said Maury Harris, chief economist at UBS Securities LLC in Stamford, Connecticut, before the report.

Housing starts snap back in July (CNN, 8/17/04)
U.S. housing starts rebounded sharply in July, making up almost all ground lost in a June slump by posting their largest monthly percentage gain since September 2002, a Commerce Department report showed Tuesday.

Starts rose a healthy 8.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.978 million units in July, above Wall Street's expectations. June starts were revised slightly higher to a 1.826 million annual rate from the initially reported 1.802 million pace.

Analysts had been expecting starts to pick up again in July but at a slower clip, to 1.9 million units.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:31 PM


Road map to an ownership society (Jack Kemp, August 16, 2004, Townhall)

Given recent speculation that Bush's soon-to-be-unveiled second-term economic agenda will include both fundamental tax reform and reforming Social Security with personal retirement accounts, some have suggested that he must choose one or the other. With all due respect, he should do no such thing. Tax reform and personal accounts are not mutually exclusive; they are mutually reinforcing, indeed mutually dependent.

Congressional Budget Office projections reveal that if the Bush tax cuts are repealed, due to the progressive nature of the tax code, tax revenues as a percent of GDP will grow well beyond the historic average (18.5 percent of GDP) to 20.5 percent in 2015, 22.6 percent in 2030 and 24.7 percent by midcentury. Without continued tax reform to lower the rates back at least to where they were when Ronald Reagan left the presidency, the economy will stagger under an increasing burden each year. Without tax reform to properly define how income will be subject to taxation, it will make the transition to a new fully reformed Social Security system more difficult and require more borrowing than necessary. Bush is on the right track to be talking about both personal retirement accounts and tax reform - what can be called an ownership society agenda, or what I would call the democratization of capitalism.

The idea of an ownership society is not new; it is the logical extension of Abraham Lincoln's Homestead Act in 1862 America, where clear title to 160 acres of federal land was "given" outright to citizens to settle and cultivate the land. The vision of an ownership society is one that looks back at a road long traveled, but one that is forward-looking and far-reaching; it is a vision that sees opportunity ahead, sunlight on the horizon.

There are going to be significant transition costs as we switch from the currrent social welfare state to an ownership society--big deal? Winning WWII drove the national debt to 150% of GDP even as it made us the world's pre-eminent superpower. At that rate we could afford to more than double our current debt and in the process we'd once again strengthen the nation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:21 PM


Support for Mr. Bush on Sudan Policies (Letter to the Editor, August 14, 2004)

The Aug. 3 news story "Evangelicals Urge Bush to Do More for Sudan" suggested that evangelicals are exerting political pressure on a reluctant White House. Not so.

[T]he evangelical base strongly supports what this administration has done. Former education secretary William J. Bennett, Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus and I met with Bush adviser Karl Rove a week after President Bush was inaugurated, and Sudan was at the top of our agenda. The president's actions have been swift, decisive and effective. He laid out in May 2001 for the American Jewish Congress an agenda of human rights. He then appointed John C. Danforth as special envoy to Sudan, supported and signed t