November 30, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:18 PM


The Grassroots Can Save Democrats: Howard Dean paved the way to future victories. (JOE TRIPPI, November 30, 2004, Wall Street Journal)

The staggering defeat of the Democratic Party and its ever-accelerating death spiral weren't obvious from the election results. Two factors masked the extent of the party's trouble. Without the innovation of Internet-driven small-donor fund-raising and a corresponding surge in support from the youngest voters, John Kerry would have suffered a dramatically larger defeat. And the true magnitude of the Democrats' abject failure at the polls in 2004 would have been more clearly revealed.

Mr. Kerry raised nearly half of his war chest over the Internet. He was so successful at this that he actually outspent the Bush campaign. But it was the outsider campaign of Howard Dean, reviled by most of the Democratic establishment, that pioneered the use of the Internet to raise millions in small contributions; Mr. Kerry was just the beneficiary as the party nominee. And it was the risk-taking Dean campaign that forced the risk-averse Kerry campaign to opt out of the public financing system. Had that decision not been forced on Mr. Kerry, he would have been badly outspent by George Bush; he would not have been competitive at all throughout the long summer of 2004.

Mr. Kerry's lead among young voters hid just how bad Election Day really was for Democrats.

Every night before he goes to bed Karl Rove prays that the lesson the Democrats take away from the 2004 election is that the Party needs to be more like the Dean campaign, driven almost entirely by the whims of the lunatic on-line fringe.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:13 PM


Runoff Election Features Pro-Lifers (Keith Peters, 11/30/04, Citizen Link)

Two Louisiana congressional races will be determined in a runoff election this Saturday. What's interesting is all four of the candidates claim to be pro-life.

In the 3rd District race, Republican Billy Tauzin III is running against Democrat Charlie Melancon, while in the 7th District, Dr. Charles Boustany, a Republican, faces Democratic state Sen. Willie Mount.

Kristen Day, who heads the group Democrats for Life, strongly endorses both Democrats.

"I think it's very exciting that the last two races of this election season are highlighted by two pro-life Democrats, and we're very pleased to see the party backing them one hundred percent," Day said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:23 PM


A boost to his base: Cuban-born CEO seen to help Bush's plan to build support among Hispanics for Republican Party (KEN FIREMAN, November 30, 2004, Newsday)

[B]ush's second naming of a Hispanic to a high-profile administration post since his re-election will have inevitable political ramifications, according to Fernando Guerra, a political scientist at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. The selection of Gutierrez, a Cuban-American, to replace Donald Evans followed Bush's Nov. 10 nomination of Alberto Gonzales as attorney general.

"It's the second cabinet-level appointment, and these are jobs not traditionally associated with Latinos," Guerra said.

"What Bush is communicating is, 'I'm appointing these guys because of substance, not symbolism,'" Guerra said. "Many Latinos are saying, 'We're beyond symbolism. Let's start dealing with substance.' This communicates it."

Simply beginning to speak of Latinos as part of the GOP base will help to make it so.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:58 PM


Reed to certify Rossi as winner of governor's race: Democrats struggle to find money for a costly hand recount (CHRIS MCGANN, November 30, 2004, SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER)

Republican Dino Rossi becomes Washington's governor-elect when Secretary of State Sam Reed certifies the election this morning, and the Democrats have until Friday to demand a costly hand recount -- which right now they don't have the money for. [...]

Kirstin Brost, spokeswoman for the Democrats, said that at this point, they're not even close to having enough to pay for the statewide hand recount.

"We budgeted to end on November 3rd," Brost said. "We now have a week in which to raise $700,000.

"We think a statewide recount is the best way to ensure every vote is counted," Brost said. "But at the same time, this could cost more than $1 million before it's over."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:45 PM

UNNATURAL CAUSES (via The Other Brother)

Netherlands Hospital Euthanizes Babies (TOBY STERLING, 11/30/04, AP)

A hospital in the Netherlands - the first nation to permit euthanasia - recently proposed guidelines for mercy killings of terminally ill newborns, and then made a startling revelation: It has already begun carrying out such procedures, which include administering a lethal dose of sedatives.

The announcement by the Groningen Academic Hospital came amid a growing discussion in Holland on whether to legalize euthanasia on people incapable of deciding for themselves whether they want to end their lives - a prospect viewed with horror by euthanasia opponents and as a natural evolution by advocates.

That should probably read "applied" rather than "natural."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:26 PM


The West's Moment: Protesters in Ukraine sang a new anthem: Vstavay! Rise up! But Moscow didn't like it, and some warn of a new Cold War. Shades of 1989? (Michael Meyer, 12/06/04, Newsweek International)

It's hard to escape the echo of 1989, the year the Berlin wall fell and oppressed peoples rose up to unseat communist dictators across Eastern Europe. And so it seemed last week in Ukraine, where hundreds of thousands of demonstrators protested the results of a presidential election widely considered to have been rigged. In scenes reminiscent of yester-year's mass uprisings in Leipzig and Berlin, or the joyous Velvet Revolution in Prague, "people power" was once again on the march. Students, pensioners and middle-aged workers braved snow and freezing temperatures in extraordinary solidarity. They shouted Svoboda, or "freedom," and "We are the people!" They waved the blue-and-yellow flag of their country amid a sea of orange banners and ribbons—the color of the opposition, a symbol of fire within and without. Rock stars sang a pop hit that, overnight, became a national anthem: Vstavay! Rise up!

The lines could not be more clearly drawn, nor could the stakes be much higher—for Ukraine or the West.

1989? What happened in 1989?--some changed quickly, some changed more slowly. They're all going to end up in the same place. The only question implicated here is whether additional reform in Ukraine begins immediately or waits a few years. Those don't seem particulary high stakes in historic terms.

Ukraine president calls for fresh elections (Helen Womack, December 1, 2004, The Age)

Ukraine looked close to winning the right to fresh presidential elections after its outgoing head of state, Leonid Kuchma, conceded a new vote might be the best way to avoid civil conflict in the divided nation.

The Supreme Court, whose 21 judges are considering opposition complaints of fraud in the November 21 election, has still to give a verdict.

The European Union has said a rerun would be the ideal outcome, and even Russia, which originally backed Mr Kuchma's chosen successor, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, appears to have withdrawn its objections to another election.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:13 PM


How the Big Freeze Killed the Buffalo (William Underhill, 12/06/04, Newsweek International)

Picture a bison. He's curly-headed, low-slung and huge. The male, the largest land animal in North America, may stand two meters high and tip the scales at one ton. Despite this formidable profile, the bison was no match for humans. In the 19th century, hunters brought ecocataclysm to the Great Plains, slashing bison numbers from around 60 million to fewer than 1,000.

Maybe Nature should share the guilt. Scientists now say that the earliest bison population in North America fell victim to a more contemporary scourge: climate change. Alan Cooper, a molecular evolutionist at Oxford University, blames a big freeze, not man, for driving the species to near extinction in prehistory.

At least we've reached this point in our discussions of Evolution: some may think Man (intelligent intervention) caused the extinctions and some may think it was a catastrophic punctuating event (most likely triggered by events from without the biosphere), but no one any longer thinks it was a long natural process of tiny changes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:46 PM


Mfume quitting as head of NAACP (Associated Press, November 30, 2004)

Saying he needs a break, NAACP President Kweisi Mfume announced Tuesday that he's stepping down as the head of the nation's oldest and largest civil rights group.

The organization's legal counsel, Dennis Hayes, will serve as interim president while a national search is conducted.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:44 PM


Ridge resigns Homeland Security post (Associated Press, November 30, 2004)

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, whose name became synonymous with color-coded terror alerts and tutorials to the public about how to prepare for possible attack, is resigning, U.S. officials said Tuesday.

Ridge submitted his resignation in writing to President Bush on Tuesday morning, said officials who confirmed the departure only on grounds of anonymity. [...]

Among those mentioned as possible candidates for Ridge's replacement are Bernard Kerik, interim Minister of the Interior for Iraq and former New York City police commissioner, Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Joe Allbaugh and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Mike Leavitt and White House homeland security adviser Fran Townsend. Others are also believed to be interested in the job, including Asa Hutchinson, undersecretary for border and transportation security in the Homeland Security Department.

How about Joe Lieberman as Secretary with Bernard Kerik as his Deputy. If Democrats don't want to give up a Senate seat you could go with Bob Graham.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:05 PM


A pro-Israel group teaches us a lesson about Evangelicals and ourselves: Disagree all you want with the evangelicals, but give them their due (Jonathan Tobin, 11/30/04, Jewish World Review)

Can a group number as many as 70 million individuals fly under the radar? Outside of the context of politics, Christian evangelicals are virtually invisible in American culture, except to be laughed at or feared.

Just as the image of the Jew can be a dangerously misleading generalization, the same is true for the image of the evangelical.

Listen to many Jews talk about conservative Christians and you'd think they're discussing the Taliban.

This disconnect between image and reality is of no small importance in the aftermath of a presidential election in which evangelicals and "moral values" voters are said to have provided the margin of victory for President Bush.

There's no better predictor of someone's relative Zionism than where they fall on the scale from atheism (anti-Zionist/post-Zionist) to fundamentalism (rabidly Zionist).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:54 AM


Social Security is Not in Crisis (Dean Baker, 11/30/04,

In the wake of his election victory , President Bush said that cutting Social Security will be at the top of his second-term agenda. He supports a proposal from his Social Security commission that hits workers with large cuts in their Social Security benefits. The proposed cuts are phased in over time, but an average wage earner who is 20 today will see their total Social Security benefits cut by close to $160,000 over their retirement. They will have the option of trying to retrieve a small portion of these cuts by seeking higher returns in the stock market, with the additional risk this implies.

Virtually everyone agrees that Social Security is a great system.

Start out with an ignorance of compound interest and historic market returns and the rest follows.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:43 AM


Will she or won't she? (Paul Bedard, 11/30/04, Washington Whispers, US News)

Hillary, Hillary, Hillary. Is there any other name that creates the political buzz that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton 's does? Maybe not, but some friends and allies advise against placing bets that the former first lady will be the nation's 44th president. They report that the New York Democrat isn't so sure about a run for the White House. "She's not running," says one supporter. The thinking in the "don't run" campaign is that Clinton is well aware of the partisan feelings she generates. "People love her or they hate her," says an adviser. "There's very little gray area to gain voters in."

If she was going to stay in the Senate she really needed to try for a leadership position. But it makes no sense to stay and be in the permanent minority. What she should do is run for Governor of NY, where she'd have real power. The problem is she has to wait until Rudy Guiliani decides what he's running for and then choose the other.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:34 AM


Third-Quarter Economic Growth Set at 3.9% (Jeannine Aversa, November 30, 2004, Associated Press)

The economy -- helped out by more brisk consumer and business spending -- grew at an annual rate of 3.9 percent in the third quarter, a performance that was stronger than previously thought.

The new reading on gross domestic product, which is based on additional data, was up from the 3.7 percent growth rate first estimated for the July-to-September quarter, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday.

"I think the economy has found its groove," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at

Or you can follow the European model and keep your currency artificially elevated for psychological reasons while you tank your own economies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:03 AM


The Oil Bubble II: Listen for the “pop.” (Frederick P. Leuffer, November 30, 2004, National Review)

In my column last month (“The Oil Bubble: Set to Burst?”) I discussed the speculative factors that pushed oil prices to all-time highs. I pointed out that despite fear of supply outages stemming from terrorism and a series of odd events, virtually every fear so far has gone unrealized: Terrorism has not removed a single barrel of oil production. Oil output in Saudi Arabia, instead of falling due to terrorism as some have feared, has increased by more than 1 million barrels a day. OPEC has steadily increased production and consistently outpaced analyst estimates of its capacity. Production at Russian oil giant Yukos has not fallen. And, despite a difficult war in Iraq, production in that country has averaged 2 million barrels a day this year — a 68 percent year-over-year increase. The only meaningful supply interruption to hit the oil industry this year was four back-to-back hurricanes in the southeastern U.S.

All of these non-shocks are sucking some of the speculative air out of oil prices. In the past three weeks, despite no significant developments on the macro front, oil prices have fallen by more than $9 a barrel to around $46. There was a similar correction at the end of August when fears of a terrorist attack during the Republican convention went unrealized. The “fear” premium in oil, approximately $15 a barrel currently, fluctuates with events, but I continue to believe that the absence of a significant prolonged supply outage will gradually push speculative money out of oil.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:46 AM


'Like visiting your in-laws' (Greg Weston, 11/30/04, Ottawa Sun)

Canadians who might be wondering what Americans think of us should ponder no more: Generally speaking, they don't.

Even White House reporters expecting the usual "trip briefing" on Canada-U.S. issues were surprised by what they got: Zip.

"It is quite unusual not to have a briefing," said one senior White House correspondent who called yesterday, wondering if we had any idea why Bush was coming to Canada. (We had to say, sorry, can't help there.)

The best the White House press corps could make of it, she said, is "it's kind of like visiting your in-laws -- you go because it's what you do. It is sort of a perfunctory visit."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:42 AM


Understanding Terror Networks (Marc Sageman, November 1, 2004, FPRI)

We all know that Al Qaeda is a violent, Islamist, revivalist social movement, held together by a common vision of a Salafi state. Al Qaeda proper is just a small organization within this larger social movement. We often mistake the social movement for Al Qaeda and vice versa because for about five years, Al Qaeda had more or less control of the social movement.

The segment that poses a threat to the United States came out of Egypt. Most of the leadership and the whole ideology of Al Qaeda derives from Egyptian writer Sayyid Qutb (1906–66) and his progeny, who killed Anwar Sadat and were arrested in October 1981. President Mubarak generously allowed them to be released in 1984.

Many of the released men, harassed by the Egyptian police, migrated to Afghanistan. With the end of the Soviet-Afghan War, they continued on to jihad. These Arab outsiders actually did not fight in the Soviet-Afghan War except for one small battle at Jaji/Ali Kheyl, which was really defensive: the Arabs had put their camp on the main logistic supply line, and in the spring of 1987 the Soviets tried to destroy it. So they were really more the recipient of a Soviet offensive, but they really did not fight in that war and thus the U.S. had absolutely no contact with them. I heard about the battle of Jaji at the time, and it never dawned on me to ask the Afghans I debriefed who the Arabs were. They turned out to be bin Laden and his men at the Al-Masada (Lion’s Den) camp.

After the war, a lot of these foreigners returned to their countries. Those who could not return because they were terrorists remained in Afghanistan. In 1991, Algeria and Egypt complained to Pakistan that it was harboring terrorists, so Pakistan expelled them. Thus the most militant of these terrorists made their way to Khartoum, where they were invited by Hassan al-Turabi of the National Islamic Front in Khartoum.

The Khartoum period is critical, because what these violent Salafists basically want to do is to create a Salafi state in a core Arab country. Salafi (from Salaf, “ancient ones” or “predecessors” in Arabic) is an emulation, an imitation of the mythical Muslim community that existed at the time of Mohammed and his companion, which Salafists believe was the only fair and just society that ever existed. A very small subset of Salafis, the disciples of Qutb, believe they cannot create this state peacefully through the ballot-box but have to use violence. The utopia they strive for is similar to most utopias in European thought of the nineteenth to the twentieth centuries, such as the communist classless society.

In Khartoum, the Salafists theorized that the reason they had been unable to overthrow their own government (the “near enemy”) was because it was propped up by the “far enemy”— the United States. So they decided to redirect their efforts and, instead of going after their own government, to attack the “far-enemy.” In 1996, for many reasons, Hassan al- Bashir, the President of Sudan, had to expel Al Qaeda after the imposition of international sanctions, because the Sudanese Government was implicated in the attempt to assassinate Egyptian President Mubarak in Addis Ababa in 1995. In August 1996, within two months of returning to Afghanistan, bin Laden issued a fatwa declaring war on the United States.

The fatwa clearly articulated the new goals of this movement, which were to get the U.S. out of the Middle East so they would be free to overthrow the Saudi monarchy or the Egyptian regime and establish a Salafi state. This remains their goal and is why 9-11 happened. This is why the embassy bombing happened. It’s really not so much to destroy the United States, something they know they cannot do right now. This is all why I put the start of the threat against us at 1996. [...]

Until late 2001, the terror network was the project of al- Turabi, who in the early 1990s had invited all the Muslim terrorists to Khartoum. That’s how Al Qaeda learned about truck bombing from Hezbollah. Then when they were expelled from Khartoum, bin Laden had a deal with Mullah Omar where he actually had a monopoly of sanctuaries in Afghanistan — the training camp, housing, funding. Instead of raising their own money, it was much easier to go to bin Laden for it. And so, by his control of training camps, sanctuaries, and funding for five years, bin Laden was able to dominate this movement

But after 2001, when the U.S. destroyed the camps and housing and turned off the funding, bin Laden was left with little control. The movement has now degenerated into something like the internet. Spontaneous groups of friends, as in Madrid and Casablanca, who have few links to any central leadership, are generating sometimes very dangerous terrorist operations, notwithstanding their frequent errors and poor training. What tipped the Madrid group to operation was probably the arrest of some of their friends after the Casablanca bombing. Most of them were Moroccans and the Moroccan government asked the Spaniards to arrest several militants. So the group was activated, wanting to do something. Their inspiration—the document “Jihad al-Iraq”— probably was found on the Web. Six of its 42 pages argued that if there were bombings right before Spanish election, it could effect a change of government and the withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq, the expulsion of the “far enemy” from a core Arab state. From conception to execution, the operation took about five weeks.

We hear that Al Qaeda plans its attacks for years and years. It may have before 9-11, but not anymore. Operatives in caves simply cannot communicate with people in the field. The network has been fairly well broken by our intelligence services. The network is now self-organized from the bottom up, and is very decentralized. With local initiative and flexibility, it’s very robust. True, two-thirds to three- quarters of the old leaders have been taken out, but that doesn’t mean that we’re home free. The network grows organically, like the Internet. We couldn’t have identified the Madrid culprits, because we wouldn’t have known of them until the first bomb exploded.

So in 2004, Al Qaeda has new leadership. In a way today’s operatives are far more aggressive and senseless than the earlier leaders. The whole network is held together by the vision of creating the Salafi state. A fuzzy, idea-based network really requires an idea-based solution. The war of ideas is very important and this is one we haven’t really started to engage yet.

You hear a lot about this losing the war of ideas nonsense from our government bureaucrats, but on the ground in the region you have an elected government in Afghanistan, Iraqi elections in January, Palestinian elections coming, Libya and Syria trying to get in our good graces, grassroots democracy movements and local elections in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the rest. They sure seem to have gotten the idea.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:31 AM


Congressman: Haredi Jews have 'love affair' with Republicans (Daphna Berman, 11/30/04, Ha'aretz)

The American Jewish community's Orthodox sector has begun a long-term "love affair" with the Republican party, according to a U.S. Congressman speaking Tuesday in Jerusalem.

"What we're seeing is not a flirtation [between the two camps] but rather a serious love affair," said Congressman Bob Beauprez of Colorado.

"Jews one after another have been very open about their support for the President and they backed that up recently at the ballot box."

Beauprez, who is in Israel this week for the Jerusalem Summit conference, said that his party has been "encouraged" by the newfound alliance with a demographic that historically supported the Democratic ticket.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:17 AM


'He wants to serve his country' (MICHAEL SNEED, November 30, 2004, Chicago SUN-TIMES)

Mayor Daley's only son, Patrick, has joined the Army during a time of war.

He reports to active duty as an enlisted soldier in the Army's regular airborne infantry.

His activation date: between Christmas and New Year's. His destination: presumably North Carolina's Ft. Bragg. His final destination? It could lead him to Iraq or Afghanistan within a year.

Mayor Daley comes close to being the only Democrat in America you can take seriously. Of course you can trace the demise of the Party directly to the moment when they sided with the rabble in the street against his father.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:45 AM


As flat-panel televisions pile up, prices may come down (Eric A. Taub, November 30, 2004, The New York Times)

>While hanging a television on the living-room wall may have captured the imagination of American consumers, it has yet to empty many pocketbooks.

That may soon change as a glut of liquid crystal display flat-panel televisions, called LCDs, enters the market, a result of a boom in new factories.

According to several manufacturers and analysts, the prices for LCD flat-panel televisions will drop in the next year, falling by as much as 30 percent by the end of 2005. The prices of plasma flat-panel televisions are also expected to fall significantly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:28 AM


A Dwarf Known as Al Qaeda: The threat posed by the group is hugely overblown. (Dirk Laabs, November 30, 2004, LA Times)

This month, at the BKA's annual conference, Germany's top investigators and international experts discussed what they had discovered since Sept. 11 about Al Qaeda and the international Islamist terror network. The main thing they have learned is that there is less than meets the eye.

Yes, Al Qaeda was once centralized, structured and powerful, but that was before the U.S. pulverized its camps and leadership in Afghanistan.

In other words, this battle in the war on terror might already be over. It's as an ex-CIA agent once said: "I quit the agency at the end of the Cold War because I was tired of politicians making me describe the Soviet Union as a 20-foot giant — when it was really only a dwarf."

Fortunatel the President grasped from the outset that dealing with the terrorists was the easy part and that our broader focus had to be on liberalizing the Middle East, something John Kerry, with his talk of pursuing merely a law enforcement model, never seemed to grasp.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:20 AM

RIGHTS COME WITH RESPONSIBILITIES:>Debate on Iraq Vote Mirrors Divisions: Shiites, tasting power, reject the delay Sunnis seek. Allawi himself may want a post-Jan. 30 date. (Patrick J. McDonnell and Ashraf Khalil, November 30, 2004, LA Times)

The swirling debate about whether to conduct the parliamentary elections as scheduled despite a simmering insurgency underscores the ethnic, political and religious complexities of the modern Iraqi state.

For more than three decades, Saddam Hussein's Baath Party managed to keep the puzzle together with a ruthless police apparatus that favored Sunnis and tolerated no dissent or meaningful expression of ethnic and religious autonomy. But the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Hussein's regime opened the chance for Iraq's diverse peoples to air their long-repressed — and possibly incompatible — aspirations.

The stakes in the vote are high. Iraqis are to elect a 275-member national assembly that will choose a president and prime minister and oversee the drafting of a constitution. Voters are expected to go to the polls later in 2005 to approve or reject the document.

Sunni Muslims, many of whom view the elections as little more than a means to officially end their supremacy in Iraq, fear that the protracted violence will exclude many of them from voting and thus exacerbate their loss of power. Voter registration, which began Nov. 1 in most of Iraq, has yet to start in Al Anbar province, a Sunni-majority area north and west of Baghdad that has been at the heart of the insurgency.

Behind the Sunni temporizing, many observers argue, is a resolute refusal by some to accept a Shiite-dominated nation. Some fundamentalist Sunni Muslims view Shiites as apostates; others deride them as uneducated hicks beholden to Iranian ayatollahs.

The solution to the problem is easy enough: want to vote? Put down the insurgency in your own midst. The Shi'ites did.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:11 AM


MOVIE REVIEW | 'GUERRILLA: THE TAKING OF PATTY HEARST': Even in the Days of Patty Hearst, It Was the Innocent Who Died (STEPHEN HOLDEN, 11/26/04, NY Times)

What is familiar about this picture? A small group of fanatic terrorists wreak havoc on American soil. Playing an increasingly nervy cat-and-mouse game, they make fools of the F.B.I., which knows next to nothing about who or how many they are. Issuing communiqués whose language is as grandiose as it is inflammatory, they become the focus of a national mediathon. "Death to the fascist insect that preys upon the life of the people!" is one of their favorite mottos.

No, these terrorists aren't members of Al Qaeda. They were a mixed-race group of radical leftists fighting against the Vietnam War, racism and other social ills in the 1970's. Based in the San Francisco area and calling themselves the Symbionese Liberation Army, they kidnapped the 19-year-old newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst on Feb. 4, 1974. They demanded a $300 million ransom in the form of food for the poor and needy. The Hearst family acquiesced. But when the first food giveaway caused riots in San Francisco, the plan was abandoned.

Ms. Hearst later announced that she had joined the radical group and adopted the name Tania. She called herself "a soldier in the people's army." Toting an AK-47, she participated in a robbery at the Hibernia Bank in San Francisco during which two bystanders were shot. Experts were called in to read her lips on the video as she shouted expletives.

She was arrested with three other S.L.A. members in September 1975, found guilty of bank robbery and sentenced to seven years in prison. After she had served 18 months, President Jimmy Carter ordered her release, and in 2001 President Bill Clinton issued a presidential pardon.

These events, which have faded into obscurity in today's new and scarier age of terrorism, are recounted and brought to life in Robert Stone's remarkable documentary "Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst." In retrospect the group's story is a painful example of the warped idealism of the radical left and its fateful romance with violence. [...]

After fleeing San Francisco for Los Angeles, the S.L.A. finally collapsed in a spectacular four-hour shootout with the police that was seen live on television. Crazy, outrageous and very sad, it all seems so long ago, and it accomplished nothing except the deaths of innocent people. That predatory insect, however you label it, is still very much alive and in a feeding frenzy.

Thanks to Mr. Schwartz who noted not just the elegaiac tone of this vile review but the fascist reference.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:01 AM


In Arctic history, warm water (Andrew C. Revkin, November 30, 2004, The New York Times)

The ice-cloaked Arctic Ocean apparently was once a warm, biologically brewing basin so rich in sinking organic material that some scientists examining fresh evidence pulled from a submerged ridge near the North Pole say the seabed may now hold significant oil and gas deposits.

So we had to expend enough carbon into the atmosphere to create sufficient warming for vast new carbon sources to be revealed to us?

November 29, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:27 PM


"The China Price" (Business Week, 12/06/04)

"The China price." They are the three scariest words in U.S. industry. In general, it means 30% to 50% less than what you can possibly make something for in the U.S. In the worst cases, it means below your cost of materials. Makers of apparel, footware, electric appliances, and plastics products, which have been shutting U.S. factories for decades, know well the futility of trying to match the China price. It has been a big factor in the loss of 2.7 million manufacturing jobs since 2000. Meanwhile, America's deficit with China keeps soaring to new records. It is likely to pass $150 billion this year.

Now, manufacturers and workers who never thought they had to worry about the China price are confronting the new math of the mainland. These companies had once held their own against imports mostly because their businesses required advanced skills, heavy investment, and proximity to customers. Many of these companies are in the small-to-midsize sector, which makes up 37% of U.S. manufacturing. The China price is even being felt in high tech. Chinese exports of advanced networking gear, still at a low level, are already affecting prices. And there's talk by some that China could eventually become a major car exporter.

Multinationals have accelerated the mainland's industrialization by shifting production there, and midsize companies that can are following suit. The alternative is to stay at home and fight -- and probably lose. Ohio State University business professor Oded Shenkar, author of the new book The Chinese Century, hears many war stories from local companies. He gives it to them straight: "If you still make anything labor intensive, get out now rather than bleed to death. Shaving 5% here and there won't work." Chinese producers can make the same adjustments. "You need an entirely new business model to compete."

America has survived import waves before, from Japan, South Korea, and Mexico. And it has lived with China for two decades. But something very different is happening. The assumption has long been that the U.S. and other industrialized nations will keep leading in knowledge-intensive industries while developing nations focus on lower-skill sectors. That's now open to debate. "What is stunning about China is that for the first time we have a huge, poor country that can compete both with very low wages and in high tech," says Harvard University economist Richard B. Freeman. "Combine the two, and America has a problem."

How much of a problem? That's in fierce dispute. On one side, the benefits of the relationship with China are enormous. After years of struggling to crack the mainland market, U.S. multinationals from General Motors (GM ) to Procter & Gamble (PG ) and Motorola (MOT ) are finally reaping rich profits. They're making cell phones, shampoo, autos, and PCs in China and selling them to its middle class of some 100 million people, a group that should more than double in size by 2010. "Our commercial success in China is important to our competitiveness worldwide," says Motorola China Chairman Gene Delaney.

By outsourcing components and hardware from China, U.S. companies have sharply boosted their return on capital. China's trade barriers continue to come down, part of its agreement to enter the World Trade Organization in 2001. Big new opportunities will emerge for U.S. insurers, banks, and retailers. China's surging demand for raw materials and commodities has driven prices up worldwide, creating a windfall for U.S. steelmakers, miners, and lumber companies. The cheap cost of Chinese goods has kept inflation low in the U.S. and fueled a consumer boom that helped America weather a recession and kept global growth on track.

This lack of any pricing power and the resulting deflationary pressure is why interest rates even here, but especially in Europe, are too high. Similarly, Wal-Mart tried getting away with not discounting aggressively this past weekend and got their heads handed to them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:52 PM


A city's schools test a new way: School privatization gets a boost from good results in Philadelphia. (Mary Beth McCauley, 11/30/04, CS Monitor)

[I]f privatizing school management has not proven to be the panacea many in Philadelphia had hoped, neither has Edison been the district's undoing, as activists and others warned when the firm was brought in during the rancorous and bitter state takeover of the district in 2002. On the contrary, test scores are up district-wide, and some of the most impressive gains have come in 20 of the toughest schools, those turned over to Edison in a last-ditch effort to jump-start them into performing.

"They've done a superb job with the most difficult schools," said James Nevels, chairman of the state-appointed School Reform Commission, which took over after the school board was disbanded. [...]

Not everyone has been converted. Barbara Goodman, spokeswoman for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, which fought the partnership, and whose members now staff the Edison schools, credits the district workforce with the gains in performance, and says the PFT favors uniform administration. Lois Yampolsky, a community activist who also fought privatization, still believes profitmaking Edison shouldn't be there, rejecting the company's argument that in public schools everything from transportation to textbooks comes from the private sector - and that there's no reason management shouldn't as well.

Nicly illustrating that critics don't care what works but about protecting union jobs and opposing capitalist ideas. The only thing missing is the opposition to letting kids get religious educations instead of being captives of the State.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:45 PM


Is Syria serious about peace with Israel? (Nicholas Blanford, 11/30/04, The Christian Science Monitor)

Syria is indicating with increasing frequency a willingness to resume peace negotiations with archenemy Israel after more than four years of deadlock.

The revival of the Syrian-Israeli track of the Middle East peace process could help deflect the intense pressure Syria is facing from the international community over its policies toward neighboring Lebanon and Iraq. The conclusion of a peace deal would see the return of occupied Syrian territory and open the country to much-needed economic assistance.

He knows how this all ends otherwise.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:41 PM


Push for rule of law in West Bank: The return of noted reformer Nabil Amr to Palestinian politics comes at a crucial juncture. (Ben Lynfield, 11/30/04, CS Monitor)

If the gunmen who shot reformist Palestinian legislator Nabil Amr through the window of his house in July hoped to silence him, they are being disappointed.

Mr. Amr, a vocal critic of the late Yasser Arafat's monopoly on power, was warmly welcomed back to his village of Dura over the weekend after four months of treatment in a German hospital. He immediately lashed out at the Palestinian Authority's failure to arrest anyone in the shooting, and more generally, the absence of daily security for Palestinian citizens.

"I feel I am back to life again," says Amr, a former minister of information. "I'm back from the mouth of death to another stage in my life and I will continue my message and my position and my direction." He defines this as pushing for democracy, building viable institutions, and restructuring the unwieldy and often competing labyrinth of Palestinian security forces into one streamlined organization.

The question that the rapid pace of change in post-Arafat Palestine inevitably raises is why didn't we whack him years ago?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:17 PM


A New Order of Religious Freedom (Richard John Neuhaus, February 1992, First Things)

The question of religion’s access to the public square is not first of all a question of First Amendment law. It is first of all a question of understanding the theory and practice of democratic governance. Citizens are the bearers of opinion, including opinion shaped by or espousing religious belief, and citizens have equal access to the public square. In this representative democracy, the state is forbidden to determine which convictions and moral judgments may be proposed for public deliberation. Through a constitutionally ordered process, the people will deliberate and the people will decide.

In a democracy that is free and robust, an opinion is no more disqualified for being “religious” than for being atheistic, or psychoanalytic, or Marxist, or just plain dumb. There is no legal or constitutional question about the admission of religion to the public square; there is only a question about the free and equal participation of citizens in our public business. Religion is not a reified “thing” that threatens to intrude upon our common life. Religion in public is but the public opinion of those citizens who are religious.

As with individual citizens, so also with the associations that citizens form to advance their opinions. Religious institutions may understand themselves to be brought into being by God, but for the purposes of this democratic polity they are free associations of citizens. As such, they are guaranteed the same access to the public square as are the citizens who comprise them. It matters not at all that their purpose is to advance religion, any more than it matters that other associations would advance the interests of business or labor or radical feminism or animal rights or whatever.

For purposes of democratic theory and practice, it matters not at all whether these religious associations are large or small, whether they reflect the views of a majority or minority, whether we think their opinions bizarre or enlightened. What opinions these associations seek to advance in order to influence our common life is entirely and without remainder the business of citizens who freely adhere to such associations. It is none of the business of the state. Religious associations, like other associations, give corporate expression to the opinions of people and, as Mr. Jefferson said, “the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction.”

It is to be feared that those who interpret “the separation of church and state” to mean the separation of religion from public life do not understand the theory and practice of democratic governance. Ours is not a secular form of government, if by “secular” is meant indifference or hostility to opinions that are thought to be religious in nature. The civil government is as secular as are the people from whom it derives its democratic legitimacy. No more, no less. Indeed a case can be made-and I believe it to be a convincing case-that the very founding principle that removes opinion from the jurisdiction of the state is itself religious in both historical origin and continuing foundation. Put differently, the foundation of religious freedom is itself religious.

And the ebb of secularism in society has obvious consequences.

Posted by David Cohen at 4:57 PM


Dan got smeared (Bill O'Reilly, New York Daily News, 11/29/4)

Right-wing talk radio in particular pounded Kerry and also bludgeoned Dan Rather for his role in another smear incident - the charges against President Bush about his National Guard service. Again, Rather was found guilty without a fair hearing. Charges that he intentionally approved bogus documents that made Bush look bad were leveled and widely believed. It was chilling.

As a CBS News correspondent in the early '80s, I worked with Rather and have known him for more than 20 years. Listen to me: There is no way on this Earth that he would have knowingly used fake documents on any story.

It may be true that Rather did not vet the information supplied to him by producers, but few anchor people do. They are dependent on other journalists, and this is a huge flaw in the system.

Leaving to one side the unmentioned elephant in this story, O'Reilly has a small point. It is possible to believe that Dan Rather (as opposed to CBS) didn't realize that the Guard documents couldn't be authenticated. I've always thought, though, that his real sin came after the story aired. Saying that CBS' undisclosed source (Bill Burkett, as it turned out) was unimpeachable was a flat-out lie.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:35 PM


Discerning the Trends: The Prophecy of C. S. Lewis (BreakPoint with Chuck Colson, November 29, 2004)

C. S. Lewis was born on this date in 1898, and forty-one years after his death, one thing has become startlingly clear: This Oxford don was not only a keen apologist but also a true prophet for our postmodern age.

For example, Lewis’s 1947 book, Miracles, was penned before most Christians were aware of the emerging philosophy of naturalism. This is the belief that there is a naturalistic explanation for everything in the universe.

Naturalism undercuts any objective morality, opening the door to tyranny. In his book The Abolition of Man, Lewis warned that naturalism turns humans into objects to be controlled. It turns values into “mere natural phenomena”—which can be selected and inculcated into a passive population by powerful Conditioners. Lewis predicted a time when those who want to remold human nature “will be armed with the powers of an omnicompetent state and an irresistible scientific technique.” Sounds like the biotech debate today, doesn’t it?

Why was Lewis so uncannily prophetic? At first glance he seems an unlikely candidate. He was not a theologian; he was an English professor. What was it that made him such a keen observer of cultural and intellectual trends?

The answer may be somewhat discomfiting to modern evangelicals: One reason is precisely that Lewis was not an evangelical. He was a professor in the academy, with a specialty in medieval literature, which gave him a mental framework shaped by the whole scope of intellectual history and Christian thought. As a result, he was liberated from the narrow confines of the religious views of the day—which meant he was able to analyze and critique them.

There's no reason for the faithful to retreat from the world. What separates their worldview from other metaphors is that it uniquely is true from without, not just from within.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:30 PM

Anybody know anything about or where to find information about DVD writers? Both for making discs of home digital recordings and for recording off the tv and whatnot?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:11 PM


FALLUJAH NAPALMED: US uses banned weapon ..but was Tony Blair told? (Paul Gilfeather, Nov 28 2004, Daily Mirror)

US troops are secretly using outlawed napalm gas to wipe out remaining insurgents in and around Fallujah.

News that President George W. Bush has sanctioned the use of napalm, a deadly cocktail of polystyrene and jet fuel banned by the United Nations in 1980, will stun governments around the world.

And last night Tony Blair was dragged into the row as furious Labour MPs demanded he face the Commons over it. Reports claim that innocent civilians have died in napalm attacks, which turn victims into human fireballs as the gel bonds flames to flesh. [...]

Since the American assault on Fallujah there have been reports of "melted" corpses, which appeared to have napalm injuries.

Cool! It's some kind of neutron napalm that melts flesh without setting buildings on fire.

MORE (via David Cohen):
Fire When Ready: Why we should consider using flamethrowers in Afghanistan. (Scott Shuger, Oct. 31, 2001, Slate)

There aren’t any news cameras trained on the caves of Afghanistan, but you can still watch U.S. soldiers battle an enemy hiding in underground tunnels and bunkers: Go rent Sands of Iwo Jima. The 1949 John Wayne classic incorporates actual combat footage of Marines attacking Japanese forces ensconced, à la the Taliban, in caves and other fortified underground positions, many of them linked by tunnels. On the Pacific island of Iwo Jima, the central command post was 75 feet below the island’s volcanic rock. On nearby Okinawa, the Japanese fought from several belts of caves and bunkers as well as from thousands of ancestral tombs. What was the weapon that enabled the Marines to take the fight in and down to an enemy this entrenched? As you can see in the movie, it was the flamethrower, which shoots a column of splattering fire that can penetrate viewing slits and air ducts and even kill around corners.

Recent news reports have said that Osama Bin Laden has access to caves that are electrified, multistoried, and steel-fortified. So we’re prepared to use flamethrowers to clear them out, right? On several occasions, President Bush has said of the terrorists, “We’re going to smoke them out of their holes.” But why settle for smoke when there’s fire?

Well, there’s a little problem. That John Wayne movie is about the only place you can see flamethrowers these days because the U.S. military doesn’t have them anymore. Though flamethrowers were in use as recently as the Vietnam War, none of our service branches has any in their inventory now. (None of the experts and old Army hands interviewed for this story knew exactly when they were eliminated.) The field manual used by the Army and Marines states that “flame is a valuable close combat weapon” that can be “used to demoralize troops and reduce positions that have resisted other forms of attack,” but the manual dropped detailed descriptions of flamethrower tactics in the early 1990s. A 66 mm man-portable rocket launcher that fires an incendiary round is still on the books, but most experienced U.S. military folks contacted this past week weren’t familiar with it. (One retired Army officer did remember that “years ago” the rocket was used at a U.S. base in a demonstration for visitors. He says such a fire rocket would be “dandy” for caves.) As the Afghan war bogs down against opponents willing to literally go underground, one very promising U.S. weapon for going after them is missing in action.

Why? Primarily because, among civilians, fire weapons are considered inhumane. The fuel for flamethrowers is basically napalm, and napalm has never recovered from its Vietnam reputation for awfulness.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:57 PM


Vatican seeks priests from Africa to re-evangelise the West (Jonathan Petre, 22/11/2004, Daily Telegraph)

Plans to ease Britain's acute shortage of Roman Catholic priests by importing scores of African clergy are being discussed by senior bishops with the Pope's blessing.

The initiative to "re-evangelise the West" was raised at a Vatican-backed conference of 100 Catholic bishops and archbishops from Europe and Africa earlier this month.

The bishops, including representatives from Britain, debated the idea of a large-scale exchange of clergy between the booming Church in Africa and its ailing European counterparts.

Under the plans, African priests from parts of the continent where vocations are thriving would send priests to parts of Europe is desperate for clergy.

If Conrad were writing Heart of Darkness today it would feature an African missionary headed up the Thames.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:30 PM


People power? Or George power? (Mark Almond, 29th November 2004, New Stateman)

George Soros, the billionaire philanthropist, promised to "spend whatever it takes" to defeat George W Bush. So when the president was returned to office, he said he felt like retiring to a monastery. Yet outside America, the missionaries of Soros's lavishly funded Open Society foundations march in parallel columns with the Bush administration. Domestic enmities don't stop the two Georges presenting a united front abroad when it comes to promoting friends and punishing foes.

A year ago, they jointly helped topple Georgia's president Eduard Shevardnadze by putting financial muscle and organisational metal behind his opponents. Now Ukraine has felt the full force of their displeasure.

Bush's representatives have alleged fraud in the presidential elections held on 21 November, which ended in victory for the current prime minister, Viktor Yanukovich, who is regarded as pro-Russian. Meanwhile, Soros's activists have marched in support of the west's favoured candidate for president, Viktor Yushchenko, and have provided the visiting media and election observers with allegations of fraud and intimidation.

What maddens them so is that Mr. Bush is vindicating their ideals in the world--he was supposed to be a moronic oil man.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:22 PM


57% Have Unfavorable Opinion of France (Rasmussen Reports, November 17, 2004)

Fifty-seven percent (57%) of American voters have an unfavorable view of France. A Rasmussen Reports survey found that just 25% have a favorable opinion of that nation.

In fact, more Americans believe France is our enemy (31%) in the War on Terror than believe Jacques Chirac's country is our ally (22%). A plurality, 43%, believe that France's role is somewhere in between ally and enemy.

These numbers stand in stark contrast to Great Britain. Seventy-eight percent (78%) of Americans have a favorable opinion of Tony Blair's country while only 9% have an unfavorable view. Eighty-three percent (83%) of Americans view Great Britain as our ally in the War on Terror.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:10 PM


Chinese PM Redirects Blame for Currency Rates to Washington (Heda Bayron, 29 November 2004, VOA News)

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao has rejected pressure for exchange rate reforms and criticized the United States for not doing its part to keep the dollar from weakening. Washington has been calling on China to adopt a flexible exchange rate system to ease pressure on the dollar and reduce the U.S. trade deficit.

Inactions have consequences.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:07 PM


Senior Hamas Leader Holds Out Possibility of Cease-Fire with Israel (Sonja Pace, 29 November 2004, VOA news)

A senior leader of the Islamic militant group Hamas says his organization will not stand in the way of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement if it is fair for the Palestinians. He also held out prospects for a long term cease-fire with Israel.

Sheik Hassan Yusef is the top Hamas leader in the West Bank, and his comments are the most moderate a member of the group has made publicly.

Hamas has never recognized the right of Israel to exist and has carried out dozens of attacks against Israelis during the past four years of violence, but Sheik Yusef indicated the group may be re-thinking its strategy as it explores new avenues in a post-Arafat era.

Violence has dropped off considerably since Mr. Arafat's death on November 11, with the interim Palestinian leadership and the Israeli government seemingly eager for a calm transition.

Hamas is on the verge of being just another political party.

Posted by David Cohen at 2:59 PM


Wary Court Considers Medical Marijuana (Gina Holland, AP, 11/29/04)

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled against the government in a divided opinion that found federal prosecution of medical marijuana users is unconstitutional if the marijuana is not sold, transported across state lines or used for non-medicinal purposes.
This case is a no-lose proposition. A national drug policy is the only practicable drug policy, if we are to have a drug policy at all. This is certainly the position of the "medical marijuana" lobby (and their idiot step-children, the hemp mob), who are only vaguely pretending that their goal isn't to decriminalize pot.

But if the plaintiffs win, on the theory that Congress can't regulate in-state growth, transportation and sale of marijuana, it will be a huge blow to the whole, ugly edifice of the anticonstitutional regulatory state.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:11 PM


How Kerry whistleblower suffered for truth (MARY LANEY, November 29, 2004, Chicago Sun-Times)

[Steve] Gardner told this story and others to radio stations and he wrote a piece for the local paper. Then, he says, he received a phone call from John Hurley, the veterans organizer for Kerry's campaign. Hurley, Gardner says, asked him to come out for Kerry. He told Hurley to leave him alone and that he'd never be for Kerry. It was then Gardner says, he was threatened with, "You better watch your step. We can look into your finances."

Next, Gardner said he received a call from Douglas Brinkley, the author of Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War. Brinkley told Gardner he was calling only to "fact check" the book -- which was already in print. "I told him that the guy in the book is not the same guy I served with. I told him Kerry was a coward. He would patrol the middle of the river. The canals were dangerous. He wouldn't go there unless he had another boat pushing him."

Days later, Brinkley called again, warning Gardner to expect some calls. It seems Brinkley had used the "fact checking" conversation to write an inflammatory article about Gardner for The article, implying that Gardner was politically motivated, appeared under the headline "The 10th Brother."

Twenty-four hours later, Gardner got an e-mail from his company, Millennium Information Services, informing him that his services would no longer be necessary. He was laid off in an e-mail -- by the same man who only days before had congratulated him for his exemplary work in a territory which covered North and South Carolina. The e-mail stated that his position was being eliminated. Since then, he's seen the company advertising for his old position. Gardner doesn't have the money to sue to get the job back.

"I'm broke. I've been hurt every way I can be hurt. I have no money in the bank but am doing little bits here and there to pay the bills," he said.

All the millions of dollars raised by Gardner and his fellow Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, and all the proceeds from John O'Neill's book, Unfit for Command, go to families of veterans, POWs and MIAs.

And, even though Gardner is broke and jobless for speaking out, the husband and father of three says he'd do it all over again. He says it wasn't for politics. It was for America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:57 PM


Bush's victory was more than 'moral values' (Eric Black, November 26, 2004, Minneapolis Star Tribune)

"Moral values" voters were not the key to understanding President's Bush's election victory, according to an analysis by University of Minnesota political scientist Larry Jacobs.

Jacobs argues that changes in the partisan makeup of the electorate and the difficulty of defeating an incumbent president during an economic recovery were more critical than the moral-values factor. [...]

Another key factor in Bush's victory, Jacobs argued in his paper, is that the economy wasn't as bad as Kerry needed it to be.

The rule of thumb, developed by political scientists who have studied indicators of election outcomes, is that the incumbent usually will win if the gross domestic product rises by 2.6 percent or more in the second quarter of the election year.

GDP rose by 3.3 percent in the second quarter of 2004 and 3.7 percent in the third quarter.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:50 PM


MOZILLA MANIA: Volunteers spread word of Firefox (K. Oanh Ha, 11/29/04, San Jose Mercury News)

By day, Alexander Vincent is a mild-mannered secretary for a Vallejo real estate broker. By night, he's an online crusader protecting users of a new Internet browser from glitches and security bugs. If he were a superhero, you might call him Mozilla Man.

In fact, Vincent is part of a worldwide army of Mozilla men and women who believe in freedom, progress and the inalienable right to an open source browser.

Their weapon of faith is Firefox, a free browser created by the non-profit Mozilla Foundation as an alternative to Microsoft's ubiquitous Internet Explorer. Officially released this month, Firefox is converting a growing number of Internet users -- and nibbling away at Microsoft's dominance.

Vincent is one of roughly 2,000 volunteer evangelists who see their mission as freeing millions of computer users from the tyranny of Internet Explorer.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:17 PM


Evolutionary Psychology and Its True Believers (Andrew Ferguson, March 19, 2001, Weekly Standard)

It's become commonplace to point out that of modernity's three most influential thinkers—Marx, Freud, and Darwin—only Darwin enters the twenty-first century with his reputation intact. But Darwin has troubles of his own. The troubles come not only from the right, where creationists and other religiously minded conservatives nip around the ankles of evolutionary theory, but also from the left, where social scientists, and even some real scientists, worry about the ends to which Darwin's great idea might be put.

It's a particular kind of Darwinism that has the left-wingers worried. Twenty-five years ago it ran under the name sociobiology; since then it has been slightly modified and rechristened "evolutionary psychology." Under either name it is an ambitious enterprise that claims to explain the patterns of human behavior—everything from child-rearing practices to religion to shopping habits—as a consequence of Darwinian natural selection. Sociobiology (or evolutionary psychology, or neo-Darwinism; we can use the terms interchangeably) has become a favorite of such conservative polemicists as Charles Murray, James Q. Wilson, Tom Wolfe, and Francis Fukuyama. At the same time, polemicists on the left compare it to Nazism (polemicists on the left compare lots of things to Nazism, of course, but now they seem to mean it).

Right-wingers suddenly embracing Darwin, while left-wingers try furiously to contain him—we've come a long way from the Scopes monkey trial. This makes for one of the more unexpected disputes in recent intellectual history, though it's hard to keep the sides straight without a program. Luckily, a spate of recent books helps the layman put the bickering in perspective. And as good a place as any to begin is with Alas, Poor Darwin: Arguments Against Evolutionary Psychology, a collection of essays edited by Hilary and Steven Rose and published late last year.

Hilary is a sociologist, Steven a biologist, but both, more pertinently, are grizzled veterans of the 1960s New Left. So are their contributors, among them the postmodern theorist and architect Charles Jencks and the Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould. Alas, Poor Darwin is merely the latest in a series of essay collections, going back to the late 1970s, that Steven Rose has edited for the purpose of placing sociobiology beyond the bounds of polite society. One of his earlier collections, Not in Our Genes (1984), drew such a blistering review from the sociobiologist Richard Dawkins that Rose threatened to sue for libel. These scientists don't fool around.

Rose sums up the sociobiological view neatly: "It claims to explain all aspects of human behavior, and then culture and society, on the basis of universal features of human nature that found their final evolutionary form during the infancy of our species some 100,000-600,000 years ago." Roaming the African savanna for thousands of centuries, homo sapiens adapted to environmental challenges through the process of natural selection, developing the genetic tendencies that shape our behavior today. The application of this view knows no limit. As Rose points out, sociobiology has got into our "cultural drinking water." It's not at all unusual to switch on, say, the Today show—if you're the sort of person who switches on the Today show—and see one or another pop psychologist tracing, say, the American male's love for golf to the evolutionary development of the species: The golf course's rolling landscape, dotted with water and clumps of trees, appeals to our genetic memories of the long-ago savanna.

"It is the argument of the authors of this book," writes Rose in his introduction, "that the claims of [sociobiology] in the fields of biology, psychology, anthropology, sociology, cultural studies, and philosophy are for the most part not merely mistaken, but culturally pernicious"—not just bad science but bad politics, too: right-wing politics. Roughly half the essays in the book are explicitly political, though the political objections bubble unmistakably through the others. [...]

As several essayists note in Alas, Poor Darwin, the ascendancy of evolutionary psychology in the late 1970s and 1980s coincided with the rise of Reaganism and Thatcherism in our politics. "The political agenda," writes Rose, "is transparently part of a right-wing libertarian attack on collectivity, above all the welfare state."

Some of the essayists have another beef: Far worse than playing politics, sociobiologists are practicing religion . Perhaps the most amusing feature of the debates between sociobiologists and their critics is the ferocity with which each side accuses the other of harboring religious sentiments, as though nothing could be more contemptible. When they get really mad the combatants hurl imprecations like "true believer" and "choirmaster." Stephen Jay Gould calls sociobiologists "Darwinian fundamentalists." His opposite number, Richard Dawkins, says that critics like Gould are "demonological theologians." Dorothy Nelkin, a sociologist from New York University, is on Gould's side. She devotes her essay in Alas, Poor Darwin to arguing that sociobiology is merely religion in disguise and, for that reason (though she doesn't have to say so explicitly), illegitimate as either science or philosophy.

Given that every prominent sociobiologist, from Pinker to Dawkins to Wilson, has ardently declared his atheism, you might think Nelkin has a difficult case to make. Dawkins, who is the most outspoken in this regard, calls religious belief a "virus of the mind" and says that anyone who believes that the existence of the universe implies the existence of a creator is by definition "scientifically illiterate." Wilson is emphatic that religion and science are incompatible, and that the practical achievements of science make religion intellectually untenable. Sociobiology routinely dismisses religious belief as a delusion that long ago may have had some "adaptive function," helping humans to survive and flourish, but which is no longer necessary.

In what sense, then, is evolutionary psychology a religion? "Scientists who call themselves evolutionary psychologists," Nelkin writes, "are addressing questions about meaning, about why things happen, about the ultimate ground of nature. . . . More than a scientific theory, evolutionary psychology is a quasi-religious narrative, providing a simple and compelling answer to complex and enduring questions concerning the case of good and evil, the basis of moral responsibility and age-old questions about the nature of human nature."

Anyone familiar with evolutionary psychology will see her point. One of the first things a layman notices upon wading into the literature is the grandiosity of its claims. The titles of the books, by both popularizers and scientists, are spectacular. Wilson himself has written On Human Nature and Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge; Robert Wright, who used to be a journalist before he moved on to much, much larger things, writes books with such subtitles as Why We Are the Way We Are and The Logic of Human Destiny. Other sociobiology titles: The Web of Life, Evolution and the Meaning of Life, The Origins of Virtue, and The Biology of Morality. The hyperbole is more than a publisher's marketing ploy. This is really the way sociobiologists think.

So of course the immodesty extends beyond the titles. "If the theory of natural selection is correct," Wright wrote, "then essentially everything about the human mind should be intelligible in these [Darwinian] terms. . . . Slowly but unmistakably, a new world view is emerging," he went on. "Once truly grasped . . . it can entirely alter one's perception of social reality." Laura Betzig, editor of a collection of sociobiology essays called, typically enough, Human Nature, introduces the book like so: "It's happened. We have finally figured out where we come from, why we're here, and who we are."

Sociobiology is a theory of simply everything. Darwin's original version of natural selection was already comprehensive, claiming to account for almost all the physical attributes of the planet's animal and vegetable life. But evolutionary psychologists extend Darwin's principle to bear on the mental life and cultural practices of human beings. Like most religions, evolutionary psychology tells a story—a myth, in the sociological sense of the word. [...]

Here's an example of how difficult it is to keep the sides straight in the sociobiology debates. Dawkins is the scourge of sociobiology's left-wing critics. But he is also a self-described man of the "liberal left." The same goes for Robert Trivers, a founder of sociobiology, and for two of the most prominent neo-Darwinian popularizers—the socialist economist Robert Frank and Peter Singer, the "controversial bioethicist," as the newspapers like to describe him. Together they constitute a left-wing rump of the sociobiology movement. And it seems they understand the ramifications of their creed far better than its enthusiasts on the right.

This is especially true of Singer, whose 1999 monograph A Darwinian Left: Politics, Evolution, and Cooperation, offers a fitting note on which to close this survey of sociobiology and its critics. "Can the left swap Marx for Darwin?" Singer catchily asked. His answer is a resounding: You bet. "The left needs a new paradigm," he wrote, in a mirror image of Arnhart's assertion that "conservatives need Charles Darwin." And the new paradigm is sociobiology (though he rejects the term itself, presumably because it is ideologically fraught). "It is time," Singer goes on, "for the Left to take seriously the fact that we are evolved animals, and that we bear the evidence of our inheritance, not only in our anatomy and our DNA, but in our behavior too."

This fact, says Singer, demands that leftists make a few concessions. They should acknowledge that certain kinds of behavior—sex roles in child-rearing, for example—are cross-cultural and probably arise from a fixed human nature. They should abandon their belief in the perfectibility of man and other utopian schemes. But once these concessions to science are granted, Singer makes clear, the old socialist agenda can advance unimpeded. His Darwinian argument for the redistribution of wealth and the equalization of incomes is too elaborate to be recounted here, but it is no more implausible than the arguments made by right-wing Darwinians for, say, the free market.

What is most interesting is the depth of Singer's devotion to sociobiology, to the "Darwinian paradigm." It is interesting, but not surprising. He believes that the enduring value of sociobiology will be its use in the "debunking or discrediting of politically influential, non-Darwinian beliefs and ideas." Prominent among these is the distinction that has traditionally been made between human beings and animals. "Speciesism" is a word that Peter Singer, like many sociobiologists, takes seriously and employs liberally as an imprecation. "Darwinian thinking," he writes, "tells us that we have been too ready to assume a fundamental difference in kind between human beings and nonhuman animals." With Darwin as our guide to understanding human beings, we are prepared for a "revolution in our attitudes."

Students of Singer will be familiar with this argument, and where it leads. The reason the newspapers nowadays tag Singer as a "controversial bioethicist" is that he is—to put it more plainly—the world's most celebrated advocate of infanticide. "Killing Babies Isn't Always Wrong" was the title of a famous essay he published in the London Spectator in 1995. Singer's line of reasoning goes roughly like this: If we leave aside the arbitrary bias of speciesism, we see that moral respect is owed to organisms on the basis of their attributes. We agree that any being that can reason, that can recognize others, that possesses some form of self-consciousness is a being worthy of moral respect.

Singer believes, with good reason, that sociobiology validates his new, non-speciesist understanding. That understanding has both philosophical and practical effects. One philosophical consequence is to elevate the moral status of animals, like cats and dogs, who possess some form of self-consciousness and can recognize others over time. Another is to lower the moral status of human beings, like Alzheimer's victims, newborn infants, and the mentally disabled, who may not possess such attributes. He worries about "granting every member of our own species—psychopaths, infants, and the profoundly intellectually disabled included—a moral status superior to that of dogs, pigs, chimpanzees, and dolphins." The practical consequences are just as direct. Singer has no trouble advocating euthanasia for old people with reduced mental capacities. He has no trouble advocating a twenty-eight-day waiting period for parents to assess the mental and biological health of a newborn, before deciding whether to let it live.

Nothing in sociobiology requires an acceptance of infanticide or euthanasia, needless to say, any more than it requires political conservatism or liberalism. But Peter Singer is the real thing: a True Believer in the new Darwinian faith.

And it isn't hard to see why sociobiology is Singer's religion of choice. Subtly and quietly, it removes the barriers that have traditionally stood in the way of "controversial" views like his—barriers put in place by other, older religions. The new Darwinism may tell us nothing about whether women should serve in the military, or whether family-friendly tax credits are a good idea, or how much income should be redistributed to whom and why. But it does try to tell us what a human being is—and isn't. And before too long, after a few more years in the drinking water, its "controversial" views won't seem controversial at all.

Thanks to Ed Driscoll for showing us the immensely cool Wayback Machine.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:55 AM


Iraq's lost lessons (Caroline Glick, Nov. 25, 2004, THE JERUSALEM POST)

Something remarkable is happening in Iraq. There is a civil war going on and the terrorists are losing. US Marine commanders in Fallujah reported Wednesday that they seized enough weapons in the city "for the insurgency to take over the whole country."

Iraq is currently undergoing a post-Saddam revolution. Last April, when the Marines first attempted to take over Fallujah from the Sunni terrorists, they were joined by an Iraqi army brigade led by a general from the former regime. His troops quickly went AWOL and joined the ranks of the terrorists in fighting American forces. Under pressure from the UN, the Coalition Provisional Authority, led by then-viceroy L. Paul Bremer, lost its nerve to continue fighting. The Marines fell back to the city's outskirts and enabled the likes of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Palestinian-Jordanian arch terrorist, to take over Fallujah.

This month's combined US-Iraqi offensive into Fallujah was different. It was marked by tight cooperation between the Iraqi and American forces on the ground, and ordered by Iraq's Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, who didn't back down even when three of his relatives were kidnapped by the terrorists. The new Iraqi army that is now being trained is the first instance of an Arab army to be developed to fight Arab and Islamic terrorists. This is an extraordinary accomplishment. Iraqi soldiers are now fighting and dying to purge their country of Arab terrorists, many of whom are also Iraqis.

In addition to the new Iraqi government's determination to fight on the side of the US on the battlefields, it is also fighting the intellectual war against terror.

Thus far even the most optimistic would have to say the war on terror has gone far more quickly than we'd have predicted and Iraq, but even more so Afghanistan, worked out better than expected.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:46 AM


Kellogg CEO Chosen for Commerce Post (DEB RIECHMANN, 11/29/04, Associated Press)

President Bush on Monday chose Carlos Gutierrez, chief executive officer of the Kellogg Co., to be secretary of Commerce, administration officials said. [...]

"Carlos's family came to America from Cuba when he was a boy," Bush said in the Roosevelt Room. "He learned English from a bellhop in a Miami hotel and later became an American citizen. When his family eventually settled in Mexico City, Carlos took his first job for Kellogg as a truck driver, delivering Frosted Flakes to local stores."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:43 AM


For Democrats in red states, 2006 daunting (Amy Fagan, November 29, 2004, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Democratic senators in the states that President Bush won will face a tough road to re-election in 2006, Republicans say, with their sights set most eagerly on two Democrats named Nelson -- Sens. Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Bill Nelson of Florida. [...]

In Nebraska, Gov. Mike Johanns, a Republican, looks like Mr. Nelson's probable challenger for 2006, and Mr. Bush is expected to campaign on his behalf. In Florida, Republicans will be gunning for Mr. Nelson and hope to recruit a big name such as term-limited Gov. Jeb Bush to challenge him. [...]

Political analysts say Sens. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico and Kent Conrad of North Dakota could have problems too, depending on whom Republicans find to challenge them. [...]

Sen. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia -- also a red-state Democrat up for re-election in 2006 -- will be re-elected if he chooses to run for a ninth term at age 88, analysts say. But if he retires, Democrats will have a headache trying to keep the seat in a state that gave Mr. Bush a 13-percentage-point triumph.

Karl Rove and Liddy Dole just need to recruit some good candidates and the GOP can get up over 60.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:01 AM


How to Tell a Terrorist From a Freedom Fighter (Tom Engelhardt, 11/29/04, Tom Dispatch)

Consider this as a description:

The "rebels" or "freedom fighters" are part of a nationwide "resistance movement." While many of them are local, even tribal, and fight simply because they are outraged by the occupation of their country, hundreds of others among the "resistance fighters" – young Arabs -- are arriving from as far away as "Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Jordan," not to speak of Saudi Arabia and Algeria, to engage in jihad, ready as one of them puts it, to stay in the war "until I am martyred." Fighting for their "Islamic ideals," "they are inspired by a sense of moral outrage and a religious devotion heightened by frequent accounts of divine miracles in the war." They slip across the country's borders to fight the "invader" and the "puppet government" its officials have set up in the capital in their "own image." The invader's sway, however, "extends little beyond the major cities, and even there the… freedom fighters often hold sway by night and sometimes even by day."

Sympathetic as they may be, the rebels are badly overwhelmed by the firepower of the occupying superpower and are especially at risk in their daring raids because the enemy is "able to operate with virtual impunity in the air." The superpower's soldiers are sent out from their bases and the capital to "make sweeps, but chiefly to search and destroy, not to clear and hold." Its soldiers, known for their massive human rights abuses and the cruelty of their atrocities, have in some cases been reported to press "on the throats of prisoners to force them to open their mouths while the guards urinate into them, [as well as] setting police dogs on detainees, raping women in front of family members and other vile acts."

On their part, the "guerrillas," armed largely with Russian and Chinese rifles and rocket propelled grenade launchers, have responded with the warfare of the weak. They have formed car-bombing squads and use a variety of cleverly constructed wheelbarrow, bicycle, suitcase, and roadside bombs as well as suicide operations performed by volunteers chosen from among the foreign jihadists. They engage in assassinations of, for example, university intellectuals and other sabotage activities in the capital and elsewhere aimed at killing the occupying troops and their sympathizers. They behead hostages to instill fear in the other side. Funding for the resistance comes, in part, from supporters in sympathetic Islamic countries, including Saudi Arabia. However, "if the mujaheddin are ever to realize their goal of forcing [the occupiers] out, they will need more than better arms and training, more than their common faith. They will need to develop a genuinely unified resistance… Above all, the analysts say, they will need to make the war… even costlier and more difficult for the [occupiers] than it is now."

It's easy enough to identify this composite description, right? Our war in Iraq, as portrayed perhaps in the Arab press and on Arab websites. Well, as it happens, actually not. All of the above (with the exception of the material on bombs, which comes from Steve Coll's book Ghost Wars, and on the beheading of hostages, which comes from an Amnesty International report) is from either the statements of American officials or coverage in either the Washington Post or the New York Times of the Afghan anti-Soviet jihad of the 1980s, fostered, armed, and funded to the tune of billions of dollars by the Central Intelligence Agency with the help of the Saudi and Pakistani intelligence services.

What can you, or need you, say about someone who can't tell his own country from the Soviet Union?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:42 AM


President to overhaul economic team quickly: Aides said President Bush is seeking a more skilled economic team that can relate better to Congress and be more effective in dealing with financial markets. (MIKE ALLEN, 11/29/04, Washington Post)

The aides said the replacement of four of the five top economic officials -- including the Treasury and Commerce secretaries, with only budget director Joshua Bolten likely to remain -- is part of Bush's preparation for sending Congress an ambitious second-term domestic agenda.

Administration officials previously had signaled they would move gradually to replace the economic team, but the White House now is indicating it may move more quickly to convey a fresh start. Aides also indicated Bush is considering reaching beyond the kind of administration loyalists who will staff key national security posts in the second term.

Republican officials said Bush's economic team has been weaker than his national security advisors, and that the president believes he needs aides who can relate better to Congress and be more effective in dealing with financial markets and television interviewers. A more skilled team is essential, the aides said, because of the complex and politically challenging agenda of overhauling Social Security to add private investment accounts and simplifying the tax code. [...]

One senior administration official said Treasury Secretary John Snow has been invited to stay as long as he wants to, as long as it is not very long. Friends say Chief of Staff Andrew Card is one possibility to replace him. Bolten also could move over.

But Republican officials said Bush is also considering well-known officials from outside the administration, including New York Gov. George Pataki, a Republican. Conservatives are pushing for former Sen. Phil Gramm, a Republican from Texas.

Certainly hard to believe Andy Card plans to spend four more years at the grinding job of Chief of Staff.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:18 AM

WELCOME TO THE POST-POST-9/11 WORLD:>Retailers' Early Holiday Present: With shoppers flooding stores, experts say Thanksgiving weekend spending is likely to have beat last year's. (Annette Haddad, November 29, 2004, LA Times)

The holiday shopping season got off to a strong start over the weekend as consumers handed the nation's retailers an early Christmas gift.

The National Retail Federation, the industry's main trade group, said Sunday that 133 million people hit the stores, plunking down $22.8 billion. That was more than 10% of the $220 billion that merchants hope to rake in by the end of December.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:15 AM


US gives euro a long rope (Alex Wallenwein, 11/29/04, Asia Times)

It looks as though the US strategy in this transcontinental currency battle is to give the euro's masters what they want - except way too much of it, way too quickly - in order to overload the euro system and make it collapse.

The European Central Bank (ECB) was instituted by the euro's creators to preside over an orderly transition away from a dollar-dependent world to a more versatile arrangement wherein the euro fulfills a quasi-reserve function that will eventually give way to gold being the ultimate international currency reserve, with all the fiats freely floating against gold instead of against each other.

But the road there is a long and winding one, and not even all of those currently "in charge" (international central bankers) are fully aware that this is the ultimate goal. Rather, that unstated goal was wrapped up implicitly in the ECB's role of guaranteeing price stability, rather than using interest rates to jump-start an otherwise faltering economy as the Federal Reserve Board does in the United States.

"Price stability" means that the currency is intentionally not used as a means for gunning Euroland's economic engines. [...]

The Fed and the administration of President George W Bush know that the euro's ultimate aim is to slowly attract foreign investors and central banks to the euro and away from the dollar. But they also know that an explosively upward rocketing euro will wreck the Europeans' major economies in a heartbeat. As a result, the US game is to allow the dollar to drop lower - and faster than the Europeans' fragile economies can tolerate.

What financial commentators call a policy of "benign neglect" turns out not to be so benign at all: by pursuing its current strategy, the dollar establishment is killing three birds with one stone: they get the benefit of (1) higher US export-competitiveness and better economic performance, (2) simultaneously lower European Union export competitiveness resulting in economic stagnation, and (3) shift the entire burden of smoothing out the dollar's forex movements on to the Europeans' backs.

If the Europeans are willing to trade their economies for the illusion that they still matter, why not exploit them?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:06 AM


What makes the US a Christian nation: Few people doubt that the United States is a Christian nation. But discontinuity makes American Christianity a baffling quantity to outsiders; only a small minority of American Protestants can point to a direct link to spiritual ancestors a century ago. Yet it is the very nature of America that allows Christianity repeatedly to re-create itself there. (Spengler, 11/29/04, Asia Times)

Intellectual elites keep turning away from faith and toward philosophy - something that Franz Rosenzweig defined as a small child sticking his fingers in his ears while shouting "I can't hear you!" in the face of the fear of death. But one cannot expect the people to become philosophers (or, for that matter, Jews).

My correspondents point out frequently that one can trace no obvious connection between the religion of America's founders and today's American evangelicals. For that matter, observes one critic, there is no direct connection between the 14th-century English reformer and Bible translator John Wycliffe and the 16th-century Lutheran Bible translator John Tyndale - none, I would add, except for the Bible.

Two combustible elements unite every century or so to re-create American Christianity from its ashes. The first is America's peculiar sociology: it has no culture of its own, that is, no set of purely terrestrial associations with places, traditions, ghosts, and whatnot, passed from generation to generation as a popular heritage. Americans leave their cultures behind on the pier when they make the decision to immigrate. The second is the quantity that unites Wycliffe with Tyndale, Tyndale with the pilgrim leader John Winthrop, and Winthrop with the leaders of the Great Awakenings - and that is the Bible itself. The startling assertion that the Creator of Heaven and Earth loves mankind and suffers with it, and hears the cry of innocent blood and the complaint of the poor and downtrodden, is a seed that falls upon prepared ground in the United States.

Within the European frame of reference, there is no such thing as American Christendom - no centuries-old schools of theology, no tithes, no livings, no Church taxes, no establishment - there is only Christianity, which revives itself with terrible force in unknowing re-enactment of the past.

It is the great peculiarity of America that John Winthrop and Jonathan Edwards would easily recognize our society as one they helped to create, still struggling with the exact same questions that troubled them. Our greatness would seem to lie in the fact of the struggle itself.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:55 AM


America is losing the last mile in Iraq" (Thomas Friedman, International Herald Tribune, November 29th, 2004)

Improv time is over. This is crunch time. Iraq will be won or lost in the next few months. But it won't be won with high rhetoric. It will be won on the ground in a war over the last mile.

Winning in Iraq is now about who has the smarts, the focus, the gumption, the strategy, the coordination skills and the follow-through to get control of the last mile. Can America pull off a decent election in Iraq, with some Sunni participation, and produce a reasonably legitimate government there, for which the police and the army will fight, or will the insurgents thwart that? Can America connect the electricity and sewers and get more jobs going, so more Iraqis are invested in peace, or will the insurgents thwart that? Can America make sure that the 570-plus election polling places will be secure from suicide bombers, or will the insurgents thwart that? Can America finally build an effective U.S. information campaign in Iraq and the Arab world, or will we cede the field to Al-Jazeera instead? Can we neutralize meddling by the Iranians and Syrians in the Iraqi elections, or will they outfox us?

Wars are fought for political ends. Soldiers can only do so much. And the last mile in every war is about claiming the political fruits. The bad guys in Iraq can lose every mile on every road, but if they beat America on the last mile - because they are able to intimidate better than America is able to coordinate, protect, inform, invest and motivate - they will win and America will lose.

Can Americans take pride in their sacrifices to make the world and the Middle East safer and give the Iraqis the chance of a lifetime, or will the New York Times thwart that?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:46 AM


Norway's Heroin Lows
: The model welfare state is a prime market for the rising Afghan opium trade. Mounting overdoses and ruined lives are the result. (Jeffrey Fleishman, November 29, 2004, LA Times)

She said she only smoked heroin, but there were needle bruises on her neck. She said she loved her boyfriend, but she stood on a corner and offered herself to others. She said she was a girl, but then remembered she had become a woman. She said she wanted to quit, but she knew she wouldn't.

Across town in a brick chapel, Father Jon Atle Wetaas lighted three votive candles. "These are for peace and reflection," the priest said. "We never know what we'll meet out there." Then he and a nurse loaded a camper with clean needles, medicine and coffee and drove the streets searching for some of the estimated 5,000 to 7,000 heroin addicts that shadow this Norwegian port city.

They came upon the woman on the corner, a shattered 18-year-old desperately looking to fill her empty syringe. Her name was Katrin Nygard Helgeland.

"I try to quit," she said, her face pale in the autumn half-light. "I get depressed, and I run away inside myself."

Clean and tidy Oslo, the capital of a nation with one of the highest standards of living and some of the best social programs in the world, is one of Europe's heroin havens. Three years ago, it recorded more overdoses than any other major European city. [...]

The heroin scourge has been creeping through Oslo for decades. It surfaced in the late 1960s in the park near the palace and spread along the cobbled pedestrian mall until it landed at the plata, the park adjoining the train station. What began as a druggy counterculture movement of "flower power hippies," Eeg said, evolved into a population of medical and psychological outcasts that is testing Norway's sympathy for the downtrodden.

The plata had become a sinister yet fabled hangout for teenagers wanting to experiment with heroin and for prostitutes, who could sometimes be seen lifting their skirts to insert needles near their hips. "It was attracting boys who bought drugs and went home," said Gjengedal, who estimated that Oslo had about 60 street-level dealers. "It was turning them into users and creating other crimes. We had to move against it."

Heroin is smoked throughout much of the Continent. But Norway, with its history of secret heavy drinking to skirt temperance campaigns, is known for intravenous drug users seeking stronger highs. This binge mentality, social workers say, increases the risk of overdose because addicts frequently mix alcohol and depressants with heroin. Over the decades, the problem has spread beyond Oslo, and the government estimates that Norway has about 14,000 addicts.

In 1990, the nation had 75 overdose deaths. Government statistics show that the number of fatalities rose dramatically — to 270 in 1998 and 338 in 2001. The amount of heroin coming out of Afghanistan fell in 2002 and 2003, and the number of Norwegian deaths dropped to 210, then 172.

The decline also was attributed to less potent heroin and street-level medical and shelter services, such as those run by Franciscan Aid and the Church City Mission. In another attempt to limit overdoses, Oslo is expected to open a "public injection room" next year, where addicts can shoot up under the supervision of nurses.

Even though the number of heroin deaths is increasing, it's too early to determine if that's part of a trend. In 2003, Oslo had 53 overdoses. By October of this year, there were 64. Authorities attributed 11 deaths during an 18-day period in May to a powerful batch of heroin — another indication that purer Afghan drugs are reaching the market.

The problem tarnishes Norway's image as a country of splendid fjords and forests.

Thought moral permissiveness was supposed to solve all these problems?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:38 AM


Big guns roll up to bombard Brown (BILL JAMIESON AND WILLIAM LYONS, 11/29/04, The Scotsman)

A HUNDRED senior business figures, academics and economists have called on Chancellor Gordon Brown to cut taxes.

The appeal, carried in a letter to the Financial Times today, comes as the Chancellor puts the finishing touches to Thursday’s Pre-Budget Report.

A combination of lower-than-forecast tax receipts and higher public spending may force higher taxes next year.

But today’s letter - signed by, among others, Sir Ronald Halstead, president of the Engineering Industries Association, Sir John Craven, chairman of Lonmin, hotelier Sir Rocco Forte and Tim Ingram, chairman of Caledonia Investments - says reducing the tax burden should now be a priority for the UK.

"Recent large rises in public spending and taxation have not delivered commensurate improvements in public services," they write.

"Instead, the priority should now shift to reducing taxes on wealth-creating businesses and on the millions of families for whom the ever-increasing tax take is a damaging imposition on their ability to support themselves in raising children and saving for retirement.

"We simply do not accept that the government can get better value for each extra pound it spends than those who have to pay the extra pound in tax."

Karl Rove will feel welcome.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:24 AM


Stuffing your face doesn't make you fat - it's your genes (Jim White, The Telegraph, November 29th, 2004)

It was while watching the news the other night that I was called something I had never been called before. I had just observed that Mark Mardell, the BBC's estimable political correspondent, could do with losing a pound or two, that maybe his report about the Queen's Speech might have been enhanced were the viewer's concentration not distracted by the way he had attempted to corral an obstreperous waistline by fastening tight all three of the buttons on his jacket, when from the sofa came the suggestion that I was completely out of order.

"You are," I was told, "such a fattist." [...]

"Yes, fattist. And you know why you're fattist?" I was asked. "Because it's not his fault. You're attacking him for something he can't help. It's in his genes."

Indeed, this was the news delivered from the world of genes last week (possibly in the very same bulletin in which all eyes were drawn to that button about to explode like a champagne cork from the midst of the Mardell jacket). Scientists in America are beginning to conclude that we are far more enslaved to our inheritance than was previously believed.

We have long known that genes determine the colour of our eyes and how long we will live; now it seems they are in charge of virtually every facet of our behaviour. There is, for instance, growing evidence of a monogamy gene. Swans have it, certain Madagascan marmosets have it, but, so the boffins tell us, only about 60 per cent of the human population has it (a proportion believed to be even lower in certain parts of Brighton during the party political conference season).

Research is also beginning to suggest that it is those ferociously determined genes of ours that make the decision about whether we will fall to the siren lure of chocolate cake and take the car, instead of walking 100 yards round the block to stock up on an evening's supply of Mars bars. Presumably, in this energetic brew of competing genetic signals, the free-will gene is a weak, emaciated thing that rarely passes down the generations, bullied aside as it is by all those other character-forming strings of DNA.

From Darwin to Marx to Freud to Skinner to Carl Rogers to all the modern neuro-physicists, geneticists, psychologists, sociologists and other scientists, whether physical or social, respectable or quirky, the constant message has been that somebody or something else is to be blamed for all we are and do.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


BUSH GURU GETS WORLD'S WORST JOB (Paul Gilfeather, Nov 28 2004, Sunday Mirror)

FALTERING Tory leader Michael Howard has been thrown a political life-line - from the mastermind behind George Bush's victory in the US election.

The shock signing of Karl Rove is all the more amazing as President Bush's right-hand man banned Mr Howard from the White House just three months ago.

The highly-rated strategist discussed the Opposition leader's fading General Election hopes in a trans- atlantic phone call this week.

And during his talks with party chairman Liam Fox he agreed to bury differences over the Iraq war and draw up Mr Howard's masterplan for the May poll.

The development will stun Tony Blair, who is certain to feel betrayed.

The PM effectively backed the Bush re-election drive by refusing to publicly endorse Democrat challenger and Labour ally John Kerry.

Last night Government insiders predicted the move would put the PM's "special relationship" with the President under massive pressure.

Tories need to copy the Republicans, says Duncan Smith (Colin Brown, 29 November 2004, Independent)
Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader, says his successor, Michael Howard, should mirror George Bush's approach to the US presidential campaign by focusing on traditional Conservative values.

The former leader, a friend of the Bush family, reveals in an interview for The Independent today that he is to publish a pamphlet on the lessons that the Tories can learn from the successes of Mr Bush and John Howard in Australia.

He will urge the Tory leaders to focus on 'compassionate conservatism'. He said the key lesson from the US presidential elections and the Australian elections for Mr Howard was to "be true to yourself, be true to your values."

His remarks will dismay Tory modernisers who fear Mr Howard will be tempted to swing further to the right on immigration, law and order, and social issues, to try to close the gap with Labour before the general election.

Tory modernisers? Are they like conservative Democrats?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Complete nuclear bomb plant earmarked for Libya found in South Africa (Douglas Frant and William Rempel, November 29, 2004, LA Times)

Authorities hunting traffickers in nuclear weapons technology recently uncovered an audacious plan to deliver a complete uranium enrichment plant to Libya.

The discovery provides fresh evidence of the reach and sophistication of the Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan's global black market in nuclear know-how and equipment. It also exposes a previously undetected South African branch of the Khan network.

Details of the plot began to emerge in September, when police found the elements of a two-storey steel processing system for the enrichment plant in a factory outside Johannesburg. They were packed in 11 freight containers for shipment to Libya. [...]

Some of the centrifuges for the plant were shipped separately from Malaysia, because the specialised steel needed was not available in South Africa. The interception of that cargo by US and Italian authorities in October 2003 led to the Johannesburg raid and spurred Libya's leader, Muammar Gaddafi, to renounce efforts to develop banned weapons.

In a world where you can buy nuclear weapons factories and get the UN to funnel you money, Saddam Hussein was always a WMD threat.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


NASA's Budgetary Gift Horse (NY Times, 11/29/04)

The space program fared remarkably well in the huge appropriations bill just approved by Congress. NASA got a hefty $16.2 billion budget for fiscal year 2005, only a tiny bit shy of what the administration had requested, and it was given unusual authority to shift money from one program to another.

The agency clearly scored a budgetary coup in a year when most federal programs were ratcheted back to make room for the costly war in Iraq and to alleviate huge deficits.

Funny how the President publicly announces his intention to pursue a big idea yet the Times is surprised every single time he follows up.

November 28, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:30 PM


What Is a Cabinet For?: To serve at the pleasure of the president, not to constrain him. (BRET STEPHENS, November 29, 2004 , Wall Street Journal)

George W. Bush is accused of burying cabinet government for good with his appointments of close confidantes Rice, Alberto Gonzales and Margaret Spellings. Nonsense. Contrary to Andrew Sullivan, a cabinet is not something a president governs with; and contrary to Andrew Jackson, it is not something a president governs around. Ideally, a cabinet is what a president governs through. Now that Mr. Bush has moved his own people into the cabinet, he may at last be able to do just that.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:14 PM


Twins for Julia Roberts (Reuters, November 29, 2004)

Actress Julia Roberts has given birth to twins - a boy and a girl.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 PM


BOOKNOTES: Franklin Pierce: New Hampshire's Favorite Son by Peter Wallner (C-SPAN, November 28, 2004, 8 & 11pm)

Biography of Franklin Pierce, New Hampshire native and 14th president of the United States. Volume covers Pierce to the night of his inauguration.

Franklin Pierce is much reviled in the history books for the imagined sin of not single-handedly avoiding the Civil War, but there was an interesting discussion on Booknotes earler this year, Hawthorne: A Life by Brenda Wineapple (C-SPAN, 1/04/04):
BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Brenda Wineapple, author of "A Life," Hawthorne, how much did politics play in his life?

BRENDA WINEAPPLE, AUTHOR, "HAWTHORNE: A LIFE": It played a much larger role than people have liked to think. He was a political man. He was involved in politics, and he was best friends with arguably one of the worst American presidents, which is saying something.

LAMB: Franklin Pierce.

WINEAPPLE: Franklin Pierce.

LAMB: How did he get to know Franklin Pierce?

WINEAPPLE: They met at college. They were at Bowdoin together. Pierce was a year ahead of Hawthorne. Pierce was a very gregarious, outgoing, warm and genial person, and he and Hawthorne became friends. They actually marched in a little group called the Bowdoin Cadets. One doesn`t think of Hawthorne marching, and certainly not marching behind anyone, but they did. And also, politics at Bowdoin was very important. They were both what became Democrats. They were Jeffersonian Republicans at the time, so that was a very important connection between the two men then. And they stayed friends for their entire lives.

LAMB: Bowdoin had, I think, 38 people in the graduating class that included Pierce and Nathaniel Hawthorne, but there were three -- I mean, three congressmen came out of that same class.

WINEAPPLE: Yes. Pierce was actually the class ahead of Hawthorne. It was -- Hawthorne`s class, which was the class of `25 was very well known because, I think, John Russworm (ph), who was the first president of Liberia, the colony, the American colony where emancipated slaves were sent for a while -- he was a member of the Bowdoin class. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, from a whole other perspective, was a member of the Bowdoin class. Another very good friend of Hawthorne`s, Horatio Bridge (ph), was a member of that class. So it was a famous class, still, I think, in Bowdoin`s annals. [...]

After Hawthorne was married, he and his bride, Sophia (ph) Peabody Hawthorne, moved to Concord, Massachusetts, where they rented a house. They -- she was painting, he was writing. They weren`t making a lot of money. They were -- they were really poor. And so friends of Hawthorne, like Pierce, everybody else he knew -- he knew a number of very political people, John O`Sullivan, the man who coined the term "manifest destiny" -- all worked hard to get Hawthorne almost literally out of the kitchen, because they couldn`t afford hired help and his wife was pregnant, into political appointments.

And they went to Bancroft and whoever else they had to once the Democrats were back in power. Eventually, Hawthorne got the Salem Custom House, which he wanted very much. The family moved back to Salem, and he was there until a rotation in office. Democrats were voted out. The Whigs were voted in. Hawthorne was kicked out, and there was quite a brouhaha. So that was the next major appointment, and that lasted until 1849.

LAMB: As a matter of fact, you wrote, page 380, "He stood for dark, doubt and the Democratic Party."


LAMB: Start with the Democratic Party. What was the Democratic Party back in the 1800s, 1850s?

WINEAPPLE: It developed out of Jackson. It`s a sort of Jacksonian Democrat. And the Democratic Party in those years was more like today`s Republicans. It`s important to sort of remember who became what. The Democrats stood very strongly for states` rights, and as a result, early on, they became a party associated with expansion, manifest destiny, as I said, expanding territories to the west, even to the south. And partly as a consequence of that, they also became associated with pro-slavery. A large part of the Democratic Party was pro-slavery, was a pro-slavery wing. It separated out later on as politics got even more dicey than they were.

But it was also a progressive party in that it was for the working person. It was -- stood against kind of moneyed capitalist aristocracy, say, of Boston, which was associated with the Whigs. So by Hawthorne and then Pierce and his friends at Bowdoin joining with the Jacksonian Democrats, they felt that they were joining with something that was youthful, exciting, exuberant, offered a kind of real hope and egalitarianism for America, which was true, as long as you were white and male.

But that was true, and that was the vision. So it was a kind of -- it was a kind of party, in a sense, of optimism, a kind of party of reform, too, which is interesting because then, later, when it becomes associated with pro-slavery forces, we tend to then think of that party as being conservative, benighted, reactionary. It was more complicated than that.

The Republicans rose out of the Whig Party that was against the Democrats. And the anti-slavery Whigs or the conscience Whigs, and the anti-slavery Democrats joined forces eventually, by 1860, and elected Lincoln as a Republican. Hawthorne stayed true to the Democratic Party all the way through, even though lots of people left it, became either -- if they didn`t become Whigs, that would be too hard, went to the Republicans, because, after all, the Republicans seemed to promise some of the things that the Democrats stood for but also anti-slavery. Hawthorne did not. So he was in the most -- he stayed with the most conservative part of the Democratic Party, which eventually fell apart. [...]

LAMB: Go back to, though, the biography. And almost all the lists you see of books that Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote, they don`t list -- I don`t mean you, but they don`t -- often, you don`t see the list of the biography of Franklin Pierce. How big a book was that?

WINEAPPLE: Oh, that`s interesting. I mean, that`s interesting. I mean, I -- that never dawned on me. You mean how long a book was it?

LAMB: Yes.

WINEAPPLE: It was about 250 pages. It was long enough. I mean, it was...

LAMB: Have you read it?

WINEAPPLE: Have I read it?

LAMB: Yes.

WINEAPPLE: Oh, yes. Oh, it`s fascinating.

LAMB: Why?

WINEAPPLE: Well, first of all, it`s Hawthorne. It has the signature of Hawthorne. The sentences are elegant and beautifully balanced. And he gives on one hand and takes away on the other. He won`t perjure himself. He won`t say, you know, Pierce is a great person. He says Pierce is great for the job, something like that.

But from another point of view, you know, quite -- not just literary, although literary is connected to it, it also demonstrates Hawthorne`s view of the Constitution, of slavery and of politics. He`s not mincing words. He doesn`t have the veil in front of his face. He`s very clear about what he thinks and what he thinks about what Pierce thinks. And because Pierce backs the Constitution, Hawthorne thinks he`s the man for the job because Hawthorne himself believes in the Constitution, which makes sense, when you think about it.

He was a cynical man who was conscious that we`re capable of doing terrible things to one another. And for him law, the Constitution, is a kind of document that prevents demagoguery, the demagoguery of, say, the witch trials or whatever in the -- you know, in the 17th century or the demagoguery that he would be a little bit skeptical about vis-a-vis Lincoln, you know? It prevents mob rule, all of those things. He really believed in the Constitution.

LAMB: But here you have a man that was born in the Northeast, and also Franklin Pierce, from Concord, New Hampshire.


LAMB: And he was a Democrat, elected in 1852, four years only. What was he about? Why was he so pro-slavery?

WINEAPPLE: I -- you know, it`s a terrible one-word answer. I wouldn`t say this about Hawthorne, but the first word that comes to my mind when you ask me that question is stupid.


WINEAPPLE: But that`s not a good answer. Why was he pro-slavery in that way? I think because he lacked the imagination to think of what it really is to be a slave. You know, I mean, I think it was a real failure -- it`s a failure of moral nerve and it`s a failure of imagination that comes to Pierce that he didn`t bother to think about it. He never got beyond the rule of law. So it wasn`t real to him.

Maybe being from the Northeast had something to do with it. Maybe being, as most people were -- whether it was Hawthorne at one extreme or even Theodore Parker at the other extreme -- maybe being racist had something to do with it. But he believed that -- and maybe there was some validity to one argument, that if the institution of slavery -- the institution -- is reprehensible, which it is -- they agreed about that. They disagreed about the means by which it should be changed. And in a sense, Pierce was a quietist. Pierce thought you leave just it alone, and eventually, it will go away. Hawthorne thought that, too, actually.

LAMB: How`d he ever get elected president?


LAMB: Yes.

WINEAPPLE: Dark horse. You know, I mean, the sort of mechanics of the election of 1852 were such that he was able to get in. I don`t remember on which ballot, but eventually, he was able to get in. And it was also because he didn`t -- he offended the least amount of people. He was one of those kinds of candidates that, you know, the South could deal with him. The South thought it was OK. And the North -- well, he was still a Northerner. He`s still, as you said, from Concord, so that he had -- so represented the North and the South. And he tried not to say too much. He wouldn`t talk about the fugitive slave law, for example, even though he was for it. And because people liked him. He was evidently, to meet him, a very personable, charming guy.

LAMB: You say they were together when Nathaniel Hawthorne died?

WINEAPPLE: Yes, they were. As I mentioned, Hawthorne was ill. He`d been progressively ill. It`s hard to say exactly what he had. And he wanted -- he had already taken one failed journey from his house, very tragically, because his editor, one of his editors happened to die on that trip, so Hawthorne`s health clearly didn`t improve, especially to the extent that it was psychologically driven. And his wife, Sophia, thought that it would be good for him to take another trip. The only person he would go with was Franklin Pierce. He loved Pierce. You want to talk about people loving each other, these two men loved each other. And Pierce came to Boston, and Sophia took Nathaniel into Boston, and they went in Pierce`s carriage up through New Hampshire to -- and eventually, they went to Plymouth, and that`s where Hawthorne died, in the Pemigewasset (ph) Inn in Plymouth.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:17 PM


Senate GOP set to go 'nuclear' over judges (CHUCK LINDELL, November 28, 2004, The Cox News Service)

Senate Republicans, boldly confident after their Nov. 2 electoral success, are preparing to end months of frustrating delays over President Bush's judicial picks by hitting Democrats with Republican's ultimate legislative weapon. [...]

Because all appointments must be resubmitted when a new Congress convenes, the first move will be up to Bush.

Based on the president's track record, Ornstein expects to see most of the 10 filibustered judges renominated to the circuit courts of appeal — one step below the Supreme Court. New nominees also will be scrutinized.

"He can up the ante here or reduce the temperature, which will make a difference in terms of the prominence of the issue," Ornstein said. "I think it's going to be big because I have a hard time imagining Bush not pushing the envelope on these nominees."

Even renominated judges must begin the process anew, sitting through grueling hearings before the Judiciary Committee, receiving approval from the panel's Republican majority, then waiting to see whether if Democrats filibuster on the Senate floor. If they do, Republicans likely will counter with two measures before considering the nuclear option.

One would mandate a timetable for judicial nominations — probably 30 days to hold a hearing, followed by 30-day deadlines for a committee vote and a floor vote.

The second gradually would reduce the number of senators necessary to halt a filibuster with each successive vote, from the current 60-vote threshold to 57, then 54, then a simple majority of 51.

Both options were introduced last Congress as resolutions, but Republicans chose not to press forward. Next Congress, however, they'll have a stronger majority with 55 seats, up from 51, improving their odds of success but still not enough to stop Democrats if they choose to filibuster the resolutions.

The nuclear option would be a last resort if other measures fail, said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who will likely play a central role in the debate as a member of the Judiciary Committee and chairman of the Constitution subcommittee.

Cornyn argues that judicial filibusters unconstitutionally require a 60-vote supermajority to approve nominees, not the simple majority mandated in the Constitution.

"Democrats must stop not only for the good of the Senate but out of respect to the president, who received almost 60 million votes on November 2, and out of respect for the Constitution itself," Cornyn said. "No group of senators has the right, no minority has the right to tyrannize the majority of the Senate."

The nuclear option would begin with Frist taking the Senate floor to seek a ruling from the presiding officer, likely to be Vice President Dick Cheney in his role as Senate president, to determine whether judicial filibusters violate the Constitution.

Cheney's affirmative response would initiate a vote on changing the filibuster rule which also would be subject to a filibuster unless Cheney over- rules the Senate parliamentarian on whether normal debate rules apply. Then, only 51 votes would be needed for approval.

Another option includes changing Senate guidelines to disallow judicial filibusters, which also would require the Senate president to declare that normal filibuster rules do not apply, so 51 votes could prevail. Changing Senate rules should occur early in the session to gain legitimacy, some Republicans say, making this option potentially less appealing.

Either way, it would be pure power politics, leaving Democrats unable to respond.

Easy enough to defuse the nuke, just agree to get rid of the anticonstitutional filibusters for appointees.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:08 PM


Muslim Extremist Leader Dies in Shootout (AP, Nov 27, 2004)

Government troops killed a leader of the notorious Muslim extremist group Abu Sayyaf in a shootout in the southern Philippines, officials said Sunday.

Munap Manialah, also known as Commander Munap, was shot dead late Saturday in a firefight with Philippine army and navy troops in southern Basilan island's Isabela city, Philippine army spokesman Maj. Bartolome Bacarro said in a statement. A trooper was slightly wounded in the shootout.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:44 PM


How one day could unite our country: Campaigners calling for St Andrew’s Day to be a public holiday claim it would improve our sense of nationhood. Here, Scotland’s most senior Catholic argues it could also bring together the nation’s many faiths (Cardinal Keith Patrick O’Brien 11/28/04, Sunday Herald)

In the early centuries of the Christian Church’s history, legend had it that on November 30, 60AD, at Patras in Achaia, Greece, Andrew – son of John and brother of Simon Peter – having been scourged and tied to a diagonal crucifix, suffered what would have been an agonising death. His crime was to have preached the Christian message across that part of the Aegean, which was then under the control of Rome. The fact that his proselytising led to the conversion of the Roman proconsul’s wife sealed his fate.

Legend also has it that, in order to prolong Andrew’s agony, he was tied rather than nailed to the cross, but throughout those days of unimaginable suffering he continued to preach on the life of Christ to all who would listen. On Tuesday , almost 2000 years later, I will rededicate an altar in my own cathedral, St Mary’s in Edinburgh, to the memory of this outstanding apostle. Within the restored altar are two reliquaries containing relics of the saint, and a newly commissioned icon of Andrew will be installed above the altar.

In recent years, following the re-establishment of the Scottish parliament, a campaign has gathered momentum to have November 30 declared a national public holiday. In fact, a bill will be introduced in the Scottish parliament tomorrow attempting to establish St Andrew’s Day as a bank holiday – a move supported by three-quarters of Scots, according to an opinion poll last week.

I believe a public holiday would have the effect of bringing a heightened sense of nationhood to our country, as well as giving recognition to Scotland’s Christian heritage. St Andrew was first adopted as our patron precisely for that purpose, even though he was not a Scot. I am certain that many of those who have found refuge here in Scotland, even those belonging to a different faith community, would respect the significance of the day and happily take part in it as a national holiday. This is an appropriate time to consider such an initiative and – given the mood attending the opening of the new parliament building – it might well succeed.

Perhaps we should see Andrew as a unifying force, not only in Europe and around the world, but also in Scotland. To this end, it is important that we do not politicise our patron. He is for all Scots. We carry his memory collectively, not exclusively. Let no-one claim him as their own, or decry or disown him – we can disagree as to how best to remember him without disputing that he merits remembrance. Let us focus instead on the figure of Andrew as seafarer, fisherman, traveller, missionary and martyr, and in him find a human being of deep conviction around whom we can all unite. St Andrew being an apostle – one of those who had been sent out by Jesus – is an obvious model to us in all denominations in Scotland to reach out to those of other denominations and indeed to those of other faiths.

Within the Christian community, we must constantly remind ourselves of the shared reverence we have for St Andrew which should help us in our journey towards ever closer union. In our relations with other faiths we must hold Andrew up as a man of God whose strength and courage in the face of persecution and godlessness can inspire anyone with faith.

At least the pilot light is still flickering.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:36 PM


Portman’s potential has GOP excited: Party, strategists say congressman can go far, but it’s not clear which road he’ll take (Jonathan Riskind, November 28, 2004, THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH)

Speaker of the U.S. House? Governor of Ohio? U.S. senator? Vice president of the United States? Even president?

Some savvy political minds here and in Ohio think one or more of those jobs could lie ahead for Rep. Rob Portman, a courteous Cincinnati Republican whose attempts to downplay such talk aren’t dousing all the intraparty enthusiasm.

Portman, a reliably conservative voter in the House, also has worked with Democrats to pass substantive legislation in areas such as pension reform. His growing legion of GOP fans think he has a potent combination of political assets.

Portman has the conservative credentials necessary to win favor from the Republican base but doesn’t come across as a right-wing ideologue in a state that seems to want its elected officials to hug the center.

Although Ohio is replete with statewide-elected Republicans, a number of GOP strategists and fund-raisers say Portman has the potential to leap from the relative obscurity of his congressional district into the governor’s chair or a Senate seat. He has the drive and talent to seek national office, they add.

Portman’s "got something special," said Washington-based GOP strategist Barry Bennett, who helped run Portman’s first congressional campaign. "He has the charm of a Bill Clinton, but an intellect and work ethic that is far superior. Given the state he’s from and how far he’s come in just 10 years, this is a guy who has a legitimate shot at being president someday."

Reminds you of how excited the Democrats are one?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:24 PM


Creator won't rest in bashing of Darwin (Linda Valdez, Nov. 28, 2004, Arizona Republic)

This would be a good time to rent Inherit the Wind, and get ready for the latest sequel in the Monkey Wars saga.

The dates have been changed to reflect the persistence of the Darwin haters, and the arguments have been punched up with some pseudo-scientific jargon. But the goal remains the same: Dumb down science and inject somebody's version of God into the classroom.

Trying to learn about the Scopes Trial by watching Inherit the Wind is like trying to learn about Judaism by reading The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Those interested in the true history of the case would be better served by reading Edward J. Larson's Pulitzer-winning, Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate over Science and Religion, wherein he quotes ACLU founder Roger Baldwin to the effect that: "The cause now serve is labor" and notes:
[L]abor included public school teachers.

The new cause and methods adopted by the ACLU set the stage for how it would handle the Scopes trial. It remained an elitist organization dominated by liberal, educated New Yorkers who had grown wary of majoritarianism.

The fight remains one between the majority of Americans and intellectual elites who are trying to impose by judicial fiat what they can not earn in the democratic process.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:38 PM


Chinese Christians Are a Force, But What Kind? (Joshua Kurlantzick, November 28, 2004, Washington Post)

Though the Communist Party all but destroyed the Protestant and Catholic churches when it took over in 1949, scholars estimate that the country now has at least 45 million Christians. Dennis Balcombe, pastor of Hong Kong's Revival Christian Church and an expert who has studied Chinese Christianity for two decades, believes that there may be as many as 90 million Christians in China.

There's a tendency among some outside China to see the spread of religion as speeding political change and creating an ethical bond with the world beyond China's borders. "As cultural and social traditions evolve, Christianity is poised to provide new ethical and moral foundations for the emergence of a modern Civil Society and State," Sister Janet Carroll of the U.S. Catholic China Bureau told the Congressional Executive Commission on China in September.

But the fastest growing religious movements in China seem unlikely to provide salvation for the country. Though Catholicism, which in China comprises both a state-sanctioned church and underground churches loyal to the Vatican, is becoming more popular, the majority of new Chinese Christians are Protestants. And while the state-sanctioned Protestant church is growing, most Chinese Christians are joining underground "house" churches. These churches are generally found away from city centers, in outlying regions, hidden within communal areas and marked only by discreet signs of faith.

Many house church services are so passionate that they would surprise even the most committed American evangelicals. Many house churches hold prayer meetings, at which they recruit new members and affirm their relationship to God, that last for several days, even up to a week. The Crying School, a house church that reportedly has at least 500,000 members, holds three-day retreats at which adherents wail and cry en masse, repenting in anticipation of the apocalypse. Another underground movement known as the Shouters believes in screaming for hours on end, to attest to one's faith. The Shouters reportedly shriek out a shortened version of the Lord's Prayer while stamping their feet.

There are several reasons why Christianity is thriving in China. Between 1949 and the decline of Maoism, the Chinese Communist Party eviscerated the country's traditional culture and institutions, denigrating Confucianism, ancestor worship, traditional family structures and classical Chinese education and arts. At the same time, the CCP suppressed civil society actors such as unions and rival parties.

Then, in the past two decades, the Chinese people have been tossed into a capitalist maelstrom of the most social Darwinist kind, with a paucity of social safety nets and an abundance of consumption. The government has tried to foster a new ideology based on Chinese nationalism, but it has not proven overwhelmingly popular. Shocked by the rapid transition of Chinese society, unconvinced that capitalism alone can provide a fulfilling life, and divorced from traditional culture, many younger Chinese have been turning to religion.

Indeed, not only Christianity but also many other faiths -- Buddhism, Taoism, Islam and qi gong offshoots like Falun Gong -- are gaining new adherents in the Middle Kingdom. As this newspaper has reported, Buddhist monasteries in central China have become so popular that they have drawn thousands of devout pilgrims, inspiring a government crackdown. In just five years, Falun Gong has grown from an obscure spiritual breathing movement into a national phenomenon capable of holding rallies across China.

Christianity is drawing older believers as well. Small farms and state-linked industrial enterprises have been closing in large numbers, especially in China's old manufacturing heartland in the northeast. In these areas, unemployed workers -- mostly middle-aged and older -- mill on the sides of the road or sleep in parks and other public areas. As Kim-Kwong Chan, executive secretary of the Hong Kong Christian Council and a fellow at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, reported this year, Christianity "draws on the huge pool of dissatisfied unemployed workers or poor farmers, who may cling to anything that gives them hope." House churches also often provide social services to the poor whom the government has abandoned.

Christianity -- in particular, evangelical Protestant faiths -- is in some ways even more alluring to Chinese than Buddhism or Islam. With its emphasis on individual relationships with God, evangelical Christianity is flexible enough to tailor its message to both the poor and the wealthy. What's more, many Chinese, particularly in poor areas, associate Christianity with miracles. And house churches are not tainted by being registered with the government, which makes the state-linked church leaders appear to be party hacks. [...]

Still, it is unlikely that Chinese house churches will play the role of Catholicism did Poland during the 1980s, when it provided believers, laid-off workers and other groups with a unifying, liberal political structure. Unlike many priests in Eastern Europe, some Chinese house church leaders are highly conservative, focused on nothing other than evangelism and taking little interest in politics. Usually they are willing to challenge the state only when pressed to the wall, such as when Beijing tried to ban Sunday school education in several provinces.

What's more, because Christianity was so harshly repressed in China, and because many Chinese seem to be looking for millenarian, miracle-producing faiths, many popular house church movements have developed into authoritarian fiefdoms themselves, with adherents following one charismatic leader, who often has little religious training. These underground leaders are hardly vehicles for liberal reform.

Never mind that a strong civil society outside of state influence is the key ingredient of any stable liberal democracy, Mr. Kurlantzick badly underestimates the degree to which accepting government that is both secular and limited requires millenarianism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:20 PM


Paralyzed woman walks again after stem cell therapy (AFP, 11/27/04)

A South Korean woman paralyzed for 20 years is walking again after scientists say they repaired her damaged spine using stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood.

Hwang Mi-Soon, 37, had been bedridden since damaging her back in an accident two decades ago.

Last week her eyes glistened with tears as she walked again with the help of a walking frame at a press conference where South Korea researchers went public for the first time with the results of their stem-cell therapy.

They said it was the world's first published case in which a patient with spinal cord injuries had been successfully treated with stem cells from umbilical cord blood.

So John Kerry, Ron Reagan, Christopher Reeve, and Michael J. Fox wanted to kill all those people and debase our society for nothing?

Michael Kinsley, likewise an advocate of murder for his own purposes, expresses himself with unusual clarity today, To Hell With Values (Michael Kinsley, November 28, 2004, LA Times)

It's been less than a month since the gods decreed that, due to the election results, American political life henceforth must be all about something called "values." And I gave it my best. Honest. But I'm sick of talking about values, sick of pretending I have them or care more about them than I really do. Sick of bending and twisting the political causes I do care about to make them qualify as "values."

It would mark a major step forward in our political dialogue for all such folk to simply acknowledge their proud amorality.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:10 PM


Spanish Newspaper: FBI Links Madrid Bombings to September 11 (VOA News,
28 November 2004)

A Spanish newspaper says U.S. investigators have found the clearest link yet between the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the Madrid train bombings earlier this year.

The ABC newspaper says the FBI has told Spanish investigators that one of the men who helped plan the September 11 attacks also gave the order to carry out the Madrid blasts.

The Madrid-based daily says investigators do not know the man's identity but believe that during the summer of 2001 he met in Spain with Mohammad Atta, one of the lead September 11 hijackers.

It says investigators believe the man is a lieutenant of Mustafa Setmarian, a leading al-Qaida operative.

Madrid Attacks May Have Targeted Election: Wiretaps Bolster Theory That Blasts Were Timed to Hurt Chances of Leader Who Backed Iraq War (Keith B. Richburg, October 17, 2004, Washington Post)

Seven months after bombs exploded aboard morning commuter trains in Madrid, killing 191 people, the precise motives of the attackers remain unclear. But new evidence, including wiretap transcripts, has lent support to a theory that the strike was carefully timed to take place three days before a national election in hopes of influencing Spanish voters to reject a government that sent troops to Iraq.

Some analysts argue that the placement of important clues -- particularly a videotaped claim of responsibility by a masked Islamic militant discovered two days after the March 11 attacks -- was aimed at quickly establishing that the attacks were a reaction to the presence of Spanish troops in Iraq and generating a backlash against the ruling Popular Party.

The party had a comfortable advantage in opinion polls but lost the election on March 14. The new Socialist party government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero quickly kept a campaign pledge to withdraw Spain's 1,300-troop contingent from Iraq. It also set about improving relations with neighboring Morocco, after two years of tension under the government of the previous prime minister, Jose Maria Aznar.

Newly disclosed wiretaps of an alleged organizer of the bombings expressing glee that "the dog Aznar" had been put out of office have prompted some analysts here to conclude that the perpetrators sought to try to bring about specific reactions through the attacks. [...]

Spanish authorities are now focusing on a senior al Qaeda operative close to Osama bin Laden who they believe was the overall plot organizer, a Syrian-born former journalist named Abu Musab Suri. He had married a Spanish woman and took Spanish nationality in the mid-1990s.

Suri, also called Mustafa Setmarian Nasar, is thought to be 45 years old. European intelligence agencies have said that he was once the overall commander of al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan and once headed al Qaeda's propaganda operation.

After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, investigators thought he was part of an al Qaeda faction that distanced itself from bin Laden's leadership. But more recently, European intelligence agencies have questioned that view and come to believe Suri may have traveled to Europe last year to activate some of the al Qaeda groups in Spain and elsewhere.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:01 PM


Lizards Help Explain Survival of the Not-So-Fittest (John Roach, November 24, 2004, National Geographic News)

Glance at a crowd at just about any big sporting event and you'll notice that humans are a diverse bunch. Not only the fittest have survived.

Natural selection depends as much on behavior and environmental conditions as it does on physical prowess, as demonstrated by two studies of lizards in tomorrow's issue of the journal Nature.

"People have a very simple view of how natural selection shapes traits," said Barry Sinervo, an evolutionary biologist who was not involved in the studies. A biologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Sinervo said the studies demonstrate the complexity of evolution.

"When behavior or physiology complicates what traits are involved, the results of natural selection are often thwarted or attenuated when compared to our naive perspective," he added.

As the great Darwinists Ernst Mayr acknowledges:
Metaphors play an important role in the history of science. There are felicitous metaphors and those that are unfortunate. Darwin's term "natural selection" is on the borderline of the tweo categories and was strenuously resisted by the majority of his contemporaries. [...] When, at the urging of hios friends, Darwin adopted Spencer's term "survival of the fittest," he jumped from the frying pan into the fire, because his new metaphor suggested circular reasoning.

The article above nicely illustrates the danger of circularity: let a Darwinist look at a species and reason that selection should have favored a certain feature but instead disfavored it for another and because trapped within the circle they must argue that the adaptation that survived must somehow have been fitter, even if this is nonsensical. By definition, anything that survived has to be fitter than what didn't, else the ideology evaporates. One must never look outside the circle lest it collapse.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:33 AM


Rove Unleashed: For the past 30 years he's focused like a laser on George W. Bush. What does Karl Rove do for an encore? The plans for a permanent GOP majority (Howard Fineman, 11/28/04, Newsweek)

One thing Rove will be up to, he made clear in a NEWSWEEK interview, is involvement of some kind in the race for the next Republican presidential nomination. Meeting with reporters only days after the election, he seemed to count himself out. "And 2008 is going to be left to someone who has a little bit more energy and interest than me," he said then. "This will be the last presidential campaign I will ever do." Last week he backtracked on that pledge. "I said that in haste," he said. "A lot of people in the White House told me that that was a really stupid thing to say. So let me say that I can't imagine spending two years away from my wife and son again, the way I did this time. But besides that, who knows?"

Telling it like it is: Rove, aboard Air Force One, shows the president his blueprints for victory
Charles Ommanney / Contact for Newsweek
Telling it like it is: Rove, aboard Air Force One, shows the president his blueprints for victory
Translation: the Karl Rove Primary has begun—or at least Rove (and Bush) want the world to believe it has, if for no other reason than to dangle the possibility of help from (or the threat of opposition from) the Architect before the eyes of would-be GOP contenders and power brokers. "The president will be a lame duck soon enough," said a Republican strategist. "He can't afford to let Karl be one, too." Indeed, being seen as "close to Karl" is a sign among desperate Republicans of "election" in an almost theological sense. All the more reason for Rove to be slow about taking sides. "He won't actually commit for years," the strategist predicted.

In the meantime, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee is regarded by colleagues as a subsidiary of Rove Inc., following the Architect's plan to hem in Sen. Arlen Specter's power as chairman of the judiciary committee. Rove also has a close operational and conservative philosophical bond with Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. At the same time, Rove has worked well with two cultural moderates: former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Even Sen. John McCain has patched up relations with Rove (strained to the breaking point in the 2000 campaign), spending long hours with him and the president on plane and bus trips in the final days of the 2004 race. "If you spend three days on a bus trip with someone," Rove says, "you really bond with them."

For now, Rove's goals are at once more immediate and more lofty: to design a legislative and philosophical agenda that will lead to further GOP gains, and beyond that to a political dominance that could last for decades, as FDR's New Deal did. The core principles are clear to anyone who listened to a Bush stump speech. They are drawn from a well of conservative (and, in the 19th-century sense, "liberal") dogma: that only free-market democracies respectful of traditional moral values can bring us a planet of fulfilled citizens secure from terror. In fact, Rove's formulation is a new hybrid, willing to use big government in the service of markets and morality. Asked to name Bush's biggest accomplishment thus far, Rove replied in a flash: "His clear-eyed explanation of how to win the war on terrorism. It was the defining moment of our time." In other words, the Architect plans to be fully engaged in formulating foreign policy—and, while he isn't thought of as a leading neocon, his views are squarely within that camp.

On domestic policy, Rove has a theme at the ready: "the ownership society" he says the president wants to build.

If the Administration can pass a couple of major reforms--Social Security and taxes--locking them in so that the President's successor is likely to be mostly a consolidating figure rather than another revolutionary, then it would make great sense for Mr. Bush and Mr. Rove to get behind John McCain, who would win the election easily and appeal to the types of Democrats who can be won permanently to the GOP.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:11 AM


Hydrogen Production Method Could Bolster Fuel Supplies (MATTHEW L. WALD, 11/28/04, NY Times)

Researchers at a government nuclear laboratory and a ceramics company in Salt Lake City say they have found a way to produce pure hydrogen with far less energy than other methods, raising the possibility of using nuclear power to indirectly wean the transportation system from its dependence on oil.

The development would move the country closer to the Energy Department's goal of a "hydrogen economy," in which hydrogen would be created through a variety of means, and would be consumed by devices called fuel cells, to make electricity to run cars and for other purposes. Experts cite three big roadblocks to a hydrogen economy: manufacturing hydrogen cleanly and at low cost, finding a way to ship it and store it on the vehicles that use it, and reducing the astronomical price of fuel cells.

"This is a breakthrough in the first part," said J. Stephen Herring, a consulting engineer at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, which plans to announce the development on Monday with Cerametec Inc. of Salt Lake City.

The developers also said the hydrogen could be used by oil companies to stretch oil supplies even without solving the fuel cell and transportation problems.

Mr. Herring said the experimental work showed the "highest-known production rate of hydrogen by high-temperature electrolysis."

One notes first of all that it's government research, not private, as so often the case with great technological advances. But the question it really raises is: how long until someone writes that President Bush is a tool of the hydrogen interests?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:05 AM


Gordon Brown ditches his beloved Prudence (Allister Heath and Fraser Nelson, November 28, 2004, The Business)

In a result that will dismay the Treasury ahead of Thursday's pre-Budget report, 48% of voters agree with the statement that "[GORDON Brown, Britain's chancellor of the exchequer] is becoming an imprudent chancellor who has spent too much so that taxes will have to rise". Only 45% agree that he "remains a prudent chancellor who has controlled spending and run the economy well", according to the ICM survey for Reform, a free-market think-tank.

Two-thirds of voters are convinced taxes will go up if Labour wins the election, despite the chancellor's insistence that he remains on course to meet his fiscal rule without the need to hike taxes. Among Labour voters, 61% believe taxes will go up.

But in a blow to the Tories, 54% also believe that taxes will go up if the Conservatives were to win the next election, including 39% of Conservative voters, confirming widespread disillusionment with all politicians.

In a turnaround that marks a watershed in British public opinion, 50% of respondents don't want taxes to go up even to pay for more public services, against 48% who do. By 79% to 18%, voters agree with the statement that "public services need reform more than they need extra money", a proposition that gains even more support from Labour voters.

But by 59% to 39% voters also agree that "public services can only really improve if they receive more money from the government" - but nearly half of the 59% are unwilling to pay more tax to fund these improvements, confirming a change in voter attitudes away from the tax-and-spend model endorsed by Brown.

That the Tories can't exploit this demonstrates how trivial they've rendered themselves in their retreat from Thatcherism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:00 AM


French banned from the Eurofighter (Tracey Boles, November 28, 2004, The Business)

NEW row has broken out over the Eurofighter Typhoon, with ministers from the £19bn (E27bn, $35bn) fighter plane's four partner nations banning all French nationals from promoting the aircraft for export.

The Business has learned that ministers have imposed the extraordinary condition as the plane approaches a pivotal period in its history because they believe the French would undermine the plane's export potential by putting their national interests - and products - first.

The ban, likely to increase tensions between the UK and France, was set out in a letter written by procurement ministers from Britain, Spain, Italy and Germany, the plane's four partner nations, to their industry partners on the troubled programme.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:38 AM


Quest for Nazi father shatters German myths (ALLAN HALL, 11/28/04, Scotland on Sunday)

WHEN Beate Niemann went in search of her father she hoped to find a man she could be proud of, but instead uncovered a truth that lay hidden for nearly six decades under family lies and deceit.

While she went looking for Bruno Sattler, a father, First World War soldier, Berlin policeman and family man, she found only SS Major Bruno Sattler: mass murderer with the blood of hundreds of thousands of Jews on his hands.

At a time when Germans have begun to embrace victimhood about the Second World War, projecting themselves as having suffered equally under RAF bombs, from Red Army rapes and under their Nazi masters on a scale that somehow equates with the millions upon whom Germany inflicted its savagery, Niemann’s story shatters this cosy attempt to retreat into shared pain. [...]

She said: "I went in search of father I never knew and I hoped that the nagging doubts I had had about him down the years would be dispelled and I would find a man that I could be truly proud of.

"Instead I found a man who was a mass murderer, whose life was glossed over by my mother; my mother who lied to me and who continued to lie up until the day she died. I found a man who, when I was being suckled on my mother’s breast, was ordering mobile gas wagons each day to a concentration camp outside of Belgrade to kill women and children.

"I found a man who gave the orders for tens of thousands of Jews to be shot in Smolensk and outside Moscow and who participated in the destruction of 500,000 partisans, Jews, gypsies and others in Yugoslavia.

"This is what I found. This is the truth. It is inescapable. And in my greatest rage I wonder why, why he didn’t even have the decency to kill himself, to do that small thing for me?"

Before he went off the deep end, Danial Jonah Goldhagen wrote a useful book showing just how extensive the participation of even "ordinary" Germans in the Holocaust had to have been.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:20 AM


Gramm looks good for Treasury (ROBERT NOVAK, November 28, 2004, Chicago SUN-TIMES)

With Treasury Secretary John Snow's continuation in office uncertain, the White House is seriously considering former Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas as his possible successor.

President Bush has never been an intimate of Gramm's, and did not think of him for Treasury four years ago when he made the disastrous choice of industrialist Paul O'Neill. However, according to sources close to the president, he is giving his fellow Texan a serious look this time. Gramm is now an investment banker.

Mr. Gramm is one of the real heroes of the Republican realignment--blazing the trail that the President followed in TX, in particular--and deserves to be rewarded. Plus, it'll be nice to have hhim in town working on getting his friend Ben Nelson to switch parties.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:13 AM


U.S. Eyeing New Tact in Respect of Iran (ELI LAKE, November 24, 2004, New York Sun)

The State Department is looking at ways to reach out to Iranian democrats inside the country to see who would be willing to accept outside support in their efforts to reform and change the Islamic republic.

"We are exploring ways to begin working with groups inside the country," the chief of the State Department's Middle East Partnership Initiative, Scott Carpenter, told The New York Sun yesterday.

While the president's nominee for secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, has yet to sign off on a new Iran policy, the recent interest in reaching out to Iranian democrats in itself represents a change for Foggy Bottom, which until now has shied away from any open contact with or support for Persian activists inside the country.

Mr. Carpenter stressed that his outreach to Iranian democrats was preliminary, adding that he was considering inviting dissidents and activists to regional conferences to explore the prospect of America working with their organizations on the ground as the National Endowment for Democracy already does in countries all over the world. "I'm talking with people who have contacts in the country. I've asked them to spread the word,' Are you interested? Would there be some ideas we should look at?'" Mr. Carpenter said.

The new chief of the Middle East Partnership Initiative, or MEPI, used to be a senior adviser to the Iraqi Governing Council and came into his job at the State Department this fall. While MEPI is based in the State Department, it has been a high priority for the White House. President Bush himself has touted it as an initiative he hopes to spur liberal reforms in the Middle East. The first director of MEPI was the daughter of the vice president, Elizabeth Cheney. [...]

Rarely discussed, however, in the context of America's Iran policy are the organic social pressures to oust the ruling mullahs, who in the last year have purged nearly all the politicians in their elected Parliament who favored a referendum on the powers of the supreme leader. Last month, a noted Iranian journalist and human rights activist, Emadeddin Baghi, wrote in the Washington Post of 8,000 nongovernmental organizations that have emerged in recent years replacing the traditional functions of the state. He ended his piece saying, "I remain hopeful and active in the Iranian movement to establish a democratic civil society."

In 2002 and 2003 especially, Mr. Bush publicly cheered on that movement. His secretary of state, however, did little to match a policy to those words. In 2002, the State Department opposed a Pentagon policy to provide non-lethal assistance to organizations in Iran and funding for satellite television stations run by Iranian exiles. Eventually, this national security policy directive was vetoed by Ms. Rice when she was the national security adviser.

Mr. Bush has given several such speeches already, but now is an ideal time for a Reagan-at-Westminster-type address, in which he speaks of the mullocracy as a failure by its own Shi'ite terms and hammers home the inevitability of its replacement by a liberal democratic regime.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:05 AM


Shiite Leader Opposes Delay in Iraq's Vote (EDWARD WONG, 11/28/04, NY Times)

Iraq's most powerful Shiite cleric is opposing a drive by prominent Sunni Arab and Kurdish political factions to delay elections scheduled for Jan. 30, an aide to the cleric and Shiite leaders said Saturday.

The American ambassador to Iraq, John D. Negroponte, also lent his forceful support to keeping the present election date. "National elections will be taking place on the 30th of January of next year," he said on Saturday, while touring the devastated Sunni city of Falluja.

Over the past week, a movement spearheaded by Sunni Arabs to delay the elections has gathered momentum, as they have argued that the nation remains too violent to allow safe voting.

Responding to those calls, the Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has insisted on keeping the Jan. 30 date. All along, he has argued that elections should be held as soon as possible.

Other figures are setting out their positions. The interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, is not officially supporting a delay, a spokesman for him said, although his party did back the calls for a postponement.

As for the ayatollah, "Sayed Sistani doesn't see any need to delay the election date," an aide, Abu Ahmed al-Mudaffar, said in an interview from the holy city of Najaf, using the honorific reserved for direct descendants of Muhammad. Officials from the Sistani organization made clear that position in phone conversations Friday with Sunni leaders, said a senior official in the Shiite Council, an umbrella political group.

They've already been more patient with us than we deserve. There's no reason they should continue such forbearance if we shaft them again.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:02 AM


Is Humanism a Religion? (G.K. Chesterton, 1929, The Thing)

Modern science and organization are in a sense only too natural. They herd us like the beasts along lines of heredity or tribal doom; they attach man to the earth like a plant instead of liberating him, even like a bird, let alone an angel. Indeed, their latest psychology is lower than the level of life. What is subconscious is sub-human and, as it were, subterranean: or something less than earthly. This fight for culture is above all a fight for consciousness: what some would call self-consciousness: but anyhow against mere subconsciousness. We need a rally of the really human things; will which is morals, memory which is tradition, culture which is the mental thrift of our fathers.

The fact is this: that the modern world, with its modern movements, is living on its Catholic capital. It is using, and using up, the truths that remain to it out of the old treasury of Christendom; including, of course, many truths known to pagan antiquity but crystallized in Christendom. But it is not really starting new enthusiasms of its own. The novelty is a matter of names and labels, like modern advertisement; in almost every other way the novelty is merely negative. It is not starting fresh things that it can really carry on far into the future. On the contrary, it is picking up old things that it cannot carry on at all. For these are the two marks of modem moral ideals. First, that they were borrowed or snatched out of ancient or mediaeval hands. Second, that they wither very quickly in modern hands.

Mr. Norman Foerster's book, American Criticism might almost have been meant for a text-book to prove my point. I will begin with a particular example with which the book also deals. My whole youth was filled, as with a sunrise, with the sanguine glow of Walt Whitman. He seemed to me something like a crowd turned to a giant, or like Adam the First Man. It thrilled me to hear of somebody who had heard of somebody, who saw him in the street; it was as if Christ were still alive. I did not care about whether his unmetrical poetry were a wise form or no, any more than whether a true Gospel of Jesus were scrawled on parchment or stone. I never had a hint of the evil some enemies have attributed to him; if it was there, it was not there for me. What I saluted was a new equality, which was not a dull levelling but an enthusiastic lifting; a shouting exultation in the mere fact that men were men. Real men were greater than unreal gods; and each remained as mystic and majestic as a god, while he became as frank and comforting as a comrade. The point can be put most compactly in one of Whitman's own phrases; he says somewhere that old artists painted crowds, in which one head had a nimbus of gold-coloured light; "but I paint hundreds of heads, but paint no head without its nimbus of gold-coloured light." A glory was to cling about men as men; a mutual worship was to take the form of fellowship; and the least and lowest of men must be included in this fellowship; a hump-backed Negro half-wit, with one eye and homicidal mania, must not be painted without his nimbus of gold-coloured light. This might seem only the final expansion of a movement begun a century before with Rousseau and the Revolutionists; and I was brought up to believe and did believe that the movement was the beginning of bigger and better things. But these were songs before sunrise; and there is no comparison between even sunrise and the sun. Whitman was brotherhood in broad daylight, showing endless varieties of radiant and wonderful creatures, all the more sacred for being solid. Shelley had adored Man, but Whitman adored Men. Every human face, every human feature, was a matter of mystical poetry, such as lit like chance torchlight, hitherto, a face here and there in the crowd. A king was a man treated as all men should be treated. A god was a man worshipped as all men should be worshipped. What could they do against a race of gods and a republic of kings; not verbally but veritably the New World?

Here is what Mr. Foerster says about the present position of the founder of the new world of democracy: "Our present science lends little support to an inherent 'dignity of man' or to his 'perfectibility.' It is wholly possible that the science of the future will lead us away from democracy towards some form of aristocracy. The millennial expectations that Whitman built upon science and democracy, we are now well aware rested upon insecure foundations... The perfection of nature, the natural goodness of man, 'the great pride of man in himself' offset with an emotional humanitarianism — these are the materials of a structure only slightly coloured with modernity. His politics, his ethics, his religion belong to the past, even that facile 'religiousness' which he hoped would suffuse and complete the work of science and democracy... In the essentials of his prophecy, Whitman, we must conclude, has been falsified by the event." This is a very moderate and fair statement; it would be easy to find the same thing in a much fiercer statement. Here is a monumental remark by Mr. H.L. Mencken: "They (he means certain liberal or ex-liberal thinkers) have come to realize that the morons whom they sweated to save do not want to be saved, and are not worth saving." That is the New Spirit, if there is any New Spirit. "I will make unconquerable cities, with their arms about each other's necks," cried Walt Whitman, "by the love of comrades, by the lifelong love of comrades." I like to think of the face of Mr. Mencken of Baltimore, if some casual comrade from Pittsburgh tried to make him unconquerable by putting an arm around his neck. But the idea is dead for much less ferocious people than Mr. Mencken. It is dead in a man like Aldous Huxley, who complained recently of the "gratuitous" romancing of the old republican view of human nature. It is dead in the most humane and humorous of our recent critics. It is dead in so many wise and good men to-day, that I cannot help wondering whether, under modern conditions of his favourite "science," it would not be dead in Whitman himself.

It is not dead in me. It remains real for me, not by any merit of mine, but by the fact that this mystical idea, while it has evaporated as a mood, still exists as a creed. I am perfectly prepared to assert, as firmly as I should have asserted in my boyhood, that the hump-backed and half-witted Negro is decorated with a nimbus of gold-coloured light. The truth is that Whitman's wild picture, or what he thought was a wild picture, is in fact a very old and orthodox picture. There are, as a matter of fact, any number of old pictures in which whole crowds are crowned with haloes, to indicate that they have all attained Beatitude. But for Catholics it is a fundamental dogma of the Faith that all human beings, without any exception whatever, were specially made, were shaped and pointed like shining arrows, for the end of hitting the mark of Beatitude. It is true that the shafts are feathered with free will, and therefore throw the shadow of all the tragic possibilities of free will; and that the Church (having also been aware for ages of that darker side of truth, which the new sceptics have just discovered) does also draw attention to the darkness of that potential tragedy. But that does not make any difference to the gloriousness of the potential glory. In one aspect it is even a part of it; since the freedom is itself a glory.

It's not possible to describe better the quintessential Judeo-Christian conservative attitude that so perplexed Franklin Foer the other day.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:27 AM


Churches warned over 'gay slurs' (BBC, November 28th, 2004)

The Archbishop of Canterbury has called for church traditionalists opposed to homosexuality to stop using inflammatory words about gay people.

Dr Rowan Williams, in a letter to the world's Anglican churches, said harsh language can lead to murder.

His comments come as the Church is embroiled in a bitter global row about the ordination of gay bishops.

Some traditionalist Anglican leaders strongly condemn homosexuality as being outlawed by the Bible.

According to The Sunday Times, Dr Williams has outlined his views to the Anglican faith's 43 self-governing churches.

His letter to them reportedly says: "Any words that could make it easier for someone to attack or abuse a homosexual person are words of which we must repent.

This is getting very tiresome. Despite an in-your-face tone to gay activism and the ceaseless hurling of derogatory epithets at anyone who defends marriage or thinks homosexual acts wrong, traditionalists have been almost universally civil and respectful in their opposition. Indeed, there would be no civil unions or doctrinal debates on this matter if they weren’t. Yet here is the Archbishop accusing them of dangerous, inflammatory language, by which we assume he means quoting the Bible.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:50 AM


EU warns Iran to seal nuclear deal (Louis Charbonneau, Reuters, November 29th, 2004)

France, Britain and Germany have told Iran if they do not reached a final agreement to freeze key parts of its atomic programme by Monday, they will not stop moves to seek sanctions against Tehran, diplomats say.

"The Iranians were told that if there's no deal by Monday, they (the EU) would no longer block a referral to the U.N. Security Council when the (U.N. nuclear watchdog) reconvenes," a Western diplomat told Reuters on Saturday. The Security Council has the power to impose economic sanctions.

But the diplomats said neither the EU trio nor Iran wanted the talks to collapse. They said it would be a big humiliation for the Europeans and could escalate the standoff over Tehran's nuclear plans into an international crisis.

The United States, which has been pressing for Iran's case to be referred to the Security Council, accuses Tehran of wanting to build a nuclear bomb. Iran, though oil-rich, says its programme is aimed solely at generating electricity.

Last week, Iran promised the EU it would halt all activities related to uranium enrichment -- a process that can create atomic fuel for power plants or weapons -- in return for an EU pledge to neutralise the threat of economic sanctions.

The ink on the hard-won accord was barely dry, however, when Tehran demanded an exemption for some 20 enrichment centrifuges for research. European diplomats said this was impossible and could only deepen suspicions Tehran had a secret arms programme.

On Friday, Western diplomats said Iranian negotiators had agreed to drop the demand, paving the way for a comprehensive deal with the EU on an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) resolution that would make the voluntary freeze a binding commitment for Tehran.

But Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi appeared to revive the centrifuge demand on Saturday, telling reporters in Tehran the deal with the EU did not ban research and development involving centrifuges -- the equipment used to enrich uranium.

The EU trio has softened the resolution twice to accommodate Iran's many demands and does not want talks on the text to drag on indefinitely, diplomats close to the talks said.

Why not? Isn’t dragging talks on indefinitely a European specialty?

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:34 AM


The Truth About Men & Church (Robbie Low, Touchstone, November, 2003)

In 1994 the Swiss carried out an extra survey that the researchers for our masters in Europe (I write from England) were happy to record. The question was asked to determine whether a person’s religion carried through to the next generation, and if so, why, or if not, why not. The result is dynamite. There is one critical factor. It is overwhelming, and it is this: It is the religious practice of the father of the family that, above all, determines the future attendance at or absence from church of the children.

If both father and mother attend regularly, 33 percent of their children will end up as regular churchgoers, and 41 percent will end up attending irregularly. Only a quarter of their children will end up not practicing at all. If the father is irregular and mother regular, only 3 percent of the children will subsequently become regulars themselves, while a further 59 percent will become irregulars. Thirty-eight percent will be lost.

If the father is non-practicing and mother regular, only 2 percent of children will become regular worshippers, and 37 percent will attend irregularly. Over 60 percent of their children will be lost completely to the church.

Let us look at the figures the other way round. What happens if the father is regular but the mother irregular or non-practicing? Extraordinarily, the percentage of children becoming regular goes up from 33 percent to 38 percent with the irregular mother and to 44 percent with the non-practicing, as if loyalty to father’s commitment grows in proportion to mother’s laxity, indifference, or hostility.

Before mothers despair, there is some consolation for faithful moms. Where the mother is less regular than the father but attends occasionally, her presence ensures that only a quarter of her children will never attend at all.

Even when the father is an irregular attender there are some extraordinary effects. An irregular father and a non-practicing mother will yield 25 percent of their children as regular attenders in their future life and a further 23 percent as irregulars. This is twelve times the yield where the roles are reversed.

Where neither parent practices, to nobody’s very great surprise, only 4 percent of children will become regular attenders and 15 percent irregulars. Eighty percent will be lost to the faith.

While mother’s regularity, on its own, has scarcely any long-term effect on children’s regularity (except the marginally negative one it has in some circumstances), it does help prevent children from drifting away entirely. Faithful mothers produce irregular attenders. Non-practicing mothers change the irregulars into non-attenders. But mothers have even their beneficial influence only in complementarity with the practice of the father.

In short, if a father does not go to church, no matter how faithful his wife’s devotions, only one child in 50 will become a regular worshipper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers (regular and irregular). If a father goes but irregularly to church, regardless of his wife’s devotion, between a half and two-thirds of their offspring will find themselves coming to church regularly or occasionally.

A non-practicing mother with a regular father will see a minimum of two-thirds of her children ending up at church. In contrast, a non-practicing father with a regular mother will see two-thirds of his children never darken the church door. If his wife is similarly negligent that figure rises to 80 percent!

The results are shocking, but they should not be surprising. They are about as politically incorrect as it is possible to be; but they simply confirm what psychologists, criminologists, educationalists, and traditional Christians know. You cannot buck the biology of the created order. Father’s influence, from the determination of a child’s sex by the implantation of his seed to the funerary rites surrounding his passing, is out of all proportion to his allotted, and severely diminished role, in Western liberal society.

Modern barbarism really picked up when men began to see going to church as something they did to please their wives.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:23 AM


Is this the beer that really refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach
(Roya Nikkhah and Gareth Bethell, The Telegraph, November 28th, 2004)

It is the news to cheer drinkers everywhere: beer could make you feel healthier and look younger.

The Neuzelle Kloster Brewery, a 400-year-old company in eastern Germany, says that its latest beer is enriched with ingredients that maintain good health and slow down the ageing process.

The drink, labelled on the bottle in a bizarre mixture of English and German as "Anti Ageing Bier", has been developed by adding hot spring mineral water, algae and antioxidants to the traditional ingredients of beer - water, hops, yeast and barley, resulting in an ale that is rich in vitamins and minerals.

Stefan Fritsche, the managing director of the brewery in north-east Germany, said that he hoped that the beer would encourage people to lead healthier lives.[...]

Peter Hoeck, the manager who drinks a bottle of the beer every day, has sold up to 400 bottles a week to guests and past guests, who come back to place their orders.

"At first they are sceptical of an anti-ageing drink because they think that it sounds a bit strange, but once they drink it, they love it and order it again and again," he said. "The guests tell me that their general wellbeing is improved after drinking it and that they feel fitter and revitalised.

Yes, we rather expect they do.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:01 AM



It is not possible to improve either our personal lives or our society apart from acquiring virtue. We are reluctant to do this, however, because we believe that our sole moral responsibility is to eliminate vice, which we think we can accomplish with a minimum of effort. Yet we lull ourselves into a dangerous moral complacency when we assume that vice is no more formidable a foe than a draft of cold air that we can keep out by slamming the door in its face. It is equally perilous to maintain that slogans are sufficiently powerful to keep the devil at bay. Just saying “no” to drugs, racism, prejudice, and all forms of sexual aggression does not transform them into gentle lambs that will obediently go away even if our “no” does mean “no”. Vices therefore invade and inhabit our lives. And while we fail to discern their lingering presence, we do remain outraged by crime. Yet crime is nothing less than the unseemly dividend that vice had always promised.

Saying “no” to vice and voicing indignation at crime logically presupposes the presence in us of positive and protecting virtues. But we often take these virtues for granted even when we have done nothing to understand, acquire, or develop them. Trying to become virtuous merely by excluding vice, however, is as unrealistic as trying to cultivate roses solely by eliminating weeds. After clearing the garden of weeds, one must still plant seeds or cuttings and nurture their growth; otherwise, the weeds simply return. The best way to exclude vices is to crowd them out with the presence of strong virtue. If we oppose crime, we must oppose vice, and if we oppose vice, we must promote virtue. Clifton Fadiman's maxim is worth repeating: “The formula for Utopia on earth remains always the same: to make a necessity of virtue.”

Where strong virtues are lacking, the vices that rush in to fill the void often assume the mask of virtue. Dorothy Sayers has her own list of such counterfeit virtues, which she calls the “Seven Deadly Virtues:. They are: Respectability, Childishness, Mental Timidity, Dullness, Sentimentality, Censoriousness, and Depression of Spirits. Sayers is mindful of how easy it has been for human beings throughout the ages to pervert the seven foundational virtues into seven hapless imitations. The seven virtues that are the cornerstone of the moral life consist of three theological virtues — Faith, Hope, and Love — along with the four cardinal virtues of Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance. The first three, sometimes called “supernatural virtues”, are infused at baptism and correspond to the life of grace; while the cardinal virtues, although not entirely removed from sources of grace, are their more naturalistic counterparts. The theological virtues give us a focus that transcends us without excluding us. In this way they are the perfect antidotes to self-centeredness and its consequent vice, pride. The cardinal virtues, sometimes called “the Human Virtues”, give us a focus within ourselves that does not exclude others — a self-mastery for the purpose of self-giving.

Folk wonder why the religious Right fights so hard against rationalist/materialist/secularist philosophies like Marxism, Darwinism, Libertarianism, etc.--it is because they are incapable of providing a foundation, indeed work to undermine the existing one, for such essentially other-directed virtue.

Light sources - Paris, Washington, London: departure points for the modern world: a review of The Roads to Modernity: The British, French, and American Enlightenments by Gertrude Himmelfarb (Jonathan Clark, Tiles Literary Supplement)

Postmodernists dislike grand narratives; and here is a grand modernist narrative indeed, wearing its wide learning with a deceptive grace. For Gertrude Himmelfarb, a distinguished American historian of Victorian Britain, this book is an attempt to "reclaim the Enlightenment. . . from postmodernists who deny its existence and historians who belittle or disparage it". It seeks to do this by reinterpreting the Enlightenment in Britain, America and France to create a scenario for Western history.

The Enlightenment begins the book in the singular but soon divides into three national examples, linked because "the three Enlightenments ushered in modernity", a modernity of which the French Revolution was "one of the most dramatic events". Whatever the claims of the postmodernists, for Himmelfarb the achievements of the people she writes about are still current: "We are, in fact, still floundering in the verities and fallacies, the assumptions and convictions, about human nature, society, and the polity that exercised the British moral philosophers, the French philosophes, and the American Founders". To establish this scheme, the French must be disabused of the idea that they alone had an Enlightenment. The "British" had it first, handed it to colonial Americans (Henry Steele Commager's The Empire of Reason: How Europeans Imagined and America Realized the Enlightenment lurks in the footnotes), but later lost it. Recent Scots claims to have had an Enlightenment while England did not are gently deflected: the Scottish Enlightenment "was not as parochially or exclusively Scottish as might be thought".

To bring the British Enlightenment "center stage" is "to redefine the very idea of Enlightenment", for in Britain, virtue (especially compassion, benevolence and sympathy) rather than reason topped society's list of ideals. This vindicates Britain's unrevolutionary track record from the charge of being "a species of counter-Enlightenment"; in turn, it allows Himmelfarb to rescue 1776 from being "a prelude to or a minor version of" 1789, and to make the American Revolution a moderate, pragmatic, limited event. Indeed, the French Revolution, like the French Enlightenment, threatens to become the odd man out: clearly on the correct side in the clash between pre-modernity and modernity, but hinting at sensationally unacceptable causes. So the American Revolution comes last, not second, in her analysis. Colonial Americans drew the right lesson from Britain; the French Revolutionaries failed to do so.

Sadly, as the Brits lost their faith they too turned inward and elevated self above virtue.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:59 AM


An Arriviste (David Warren, November 2004, Crisis)

This is, strange to say, the first time I have appeared in print as a Catholic writing to fellow Catholics, though I have lived half a century and have been writing for a living since I was 16. I was only received into the Catholic Church last New Year’s Eve. Someday, should I live, I would like to write a memoir titled The Half Life: Fifty Years of Sin and Error, explaining how I came to be received after making my best efforts to avoid it.

I’m an ex-Anglican, and was a kind of “evangelical atheist” before that, but one who was raised in the bosom of a loving, lapsed-Protestant family. I am also a “born again,” for I had to discard my adolescent atheism after meeting Christ on the Hungerford footbridge over the Thames in London at 22.

There was a reason why I didn’t become a Catholic then, even though the idea appealed to me, and my new religious sensibility was more sacramental and “catholic” than “protestant” in flavor. A copy of the then-celebrated Dutch Catechism fell into my hands, and I made the mistake of reading it under the impression that it was an official expression of the Catholic Church.

I became an Anglican, in due course, because I thought the Catholic Church was dead and because, as an autodidact steeped in English literature, I felt very comfortable in the church of Lancelot Andrewes, Richard Hooker, the Oxford Movement, and T. S. Eliot. I was an unmistakably “high” Anglican. It felt like Catholicism to me.

A long and terribly unequal wrestling match began with John Henry Newman, but in my younger days he only frightened me—he couldn’t touch me. I could see that I would never win an argument with him and so used that Dutch Catechism and other documents of Catholic postmodernity as roadblocks to slow his advance. This, incidentally, is classical Anglicanism: wasting a great deal of time finding or creating obstacles on a road that can only lead to Rome.

It is a pilgrimage of grace, as one learns when one finally arrives.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:47 AM


Right Alliances: Our Ecumenical Touchstone (Robert P. George, “Right Alliances” was given at a dinner celebrating Touchstone’s 100th issue, held in Washington, D.C., in late May)

In the euphoria occasioned by the Second Vatican Council, observers looked forward to a flowering of ecumenism and perhaps even the reunification of the Christian Church. Official commissions were formed to reexamine issues that had historically divided Eastern and Western Christians, Protestants and Catholics, Christians and Jews. Denominational leaders sought opportunities for ecumenical cooperation, and theologians explored the possibility of compromises and new understandings to overcome differences in areas of doctrine, discipline, and authority.

One thing seemed certain back in those days: The ecumenical action would be on the left wing of the various religious communities, not on the right. Traditional Catholics, conservative Protestants, and orthodox Jews were viewed as part of the problem, not part of the solution. After all, interfaith dialogue would require flexibility, openness, tolerance—virtues of the religious and sociopolitical left, it was supposed in those days, not the right. Indeed, the alleged rigidity, dogmatism, and authoritarianism of conservative religious believers would, it was thought, make them obstacles to what was known as “the dialogical enterprise.”

Ecumenism would have to proceed despite anticipated conservative resistance. Then came the culture war.

Secular Assault

The massive assault of the secularist left on traditional Judeo-Christian moral beliefs about sexuality, marriage and the family, and the sanctity of human life—largely acquiesced in, and very often abetted by, the religious left—brought conservative elements of the various religious communities together in the pro-life, pro-family movement.

In the beginning, the pan-orthodox alliance, as I call it, was understood by religious conservatives themselves as a sort of marriage of convenience. And even today there are religious conservatives, including some who are active in the movement, who view it that way. Perhaps it goes without saying that liberal critics of the pan-orthodox alliance are certain that the alliance can never be anything other than a marriage of political convenience.

What is remarkable, and what was in 1965 surely unpredictable, is that at century’s end, and now into the new century, the new millennium, an alliance that began as a marriage of convenience in the moral-political sphere would, without anybody planning or even foreseeing it, blossom into a genuine and profound spiritual engagement, precisely of the sort that manifests itself in Touchstone magazine. As things have turned out, the serious ecumenical action is almost entirely on the religious right, and we have the cultural depredations of the left to thank for it. God really does have a sense of irony, if not humor.

Today, traditional Catholics, Orthodox, Evangelical and other conservative Protestants, and believing Jews are not only working but praying together. Interfaith cooperation in pursuit of operational objectives in the culture war—protecting the unborn, preserving the institution of marriage, and so forth—has occasioned the emergence of genuine and unprecedented spiritual fellowship. The ecumenism of Touchstone magazine is an ecumenism of the streets and the living rooms.

It unites Protestants and Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians and Western Christians, people who have in common very practical worries about what Dr. Ruth has in mind for their children and what Dr. Kevorkian has in mind for their parents. It brings together, from different communities of faith, people who listen to Dr. Dobson for advice about parenting, and to Dr. Laura for reassurance that they aren’t the ones who are crazy. [...]

The ecumenism growing out of the pan-orthodox alliance, the Christian ecumenism of Touchstone, is the real thing. It is an ecumenism that takes religious faith, and therefore religious differences, seriously. This ecumenism neither ignores nor trivializes, much less relativizes, the important points of doctrine, discipline, and authority that divide Protestants from Catholics, Catholics from Orthodox Christians, the Orthodox from the Protestants. It proceeds not by pretending that all sincerely held theological positions are equally true or that doctrinal differences don’t matter, but by respectful yet serious engagement of theological differences.

But this creates a puzzle. How can there be genuine spiritual fellowship between people who sincerely consider each other to be in error on profoundly important religious questions? The issues disputed by Christians of different stripes include: the sacraments, the priesthood, the filioque, papal authority, and the Marian dogmas.

Yet the spiritual fellowship of the alliance has emerged despite these obstacles. It has been made possible, in my opinion, by the promotion of interfaith understanding through intellectual work, as well as by common prayer and mutual support. The experience of the past three decades reveals that the misperceptions and mistrust that long impeded fellowship among Christians of diverse points of view—in the days before the culture war—were in many, many cases rooted in misunderstanding of the scope and content of religious differences.

By largely eradicating these misperceptions and overcoming mistrust, the movement has been transformed from a mere marriage of political convenience. Without ignoring their differences, faithful Protestant, Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Christians have come to understand and appreciate that they have in common much more than what separates them. They share a larger set of beliefs, a view of the world, that includes much that is common in theology, anthropology, sacred history, and religious practice.

It's quite common for arranged marriages to lead to true love.

Us and Them (Maria Poggi Johnson, November 2004, First Things)

My attempt to put my students in touch with the Jewishness of the Scriptures is not limited to those Scriptures that Christians share with Jews. It is hard enough when we read the Old Testament to keep some students from throwing into their essays wildly anachronistic (rather than properly typological, which is way beyond most of them) references to Jesus and the Church. When we turn to the New Testament and meet the baby Jesus in the manger, they imagine themselves on home ground and they can become lazy. I have to remind them energetically that this is still a book largely by and about Jews; that although we are reading about the roots of the Church to which they belong, the world of the New Testament is very different from the novenas, CCD classes, and parish raffles of our area’s deep-rooted Catholic culture. I find that the more I succeed in getting them to “think Jewish” the better readers of the text they become and the more attuned they are to the intense drama of the New Testament. If I can help them to grasp that the apostles and the Pharisees are as passionate about the Law and about their Jewishness as that lady in the hat who came to class to talk to us, then Jesus starts to look a lot more exciting and troubling. They can better appreciate what is at stake in the story of Cornelius’ conversion if they can identify with Peter, who, tossed a few cryptic clues and forced to think on his feet, must rethink hundreds of years of religious tradition in the course of an afternoon. They must learn to side with the conservatives at the Jerusalem conference in the Acts of the Apostles in order to understand the depth of the debate about whether gentiles must be circumcised in order to become Christians.

If I have to remind my students to think Jewish, I have also to remind myself to think Christian. In my eagerness to help my students see that the decision at Jerusalem against circumcision was a difficult one to make, and in my fascination with the lives of my neighbors (a fascination in part foolish and romantic, I admit) I become half a Judaizer myself, and occasionally find myself musing about how it might be nice to do something with candles on Friday evenings or even keep just a very little bit kosher. When Paul bellows, “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?” I have to shake myself and remember that this question has already been dealt with, and an answer has been given, with a clarity that it would be more than foolish to second-guess. [...]

The image of Christians as an alien branch engrafted, by the grace of God, into the vine of the Covenant and thus truly of the Chosen People would probably sound thoroughly absurd, at best, to our Jewish friends. For us the image expresses not only a theological proposition subject to analysis and interpretation but also a simple fact of daily life and, as such, it makes perfect sense.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:15 AM


No Deficit of Courage: Congress and the president are getting spending under control. (JOSHUA BOLTEN, November 27, 2004, Wall Street Journal)

With Congress's completion of its work on the 2005 budget this week, President Bush and congressional leaders achieved a significant victory in the battle for spending discipline in Washington.

When the president released his Fiscal 2005 Budget in February calling for a disciplined budget, some politicians and pundits dismissed it as "dead on arrival." They warned that its spending limits could not be met or would require devastating reductions in key priorities. They were wrong.

To the credit of key leaders, Congress stayed within budget limits and met key priorities. While the appropriations bills are not perfect, they honor the goals President Bush set last February: Overall discretionary spending in Fiscal 2005 will rise only 4%, the same as the average increase in American family income. The budget also provides substantial increases in funding for essential defense and homeland security needs.

Just as the president proposed, discretionary spending for nonsecurity programs will rise only about 1%, which is half the rate of inflation and the lowest rate of growth since the Republicans first took control of Congress in the mid-1990s.

This is the fourth consecutive year that growth in such spending has declined, down from 15% growth in the last budget year of the previous Administration. And even within this year's restrained budget, the Congress managed to fund important priorities, such as expansions in community health center services, the president's Community Colleges initiative, and an ambitious plan to fight the global AIDS crisis.

In addition, the war on terror is being won so quickly that the security spending can begin to be gutted again a couple years from now, rendering a mini peace dividend.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:05 AM


'04 Voting: Realignment -- Or a Tilt?: Political Parties Look for Answers (John F. Harris, November 28, 2004, Washington Post)

By any measure, President Bush and his fellow Republicans had a good night on Nov. 2. The question now is whether the election results set the GOP up for a good decade -- or more.

As some partisan operatives and political scientists see it, Bush's reelection victory and simultaneous Republican gains in the House and Senate suggest that an era of divided government and approximate parity between the major parties is giving way to an era of GOP dominance. By this light, the Republican advantage on the most important issues of the day -- the fight against terrorism, most of all -- and the party's uncontested control of the federal government leave it in a position to win long-term loyalty among key voter blocs and craft an enduring majority.

If so, 2004 would qualify as what academics call a "realignment election." [...]

"Something fundamental and significant happened in this election that creates an opportunity for" the Republicans to remake national politics over the long term, said Ken Mehlman, who managed Bush's reelection campaign and was tapped by the president after the election to be the next chairman of the Republican National Committee. "The Republican Party is in a stronger position today than at any time since the Great Depression." [...]

This election was the first in which exit polls showed equal numbers of self-identified Republicans and Democrats -- both at 37 percent -- erasing what had been a decades-long advantage for Democrats, 4 percent in 2000. In addition to the House and Senate gains, Bush received a higher raw vote total than any candidate in history (Kerry's total was second highest) and was the first presidential candidate to break the 50 percent barrier since 1988. On a percentage basis, he improved on his 2000 performance in 48 states.

Most significantly, in the view of people who suspect realignment, exit polls showed Bush cutting into Democratic advantages with some historically Democratic groups -- especially Hispanics, who gave Bush 42 percent of their votes, compared with 35 percent in 2000. [...]

Yale political scientist David R. Mayhew two years ago wrote a book calling the entire notion of realignments a fiction, at least at the presidential level. In the 15 presidential elections since World War II, he noted, the incumbent party has kept power eight times and lost it seven times. "You can't get any closer to a coin toss than this," he said. "At the presidential level, the traits of the candidates are so important that they blot out party identification."

Mr. Mayhew's argument is the one with which you hear most Democrats consoling themselves, but it entirely misses the point. Suppose that we switch a few hundred thousand votes in OH, as the argument goes, and give the election to John Kerry. We'd then have a Democratic president (though one who carried only twenty states), but still a Senate with 55 GOP seats, a House held by the GOP since '94, and nearly thirty Republican governors. The Kerry presidency would be a mild aberration in what would still be a realigning election.

And consider the presidents who actually interrupted the long phases of one party domination--Grover Cleveland, a conservative Democrat; Ike and Nixon, liberal Republicans; and, in retrospect perhaps, Bill Clinton, conservative white Southern Democrat. It seems fair to say that Woodrow Wilson was the only president of at least the last hundred and fifty years who truly governed against the prevailing political alignment, and the circumstances of his election were so peculiar as to be unlikely ever to recur.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Britain: a nation 'in grip of drink crisis' (Martin Bright and Gaby Hinsliff, November 21, 2004, The Observer)

The American 'super-cop' brought in by the Home Office to cut Britain's crime rate warned last night that the nation's binge drinking culture was spiralling out of control and fuelling an epidemic of violence outside pubs and clubs that threatened to overwhelm the police.

In his first major interview the former Boston police chief, Paul Evans, described scenes he had witnessed in the early hours of the morning in city centres across Britain as chaos. 'I'm not sure it can get much worse,' he said, in response to police fears that new licensing laws allowing 24-hour drinking would lead to increased violence.

As the government prepares to put tackling crime and antisocial behaviour at the heart of this week's Queen's Speech, Evans is now considering new proposals from senior police officers for tough new sanctions against violent drinkers.

One measure would see binge drinkers caught fighting in city centres given points on their driving licences. Another would give antisocial behaviour orders to offenders banning them from high-crime nightspots.

Evans, appointed last September as the head of the Home Office's police standards unit, will launch a 'Christmas blitz' next month to crack down on alcohol-related offences using on-the-spot penalty fines, sting operations on businesses serving under-age drinkers and closure notices on pubs and clubs associated with violence.

'If you're in the business of fighting crime, then you have to be in the business of dealing with the alcohol issue,' Evans said.

Where's Carrie Nation when we need her?

November 27, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:49 PM


Before You Flee to Canada, Can We Talk? (Nora Jacobson, November 28, 2004, Washington Post)

I moved to Canada after the 2000 election. Although I did it mainly for career reasons -- I got a job whose description read as though it had been written precisely for my rather quirky background and interests -- at the time I found it gratifying to joke that I was leaving the United States because of George W. Bush. It felt fine to think of myself as someone who was actually going to make good on the standard election-year threat to leave the country. Also, I had spent years of my life feeling like I wasn't a typical American and wishing I could be Canadian. I wanted to live in a country that was not a superpower, a country I believe to have made the right choices about fairness, human rights and the social compact.

So I could certainly identify with the disappointed John Kerry supporters who started fantasizing about moving to Canada after Nov. 2. But after nearly four years as an American in the Great White North, I've learned it's not all beer and doughnuts. If you're thinking about coming to Canada, let me give you some advice: Don't.

Although I enjoy my work and have made good friends here, I've found life as an American expatriate in Canada difficult, frustrating and even painful in ways that have surprised me. As attractive as living here may be in theory, the reality's something else. For me, it's been one of almost daily confrontation with a powerful anti-Americanism that pervades many aspects of life. When I've mentioned this phenomenon to Canadian friends, they've furrowed their brows sympathetically and said, "Yes, Canadian anti-Americanism can be very subtle." My response is, there's nothing subtle about it.

They shouldn't let that stop them from leaving though, after all, they're anti-American too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:28 PM


So You Think Times Are Changing Fast Now? (Robert J. Samuelson, Nov. 29, 2004, Newsweek)

Picture yourself in the mid-1840s. It's an exciting time. Fifteen years earlier, railroads barely existed. In 1830 there were only 23 miles of track. By 1840, there were 2,818; by 1850, 9,021. Steamboats ply major rivers—another recent development. In 1844 Samuel Morse had introduced the telegraph by sending this message from Washington to Baltimore:

"What hath God wrought!" For some, it was all too much. "The world is going too fast," wrote one old-timer, a 69-year-old former mayor of New York named Philip Hone. "Railroads, steamers, packets, race against time ... Oh, for the good old days of heavy post coaches and speed at the rate of six miles an hour!"

Hone apparently coined the phrase "good old days"—and we've been chasing them unsuccessfully ever since. It's not simply that you can't turn back the clock. The larger difficulty is that the "good old days" never were. The supposedly placid past, once probed and explored, usually turns out to have been as jarring as the disruptive present. Something is always assaulting our sense of security and stability. We Americans say we like change, but we want it without troubling side effects. This is a mirage. Anyone who doubts that should read John Steele Gordon's superb, just-published book "An Empire of Wealth."

Gordon has written the best one- volume economic history of the United States in a long time and, perhaps, ever. Highly readable and fact-filled, it's basically optimistic. Gordon argues that America's success is rooted in a society that rewards people for being ambitious, taking risks and trying new ideas.

There's a natural human inclination to insist that your own life is particularly special and difficult, but there's nothing more asinine than the current fad for asserting that we work harder and face greater uncertainty than our grandparents and great-grandparents did.

The Business of America by John Steele Gordon
(C-SPAN, September 23, 2001)

Posted by David Cohen at 11:04 PM


U.S. Army deserter Jenkins sobs after release from prison (Eric Talmadge, AP, 11/27/04)

Free for the first time in nearly four decades, U.S. Army deserter Charles Jenkins sobbed with joy as he was released from a military jail on Saturday after serving 25 days for abandoning his squadron and crossing the border into North Korea in 1965.

The frail 64-year-old, still in uniform and carrying a heavy duffel bag, broke down in tears after arriving at this U.S. Army base, where he was flown by Blackhawk helicopter after completing his sentence at a nearby naval prison. . . .

Jenkins, a native of Rich Square, N.C., testified in his Nov. 3 court-martial that he fled his Army post in South Korea on Jan. 5, 1965, because he had heard rumors that he was to be reassigned to combat in Vietnam. He said he didn't intend to stay in the North - instead, he had planned to defect to the Soviet Embassy there and eventually make his way back to the United States. Jenkins also revealed Parrish's death during the testimony. . . .

Jenkins has said that North Korea used him as a propaganda tool in broadcasts across the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea and that he was forced to teach English to North Korean military officer cadets.

So, here's a guy who deserted in order to avoid a troop movement to a war zone, and then aided the enemy for 40 years. He returned to US custody during another war, in which volunteers are fighting and dying. He served 25 days in the brig. Most any other country would have executed him. We should be glad that he intends to stay in Japan, rather than run for president.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:26 PM


An Enigma In the Hall Of Infamy: Suspended NBA Player Is Full of Contradictions (Mike Wise and Sally Jenkins, November 28, 2004, Washington Post)

The basketball player branded America's menace is on the telephone, calling from a children's pizza parlor in suburban Indiana. Ron Artest knows television does not lie. That's him on videotape, balling his fists, over and over.

He also explains that trauma is relative, pleading for everyone to move on -- beyond even the endless televised loop.

After all, when Artest was 12, he saw someone get shot in front of his housing complex in New York City, but life kept moving then, too. "We just gathered the kids around us and told 'em it would be all right," Artest recalled. "They could go outside again.

"People say I'm a thug or whatever," Artest said. "But my cousin got life for killing someone. I have other cousins who sold cocaine and drugs. So what type of person am I supposed to be? Don't I deserve some credit for overcoming that? I didn't see a lot of nice stuff growing up, so really, who am I supposed to be?"

Who is Artest supposed to be? Villain to many, victim to some, today the all-star forward of the Indiana Pacers is at the epicenter of one of the most violent altercations in the annals of American sports, a free-swinging brawl nine days ago between players and fans in the final minute of an NBA game between the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons in a suburban Detroit arena. Repeated televised replays of the fight have spot-shadowed the widening disconnect between millionaire basketball players and their suddenly emboldened customers.

The teams and leagues having mostly failed to control fans at sporting events it's up to the players to defend themselves. Why shouldn't someone who throws an object at a player have the stuffing beaten out of him?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:58 PM


Revealed: how Blair and Milburn are sidelining Gordon Brown (Sunday Telegraph, 28/11/2004)

Once he stood like a colossus over vast areas of Government policy, the heir apparent to the Labour crown. Now the Chancellor's grip is being loosened by rivals - with the backing of No 10. Patrick Hennessy, our Political Editor, reports

Alan Milburn, Labour's general election supremo, has launched an unprecedented operation to sideline Gordon Brown and seize control of key powers across Downing Street and Whitehall.

A leaked memo, obtained by The Telegraph, reveals for the first time how almost every area of the Government's domestic policy is now under the direct stewardship of either Mr Milburn or his deputy, Ruth Kelly.

The five-page document, dated October 27 and marked "restricted - management", also shows that Mr Milburn and Ms Kelly rigidly control access to Tony Blair.

The leak comes at a time of dramatically heightened tension between supporters of Mr Blair, who include Mr Milburn, and those backing the Chancellor, who will deliver his Pre-Budget Report this week.

It is the clearest evidence yet that Mr Brown has been sidelined in the Government's chain of command, with Mr Milburn taking over his former spheres of influence across Whitehall. Whole areas of policy, including pensions, industry, deregulation, welfare reform and incapacity benefit, all of which were previously regarded by Mr Brown as under the Treasury's control, are now supervised by Mr Milburn and Ms Kelly.

The memo shines revealing new light on why Mr Brown was so furious when the Prime Minister brought Mr Milburn, the former health secretary, back into the Cabinet in September as the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:54 PM


Ukraine's destiny is being decided on the streets, in the courts - and in the Kremlin (Simon Sebag-Montefiore, 27/11/2004, Daily Telegraph))

If Kiev's brave street protesters triumph over tyranny, corruption and electoral fraud, the Ukrainian revolution will soon glory in one of those wonderful nicknames, such as Georgia's Rose Revolution. My favourite was Estonia's Singing Revolution. What would this be? The Silk Revolution? The Dancing Revolution? Probably the Orange Revolution, after the opposition's colours. But Ukraine has a Soviet-dominated army and security police who are quite capable of turning this into a tragedy. There could be blood, not roses, on the streets of Kiev.

The biggest country in Europe west of Russia will become either a liberal democracy or a Russianised kleptocracy. Even as power seems to be draining away from outgoing President Kuchma and his heir, Victor Yanukovich, Ukraine stands at the crossroads of its very existence. Russia again faces the dilemma of its manifest destiny.

Ukraine is not just a rusty Soviet dump, but a fascinating, charmingly complex melting pot. Yes, it's split between Russian Orthodox East and Roman Catholic West with its more Polish/Austrian experience. Kiev itself is the ancient birthplace of Rus and Orthodoxy. Then there is the glorious Black Sea coast, a land of wine and luxury.

I spent much time there researching my biography of Potemkin, who annexed the Crimea and southern Ukraine, ending an earlier version of Ukraine - the independent Cossack republic of the Zaporoche Sech. He then founded many of Ukraine's southern cities, such as the famous naval base, Sebastopol, and Odessa. Take that decadent, cosmopolitan city: one of my favourites. Odessa was planned by the Spaniard de Ribas, built by the French Duc de Richelieu, populated by Jews, Italians, Russians, Ukrainians, beloved of writers such as Pushkin. The most beautiful girls in the world sip Crimean champagne in the open-air cafés of Deribaskaya. Or the seaside paradise of Crimea. Under a liberal democratic regime, Kiev, Crimea and Odessa will become alluring entrepots of tourism and commerce. Today, Ukraine is drab, depressed, corrupt, as Soviet as the direst Russian provinces.

They've already named it the Chestnut Revolution.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:28 PM


U.S. Seizes Nine Insurgent Suspects South of Baghdad (Alastair Macdonald, 11/27/04, Reuters)

U.S. and Iraqi forces seized nine suspected insurgents in overnight raids on the lawless town of Latifiya, south of Baghdad, U.S. officers said on Saturday.

It was the latest in a series of operations code-named Operation Plymouth Rock, launched four days ago by U.S. Marines in a cluster of towns along the Euphrates river that have become popularly known as the "triangle of death."

A further arrest was made further north, officers said.

Iraqi police commandos from the nearby city of Hilla formed the bulk of the 200-strong force in six raids in Latifiya coordinated by the Marines, Captain Tad Douglas told reporters at the headquarters of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:07 PM


Good News About Poverty (DAVID BROOKS, 11/27/04, NY Times)

[W]e're in the 11th month of the most prosperous year in human history. Last week, the World Bank released a report showing that global growth "accelerated sharply" this year to a rate of about 4 percent.

Best of all, the poorer nations are leading the way. Some rich countries, like the U.S. and Japan, are doing well, but the developing world is leading this economic surge. Developing countries are seeing their economies expand by 6.1 percent this year - an unprecedented rate - and, even if you take China, India and Russia out of the equation, developing world growth is still around 5 percent. As even the cautious folks at the World Bank note, all developing regions are growing faster this decade than they did in the 1980's and 90's.

This is having a wonderful effect on world poverty, because when regions grow, that growth is shared up and down the income ladder. In its report, the World Bank notes that economic growth is producing a "spectacular" decline in poverty in East and South Asia. In 1990, there were roughly 472 million people in the East Asia and Pacific region living on less than $1 a day. By 2001, there were 271 million living in extreme poverty, and by 2015, at current projections, there will only be 19 million people living under those conditions.

Less dramatic declines in extreme poverty have been noted around the developing world, with the vital exception of sub-Saharan Africa. It now seems quite possible that we will meet the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals, which were set a few years ago: the number of people living in extreme poverty will be cut in half by the year 2015. As Martin Wolf of The Financial Times wrote in his recent book, "Why Globalization Works": "Never before have so many people - or so large a proportion of the world's population - enjoyed such large rises in their standard of living."

As Mr. Brooks points out, there's still a swathe of the Middle East and Africa that hasn't yet started developing in the way it will.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:00 PM


Marines Train a Secret Weapon on Babil Province
(Bruce Wallace, November 27, 2004, LA Times)

The Cobra attack helicopters thumping overhead disrupt the predawn stillness of this rural town, agitating the roosters and the dogs. Through the cacophony and a cold rain, troops wearing the signature uniforms of the U.S. Marine Corps' Force Reconnaissance platoon race down potholed streets, balaclavas hiding their faces.

The tan masks not only make the raiders appear menacing. They also disguise the fact that the men behind them are not Americans, but Iraqis.

This is the embryonic Iraqi SWAT team in action, rousing families from their sleep and rounding up men for questioning about the deadly insurgency in towns such as Jabella, south of Baghdad.

The policemen leave behind their calling card: a postcard-size photo of the SWAT team in full gear carrying the message, "Are You a Criminal or Terrorist? You Will Face Punishment."

The flashy raid is aimed at creating a daring image for the 125-man SWAT team, an attempt by their American military patrons to turn them into an Iraqi version of the Untouchables.

All well and good, but it was the mundane enforcement of simple civil laws that put Capone away.

U.S. Sends in Secret Weapon: Saddam's Old Commandos (Alastair Macdonald, 11/27/04, Reuters)

Twenty months after toppling Saddam Hussein, U.S. troops still battling his followers in the heartland of Iraq's old arms industry are hitting back with a new weapon -- ex-members of Saddam's special forces.

For five months, Iraqi police commandos calling themselves the Black Scorpions have been based with U.S. Marines in the region along the Euphrates south of Baghdad, which roadside bombs, ambushes and kidnaps have turned into a no-go areas and earned it the melodramatic description "triangle of death."

"All of them were previously officers in the Iraqi army or special forces," the Scorpions' commander, Colonel Salaam Trad, said at the Marines' Kalsu base near Iskandariya on Saturday.

"But Saddam was dirty and no good for Iraq."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:57 PM


A Parent's Worst Nightmare in China: Wave of knife assaults on children can be seen as cries for help in a society where economic growth has created rising social tensions, analysts say. (Ching-Ching Ni, November 27, 2004, LA Times)

Analysts say the attacks demonstrate how crime has escalated in a country once viewed as virtually crime-free. More than two decades of economic growth have created rising social tensions but few institutions to address them.

The attacks on children, analysts say, can also be seen as cries for help.

"It's no longer just about personal revenge," said Zhao Xiao, a Beijing-based scholar who studies transitional economies. "They also want … impact. That's why they are seeking out little children to make their point by attacking someone even weaker. This is potentially a very scary development."

In September, farmer Yang Guozhu woke up, shaved his head, bought some sunglasses and marched into a day-care center in the eastern Chinese city of Suzhou. He used a fruit knife to attack children. Twenty-eight were wounded; the oldest was 6 and the youngest 2.

According to Yang's account in Chinese media reports, he was forced to take drastic action because no one would pay attention to his family tragedy. Back in his village, Yang's younger brother and the brother's girlfriend had been charged with living together illegally. The village's family planning committee levied a fine on Yang's parents and confiscated their meager possessions: 17 sacks of grain and three bags of fertilizer.

A year later, the committee imposed a new fine, this time $1,200, an unobtainable sum for the peasants. Feeling helpless and humiliated, his parents committed suicide by drinking pesticide.

Yang and his siblings preserved their parents' bodies so they could seek justice. But local officials forcefully removed the corpses for cremation and beat relatives who tried to stop them.

After failed attempts to seek redress, Yang told a friend he would do something that everyone would hear about. For maximum impact, he picked Sept. 11, the three-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks in the United States. A week earlier, Yang watched militants shock the world by killing more than 300 people — mostly young children — at a school in Beslan, Russia.

Yang's target was a local elementary school. He apparently went prepared with gasoline and homemade explosives. But this year, Sept. 11 fell on a Saturday and the campus was empty. So he made his target the day-care center.

A culture where Columbine is a rational form of protest....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:24 PM


Ukrainian Parliament Declares Sunday's Presidential Election Invalid (Bill Gasperini, 27 November 2004, VOA News)

Opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko, left, and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych stand next to each other after negotiations in Kiev, Friday

Ukraine's parliament has declared the disputed presidential election vote invalid. The non-binding resolution, adopted in emergency session Saturday, comes amid increased calls for new elections.

Ukraine's parliament approved a resolution declaring that the runoff presidential election was invalid and failed to reflect the intention of voters. It also passed a vote of no confidence in the Central Election Commission, which declared Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych the winner of the November 21 election.

The speaker of parliament, Volodymyr Lytvyn, opened the session, saying the best option to end the political crisis would be to hold a new election. He said a new vote is needed in light of the numerous allegations of fraud that marred the presidential runoff vote last Sunday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:05 AM


Abortion in Russia: No Big Deal (Anna Arutunyan, 11/25/04, The Moscow News)

There may be no sex in Russia, so goes a Soviet urban legend. And somehow, with abortions outnumbering live births nearly 2 to 1, if you’re a Russian woman and never had one, you’re a statistical non-entity.

The women I spoke to — stoic, intelligent matrons obviously with other things on their minds besides talking their husbands into using condoms — took it for granted that they had friends who’d chide them with “I’ve had thirty abortions already, what’s the big deal?” when they had to make that trip to the clinic.

And, according to one gynecologist who has been practicing for 45 years, there was certainly no reason to blanche when a girl told you that “I’d rather just have abortions than not have satisfying sex.”

Western media — like the Washington Post — put Russia at number three for its abortion rate, just after Cuba and Romania. Conservative think tanks like the Rand Corporation are more blatant: Russia has the highest abortion rate in the world.

Statistics, like women, are fickle; and yet whatever numbers you look at, the rates are staggering. According to a compilation from the Demographic Yearbook of the European Council and an analogous Demographic Yearbook by the United Nations, Russia is the only nation in the world where abortions consistently outnumbered live births by a ratio of about 2 to 1. In 1970, for example, there were 1.9 million births and 4.8 million abortions. Today, with more access to real contraceptives, that number has decreased: for every live birth there are between 1.3 and 1.5 abortions, depending on the statistics you look at.

No decent society can emerge from such a culture of death.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:00 AM


The Happy Hater (Franklin Foer, 11.24.04, New Republic)

A misanthropic character, who considered Western civilization to be on a road to perdition, [Albert Jay Nock] viewed himself an atavistic figure from premodern times and occasionally wore a cape to symbolize his preference for the past. This sartorial detail also had the intended effect of enshrouding him in mysteriousness. During a stint as editor of the Freeman, he declined to give his colleagues his home address or to reveal more substantive details about himself. Van Wyck Brooks recounted a rumor that contacting Nock required leaving a note under a rock in Central Park. None of his New York friends or colleagues knew that Nock had spent decades as an Episcopal priest or that he had abandoned his wife and children. Had they read his Memoirs they would not have come to know these facts either.

While most conservatives have willfully suppressed any memory of Nock, the godfather has been gracious in his treatment of him. In a lecture in 1999, Buckley recounted, "I began reading Albert Jay Nock, from whom I imbibed deeply the anti-statist tradition which he accepted, celebrated, and enhanced." Buckley hadn't just known Nock from his oeuvre. During the early forties, Nock regularly lunched with Buckley's father at the family's estate, delivering sweeping pronouncements about civilization's decay. A good portion of the early National Review staff looked upon Nock with similar reverence.

Given the noisy victory dance Christian conservatives are now performing, it is hard to imagine that they are part of a movement that Nock helped launch. But, at its birth, the conservative movement looked a lot more like Randolph Bourne than Ralph Reed--a bit anarchist, somewhat bohemian, occasionally blasphemous, and thoroughly misanthropic. Nock's Memoirs exudes these qualities and has another charming trait: It may be the most splenetic work in all of American literature.

Memoirs of a Superfluous Man begins with an advertisement against itself. Nock tells his readers that he "led a singularly uneventful life"--an announcement that doesn't portend the massive egotism and arrogance to come. From the start, the book fails miserably as memoir. Just as he refused to give colleagues his address, he resists supplying readers with the most basic data. He lives in towns without names, cavorts with nameless friends in unspecified years. As a self-described anarchist, he stays true to himself and resists convention. The book abandons all pretenses to chronological storytelling and melts into a pot of digressions. But Memoirs isn't really memoir at all. It resides in the canon of elitist misanthropy--a genre that flourished in the interwar period in the angry writings of H.L. Mencken, Ralph Adams Cram, and, to an extent, Jose Ortega y Gasset.

Nock began his journalistic career as muckraker, working along side Lincoln Steffens. But, like Mencken and Cram, he grew wildly disillusioned with the secular faith of the progressive era. When he looked at the changes of the early twentieth century, the embrace of the democratic ideal and the rise of mass culture, he recoiled in horror. Society was in the midst of what he described as "rebarbarisation." It was "increasingly repulsive and degrading." He lamented, for instance, that the expansion of literacy and schooling had "enabled mediocrity and submediocrity to run rampant." And the state, he argued, had turned into "a pliant organ of such segments of the Neolithic mass as can get at it."

The last phrase holds the key to Nock's view--the Neolithic mass. Society, he believed, included both humans and barbarians suffering from delusions of grandeur. These barbarians hadn't evolved to a state that could be properly described as human. But in the twentieth century, they had broken through the gates. Nock responded to this incursion with seemingly infinite haughtiness. "One can hate human beings, at least I could--I hated a lot of them when that is what I thought they were--but one can't hate subhuman creatures or be contemptuous of them, wish them ill, regard them unkindly."

Nock can't easily be slipped into a shelf on the taxonomical table of American ideology. He gets described in turns as an anarchist, anarchocapitalist, and libertarian. His biographer Michael Wreszin places him squarely in the anarchist camp. (Wreszin also wrote a superb biography of Dwight Macdonald, another devotee of Nock's work.) Indeed, he wrote a book called Our Enemy, the State. When Nock summed up his political philosophy, it sounded strikingly similar to the objectivism of Ayn Rand. "I found myself settled in convictions which I suppose must be summed up as an intelligent selfishness, intelligent, egoism, intelligent hedonism." But unlike Rand and her disciples, this celebration of selfishness didn't lead him to laissez faire economics. In fact, he despised modern society's embrace of "economism" and rampant materialism. "Such values," he wrote, "cannot build a [society] which is lovely." In end, he is a classic conservative, who views the values of the past as superior to those of the present.

Mr. Foer seems to have misread Nock and misunderstood Christianity, conservatism, and America--none hate men, rather finding great humor (not to mention the only insightful political philosophy) in Man's Fallen nature and his inability to be human, and taking great pleasure in the fact that Man nonetheless struggles mightily to overcome his limitations, sometimes even succeeding. Mr. Foer's confusion about how you could have such a dim view of humanity but still be happy is yet another illustration that all humor is conservative.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:56 AM


The Constitutional Doctrines that Won't Change, Even If the Supreme Court Does (VIKRAM AMAR AND ALAN BROWNSTEIN, Nov. 26, 2004, Find Law)

What factors make any constitutional doctrine permanent, or at least relatively stable, over time?

Much of American constitutional law has ebbed and flowed over time along with the varied cultural and political tides that have influenced our society - and our judges. But some doctrinal principles seem more insulated from retrenchment than others, even today - when change is in the air. Why is that so?

Political Constituencies Will Cut Back on Rights That Never Serve Their Interests

We suggest that a given constitutional doctrine moves toward stability and permanence when it is recognized as valuable by a broad and politically diverse constituency.

To see why, it's important first to note that the rights set forth in our Bill of Rights -- and the structural arrangements mandated by the rest of the Constitution -- impose burdens on third parties and/or the general public. In this sense, constitutional principles can be seen as expensive political goods that carry costs with them. Once these costs are analyzed, it becomes clear that freedom really isn't free.

Why would citizens readily accept the cost of a given constitutional constraint over the long haul, if that constraint has little utility for them right now in the cases the courts are adjudicating? The answer, we think, is that they perceive that the guarantee will work to their benefit in other circumstances and will provide them needed protection against government interference at least some of the time. So even if they are not benefiting with regard to a specific application of constitutional law they see today, they - or their children - may benefit from this guarantee on other occasions.

On this logic, a guarantee will be especially tenuous - and vulnerable to Court reconsideration - if it protects decisions or conduct of only particular political constituencies, and provides no foreseeable benefit to other parts of the polity. Such a guarantee may be short-lived, for when the political winds change and groups that have been out of office regain political power, those groups may well challenge that guarantee. Why wouldn't they? It requires them to incur normative or material losses for which they receive nothing in return - now, or in the foreseeable future.

If you apply this sensible analysis it becomes apparent that those "rights" that have been created by the Court in direct contradiction of uniform state statutes are the least likely to endure: abortion, criminal protections, gay rights, etc.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:56 AM


The Rise of a New Economic Czar?: Bush loyalist Tim Adams may be the favorite to head the National Economic Council. If he does, he's likely to boost the position's power (Howard Gleckman, 11/24/04, Business Week)

The remaking of the Bush economic team continues. Stephen Friedman, who heads the National Economic Council, is resigning to return to New York, White House aides say. And whoever replaces him may well find that the best place to shape economic policy in the second-term Administration will be inside the White House, at the head of the NEC. [...]

While Bush hasn't yet named a replacement, the inside track belongs to Tim Adams, the former Treasury Dept. chief of staff who served as policy director of the President's reelection campaign.

Adams, a low-key policy expert, would fit the recent Bush pattern: Choosing long-time loyalists to fill sensitive posts. At Treasury and on the campaign, Adams was able to manage sometimes-nasty policy spats among conservative economists. Like Friedman -- and unlike Lawrence B. Lindsey, who was the NEC chair from 2001 to 2002 -- Adams is a pragmatist who's unlikely to bring his own agenda to the job. But unlike Friedman, Adams is considered a savvy Washington insider.

As a result, Adams could fill a key role as the Bush Administration pursues its twin second-term domestic-policy initiatives: Creating private Social Security accounts and revamping the federal tax system. Sources say Adams strongly supports early and aggressive action on both initiatives. And should he become the NEC chief, Adams and Budget Director Joshua B. Bolten could be central players in developing both policy and strategy inside the White House. The third key player: Top political adviser Karl Rove.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:48 AM


Dumbing down: the proof
(The Spectator, November 27th, 2004)

As a service to Spectator readers who still have any doubts about the decline in educational standards, we are printing these exam papers taken by 11-year-olds applying for places to King Edward’s School in Birmingham in 1898.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:40 AM


Inquisition (Dr. James Hitchcock, Nov-Dec 1996, Catholic Dossier)

The modern historiography of the Inquisition, most of it by non-Catholic historians, has resulted in a careful, relatively precise, and on the whole rather moderate image of the institution, some of the most important works being; Edward Peters, Inquisition; Paul F. Grendler, The Roman Inquisition and the Venetian Press; John Tedeschi, The Prosecution of Heresy; and Henry Kamen, The Spanish Inquisition.

Some of their conclusions are:

* The inquisitors tended to be professional legists and bureaucrats who adhered closely to rules and procedures rather than to whatever personal feelings they may have had on the subject.

* Those roles and procedures were not in themselves unjust. They required that evidence be presented, allowed the accused to defend themselves, and discarded dubious evidence.

* Thus in most cases the verdict was a “just” one in that it seemed to follow from the evidence.

* A number of cases were dismissed, or the proceedings terminated at some point, when the inquisitors became convinced that the evidence was not reliable.

* Torture was only used in a small minority of cases and was allowed only when there was strong evidence that the defendant was lying. In some instances (for example, Carlo Ginzburg's study of the Italian district of Friulia) there is no evidence of the use of torture at all.

* Only a small percentage of those convicted were executed — at most two to three percent in a given region. Many more were sentenced to life in prison, but this was often commuted after a few years. The most common punishment was some form of public penance.

* The dreaded Spanish Inquisition in particular has been grossly exaggerated. It did not persecute millions of people, as is often claimed, but approximately 44,000 between 1540 and 1700, of whom less than two per cent were executed.

* The celebrated case of Joan of Arc was a highly irregular inquisitorial procedure rigged by her political enemies, the English. When proper procedures were followed some years later, the Inquisition exonerated her posthumously.

* Although the Inquisition did prosecute witchcraft, as did almost every secular government, the Roman inquisitors by the later sixteenth century were beginning to express serious doubts about most such accusations.

The Inquisition has long been the bete noir of practically everyone who is hostile to the Church, such as Continental European anti-clericals. But its mythology has been especially strong in the English-speaking lands, including America.

Much of this is due to John Foxe's Acts and Monuments (commonly called his Book of Martyrs), which for centuries was standard reading for devout Protestants, alongside the Bible and John Bunyan. Foxe, an Elizabethan, detailed numerous stories of Protestant martyrs, especially during the reign of Queen Mary. Ironically, in view of the ways the book has been used, Mary's persecution of Protestants had nothing to do with the Inquisition, which did not exist in England.

But the English-speaking hatred of the Inquisition also stems from the unfamiliar legal system that institution employed. “Inquisition” of course means merely “inquiry,” something which in itself is hardly sinister. But most Continental legal systems, in contrast to English common law, were derived from Roman law and used not the adversarial system but one in which the judges were not neutral umpires of the proceedings but were charged with ferreting out the truth.

No one cares what the truth of the Inquisition was--the myth is too handy a weapon for bigots.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:35 AM


Weaker Than We Think: Al-Qaeda may have already fired its best shot. (Russell Seitz, December 6, 2004, The American Conservative)

Salafist fanaticism is a worthy successor to Marxist zeal when it comes to malevolence, but policy must consider the capacity for action, not intent alone. To judge by action, terrorism indeed took advantage of our at best sporadic vigilance and summoned its resources in the ’90s much as the president’s speech observed. But how does its actual capacity for evildoing compare with the sum of our fears?

In a War on Terror, knowing the enemy’s numbers is vital. London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies reckons Osama bin Laden has recruited 18,000 since 9/11, while some DOD officials think he’s down to his last 3,000 men. [...]

However tall bin Laden may loom as a scourge of civilizations, it is increasingly clear that his arsenal is as phony as his army is small—its shelves are bare of expertise and materiel alike. But the War on Terror is anything but phony, and al-Qaeda is under withering attack by every means a hyperpower and its allies can devise. The cancer remains, but intrusive therapy is clearly taking its toll. As the attrition continues, the focus on what remains is intensifying. This concentration of fire to accelerate the enemy’s demise coincides with the contraction of the safe haven available to him to hide. A feedback loop has arisen from the intelligence that flexibility has gained. It is becoming a noose around Osama’s neck, and he has only himself to blame for the crumbling platform on which he stands.

Al-Qaeda means “foundation” in the sense of a base of operations rather than a Brookings Institution. In 2001, its host, Afghanistan’s Taliban, was on a war footing with the Northern Alliance, an American ally against the Soviet occupation. With the Twin Towers still standing, bin Laden ordered the assassination of the Alliance’s leader, Ahmad Shah Massoud. The blood feud this ignited bought al-Qaeda’s leadership breathing space, but eventually forced it to flee not just into the Pashtun no-man’s-land along the Pakistani border but beyond it, into Pakistan’s Northern Areas. It is a region whose lower passes are higher than the Rockies and whose winters make Tora Bora look like Palm Springs—a fine place to hide, but a ludicrous launch pad for a global revolution. On the lam and preoccupied with security and survival, not strategy, al-Qaeda is no longer a magnet for the best and brightest young jihadis. The average al-Qaeda grunt is no Atta, but a high-school dropout who lives at home.

However much the world changed on 9/11, the thousand days before and after it remain identical in one respect—Islamic terrorists killed no one on American soil. Whatever our future fears, in the here and now, al-Qaeda remains boxed. They can spike truck bombs with as much concentrated radwaste as they can steal or buy, but a frontier of plausibility still separates analytical pessimism from the hinterland of paranoia. Those who imprudently equate the modern ubiquity of high technology with terrorists becoming omniscient or infallible risk a rendezvous with cognitive dissonance.

Practitioners of urban terrorism, like those of strategic bombing on both sides in World War II, may find the psychological as well as the physical damage done disappointing. London’s civil society endured the Blitz, and cities of millions coexist with violent death today as well. On 9/11, 1 in 3,000 New Yorkers perished, but in the same year, over 1 in 1,000 urbanites were murdered in three major cities in the Western hemisphere alone.

He overstates the threat.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:30 AM


How Bush's Plan Would Secure Social Security: Funding a personal account is like prepaying a mortgage (Glenn Hubbard, 11/29/04, Business Week)

[R]eform would strengthen opportunities to build wealth for millions of Americans, many of whom have few financial assets today. Personal accounts also offer a surer way to prefund our obligation to pay future Social Security benefits. While lawmakers find it difficult to "save" rather than spend Social Security surpluses (the excess of current payroll tax over current benefits), personal accounts would be off-limits to politicians. The emergence of Social Security reform as a domestic policy priority is encouraging, but the focus on personal accounts raises both challenging questions and questionable challenges that need to be addressed.

CHALLENGING QUESTIONS. To start, what are the objectives of Social Security reform? One obvious objective is to advance the President's ownership society agenda. The transition costs to personal accounts will actually put Social Security on a firmer footing. As long as future net obligations are reduced by prefunding Social Security benefits through personal accounts, the diversion of a portion of payroll taxes to personal accounts is akin to prepaying part of a mortgage. If the transition costs are borrowed, the resulting higher explicit federal debt in the near term is offset by lower implicit debt (Social Security obligations) in the longer run. The present value of Social Security's unfunded liabilities is lowered.

This point relates to the second challenging question. Will the reform put Social Security on a better financial footing? The long-term funding gap facing Social Security is large because promised benefits exceed payroll tax receipts by trillions of dollars. Personal accounts alone will not secure Social Security's long-term financial future. The President has stated that there would be no change for current retirees or those nearing retirement. Hence, to close the gap without raising taxes, younger workers will need to receive lower benefits relative to their previous earnings than today's retirees do.

Under current law, initial benefits are indexed to average wage growth in the economy during the years that the retiree worked. Since young workers start their careers at a higher wage level than older workers, they get a larger Social Security benefit in real terms when they retire. One reform plan that replaces this wage indexing with price indexing eliminates almost all of the unfunded liabilities of the system. Benefits received relative to wages would decline (along with Social Security's liabilities), but they would be supplemented by expanded savings from the personal accounts.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:29 AM


'Anonymous' Agent Blasts Israel Lobby (MARC PERELMAN, 11/26/04, Forward)
"It is in the self-interest of the United States to find a way to cut into the ability of bin Ladenism to grow in popularity and gather support in the Muslim world," Scheuer said in an interview last weekend. "I am not saying we need to abandon Israel, but there is a perception in the Islamic world that it is a case of the tail leading the dog.... America is not perceived as an honest broker, but as backing Israel unconditionally."

Scheuer claims that because of savvy lobbying, crucial policies in the Middle East — he cited America's unflinching support of both Israel and Saudi Arabia — have not been debated during the past 30 years.

Scheuer denied any antisemitic leanings, after he was asked about the critical assertion he made in his book, stating that Israel, with the aid of its network of American supporters, had demonstrated an uncanny ability to stifle such a debate in the United States. He reaffirmed his strong belief in Israel's deep influence over American policymaking.

"I admire what Israel has accomplished," he said. "As a former intelligence official, I wish our intelligence service could acquire a basis of support and the influence in the politics of another country like the ones Israel has established here."

While advocating bolder military and intelligence operations against radical Islamic terrorist networks, Scheuer argues those steps should be followed by a slate of economic and diplomatic initiatives, as well as policy changes, aimed at generating support for America in the Arab and Muslim worlds.

When pressed about his policy advice, Scheuer demurred, saying his thoughts were narrowly focused on American interests and that he was not a policy expert. Asked whether he was only criticizing the close relationship between President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, he said he felt the United States was perceived as a more honest broker under President Clinton than it is now. "Still, we have a long record of doing things perceived as pro-Israel," he said. "My own view is that we should talk about it."
Of course we should talk about what State and the CIA really want to do in the Middle East--sell out Israel to the Arabs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:27 AM


10 reasons elections in Iraq will succeed (Quentin Langley, November 27, 2004, Pittsburgh Tribune Review)

Over the next few weeks, Iraqi government troops and their coalition allies - from Britain, Australia, America, and countless other countries -- will be in action to make Iraq safer. In Fallujah, which will continue to see some of the worst fighting, it will be Iraqi and American troops that will be undertaking the most dangerous tasks.

We can guarantee that during this time, while the fighting is at its worst, the faint hearts and pessimists - the French and German governments; the U.N.; the Democrats; CNN and CBS - will tell us that the effort is doomed. They will say that the Iraqi elections will be a flop, turnout will be low, and that Saddam's supporters will likely come back to power. They will also tell us that only American soldiers are getting killed, with no reference to the brave Iraqis fighting to take their country back from the terrorists. Here are the top 10 reasons why they are wrong. ..

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:23 AM


The Unsilent Pope: a review of Inside the Vatican of Pius XII: The Memoir of an American Diplomat During World War II. By Harold H. Tittmann, Jr. (William Doino, Jr. and Joseph Bottum, First Things)

Given Tittmann’s importance in the debate about the papacy during the war, these memoirs may be the most important document to be published on Pius XII in over twenty years. And they prove to be, far from an indictment, an overwhelming defense of the Pope and the Catholic Church. [...]

There are at least half a dozen major revelations in this memoir. Perhaps the most interesting comes when Tittmann relates his discussions with Joseph Mueller, the anti-Nazi Bavarian lawyer who served as a middle-man between Pius and the German resistance. “Dr. Mueller said that during the war his anti-Nazi organization in Germany had always been very insistent that the Pope should refrain from making any public statement singling out the Nazis and specifically condemning them and had recommended that the Pope’s remarks should be confined to generalities only,” Tittmann writes. To have this testimony from a leading member of the anti-Nazi resistance means that Pius XII’s conduct during the war was not due solely to his personal instincts but also to the explicit advice of the anti-Nazi resistance.

Other revelations include the Vatican’s maintenance of “special accounts in New York banks” operated by Archbishop Spellman, as well as a “personal and secret account” for Pius XII (“about which Spellman knew nothing”), which the Pope “used exclusively for charitable purposes” during the war. Pius revealed the accounts to Tittmann in a “strictly confidential” meeting, after Roosevelt issued an executive order freezing American assets of hostile European countries. How much of this papal money was distributed to those persecuted by the Nazis is unknown, but Tittmann at least strengthens the testimony of Fr. Robert Leiber, Pius’ longtime aide, who told Look magazine in 1966: “The Pope sided very unequivocally with the Jews at the time. He spent his entire private fortune on their behalf.”

Tittmann provides, as well, new details of the Vatican’s anxiety over written documents that might expose the Pope’s anti-Nazi activities and collaboration with the Allies. “It was only rarely that records were kept by the Vatican officials of conversations the Pope had with his intimate collaborators or even with important visitors from the outside, such as ministers, ambassadors, or private individuals offering information or suggestions,” Tittmann writes. When the German occupation of Rome began on September 10, 1943, Nazi surveillance increased dramatically, and Pius’ secretary of state, Cardinal Maglione, quickly recommended that any compromising documents be destroyed. Tittmann notes: “At a meeting on September 14, the Allied diplomats decided to follow the cardinal’s advice by destroying all documents that might possibly be of use to the enemy. Osborne [British minister to the Holy See] and I had already finished our burning, and the others completed theirs without exception by September 23, when I reported to the State Department.” As a result, even the many official diplomatic documents which survive the war years represent merely a fraction of Pius XII’s activities. [...]

Discussing the charge that Pius went easy on Nazism because of his fears of Soviet communism, Tittmann insists that the Pope “detested the Nazi ideology and everything it stood for,” and he describes in fresh detail Pius’ intervention for an extension of America’s lend-lease policy to Russia, persuading the American Catholic hierarchy to soften its stand against the Soviet Union in order to serve a greater, and more immediate, cause—the defeat of Nazi Germany. “Thus Pius XII himself had joined the President,” Tittmann says, “in admitting that Hitlerism was an enemy of the Church more dangerous than Stalinism and that the only way to overcome the former was an Allied victory, even if this meant assistance from Soviet Russia.”

Although a strong admirer of President Roosevelt, Tittmann does not flinch from criticizing the Allies’ carpet-bombing of Italian cities and religious institutions (including the attack on Castel Gandolfo, where the Pope was sheltering thousands of refugees). Tittmann also reveals how Roosevelt, anxious to secure American Catholic support for the lend-lease program to Russia and eager for the Pope to intervene for him with the American bishops, wrote Pius a letter claiming that “churches in Russia are open”—and asserting his putative belief that there was “a real possibility that Russia may, as a result of the present conflict, recognize freedom of religion.” Obviously embarrassed by this, Tittmann quotes another State Department official who had been stationed in Moscow as saying “he could not understand how such a letter as the President’s could ever have been written in the first place in view of all the contrary information that was on file in the State Department.”

One wishes he'd not listened to FDR.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:20 AM


Rell approval rating soars to new height (AP)

Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell's popularity is at a new high with Connecticut voters, making her a formidable gubernatorial candidate in 2006, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday.

The poll of 1,774 registered voters gives Rell an 80 percent approval rating, nearly the highest of any governor ever surveyed by the university. Only New York Gov. George Pataki was rated higher at 81 percent, in a poll a few weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. [...]

In a hypothetical race for governor, the poll puts Rell in a tight competition with U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd, who trails Rell 45 percent to 43 percent. A spokesman for Dodd reiterated Tuesday that the senator has said he has no plans to run for governor.

Interesting that Mr. Dodd polls so poorly for an executive job.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:19 AM


Boy's religious absences stir flap at Indiana school (Associated Press, November 26, 2004)

A mother said a Lowell, Ind., school has threatened to expel her 6th-grade son if he misses any more days, even if he is absent for religious reasons.

Ruth Scheidt said Lowell Middle School officials had her 12-year-old son sign a letter last month stating he understood that he could be expelled if he missed another day of school for any reason before the end of the semester in January.

The family had just returned from an out-of-state, eight-day religious observance called the Feast of Tabernacles, celebrated by the United Church of God.

Scheidt said she told the Tri-Creek School Corporation well in advance of taking her son to the observance and presented a letter from the church explaining the holy days.

Alice Neal, superintendent of the school district south of Gary, said that the issue was a misunderstanding and that she told Scheidt the policy on excused absences, five of which are allowed per semester.

Excuses include illness with a doctor's note, a death in the immediate family, quarantine or court appearance. Neal said the schools accept one day off per semester for religious observance, and the family had used that already.

The solution seems obvious enough: give the family a voucher valued at whatever the per capita spending is per pupil in Lowell. It looks like that's probably about $5000, which would easily pay for a private/parochial alternative.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:15 AM


The UN confronts its biggest scandal: Saddam Hussein's regime poisoned everything it touched - including the United Nations (Tony Parkinson, November 27, 2004, The Age)

A Syrian journalist was paid almost $2 million in illicit oil profits to serve as a mouthpiece in the public campaign in the Arab world to rail against sanctions as a genocide of the Iraqi people. A Scottish engineering firm agreed to pay more than $10 million in kickbacks to a front company - while overcharging the UN - after Saddam's regime threatened to scrap its supply contracts.

These are but two examples of Saddam's "reward and punish" strategy. But as Republican senator Norm Coleman asks pointedly: "How high up does the corruption go?"

Oil-for-food has become the biggest financial scandal in the UN's history. Senior officials are under intense scrutiny. The UN has been known for decades to play host to pockets of patronage and cronyism, but never before has it been linked to fraud on this scale.

Benon Sevan, the director of the oil-for-food program, continues to deny he profited from oil vouchers allocated in his name. He, like others, will be awaiting anxiously an interim report, expected by January, from a UN-appointed inquiry.

It's bad enough for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that somebody he appointed to a position of trust may be implicated. But what has most besmirched the UN's reputation is the accusation it was linked organically to a multibillion-dollar scam set up to sustain the Iraqi dictator in power.

The question is where this sordid money trail might lead - not just at the UN, but in the government and business elites of leading powers on the Security Council.

It's old hat for Americans to distrust the UN but interesting to see the rest of the world and even UN Employees join in.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


The Fear Born of a Much Too Personal Look at Jihad (RICHARD BERNSTEIN, 11/27/04, NY Times)

THE first thing to know about the woman known widely here as Doris Glück is that Doris Glück is not her real name. She won't tell you her given name, or even her official new name - provided by the German police - beyond the first name and initial, Regina S. She won't say where she lives, either, and when she meets you at the railroad station in Bremen, she is clearly anxious to get away quickly lest she meet someone who knows her.

About a month ago, under the pseudonym Doris Glück, she published a book in Germany, "I Was Married to a Holy Warrior," in which she described how she fell in love with an Egyptian, married him and then watched, appalled, as he became progressively more militant and, finally, fully engaged in jihad.

The worst moment came in the mid-1990's in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where she and her now ex-husband had gone to help the Muslim side in the civil war in the former Yugoslavia. (In the book she calls him by a pseudonym, Omar, to forestall any effort he might have made to block publication had she used his real name, Reda Seyam.) One day, she was taken to a place near a mountain, she says, where she became an involuntary witness to the revenge execution of three Serbian men, one of them by beheading. [..]

IN their first seven years of marriage, she said, "my husband drank liquor, he had no beard, he didn't go to the mosque." But in 1994, the same year he became a German citizen, he broke his arm in a bicycle accident. With time on his hands, he started going to a mosque in Heidelberg, the university town along the Rhine where they were living, and before his wife knew it, he had committed himself to the Islamic cause.

Along the way, at Omar's request, Regina S. converted to Islam, taking the name Aysha, after one of the wives of the Prophet Muhammad and also the name of her mother-in-law.

"Islam is a wonderful thing," she said, "but they destroyed that in me, because my ex-husband hates unbelievers. He thinks it's O.K. to kill unbelievers."

In Bosnia, of course, the West sided with the headsmen.

November 26, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:09 PM


THE FACTS ON THE UKRAINIAN MELODRAMA (Srdja Trifkovic, 11/24/04, Chronicles)

The media myth: An East European "pro-Western, reformist democrat" is cheated of a clear election victory by an old-timer commie apparatchik. A wave of popular protest may yet ensure another Triumph of Democracy a la Belgrade and Tbilisi, however. The fact: neither the winner of the presidential election in the Ukraine, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, nor his Western-supported ultranationalist rival Viktor Yushchenko, are "democrats" or "reformers" in any accepted sense. They differ, however, on the issue of the Ukrainian identity and destiny in what is a deeply divided country. Ukraine is like a large Montenegro, split between its Russian-leaning half (the south, the east) and a strongly nationalist west and north-west that defines its identity in an unyielding animosity to Moscow. The prediction: "The West"—the United States, the European Union, and an array of Sorosite "NGOs"—will fail to rig this crisis in favor of Yushchenko: the critical mass that worked in Serbia in October 2000, and in Georgia in 2003—the complicity of the security services and mafia money—is simply not present.

The myth is virulently Russophobic. It implicitly recognizes the reality of Ukraine's divisions but asserts that those Ukrainians who want to maintain strong links with Russia are either stupid or manipulated. This view has nothing to do with the well-being or democratic will of 50 million Ukrainians. It is strictly geopolitical, in that it sees Moscow as a foe and its enemies (Chechen Jihadists included) as friends. [...]

"You see the whole apparat," says our source, "a conclave of governments, friendly (and government funded) NGOs, and contract opportunities. Something for everybody—and all for ‘democracy.' Y'gotta love it!"

The reality is that the apparat will fail on this occasion. A Serbian or Georgian scenario cannot work in a country in which the key elements of power—the police, the army, and the business community—have not decided to support the opposition. The key to Milosevic's downfall was a secret deal between his political enemies and Serbia's key security chiefs in advance of public protest. Even if the authorities in Kiev accede to Western demands and investigate fraud or conduct a recount, the results are unlikely to change because they reflect a political landscape too complex to be reduced to the NGO black and white paradigm. [...]

About a half of all Ukrainians who voted for Yanukovych did not do so solely on the grounds of his pro-Russian outlook, however. As the Financial Times noted on November 19, strong economic growth of 13 percent has helped his campaign of "peace and stability." This year's grain harvest will reach 45m tones, the highest since Ukraine gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Increasing social spending, including payment of pensions and state salaries, are attributed to the Prime Minister's policies. By contrast Yushchenko's stronghold in western Ukraine is an economic wasteland. Nikolas Gvosdev was a rare Western commentator to point out that for many in central and eastern Ukraine increased links with Russia translate into greater prosperity: trade turnover in goods and services between the two countries is expected to reach $20 billion in 2004, one-half of Ukraine's current GNP. By contrast, its trade with the EU accounts for only a fifth of the total. "Many Western observers lament Ukraine's continuing economic and political ties to Russia," Gvosdev says, "but U.S. and European governments have done little to provide more concrete economic incentives for change." Yushchenko's campaign was not helped by a statement earlier this year by the president of the European Commission Romano Prodi that Ukraine will "never" be a member of the EU. Despite all the rhetoric supporting a "European" the scenario of Ukraine's Euro-Atlantic integration was not seriously entertained in any important Western capital. It was unrealistic to expect the Ukrainians to make a plunge without any concrete promises of what they'd get in return.

Washington would be well advised to accept the result with equanimity. As Doug Bandow of CATO Institute says, the United States and Europe aren't going to "lose" Ukraine: it will continue to expand its commercial and political ties with the West regardless of outcome. On the other hand, excessive insistence on the preordained outcome would unnecessarily alienate Russia at a time when her cooperation is sorely needed in the war against Jihad.

Except that when your security services and state controlled media go wobbly:
Ukraine state TV in revolt (Sebastian Usher, 11/26/04, BBC)
Journalists on Ukraine's state-owned channel - which had previously given unswerving support to Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych - have joined the opposition, saying they have had enough of "telling the government's lies".

Journalists on another strongly pro-government TV station have also promised an end to the bias in their reporting. The turnaround in news coverage, after years of toeing the government line, is a big setback for Mr Yanukovych.

Ukrainian police join protests (ABC News, 11/27/04)
Ukrainian police have sided in droves with opposition protests against the conduct of last weekend's presidential election and a feared crackdown on the demonstrators has not been carried out.

But the authorities can rely on a hard core of allies in the security services, police and military, who a former senior official warned could act if the situation appeared to be getting out of control.

Responding to a call to "join the people" by opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko, who claims to be have been cheated out of the presidency by Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, dozens of police have been showing their colours.

They have been appearing on the opposition television station Kanal 5 and speaking on the platform set up in central Kiev's Independence Square to proclaim their backing for the pro-western Yushchenko.

"We are expressing our distrust of the Government," one policeman told hundreds of thousands of cheering opposition supporters.

It's time to cut a deal, Ukraine leader faces ultimatum (Jeremy Page, 11/27/04, Times of London)
UKRAINE’S presidential rivals publicly renounced violence last night and agreed to set up a working group to heal the country’s political paralysis, but the opposition still insisted on fresh elections.

At crisis talks mediated by Russia and the EU, Viktor Yanukovych, the Prime Minister, and his liberal challenger, Viktor Yushchenko, called for a peaceful solution to the impasse. “We stand against any use of force that might lead to an escalation of conflict and bloodshed,” they declared in a joint statement.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:25 PM

FEEL OR THINK? (via Tom Corcoran):

Manchurian Voters: New technology spots differences in Republicans’ and Democrats’ brains. (Christopher Orlet, 11/26/04, American Spectator)

Most of us have long suspected that there are profound differences between the brains of Republicans and Democrats. Now new brain-scan technology has scientifically proven this to be the case. No, Democrats' brains are not noticeably smaller than Republican brains. The difference lies in how Democrats and Republicans react to being shown certain stimuli.

According to researchers at UCLA, differences were noted mainly in regard to the expression of empathy: "One Democrat's brain lit up at an image of John Kerry 'with a profound sense of connection, like a beautiful sunset,'" according to researcher Joshua Freedman. Brain activity in a Republican shown an image of Bush was "more interpersonal, such as if you smiled at someone and they smiled back." In other words Republicans may be better at building real and realistic relationships, while Democrats are more likely to see the connection between a Democratic victory and continued and unimpeded flow of government handouts. [...]

In another segment of the test, according to the Associated Press, "voters were shown a pro-Bush commercial that included images of the September 11 attacks. The amygdala region of the brain -- which lights up for most of us when we see snakes -- illuminated more for Democrats than Republicans. The researchers' conclusion: at a subconscious level, Republicans were apparently not as bothered by what Democrats found alarming."

Liberalism proceeds from emotion, conservatism from thought, explaining the gender gap also.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:09 PM


Liberals vow to fight Gonzales nomination (Jerry Seper, 11/26/04, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

A coalition of liberal groups is vowing to challenge the nomination of White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales as U.S. attorney general over his role in policies governing the treatment of detainees in Iraq and in the war on terrorism.

Led by the People for the American Way, which helped organize more than 200 groups to oppose the 2000 nomination of Attorney General John Ashcroft, the coalition is expected to push Senate Judiciary Committee members to question Mr. Gonzales on the development of policies that led to abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and the rights and treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

It would make tactical political sense for Democrats to seem reticent about the Gonzales nomination, just to get conservatives to rally to the side of the most moderate person the President might appoint to the Court. But they've shown few signs in recent years that they think far enough ahead to be capable of sandbagging. Instead, challenging a Latino who's no ideologue will do nothing more than help cement the idea that the future of Hispanic politics lies in the GOP.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:04 PM


Bush targeted (Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough, 11/26/04, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

The Colombian terrorist group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC, threatened to attack President Bush during his stop in Colombia this week.

U.S. intelligence officials said reports from the region indicated that the Marxist group, which has conducted numerous bombings and terrorist attacks in the country, had planned to conduct some type of bombing or shooting attack during Mr. Bush's visit.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:00 PM


Can Howard Dean Save the Democrats?: The Vermont firebrand is essentially a centrist—with conviction and passion. He's an obvious choice to lead the fractured party (Eleanor Clift, Nov. 26, 2004, Newsweek)

The struggle to be Democratic National Committee chair is round one of the battle for the soul of the party. The obvious choice is Howard Dean, who has the clarity of conviction and the passion that voters hunger for even if they don’t always agree with him.

Party activists around the country are furious at the Washington Democrats for blowing the election. Wresting control away from the entrenched establishment is their goal. Dean would spark a Red State rebellion within the party, but the Heartland’s leading contender, Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, withdrew his name from contention after being shown numbers suggesting Dean would win.

Dean is talking to a lot of people, and what he’s telling them is that if a consensus African-American or minority candidate emerged, he would not seek the job. Clinton Labor Secretary Alexis Herman’s name surfaced, but she said she wasn’t interested, and so far nobody else has assumed the mantle. A Web site has sprung up, and a Democratic source says Dean is planning a series of speeches “to position himself as a centrist.” A campaign aide with close ties to the governor protests that he “wouldn’t be positioning himself. Remember in Iowa, the nicks came from the left.” Rival campaigns attacked Dean for once agreeing with Newt Gingrich that Social Security’s growth rate should be slowed, and for winning the endorsement of the National Rifle Association as Vermont’s governor.

Dean is essentially a New Democrat who happened to be against the war.

Ms Clift is correct that Howard Dean when he was governor of Vermont had the temperament, if not necessarily the policies, of a New Democrat. Had he run as that man he'd have won the nomination and been a better candidate than John Kerry, though not have fared any better. The problem though is that he seemed to take seriously the Internet activists who gathered around his campaign and allowed their odd politics to drive his candidacy. If he's acknowledged since that this was disastrous, and pushed him out of the mainstream of even the Democratic Party, we missed it. Indeed, all the stories suggest that he's selling himself as Party Chair on the basis of being able to tap into that "new force." If that's the direction the Democrats head in they're going to be even more marginalized than they are now.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:15 PM


After Victory, Crusader Against Same-Sex Marriage Thinks Big (JAMES DAO, 11/26/04, NY Times)

The warning call came in December 1995. "Do you folks on the mainland know what is going on here?" a friend from Hawaii asked Phil Burress, an antipornography crusader from the suburbs of Cincinnati.

Mr. Burress confessed that he did not. "They're going to legalize gay marriage here, and it's coming your way," the friend said, referring to a case before the Hawaii Supreme Court dealing with the right of same-sex couples to marry.

Mr. Burress, a self-described former pornography addict, had spent much of the 1990's fighting strip clubs and X-rated bookstores. But here was something he saw as a potentially greater threat to his fundamentalist Christian beliefs and traditional family values: something he called the "gay agenda."

"We saw a stepped program, a plan by gay advocates," Mr. Burress recalled. "It would lead to homosexuality being taught in schools as equal to heterosexuality. And we saw that what they couldn't get from legislatures they would try to get by going to court."

And so Mr. Burress became a Paul Revere for the movement against same-sex marriage, not only sounding warnings across the land but also laying the groundwork for a church-based conservative movement that he hopes will transform Ohio politics for years to come.

Thanks to the overreaching of gay activists it's a fight the Right will be able to organize around for awhile.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:11 PM


Measure Palestinian freedom, not summits: The peace process will fail again if it is not linked to real democracy and human rights (NATAN SHARANSKY, 11/25/04, THE JERUSALEM POST)

Toward the end of the Cold War, the free world began to link its policies toward the Soviet Union to human rights within that nation. Rather than focus on what Soviet leaders had to say about the West, the focus turned to how the Soviet regime was treating its own subjects.

THE JACKSON Amendment, for example, linked most favored nation trade benefits to the Soviet Union to that regime's respect for its citizens' right to emigrate. By focusing attention on a concrete right that was easily measurable, the Jackson Amendment proved a highly effective means of measuring the degree of freedom within the USSR and, as a result, Soviet intentions.

We, too, should seek to find concrete means to determine whether Palestinians are making progress on democratic reforms, so we can link our policies directly to such reforms. In addition to the obvious need to preserve the Palestinians' right of dissent - the quintessential mark of a free society - there are other reliable measures of the new leadership's commitment to reform.

First, that leadership can finally seek to end the suffering of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who live in refugee camps. Four generations of Palestinian refugees have been used as pawns in the Arab world's struggle against the Jewish state. These refugee camps should be dismantled as soon as possible and the refugees resettled in decent housing.

A leadership that is willing to end the fantasy of destroying Israel and begin to actually improve the conditions in which Palestinians live should be embraced by the free world with a new international Marshall Plan that can put an end to a shameful humanitarian disaster.

Second, the new leadership can stop poisoning Palestinians to hate Jews and the Jewish state. Textbooks where Israel does not appear on the map and PA-controlled television programs where kindergarten children beckon their classmates to follow the path of suicide martyrdom should be replaced with an educational system that promotes peace.

Third, the new leadership can expand economic opportunities for millions of Palestinians. For a decade, Arafat hollowed out Palestinian civil society and crushed its middle class. He monopolized basic industries, controlled work permits in Israel, as well as the distribution of international aid. A test of the new PA will be whether it, unlike Arafat, is willing to embrace joint ventures that strengthen the Palestinian middle class while inevitably lessening the control the new regime has over its subjects.

Finally, a new Palestinian leadership that is committed to reform will be our partners in fighting terror, for as long as terror continues no reform will be possible.

Once it's their state they won't want homocidal extremists wandering around either.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:02 PM


The Baby Gap: Explaining Red and Blue: How birthrates color the electoral map (Steve Sailer, December 20, 2004, The American Conservative)

oters are picking their parties based on differing approaches to the most fundamentally important human activity: having babies. The white people in Republican-voting regions consistently have more children than the white people in Democratic-voting regions. The more kids whites have, the more pro-Bush they get.

I'll focus primarily upon Caucasians, who overall voted for Bush 58-41, in part because they are doing most of the arguing over the meaning of the red-blue division. The reasons blacks vote Democratic are obvious, and other racial blocs are smaller. Whites remain the 800-pound gorilla of ethnic electoral groups, accounting for over three out of every four votes.

The single most useful and understandable birthrate measure is the "total fertility rate." This estimates, based on recent births, how many children the average woman currently in her childbearing years will end up with. The federal National Center for Health Statistics reported that in 2002 the average white woman was giving birth at a pace consistent with having 1.83 babies during her lifetime, or 13 percent below the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman. This below-replacement level has not changed dramatically in three decades.

States, however, differ significantly in white fertility. The most fecund whites are in heavily Mormon Utah, which, not coincidentally, was the only state where Bush received over 70 percent. White women average 2.45 babies in Utah compared to merely 1.11 babies in Washington D.C., where Bush earned but 9 percent. The three New England states where Bush won less than 40 percent -- Massachusetts, Vermont, and Rhode Island -- comprise three of the four states with the lowest white birth rates, with little Rhode Island dipping below 1.5 babies per woman.

Bush carried the 19 states with the highest white fertility (just as he did in 2000), and 25 out of the top 26, with highly unionized Michigan being the one blue exception to the rule.

In sharp contrast, Kerry won the 16 states at the bottom of the list, with the Democrats' anchor states of California (1.65) and New York (1.72) having quite infertile whites.

Among the fifty states plus Washington D.C., white total fertility correlates at a remarkably strong 0.86 level with Bush's percentage of the 2004 vote. (In 2000, the correlation was 0.85). In the social sciences, a correlation of 0.2 is considered "low," 0.4 "medium," and 0.6 "high."

You could predict 74% of the variation in Bush's shares just from knowing each state's white fertility rate. When the average fertility goes up by a tenth of a child, Bush's share normally goes up by 4.5 points.

In a year of predictably partisan books, one lively surprise has been What's the Matter with Kansas? by Thomas Frank, a leftwing journalist from Kansas who now lives with his wife and single child in the Democratic stronghold of Chicago. Frank is puzzled by why conservative Republicans in his homestate are obsessed with cultural issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and teaching evolution in the schools instead of the leftist economic populism that Frank admires in Kansas' past.

While the Christian right in Kansas doesn't much hold with Darwin, they are doing well at the basic Darwinian task of reproducing themselves: pro-life Kansas has the fourth highest white fertility in the country at 2.06 babies per woman, and the birthrate of the conservative Republicans that Frank finds so baffling is likely to be even higher. On the crucial question of whether a group can be bothered not to die out, "What's the Matter with Massachusetts?" would be a more pertinent question. Massachusetts' whites are failing to replace themselves, averaging only 1.6 babies per woman, and the states' liberal Democrats are probably reproducing even less than that.

So, white birthrates and Republican voting are closely correlated, but what causes what? The arrow of causality seems to flow in both directions.

Of course, the one group of fertile whites he doesn't think is becoming more Republican is Latinos. At any rate, one would rather be the political party of the growing not the shrinking demographic, eh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:40 PM

WEED WHACKERS (via Mike Daley):

Abortion foes raise race issue: Brochure handed out near Rocklin High likens treatment of blacks to Klan era. (Laurel Rosen, November 26, 2004, Sacramento Bee)

Taking their message as close to school campuses as they are legally allowed, local abortion opponents have been distributing information to
students that compares abortion with racial lynchings by the Ku Klux Klan.
About 15 members of a group called Teens for Life appeared late last week
outside Rocklin High School and, as students entered campus, distributed
brochures depicting a pointed white hood with the statement: "Lynching Is
for Amateurs." [...]

Planned Parenthood officials countered, saying the goal of their
organization is to provide health care in areas where it is needed most.

"There is a high correlation between the women's reproductive rights
movement and the civil rights movement," said Kathy Kneer, president of
Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California. "Both were founded on the core
basis of human rights and justice."

It's not necessary to believe that abortion has served genocidal purposes in order to recognize the simple truth that Planned Parenthood was founded not to advance civil rights but as part of the eugenics movement.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:32 PM

METHINKS HE'S A WEASEL (via Tom Corcoran):

Intellectuals Who Doubt Darwin: Uncommon Dissent: Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing Edited by William A. Dembski (Hunter Baker, 11/24/2004, American Spectator)

At one time, the debate over Darwin's theory existed as a cartoon in the modern imagination. Thanks to popular portrayals of the Scopes Trial, secularists regularly reviewed the happy image of Clarence Darrow goading William Jennings Bryan into agreeing to be examined as an expert witness on the Bible and then taking him apart on the stand. Because of the legal nature of the proceedings that made evolution such a permanent part of the tapestry of American pop culture, it is fitting that this same section of the tapestry began to unravel due to the sharp tugs of another prominent legal mind, Phillip Johnson.

The publication of his book, Darwin on Trial, now appears to have marked a new milestone in the debate over origins. Prior to Johnson's book, the critics of evolution tended to occupy marginalized sectarian positions and focused largely on contrasting Darwin's ideas with literalist readings of the Genesis account. Johnson's work was different. Here we had a doubter of Darwin willing to come out of the closet, even though his credentials were solid gold establishment in nature. He had attended the finest schools, clerked for Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, taught law as a professor at highly ranked Berkeley, and authored widely-used texts on criminal law. Just as Darrow cross-examined the Bible and Bryan's understanding of it, Johnson cross-examined Darwin and got noticed in the process. He spent much of the last decade debating the issue with various Darwinian bulldogs and holding up his end pretty well. [...]

TOP HONORS, HOWEVER, go to David Berlinski's essay, "The Deniable Darwin," which originally appeared in Commentary. The essay is rhetorically devastating. Berlinski is particularly strong in taking apart Richard Dawkins' celebrated computer simulation of monkeys re-creating a Shakespearean sentence and thereby "proving" the ability of natural selection to generate complex information. The mathematician and logician skillfully points out that Dawkins rigged the game by including the very intelligence in his simulation he disavows as a cause of ordered biological complexity. It's clear that Berlinski hits a sore spot when one reads the letters Commentary received in response to the article. Esteemed Darwinists like Dawkins and Daniel Dennett respond with a mixture of near-hysterical outrage and ridicule. Berlinski's responses are also included. At no point does he seem the slightest bit cowed or overwhelmed by the personalities arrayed against him.

For the reader, the result is simply one of the most rewarding reading experiences available.

The Dawkins's monkeys example is always musing to look at as an instance of an argument for Natural Selection that requires not just teleology but a continually intervening Intelligence:
I don't know who it was first pointed out that, given enough time, a monkey bashing away at random on a typewriter could produce all the works of Shakespeare. The operative phrase is, of course, given enough time. Let us limit the task facing our monkey somewhat. Suppose that he has to produce, not the complete works of Shakespeare but just the short sentence 'Methinks it is like a weasel', and we shall make it relatively easy by giving him a typewriter with a restricted keyboard, one with just the 26 (capital) letters, and a space bar. How long will he take to write this one little sentence?

The sentence has 28 characters in it, so let us assume that the monkey has a series of discrete 'tries', each consisting of 28 bashes at the keyboard. If he types the phrase correctly, that is the end of the experiment. If not, we allow him another 'try' of 28 characters. I don't know any monkeys, but fortunately my 11-month old daughter is an experienced randomizing device, and she proved only too eager to step into the role of monkey typist. Here is what she typed on the computer:


She has other important calls on her time, so I was obliged to program the computer to simulate a randomly typing baby or monkey:


And so on and on. It isn't difficult to calculate how long we should reasonably'expect to wait for the random computer (or baby or
monkey) to type METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL. Think about the total number of possible phrases of the right length that the monkey or baby or random computer could type. It is the same kind of calculation as we did for haemoglobin, and it produces a similarly large result. There are 27 possible letters (counting 'space' as one letter) in the first position. The chance of the monkey happening to get the first letter-M -right is therefore 1 in 27. The chance of it getting the first two letters — ME - right is the chance of it getting the second letter - E - right (1 in 27) given that it has also got the first letter - M - right, therefore 1/27 x 1/27, which equals 1/729. The chance of it getting the first word - METHINKS - right is 1/27 for each of the 8 letters, therefore (1/27) X (1/27) x (1/27) x (1/27). .., etc. 8 times, or (1/27) to the power 8. The chance of it getting the entire phrase of 28 characters right is (1/27) to the power 28, i.e. (1/27) multiplied by itself 28 times. These are very small odds, about 1 in 10,000 million million million million million million. To put it mildly, the phrase we seek would be a long time coming, to say nothing of the complete works of Shakespeare.

So much for single-step selection of random variation. What about cumulative selection; how much more effective should this be? Very very much more effective, perhaps more so than we at first realize, although it is almost obvious when we reflect further. We again use our computer monkey, but with a crucial difference in its program. It again begins by choosing a random sequence of 28 letters, just as before:


It now 'breeds from' this random phrase. It duplicates it repeatedly, but with a certain chance of random error - 'mutation' - in the copying. The computer examines the mutant nonsense phrases, the 'progeny' of the original phrase, and chooses the one which, however slightly, most resembles the target phrase, METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL.

What made Philip Johnson's book so devastating was that he did just such things, put the theory of Darwinism on trial and make it stand or fall on its own, within the four squares of its own logic. This is, of course, a truly scientific test, but not one applied to Darwinism by its adherents. For instance, one of the saddest passages in Edward Larson's recent book Evoltion comes when he complains that skeptics of Darwinism have attacked the theory but not offered a new one. Implicit is the idea that we should cling to a theory we now know to be wrong because there's no better one at hand. Whatever you might call that argument it's not scientific.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 2:50 PM


Hodge stresses state's role in family life (Tom Happold, The Guardian, November 26th, 2004)

Margaret Hodge today defended the government's efforts to improve parenting against the charge that ministers are creating a "nanny state".

In a speech to the Institute of Public Policy Research thinktank, the children's minister said: "The state can be a powerful force for good in families and communities and we should celebrate, not denigrate, its role."

She added: "When we [the government] act to support and help families by lifting them out of poverty and giving them real opportunities, they call us nannies and accuse us of interfering." [...]

"I want to celebrate and promote the role of the state in family life - the state as an enabler and partner to give children the best opportunities to fulfil their talent," she added.

"I recognise this involves difficult judgments, whether it's about enabling action or curtailing action. But shying away from these judgments is not good enough.

"For me it's not a question of whether we should intrude in family life, but how and when."

A fifty percent divorce rate, an explosion in single-parenthood, a literacy crisis, delinquency, female and child poverty, emotional illness in youth, historically unprecedented rates of abortion, decrepit public schools and dangerous public housing can all be related in whole or in part to the whittling away of family authority and self-reliance by the state. Yet despite the atrocious failures, progressives continue to celebrate each new state initiative as if it were a compassionate exercise of charity to those temporarily in hard times. It boggles the mind to think that, in 2004, anyone still thinks the state can lift anyone out of poverty or help children fulfil their talent.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:28 PM


A Modest Step Toward Unity: Richard John Neuhaus on the Catholic bishops' decision to join Christian Churches Together. (Interview by Rob Moll, 11/24/2004, Christianity Today)

There was some hesitation by the bishops about joining Christian Churches Together, so why did they eventually decide to join?

I think the decision is contingent upon the understanding that CCT is a very modest enterprise, and it's very different from the discussions of 20 and more years ago about the Catholic church joining the National Council of Churches or the World Council of Churches. CCT is at this point really not much more than an annual meeting of religious leaders to get to know one another and get ideas and share experiences, which is a pretty obvious thing to do. There were a lot of bishops who were very worried that it would become something like the old National Council of Churches, and therefore there was a very substantial vote against the proposal. But reassurances have been given that there are many checks and limits and built-in occasions for making sure CCT remains the modest enterprise that it presents itself as being now.

Could it have much impact if it is such a modest proposal?

I don't think we should underestimate the ways in which people who get to know one another and develop relationships of personal trust can then take steps toward forms of cooperation. It's not really just Christian churches, it's also national organizations in the social welfare and world development areas, and while they have their own institutions and patterns of interacting, this perhaps could strengthen that. You'd have to judge on a case by case basis as to whether a form of cooperation confuses or compromises the integrity of any particular church or organization, but on the face of it, I think it's very hard to argue in principle against what CCT aims to do at this point.

Jesus' prayer in John 17 to be one so that the world would believe is stated as a reason for forming CCT. Could you give me an understanding of the Catholic perspective on the importance of working out Jesus prayer in John 17?

The Catholic commitment to Christian unity is irrevocable. There is the Second Vatican Council, and the subsequent popes—and especially this pope—have said it again and again. But by Christian unity, Catholics mean something far beyond what is envisioned for CCT. And that is full communion, which means that one would be united in faith and life and that unity would be expressed in the Eucharist. So that's the Catholic understanding of the goal of Christian unity. But on the way to that goal, if God-willing it is ever to be achieved short of our Lord's return, there are other things that Christians can do together.

Protestantism was a mistake, but it's not too late to fix it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:27 PM


Greying nation facing huge bill
(Stefanie Balogh and Luke McIlveen, November 25, 2004,

AUSTRALIA's rapidly ageing population will force governments to find an extra $2200 billion over the next 40 years to meet the drain on health care and other costs.

A draft Productivity Commission research report sends a dire warning to governments about the need to act now to combat the problems of a greying population or face financial ruin.

It estimates the extra pressure on government spending will be 7.1 per cent of gross domestic product by 2044-45 – or around $5100 a person in that year alone.

From now to 2044-45 the commission estimates the accumulated shortfall in government spending will be around $2200 billion.

The drain on governments will come from the growing army of senior citizens.

The number of older Australians is expected to double in 40 years.

In 2044-45 there will be about 7 million people over 65 compared with about 2.5 million now. They will represent one in four Australians.

The potential blue-rinse economic disaster is being driven by people living longer and having fewer children.

Which is why Family First is the most important political development outside America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:22 PM

LIVES OF THE SECULAR SAINTS (via Robert Schwartz):

Gays Angry Over TV Report on a Murder (FELICIA R. LEE, 11/26/04, NY times)

An ABC News report about the murder of Matthew Shepard in 1998, which focused national attention on violence against gays, has ignited indignation among gay rights advocates even before its broadcast tonight.

The hourlong report on "20/20" re-examines the murder of Mr. Shepard, a 21-year-old college student who was tied to a fence, beaten and left to die by two men outside Laramie, Wyo.

The program includes prison interviews with the confessed killers, Aaron J. McKinney and Russell A. Henderson, who are serving life sentences. Mr. McKinney tells the ABC News correspondent Elizabeth Vargas that he was high on methamphetamine when he killed Mr. Shepard in a rage, explaining that his intent was to beat up and rob him. [...]

Those leading the charge against the heavily promoted ABC report - including Joan Garry, executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation - said the program relied on speculation, two convicted killers and other witnesses lacking credibility who are now changing their stories or making accusations that cannot be proved.

The original version didn't rely on speculation?

Posted by Peter Burnet at 2:03 PM


4x4s 'should carry health warning' (Richard Black, BBC, November, 26th, 2004)

Four-wheel-drive vehicles, those rugged beasts designed for the open hillside but more commonly found doing the city school run, are so polluting and dangerous that they should carry a cigarette packet-style health warning.

That is the view of UK think tank the New Economics Foundation, which outlines its arguments about the vehicles - also known as Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) - in the magazine New Statesman.

"They're really Satan's little run-around," NEF's policy director, Andrew Simms, told BBC News.

"They make an entirely unnecessary contribution to one of the biggest environmental problems we face - global warming - and there's a huge and unacknowledged health crisis which results from vehicle emissions."

According to the World Health Organization, vehicle emissions are responsible for tens of thousands of premature deaths in western Europe alone each year.

The agency also ascribes around 150,000 deaths globally each year to climate change.

A wise blogger once said anything that ill-treats others is a sin.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:21 AM


Code cracked as hunt for Grail goes on (KAREN MCVEIGH, The Scotsman)

IT is one of the most enduring myths of Western European literature, a cryptic message which has inspired tales from Arthurian legends to Dan Brown’s best-selling crime novel The Da Vinci Code.

But after months of research, experts believe they may now hold the key to the 250-year-old code, which is carved on a monument at the Earl of Lichfield’s Shugborough Hall estate in Staffordshire.

The Shepherd’s Monument, commissioned in 1748 by the then earl, Thomas Anson, features a carved image of a Nicolas Poussin painting with the letters D.O.U.O.S.V.A.V.V.M. underneath.

The cryptic inscription was rumoured to point to the location of the Holy Grail - the cup Jesus is said to have used at the Last Supper.

But veteran code-breakers from Bletchley Park, the former Second World War intelligence centre-turned museum in Buckinghamshire, now say the code is likely to stand for "Jesus (As Deity) Defy", a message from a sect called the Priory of Sion, a secret order with similar beliefs to the Knights Templar. Both sects were held to be heretical, notably by the Church of England, because they considered Jesus to be an earthly prophet, not a heavenly one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:17 AM


US campaign behind the turmoil in Kiev (Ian Traynor, November 26, 2004, The Guardian

[W]hile the gains of the orange-bedecked "chestnut revolution" are Ukraine's, the campaign is an American creation, a sophisticated and brilliantly conceived exercise in western branding and mass marketing that, in four countries in four years, has been used to try to salvage rigged elections and topple unsavoury regimes.

Funded and organised by the US government, deploying US consultancies, pollsters, diplomats, the two big American parties and US non-government organisations, the campaign was first used in Europe in Belgrade in 2000 to beat Slobodan Milosevic at the ballot box.

Richard Miles, the US ambassador in Belgrade, played a key role. And by last year, as US ambassador in Tbilisi, he repeated the trick in Georgia, coaching Mikhail Saakashvili in how to bring down Eduard Shevardnadze.

Ten months after the success in Belgrade, the US ambassador in Minsk, Michael Kozak, a veteran of similar operations in central America, notably in Nicaragua, organised a near identical campaign to try to defeat the Belarus hardman, Alexander Lukashenko.

That one failed. "There will be no Kostunica in Belarus," the Belarus president declared, referring to the victory in Belgrade.

But experience gained in Serbia, Georgia and Belarus has been invaluable in plotting to beat the regime of Leonid Kuchma in Kiev.

Better bloodless.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:06 AM


Reshaping fitness industry: No-frills Curves becomes No. 1 in exercise centers by letting women be comfortable (CLARKE CANFIELD, 11/25/04, Associated Press)

Targeting women in small-town America is part of the company's business strategy — and it's working. Curves has grown to more than 8,400 franchises in all 50 states and 28 countries, making it by far the world's No. 1 fitness center in terms of number of clubs. One in every four fitness clubs in the United States is a Curves, including 44 in the Houston area.

In some ways, Curves is the anti-club: no treadmills, no saunas, no locker rooms, no mirrors, no aerobics classes, no free weights. Forget the spandex — sweat shirts rule.

Members work out on eight to 12 hydraulic resistance machines, stopping between stations to walk or jog in place. The clubs' standard routine is over in 30 minutes and is designed to burn 500 calories.

While other clubs go after the prized 18-to-34 demographic, Curves' customers are more likely to be aging baby boomers. [...]

The company is the creation of Gary Heavin, 49, who heads Curves International in Waco. Heavin was a millionaire by age 30 after taking over a failing health club in Houston and expanding it into a chain of 17 clubs. But then came a divorce, bankruptcy and business failure. He spent 2 1/2 months in jail when he couldn't make child support payments.

In 1992, Heavin and his second wife, Diane, opened the first Curves club. It was small and simple, a place where women could feel comfortable.

Three years later, Heavin was selling franchises, and by 1998 there were 500. Curves aims to have more than 25,000 — including 8,000 in Asia and 8,000 in Europe — within five years. By comparison, Gold's Gyms and Bally Total Fitness, two of the biggest fitness clubs in the country, have about 1,000 facilities between them. [...]

Curves and Heavin, however, aren't without critics.

Some dismiss Curves as a fad. Heavin, a born-again Christian, has been criticized for his conservative political views and donations to anti-abortion causes. Some members have quit the clubs over his political stands.

At the annual Curves convention in Las Vegas this month, one of the topics was "the fallout from my values," Heavin said.

Heavin is credited with shaking up the fitness industry.

The Curves phenomenon has "forever altered the landscape of the worldwide fitness industry," John McCarthy, executive director of the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, wrote in a recent state-of-the-industry letter to association members.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 AM


Bridging the allies' divide (Helle Dale, November 26, 2004, Townhall)

[N]ot all Europeans are resigned to the decline in values and vigor that they see around them. If 70 percent of Frenchmen, for instance, would have preferred Sen. John Kerry to win the 2004 election, then 30 percent supported George Bush.

What kind of values are we talking about? More than family values per se, many are worried about the fundamental values of the Western, Judeo-Christian tradition, from which spring our concepts of human, political and religious rights.

"Unless Europe remembers the values of its own traditions, it is bound to be neglected," says Mr. Adornato, and Islam will prevail. "If we have no values and behave only in a relativistic way, we will lose because the other side believes more in their values than we do in ours." Hoping to inspire renewed cooperation between the United States and Europe, Fondazione Liberal has proposed a New Common Charter for Europe and the United States. In some ways resembling President Bush's recent speeches on the promotion of freedom and democracy, this New Common Charter focuses on the rather ambitious goal of "global liberty" and is yet a work in progress. Significantly, though, it is one among several recent efforts at rewriting the Atlantic Charter to put the U.S.-European relationship back on a more solid footing.

If you were betting you'd put your money on their deciding lo lose the culture war rather than remoralize.

November 25, 2004

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:50 PM


Kennedys aghast at game that lets you be Oswald (National Post, November 23rd, 2004)

Friends and family of former U.S. president John F. Kennedy condemned yesterday's release of a video game that puts players behind the trigger of his assassin's rifle.

David Smith, a spokesman for the slain president's younger brother, Senator Edward Kennedy, said it was bad enough that the game JFK Reloaded lets players stalk the Kennedy motorcade through a telescopic rifle sight.

But Mr. Smith said it was "despicable'' for the British-based maker of the game to release it yesterday, the 41st anniversary of the Kennedy assassination in Dallas.

Mr. Smith would not say if the Kennedys plan legal action. "It's despicable. There's really no further comment," he said.

In the game, players take the role of Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, watching as the Kennedy motorcade passes through Dealey Plaza in Dallas.

"Concentrate, and think like a sniper!" reads the instructions to the game, which can be downloaded for US$10. Players must fire three shots at Kennedy's black limousine from Oswald's perch in the Texas School Book Depository.

Points are awarded or subtracted according to how accurately the shots match the official version of events, documented by the Warren Commission, which investigated the assassination.

Players can choose to see the results of their actions by pressing a "blood effects" option, which shows a digital image of the effects of their shots on the presidential motorcade.

Contestants have points deducted if they accidentally hit former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, clothed in her famous pink outfit with pillbox hat.

How can one condemn, restrict or ban this abomination without reference to notions of obscenity or even blasphemy? (Unworthy Kennedy jokes discouraged)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:41 PM


Study: Cigarettes Cost Society $40 a Pack (Associated Press, 11/25/04)

Cigarettes may cost smokers more then they believe. A study by a team of health economists finds the combined price paid by their families and society is about $40 per pack of cigarettes.

The figure is based on lifetime costs for a 24-year-old smoker over 60 years for cigarettes, taxes, life and property insurance, medical care and lost earnings because of smoking-related disabilities, researchers said.

"It will be necessary for persons aged 24 and younger to face the fact that the decision to smoke is a very costly one - one of the most costly decisions they make," the study's authors concluded.

Smokers pay about $33 of the cost, their families absorb $5.44 and others pay $1.44, according to health economists from Duke University and a professor from the University of South Florida. The study drew on data including Social Security earnings histories dating to 1951.

Incidental costs such as higher cleaning bills and lower resale values for smokers' cars were not included.

Sin is never truly a private matter.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:34 PM


Iraqi Officials to Meet With Rebels to Discuss Political Role (EDWARD WONG, 11/25/04, NY Times)

The Iraqi foreign minister said today that the interim Iraqi government planned to meet soon in Jordan with leaders of the insurgency to try to persuade them to take part in legitimate politics here.

The remarks by the minister, Hoshyar Zebari, signal the first time the government has agreed to an official meeting with rebel leaders. Mr. Zebari did not did not give a date for the meeting or specify which rebel leaders might attend. He said Iraqi officials agreed to the meeting, which would take place in Amman, Jordan, after being asked by various diplomats at a conference in Egypt to open a dialogue with the resistance.

"The aim is really to reach out to as many people as possible both inside and outside" of Iraq, Mr. Zebari said at a news conference this afternoon in the foreign ministry here.

The government welcomes "the broader participation of Iraqis, even those who are oppositionists, in this process" of politics "if they renounce violence and terror," he said.

The rebel leaders who will be invited will be "some people who are of political and tribal backgrounds," he said, declining to elaborate further. American and Iraqi officials say much of the insurgency is being financed by wealthy loyalists to Saddam Hussein who fled to bordering countries in the run-up to the American invasion in March 2003. Many are believed to be operating from Syria and Jordan, helping to organize the insurgency from there and funneling millions of dollars to the rebels.

That apocalyptic final battle in Fallujah having not worked out so well....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:28 PM


Dropping the anchorman (Lexington, Nov 25th 2004, The Economist)

FOR conservative America, it just keeps on getting better. A mere 20 days after the Republicans' clean sweep of the White House and Congress, the American right celebrated the retirement of one of the hated grandees of liberal journalism, Dan Rather. “It's as if the voters just keep on voting,” says one conservative. “And our side just keeps on winning.”

When Jim Jeffords switched parties in June 2001, throwing the Senate to the Democrats, after the bitterly contested post-Election of 2000, more than one pundit started counting down the Bush presidency. Here we are at Thanksgiving 2004 and just consider how many of his major opponents have instead reached the end of their political careers: Al Gore, Dick Gephardt, Tom Daschle, Saddam Hussein, Howell Raines, Dan Rather, & Tom Brokaw. That's quite a kill ratio.

And soon Kim Jong Il.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:17 PM


After an Ugly Few Days, Manners Come Back to Mind (Thomas Boswell, November 24, 2004, Washington Post)

Often, it's hard to spot turning points, especially as they are in progress. This time, it's not. This is sportsmanship's window of opportunity. Everybody needs to grab this chance with both hands. Welcome back, old friend, you've been gone too long.

The last few days may actually turn out to be among the best we've seen in sports in a long time. Nobody got seriously hurt, but a serious problem got a ton of attention. That's win-win. Usually, to stir public furor, somebody gets maimed. Not now. Every time we see the now infamous replays we expect a broken neck. Instead, nothing. For once, we get the lesson without the tragedy. We see the problem vividly defined with few consequences, except punishment for the perpetrators, as it should be.

Don't worry. Our current age of sports rage won't suddenly be replaced by boring good behavior just because there's a fuss. It took decades for our games to reach their current disrepute among decent people. It'll take years to reverse those trends. Go with the flow of indignation. This time, it's good.

The same tide of intolerance that is requiring everything from liberalization in the Middle East to decency on broadcast television can effect a change in public manners and sportsmanship, just as the hooliganism of soccer fans goes hand-in-hand with muticulturalism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:10 PM


It's the pro-lifers' moment: Bush's re-election, the Peterson case and other factors show that the right has gathered steam (James P. Pinkerton, November 25, 2004, Newsday)

[F]or years now, the right has been winning the fight. In the '90s, conservatives won the moral-intellectual battle over "partial-birth abortion"; most Americans deem it to be an abhorrent practice. In fact, the more time people spend pondering the mechanics of abortion, the less likely they are to support it. In the meantime, pro-life sentiment builds further as ultrasound technology improves, to the point where in utero imaging becomes three-dimensional and all the more vivid.

The coverage of the 2002 killing of eight-months-pregnant Laci Peterson in California illustrated a further shift. Reporters routinely referred to "the murder of Laci Peterson and her unborn son Conner." That a fetus was thus deemed to be a full person, with a name, was a spectacular success for the right. Scholars call it "semantic infiltration." Indeed, this infiltration was enshrined in a new federal law making it a crime to harm a fetus during an assault on a pregnant woman. Bush himself refers to the bill as "Laci and Conner's Law."

The continuing, growing power of the right-to-life movement has many sources, but the most profound source is basic biology: The human species, like any species, is programmed for its own perpetuation. And yet across the industrial nations, the birth rate has fallen. Births are now at or below the numerical replacement level. The once-feared "population bomb," in other words, has proven to be a "population bust." Three major books have been published of late on this topic, the most recent of which is "Fewer: How the New Demography of Depopulation Will Shape Our Future," by Ben Wattenberg, a scholar who hardly rates as a traditional pro-life conservative.

One solution to the birth-dearth, of course, is immigration. Yet that brings controversy. A more natural solution, which people yearn for in their bones, is an increase in the birth rate - more patter of more little feet. Hence the surging popularity of "pro-family" policies put forth by "family values"-oriented candidates. And yes, as part of the same swell of feeling comes the impulse to restrict abortion.

Such a Darwinian explanation is especially asinine in the one Western nation that faces no such dearth. Were biology a force of any moment in human affairs it would be Europe that was becoming anti-abortion.

President Bush's Potential Supreme Court Picks are Pro-Life on Abortion (Steven Ertelt, November 24, 2004,

With the potential to nominate as many as three or four Supreme Court justices, there is little doubt that one legacy President Bush will have is how he shaped the views of the nation's top judicial panel.

When Bush begins nominating new justices to replace the aging members of the court, one of the key battles will revolve around abortion.

A recent CBS-New York Times poll found that 64 percent of those polled said they thought Bush would appoint pro-life judges who favor making abortion illegal.

They may be right.

A survey of the most often discussed possibilities for Supreme Court appointments indicates many are either pro-life or have issued decisions on legislation favorable to the pro-life community.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:02 AM


1m Christians sign EU religion plea (Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, 25/11/2004, Daily Telegraph)

More than a million people from all over Europe are to deliver a petition to Tony Blair and fellow EU leaders calling for changes to the constitution recognising Europe's Christian heritage.

Refusing to accept a secular "fait accompli" from Brussels, a Christian coalition is demanding that each EU state publish its version of the constitution's preamble, with references to God if desired.

Already armed with 1,149,000 signatures and with thousands more pouring in from Holland since the murder of the film-maker Theo van Gogh, the group claims that most states want some reference to Christianity but were blocked by France.

There's perverse delight to be had in the vile Mr. van Gogh being turned into a tool of Christianity in death.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:21 AM


Al-Zarqawi attacks the 'silent' scholars (Stephen Farrell, 11/25/04, Times of London)

THE insurgent leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has attacked Muslim clerics for failing to support attacks on United States-led forces in Iraq.

The outburst signals an apparent rift between Iraq’s most-wanted man and hardline Islamic scholars who had been united with him in opposition to Western troops in the country.

In a recording published on an Islamist website, a voice attributed to al-Zarqawi attacks the ulemas (theologians) for not speaking out against American actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. “You have let us down in the darkest circumstances and handed us over to the enemy . . . You have quit supporting the Mujahidin,” the voice says. “Hundreds of thousands of the nation’s sons are being slaughtered at the hands of the infidels because of your silence.”

The broadside appears to be motivated by bitterness that the Americans’ assault on Fallujah failed to rouse the same passions across the Muslim world as a siege last April.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:11 AM


Violence Taints Religion's Solace for China's Poor (JOSEPH KAHN, 1/25/04, NY Times)

The demise of Communist ideology has left a void, and it is being filled by religion. The country today has more church-going Protestants than Europe, according to several foreign estimates. Buddhism has become popular among the social elite. Beijing college students wait hours for a pew during Christmas services in the capital's 100 packed churches.

But it is the rural underclass that is most desperate for salvation. The rural economy has grown relatively slowly. Corruption and a collapse in state-sponsored medical care and social services are felt acutely. But government-sanctioned churches operate mainly in cities, where they can be closely monitored, and priests and ministers by law can preach only to those who come to them.

The authorities do not ban religious activity in the countryside. But they have made it so difficult for established churches to operate there that many rural Chinese have turned to underground, often heterodox religious movements.

Charismatic sect leaders denounce state-sanctioned churches. They promise healing in a part of the country where the state has all but abandoned responsibility for public health. They also promise deliverance from the coming apocalypse, and demand money, loyalty and strict secrecy from their members.

Three Grades of Servants, a banned Christian sect that claims several million followers, made inroads in Huaide and other northern towns beginning nearly a decade ago. It lured peasants like Yu Xiaoping, as well as her neighbor, Ms. Kuang, away from state-authorized churches. Its underground network provided spiritual and social services to isolated villages.

But it also attracted competition from Eastern Lightning, its archrival, which sought to convert Ms. Yu, Ms. Kuang and others. The two sects clashed violently. Both became targets of a police crackdown.

Xu Shuangfu, the itinerant founder of Three Grades of Servants, who says he has divine powers, was arrested last summer along with scores of associates. Mr. Xu was suspected of having ordered the execution of religious enemies, police officers said.

Yet such efforts rarely stop the spread of underground churches and sects, which derive legitimacy from government pressure.

China's Gibbon will lament the rise of Christianity too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:00 AM


2 Top Officials Are Reported to Quit C.I.A. (DOUGLAS JEHL, 11/25/04, NY Times)

Two more senior officials of the Central Intelligence Agency's clandestine service are stepping down, intelligence officials said Wednesday, in the latest sign of upheaval in the agency under its new chief, Porter J. Goss.

As the chiefs of the Europe and Far East divisions, the two officials have headed spying operations in some of the most important regions of the world and were among a group known as the barons in the highest level of clandestine service, the Directorate of Operations. [...]

Last week, President Bush directed Mr. Goss to draw up detailed plans in 90 days for a major overhaul of the agency, to address shortcomings that have become evident with intelligence failures related to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and prewar assessments of Iraq.

The directive included a call for 50 percent increases in crucial operations and analytical personnel, a goal that the agency had already set in a five-year strategic plan drafted in December under George J. Tenet, the previous director of central intelligence. Many of the agency's top officials, including John E. McLaughlin, the deputy director, and A. B. Krongard, the No. 3 official, have stepped down or announced plans to do so since Mr. Goss took office in September. The upheaval has been most extensive in the operations directorate, made up of spies and spymasters who have made careers out of stealing secrets.

The clandestine service is a proud closed fraternity and one that sees itself as fiercely loyal and not risk-averse. It is also a group that has recoiled in recent weeks at the criticisms leveled at the agency, including comments this month from Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, who accused the agency of acting "almost as a rogue" institution.

When bureaucrats start calling themselves "barons" they've outlived any usefulness they may ever have had.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:21 AM


Reagan Years May Give a Clue to Bush’s Future Actions (Abdulrahman Al-Rashid, 11/21/04, Arab News)

Following the 1991 American-led war to liberate Kuwait from Iraq, people in the Gulf used to joke about George Bush the father. They said if Bush was nearby, you could sleep soundly in your house. Now, in light of what is going on in the region, people are saying if Bush the son is near, you had better flee your house. The departure of Colin Powell, the only rational voice in the administration, and the naming by Bush of his iron-lady national security advisor, Condoleezza Rice, to replace him, is a clear message to every one that Bush is not afraid of engaging in new wars.

If we think this is a matter of temperament or disposition we must consider the elation Bush must have felt over his re-election. He won 60 million votes in the election and that means he has a popular mandate. The American people elected him despite the numbers of dead in Iraq and Afghanistan and despite the Guantanamo scandals, the rift with the Europeans and Al-Qaeda’s visible activity. Bush won despite Michael Moore’s movie, Fahrenheit911 , which ridiculed the US president by its searing examination of his administration’s actions in the wake of Sept.11. Bush won although the film set box-office records when shown in theaters across the US. He won even though many musicians, singers, actors and the media were against him.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:45 AM


Europe pays the price for cultural naïveté (William Pfaff, International Herald Tribune, November 25th, 2004)

This specifically Dutch tragedy was created by good intentions combined with false assumptions about the human, social and political realities of cultural difference. After the Nazi catastrophe, racial and cultural distinctions were interpreted as cause for discrimination and conflict, and accordingly were not only avoided but denied. Certain illusions about the nature of man were - and are - promoted. People in the West want to continue to believe in these illusions, despite all that history has done to disprove them.

They include the belief that the core values of the Western democracies are innate, and that education, the liberalization of political and social institutions, and political action can liberate these values among people who don't yet recognize them. It is believed that everyone is headed not only toward liberal democracy but also toward secularism or religious indifference.

Western political (and even economic) values are said to be universal, valid for all societies now and in the future. Hence the unity of mankind is only a matter of time. The moral complexity of the human condition in the past is ignored, or is simply unknown.

It all adds up to a naïve version of the belief in inevitable human progress that arose during the French Enlightenment and has inspired virtually every Western political ideology we have known since - and that history has repeatedly disproved.

And when the children of the Enlightenment are confronted with the refusal of history to back them, they can become very angry.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:02 AM


Give Thanks for These Patriots: Civilian turkey- eaters: Show your gratitude for the armed forces. (Max Boot, November 25, 2004, LA Times)

It is all too easy to take the all-volunteer armed forces for granted. They've been around now for 31 years, ever since the draft was abolished in 1973. We have become used to having a high-quality military filled by dedicated young women and men willing to put their lives on the line for less money than Donald Trump hands out in tips every week.

It is worth remembering how extraordinary and unusual our service members really are � and how much we owe them this Thanksgiving.

(originally posted: November 25, 2004)

November 24, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:41 PM


In Battle of 527 Groups, Conservatives Do More With Less (John Carlisle, November 24, 2004,

While Republican campaign committees raised more money than Democrat party groups - $558 million vs. $452 million - the liberal 527 committees more than leveled the fundraising playing field. Of the $464 million raised by 527s, the overwhelming majority went to Democratic-leaning groups.

The top three groups - the Joint Victory Campaign 2004, America Coming Together, and the Media Fund - spent more than $175 million. The Media Fund spent $50 million on radio and TV ads while America Coming Together raised $125 million for voter mobilization efforts. They were joined by other liberal 527s, giving the Democrats a near-monopoly on the 527 market.

By contrast, the conservative Progress for America Voter Fund, the largest of the pro-GOP 527s, raised just $38 million. The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth raised $26 million.

But it was the under-funded Republican-leaning 527s that carried the day. They did so by simply producing ads that made the biggest impact on voters.

All that money and the race never moved a whisker from the President's approval rating plus 1%.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:34 PM


GEORGE MICHAEL'S BREAK-IN TRAUMA (Gary Jones, 11/25/04, Daily Mirror)

SCARED George Michael is being terrorised by a woman stalker who broke into his luxury home.

That being traumatized by women stuff has caused him a lot of problems.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:46 PM


Martin Malia, 80, Soviet-Era Skeptic, Dies (MICHAEL T. KAUFMAN, November 24, 2004, NY Times)

Martin Malia, a historian of Soviet Communism who persistently challenged the prevailing notion of that system's durability, died last Friday in a convalescent home in Oakland, Calif. He was 80 years old.

The cause was pneumonia, said a statement from the University of California at Berkeley, where he taught for more than 30 years.

During the final three decades of the Soviet empire, Mr. Malia, who retired in 1991, provided an often provocative voice from the conservative flank of Soviet studies, which scorned the idea that Communist rule would ever be capable of reforming itself and assailed those of his fellow academics who foresaw such possibilities.

In his books and numerous magazine articles, Mr. Malia advocated the position that the Soviet Union was constituted ideologically - and became as he put it an "idiocracy" that was alien to the currents of Russian and European history and thus could not endure. [...]

The most dramatic expression of Mr. Malia's views on Communism's dismal prospects and impending doom took the form of a January 1990 article in the quarterly Daedalus titled "To the Stalin Mausoleum." The author was identified only by the single initial "Z."

At the time, Mikhail Gorbachev and his policies of perestroika were generating optimism and enthusiasm in much of the West, including academic circles. But the article lambasted the Soviet leader, insisting that his rule would bring neither democracy nor free markets to the Soviet Union, though they might extend the life of the Communist Party, whose existence, the article contended, lay at the heart of the Soviet Union's problems.

Partly because of speculation over the identity of the author, the article gained international attention and a crucial portion was excerpted on the Op-Ed page of The New York Times. One line of conjecture held that the "Z" in the signature was meant to recall the famous 1947 article in Foreign Affairs in which George F. Kennan's proposed policies for the containment of the Soviet Union were presented under the pseudonym "X." In the fall of 1990, after the Berlin Wall had come down and Mr. Gorbachev was being eclipsed by Boris Yeltsin, Mr. Malia acknowledged in another Op-Ed piece in The Times that he was "Z," and not a diplomat, as Mr. Kennan had been, but a university professor who eight months earlier had hidden his identity to avoid compromising his sources in Russia and Eastern Europe.

A devout Roman Catholic, Mr. Malia was quick to recognize how Poland's Solidarity movement was gaining cultural and popular support in its challenge to Communism and wrote about the struggle for The New York Review of Books. He saw no prospect of similar upheavals in Russia, and in contrast to many colleagues he refused to believe that significant changes could emerge from party structures. Yuri Slezkine, a history professor at Berkeley, observed that Mr. Malia's views were regarded as controversial by many in the field, but added, " things kind of came together in the end, and he was very grateful."

Fortunately, the bare handful of men who understood the inherent impossibility of Communism enduring included Ronald Reagan.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:36 PM


Turkish workers a mistake, claims Schmidt (Hannah Cleaver in Berlin, 25/11/2004, Daily Telegraph)

Helmut Schmidt, the former German chancellor, has inflamed the country's debate on immigration by saying that multiculturalism can only work under authoritarian regimes, and that bringing millions of Turkish guest workers to Germany was a mistake.

"The concept of multiculturalism is difficult to make fit with a democratic society," he told the Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper.

He added that it had been a mistake that during "the early 1960s we brought guest workers from foreign cultures into the country".

Gotta love the Germans, who think the answer to everything is more authoritarianism. The Nazis didn't seem overly multiculti.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:22 PM


Spain's PM sends Bush message of goodwill (SCOTT LINDLAW, November 24, 2004, AP)

Spain's king brought President Bush a message of goodwill Wednesday from Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, whose vocal opposition to the Iraq war has chilled U.S.-Spanish relations.

Zapatero, the head of the Spanish government, has written and called Bush to congratulate him on his re-election, but can't get past the White House switchboard. Bush sent him a note earlier this month thanking him.

By contrast, King Juan Carlos, who holds no political power, was ferried onto Bush's ranch aboard a Marine Corps helicopter bearing the U.S. presidential seal. The first king to visit Bush's ranch, he was accompanied by his wife, Queen Sofia, for the one-hour, 20-minute stay.

Bush drove his white pickup truck to the landing site, accompanied by his wife, Laura, and his father, former President George H.W. Bush. After a hearty handshake and a lingering pose for group pictures, Bush held the pickup's passenger door open for his royal guest; the king rode shotgun during a tour of the 1,600-acre ranch, the wives in the back seats.

You can just hear the European press reacting in horror to the notion of "riding shotgun."

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:07 PM


Growing fears over booming aged numbers (Matt Wade, Sydney Morning Herald, November 25th, 2004)

Australia's booming aged population will hit the economy harder than previously thought, halving economic growth in 20 years and leaving governments with a $2200 billion budget hole over 40 years, a new report warns.

The report, released today by the Productivity Commission, predicts ageing will open a "fiscal gap" of 7 per cent of gross domestic product for federal and state governments by 2045.

It predicts the average rate of economic growth per person will dip to 1.25 per cent by the 2020s - half the current average.

"Economic growth will flag as the Australian workforce grows more slowly than the population," the commission's chairman, Gary Banks, said.

He said the gap was "large and will require action by all governments".
The commission has canvassed increasing taxes to meet the budget shortfall.

Its report builds on one released by the Treasurer, Peter Costello, in 2002, which estimated ageing would create a federal budget gap of 5 per cent of GDP in 40 years.

By 2045, one in four Australians, or 7 million, will be aged 65 or more, compared to 2.5 million now.

The Federal Government will bear the brunt of this shift mainly due to soaring health costs, about a third of which will be due to ageing. But the Productivity Commission says state and local governments will bear their share. The provision of human services, including for the elderly, accounts for around half of all local government spending.

Maybe the public school system should stop teaching evolution and replace it with demographics.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:41 PM


upernova debris found on Earth (Mark Peplow, 11/02/04, Nature)

Cosmic fallout from an exploding star dusted the Earth about 2.8 million years ago, and may have triggered a change in climate that affected the course of human evolution. The evidence comes from an unusual form of iron that was blasted through space by a supernova before eventually settling into the rocky crust beneath the Pacific Ocean. [...]

When the iron-60 arrived from space, it was evenly distributed all over the Earth. But the signatures are only detectable in crust that has lain undisturbed for millions of years, such as certain parts of the Pacific Ocean floor. This particular crust was taken from an area a few hundred kilometres southeast of the Hawaiian Islands in 1980. It was collected by oceanographers who were investigating the rocks as a potential source of rare mineral ores.

Korschinek estimates that the supernova was between about 100 and 200 light years away and happened 2.8 million years ago, give or take 300,000 years. The explosion can't have been too close to Earth, or it would have delivered enough radiation to cause mass extinctions. Conversely, if the supernova was any further away, more of the iron-60 would have been filtered out by the thin wisps of matter drifting between the stars.

This means the supernova would have been at the right distance to spray out a stream of cosmic rays that could have increased the cloud cover on Earth. Korschinek calculates that there may have been 15% more cosmic rays arriving on Earth than normal for at least 100,000 years. This is not enough to actually kill anything, but was perhaps sufficient to change the Earth's climate.

The increase in cloudiness would have cooled the surface, tying up water as ice at the poles and leading to a dryer climate in Africa. Climate records in rock cores match the dates of the supernova event.

"Some people believe this climate change in Africa was a driving force in our own evolution," adds Korschinek.

Just right...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:31 PM


Declaration of Independence Banned at Calif School (Dan Whitcomb, 11/24/04, Reuters)

A California teacher has been barred by his school from giving students documents from American history that refer to God -- including the Declaration of Independence.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:27 PM


Where are the answers from the wounded Dems? (Clarence Page, November 24, 2004, Chicago Tribune)

First of all, the party must stand for something. It needs, like Samuel Johnson's famous plum pudding, a theme. Roosevelt had "the New Deal." Bush offers "the Ownership Society," which reminds me of Richard M. Nixon's offer of "a piece of the action" to black Americans in response to Lyndon B. Johnson's "Great Society."

Themes matter. They focus minds, big and small, on creating an agenda that offers hope to voters of a better world.

All of this came to mind as I was watching one of my guilty pleasures, "The Wire," an exceptionally realistic HBO series about Baltimore cops and drug gangsters. Like life, it's a complicated show that produces unexpected nuggets of wisdom.

During a dinner conversation, a detective was asked by his political-consultant girlfriend whether he voted for Kerry or for Bush. Neither, he responded wearily. No matter who wins the White House, he said, nothing changes on the streets where he works. Drugs keep flowing, kids keep dying.

There was more fact than fiction in that exchange. If Democrats, the party of poor people, working people and Baltimore people, are not offering a vision of a better future to drug-ravaged neighborhoods, I wondered, who will?

Significantly, Bush has. His administration assists grass-roots, faith-based leaders like Rev. Eugene Rivers, co-founder of Boston's Ten Point Coalition. An effort by more than 50 local churches to join forces with Boston police, courts and City Hall to combat youth violence, the coalition reduced Boston's juvenile homicide rate to zero in the mid-1990s. It made a difference.

Former Vice President Al Gore favored faith-based programs in his 2000 presidential campaign, but President Bush embraced them, despite liberal critics who complained about possible breaches of church-state separation. I am a 1st Amendment absolutist, but when a program that works can be funded without discriminating against anyone's religious beliefs, that's good enough for me. It's also good enough for poor folks for whom Bush's faith-based initiatives have given Republicans a more compassionate image.

Unfortunately, the Democratic Party's response to innovative ideas like school vouchers, charter schools and income-based affirmative action, instead of race-based, has too often resembled classic conservatives, fiercely holding on to past political gains without offering any new alternatives.

He's even right about The Wire.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:13 PM


GOP's Rossi Wins Wash. Governor Recount (AP, 11/24/04)

Republican Dino Rossi came out ahead of Democrat Christine Gregoire by just 42 votes Wednesday in the recount for Washington governor, but the Democrats are expected to demand yet another recount.

It's the election that just keeps on giving.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:19 PM


-REVIEW: of A Man Escaped (Ron Reed, 11/23/2004, Christianity Today)

The "man" of the title is Fontaine, a French Resistance fighter locked away in a Nazi prison. We know from the blunt title and his past-tense narration that he has escaped and is recounting his story at some later time. Or do we? If we know his fate is secure, why do we feel such tension and suspense?

As relentless as the filmmaker's attention is to the inescapable physical realities of this prison—wood and iron and stone, fabric and wire and water on a face—we're also led constantly to question whether these are the only reality available to Fontaine, and maybe that's what makes us question whether he'll ultimately escape from the literal prison. Perhaps his escape will be spiritual, the kind of rebirth suggested in a Scripture smuggled to him on a scrap of paper: "You must be born from above." The film's subtitle undercuts the main title's apparent sense of certainty when it refers to that same passage in John, reminding us that God defies predictability: "the wind blows as it listeth." (Bresson, a master filmmaker whose Christianity is perhaps more integrated into his work than any other, loves titles that introduce notes of uncertainty which stand in tension with the "certainties" of faith: Le Diable Probablement translates to "The Devil Probably," and the "au hasard" of Au Hasard Balthasar means "by chance.") Or perhaps Fontaine's only escape will be into eternity, through the doorway of death, as suggested by the man without hope in the next cell: when Fontaine encourages him by saying, "We'll meet up," the man replies, "In another life, maybe." Perhaps Fontaine will be taken away and shot without warning or explanation, like other prisoners? Perhaps he will he escape the walls of his cell only to be taken in a corridor or gunned down on a rooftop?

Is escape even a possibility? It hardly seems likely, and Bresson explicitly tells us that the slim hope of freedom will only be kept alive through constant faith—the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Visually we're as confined as Fontaine: we glimpse the corridors of the prison only through the peephole in his cell door, by surreptitious glances down hallways when the prisoners are led to the prison yard, in the awkward view from his barred window. We hear cryptic sounds that must be deciphered—tappings from other cells, footsteps, keys on a railing, unidentifiable squeaks and sobs and whimpers. Secretive conversations at the trough where inmates wash their face elude our understanding, cut short by guards or full of obscure and uncertain meanings. And from outside the prison, sounds of traffic, trains, a clock tower's bell.

We are caught, along with Fontaine, in a constant, sometimes unbearable tension between confinement and liberty, between palpable physical circumstances and invisible spiritual realities.

While it may sound like A Man Escaped is an extended allegory about the hope of escaping "the prison of this life" through some sort of spiritual transcendence, the film is far too particular for that.

Highly recommended.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:59 PM


REVIEW: of War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race By Edwin Black (Johannes L. Jacobse, Townhall)

The father of the modern eugenics movement, England's Francis J. Galton, gave the pseudo-science its first taste of scientific credibility. Intoxicated by the ideas of Charles Darwin, the rediscovered genetic theories of Gregor Mendel, and the secularized philosophy of Herbert Spencer, Galton concluded that assembling data about social heredity could predict which families and ethnic groups would produce socially desirable offspring.

Eugenics never found widespread acceptance in England, but in America it was a different story. The American movement found a leader in Charles Davenport, a biologist with a flair for organization, fundraising, and promotion. Drawing upon Galton's work and funded by the Carnegie Foundation, Davenport opened the Carnegie Station for Experimental Evolution in Cold Spring Harbor, New York in 1904.

Davenport wasted no time. In short order, a battalion of social workers fanned into the countryside to chart the characteristics of people they considered undesirable (blacks, poor, infirm, criminals, alcoholics, etc.). Thousands of people were forcibly sterilized (6,000 between 1907 and 1927; 36,000 by 1940). Children were taken from their families. Criminals were castrated.

Some states passed legislation supporting sterilization, and the nation soon found itself considering a federal policy of forced sterilization. The eugenics movement found its poster child in Carrie Buck, the daughter of a prostitute. After giving birth to an illegitimate child, Carrie was forcibly institutionalized and declared "feebleminded by the laws of heredity."

Oliver Wendell Holmes was the chief jurist hearing the case. Carrie lost 8-1. Writing for the majority, Holmes arrogantly declared:

We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if we could not call upon those who sap the strength of the state for these lesser sacrifices… compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes… three generations of imbeciles is enough.

It was music to the eugenicists' ears.

Common people were more clear-headed. The arbitrary decisions about what constituted social desirability struck many Americans not only as capricious but as evil. The movement was resisted, critiqued, and mocked at every turn, and justifiably so. It was challenged in the courts and editorial pages. Support for it finally began to wane.

In Germany, the opposite happened. The American ideas were enthusiastically embraced by German thinkers, resulting in the murder of 250,000 disabled Germans between 1935 and 1945 alone. Black believes that the inspiration for Hitler's Final Solution drew more from the ideas of American eugenicists than from Hitler's nationalism.

One of the main reasons it couldn't "happen here" was because William Jennings Bryan and his fellow fundamentalists fought back.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:53 PM


Cosmic Conundrum: The universe seems uncannily well suited to the existence of life. Could that really be an accident? (MICHAEL D. LEMONICK; J. MADELEINE NASH, 11/22/04, TIME)

Dealing with cranks is an occupational hazard for most scientists, but it's especially bad for physicists and astronomers. Those who study the cosmos for a living tend to be bombarded with letters, calls and emails from would-be geniuses who insist they have refuted Einstein or devised a new theory of gravity or disproved the Big Bang. The telltale signs of crankdom are so consistent — a grandiose theory, minimal credentials, a messianic zeal — that scientists can usually spot them a mile off.

That's why the case of James Gardner is so surprising. He seems to fit the profile perfectly: he's a Portland, Ore., attorney, not a scientist, who argues — are you ready for this?--that our universe might have been manufactured by a race of superintelligent extraterrestrial beings. That is exactly the sort of idea that would normally have experts rolling their eyes, blocking e-mails and hoping the author won't corner them at a lecture or a conference.

But when Gardner's book Biocosmcame out last year, it carried jacket endorsements from a surprisingly eminent group of scientists. "A novel perspective on humankind's role in the universe," wrote Martin Rees, the astronomer royal of Britain and a Cambridge colleague of Stephen Hawking's. "There is little doubt that his ideas will change yours," wrote Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute in California. "A magnificent one-stop account of the history of life," wrote complexity theorist John Casti, a co-founder of the Santa Fe Institute. Since then, Gardner has been welcomed at major planetariums and legitimate scientific conferences, explaining his ideas to a surprisingly interested public.

It's not that anyone actually buys Gardner's theory. He admits it's "farfetched," and even those scientists who find it stimulating think it's wildly improbable. But it does have one thing in its favor. The biocosm theory is an attempt, albeit a highly speculative one, to solve what just might be science's most profound mystery: why the universe, against all odds, is so remarkably hospitable to life. [...]

The proposition that the cosmos is — against all odds — perfectly tuned for life is known as the anthropic principle. And while it has been getting a lot of attention lately, there is no consensus on how seriously to take it. Some scientists are confident that there is a law that dictates the values of those key cosmic numbers, and when we find it, the anthropic problem will go away.

If you find a law the Law-giver goes away?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:49 PM


New technique eyed in stem-cell debate (Gareth Cook, November 21, 2004, Boston Globe)

With the nation deadlocked over the morality of using human embryos for research, a member of the President's Council on Bioethics is quietly promoting a proposal that might allow scientists to create the equivalent of embryonic stem cells without destroying embryos, offering a potential path out of the controversy.

Dr. William Hurlbut, a Stanford bioethicist and staunch opponent of research on human embryos, has traveled the country developing and winning support for the idea in consultation with a small circle of scientists and conservative ethicists. The procedure, called altered nuclear transfer, would engineer a human egg that could generate cells with the full potential of embryonic stem cells, but without ever forming an actual embryo.

The technique has not been attempted with human cells, but biologists consider it feasible with today's technology. The larger question is whether the technique could overcome the strong ethical and religious opposition that has led to sharp limits on federal funding for embryonic stem-cell experiments and turned embryonic stem-cell research into a flashpoint in American politics.

So far, three critics of current methods for creating embryonic stem cells -- Archbishop William J. Levada of San Francisco, Robert George, a member of the president's bioethics council, and Nigel M. de S. Cameron, a leading intellectual in the evangelical movement -- have seen Hurlbut's proposal and said they believe it could offer a way around their moral objections. Hurlbut will present his idea to the bioethics council early next month.

It's a singularly American phenomenon that we've approached these issues with such moral seriousness while the rest of the world just chases the money to be made from treatments at the cost of their own souls.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:31 PM


Thompson Out and McClellan In at HHS? (John Gizzi, Nov 23, 2004, Human Events)

High-placed sources in Wisconsin last week told HUMAN EVENTS that Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson would shortly be leaving the Administration. Word of Thompson's exodus came amid growing reports that Dr. Mark McClellan, head of the Food and Drug Administration, was the front-runner to take over HHS if the post of secretary came open.

The White House loves Dr. McClellan.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:28 PM


A Heartbeat Away: Speculation about a replacement for Dick Cheney just keeps on ticking (James Ridgeway, November 24 - 30, 2004, Village Voice)

Most recently, on November 13, Cheney went to the hospital for medical tests after experiencing shortness of breath. Initial tests showed no abnormalities. The pacemaker indicated no irregularities during the preceding 90 days. And an electrocardiogram showed no change.

Should his condition go south, any number of politicians could get the nod, but many of these possible fill-ins carry bad baggage. Let's consider four of the realistic possibilities:

Only one of the choices he offers is even remotely realistic--you have to have been asleep the past five years not to realize that only the inner circle would have a shot.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:31 AM


WHY GOLD? (James Surowiecki, 2004-11-22, The New Yorker)

To true believers—known as “gold bugs”—the idea that gold is a commodity is rank heresy. They prefer to think of gold as the planet’s most reliable currency, a stable, ineradicable source of wealth, whose value will endure no matter what comes to pass.

It’s hard to square this faith with what has happened to the price of gold in the past two decades. It has been a terrible investment. Even with the recent surge, it’s up zero per cent since 1988, while the S. & P. 500 has almost quadrupled. Gold’s buying power has plummeted, too. In 1980, ten ounces of gold would have bought you a nice car. Today, it would get you a nice bike. The gold bugs have a handy explanation: gold is a victim of market manipulation and bad press. Wall Street and the world’s central banks are, apparently, “enemies of gold,” holding gold prices down in order to prop up people’s confidence in the paper-money system. One gold bug even filed a lawsuit against various government officials and big banks alleging a conspiracy to sabotage gold prices with surreptitious sales. Another compared a skeptical journalist to Joseph Goebbels.

The gold bugs are classic cranks, but their obsession is rooted in experience; we’ve all been conditioned—by history, by myth, by Mr. T—to think of gold as money. James Bond never had to contend with a Nickelfinger, and Bette Midler would probably not have accepted payment in palladium or cowrie shells or cattle. The world’s central banks and the International Monetary Fund still have vaults full of bullion, even though currencies are no longer backed by gold. Governments hold on to it as a kind of magic symbol, a way of reassuring people that their money is real.

So there’s a little bit of the gold bug in all of us. Still, in a world of “swaptions” and strips gold’s allure is increasingly atavistic. The idea of gold as a platonic currency, universally valuable across time and space, reflects a basic distrust of markets, a fear that in a world of paper money wealth is just an illusion. For gold bugs, paper money turns us all into Wile E. Coyote—we’re running on air, and we’ll plummet once we look down and realize there’s nothing holding us up. The gold bug’s apocalyptic mentality maintains that someday the global economy will look down and the result will be chaos. Gold is the only thing that will still be valuable after the bottom drops out.

Yet gold is valuable only as long as we collectively agree that it is. It may be soft, shiny, durable, and rare, but it has no more intrinsic value than feldspar or quartz. Just because it has a long history of being used as money doesn’t mean that it has a future. In the end, our trust in gold is no different from our trust in a piece of paper with “one dollar” written on it. The value of a currency is, ultimately, what someone will give you for it—whether in food, fuel, assets, or labor. And that’s always and everywhere a subjective decision. Gold or not, we’re always just running on air. You can’t be rich unless everyone else agrees that you’re rich.

Gold investors like to pride themselves on being sober realists. The irony is that buying gold is the purest form of speculation.

You could save yourself a lot of wasted conversation by starting every conversation with the question: "So, do you own gold?" Then running if they answer, "you bet."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:28 AM


Muslim Religious Scholars Betrayed Mujahedin, Zarqawi Tape Accuses (VOA News, 24 November 2004)

An audio recording posted on the Internet Wednesday, says Muslim religious scholars or Ulemas have betrayed Islamic fighters by keeping silent about U.S. actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The message charges the Ulemas have quit supporting the mujahedin, betraying them in the darkest circumstances and leaving them to confront the world's greatest power alone.

The recording was attributed to wanted al-Qaida-linked terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqwai.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:06 AM


House Call: SOCIAL SECURITY LIES. (Noam Scheiber, 11.24.04, New Republic)

The obvious sticking point in privatizing Social Security is how you finance the transition from the current system--in which today's workers fund the benefits of today's retirees--to a system in which workers save partly for their own retirement as well. The problem is that any dollar you divert to fund private accounts is one less dollar available to pay for what remains of the existing system. So the burden is on privatization advocates to explain where they will get the money to bridge the gap.

Social Security wonks distinguish the various plans floating around Capitol Hill by the degree to which they acknowledge this financial hurdle. At one extreme are so-called free-lunch plans, like those sponsored by Representatives Paul Ryan of Wisconsin or Clay Shaw of Florida, or Senator John Sununu of New Hampshire. These create private accounts while guaranteeing that no one will receive fewer benefits than they do today. Proponents intend to finance this arrangement through huge borrowing (as much as $7 trillion over the next several decades) or vague budget cuts, or some combination of the two. At the other end of the spectrum are the tough-love plans proposed by representatives like Arizona Republican Jim Kolbe and (recently defeated) Texas Democrat Charlie Stenholm, who want to finance the transition with deep cuts in Social Security benefits and modifications to the payroll tax. In the middle are plans like those of GOP Senator Lindsey Graham, which rely on substantial benefit cuts but also some slightly dubious budget savings from measures like closing corporate tax loopholes. The different plans require infusions of anywhere from $750 billion to nearly $4 trillion to pay for the initial decade of the transition, during which time no benefits would be cut.

As a general rule, the more honest the accounting (i.e., Kolbe-Stenholm), the more draconian the cuts to the current system. Which means that, given the political reality, the most honest proposals are the ones least likely to be enacted.

Just take it off budget and treat it as savings--you recoup the $2 trillion you spend up-front down the road. There's nothing honest about treating the reform as only an expenditure.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:34 AM


Will the secular left continue bowling alone? (William Davies, 15th November 2004, New Statesman)

In the days following the defeat of Boston's native son John Kerry, the city's newspapers echoed some of the questions raised in the months following 9/11: Why do they hate us? How did religious zeal come to overpower political reason?

Robert Putnam, the Harvard professor who wrote Bowling Alone and was recently described in the NS as one of the most important intellectual influences on Tony Blair, is the man most likely to have the answers. "Liberals," he says, "have allowed conservatives to dominate religious political expression over the past 30 years, but this was not true historically." At his Harvard office, he rattles off the progressive movements that depended on religious organisation: slave emancipation, reform of child labour laws, civil rights. "I think one of the problems liberals currently face," Putnam says, "is that they have allowed themselves to become alienated from that strand in American history." The next wave of liberalism, he thinks, will have to come at least partly from progressive Christian movements if it is to speak to Americans who live closer to the Mississippi River than to the Pacific and Atlantic seaboards.

The rise in voter turnout was expected to benefit Kerry. But Putnam says: "The election was a contest between the ability of evangelical Christians to mobilise their supporters at grass-roots level, and what you might call the 'old left' - the unions and Democratic Party. And the evangelical right won." Putnam is the man more responsible than anybody else for the idea of "social capital", a shorthand term for participation in politics and community and social life. Such participation, according to Bowling Alone, is associated with higher levels of health and happiness and lower levels of crime. These findings - Putnam is a very evidence-based man who, when he says half, truly means 50 per cent - have recently impressed policy-makers in London more than those in Washington, DC.

But, and here's the rub for the Democrats, he says "voluntary activity, philanthropy, membership of organisations - half of these activities occur in a religious context". And that "is something that Europeans often fail to understand".


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:33 AM


Bush-black rapprochement urged (Brian DeBose, 11/23/004, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, one of the highest-ranking elected black Republicans in the country, said he would like to see President Bush smooth over his rocky relationship with the NAACP and schedule more speeches in black communities.

Mr. Steele, in a meeting with editors and reporters of The Washington Times, said he has discussed the matter with Kweisi Mfume, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who recently sent a letter to the White House requesting a meeting with Mr. Bush. [...]

Mr. Steele said the president has an opportunity to show black voters that the Republican Party cares about their issues with the gesture and could improve black voter turnout for their candidates in future races.

He said, however, that he wasn't surprised Mr. Bush received more support from the black community in this most recent election, gaining two percentage points nationally (11 percent in 2004, up from 9 percent in 2000) and larger numbers in key states like Ohio, where Mr. Bush received 16 percent of the black vote.

Mr. Steele said issues such as same-sex "marriage," medical-malpractice reform and tax cuts resonated with many black voters, adding that the president could have done much better among that voting bloc if he had scheduled more appearances in black communities and spoke directly to them about his policies.

With the Democratic Party increasingly marginalized such groups need the GOP and the President is smart enough to use that to make the Republican Party more acceptable to blacks.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 9:13 AM


HIV now a bigger threat to women than men (Sarah Bosely, The Guardian, November 24th, 2004)

The Aids pandemic rampaging around the globe will not be stopped without radical social change to improve the lot of women and girls, who now look likely to die in greater numbers than men, United Nations agencies said yesterday.

Infections among women are soaring, from sub-Saharan Africa to Asia to Russia. What began as a series of epidemics among men - in some regions gay and bisexual men, in others men who frequented sex workers or male drug users - has spread to their female partners who are biologically more easily infected.

In many countries, women's subordinate status, and their lack of education and economic power, have made it impossible for them to negotiate sex with men or to ask for the use of condoms. Yesterday the UN agency set up to combat the pandemic, UNAids, called for all that to change in the interests of checking the spread of a disease which killed 3.1 million adults and children last year.

"We will not be able to stop this epidemic unless we put women at the heart of the response to Aids," said UNAids' executive director, Peter Piot.

At the launch of the UNAids annual report on the pandemic yesterday, actor Emma Thompson, who is a founder member of the Global Coalition on Women and Aids launched this year, put it in starker fashion. "There are some countries where women are an endangered species - they will disappear from the face of the earth," she said. "I think this is the greatest catastrophe that the human race has ever faced."

Promoting safe sex while scorning fidelity and abstinence ends up harming women? Astounding.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:10 AM


Anwar the Malaysian chameleon: While speculation continues as to where Anwar Ibrahim will place his political allegiances, Malaysia's former deputy premier has quietly gone about courting minorities and the disfranchised. Often accused of being a chameleon, he'll need to hone his message. But it appears that Anwar may be on to something. (Ioannis Gatsiounis, 11/24/04, Asia Times)

While he himself is Malay and rose to prominence partly on his Islamic credentials - he founded the youth Islamic organization Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (ABIM) - minorities, who make up 40% of the population here, find themselves feeling less represented by their government these days.

All Malaysian political parties are race-based. Over the years UMNO has dealt with this obstacle through its coalition with Chinese, Indian and other minority-oriented parties. But UMNO has always steered the ship, and there's a growing sense that the non-Malay parties are made up of ineffectual sinecures submissive to UMNO-sponsored window dressing.

This coincides with UMNO's insistence in recent months that an affirmative-action program catering to the majority Malays "never" be questioned, despite its inability to reverse Malay "backwardness" and its running 14 years beyond its intended expiry date, 1990. It also coincides with an unceasing Islamization of the Malay community, which UMNO has pandered to, even promoted, for support. The Muslim headscarf is ever more visible, for instance.

The multibillion-dollar administrative capital is Islamic-themed, with no prominent tributes to the nation's myriad other ethnicities. On Sunday, a UMNO head in the state of Terengannu announced that concerts that do not reflect Islamic values will be barred from the state. Everywhere one turns, racial distinctions are being emphasized.

The consummate politician in Anwar appears to have taken note. At a dialogue on Tuesday at the Bar Council he said the formation of an Islamic state, advocated by the atavistic Islamic opposition Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS), was not part of his agenda. "I respect the religious rights of every Malaysian and, therefore, their democratic right to air their views," Anwar said. Regarding hudud, punishment for crimes as stipulated by God, according to Muslims, Anwar said, "We're not in a position to implement [hudud] with the complexities of Malaysia and ... of the modern world."

Anwar was careful not to go to the other extreme and support the Western tag of "secularism", as "many Muslims resent that [term]".

He's gotta be headed back to prison.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:01 AM


The recipe for civil war (Pepe Escobar, 11/24/04, Asia Times)

Fallujah plus elections amounts to civil war. This tragic equation may come to life in Iraq in early 2005. The official American rationale for the Fallujah offensive was to "stabilize" the country before the elections. This strategy may have paved the way to civil war. Ample evidence suggests that the majority of Sunnis - up to 30% of the population - will boycott the elections and denounce them as illegitimate, while Shi'ites, for the first time in Iraq, will be in power.

In other words, Shi'ites will have won the war.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:47 AM


NASA Chief Sees Mandate for Bush Space Program: The budget increase Congress just voted for NASA is a clear endorsement of President Bush's plan to send astronauts back to the Moon and later Mars, said Sean O'Keefe. (WARREN E. LEARY, 11/24/04, NY Times)

Now, Mr. O'Keefe told NASA employees in an agency address and later emphasized in a news conference, it is up to the agency to prove it can accomplish Mr. Bush's vision of sending people back to the moon by 2020 and using that venture as a springboard to exploration of Mars and beyond.

"This is a great day," he said. "It's a good start."

In wrangling over the spending bill Congress approved over the weekend, lawmakers approved a $16.2 billion budget for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, a 5 percent increase at a time most agencies took cuts. While the $822 million increase for the space program in the 2005 fiscal year, which began in October was $44 million less than the president requested, NASA was a clear winner in a year when discretionary spending increased only about 1 percent.

The legislation requires Mr. O'Keefe to report within 60 days on the agency's plans, including what programs might be delayed, deferred or canceled because of the new initiative.

NASA officials also acknowledged the role of the House majority leader, Tom DeLay of Texas, whose district includes the Johnson Space Center, in securing the spending.

That which the President and Tom DeLay support seems likely to happen.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 AM


U-turn over private care to slash NHS waiting lists (ALISON HARDIE, 11/24/04, The Scotsman)

THE Scottish Executive has staged a major policy U-turn and sanctioned significant investment in private health-care services in a drive to cut woeful NHS waiting lists, The Scotsman can reveal today.

Jack McConnell, the First Minister, had until now agreed to only limited private-sector involvement in the health service, while ministers at Westminster forged ahead with independent health-provider agreements to transform the face of the NHS south of the Border.

However, with waiting lists at an "unacceptably high" level, Mr McConnell has caved in and ordered Andy Kerr to hold talks with private health-care companies about how they can speed up NHS diagnosis and treatment in Scotland. [...]

Mr Kerr is understood to share his Westminster counterparts’ belief that buying in more private health-care will not only provide patients with much-needed additional choice, it will also drive up competitiveness and efficiency.

Meanwhile, American Democrats want to move towards a less private system.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 AM


In Congress, Growing Doubts on Spending Process: Members of both parties say the system for financing the government, which in recent years has relied on huge
last-minute bills, is broken. (SHERYL GAY STOLBERG, 11/24/04. NY Times)

Though the parties are bickering about the omnibus, both sides agree that the process that produced it is in tatters. Senator Robert C. Byrd, the West Virginia Democrat who has served on the Appropriations Committee for his entire 46 years in the Senate, found the measure, which was passed on his 87th birthday, so odious that he voted against it.

"We have seen within these last few years, especially, this excrescence of the body politic grow until now it has become malignant," Mr. Byrd said, calling it "a disgrace upon the escutcheon of the Senate."

The problem with an omnibus, lawmakers and independent analysts agree, is that it creates an opportunity for what Robert D. Reischauer, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office, called "legislative mischief." Others call it pork, and this year's bill is chock full of it. The measure will send taxpayer dollars all over the country, from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland to a homeless shelter in Hawaii.

Passing spending bills is one of the few jobs that lawmakers can trace directly to the Constitution, which does not permit the president to spend money unless Congress approves. Under the current system, lawmakers are responsible for passing 13 separate spending bills each year. But in recent years, the Senate especially has been unable to complete its appropriations work.

This year, for instance, the House passed 12 of the 13 appropriations bills but the Senate passed only 4. Senator Ted Stevens, the Alaska Republican who is chairman of the Appropriations Committee, blamed the Senate for failing to adopt a budget resolution, which helps guide the appropriations process.

Mr. Byrd said "it was never that way in the old times."

Mr. Reischauer says appropriations bills were less contentious in the past, when one party or the other had a large majority in the Senate and deficits were not the problem they are today.

The amusing fiction here is that it would be possible for anyone to read and comprehend the Federal Budget by the end of the year it covers, nevermind for a congressman to do so before voting.

November 23, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:59 PM


U.S. Expanding Iraqi Offensive in Violent Area (JAMES GLANZ and EDWARD WONG, 11/23/04, NY Times)

Thousands of American, British and Iraqi troops began a new offensive sweep on Tuesday across a region south of Baghdad known as the triangle of death. The area earned its fearsome reputation as a haven for thieves, killers, crime families and terrorists, as well as insurgents who fled Falluja before the fighting started there.

The operation began with 11 simultaneous early-morning raids in Jabella, west of the Euphrates River and about 40 miles south of Baghdad, said Col. Ron Johnson, commander of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which is leading the effort.

The new push can be seen as the opening of a third front - after the invasion of Falluja and more limited operations in the north around Mosul - by American-led forces against the insurgency. Officials said it would involve 2,000 to 3,000 American marines, soldiers and sailors, more than 1,000 members of Iraqi security forces and 850 members of the Black Watch, a British infantry battalion. [...]

"We know that some of them headed in our direction before the Falluja battle," he said, citing intelligence reports. "We're going to try to isolate them. Then we're going to bounce all over. We're not going to hit just one area. We're going to hit a multiplicity of targets so that they have no safe haven that they can go to."

No more warnings either.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:59 PM


Cloning kitty: A California company is selling cloning technology to pet owners. (Michael B. Farrell, 11/24/04, CS Monitor)

[P]roblems could range from health maladies resulting in the cloned pet's early death or other birth defects and shortened life spans, he says. Others say there are already too many homeless cats and dogs in shelters. Some wonder why anyone would want to spend so much money when most cats cost nothing.

But Ben Carlson, vice president of communications for GSC, says those issues have been exaggerated by cloning opponents. About 23 percent of all animals born through cloning do have cloning-related health problems. The company's website says, "Fortunately, this has not yet been the case in pet-cloning research. We're investing millions in developing embryo-assessment technology to ensure that each cloned embryo we transfer to a surrogate mother is normal, and will develop into a healthy cloned pet."

Another complaint about cloning is that animals born through chromatin transfer, the process Genetic Savings & Clone uses, are perceived to have much shorter life spans. "The theory that clones would age prematurely has not proven to be correct. However, the issue has developed a life of its own, and the perception, I would go so far as to say myth, about premature aging in clones is now quite widespread." [...]

But right now, GSC is not a money-making operation, says Carlson. It is all being supported by one billionaire investor named John Sperling who loved a dog named Missy.

Mr. Sperling, founder of the Apollo Group, a for-profit educational company, wanted to clone his adopted mutt because she had "exceptional characteristics." He ended up spending $3.7 million to fund the Missyplicity Project at Texas A&M University. The project eventually cloned the first cat, CC (short for Copy Cat) in December 2001. But cloning a dog proved much too difficult then because of the unique characteristics of the canine's physiology, but GSC promises they'll be able to offer the service next year.

After the researchers perfected the technique to produce cloned cats from cell tissue, Sperling and partner Lou Hawthore, now the CEO of GSC, branched out from the laboratory to offer clones commercially.

It should surprise no one that Mr. Sperling is part of the cabal of billionaires who met in Aspen this year to plot how to defeat George Bush, whoi stands in the way of such evil practices as cloning and the drug legalization that George Soros, another participant, seeks.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:58 PM


France's Industrial Power Trip: Paris can't stop interfering with the economy -- and that's bad news for Europe (John Rossant, 11/29/04, Business Week)

Unfortunately, the traditional French sport of picking national champions is not likely to recede once Sarkozy departs the Finance Ministry. True, the headline-craving politician loves to play to the French electoral galleries. But there are other powerful forces behind the latest outbreak of French dirigisme. For one, it's a way to react to the in-your-face political assertiveness coming out of Washington. As President Jacques Chirac tirelessly reminds listeners, Europe has to stand up as a "counterweight" to the U.S. And if Europe wants to compete successfully with the U.S. on the world stage, it requires corporate giants of its own. It's a belief shared by many beyond France. "Europe needs industrial champions," says Europe's incoming Industry Commissioner, Guenter Verheugen of Germany.

The problem is that "European champion" in the French language invariably seems to translate as "French champion." Earlier this year, Paris was so eager to make sure the country could boast a world-class pharmaceutical giant, it forcefully brokered the $70 billion takeover of Franco-German Aventis by Paris-based Sanofi-Synthélabo. Aventis' German board members were ignored. At the same time, the French government made it clear that Switzerland's Novartis would be unwelcome. Similarly, earlier this year, Germany's Siemens was told it wouldn't be a welcome bidder for Alstom's railway operations, which manufacture the renowned high-speed TGV trains. That led German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder to rebuke Paris publicly.

The pace has only intensified. In late October, Sarkozy blessed the coupling of French telephone-equipment maker Sagem with aircraft engine maker Snecma -- a $9 billion merger virtually devoid of industrial logic. Then in early November, news leaked that Franco-German aerospace giant EADS -- with Sarkozy's support -- was examining a takeover of Thales, a French defense-electronics group with $14 billion in sales. Such a deal would make some economic sense, since EADS is overly reliant on its Airbus civil aviation unit for profits and has been looking to bulk up its military business. Yet if the two were to merge, the bigger entity would become largely a French concern, throwing off EADS' delicate French-German balance. Although Sarkozy insists that France would respect the principle of equal French and German control of EADS, the Germans are "furious," according to one banker close to the talks.

Why would France want to risk alienating its key European ally? One reason could be the recent enlargement of the European Union to 25 members, a vast grouping in which the traditional Franco-German motor can no longer get much traction. In the Iraq crisis, for example, Franco-German opposition to the U.S. was not enough to curb the pro-American enthusiasm of Poland and other East European states. As a Nov. 15 editorial in Le Monde put it, "France realized with dread that even allied with Germany, it could find itself overruled in an enlarged Europe." And that, suggests the newspaper that is the mouthpiece of France's elite, is why France is becoming more and more narrowly nationalistic. That doesn't augur well for a powerful new Europe.

Does anything augur well for irt?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:57 PM


Rather Quitting as CBS Anchor in Abrupt Move (JACQUES STEINBERG and BILL CARTER, 11/24/04, NY Times)

Dan Rather announced yesterday that he would step down next year as anchor and managing editor of "CBS Evening News." The move came two months after he acknowledged fundamental flaws in a broadcast report that raised questions about President Bush's National Guard service.

Mr. Rather's last broadcast will be on March 9, the 24th anniversary of the night he succeeded Walter Cronkite. He plans to continue to work full time at CBS News, as a correspondent for the Sunday and Wednesday editions of "60 Minutes." [...]

"I wish it were not happening while this panel is looking into the '60 Minutes' weekday story," Mr. Rather said at his office at the CBS Broadcast Center on West 57th Street in Manhattan. "One reason I wanted to do this now was to make the truth clear - this is separated from that."

Mr. Rather said the most intense round of conversations among himself; his agent, Richard Leibner; and Mr. Moonves began about 10 days ago at Mr. Moonves's office at Viacom's headquarters in Times Square. At a certain point, Mr. Leibner excused himself and Mr. Rather spoke alone to Mr. Moonves.

"Dan was very emotional," Mr. Moonves recalled yesterday. "Clearly, this job and CBS News mean a lot to him. It was a very hard decision for him. Dan said to me, 'I'd like to do this on my own terms.' We totally supported him."

Mr. Rather - after a series of conversations last weekend with his wife, Jean, and his grown son and daughter - said he called Mr. Moonves, who was in California, on Monday afternoon and told him that he had made up his mind to go. In a measure of the awkward predicament in which CBS finds itself, Mr. Moonves said he felt compelled to inform the investigative panel of Mr. Rather's plans.

Sure. You'd be quitting if the investigation were going well?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:51 PM


Were American Indians the Victims of Genocide? (Guenter Lewy, 11/23/04, History News Network)

[A]ccording to Ward Churchill, a professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado, the reduction of the North American Indian population from an estimated 12 million in 1500 to barely 237,000 in 1900 represents a "vast genocide . . . , the most sustained on record." [...]

It is a firmly established fact that a mere 250,000 native Americans were still alive in the territory of the United States at the end of the 19th century. Still in scholarly contention, however, is the number of Indians alive at the time of first contact with Europeans. Some students of the subject speak of an inflated "numbers game"; others charge that the size of the aboriginal population has been deliberately minimized in order to make the decline seem less severe than it was.

The disparity in estimates is enormous. In 1928, the ethnologist James Mooney proposed a total count of 1,152,950 Indians in all tribal areas north of Mexico at the time of the European arrival. By 1987, in American Indian Holocaust and Survival, Russell Thornton was giving a figure of well over 5 million, nearly five times as high as Mooney’s, while Lenore Stiffarm and Phil Lane, Jr. suggested a total of 12 million. That figure rested in turn on the work of the anthropologist Henry Dobyns, who in 1983 had estimated the aboriginal population of North America as a whole at 18 million and of the present territory of the United States at about 10 million.

From one perspective, these differences, however startling, may seem beside the point: there is ample evidence, after all, that the arrival of the white man triggered a drastic reduction in the number of native Americans. Nevertheless, even if the higher figures are credited, they alone do not prove the occurrence of genocide.

To address this issue properly we must begin with the most important reason for the Indians’ catastrophic decline—namely, the spread of highly contagious diseases to which they had no immunity. This phenomenon is known by scholars as a "virgin-soil epidemic"; in North America, it was the norm.

The most lethal of the pathogens introduced by the Europeans was smallpox, which sometimes incapacitated so many adults at once that deaths from hunger and starvation ran as high as deaths from disease; in several cases, entire tribes were rendered extinct. Other killers included measles, influenza, whooping cough, diphtheria, typhus, bubonic plague, cholera, and scarlet fever. Although syphilis was apparently native to parts of the Western hemisphere, it, too, was probably introduced into North America by Europeans.

About all this there is no essential disagreement. The most hideous enemy of native Americans was not the white man and his weaponry, concludes Alfred Crosby, "but the invisible killers which those men brought in their blood and breath." It is thought that between 75 to 90 percent of all Indian deaths resulted from these killers.

To some, however, this is enough in itself to warrant the term genocide. David Stannard, for instance, states that just as Jews who died of disease and starvation in the ghettos are counted among the victims of the Holocaust, Indians who died of introduced diseases "were as much the victims of the Euro-American genocidal war as were those burned or stabbed or hacked or shot to death, or devoured by hungry dogs." As an example of actual genocidal conditions, Stannard points to Franciscan missions in California as "furnaces of death."

But right away we are in highly debatable territory. It is true that the cramped quarters of the missions, with their poor ventilation and bad sanitation, encouraged the spread of disease. But it is demonstrably untrue that, like the Nazis, the missionaries were unconcerned with the welfare of their native converts. No matter how difficult the conditions under which the Indians labored—obligatory work, often inadequate food and medical care, corporal punishment—their experience bore no comparison with the fate of the Jews in the ghettos. The missionaries had a poor understanding of the causes of the diseases that afflicted their charges, and medically there was little they could do for them. By contrast, the Nazis knew exactly what was happening in the ghettos, and quite deliberately deprived the inmates of both food and medicine; unlike in Stannard’s "furnaces of death," the deaths that occurred there were meant to occur.

The larger picture also does not conform to Stannard’s idea of disease as an expression of "genocidal war." True, the forced relocations of Indian tribes were often accompanied by great hardship and harsh treatment; the removal of the Cherokee from their homelands to territories west of the Mississippi in 1838 took the lives of thousands and has entered history as the Trail of Tears. But the largest loss of life occurred well before this time, and sometimes after only minimal contact with European traders. True, too, some colonists later welcomed the high mortality among Indians, seeing it as a sign of divine providence; that, however, does not alter the basic fact that Europeans did not come to the New World in order to infect the natives with deadly diseases.

Or did they? Ward Churchill, taking the argument a step further than Stannard, asserts that there was nothing unwitting or unintentional about the way the great bulk of North America’s native population disappeared: "it was precisely malice, not nature, that did the deed." In brief, the Europeans were engaged in biological warfare.

Unfortunately for this thesis, we know of but a single instance of such warfare, and the documentary evidence is inconclusive. In 1763, a particularly serious uprising threatened the British garrisons west of the Allegheny mountains. Worried about his limited resources, and disgusted by what he saw as the Indians’ treacherous and savage modes of warfare, Sir Jeffrey Amherst, commander-in-chief of British forces in North America, wrote as follows to Colonel Henry Bouquet at Fort Pitt: "You will do well to try to inoculate the Indians [with smallpox] by means of blankets, as well as to try every other method, that can serve to extirpate this execrable race."

Bouquet clearly approved of Amherst's suggestion, but whether he himself carried it out is uncertain. On or around June 24, two traders at Fort Pitt did give blankets and a handkerchief from the fort’s quarantined hospital to two visiting Delaware Indians, and one of the traders noted in his journal: "I hope it will have the desired effect." Smallpox was already present among the tribes of Ohio; at some point after this episode, there was another outbreak in which hundreds died.

A second, even less substantiated instance of alleged biological warfare concerns an incident that occurred on June 20, 1837. On that day, Churchill writes, the U.S. Army began to dispense "'trade blankets' to Mandans and other Indians gathered at Fort Clark on the Missouri River in present-day North Dakota." He continues: Far from being trade goods, the blankets had been taken from a military infirmary in St. Louis quarantined for smallpox, and brought upriver aboard the steamboat St. Peter’s. When the first Indians showed symptoms of the disease on July 14, the post surgeon advised those camped near the post to scatter and seek "sanctuary" in the villages of healthy relatives.

In this way the disease was spread, the Mandans were "virtually exterminated," and other tribes suffered similarly devastating losses. Citing a figure of "100,000 or more fatalities" caused by the U.S. Army in the 1836-40 smallpox pandemic (elsewhere he speaks of a toll "several times that number"), Churchill refers the reader to Thornton’s American Indian Holocaust and Survival.

Supporting Churchill here are Stiffarm and Lane, who write that "the distribution of smallpox- infected blankets by the U.S. Army to Mandans at Fort Clark . . . was the causative factor in the pandemic of 1836-40." In evidence, they cite the journal of a contemporary at Fort Clark, Francis A. Chardon.

But Chardon's journal manifestly does not suggest that the U.S. Army distributed infected blankets, instead blaming the epidemic on the inadvertent spread of disease by a ship's passenger. And as for the "100,000 fatalities," not only does Thornton fail to allege such obviously absurd numbers, but he too points to infected passengers on the steamboat St. Peter's as the cause. Another scholar, drawing on newly discovered source material, has also refuted the idea of a conspiracy to harm the Indians.

Similarly at odds with any such idea is the effort of the United States government at this time to vaccinate the native population. Smallpox vaccination, a procedure developed by the English country doctor Edward Jenner in 1796, was first ordered in 1801 by President Jefferson; the program continued in force for three decades, though its implementation was slowed both by the resistance of the Indians, who suspected a trick, and by lack of interest on the part of some officials. Still, as Thornton writes: "Vaccination of American Indians did eventually succeed in reducing mortality from smallpox."

To sum up, European settlers came to the New World for a variety of reasons, but the thought of infecting the Indians with deadly pathogens was not one of them. As for the charge that the U.S. government should itself be held responsible for the demographic disaster that overtook the American-Indian population, it is unsupported by evidence or legitimate argument. The United States did not wage biological warfare against the Indians; neither can the large number of deaths as a result of disease be considered the result of a genocidal design.

The notion that these primitive, disease ridden, hunter-gatherers ever numbered anything like 12 million is lunacy. Meanwhile, had we wanted to genocide them we could have easily, instead of moving them around the country and setting them up in reservations.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:01 PM


Now the liberals don the mantle of zealots: Christian belief has become something to hide in 'free' Britain. (KATIE GRANT, 11/22/04, The Scotsman)

Godless liberalism, the new opium of the masses, can be just as destructive as god-fearing religion, and - excuse the pun - has none of religion’s saving graces. Yet it escapes any censure. I would go further. Liberalism, in the way we currently mean it, ie not Gladstonian liberalism which was a political creed dedicated to limiting taxation, promoting trade and industry, reducing public expenditure and getting rid of restrictive laws, but social liberalism, ie all judgments are relative and nothing can be labelled right or wrong unless that is what liberals decree, while it has made society less rigid, on balance a good thing, has also brought about a whole host of disasters: family breakdown, sexual disease among the young, teenage pregnancy, the collapse of self-respect and dignity, yob culture and, above all, a new kind of sanctimonious intolerance among politicians for anybody expressing views, particularly religious views, that actually draw clear lines.

To be a social liberal used to denote a kind of cheerful free-and-easiness. That has vanished. Nowadays, social liberalism means cheerless totalitarianism. Ban, ban, ban, the liberals cry, as they noisily air personal dislikes and turn them into law, making pariahs out of smokers, hunters, those who shake the salt cellar too hard, and soon those who shoot and anybody else who doesn’t conform to the rigid liberal agenda as well. It seems that Britain avoided religious confessional politics only to allow liberal confessional politics in by the back door.

I suppose it is the word "liberal" that has blinded us. "Liberal" sounds so, well, liberal. It is a word redolent of freedom and breathing space; a good word. Its hijacking by MPs, MEPs and MSPs as a weapon of mass social destruction is depressing, although it has a certain amusing irony that it was the leader of the liberal group, Graham Watson, who was one of the most vociferous in declaring Mr Buttiglione unacceptable as justice commissioner, whereas "former" communists are greeted like long lost friends. European liberals, while taking enormous care not to be tainted by even a sniff of Islamophobia - a current taboo - are openly "Christophobic" - a useful word coined by French MEP Philippe de Villiers. The really worrying thing is that so many powerful people applaud.

To be honest, we didn't notice that there was a period when it wasn't cheerless and totalitarian.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 PM


Web Posting May Provide Insight Into Iraq Insurgency (Bill Blakemore, 11/23/04, ABC News)

For the second time this month, a message that appears to come from inside the Iraqi insurgency has been posted on a Web site. While its authenticity can't be proven, the message seems to provide a valuable perspective on both the insurgents' strategy and the challenges they face.

The new message opens with a plea for advice from Palestinian and Chechen militants as well as Osama bin Laden supporters in Afghanistan and Pakistan. "We face many problems," it reads in Arabic, "and need your military guidance since you have more experience."

The problems, the message says, are the result of losing the insurgent safe haven of Fallujah to U.S. troops. It says the insurgency was hampered as checkpoints and raids spread "to every city and road." Communications broke down as insurgents were forced to spread out through the country.

The arrest of some of their military experts, more "spies willing to help the enemy," and a dwindling supply of arms also added to the organizational breakdown, it reads.

Nothing like getting advice from fellow losers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:38 PM


KIEV: HANDOVER OF POWER (Sky News, 11/23/04)

A peaceful handover of power has reportedly been agreed in the Ukraine after protesters clashed with anti-riot police outside the president's headquarters.

Tensions in the capital Kiev reached breaking point as tens of thousands of demonstrators surrounded the HQ.

They had been called on to march by opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko.

He and his supporters believed the presidential election, which took place at the weekend, was rigged.

According to the poll results, Kremlin-backed Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych won the presidency.

But after calls from outgoing president Leonid Kuchma for talks between the two sides, Mr Yanukovych stepped aside.

Mr Yushchenko will now become president, it has been reported.

That'll be the second time that leaning on folks to hand over power in former Soviet republics worked rather quickly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 PM


Racially Diverse Faith Coalitions Oppose Gay Marriage, Tackle Other Issues: Invigorated by the election, African-American and Hispanic leaders are reaching out on a range of political fronts. (Adelle M. Banks, 11/22/2004, Religion News Service)

The Rev. Dwight McKissic of Arlington, Texas, traveled to Washington for a September summit that Traditional Values Coalition Chairman Louis Sheldon pulled together for African-American pastors to join the fight against same-sex marriage. But McKissic, a Southern Baptist, said the bipartisan "Not on My Watch" group he started with other African-American clergy will remain an "intentionally black" endeavor, seeking passage of both state and federal constitutional amendments banning gay marriage, but not joining white evangelicals on other causes.

"Many black pastors I know chose to make that effort independent of white evangelicals because they did not want to be seen as carrying water for the Republicans or white conservatives," he said.

Pastor Ken Hutcherson, the African-American organizer of Mayday for Marriage, a multicultural event that drew thousands to Washington's National Mall in mid-October, takes a different view. "Tell them that if that was the same attitude we had taken toward same-sex marriage, we would have a different president," the Seattle-area pastor said, adding that the 11-0 win on state amendments affirming traditional marriage would have gone in the opposite direction.

"They better get off their pride and start working together."

Hutcherson looks forward to next leading his multicultural congregation—and, he predicts, an eventual national movement of religious conservatives—in an effort to halt discriminatory adoption practices in which people pay more to adopt a white child than an African-American one.

"We have to come together on issues and we have to come together in color," he said.

Hispanic leaders, too, are taking different approaches to future alliances.

Yuri Mantilla, director of the Colorado-based Focus on the Family's Hispanic Voter Education Project, said the same diversity reflected in the campaign against gay marriage is needed to address issues such as embryonic stem cell research and judicial nominations.

"The future of these movements has to be diverse—Hispanic-American, African-American, Asian-American, all united," he said. "That's essential."

The Rev. Daniel de Leon, pastor of Templo Calvario in Santa Ana, Calif., one of the largest Hispanic evangelical churches in the country, said he and other Hispanic leaders are considering forming a separate bipartisan network to influence Capitol Hill with stances opposing abortion, supporting the traditional family, and selecting judges who will uphold such positions.

De Leon attended a May press conference in which a multicultural group of religious leaders announced a poll showing the majority of Americans supported a federal marriage amendment.

But he said there's a need now for Hispanics to start some political action on their own.

"I think the coalition will start small and narrow but I think it's almost, by its very nature … going to expand," he predicted.

Matt Daniels, president of the racially diverse Alliance for Marriage, based in Washington, said that religious conservatives who worked in concert this fall now have momentum to continue with plans to revive a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in 2005. A similar effort failed this year in both houses of Congress.

The Rev. Jerry Falwell, who recently announced a new Faith and Values Coalition, estimated that 10 percent of the people who worked with him on voter registration in the past year were African-American and a similar percentage were Hispanic. Such diverse outreach will continue as he aims to get 40 million religious conservatives to the polls in 2008.

"We're going out to everybody, every American who breathes and who shares our faith," he said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:58 PM


Bush economic adviser leaving White House (DEB RIECHMANN, November 23, 2004, AP)

Stephen Friedman, one of the President Bush's top economic advisers, is leaving the White House to return to the private sector in New York, a senior administration official said Tuesday.

Friedman, who served as the behind-the-scenes coordinator for the administration's economic policies, is to leave by the end of the year. There is no imminent announcement on his replacement, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Friedman replaced Larry Lindsey, who resigned with former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill two years ago in a shake-up of Bush's economic team.

The senior administration official said that while there has been wide speculation that Friedman might become treasury secretary in Bush's second term, Friedman had never been considered for the job because he had expressed no desire for the post. Friedman had expressed his intention to return to New York after the presidential campaign, the official said. [...]

One person mentioned as Friedman's replacement as head of the National Economic Council is Tim Adams, who served as policy director for Bush's re-election campaign and before that was chief of staff at the Treasury Department under both O'Neill and current Treasury Secretary John Snow.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:23 PM


An Israeli Hawk Accepts the President's Invitation (Dana Milbank, November 23, 2004, Washington Post)

Those looking for clues about President Bush's second-term policy for the Middle East might be interested to know that, nine days after his reelection victory, the president summoned to the White House an Israeli politician so hawkish that he has accused Ariel Sharon of being soft on the Palestinians.

Bush met for more than an hour on Nov. 11 with Natan Sharansky, the former Soviet dissident now known as a far-right member of the Israeli cabinet. Joined by Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr., incoming national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley and administration Mideast specialist Elliot Abrams, Bush told Sharansky that he was reading the Israeli's new book, "The Case for Democracy," and wanted to know more. Sharansky, with co-author Ron Dermer, had a separate meeting with Condoleezza Rice, later chosen by Bush to be the next secretary of state. [...]

Sharansky's ideas are clear: no concessions, funds or legitimacy for the Palestinians unless they adopt democracy, but a modern-day Marshall Plan for the Palestinians if they embrace democratic ways. The same hard line that worked for Ronald Reagan against the Soviet Union, Sharansky argues in his book, would work for Israel against the Palestinians.

In his book, Sharansky echoes many of Bush's favorite lines, talking of the need for "moral clarity" in fighting evil. Likening the fight against terrorism to the struggle with Nazism and communism, he described a world "divided between those who are prepared to confront evil and those who are willing to appease it" -- a common Bush dichotomy. "I am convinced that all peoples desire to be free," Sharansky writes. "I am convinced that freedom anywhere will make the world safer everywhere. And I am convinced that democratic nations, led by the United States, have a critical role to play in expanding freedom around the globe."

Just as Bush justifies the Iraq war by talking of it as a catalyst for democratization in the Middle East, Sharansky argues that while dictators keep power by spreading fear and hatred, democracies are inherently peaceful. "When a free people governs itself, the chances of a war being fought against other free peoples is removed almost entirely," he writes.

Sharansky had previously met with Rice and Vice President Cheney, but Dermer said this was his first meeting with Bush as president. Still, the book is flattering of Bush's leadership. While accusing then-President Jimmy Carter, who championed Sharansky's cause during his Gulag days, of having "blind sympathy" and "trust for dictators," the Israeli praised a Bush speech on the Middle East as "almost too good to be true," saying: "President Bush turned his back on Yasser Arafat's dictatorship once and for all." As previously noted in this space, that Bush speech lifted many of Sharansky's ideas.

Mr. Sharansky has the rare privilege of being at the center of the democratization of Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:55 PM


Vang details shooting spree in woods, authorities say (Larry Oakes and Jill Burcum, November 23, 2004, Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Chai Vang, the man accused of killing six Wisconsin hunters and wounding two others in the woods of Sawyer County on Sunday, has told investigators he only opened fire after one of the six shot at him.

That account differs sharply from that of one of the wounded.

Vang's story came out in documents released today as part of a probable cause hearing in the case before Circuit Judge Norman Yackel. Yackel ruled there is probable cause to try Vang for the shootings, set Vang's bail at $2.5 million and set his next court appearance for Dec. 20.

According to the documents, this is what Vang told investigators:

He was lost in the woods and climbed into an unoccupied deer stand. After about 15 minutes, another hunter came upon the scene, told Vang he was on private property and told him to leave. The man summoned his friends via radio. Others showed up, surrounded Vang and started using racial epithets.
Map of shootings

Vang said only one of the people confronting him was armed. Vang said that as he turned to leave, he saw the man with the gun point it at him. Then, Vang said the man fired at him from about 100 feet, with the bullet hitting the ground about 30 feet behind.

Collision of cultures: Hmong and white hunters have had disputes in the woods. (TODD NELSON and ALEX FRIEDRICH, 11/22/04, St. Paul Pioneer Press)
Hunting is a tradition many Hmong have continued to pursue since resettling here from Laos, though not always smoothly.

Some Hmong hunters in the Twin Cities say they have been targets of harassment and intimidation. Some of their white counterparts complain that the former refugees, used to unregulated hunting in their homeland, sometimes fail to comply with modern hunting regulations and wildlife management practices.

"A lot of these hunters are people who have a strong tradition in hunting," said Hmong activist Michael Yang of St. Paul, who joined friends looking for deer on his first hunting trip a few weeks ago. "That was one of the bases of survival back in the old days. You go out there in your farm fields and hunt what you need." [...]

Lee Pao Xiong, a Hmong activist from St. Paul, said he stopped hunting on public lands in Minnesota after an incident several years ago in which he and two friends were hunting for squirrels. Two carloads of white hunters suddenly pulled in to the spot where the three were camping and started making harassing comments. Several other Hmong hunters overheard the commotion, and the other hunters left when they realized they were outnumbered.

Michael Yang said he hears Hmong hunters talking of discrimination and taunts from other hunters. Hmong hunters have even been forced to take off their clothes at gunpoint, he said.

"Definitely, there's a lot of friction," Michael Yang said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:05 PM


Rays of light amid the gloom: (The Economist, Nov 23rd 2004)

Iraq’s Shia Muslims (about 60% of the population) and its Kurds (perhaps 20%) seem keen to vote. In those parts of the country where they predominate, the prospects of staging the elections look fair. However, the areas where Sunni Arabs predominate, especially the region around Fallujah, west of Baghdad, may still be too insecure by late January for balloting to be held there. If few people in the Sunni heartlands dare to vote, there is a risk that the elections will be deemed illegitimate, perpetuating the insurgency.

The Sunni Arabs—from whose numbers most of the insurgents are drawn—enjoyed privileged treatment under Saddam Hussein. They have mixed feelings about participating in elections that are likely to produce a Shia-dominated government. Though several of the main Sunni parties are still calling for a boycott, most of the various coalitions that will fight the elections will include some Sunnis on their candidate lists. Thus, assuming voting takes place, there should be quite a few Sunnis in the new national assembly. Whether there will be enough to legitimise the assembly in the eyes of their brethren remains to be seen. Possibly complicating things further, two senior Sunni clerics from a group calling for an election boycott were shot dead in separate incidents this week. The perpetrators are so far unknown. [...]

At least a consensus has finally been reached by the Paris Club on reducing Iraq’s crippling debt burden. The group’s members agreed on Sunday to forgive four-fifths of the $39 billion that Iraq owes them. President George Bush had pressed for an even bigger write-off but France had argued that such generosity was unjustified, given that Iraq has the world’s second-largest oil reserves.

The debt will be cut in stages, with the latter stages conditional on the Iraqi government agreeing an economic programme with the International Monetary Fund and then sticking to it. Iraq owes even bigger sums to countries outside the Paris Club—from the Gulf to Eastern Europe—and its debts total $120 billion. But the remaining creditors may now follow the club’s lead and agree to waive a large proportion of what they are owed.

The debt relief, plus the aid Iraq is receiving from America, should give the government in Baghdad the resources to rebuild the country’s war-ravaged infrastructure and start tackling poverty and unemployment.

Isn't this the point at which the editors should simply acknowledge that the President's supposedly rosy scenario was accurate?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:57 PM


The mean machine (Peter Oborne, The Spectator)

Karl Rove, supreme architect of George W. Bush’s triumph and the universally acknowledged high priest of modern campaign management, has long understood that all voters are not equal in a modern democracy; indeed the vast majority do not matter at all. In 2004 Voter Vault was used by Karl Rove and his acolytes to sift out the tiny minority who determined the result. Some 120 million people went to the polls in the United States two weeks ago, but as far as Rove was concerned only a handful of voters in the swing states of Florida, Ohio and a few others mattered. And long before election day came Voter Vault knew every relevant piece of information about these highly desirable people: their type of car, their social class, the likely size of their house and their likely religious and sexual preferences.

This information enabled analysts to sift out those who were likely to vote Republican, vote Democrat or — the only category to which Rove paid the slightest attention — were torn between the two. Voter Vault made possible interesting observations about the American people; for instance, that Volvo drivers are making a statement about their international outlook and therefore much less likely to vote Republican. In the final weeks of the campaign the Voter Vault machinery enabled campaign managers to guide their voters to the polls with the precision of cruise missiles turning a street corner in central Baghdad. Voter Vault told them whom to ring and, better still, which questions to ask and what information to convey. In this sense the American presidential election of 2004 was the first designer election in history, with policies tailored not for the country at large, but for the individual voter.

Voter Vault has now been acquired at huge cost by the Conservatives, and Tory strategists claim that they have honed this extraordinary piece of kit to a far higher level of ingenuity and precision than anything that has ever been seen in the past. Labour has a version of Voter Vault called Mosaic — but the Conservatives insist their machine is in a different class. ‘We have a much more scientific weapon than anything we have seen before,’ insists co-chairman Maurice Saatchi. ‘We like to think that we are well ahead of the other parties.’ Saatchi says that ‘millions of pounds’ will have been spent on it by the time of the general election.

In America Voter Vault’s powerful and probing intelligence focused on the few million people who determined the result. In Britain it has an even narrower focus. Its all-seeing eye does not engage with retired colonels in Tunbridge Wells. Safe Tory voters in one of the 165 constituencies which remained Tory in the 2001 holocaust are simply taken for granted. Likewise Voter Vault excludes from consideration unemployed shipworkers in Glasgow, since there are few Glasgow marginals which might go Conservative in 2005.

In fact Voter Vault is dedicated to just 900,000 people, or a remarkably small 2 per cent of Britain’s 45 million adult population. Tory strategists have identified these people as the only ones who even faintly matter in the 2005 general election. To qualify for membership of this privileged category voters must possess three attributes. First, they must live in one of the 167 target marginal seats, most of them in the central or West Midlands, which the Conservatives must secure if they are to claim victory. Second, they did not vote Conservative last time. Third, they must be ready to toy with the idea of doing so in 2005. Central Office strategists assert that Voter Vault’s expertise — experts call it ‘geo-demographic segmentation’ — enables them to identify every last one of these people.

The moment one of these precious creatures has been unearthed by Voter Vault, he or she can be targeted with a pitiless accuracy. Election literature, specially focused on voters’ personal concerns, starts to arrive through the letterbox. Electronic mail — a big feature of the recent American elections — is remorselessly dispatched. Canvassers, when they call at the door, will show a special anxiety and concern. In due course this target voter will be called — in some cases repeatedly — from the Conservative phone banks now being set up all around Britain. The largest of these is at the recently opened campaign centre of Coleshill near Birmingham. Coleshill has been deliberately chosen because it is at the heart of next year’s election battleground. Some 20 full-time staff are being hired there, chosen for their easy telephone manner and excellent local knowledge. Armed with Voter Vault’s insights, these staff will show an unnerving insight into the needs and preoccupations of the voters they speak to.

None of this comes about by chance: about 500,000 of Voter Vault’s chosen few are within easy reach of Coleshill. The outcome of the British general election will be determined in the West Midlands, just as Ohio held the key to the United States result two weeks ago. All Conservative policy-making is aimed directly at the handful of swing voters in these crucial target seats. Michael Howard’s speech at Tory conference six weeks ago was a manifestation of this. His five key points — law and order, health, education, tax and immigration — were the five points which, intensive research showed, most closely concerned the Voter Vault 900,000. Last week’s speech by Mr Howard on childcare was made in response to preoccupations highlighted by this allegedly formidable software. One Conservative strategist says that Voter Vault will enable the party ‘to fight a series of local elections, not one big national campaign’.

There is something very disturbing and, beyond doubt, anti-democratic about this relentless focus on such a remarkably small slice of the British electorate. It produces all kinds of malign and distorting effects. The lavish attention on just a few means the effective disfranchisement of the majority, while the obsessive concentration on just 2 per cent of the electorate explains why the policies of the two main parties are coming to resemble each other so closely.

What exactly is disturbing about the two parties being forced to concentrate on and adopt middle England's views about "law and order, health, education, tax and immigration" if they want to prevail in elections?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:46 PM


Iran and Syria condemn the insurgency in Iraq (Jenny Booth, 11/23/04, Times Online)

Jack Straw tonight hailed a new mood of international unity on Iraq after a gathering of key foreign ministers endorsed the elections set for January 30.

The conference in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, which brought together the G8 group of industrialised nations, Iraq’s neighbours and the Arab League - issued a final communique condemning terrorist violence and supporting the democratic process.

"It shows that there is a real desire in the Arab world and key countries in the international community to look forward and not back and to see this is now a shared problem," the Foreign Secretary said.

The conference was attended by many of the leading critics of the US-led war in Iraq, including France, Germany, Russia, Iran and Syria. Present were the representatives of 20 nations, including Iraq's six neighbors, and bodies such as the Group of Eight, the European Union and the Arab League, who came to this Red Sea resort to discuss Iraq's future.

The conference rebuffed calls from France and some Arab states to set a deadline for withdrawing the US-led forces.

Posted by David Cohen at 12:55 PM


Shooting Stars: Design team optimizes valve response time for paintball gun (Paul Teague, Design News, 11/8/04)

In a modified version of the football team huddle, engineers from Smart Parts Inc. and Humphrey Products Company convened in a conference room in Loyalhanna, PA, last year to draw up a game plan for dominating the competition in a vastly different sport: tournament paintball.

When they broke, they had a strategy for developing a new solenoid valve that they felt would set a new standard in paintball markers—the guns players use to splatter opponents with tiny balls of paint.

But this was to be no ordinary valve. It had to be backward compatible so it would match the footprint of an existing valve. It had to be easy to maintain. And, it had to perform better than existing valves. How much better? A lot. For one key aspect of the valve—operating pressure—the engineers aimed for about a 125 percent improvement.

They hit their target. The new valve, the result of intense collaboration between Smart Parts, pneumatic-technology supplier Humphrey, and Humphrey's Japanese partner Koganei, could well surprise the market with its capabilities. It's a 7V device that provides a higher rated pressure (225 psig vs. 100 psig) than competitors' models, faster firing rate (an expected 28 balls per second vs 24), and shorter cycle (or, on-off) time than the previous valve. Humphrey engineers say their tests show that despite the 225-psig rating, the valve actually seals at 300 psig. The valve also has fewer parts than the one Smart Parts used previously, and weighs less. Though Smart Parts won't disclose the actual valve weight, the company says it is 1.1 gm lighter than the previous valve.

A relatively small group of people want to run around in the woods and splatter each other in paint. It would be easy to make fun of them, and of the American culture from which they spring: chickenhawks, teen geeks, weekend warriors, etc. The fact that there is an industry dedicated to enabling the paint warriors is equally easy fodder for critics of American capitalism. While people go hungry, . . . . We can all fill in the blanks.

And yet, isn't this glorious? "Paintball" is a $2 billion per year industry that could never exist in anything but the freest of markets. No central planner would ever spend any money to develop technology for hobbyists to go out into the woods and shoot each other with paint. Only a free people, with a free market, in fact, only with Americans, could we find some very smart engineers spending a year (down from an expected 18 months) developing a new, faster and more powerful solenoid valve for use in paintball guns. When analysts write about new technology, increased productivity, or the growth of the economy, it tends to be either very dry or esoteric. This is the real face of the American economy: a paintball gun that will shoot a pellet 125% harder with a 25% increase in its rate of fire. I sure want one. Don't you?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:41 AM


Talking Sense On Court Choices (E. J. Dionne Jr., November 23, 2004, Washington Post)

Justice Stephen Breyer performed an enormous service for our country last week. He clarified what is at stake in the coming fights over judicial nominations. He made clear why it is important to raise our national argument over court appointments above the level of slogans and campaign speeches.

Breyer, in a series of lectures at Harvard University, offered a bold challenge to conservative judicial activism. While he was respectful of his colleagues, Breyer put forward an alternative to the theories of conservative jurists such as Justice Antonin Scalia.

Conservative politicians, including President Bush, say that they oppose judges who "legislate from the bench" and that they hope to fill the judiciary with "strict constructionists." That sounds good, because we want democratically elected politicians, not judges, making the crucial decisions. Yet, at this moment in our history, it is conservative judges who want to restrict the people's right to govern themselves.

That may sound sweeping, but the current trend among conservatives is to read the Constitution as sharply limiting the ability of Congress and the states to make laws protecting the environment, guaranteeing the rights of the disabled and regulating commerce in the public interest.

This new conservatism is actually a very old conservatism. It marks a return to the time before the mid-1930s....

Yes, that would be a return to the original understanding of the Constitution, a strict construction of the document.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:11 AM


Widespread Vote Fraud Is Alleged In Ukraine (Peter Finn, November 23, 2004, Washington Post)

Tens of thousands of demonstrators converged on Independence Square in the Ukrainian capital Monday after election monitors charged widespread fraud in the presidential runoff election, apparently won by the Moscow-backed prime minister, Viktor Yanukovych.

With 99.33 percent of the vote counted, Yanukovych won 49.42 percent of the vote compared with 46.3 percent for his opponent, Viktor Yushchenko, according to the Central Elections Commission. Exit polls in the balloting initially indicated that Yushchenko would win by a wide margin.

As a crowd of at least 100,000 gathered in Kiev Monday night despite freezing temperatures, Yushchenko called for civil resistance.

"A terrible evil is going on," Yushchenko told his supporters, many of whom waved orange flags or wore orange scarves, signifying their support for his campaign. "From all parts of Ukraine, on carts, cars, planes and trains, tens of thousands of people are on their way here. Our action is only beginning." [...]

Yushchenko, 50, a former prime minister and central banker, is considered a reformer in this country of 48 million, favoring closer cooperation with NATO and the European Union. Yanukovych, 54, has received strong support from President Vladimir Putin of Russia, whose spokesman issued a statement Monday from Brazil, congratulating Yanukovych on winning the presidency, although the result has not been declared. [...]

International monitors identified a series of election abuses. In Donetsk, for instance, they reported unusually high turnouts in areas that favored Yanukovych -- as high as 96 percent of registered voters, compared with a 65.8 percent turnout three weeks ago for the first round of balloting.

Observers also said state workers were forced to apply for absentee ballots from their managers and that the filled-in ballots were collected at their places of work. Students were coerced to vote by their professors and deans, according to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. At a news conference, the monitors said there were too many violations for them to enumerate.

"The second round did not meet a considerable number of standards of the OSCE and the European Council for democratic elections," said Bruce George, a Briton who is the observer mission chief for the OSCE, which called for a review of the vote by Ukrainian authorities.

In Washington, the State Department called on Ukraine's government to investigate the fraud allegations or risk a changed relationship with the United States. "Quick action on the part of the government of Ukraine is required," said J. Adam Ereli, a department spokesman.

These Arab Muslims just can't get the hang of democracy...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:04 AM


Porter's House: CIA Director Porter Goss takes charge. (Stephen F. Hayes, 11/29/2004, Weekly Standard)

For months leading up to the election, elements within the CIA had leaked information damaging to the reelection prospects of George W. Bush. Some of the leaks were authorized, some were not. Michael Scheuer, head of the CIA's bin Laden unit from 1996 to 1999 who recently quit the agency in order to be free to criticize the intelligence community, said that CIA higher-ups had given him permission to speak to the media anonymously to "bash the president." Authorized or not, the result of the steady flow of leaks was the same. Bush was portrayed as incompetent and his policies disastrous. CIA-friendly reporters, eager to keep their sources happy, stuck to the agency line.

One significant leak landed on the front page of the New York Times on September 16, 2004. Prospects for success in Iraq, the CIA assessed, ranged from bleak to grim. The story and its timing coincided nicely with the Kerry campaign's effort to paint postwar Iraq as Vietnam-in-the-desert. Then in October, less than two weeks after Goss was confirmed, "past and current agency officials" sabotaged Goss's pick to be CIA executive
director, in what Bush administration figures considered a brushback pitch. Those agency officials revealed to Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus that Michael Kostiw, a respected former CIA official and immediate past staff director of the House terrorism subcommittee, had been arrested for shoplifting in 1981 and subsequently resigned from the CIA. "He is one of the brightest minds in the intelligence community," a senior Bush administration national security official told me months before Goss was nominated. Kostiw withdrew from consideration for the CIA job one day after the leak.

So it's no wonder that Goss was upset about leaks. Murray had told the associate deputy director of counterterrorism that the new agency leadership would not tolerate media leaks. This person reported the conversation to Michael Sulick, associate deputy CIA director for operations. Sulick, in turn, alerted his boss, Stephen Kappes, deputy CIA director for operations, and a meeting between Sulick, Kappes, Murray, and Goss was hastily arranged. Goss participated in most of the tense meeting. After he left, however, according to a source familiar with the confrontation, Murray reiterated the warning about leaks. Sulick took the advice as a threat and, calling Murray "a Hill puke," threw a stack of papers in his direction.

The following day, Goss summoned Kappes to discuss the altercation. Goss told Kappes that such behavior is unacceptable at his CIA and ordered Kappes to reassign Sulick to a post outside of the building. Goss suggested making Sulick the CIA station chief in New York City. Kappes refused to reassign Sulick and told Goss that he would resign if Sulick were removed from his post. Goss told Kappes to resign, and Kappes told Goss he intended to take the matter to the White House.

This guy's supposed to be an intelligence agent and he thought the White House would side with him?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:40 AM

THE NUCLEAR OPTION (via Jeff Guinn):

The Truth and Consequences of Welfare Reform (Jonah Edelman, Ron Haskins, and Mickey Kaus, Nov. 17, 2004, Slate)

From: Jonah Edelman
To: Mickey Kaus and Ron Haskins
Subject: Why Jason DeParle Gets It Right in American Dream
Posted Monday, Nov. 15, 2004, at 9:28 AM PT

Dear Mickey and Ron,

I'm happy that we can use Jason DeParle's recent book American Dream, a powerful and well-written account of the journey of three Milwaukee women in the wake of the 1996 welfare bill, as an occasion to discuss the welfare reform movement. Frankly, I'm glad welfare as we knew it ended. Despite my many misgivings about the 1996 bill, including its unconscionable cuts in food stamps and Medicaid for legal immigrants, what's to like about a system that gave mothers a small monthly check—often not enough to pay the rent—in exchange for not working and staying single?

One thing that has become abundantly clear since 1996, which DeParle points out, is that a great many welfare recipients could indeed work. In reality, a sizable percentage of welfare recipients, including Angie and Jewell, two of American Dream's three protagonists, were already working.

This simple fact makes a mockery of the liberal argument that it was either unrealistic or too harsh to make welfare recipients work for their check. It also gives the lie to the conservative argument that welfare recipients generally lacked the will to work.

For welfare recipients who were already working (perhaps the majority), and for many of those whom didn't work before the 1996 welfare bill gave states like Wisconsin control of their own welfare-to-work programs, all it took was a strictly enforced work requirement to move them off the rolls.

I was particularly struck by Angie's story. On welfare 12 years, with four kids and little work experience, Angie is the kind of person about whom liberals worried and conservatives fumed. Within six months, she got a job as a nurses' aide. In spite of the literally backbreaking work (nurses' aides have higher rates of occupational injuries than coal miners) and shifts that required her to either get up at 4 a.m. or return home close to midnight, Angie loved her job. And despite incredible turbulence at home, she kept it. In the welfare-to-work world, she's a success story.

What deeply troubles me is that Angie—who through hard work ended up near the top in earnings for former welfare recipients—barely ended up better off economically than when she was on welfare. Sure, Angie earned more income. But when you take into account her work expenses—which in her case didn't even include child care because she left her four children home alone—she either came out slightly ahead or it was a wash.

DeParle describes Angie's struggles in detail in this book. Her power is shut off three times in three years. She often runs out of food, which precipitates fighting in the house. She loses her health insurance. She's forever in debt and seriously behind on one or another bill. You can certainly fault Angie for some of her choices, including letting her crack-addicted cousin live with her for years despite repeated stealing. But by and large here is a woman who, according to the now familiar phrase, works hard and plays by the rules. At one point she says of herself: "I'm a good hardworking woman who can't seem to get up off the ground."

No welfare program can compensate for the destruction of the nuclear family.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:25 AM


Dangers Of the '80 Percent Solution' (David Ignatius, November 23, 2004, Washington Post)

When you push Bush administration officials to explain America's strategy for the new year in Iraq, you get an answer that I'll call "the 80 percent solution." This analysis is at the root of the administration's hopes for the future, so it's worth giving it a careful look.

President Bush's strategists argue that no matter how bloody the insurgency in Iraq may seem, it will never grow beyond the 20 percent of the Iraqi population that is Sunni Muslim. The rest of Iraq -- roughly 60 percent Shiite and 20 percent Kurdish -- may dislike the U.S. occupation, but it will never unite with the Sunnis, who dominated the former regime of Saddam Hussein that brutalized them.

Thus the quiet in the rest of Iraq as U.S. forces pounded the Sunni insurgent stronghold of Fallujah this month. You could almost hear Iraq's Shiites and Kurds muttering: "They had it coming." An Arabic expression conveys the schadenfreude emotion: "The misery of some is for others an advantage." In that phrase lies the cold logic of the 80 percent solution.

It's all well and PC to fret about sectarian violence, but why should 80% of a people, who want democracy, not deal harshly with the 20% who don't? After all, 70,000 Loyalists fled Revolutionary America--why would driving a similar proportion of Ba'athists out of Iraq not be appropriate?

'Sons of Liberty' explores gray areas of war (HEDY WEISS, November 23, 2004, Chicago Sun-Times)

Few works for the stage (aside from the popular musical "1776") have made the American War for Independence their subject; maybe it's just the problem of the powdered wigs. But Kampf and Oswalt, obviously propelled by current events -- yet wanting to do something more ambitious and thoughtful than agitprop -- have found an intriguing way to mix past and present.

With a nod to Tom Stoppard's "Arcadia," they have created a play that simultaneously unspools in a single place (a popular Boston tavern) yet lives in two very different eras. The time periods are the years from the mid-1760s to the battles of Concord and Lexington in 1775 that triggered the Revolutionary War, and the eve of a contemporary election when the Liberty Safeguard Act (a thinly veiled version of the 2001 USA Patriot Act) has become a major focus of controversy.

The play opens as the Sons of Liberty -- the often-violent underground organization formed to oppose the hated Stamp Act -- begins to act. This also is when the British instituted the Quartering Act, which made it mandatory for public houses to provide free food and shelter for the king's army.

In any case, the tavern becomes a hotbed of activity, with its managers -- the free-spirited Tench Chapman; his pragmatic wife, Martha, and their pretty, independent-minded niece Tildy (Cortney McKenna, a lovely actress with a most appealing singing voice) -- trying above all to make ends meet. Tildy gives her young but devoted admirer Jesse (Brad Lawrence, who makes a fine transition from naive boy to formidable young revolutionary) a hard time of it at the start, but he will become the story's tragic hero.

Meanwhile, the colonists' grievances pile up and debate rages about how to deal with the situation. Should laws be defied? Does anyone have the stomach for violence? In one particularly powerful scene, a Redcoat who wanders into the tavern alone becomes a scapegoat for the Sons of Liberty and is brutally beaten and then tarred and feathered. It is enough to make many think again about the revolutionaries' tactics.

-Gunmen assassinate second Sunni cleric (MAGGIE MICHAEL, November 23, 2004, ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Masked gunmen assassinated a Sunni cleric north of Baghdad on Tuesday-- the second such killing in as many days. Insurgents hit a U.S. convoy with a roadside bomb near the central Iraq city of Samarra, drawing return fire that killed one man.

Sheik Ghalib Ali al-Zuhairi was a member of the Association of Muslim Scholars, an influential Sunni clerics group that has called for a boycott of nationwide elections scheduled for Jan. 30.

He was shot as he was leaving a mosque in the town of Muqdadiyah and died in the local hospital, said police Col. Raisan Hussein. Muqdadiyah is about 60 miles north of Baghdad.

A day earlier, unknown gunmen assassinated another prominent Sunni cleric in the northern city of Mosul-- Sheik Faidh Mohamed Amin al-Faidhi, who was the brother of the group's spokesman. It as unclear whether the two attacks were related.

Opposing democracy apparently has a price.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:11 AM


Bush the Insurgent: A president who won't kowtow to DC's establishment. (FRED BARNES, November 23, 2004, Wall Street Journal)

Mr. Bush finds himself in the unusual position--for a president, anyway--as leader of the insurgents. Unlike other presidents who came to Washington with bold plans, Mr. Bush has not been housebroken by establishment forces. Even Ronald Reagan made peace with Washington. Mr. Bush hasn't. He wants to impose a breathtakingly conservative agenda in his second term, one that has prompted cries of protest from establishment figures like David Gergen, aide to four presidents, and the voice of the Beltway, the Washington Post.

Contrary to the doubters, the establishment does exist and does throw its weight around. It consists of the permanent bureaucracy, much of the vast political community of lobbyists and lawyers and consultants, leftovers from Congress and earlier administrations, trade groups and think tanks, and the media. The establishment can and does shape the zeitgeist in Washington and, importantly, a huge chunk of the Senate is establishment-oriented and dozens of senators themselves members of the establishment. It's become more Republican in recent years but is still center-left in ideological tilt. But it's liberal in a reactionary way, passionately opposing conservative change.

In the eyes of the establishment, the Bush tactics, the Bush agenda, and Mr. Bush himself are over the top. The president is girding for battle. He's aiming to consolidate control of his administration, drive out recalcitrant (read: establishment) elements, and make the permanent government heel, especially at the CIA and State Department. He's kept his White House staff intact, from political adviser Karl Rove to speechwriter Mike Gerson to budget chief Josh Bolten, as a kind of headquarters cadre. The White House aides who've departed, such as national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and counsel Alberto Gonzales, were dispatched to take over Cabinet agencies.

Mr. Bush's agenda is post-Reagan in its conservatism, which means it's more far-reaching and thus more threatening to the establishment. Mr. Bush would not only reform Social Security and allow individuals to invest a portion of their payroll taxes in financial markets, he would also revamp the entire federal tax code and fill the Supreme Court with judicial conservatives. And those are only his domestic plans. In foreign affairs, Mr. Bush would make aggressive efforts to spread democracy around the world the centerpiece. The foreign policy élite is aghast.

...and agog.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:01 AM


OUT ON THE STREET: The United States’ de-Baathification program fuelled the insurgency. Is it too late for Bush to change course? (JON LEE ANDERSON, 2004-11-08, The New Yorker)

On April 19, 2003, ten days after the fall of Baghdad, an advance “jump group” of Americans commanded by retired Lieutenant General Jay Garner was flown into the city to manage the occupation of Iraq. One of the first to arrive was Stephen Browning, whose previous assignment had been as director of programs on the West Coast for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Two months earlier, Browning had been summoned to Washington to join a group of experts charged with planning for postwar Iraq. Within a day or two of his arrival in Baghdad, Browning was given the job of getting the Ministry of Health up and running.

Baghdad’s hospitals were in a calamitous state. Many had been looted, and the doctors and nurses had fled. In the Shiite slum of Saddam (now Sadr) City, home to two million people, clerics and armed vigilantes loyal to the radical Shiite Moqtada al-Sadr had taken control of the medical facilities.“When I went into the Ministry of Health, there was no clear leader, no one willing to say, ‘I represent the Iraqis for the health ministry,’” Browning recalled. “Then Dr. Ali Shinan al-Janabi, an optometrist who had been a deputy minister, stepped forward. He told us that he was a member of the Baath Party. And—well, the fact is there was no one else to go to. I asked around, did a lot of research, and almost everyone I spoke to seemed to regard him as an honorable figure, even though he was a Baathist. And, after getting to know him, I came to feel he was a brave and admirable man.”

Browning decided early on that in order to get things done he needed to work with members of the Baath Party. The Party had been virtually synonymous with Saddam Hussein’s regime; it was the instrument through which Iraqis were brutalized. At the same time, its members filled jobs at every level of society and anchored the middle class. On his own initiative, Browning says, he asked Shinan to sign a letter renouncing his membership in the Baath Party. Shinan did so, and Garner named him the acting Minister of Health. “We started working together,” Browning said. “We made real progress in a very short amount of time.”

A few weeks later, Browning and Shinan held a press conference. A reporter from the BBC asked Shinan if he was a Baathist. “He said he was, but that he had signed a letter of renunciation,” Browning told me. “The BBC guy insisted, though. ‘Will you denounce the Baath Party in front of us right now?’ Ali’s response was ‘This is not an issue right now; we need to move on with the emergencies we have facing us.’ And then he said, ‘I was just doing my job.’

“The minute I heard him say that—it sounded so close to what the Nazi sympathizers said in their own defense in Germany after the Second World War—I knew how it would sound to the press outside Iraq, in the West, and I knew right then and there that Ali’s political career was finished,” Browning said. “I walked out of the conference with him hand in hand, and the next morning told him what we had to do. Ali was fine about it; he asked only that he be allowed to continue working as an optometrist. I agreed. Ali said, ‘You are my brother.’ We both had tears in our eyes.”

Still, Browning was troubled by Shinan’s refusal to denounce the Baath Party, and he asked him why he hadn’t. “He told me that if he did so in public the vengeance on his family would be catastrophic. Which is probably true. There was nobody stopping anything from happening back then—our troops weren’t much in the way of a protection force.”

Browning asked Shinan to continue to assist him, and he agreed. A few days later, he disappeared. Browning later learned that Shinan and his family had left Baghdad. By then, an assassination campaign had begun against former Baathists who were coöperating with the occupation, and also against some who weren’t. The victims of the campaign, which is ongoing, have included doctors, engineers, and teachers, sparking an exodus of Iraqi professionals to other countries.

Not long after, Garner himself was fired, and President Bush named L. Paul Bremer III as the head of what became known as the Coalition Provisional Authority. On May 16, 2003, Bremer issued a sweeping ban of the Baath Party: all senior party members were barred from public life; lower-level members were also barred, but some could appeal. In effect, Bremer had fired the entire senior civil service. The origins of the decree have never been clarified, but Coalition officials I spoke to said they believed that Bremer was following orders from the White House. A week later, he disbanded the Iraqi Army.

Browning recalled a meeting that he and other officials had with Bremer before the announcement. “Bremer walked in and announced his de-Baathification order. I said that we had established a good working relationship with technicians—not senior-level people—of the Baath Party, and I expressed my feeling that this measure could backfire. Bremer said that it was not open for discussion, that this was what was going to be done and his expectation was that we would carry it out. It was not a long meeting.”

The order had an immediate effect on Browning’s work. “We had a lot of directors general of hospitals who were very good, and, with de-Baathification, we lost them and their expertise overnight,” he told me. At the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, which was another of his responsibilities, “we were left dealing with what seemed like the fifth string. . . . Nobody who was left knew anything.”

An American special-forces officer stationed in Baghdad at the time told me that he was stunned by Bremer’s twin decrees. After the dissolution of the Army, he said, “I had my guys coming up to me and saying, ‘Does Bremer realize that there are four hundred thousand of these guys out there and they all have guns?’ They all have to feed their families.” He went on, “The problem with the blanket ban is that you get rid of the infrastructure; I mean, after all, these guys ran the country, and you polarize them. So did these decisions contribute to the insurgency? Unequivocally, yes. And we have to ask ourselves: How well did we really know how to run Iraq? Zero.”

One of the issues we need to ponder for reference in future conflicts is the difference between de-Nazifying Germany after just over a decade of rule by Hitler vs. trying to do something similar in a country that had been run by the Ba'ath Party for forty years.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:38 AM


Religion's Eternal Life (Jonathan Sachs, November 19, 2004, LA Times)

Religion persists at the center of world concerns. Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims battle in Iraq. Religious divisions fuel ethnic conflicts around the world. The European Union was recently riven over the proposal to appoint Rocco Buttiglione, an Italian who holds orthodox Catholic views on homosexuality, as its commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security. We have witnessed a U.S. presidential election in which, according to the polls, moral issues — "Christian values" — were at the top of voters' concerns, outweighing the economy, terrorism and the war in Iraq.

All this is hard for a European, particularly a North European, to understand. The reason is that we are heirs to a highly singular history whose origins lie in more than a century of religious and political warfare between Catholics and Protestants that began with the Reformation in 1517 and the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. The memory of those wars drove the intellectual and political history of Europe for more than 300 years, leading to the rise of science, the nation-state, the growing independence of universities, the de-sacralization of culture and the retreat of religion from its former citadels of temporal power.

This secularization did not take place because people stopped believing in God. That, if anything, was a consequence, not a cause. It happened because men and women of goodwill lost faith in the ability of religious believers to live peaceably with one another. With Catholics and Protestants fighting each other across Europe, people began to search for another way. Could we, they asked, find a path of pursuing knowledge, or wealth, or power, while leaving our religious convictions at home? Thus began what the English poet and essayist Matthew Arnold called the "melancholy, long, withdrawing roar" of the retreating sea of faith.

The advance guard of the Enlightenment believed that where Europe led, the rest of the world would follow. Secularization, they believed, was inevitable and inexorable. It would be the fate of every civilization that attempted to come to terms with modernity. In this they were simply wrong.

What's sad is that they chose security over freedom and have neither. They raced down an evolutionary dead-end.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:28 AM


Bush's Colombian Connection
(LA Times, November 23, 2004)

The symbolism of President Bush's four-hour stopover in Cartagena, Colombia, far exceeds its meager time frame. It is part of his first trip abroad after winning reelection. Bush signaled his solidarity with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, who is making progress in a U.S.-backed military struggle against narco-guerrillas and traffickers. Another message was beamed to Congress, which must approve continued funding for Plan Colombia, a multibillion-dollar initiative launched by President Clinton in 2000.

As the president, standing side by side with Uribe, said Monday: "If I didn't think [Uribe] had an effective strategy and the willingness to fight the [guerrilla organization] FARC, I wouldn't be standing here in this great nation saying … I'm going to work with Congress to continue the support. In other words, I believe in results."

The struggle to restore stability to Colombia is unfinished, but Plan Colombia has so far been a remarkable success. Illegal coca and poppy production has dropped more than 30% since the eradication program began about three years ago. Record amounts of cocaine headed for U.S. ports have been confiscated, and newly vigorous Colombian courts have approved the extradition of the head of the notorious Cali cartel to the U.S.

An all-out Colombian military offensive, aided by hundreds of U.S. military trainers and planners, has pushed the FARC narco-guerrillas into remote rural areas. (A recent doubling of the U.S. troops to 800 was cause for anxiety about mission creep, which would be eased by new assurances that they will not be used in direct combat.)

Democrats who opposed aid to Colombia were fond of saying it would be another Vietnam (as in the reference to "mission creep" here). Now that all the "next Vietnams" turn out to be so easily won can we start saying that proposed military interventions will be the "next Afghanistan"?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:18 AM


Ambitious Goals Will Test GOP's New Muscle (Janet Hook, November 23, 2004, LA Times)

Republicans may have picked up only a handful of seats in Congress on election day, but they have been acting ever since as if they'd been carried by a conservative landslide.

Emboldened Republicans have strengthened the hand of their conservative leadership and have brought moderate colleagues to heel. In last week's postelection session of Congress, they jammed an antiabortion rider into the last budget bill of the year.

And Republican leaders, apparently undeterred by the fact that they still will have a relatively narrow majority when the new Congress opens in January, embraced President Bush's ambitious second-term agenda of overhauling Social Security and the tax code.

"My fellow conservatives, we have waited our entire lives for the chance the American people have given us in the next two years," a triumphant House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) said in a recent speech to a conservative group. "I pledge to each and every one of you, we will seize it." [...]

A key question is whether Bush and his expanded Republican majorities will overreach their mandate. Democrats blazed that path in 1992, when President Clinton was elected with a Democrat-controlled Congress — and failed spectacularly to overhaul the healthcare system.

Republicans fell into the same trap when they took control of Congress in the 1994 elections for the first time in 40 years. They came to power with conservative guns blazing; a year later they took a political drubbing for a budget fight with Clinton that temporarily shut down part of the government. Many Republicans are eager to avoid that kind of mistake.

The problem for Republicans in '95 was not overreach but chickening out--had they kept the government closed another week Bill Clinton was prepared to buckle and the realignment we're in now would have been hastened by eight years.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:15 AM


This Time, Iraqis Fought a Good Fight in Fallouja: U.S. forces give proteges kudos for digging up intelligence, storming mosques and other tasks. But the baton won't be passed soon. (Patrick J. McDonnell, November 23, 2004, LA Times)

Upon his triumphant entry into this former rebel bastion following a U.S.-led assault, the top American commander in the country singled out Iraqi troops for special tribute.

"Iraq needs leaders like you," Army Gen. George W. Casey declared last week to the U.S.-trained officers arrayed before him.

About 2,000 Iraqi soldiers, police and special forces fought alongside 10,000 U.S. Marines and soldiers in the battle for Fallouja. The Iraqis' role was comparatively modest in what was clearly a U.S. show, but top American commanders were upbeat about the results.

For one thing, there have been no mass desertions since the operation began Nov. 8, unlike what occurred during an aborted Marine assault on the city in the spring. Many members of Iraqi security forces walked away from the earlier fight, embarrassing officials with the U.S. occupation.

This time around, U.S. officials, mindful of what is often referred to as putting an "Iraqi face" on events here, accent the positive. They say the Iraqis were especially useful here in unearthing intelligence, identifying non-Iraqi insurgents, clearing homes of enemy fighters, searching for weapons caches and staffing humanitarian aid sites. At least one specially trained police unit, working with U.S. "mentors," was used to storm several mosques.

"The Iraqis have been a tremendous asset," said Maj. Gen. Richard F. Natonski, commander of the 1st Marine Division.

There's no reason for them to stand on their own until we aren't there for them to lean on--as Japan and Germany continue to demonstrate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:46 AM


The Malthusian Trap (Benjamin Marks, November 23, 2004,

The principle that there is a perpetual tendency in the race of man to increase beyond the means of subsistence is usually attributed to Malthus. But he was really just the popularizer of a belief that was (and is) fairly widespread. William Hazlitt, a mighty adversary of Malthus, does not think he was the first to write about it, either. In fact, plagiarism is hinted at. See Hazlitt's excellent essay on this topic here. The great Australian philosopher, David Stove, in the same vein as Hazlitt, thinks:

There are anticipations of his 'principle of population' in the writings of David Hume, Benjamin Franklin, Joseph Townsend, and no doubt others beside; but not, or not to any extent worth mentioning, in any writings whatever before about 1750. And yet people could have made, at any time during thousands of years before that date, at least a rough comparison between the size of a batch of fertilized cod eggs, or viable pine seeds, and the number of this batch which survived to reproduce in turn.

But whatever may have been the reason for it, it was left to Malthus to teach naturalists the strength of the organic tendency to increase, and of the resulting pressure of their numbers on their food. And he happened to do so in a book which, for reasons quite unconnected with evolution, reached an unusually great number of readers.

The Malthusian population principle is always incorrect, but its proximity to the truth varies. It is also an instance where we can appreciate one of Rothbard's empirical generalizations—of high predictive value, but not apodictically certain—that nonAustrian individuals tend to specialize in the area they are least competent. As Stove put it:

It is . . . a curious irony that the general biological principle which he put forward comes steadily closer to being true, the further one departs from the human case, and is a grotesque falsity only in the one case which really interested Malthus: man.

Human populations, once they reach a certain size and complexity, always develop specialized orders, of priests, doctors, soldiers. To the members of these orders sexual abstinence, either permanent or periodic, or in "business hours" (so to speak), is typically prescribed. Here, then, is [a] fact about our species which is contrary to what one would expect on the principle that population always increases when, and as fast as, the amount of food available permits.

Stove talks of many other instances, and not just in our species, where the Malthusian population principle is broken, but the one refutation will suffice for the purposes of this article. Similarly, Hazlitt wrote,

I am ashamed of wasting the reader's time and my own in thus beating the air. It is not however my fault that Mr Malthus has written nonsense, or that others have admired it. It is not Mr Malthus's nonsense, but the opinion of the world respecting it, that I would be thought to compliment by this serious refutation of what in itself neither deserves not (sic) admits of any reasoning upon it.

Darwinism (Jenny Teichman, March 2003, Quadrant)
Darwin’s own Darwinism has three elements:

1. The first evolutionary hypothesis – propounded by naturalists in Darwin’s childhood - was that existing species originated in earlier ones as an ongoing outcome of an unknown cause:

2. A vast collection of facts about the natural world which Darwin put together in his books and papers in support of:

3. The second evolutionary hypothesis in which he stated what he took to be the cause of the evolutionary process.

That cause, he says, is a process which works rather like the selection made by men when they breed plants or animals for specific purposes. He called this supposed cause “natural selection” to distinguish it from selections made by rose farmers and pigeon-fanciers and suchlike human “selectors”. He also gave it an alternative label - “the survival of the fittest”, a term borrowed from Herbert Spencer.

IN DEFENCE of the second evolutionary hypothesis Darwin took up a notion first set out by Thomas Malthus (1766 –1834), namely the idea that population always presses on the food supply. That pressure brings it about that stronger individuals survive while weaker ones die.

Malthus was interested in what he took to be natural differences between the death rates of rich and poor human beings and he claimed that any attempt to reduce those differences would be both wrong and ineffective. He thought it would be ineffective because he had formulated the hypothesis that population increases geometrically while food supplies increase arithmetically. That idea was refuted almost immediately by William Hazlitt who pointed out that fish, sheep and grasses are themselves populations as well as food and so would have to increase both geometrically and arithmetically all at the same time - a blatant absurdity.

Darwin extended Malthus’s theory from human beings to everything organic but did not mention the mathematical absurdity. He surely must have noticed it but, as David Stove suggests, he was probably an emollient sort of character, a man never happy about getting into rows.

If populations and food supplies do not increase in Malthusian proportions there is less need to postulate Herbert Spencer’s survival of the fittest. However, Darwin makes clear that in his book the phrase “struggle for life” refers not only to struggles for food but also to struggles for sexual mates and struggles against diseases and accidents and hostile environments. On the other hand he insists, à la Malthus, that the struggle for life between individuals of the same species is the most important factor in natural selection and the most significant evidence for the second evolutionary hypothesis. For example in Chapter One of The Origin of Species (sixth edition) he states “The struggle for life is most severe between individuals and varieties of the same species.” Moreover, the struggle is indeed sometimes or often for food: thus in Chapter Two of The Descent of Man (second edition) he says: “The primary or fundamental check to the continued increase of man is the difficulty of gaining subsistence ...”

And this, I think, is the bit of Darwinism which cannot be true and which Michell and others are right to reject. The tale of a direct struggle for sustenance between animal con-specifics is largely a myth, or as David Stove calls it, a fairytale. Herbivores graze quietly together, they do not fight about who gets the grass. Unlike reptiles, all mammals share food with their young. So do birds, with the exception of the cuckoo. Not many species engage in con-specific fights for food. Gulls do but even they feed their own young.

Anthropology shows that when “primitive” hunters and gatherers find food they spontaneously share it with their fellow hunter-gatherers and also, of course, with children. Even the lonely Inuit waiting over a hole in the ice will share the seal he eventually kills with the other folk in the igloo. We civilised folk share food within the family and with friends and in the course of many different rituals. Human beings, in short, are natural food sharers. And why? Because they have to be. Unlike crocodiles, they are completely dependent during a long childhood and remain dependent on one another to some extent even in adulthood.

At this point Darwinians sometimes fall back on the idea that humanity nowadays is not living a natural life. Darwin himself has quite a lot to say about the difference between civilised man and natural or savage man. The first to do so was T. H. Huxley, “Darwin’s Bulldog”, who said, “in the state of nature [human] life was a continual free fight” .The distinction is reminiscent of Hobbes’ idea, or hypothesis rather, about a supposed state of nature in which “every man’s hand is against every man’s” .

However, it makes no sense to say that any one state of mankind is more or less natural than any other because each stage or state or variation is a stage or state or variation in the evolution of our species. To say that its later states are less natural than some hypothetical earlier one is like saying that modern bats and lizards are less natural than their extinct ancestors.

One of the things that makes Darwinists tolerable is that the logic of their theory ends with them insisting that Man is unique and has broken free of the restraints of the process that shapes all other living things in the Universe. It's aqbsurd, but touching.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 AM


Seoul rows against the US tide (David Scofield, 11/23/04, Asia Times)

When it comes to North Korea and defusing its nuclear crisis, the United States is finding that South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, who wants to be friends with North Korea, is becoming increasingly obstructionist. US neo-conservatives want to play hard ball, very hard ball, with Pyongyang, and say South Korea is too soft. Who's side is Seoul on, anyhow? they ask.

Roh made clear just how soft - and infuriating to the US - his policy is when he addressed the World Affairs Council in Los Angeles on his way to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Chile. Roh, never one to mince words, stunned many in the audience of foreign-policy experts with his assertion that the central argument underpinning North Korea's nuclear-weapons program - that it is a necessary defense in the face of hostility and threat - is not entirely illogical. But it was a shocking, if frank, pronouncement, to be sure.

With South Korea choosing the North's side there's really no reason not to launch a first strike on the nuclear program.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:23 AM


Iran's reformists lie in wait (Mahan Abedin, 11/24/04, Asia Times)

The decision by Mir Hoseyn Moussavi, the former Iranian prime minister, not to participate in next year's presidential elections has been greeted by huge sighs of relief in the conservative camp. Conversely, the reformists lamented the loss of their last credible chance to arrest the furious pace of power monopolization and consolidation by their conservative tormentors.

Irrespective of the pressures wrought on him by both camps, Moussavi in fact made a very wise decision. Politics in the Islamic Republic are likely to be marked by high levels of consensus and uniformity for the next five years (until the presidential elections in 2009) and, given the current mood, now is not the time for a man like Moussavi to return to the commanding heights of government.

However, Moussavi's brief return to the headlines of the Tehran dailies contains a thinly veiled secret on the long-term reconfiguration and transformation of politics in the Islamic Republic. The conservatives' ascendancy will not last forever, and Moussavi is still young enough to fight for the presidency another day.

Moussavi is something of a rarity in Iranian politics; the former prime minister has significant support among all constituencies in Iranian society. Much of this popularity stems from his eight-year tenure as prime minister from 1981-89. A brilliant administrator and a principled and uncompromising politician, Moussavi ensured the smooth functioning of government during the emergency years of the 1980s, when Iran was embroiled in a bloody war with Iraq. [...]

Few people would disagree that Iran's embattled reform movement is in crisis. But there is widespread disagreement on the precise causes and effects of this pervasive crisis. Many analysts have focussed on tactics and strategy, struggling to find consequential faults. This is, at best, misleading since the methods and goals of the reformists could not be more transparent and relevant. The primary weakness of the Iranian reform movement over the past eight years has been a lack of effective leadership. President Mohammad Khatami has proved to be not only a hopeless politician, but also a third-rate scholar and pretentious statesman.

Interestingly, the lack of effective leadership is also the Achilles' heel of the conservatives. The conservatives may soon be in control of all bastions of power, but in the absence of centralizing dynamics they are unlikely to be able to consolidate these gains. Instead they rally their supporters around hollow ideological slogans that not only conflict with the essentially "commercial" characteristics and interests of their coalition, but are also at odds with the realities of early-21st-century Iran.

Nonetheless, the conservatives are virtually guaranteed to dominate Iranian politics in the next five years. However, a resurgent reformist current is equally guaranteed to sweep the political landscape from the 2009 presidential elections onwards. There are many reasons for this, not least the fact that the conservative coalition will, in due course, fragment in the face of serious domestic and foreign-policy challenges.

In the meantime, reformers will need to devote most of their energies to identifying and developing capable leaders.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:22 AM


Gimme the blue pill (John Gray, 2003/07/11, NEW STATESMAN)
The idea of a technology that can create virtual worlds is usually attributed to American computer scientists, who began writing about virtual reality in the 1980s and 1990s. But the Polish science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem anticipated it some decades earlier. In his Summa Technologiae, published in 1964, Lem envisaged a Phantomat, a virtual reality machine that allows its users to exit the real world and enter a simulated environment of their own choosing. In the real world we are delicate organisms that can only live once, but in the Phantomat we can live over and over again - as whatever we want to be. The Phantomat gives us what mystics have always sought - liberation from the material world. Rid of our mortal bodies, we can roam cyberspace for all eternity.

But, Lem believed, the more realistic the virtual world the machine creates, the more imprisoned we are in our own imaginations. As our embodied selves, we interact with a world we know only in part, and which operates independently of our desires. In contrast, the virtual worlds we encounter in the Phantomat are human constructions. Fabricated from our dreams, they are worlds in which nothing can be hurt or destroyed because nothing really exists. In short, they are worlds in which nothing really matters.

Lem feared that humanity might come to prefer the virtual worlds of the Phantomat. It is a fear echoed in The Matrix, when Cypher chooses a life of pleasure and illusion over the contingencies of life outside the program. He happily defends his choice: "You know, I know this steak doesn't exist. I know that when I put it into my mouth, the Matrix is telling my brain that it is juicy and delicious . . . you know what I realise?" He takes a bite of steak. "Ignorance is bliss."

Lem's suspicion that humanity might opt for the dream world of the Phantomat over the intractable conflicts of the real world is well founded. Much of the affluent majority in Western countries make the same choice as Cypher. They opt to live in the virtual world created by the mass media, knowing full well that it is an illusion. Here I mean not just "reality television", which conjures up a world from which commuting, debt, illness and almost all the activities in which we actually pass our days have been banished. Look at media reportage of war. We know that bereavement, mutilation and unhealed psychological scars linger on for generations after wars have officially ended; but we do not want to be unnecessarily reminded of these things. We honour the reporters who insist on reporting the aftermath of war, but we are secretly relieved when the media move on. That way, we can avoid the pain of too much reality and sustain the virtual world we prefer to inhabit.

It is in no way far-fetched, then, to think that many people might opt for an unreal life in the Phantomat. Even so, Lem's fear that humanity might exit the actual world for an eternal half-life in cyberspace is groundless. The virtual environments that may be possible in future through the use of ever more advanced computer programs may be more realistic than anything that we can now create or even imagine; but they will never enable humanity to detach itself completely from the earth. No computer will ever create a self-sustaining virtual world. The dream of humanity spending eternity in cyberspace is just a nightmare.

Mr. Gray--who is correct that many (most) would accept the bargain of absolute security in exchange for their freedom (*)--goes badly wrong when he argues that people would not choose a utopia because it's unworkable. Because of human nature all rationalist utopias are by definition unworkable, yet folks eagerly embrace them from Soviet Russia to Nazi Germany to Castro's Cuba and on. Similarly, religious utopias that deny human nature are doomed to failure--thus, Iran.

The following is and must be the basis of every effective political system: "For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do." (Rom 7:18,19)

David Hume rendered the idea this way: "Should a traveler, returning from a far country, bring us an account of men, wholly different from any with whom we were ever acquainted; men, who were entirely divested of avarice, ambition, or revenge; who knew no pleasure but friendship, generosity, and public spirit; we should immediately, from these circumstances, detect the falsehood, and prove him a liar, with the same certainty as if he had stuffed his narration with stories of centaurs and dragons, miracles and prodigies."

And Thomas Jefferson so: "In questions of power, let no more be heard of confidence in man but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the constitution."

We are, thankfully, their children.

(*) It is in fact Mr. Gray's explicit position, and the implicit position of all who preach tolerance as an end in itself, that this trade-off is
worthwhile, TWO LIBERALISMS OF FEAR (John Gray, Hedgehog Review)
THE ROOT OF LIBERAL THINKING is not in the love of freedom, nor in the hope of progress, but in fear—the fear of other human beings and of the injuries they do one another in wars and civil wars. A liberal project that seeks to diminish the fear that humans evoke in one another is open and provisional in its judgments as to the institutions that best moderate the irremovable risk of social and political violence. It does not imagine that any one regime is the only legitimate form of rule for all humankind, and it does not assess political regimes by the degree to which they conform to any doctrine of universal human rights or theory of justice. It rejects the view--which in the United States is treated as an axiom of political discourse--that democratic institutions are the only basis for legitimate government. It views democracy as only one among a range of legitimate regimes in the late modern world and does not subscribe to the Enlightenment hope--revived recently by Francis Fukuyama--that peoples everywhere will converge on democracy as a political ideal.

The original and best exemplar of this liberalism of fear is Thomas Hobbes. In Hobbes, the principal obstacle to human well being is war. Wars arising between practitioners of different religions are to be feared the most. They are the most destructive of the human good and generate a war of all against all in which no sovereign power exists to keep the peace.

Writing in a time of religious civil wars, Hobbes was clear that, aside from the human passion of vainglory or pride, the chief impediment to a modus vivendi was the claim to truth in matters of faith. On no account should the sovereign make or act upon any such claim. The sovereign does not hold to any worldview but seeks to craft terms of peaceful coexistence among the divergent worldviews that society harbors. Here the liberal project is not a plan for universal progress, but a search for peace. In this liberalism of fear, the institutions of the state are not what is most terrifying. What is most to be feared is the condition of anarchy in which human life is ruled by the summum malum—death at the hands of one’s fellows. A liberal state is one that aims to deliver its subjects from this evil. Today, there will be many who deny that such a project could embody liberal thought in any of its many varieties. Yet a reasonable argument can be made that this liberalism of fear is, in fact, liberalism in its most primordial form.

Such a liberalism of fear may seem to late moderns unambitious and timid, lacking in noble hopes for the species. For that very reason, it is the liberalism that speaks most cogently and urgently to us, that addresses the needs of a time whose ruling project is peaceful coexistence among diverse and potentially antagonistic communities and regimes. This Hobbesian liberalism of fear is inherently tolerant of diversity in polities and communities, because of its indifference to private belief. The authority of a Hobbesian state does not derive from its embodying any doctrine or creed, but only from its efficacy in promoting peace.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Thanksgiving Day, 2004: By the President of the United States of America: A Proclamation

All across America, we gather this week with the people we love to give thanks to God for the blessings in our lives. We are grateful for our freedom, grateful for our families and friends, and grateful for the many gifts of America. On Thanksgiving Day, we acknowledge that all of these things, and life itself, come from the Almighty God.

Almost four centuries ago, the Pilgrims celebrated a harvest feast to thank God after suffering through a brutal winter. President George Washington proclaimed the first National Day of Thanksgiving in 1789, and President Lincoln revived the tradition during the Civil War, asking Americans to give thanks with "one heart and one voice." Since then, in times of war and in times of peace, Americans have gathered with family and friends and given thanks to God for our blessings.

Thanksgiving is also a time to share our blessings with those who are less fortunate. Americans this week will gather food and clothing for neighbors in need. Many young people will give part of their holiday to volunteer at homeless shelters and food pantries. On Thanksgiving, we remember that the true strength of America lies in the hearts and souls of the American people. By seeking out those who are hurting and by lending a hand, Americans touch the lives of their fellow citizens and help make our Nation and the world a better place.

This Thanksgiving, we express our gratitude to our dedicated firefighters and police officers who help keep our homeland safe. We are grateful to the homeland security and intelligence personnel who spend long hours on faithful watch. And we give thanks for the Americans in our Armed Forces who are serving around the world to secure our country and advance the cause of freedom. These brave men and women make our entire Nation proud, and we thank them and their families for their sacrifice.

On this Thanksgiving Day, we thank God for His blessings and ask Him to continue to guide and watch over our Nation.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 25, 2004, as a National Day of Thanksgiving. I encourage all Americans to gather together in their homes and places of worship to reinforce the ties of family and community and to express gratitude for the many blessings we enjoy.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-third day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand four, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and twenty-ninth.


(originally posted: November 25, 2004)

November 22, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:46 PM


Malaysian dissident now eyes world stage: Former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar, recently out of jail, hopes to bridge Muslim-West divide. (Simon Montlake, 11/23/04, CS Monitor)

Six years in a solitary prison cell afforded Anwar Ibrahim, former deputy prime minister of Malaysia, plenty of time for reflection.

When not reliving his own downfall, he dwelled at length on the divide between the West and the Islamic world, and what could be done to repair the rift. As premier-in-waiting in the 1990s, he had moved easily across this fault line, a symbol of Malaysia's moderate brand of Islam harnessed to economic success.

Now, two months after being freed by an appeals court, Malaysia's most famous dissident is preparing for another turn on the international stage, this time as a broker of sorts between US neoconservatives and the Muslim world. He has accepted a fellowship next year at Oxford University and plans to spend much of his time rekindling old relationships. His admirers - among them former Vice President Al Gore and current Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz - cross party lines. [...]

Anwar says this range of contacts gives him the latitude to chide both the US for riding roughshod over Muslim sensitivities and leaders of Muslim countries for holding the US to standards they may not meet themselves. Choosing his words carefully, he argues that the US is right to advocate reform in Muslim countries run by unelected dictators, though it can't be imposed by force, as in Iraq.

"I think the [US] has a point here, in trying to drive and influence and do whatever we can to ensure that the people regain their freedom, not according to the dictates of America, but their own homegrown democracy," he says.

Anwar says he plans to use his time at Oxford to explore ways of promoting reforms in the Islamic world and more nuanced US policies in that direction. "I think I will be more successful by supporting existing initiatives by some credible groups. I think that would be more useful than starting an initiative on my own," he says.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:42 PM


Rooney offers his opinon: Commentator answered questions on politics and journalism (Keith Barry, 11/19/04, Tufts Daily)

Andy Rooney, the "60 Minutes" correspondent who turned "curmudgeon" into a job title, spoke at the Fletcher School of International Law and Diplomacy last night. [...]

Rooney said he thought Iraq was "an ignorant society, not to be critical of them," a remark which was questioned later in his speech. Rooney defended the comment, saying that it is difficult to sell democracy in a country where few have access to the media and illiteracy is high, but acknowledged that "my attitude of the Iraqis is typical of the America I am complaining about."

Rooney also attributed voters' reliance on religion in the recent election to ignorance. "I am an atheist," Rooney said. "I don't understand religion at all. I'm sure I'll offend a lot of people by saying this, but I think it's all nonsense."

He said Christian fundamentalism is a result of "a lack of education. They haven't been exposed to what the world has to offer."

Rooney said he also could not understand how "men who work with their hands voted for George Bush," and again attributing the phenomenon to a lack of education. "The labor force is conservative," he said. "How in the world did that happen?"

Rooney said that he hoped Bush's re-election would give him the "confidence" to end the war in Iraq. "I think if George Bush said tomorrow, 'I was wrong, I ask for an apology,' I bet the American people would thank him, and they would like him," he said.

Many of the questions directed to Rooney were about journalism, a profession that Rooney said he loves so much that he "can't imagine doing anything else with my life."

Rooney's own show, "60 Minutes," was involved in a public and politically charged flap when it unwittingly used false documents in a Dan Rather piece on Bush's National Guard service.

"I am very critical of some of the people at CBS who make it apparent what their political leanings are," Rooney said. "That's what happened to this thing of Dan Rather's that got out. There's no question they wanted to run it because it was negative towards Bush."

When this nitwit is criticizing you for making your political leanings too aspparent you're in some trouble.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 PM


Britain has prevented Sept 11-style terrorist attack: report (AFP, 11/22/04)

British security services have foiled an Al-Qaeda plot to fly planes into targets in London in a September 11-style attack, Britain's independent ITV News network reported.

"This is the story of what could have been a nightmare averted," said ITV's political editor Nick Robinson. "A story not of failure, but of success."

"That, at least, is what I am told by a senior authoritative source who says that the security services managed to avert a plot to fly planes into Canary Wharf here, and also into Heathrow Airport," he said.

"I simply do not know the details of how they found out, how they stopped it, how close the plot got, but I am in no doubt that this was a genuine feeling on the behalf of those in the security services that they had managed to foil a plot and make us safer," he added.

Britain's '9/11' foiled by security forces (CHRIS MCAULEY AND RUSSELL JACKSON , 11/23/04, The Scotsman)

AN AL-QAEDA terror plot involving aircraft being flown simultaneously into the towers of Canary Wharf and Heathrow Airport has been foiled by British security forces, it emerged last night.

The 9/11-style attacks on the two high-profile London targets are among four or five al-Qaeda strikes that security chiefs believe they have stopped, it was reported.

According to a senior authoritative source last night, training programmes for suicide pilots have been disrupted and the devastating attacks foiled. The Home Office and Metropolitan Police declined to comment on the reports.

Security has been heightened around strategic centres across the capital in the wake of the 2001 attacks, which have plunged the world into a series of conflicts aimed at defeating terrorism.

Last night, Dr Magnus Ranstorp, the director of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at St Andrews University, said Canary Wharf would be an obvious target as it was the financial centre of London’s Docklands district, and Heathrow was the capital’s main airport. He said: "If this is the case, then of course there may have been different degrees of development and preparation for such attacks - it may not have been fully operational plans that were either days or hours away.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:50 PM


A Denomination Called Anglican (Richard John Neuhaus, First Things, November, 2004)

If a new Anglican papacy is both pointless and impossible, Anglicans may be rescued from impending death by the existing papacy. But, Cornwell observes, “If the papacy is really to serve unity, then Catholics have to make sure that it is more clearly a gift which can enable Anglican gifts to flourish and not be crushed.” Much as John Paul II wrote in his encyclical Ut Unum Sint, with primary, but by no means exclusive, reference to the Orthodox. By the time this sees print, the Eames Commission may have issued its report. It is to address, inter alia, the fragmentation of the Anglican communion precipitated by the unilateral action of the Episcopal Church in the U.S. in installing as bishop of New Hampshire a married man who left his wife and children to live with his male partner.

I recently had dinner in Europe with a UK bishop who serves on the commission. He opined that the entire “unpleasantness” was due to the fact that bishops in Africa and elsewhere had not yet caught up to the Americans, and the cultural laggards would have to be told in no uncertain terms that they can’t hold back the entire communion. He predicted that the commission would “come down hard” on bishops from the Southern hemisphere who are engaged in “outrageous irregularities,” such as offering episcopal oversight to “fundamentalist Anglicans” in the U.S. What was striking in his conversation is that there was not a single reference to the possibility that the New Hampshire matter might entail questions of theological or moral consequence, never mind truth. It was entirely a matter of some slow learners making themselves a bother. Advised that, if he is right about the commission report, it almost certainly means the end of the “special relationship” between Canterbury and Rome and the Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue’s hope for ecclesial reconciliation, the bishop seemed quite untroubled. Having abandoned even nominal adherence to Scripture and tradition, Anglicanism would likely be viewed by Rome as simply one more Protestant denomination. The prospect appeared to faze the bishop not at all. It would be a very nice denomination in which he felt very much at home. I hope, and rather expect, he was wrong about the report of the Eames Commission. We should know in short order.

Whether in religion, science or politics, progressives are having a harder and harder time stifling racism and snobbery.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:22 PM


Allawi Confident About Iraq Elections (HAMZA HENDAWI, 11/22/04, Associated Press)

Iraq's interim prime minister said Monday he's confident only a small number of people will boycott the Jan. 30 elections despite anger among many Sunni Muslims over the Fallujah offensive and a deadly U.S.-Iraqi raid on a Baghdad mosque. [...]

Despite the violence, the Iraqi government Sunday set Jan. 30 as the date for parliamentary elections, the first since the collapse of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. Officials said the balloting would be held even in areas still plagued by insurgency and despite calls by militant Sunni clerics for a boycott.

However, Allawi, a secular Shiite hand-picked by the Americans last June, said he believed that only "a very small minority" would abstain during the election "for one reason or another."

"Their reason will be political, and not sectarian, and they will not be more than 5, 6 or 7 percent," Allawi said in his office in the U.S.-guarded Green Zone. "They are the eventual losers."

Allawi is expected to run for a seat in the assembly, which would then choose the government.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:38 PM


Glimmers of Hope: Hang in there. Things may not be quite as good as Bush-lovers think.
(James Ridgeway, November 16th, 2004, Village Voice)

Poking their heads aboveground in the second week of the newly mandated Bush government, liberals are finding the countryside to be not as bleak as they had originally thought. [...]

With Chief Justice William Rehnquist dying of cancer, there is nobody in charge of the Supreme Court.

The CIA, widely viewed as a Bush enemy during the war, is in turmoil, with new director Porter Goss forcing out top officials. Two big guns in the agency's Clandestine Service, Stephen R. Kappes and Michael Sulick, resigned Monday following infighting with Goss.

In Iraq, there's of course even more turmoil.

Ah, the things that make the Left happy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:34 PM


Why Bush Scored in Nevada (SASHA ABRAMSKY, December 6, 2004, The Nation)

Nevada went for Bush, but it shouldn't have.

No, I don't mean that its voting machines were rigged, or that Republicans engaged in widespread voter intimidation. What I mean is that on most big-ticket issues--on the sorts of issues that, historically, elections turn on--most Nevadans disagreed more with the national Republican Party than they did with the Democrats. On what is arguably the single biggest issue facing the state, the opening of a vast nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, a statewide survey conducted by the Office of the Governor's Agency for Nuclear Projects in the run-up to the election showed that 77 percent were opposed to the project, which is supported by Bush but opposed by Kerry. Knocking on doors, canvassers also found strong unease about the direction of the war in Iraq, the state of the economy and job security--the critical "Are you better off today than you were four years ago?" litmus test posited by no less a conservative icon than Ronald Reagan. They also expressed concern about Bush's water distribution policies in the arid West, about recent judicial rulings encroaching on Native American tribal sovereignty--a big issue in Nevada--about Bush's proposals on Social Security, the lack of affordable healthcare, the price of gasoline and so on.

Yet on election day, George W. Bush won Nevada by 21,567 votes--mirroring the nation, the split was 51 percent to 48 percent. This was just slightly slimmer than the 21,597 edge Bush enjoyed four years earlier.

"The worst part is not comprehending the other side," says Sheila Leslie, a liberal State Assemblywoman from the northern city of Reno. "I've talked to many, many people who voted for that man, and I still don't understand it. They agree he's wrong on Iraq, tax cuts, the environment, and they still voted for him. The tipping point, they can't seem to articulate. They didn't line up the policies of the President with their own personal views, because if they'd done so they would have voted for John Kerry. It was a gut vote, not an intellectual one. It makes no sense. It wasn't a rational vote."

Indeed, many Nevadans who voted for Bush turned around and supported Democrats in other races. Sheila Leslie's share of the vote went from 53 percent in 2002 to 63 percent this time around. In the Washoe County area, of which Reno makes up the major part, Democrats picked up two State Assembly seats, helping to insure that the State Assembly stayed in Democratic hands and balancing a Republican State Senate and a moderate Republican governor (who used to be a Democrat), Kenny Guinn. Democrat Harry Reid--soon to become Nevada's first Senate minority leader--was comfortably re-elected (though Reid made sure to ally himself with the gun lobby and the mining interests, and appealed to culturally conservative Bush voters with his anti-choice stand). And a state minimum-wage initiative passed overwhelmingly. Moreover, legislators who had supported Governor Guinn's move to raise $900 million in taxes in 2003 as an emergency measure to keep the state's schools open were mostly re-elected--despite harsh campaigns against them by right-wing Republicans and conservative media outlets.

Strategists on both sides point to cultural issues as a crucial factor in Kerry's defeat. "The economy, taxes, healthcare, that was lower down the list," says Earlene Forsythe, chair of the Nevada GOP and a longtime Washoe County resident. "The number-one issue was morals." Number two, according to Forsythe, was terrorism. AP exit poll data actually suggested a slightly more complex scenario: Fully one-quarter of voters said terrorism was their number-one concern, and 88 percent of these voters supported Bush. Number two was Iraq--and the voters who cited that as their top issue broke solidly for Kerry. But number three, beating out the economy and taxes, was morals, and three-quarters of those voters chose Bush. Forsythe says the Republicans identified and targeted two key new-voter blocs in Nevada: the "moral moms" and the "security moms." "They felt safer with Homeland Security with Bush at the head," Forsythe explains. "He promised to bring it to the terrorists and keep it away from our homeland. So they trusted him."

Analysts on the Democratic side agree that many voters were primarily motivated by these concerns, although they are less certain about why. "Whenever a group of people will vote for a President, put a man in power and do that against their own self-interest, their economic self-interest..." begins Richard "Skip" Daly, business manager of the Laborers, Hod Carriers, Cement Workers and Miners Local Union 169, before stopping and rewording his thought. He tries again: "They voted for a Republican who's got the biggest deficit spending ever; they voted against all of their self-interest. And the issue that came out in exit polling was 'we voted on the moral values.' What that says to me is, these people believe it's more important than their family's well-being that we don't have abortion. And, to me, that is an intolerance that we have not experienced in this country since we put into insignificance the Ku Klux Klan."

If the Klan had killed 40 million people wouldn't even their fellow Democrats of the day have thought it more important to stop them than to preserve the TVA?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:24 PM


Senator Introduces Bill to Protect Reporters Shielding Their Sources (Donna Cassata, 11/22/04, Associated Press)

Reporters would not be forced to reveal their sources, and their notes, photographs and other material would be protected from government eyes under a bill introduced Friday.

Amid a spate of First Amendment fights pitting the government against journalists over confidential sources, Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn., proposed the legislation as critical to ensuring the nation's liberties.

"Democracy is premised on an informed citizenry," Dodd said at a Capitol Hill news conference. "A free press is the best guarantee of a knowledgeable citizenry."

Journalists contend the First Amendment, which established freedom of the press, gives reporters the right not to divulge their sources. Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia have "shield laws" to protect the media from disclosing sources in state cases.

But no federal law exists, and special prosecutors in a number of high-profile cases have aggressively pursued journalists. The possibility of jail time looms for some.

Senator Dodd is correct that we need to be informed, but integral to that is knowing who the sources for stories are and what ax it is they're grinding.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:16 PM


Vilsack Won't Seek Chairmanship of DNC (MIKE GLOVER, 11/22/04, Associated Press)

Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack said Monday that he will not seek the chairmanship of the Democratic Party.

Citing his responsibilities as governor, Vilsack said "these challenges and opportunities require more time than I felt I could share. As a result I will not be a candidate for DNC chairman." [...]

Vilsack has been mentioned as a potential presidential candidate in 2008. A possible factor in his decision to forgo the DNC race was the likelihood that the party chairmanship would preclude any run for the Democratic presidential nomination. [...]

Alexis Herman, who served as Labor secretary in the Clinton administration, also said Monday that she will not seek the chairmanship. Some Democrats had urged her to pursue the post.

He can't beat out Governor Dean for this job but thinks he can beat him in the NH Primary?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:12 PM


Politics NJ (STEVE KORNACKI, 11/19/04,

These nascent days of Richard J. Codey’s gubernatorial administration fall during a rare moment in which the press corps and its prime subject are essentially working together. The media is hungry to tell the public the story of this new governor, heretofore elected by only one-fortieth of the state’s voters, and that works just fine for Codey, since he’s just as eager to expand his reputation beyond the Essex County-based 27th Legislative District.

The urgency for Codey is brought on by the ambitious, well-known and mega-rich political reality otherwise known as U.S. Senator Jon Corzine. Corzine wants to be governor, and if he can make enough noise (and if his backers can throw enough elbows) to nudge Codey aside, the Democratic nomination -- and quite likely the keys to Drumthwacket -- will be his.

But if Codey can transform his new status as the state’s top dog into muscular poll numbers by, say, early next year, the playing field could shift -- decisively -- in the acting governor’s favor.

How it ends, no matter what anyone says, is unknown, but the opening scenes of this unlikely political drama played out this week, beginning on a chilly Sunday night in West Orange when Codey placed his hand on a Bible and swore to uphold the state’s constitution.

It wasn’t technically a necessary move. Codey, the state Senate’s president, wasn’t slated to take over as governor until 11:59 P.M. the following night, when James E. McGreevey’s resignation took effect. But an early evening ceremony on a slow news day is sure to score more prominent press coverage than a midnight inauguration on a Monday.

What was most important to the new governor, besides making sure New Jerseyans knew he had formally staked his claim to power, were the video images and still pictures shot in that living room that night.

Consider the stagecraft. There was Codey, his wife by his side, his two sons standing behind him, being administered the oath of office in his living room by a Catholic priest, all while the state’s top Republican, Senate Minority Leader Leonard Lance, looked on.

Home, family, faith, bipartisanship. Given all that New Jersey has just been through, probably the right kinds of visual messages to be sending.

Man, this is going to be as long and drawn out as a presidential race--Doug Forrester, victim of the Toricelli/Lautenberg swap, has an ad up already.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:05 PM


Energy Saver (Gregg Easterbrook, 11.22.04, New Republic)

John Kerry ran on a platform that called for dramatic changes in United States energy policy, and George W. Bush ran on a platform that called for keeping the energy status quo. Bush won, yet my guess is that change will soon win on energy policy. [...]

Now Resources for the Future has called for substantial alteration of U.S. energy policy, especially on fossil fuel use. New Approaches on Energy and the Environment is a powerful and important volume--my only complaint is that it does not roll the drums for increased use of zero-emission nuclear power and for building the badly needed natural gas pipeline from Alaska's North Slope to the lower states. Otherwise the volume brims with appealing ideas.

The analysts of Resources for the Future offer these basic possibilities for progress on greenhouse gases and foreign-oil dependency: higher taxes on gasoline or on any carbon-containing (fossil) fuel; higher federal miles-per-gallon standards on vehicles; or a carbon-allowance trading system modeled on the acid-rain trading system. If you polled economists, I bet 95 percent of them would prefer higher gasoline taxes, though many would want such taxes to be revenue-neutral, meaning other federal taxes would decline to the same extent the gasoline tax rose. Greg Mankiw, the president's chief economic advisor, favored a revenue-neutral 50-cent gasoline tax increase--favored it, at least, until he accepted his White House job. I'd love to see a dollar-per-gallon increase in the federal gasoline tax, so long as it was revenue-neutral. This would discourage the mega-SUVs and mega-pickups that waste fuel and cause hundreds if not thousands of avoidable highway fatalities annually, while reducing road rage, oil imports, and greenhouse emissions. But what are the odds of a higher gasoline tax going through Congress? You know the answer.

So what about stricter federal MPG standards for vehicles? Resources for the Future adds the nimble idea that stricter MPG standards could be tradable--if one car company's vehicles did better than the standards, it could sell the credits to car companies whose vehicles fell short. Lack of progress on MPG standards, which have not risen since 1988, is the single greatest problem in American energy policy. But the reason MPG standards have not risen since 1988 is that Congress has repeatedly voted not to raise them. The House and Senate have both totally sold out on this issue, and that's just the reality. So the odds of stricter MPG standards are low.

That leaves carbon trading, and here I am guardedly optimistic. The emission-trading regime worked incredibly well for acid rain. "Tradable" is a good word in economics and in politics; systems based on trading allow individuals, not government officials, to be the ones who make the decisions about environmental priorities. Resources for the Future proposes a pilot program that would place a five dollar-per-ton charge on carbon emissions. All companies, such as electric utilities, that emit carbon dioxide would pay five dollars per ton, while companies that sell fossil fuels to individuals, such as gasoline retailers, would factor the charge into consumer prices. Every carbon-emitting corporation would get a maximum level--a "cap." The cap is what causes the reductions, by setting an upper limit. Any company that reduced emissions below the cap would be awarded tradable credits. As with the acid-rain trading program, the latter provision creates an economic incentive to invent ways to reduce greenhouse gases, since extra reductions create a product that can be sold. The product in this case is an emission allowance. Right now, no one is working on technology to limit greenhouse gas emissions because there is no economic incentive to do so. Experience teaches that once there is an economic incentive, human beings prove to be spectacularly ingenious.

There's no more conservative idea than making people bear the cost of their behavior.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:01 PM


Tear Down This Tyranny: A Korea strategy for Bush's second term. (Nicholas Eberstadt, 11/29/2004, Weekly Standard)

THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION is not famous for patience with its critics. But for the sake of national security, the new Bush team should listen to constructive criticism of its policies--in particular, its policy for the North Korean nuclear crisis. The current U.S. approach to the North Korea problem is demonstrably flawed; arguably, even dangerously flawed.

Just what is wrong? After nearly four years in office, the curious fact remains that the Bush administration plainly lacks a strategy for dealing with the North Korean regime. Instead, it merely confronts Pyongyang with an attitude.

President Bush and his inner circle regard Kim Jong Il and his system with an admixture of loathing, contempt, and distrust--as well they might. Unfortunately, a mechanism for translating that point of view into effective action was manifestly absent from the statecraft of Bush's first-term administration. Long on attitude ("axis of evil") but short on strategy, the administration on North Korea was at times akin to a rudderless boat on an open sea.

Without rehearsing every detail, we might say that we have seen the Bush North Korea policy in "shocked by events" mode; we have seen it in "reactive" mode; we have seen it in "passive-aggressive" mode; and we have seen it in "paralyzed by infighting" mode. But we have yet to see it in "making bigger problems into smaller ones" mode.

A better approach for the second term might start with two strategic precepts:

Precept One: We are exceedingly unlikely to talk--or to bribe--the current North Korean government out of its nuclear quest. Talk and bribery have been tried for nearly 15 years--with miserable results. If Kim Jong Il ever could have been talked or bribed out of his nuclear program, the world's best opportunity was probably during the mid-1990s, when the nation was starving, and the regime's survival looked very much in doubt. We all know how the Clinton team's "denuclearization" deals in that era turned out: Pyongyang took the money, and plowed it into new covert nuclear programs.

Precept Two: The North Korean nuclear crisis is the North Korean government--and the North Korean government is the North Korean nuclear crisis. Unless and until we have a better class of dictator running North Korea, we will be faced with an ongoing and indeed growing North Korean nuclear crisis. Pretending otherwise is a sure recipe for an even more dangerous situation.

Two words: regime change.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:46 PM


Titleist ends its deal with Casey in wake of anti-American comments: Less than a week after Paul Casey's controversial comments became public, Titleist has decided to sever their relationship. (, 11.20.2004)

The fallout from Paul Casey's anti-American comments has taken a new and potentially expensive twist, with Titleist, his club and ball sponsor, announcing that it will not renew his contract next season.

Casey, who with fellow Englishman Luke Donald goes into the final round of the $4 million WGC-World Cup on Sunday one shot behind leader Spain, told a journalist after September's European Ryder Cup win: "We properly hate them."

He also said Americans have a "tendency to sort of wind people up" and questioned the wisdom of Tom Lehman's appointment as next United States captain. [...]

His views were made to a Sunday Times journalist in the course of an hour-long interview, but were then turned into a tabloid headline: "Americans are stupid. I hate them." [...]

Casey went to college in Arizona, lives in Scottsdale and plans to play the PGA Tour in the United States on a full-time basis in 2005.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:18 PM


To get the whole picture we need embeds on both sides: There is only one way to correct unbalanced reporting from Iraq (Alex Thomson, November 22, 2004, The Guardian)

Falluja has been a one-sided battle, and we have had one-sided news coverage to go with it. We've become accustomed to the first part of this. From Operation Desert Storm in 1991 onwards, through the invasion and occupation of Iraq to the reinvasion of Falluja last week, the world has come to accept the Pentagon war-fighting doctrine of overwhelming force as normal.

I wonder, though, whether we might be in danger of accepting the one-sided coverage of Falluja, the invasion and occupation of Iraq and, yes, the global so-called war on terror as normal too.

Since 9/11 we have seen the evolution of the embed, the transition from traditional war hacks who got lucky and tacked themselves on to a particular unit for the duration, to a strictly controlled invitation-by-ticket-only. Go embedded or face the - often lethal - consequences.

The coming of age of the embed has coincided with an utterly ideological world conflict. As one side gets into embedding, the other side are into crusaders versus martyrs. Utterly convinced of the righteousness of their cause, they don't need any journos along to record their war and their motivations. [...]

In the ideological and military clash of Christian fundamentals with Islamist fundamentals, the western media are simply off-limits to the latter. [...]

Somewhere along the line of reporting the "war on terror", things will have to change radically if we are to be able to do anything like a proper job. Perhaps the men in the masks might change tack. You do not set up elaborate websites to showcase your latest suicide attack complete with graphics and musical effects if you don't care about PR. Bin Laden's video diaries are careful constructs. So will al-Qaida in Iraq and indeed the wider resistance tumble to that most potent of Pentagon weapons? Will we eventually see the resistance embed? [...]

[W]ith luck, these days of the one-sided view might begin to fade. Then we may begin to cover not just Falluja and Iraq but the whole global conflict more fairly.

Can't you just see this gaping rectum on the evening news, telling us why Margaret Hasssan had to die?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:12 PM


Scheuer v. Clarke: Why Michael Scheuer and Richard Clarke don't have nice things to say about one another. (Matthew Continetti, 11/22/2004, Weekly Standard)

MICHAEL SCHEUER doesn't have many friends. Former head of the CIA's bin Laden unit and author, under the pseudonym Anonymous, of Through Our Enemies' Eyes and Imperial Hubris, Scheuer has clashed with the likes of the late John O'Neill (who was the FBI's point man on terrorism in the 1990s, and died in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001), Sandy Berger (national security adviser under President Clinton), and former CIA Director George Tenet. Scheuer's conflicts with his employers grew so heated, in fact, that two weeks ago he left the agency forever. In Imperial Hubris, Scheuer criticizes the Bush administration, to be sure, but also senior intelligence officials, Clintonites, American "elites" in general, and much else. During his many public appearances throughout the last two weeks, Scheuer has leveled criticism at a new target: Richard Clarke, the former counterterrorism czar whose book Against All Enemies, released last spring, said the Bush administration dropped the ball on terrorism in the run-up to September 11, and then again in the aftermath.

Clarke is "self-serving" and "risk averse," Scheuer told reporters at a breakfast last Friday. He was echoing comments he made to CBS News correspondent Steve Kroft on 60 Minutes:

KROFT: Richard Clarke has said that you're really sort of a--a hot-head, a middle manager who really didn't go to any of the cabinet meetings in which important things were discussed, and that--that basically you are just uninformed.

SCHEUER: I certainly agree with the fact that I didn't go to the cabinet
meetings. But I'm certainly also aware that I'm much better informed than Mr. Clarke ever was about the nature of the intelligence that was available against Osama bin Laden, and which was consistently denigrated by himself and Mr. Tenet. I think Mr. Clarke had--had a tendency to interfere too much with the activities of--of the CIA, and our leadership at the senior level let him interfere too much. So criticism from him I kind of wear as a badge of honor.

The feud between Scheuer and Clarke first became public in a November Vanity Fair story on whether September 11 could have been averted. In the piece, Scheuer says Clarke "was an interferer of the first level, in terms of talking about thing that he knew nothing about and killing them." A 25-year veteran of the CIA, Scheuer was never a political appointee, and part of his disdain springs from what he views as Clarke's incessant politicking. "Mr. Clarke was an empire builder. He built the community, and it was his little toy." In Scheuer's view, Clarke's political aspirations interfered with important national security decision making. "He was always playing the FBI off against [the CIA] or [the CIA] against the NSA," Scheuer told Vanity Fair.

On the one hand, there's no one to root for here--on the other, they could fight to the death and no one would mind.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:24 PM


Mengele's diaries reveal 'Angel of Death' unrepentant to the end (ALLAN HALL, 11/22/04, The Scotsman)

Of the Jews, six million of whom perished in the Holocaust that he helped to direct, Mengele had a grudging admiration.

"The cultural production of the Jews is not to be disputed. It is possible to always perceive that their representatives are above-average intellectually and always without exception live with people who are of a high cultural level."

But he also remained true to the Führer’s ideal that Jews "should never be allowed to mix their blood with others".

And he wrote not a single word of regret about their destruction on an industrial production-line scale, yet found time to criticise Israel for its "persecution" of the Palestinians as early as 1969.

In one letter written in December 1972 to his family, Mengele parroted Hitler’s belief that the Nordic races were superior to all others.

"That the races and people are different is a proven fact that no-one can doubt," he wrote. "The quality of one people from the biological point of view can be explained by their adaptation to the environment in which they live.

"When we measure different cultures, the results of behaviour are very different. Not all races or peoples attain the same cultural level, which forces us to conclude that not all people have the same creative capacity. In the Nordic race, this can clearly be defined." [...]

During his life on the run he jotted down his opinions on numerous topics, including the apartheid regime in South Africa which he much admired.

"It is to be expected that the process of interbreeding, at least in Europe, lends itself to the neighbouring races. In other continents there are occurring important and convincing experiences. I can affirm that the results have been very agreeable. Apartheid is a very efficient way to discontinue interbreeding."

You wonder where such noxious ideas could have descended from:
If a naturalist, who had never before seen a Negro, Hottentot, Australian, or Mongolian, were to compare them, he would at once perceive that they differed in a multitude of characters, some of slight and some of considerable importance. On enquiry he would find that they were adapted to live under widely different climates, and that they differed somewhat in bodily constitution and mental disposition. If he were then told that hundreds of similar specimens could be brought from the same countries, he would assuredly declare that they were as good species as many to which he had been in the habit of affixing specific names. [...]

Even if it should hereafter be proved that all the races of men were perfectly fertile together, he who was inclined from other reasons to rank them as distinct species, might with justice argue that fertility and sterility are not safe criterions of specific distinctness. We know that these qualities are easily affected by
changed conditions of life, or by close interbreeding, and that they are governed by highly complex laws, for instance, that of the unequal fertility of converse crosses between the same two species. With forms which must be ranked as undoubted species, a perfect series exists from those which are absolutely sterile when crossed, to those which are almost or completely fertile. The degrees of sterility do not coincide strictly with the degrees of difference between the parents in external structures or habits of life. Man in many respects may be compared with those animals which have long been domesticated, and a large body of evidence can be advanced in favour of the Pallasian doctrine, that domestication tends to eliminate the sterility which is so general a result of the crossing of species in a state of nature. From these several considerations, it may be justly urged that the perfect fertility of the intercrossed races of man, if established, would not absolutely preclude us from ranking them as distinct species. [...]

When civilised nations come into contact with barbarians the struggle is short, except where a deadly climate gives its aid to the native race. [...]

The grade of their civilisation seems to be a most important element in the success of competing nations.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:51 AM


Pakistan Finds Huge Arms Cache in South Waziristan (VOA News, 21 November 2004)

The Pakistani military says its forces have raided two suspected militant compounds in the semi-autonomous tribal region bordering Afghanistan and recovered a huge cache of weapons.

Military sources say the troops found more than 3.5 tons of explosives, hundreds of mortar shells, 18 rocket shells and more than 35,000 rounds of ammunition.

The troops also seized a vehicle used by the militant leader and former Guantanamo Bay prisoner, Abdullah Mehsud, who masterminded the October kidnapping of two Chinese engineers. One of them died during a rescue raid.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:01 AM


Nix on Nativism: Ignore the anti-immigrant right. Bush did. (JASON L. RILEY, November 22, 2004, Wall Street Journal)

Pat Buchanan insists that the exit polls are inaccurate, or at least the ones measuring the Hispanic vote. Other columnists have attached great significance to the fact that Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo, a Republican who has made opposition to immigration his signature, won re-election. Yeah, him and 98% of House incumbents. Then there's National Review, which maintains that the real Hispanic story on Election Day isn't the Bush vote totals. Rather, it's the passage of Prop. 200, a redundant ballot measure in Arizona that bans illegal aliens from receiving government services that are already off-limits to them.

There are several explanations for all the conservative pooh-poohing. The most obvious is a fear among restrictionists that the Bush administration will interpret its Latino returns as a mandate to proceed with immigration reform. In January, President Bush floated the idea of a guest-worker program that would free up border agents to pursue terrorist threats instead of spending their time chasing down Mexicans who come here to work. The base went bonkers. Some on the right just can't bear the thought of a border policy that focuses less on militarization and more on balancing security with the needs of the economy.

But there's another reason why these conservatives are downplaying this newfound Hispanic affinity for the GOP. Having insisted for years that Latinos are lost to Republicans--that time spent courting our largest ethnic minority group is time wasted--the editors at National Review, the commentators at Fox News and their anti-immigrant amigos at the Center for Immigration Studies are all loath to admit they were wrong.

Indeed, one way President Bush won a second term is by ignoring those who bash GOP outreach. His success is the fruition of a drive launched three years ago Karl Rove and Matthew Dowd. Exceeding everyone's expectations, Latino support for the president expanded in states in the West, South and Southwest that are essential to Republicans maintaining their current advantage.

Thus the result in the president's home state of Texas, the second-most populous after California. Nearly one of every four voters in Texas is Hispanic, and Mr. Bush upped his share of that vote to 59% from 43% in 2000. In Florida, which is the fourth-most populous state and where 15% of voters are Hispanic, his share of the Hispanic vote rose by seven percentage points. Still, it was Mr. Bush's success out West, where the Latino population is exploding, that probably made the most difference. "For all the attention paid to Florida and Ohio," reported the Houston Chronicle, "had Bush not done respectably in Latino communities in those two Western states [New Mexico and Nevada] and carried Iowa by a hair . . . he would have lost the election."

The Democrats--with their base in secularism, blacks, Unions, etc.--are the natural anti-immigration party and it can be a very good political issue for the short term.

Hillary Eyeing Immigration as Top 2008 Issue (NewsMax, 11/21/04)

More than any other leader of either political party, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton has been focusing on the issue of immigration reform and border security - taking hard-line positions that appeal to frustrated Republicans in a move that could guarantee her enough red state support to win the White House in 2008.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:56 AM


Japanese Official Warns of Fissures in North Korea (JAMES BROOKE, 11/22/04, NY Times)

After weeks of reports from North Korea of defecting generals, antigovernment posters and the disappearance of portraits of the country's ruler, the leader of Japan's governing party warned Sunday of the prospects of "regime change" in North Korea.

"As long as Chairman Kim Jong Il controls the government, we have to negotiate with him, but it is becoming more doubtful whether we will be able to achieve anything with this government," said Shinzo Abe, acting secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party, on Fuji TV, referring to talks on North Korea's abductions of Japanese in the 1970's. "I think we should consider the possibility that a regime change will occur, and we need to start simulations of what we should do at that time."

By breaking an unspoken taboo on talking publicly about "regime change" in North Korea, the powerful Japanese politician underlined a feeling spreading in the region that cracks are starting to show in the Kim family's control over North Korea after nearly 60 years.

Forget simulations--force events.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:41 AM


Hawks push deep cuts in forces in Iraq (Bryan Bender, November 22, 2004, Boston Globe)

A growing number of national security specialists who supported the toppling of Saddam Hussein are moving to a position unthinkable even a few months ago: that the large US military presence is impeding stability as much as contributing to it and that the United States should begin major reductions in troops beginning early next year.

Their assessments, expressed in reports, think tank meetings, and interviews, run counter to the Bush administration's insistence that the troops will remain indefinitely to establish security. But some contend that the growing support for an earlier pullout could alter the administration's thinking.

Those arguing for immediate troop reductions include key Pentagon advisers, prominent neoconservatives, and some of the fiercest supporters of the Iraq invasion among Washington's policy elite.

The core of their arguments is that even as the US-led coalition goes on the offensive against the insurgency, the United States, by its very presence, is stimulating the resistance.

"Our large, direct presence has fueled the Iraqi insurgency as much as it has suppressed it," said Michael Vickers, a conservative-leaning Pentagon consultant and longtime senior CIA official who supported the war.

Retired Army Major General William Nash, the former NATO commander in Bosnia, said: "I resigned from the 'we don't have enough troops in Iraq' club four months ago. We have too many now."

Nash, who supported Hussein's ouster, said a substantial reduction after the Iraqi elections in January "would be a wise and judicious move" to demonstrate that the Americans are leaving. The remaining US forces should concentrate their energies on border operations, he added. "The absence of targets will go a long way in decreasing the violence."

Yonadam Kanna, secretary general of the Assyrian Democratic Movement and a member of Iraq's interim National Assembly, also backed the US-led removal of Hussein. He now says Washington must "prove that the United States is a liberator, not an occupier."

The great lesson going forward is that we should have turned over sovereignty immediately, scheduled elections sooner and left quicker. The Middle East is not WWII Germany or Japan--the people are oppressed; not oppressors.

REVIEW: of Hell Is Over by Mike Tucker (Shawn Macomber, November 22, 2004,

“Americans have no idea of the horror Saddam perpetrated,” U.S. Army Specialist Eric Debault tells Tucker. “All this was on my mind, standing there in the desert, looking at the skulls and bones. I would consider Saddam as the Anti-Christ…Saddam ranks right up there with Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini – with every brutal dictator who has ever carried out crimes against humanity.”

The tragic, brutal thread running through the entire book is that of animalistic brutality and torture: Beatings administered with chains, mower blades, wooden bats, and pipes. Electric charges administered to various parts of the body, including the genitals. Men drowned standing up. Common criminals enlisted to help Iraqi guard in the beating of prisoners.

In presenting these interviews in their entirety, Tucker has gotten out of the way of the victims and produced one of the most moving accounts about the terrors of pre-war Iraq. There is none of the phony context of a Dan Rather newscast, nor is this a simple recitation of facts that slowly dilutes them of their impact. The emotion and humanity of the victims is on full display. They are angry, and sad, and traumatized, yet still proud and defiant.

Tucker uses the last chapter of the book to make an impassioned plea on behalf of the Kurdish people, who now see themselves as firm allies with America in the War on Terror: Do not take the Kurdish people for granted again. Their wounds still smart from Kissinger turning a blind eye to genocide in Iraqi Kurdistan in 1975 and the failure of the American government to support the 1991 uprising against the Ba’athists. Despite it all, they have stood by America, and in their interviews, more than one Kurd expresses love for America and an interest in becoming, “the 51st state.” Kurdish forces, backed by American Special Forces took Mosul early in the war. They have since been ordered out of the city, and the keys have been handed over to “reformed” former Ba’athists. In this global war, it is as important to know our true allies as our enemies. We must stand by the Kurds this time. This liberation must not be a sweet dream between nightmarish realities.

Some see America’s war with Iraq as having begun three years ago, while others take the long view and push the origins of the conflict back to 14 years ago when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. The Kurds war, however, stretched over the course of more than four decades. For them, the events of the last year was “no rush to war.”

“Oh, I cried on April 9, 2003, I wept,” a Kurdish man, Kawa Fathi Massom, tells Tucker. “My daughter asked me, ‘Why are you crying?’ And I looked into the eyes of my children and I told them that all their lives I’d lied to them. That I’d always told them they’d have promising futures but that I knew I was lying and I hated myself for that…I can say, with my soul at peace, that now, my children, you have a future, and we have the Americans to thank for this.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:16 AM


Muslim anguish and Western hypocrisy: Smugness oozes from European politicians who demand that Muslims repudiate violence as a precondition for residence in the West. To repudiate the death sentence for blasphemy, as meted out to Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, would be the same as abandoning the Islamic order. (Spengler, 11/23/04, Asia Times)

Muslim refusal to tolerate blasphemy has nothing to do with rage or recalcitrance. It is a theological necessity. Executions for blasphemy would attract no attention in Iran or Saudi Arabia. The trouble is that the population of Islamic countries has spilled over en masse into the West. Imams in Europe cannot pronounce differently on such matters than they would in their home countries, and blasphemy cannot be tolerated by traditional society.

"As for heretics, their sin deserves banishment, not only ... by excommunication, but also from this world by death. To corrupt the faith, whereby the soul lives, is much graver than to counterfeit money, which supports temporal life. Since forgers and other malefactors are summarily condemned to death by the civil authorities, with much more reason may heretics as soon as they are convicted of heresy be not only excommunicated, but also justly be put to death." Those are the words of the 13th-century Catholic authority St Thomas Aquinas, the most influential of all Catholic thinkers, presented by Catholic writers from Lord Acton to Jacques Maritain as the antecedent of European democracy.

An apologist for St Thomas, Michael Novak of the American Enterprise Institute, excused the hard line against heresy on the grounds that tough times required it:

Thirteenth-century societies were highly fragile. Beyond ties of kinship, many citizens experienced little to bind them to others. Most were subjects of a few - and one ruling aristocrat was often overturned by another ... geographical isolation was often intense, and shifting patterns of warfare, baronial allegiance, and foreign occupation awakened acute local insecurity. Under political anarchy, the common people and the poor suffered much. Under all these uncertainties, the chief consensual bond among people was Catholic faith and Catholic ritual. Virtually all unifying conceptions of relationship and social weight, meaning and order, came from that faith.

St Thomas did not merely support a death sentence for individual heretics, but weighed in vigorously on behalf of the Crusade against the Albigensians, which laid waste to most of Provence. Does Novak believe that today's Muslim societies are any less fragile? If he believes that 13th-century conditions justified the death penalty for heretics in Christian Europe, why should Muslims not apply the same logic to their own societies?

In fact, the terrestrial power of the Church, along with its authority to burn heretics, was pried out of her cold, dead fingers. It took the frightful 30 Years' War to break the political power of the Church in Europe, and the reunification of Italy to reduce the Vatican to its present postage-stamp dimensions. The Church in the person of pope Pius IX responded by excommunicating the entire government of Count Cavour.

Not until the Second Vatican Council of 1965 did the Church reconcile itself to the role of a religion of conscience without temporal power. But the disintegration of European Catholic life coincides with Vatican II. Church attendance in most European countries has fallen to single-digit percentages, and the lowest fertility rates are found in Spain and Italy, formerly among the most Catholic. It is unclear whether Catholicism will survive the transition to religion of individual conscience from temporal power, and the prognosis is bleak.

The real question is whether Europe will survive the transition to such extreme individualism. The problem isn't just that the Europeans tolerate blasphemy but that they tolerate heresy even from the Christianity-based liberal social order. Eat away at your own foundations long enough and the edifice crumbles.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 9:00 AM


Global warming can be bad or good news –– it depends on what you want to see (Neil Collins, The Telegraph, November 22nd, 2004)

The Maldives may not be quite the modern-day equivalent of Atlantis, but there are plenty of people who are convinced that it faces the same watery fate. Rising 8,000 feet from the ocean depths, the islands just (and only just) break the surface, by about six feet. A sceptic might wonder why they exist as islands at all, suspecting that it is more than mere chance that these submarine mountains don't top out a few feet lower down, but that's another question.

The Maldives are Exhibit A in the catalogue of catastrophes which the global warming doomsters have compiled. The equation is simple: global warming will melt the Arctic ice cap and raise sea levels, so bye-bye Maldives, hotly followed by low-lying areas of Bangladesh, the world's coastal cities and much of the Home Counties. Millions of people die.

Yet the Maldives pit canary is resolutely refusing to keel over. According to Nils Axel-Morner of Stockholm University, the sea level in the islands is not rising, and the locals say it was higher 30 years ago. Longer-run data confirm this. Detailed records for Tuvalu, another island on the danger list, show no change in sea levels over the past 25 years. That global warming is happening is beyond reasonable doubt, but those expecting to see dire consequences because of rising sea levels have no evidence to support their view.

At least the doomsters have noticed that it makes no difference if the Arctic melts, since it's already floating. They still find reasons to be miserable, arguing that because snow reflects sunlight back into space, if it turns to water, more heat will be absorbed, accelerating global warming. Well, maybe, but this is little better than conjecture. It may be that more water means more clouds, which are also strong reflectors of sunlight, leading to global cooling and a new ice age - 30 years ago, plenty of eminent scientists were worrying about this very effect.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, whose work underpins the Kyoto accord, projects various "scenarios", but the assumptions do not stand up to rigorous scientific analysis, and the extreme projections, the ones that make the best headlines, are well into the world of fantasy. Besides, would it be such bad news if the Arctic ice cap retreats? The answer's obvious if you're a polar bear, but much less so if you're a commercial fisherman, although almost as important. Ragnar Arnason, an economist at the University of Iceland, admits that the net impact is hard to judge, but concludes that it would help the commercially valuable species such as herring and cod. For the north Atlantic, at least, "global warming appears to be good news rather than bad".

The net effect of global warming is impossible to calculate, either in magnitude or direction, which is why America sensibly refuses to sign the Kyoto accord, and the Russians have done so against the strong recommendation of President Putin's chief economic adviser. Meeting the demands for lower CO2 emissions is going to be a material brake on economic growth, and is unlikely to have any noticeable impact on the world's climate. It is, in short, a waste of money. A project to bring clean water to everyone in Africa would do far more to increase the sum of human happiness than anything flowing from Kyoto, and could be done for a fraction of the price.

The reason why leftists and their scientific allies focus on global warming rather than clean water for Africa is because they aren’t the slightest bit interested in solving problems and will shy away from anything that is do-able, especially if it improves the lot of humans.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:58 AM


A bet on Christian readers for The Jerusalem Post (Doreen Carvajal, November 22, 2004, International Herald Tribune)

The Jerusalem Post, an English-language newspaper born in Israel in 1932 as The Palestine Post, is about to get new owners who are betting they can rebuild its circulation by reaching an international readership of Jews and fundamentalist Christians.

CanWest Global Communications in Winnipeg, Manitoba, joined with the Israeli media company Mirkaei Tikshoret last week in the $13.2 million purchase of the newspaper and its sister weekly magazine, The Jerusalem Report. The Post was one of the high-profile papers that made up Conrad Black's media empire, which has been sold in pieces by Hollinger International's new management in the wake of financial scandals. [...]

[Geoffrey Elliot, vice president for CanWest's global affairs,] said CanWest believed that it could attract new readers among the Christian right, who live mainly in the United States and have a strong interest in the Middle East. "Those demographic numbers in middle America are very significant and we believe they represent a potential, largely untapped market," he said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:52 AM


Breaking the Kashmir Impasse: India and Pakistan are like two hamsters running on parallel wheels. (Rajan Menon, November 22, 2004, LA Times)

Both critics and admirers of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf will agree on one thing: The man does not lack boldness or an appetite for risk-taking.

Consider some examples. In 1999, as army chief, he seized power from the elected — if rather ineffectual — government of Nawaz Sharif after the prime minister had tried to oust him.

After 9/11, Musharraf abruptly broke with the Taliban, which had acquired and retained power in no small measure thanks to support from Pakistan's powerful military and intelligence services and Pakistani Islamists. He then repositioned his country as an ally in George W. Bush's global war on terrorism. The switch angered Pakistan's Muslim organizations and the Taliban's boosters in the military and put Musharraf on Al Qaeda's enemies list. This has spawned three plots to kill him; one attempt in December came close to succeeding.

The bold proposals that Musharraf made in October concerning Kashmir, then, are of a piece — sudden, surprising and potentially risky. They are also notable both for what he said and for what he did not say. He refrained from restating Pakistan's long-standing claim that Kashmir, as a Muslim-majority state (the only such one in India), rightfully belongs to Pakistan, which was created in 1947 as a homeland for the Muslims of the British Raj. Nor did he repeat Pakistan's demand that India fulfill its pledge to hold a plebiscite so that Kashmiris could choose whether to be part of India or Pakistan.

More significant, Musharraf made three different proposals to break the deadlock on Kashmir: making it an autonomous, demilitarized territory; having it ruled jointly by India and Pakistan; or reconfiguring its current unequal division between India and Pakistan (created by the "line of control" established after the first Indo-Pakistan war over Kashmir and adjusted in 1972).

As a coda to the last idea he suggested making the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley autonomous. (The Indian-controlled part of Kashmir consists of the valley, Hindu-majority Jammu and largely Buddhist Ladakh.)

Settling this dispute will do more to reduce the risk of a nuclear war than any non-proliferation initiative.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:48 AM


Revision Marches to Social Agenda
: Conservative state Board of Education leans on publishers to tweak marriage and sexuality references in public school health textbooks. (Scott Gold, November 22, 2004, LA Times)

Outside the Spring Church of Christ, a large roadside sign says a lot about the prevailing sensibility in this cordial town. It reads: "Support New Testament Morality."

This is the home and powerbase of Terri Leo, a state Board of Education member representing 2.5 million people in East Texas.

At the urging of Leo and several other members — who describe themselves as Christian conservatives — the board this month approved new health textbooks for high school and middle school students after publishers said they would tweak references to marriage and sexuality.

One agreed to define marriage as a "lifelong union between a husband and a wife." Another deleted words that were attacked by conservatives as "stealth" references to gay relationships; "partners," for example, was changed to "husbands and wives." A passage explaining that adolescence brings the onset of "attraction to others" became "attraction to the opposite sex."

Leo said she pushed for the changes to combat the influence of "liberal New York publishers" who by "censoring" the definition of marriage were legitimizing same-sex unions.

Some education advocates have criticized the board's decision.

"This was never about defining marriage," said Samantha Smoot, president of the Texas Freedom Network, an Austin-based nonprofit that opposes what it calls religious "extremism." "It was an effort to get anti-gay propaganda in the books."

In place of the gay propaganda.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:44 AM


GOP Plants Flag on New Voting Frontier: Bush's huge victory in the fast-growing areas beyond the suburbs alters the political map. (Ronald Brownstein and Richard Rainey, November 22, 2004, LA Times)

The center of the Republican presidential coalition is moving toward the distant edges of suburbia.

In this month's election, President Bush carried 97 of the nation's 100 fastest-growing counties, most of them "exurban" communities that are rapidly transforming farmland into subdivisions and shopping malls on the periphery of major metropolitan areas.

Together, these fast-growing communities provided Bush a punishing 1.72 million vote advantage over Democrat John F. Kerry, according to a Times analysis of election results. That was almost half the president's total margin of victory.

"These exurban counties are the new Republican areas, and they will become increasingly important to Republican candidates," said Terry Nelson, the political director for Bush's reelection campaign. "This is where a lot of our vote is."

These growing areas, filled largely with younger families fleeing urban centers in search of affordable homes, are providing the GOP a foothold in blue Democratic-leaning states and solidifying the party's control over red Republican-leaning states.

They also represent a compounding asset whose value for the Republican Party has increased with each election: Bush's edge in these 100 counties was almost four times greater than the advantage they provided Bob Dole, the Republican presidential nominee eight years ago.

In states like Ohio, Minnesota and Virginia, Republican strength in these outer suburbs is offsetting Democratic gains over the last decade in more established — and often more affluent — inner-tier suburbs. As Democrats analyze a demoralizing defeat in this month's presidential election, one key question they face is whether they can reduce the expanding Republican advantage on the new frontier between suburbs and countryside.

The frightening thing for Democrats has to be that the relignment hasn't even quite reached the Tipping Point yet.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:39 AM


Iraq Vote a Priority for Shiite Leader (Alissa J. Rubin, November 22, 2004, LA Times)

Shiite leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani has launched a massive get-out-the-vote campaign for Iraq's upcoming election, determined to ensure that Shiites have a chance to win the power that he believes rightfully belongs to the nation's majority Muslim sect.

Iraq's electoral commission announced Sunday that the poll to elect a transitional parliament would be held Jan. 30, although speculation has deepened that the vote will be postponed.

Sistani is acutely aware that this is a critical juncture for Iraq's Shiites, analysts say.

"Sistani thinks that this is the Shiites' moment to reverse the last 80 years of being out of power — some would say the last 1,400 years," said a senior Iraqi government official, who asked not to be named. Shiites largely lost power to Sunni Muslims in 1920, when they refused to participate in a government under British rule.

Since a U.S.-led coalition toppled Saddam Hussein's regime last year, Sistani has been a strong proponent of early, direct elections, trying to promote Iraqi nationalism as well as Shiite political interests. He has met with Kurds, most of whom are Sunnis, and Christians as well as secular and religious Shiites.

From homey neighborhood mosques to the sprawling shrines that are the center of Shiite religious life, the vast Shiite hierarchy with ties to Sistani is hard at work.

The mosques' leaders are following the fatwa, or religious ruling, issued by Sistani in mid- October requiring every man and woman to vote. The spiritual leader elevated the duty to vote to the same level as fasting during Ramadan and praying five times a day — among the five most sacred obligations for observant Muslims.

"Without a fatwa from Sistani, it's difficult for people to participate in this election because of the threats and apathy about the future. But if we have a religious edict, that definitely has an important impact," said Jabber Habib, a professor of political science at Baghdad University. "With such a fatwa issued, I can't imagine anyone [Shiite] not voting."

It is going to prove the third great foundation of democracy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:32 AM


High Bias:
It's time to bring some intellectual diversity to America's colleges and universities. (John Fund, November 22, 2004, Wall Street Journal)

One way to combat groupthink would be if donors to universities and regents began pressuring faculties to adopt an Academic Bill of Rights that would forbid university faculties from hiring, firing, and granting or denying promotion or tenure on the basis of political beliefs. When Mr. Horowitz suggested the idea be adopted at Colorado's public universities, he was accused of advocating "quotas" and "McCarthyism." He calmly explained that his plan eschews quotas and only requires universities to judge professors on their merits, not ideology. After several legislative hearings, Colorado university officials voluntarily adopted a variation of his Academic Bill of Rights to ward off a more muscular one the Legislature was considering.

Colorado has also gone further and adopted a reform that could serve as a model for how to make higher education more accountable to students and the taxpayers which pay its bills. Starting next year, the state will start shifting its higher-ed dollars from direct payments to universities to vouchers that will go directly to students. The idea is hardly radical. It is taken from the GI Bill of Rights, which is widely credited with giving returning veterans a chance at college through a program that won universal acclaim.

Debating such reforms is perfectly legitimate given that about half of the budget of public university systems come from taxpayers. Private universities derive about 35% of their budgets from public money, largely research grants. In addition, much of the student loan and grant money used to pay college tuition flows from taxpayer sources.

Richard Vedder, an economist at Ohio University, argues that its time to scale back taxpayer subsidies to universities and move towards a voucher plan so that schools would have to compete for students as paying customers. That might also end the punishing double-digit tuition increases many schools have been imposing. Our colleges and universities would benefit not only from some intellectual diversity, but also some diversity and competition in how they pay their bills and how students and taxpayers hold them to account.

It's no coincidence that the last bastion of the far Left is the area most insulated from market forces.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:26 AM


Bush hijacks summit with 'end nuclear plans' call (Tom Hennigan, 11/22/04, Times of London)

ON HIS first foreign trip since his re-election, President Bush started to spend what he calls his “new capital” by demanding that North Korea and Iran halt their nuclear arms programmes.

Mr Bush made his call at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, held in Chile over the weekend.

It came after talks with key Asian partners designed to force North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions. Mr Bush pressed for a tougher line on the isolated communist state.

The President’s focus on the two remaining members of the “axis of evil” overshadowed all other items at the summit, ostensibly an annual meeting aimed at expanding trade between Pacific Rim countries. [...]

There were reports of tension between Mr Bush and President Putin of Russia over lunch on Saturday. Mr Bush reportedly raised his concerns over Mr Putin’s commitment to democracy after recent moves to strengthen the Kremlin’s control over Russia’s political system.

That's just Bush-style multilateralism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:23 AM


Brown's iron grip broken (JAMES KIRKUP, 11/22/04, The Scotsman)

ALAN Milburn has secured Tony Blair’s backing for an ambitious bid to break Gordon Brown’s iron grip on the government’s economic policies.

The Scotsman has learned that the Prime Minister has ordered the creation of a powerful new cabinet committee, to be chaired by Mr Milburn, that will give the arch-moderniser a base for a challenge to the Chancellor’s control over pensions and savings policy.

The issue is set to be one of the defining battlegrounds for politics in the years to come, as well as a potential trial of strength between supporters of Mr Blair and Mr Brown.

Mr Milburn believes that the government must do more to encourage people to save and achieve what he calls an "ownership society" where as many people as possible own assets including houses and investments including pensions.

Remember earlier in the year when Blair, Bush and Howard were destined to follow Aznar out the door? Now all three are consolidating power even as their domestic policies converge. The Anglosphere has never been better.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 AM


Scaring Specter straight (Robert Novak, November 22, 2004, Townhall)

Before Sen. Arlen Specter stood beside other Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee last Thursday and pledged support as their chairman for any judge that President Bush nominates, he had been scared stiff by his colleagues and by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

It was close. As late as Wednesday night, his statement of party loyalty was rejected by Frist as inadequate. When the Judiciary Republicans caucused Thursday, two of them were not yet on board for Specter. To achieve the chairmanship that he has coveted for years, Specter had to promise he would seriously dilute the "independence" he brags about. The achievement suggests that Frist is getting the hang of being leader after a rocky first year in the job.

That offers hope for an end to recent Democratic success in using the filibuster to block every Bush judicial nomination deemed objectionable to liberal pressure groups. The stakes grow higher with the probability of Supreme Court nominations. But Frist will have four additional Republican senators, thanks to this year's elections, and enhanced confidence, thanks to the way he handled the Specter affair.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Spats Over Security Roil Summit in Chile: After Saturday Scuffle, State Dinner Canceled as U.S. Demands Screening (Mike Allen, November 22, 2004, Washington Post)

Bush and the first lady walked into the beaux-arts banquet hall, and Chilean officers, who appeared to be waiting for the moment, stepped in front of Trotta, blocking him from entering.

U.S. officials said Chilean police had been chafing for a week about a demand by Secret Service agents that they control the president's space, even when he was on sovereign turf. Now, it was payback time.

In the fracas that ensued, amid a flurry of half nelsons, one Secret Service agent wound up jammed against a wall. "You're not stopping me! You're not stopping me! I'm with the president!" an unidentified agent can be heard yelling on videotape of the mayhem.

It took Bush several minutes to realize what was happening. The president and the first lady walked on through the door onto a big red carpet, looking relaxed. They greeted Lagos and his wife, Luisa Duran. "You want us to pose here?" Bush asked Lagos with a grin, and they turned to face a wall of flashes.

Then Bush either realized he was missing something, or he heard the commotion. The president, who is rarely alone, even in his own house, turned and walked back to the front door unaccompanied, facing the backs of a sea of dark suits. Bush, with his right hand, reached over the suits and pointed insistently at Trotta. At first the officials, with their backs to him and their heads in the rumble, did not realize it was the president intervening. Bush then braced himself against someone and lunged to retrieve the agent, who was still arguing with the Chileans. The shocked Chilean officials then released Trotta.

Trotta walked in behind Bush, who looked enormously pleased with himself. He was wearing the expression that some critics call a smirk, and his eyebrows shot up as if to wink at bystanders.

Bush adjusted his right cufflink and muttered something to Lagos, took the first lady's arm and headed into dinner of grilled fish.

The incident was played scores of times on satellite channels viewed around the summit. Conversations about it quickly overwhelmed talk of formal summit business, which is focused on such issues as development, trade and investment.

Chilean journalists were critical of Bush's actions. Marcelo Romero, a reporter Santiago's newspaper La Cuarta, said: "All of us journalists agree that President Bush looked like a cowboy. It was total breach of protocol. I've seen a lot of John Wayne movies, and President Bush was definitely acting like a cowboy."

Christian Chandia from Radio Agricultura said: "Unfortunately all the news will be about the security incident and fighting terrorism, but nothing to do with what happened here at the APEC summit."

U.S. officials took a light-hearted view of the events. White House press secretary Scott McClellan chuckled about the Saturday evening incident. "The president is someone who tends to delegate," McClellan said. "But every now and then, he's a hands-on kind of guy."

On Saturday night, a few dozen American journalists crowded into the network's transmission room to watch various tapes showing the altercation from different angles, with cheers erupting when new versions arrived.

If this had happened in October he'd have won all 50.

U.S. President George W. Bush, center left, reaches in to the crowd for his Secret Service Agent who was blocked from entering the Estacion Mapocho Cultural Center for the APEC Summit dinner, Saturday, Nov. 20, 2004, in Santiago, Chile. (AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson)

November 21, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:21 PM


The Neolib Attack on Adult Stem Cells (Michael Fumento, November 11, 2004, Scripps Howard News Service)

Among the magazines even die-hard right-wingers should sometimes read are the neo-liberal ones The New Republic and the Washington Monthly. They often contain thoughtful articles with stimulating fresh thinking. Alas that makes it all the worse when they publish something moldier than a slab of Roquefort cheese. So it is with their current combined attack on adult stem cell research, designed to support the alternative of embryonic stem cells.

Adult stem cells come from all over the body, plus umbilical cords and placentas. Embryonic stem cells come from pulling apart human embryos, and thus have aroused ethical concerns. The result says Chris Mooney in the Washington Monthly is that "conservatives have latched onto fringe science in order to advance moral arguments" by embracing adult stem cell research. We are presented with the illogical argument that since some people prefer adult stem cells for non-scientific reasons, they must therefore have little scientific value.

Yet adult stem cells have actually been used therapeutically in the United States since 1968. At one website you'll find a list, far from comprehensive, of almost 80 therapies using them. This is treatment, not practice or theory. Amazingly, there are also more than 300 adult stem cell clinical trials.

In contrast, the number of treatments using embryonic stem cells is zero. The number of clinical trials involving embryonic stem cells? Zero.

Embryonic stem cell propagandists will tell you adult stem cell research had a huge head start and embryonic stem cells only need time (and more importantly, massive government funding) to catch up.

Yet as a new book called The Proteus Effect points out, both types of stem cell research date back half a century. You might think the author of The New Republic piece, Harvard Professor of Medicine Jerome Groopman, would know this since ostensibly his contribution is a review of the book. Research with embryonic stem cells has progressed at snail's pace simply because they are so terribly difficult to work with.

Ironically, some of the very diseases he says embryonic stem cells may conquer have long been treated with adult stem cells. Groopman specifically mentions Fanconi's Anemia, but it was first treated with umbilical cord stem cells 16 years ago.

The only possible advantage of embryonic stem cells is potential. "It's well established that embryonic stem cells can generate any kind of tissue found in the body," Mooney writes flatly. "There is no disagreement among experts about the capacity of (ESCs) to form any and all cells and tissues of the body," Groopman declares. Translation: Disagree with Groopman and you're not an expert.

The attack isn't about what works but about destroying moral limitations on science.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:14 PM


Group of Democrats decides to go its own way (Steven Harmon, November 21, 2004, The Grand Rapids Press)

Mark DeHaan remembers a letter from a voter saying she could never support him because his party was pro-choice. That frustrated DeHaan, who was running for Kent County treasurer as a anti-abortion Democrat.

Now, he supports a group being formed within the Kent County Democratic Party with a goal of expanding the party's reach to non-traditional Democratic voters.

"This type of organization could get more of a message out that there are more pro-life Democrats, get different ideas out there, project a different image," said DeHaan, who is on the party's executive committee. "This club could be a good chance to draw in additional members who may feel left out."

Reaching out to anti-abortion Democrats would be just one of numerous strategies this nascent group, named the Grand Rapids Democratic Club, could pursue. But the chief outcome would be to loosen the UAW's grip on political power within the county party.

The club would develop its own approaches to fund-raising, candidate recruitment and party-building activities as the party heads into the 2006 election cycle, supporters say. It's all being done with the grudging approval of the party's labor leaders.

Underlying the move is a growing tension between labor activists and non-labor Democrats, who want more say in how elections are run.

A party of cobbled together interest groups with no common values or shared ideas can not cohere indefinitely.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:14 PM


Republican Defiance on Intelligence Bill Is Surprising. Or Is It? (SHERYL GAY STOLBERG, 11/22/04, NY Times)

Did Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, who called both chairmen in an attempt to turn them around, press as hard for the measure as they led the public to believe? Or are Mr. Hunter and Mr. Sensenbrenner so powerful that they can embarrass Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois - who negotiated the bill, then declined to bring it up for a vote when the chairmen balked - and thwart the will of the president?

"I don't think it was only House Republicans," Senator Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas and head of the Intelligence Committee, told Fox News on Sunday. Mr. Roberts added: "There's been a lot of opposition to this from the first. Some of it is turf, you know, quite frankly. Some of it is from the Pentagon. Some of it, quite frankly, is from the White House, despite what the president has said."

Mr. Bush, speaking at a news conference in Chile, said he was disappointed that the bill did not pass, adding, "When I get home, I look forward to getting it done.''

Members of both parties, and independent analysts, said Sunday that they had no doubt Congress would have passed the measure had President Bush flexed his muscle, as he did last year for Medicare prescription drug legislation that passed by a narrow margin over conservatives' objections. The intelligence bill had bipartisan support in the Senate.

In the House, the leadership probably could have cobbled together a coalition of Democrats and Republicans to muster the 218 votes necessary for passage. [...]

On Sunday, some Democrats wondered aloud if the Pentagon's back-channel lobbying had the tacit approval of the president.

"I find it very hard to believe that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the secretary of defense would do all of that in contravention of the commander in chief's wishes," said one House negotiator, Representative Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, in an interview on Sunday. Mr. Bush, Mr. Menendez said, "has the dirty work being done by the Pentagon people, using Duncan Hunter.

The President already made all the changes he wanted to via Executive Order, so it's easy to believe he didn't twist any arms here.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:11 PM


The 28th Amendment (WILLIAM SAFIRE, 11/22/04, NY Times)

Like a cloud no bigger than a man's hand, the 28th amendment to the U.S. Constitution is gathering on the political horizon.

No, it's not the anti-same-sex amendment that President Bush supports. Only if the Supreme Court strikes down the federal Defense of Marriage Act - or if it overturns the changes in state constitutions adopted to block recognition of same-sex marriages legal elsewhere - will that proposed amendment have a remote chance of gaining support of two-thirds of the Congress and 38 states.

The founders made it hard to amend the Constitution, but since the Bill of Rights, it's been done on the average of once every 12 years. It's time to end discrimination based on place of birth that denies the equal right of every citizen to run for president.

Article II of the Constitution directed that in the future only "natural born" citizens would be eligible for the nation's highest office. There may have been reason for suspicion of the foreign-born as the nation was in formation, but that nativist bias has no place in a nation proud of its "golden door."

When an immigrant is naturalized, his or her citizenship becomes as natural as "natural born." The oath taken and the pledge of allegiance given make the immigrant 100 percent American, with all the rights, privileges and obligations appertaining thereto. All except one - the right to the greatest political success.

That makes all naturalized citizens - including taxpayers, voters, servicemembers - slightly less than all-American. Even children born abroad of U.S. citizens have fallen under the shadow of Article II; this has caused pregnant women to race back to our shores to make certain their children's political potential is not somehow beclouded.

The unequalizer in our Constitution cries out for fixing.

"Cries out" is a bit melodramatic, but it's good politics for the GOP to do it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:04 PM


Rebuilding a safe society (Japan Times, 11/22/04)

This year's white paper on crime opens, on the first page, with the proclaimed aim of restoring Japan as "the safest country in the world" and closes, on the final page, with the expressed determination to achieve this goal. The report seems to convey the Ministry of Justice's concern and sense of tension over the deterioration of public order in the country.

The question is how security can be restored to citizens' lives. The ministry suggests various prescriptions, but does not indicate, in the report at least, what safety checks exist today to help effect this public order.

According to the white paper, with regard to ordinary crimes excluding traffic offenses, the number of cases recognized by the police as well as the incidence of offenses per 100,000 population gradually increased after hitting a low around 1973 -- at the end of the period of high economic growth.

Although the total number of recognized cases last year declined for the first time in eight years to about 2.79 million, down 2 percent from the previous year, the number of recognized "heinous" crimes increased: homicide by 4 percent, robbery by 9 percent. These figures certainly indicate a worsening of the perceived public order.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 PM


Third of Americans Say Evidence Has Supported Darwin's Evolution Theory: Almost half of Americans believe God created humans 10,000 years ago (Frank Newport, 11/19/04, GALLUP NEWS SERVICE)

2004 Nov 7-10

Man developed, with God guiding--38%

Man developed, but God had no part in process--13%

God created man in present form--45%

Other/No opinion--4%

Such numbers suggest just how marginal the values that the Left imagines at least prevail in Blue America really are.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:59 PM


Hamas signals it wants a role in Palestinian vote: The militant group is poised to sponsor candidates in legislative and municipal elections expected later next year. (Joshua Mitnick, 11/22/04, CS Monitor)

Although Hamas seems to be shying away from contesting the presidency - the demand for an omnibus vote was already rejected by Palestinian Authority leaders - the Islamic militant group is poised to sponsor candidates in legislative and municipal elections expected later next year. After boycotting the 1996 general elections over its objection to the Oslo peace accords, running for parliament would be a milestone for Hamas.

After years of building popularity through sponsoring suicide bombings, an Islamic social welfare network, and criticism of government corruption, Hamas has moved from the margins as the main rival to Arafat's Fatah Party. A September poll found the combined support of 27 percent for Hamas and the much smaller Islamic Jihad faction, compared with Fatah's 25 percent.

Now, the Islamic group is poised to translate years of rising popularity into political power. "Fatah and the Palestinian Authority are always making the decisions. The only way for Hamas to be part of this process is to be in the legislative council,'' says Ghazi Hamad, the editor of a weekly newspaper in Gaza affiliated with Hamas. "Hamas will try to move closer to the national consensus. This may affect the tactics and the strategy of Hamas [pushing it] to be more pragmatic and more realistic.''

Hamad adds that Hamas's shrinking from the presidential contest is an implicit recognition that its rejection of talks with Israel is out of step with political realities.

They're just another political party, though with a more checkered past than most.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 PM


In China, stresses spill over into riots: Beijing responds with a new campaign after at least eight recent violent incidents. (Robert Marquand, 11/22/04, CS Monitor)

Certainly the campaign for the "construction of a harmonious society" itself indicates a newly recognized lack of social harmony at the official level, experts say, in a country where "stability" is a paramount value. The absence of order in China is feared at a far deeper psychological level than in Asian nations like South Korea, where strikes and protests are daily political fare.

The government's new campaign includes official visits to hot spots, demands that back pay be given to workers, and editorials framing the social tension as "grim."

A Xinhua editorial two weeks ago, one surely approved at a high level, describes China at a pivot point that will lead either to a "golden age of development," or a "contradictions-stricken age" of chaos.

"China is at the crossroads," says Lu Xueyi, director of sociology at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, quoting officials in the China Daily. "It can either smoothly evolve into a medium-level developed country or it can spiral into stagnation and chaos."

Whether the strikes are a harbinger of larger social crises is a cause for debate in Beijing. Those who argue not say China is still a nominal police state, capable of shutting down or buying off locals. Some point to a lack of honed principles among the aggrieved that would sustain a protest.

When you think that your totalitarianism is an advantage you're headed over the cliff.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:49 PM


Quietly, the war on drugs gains ground: The effort is changing into a terror war of its own. (Rachel Van Dongen, 11/22/04, CS Monitor)

[S]tatistically, at least, it's being won. Yet behind the numbers, the drug war is changing - into a terror war of its own. And the success of that fight is harder to quantify.

When President Bush visits the seaside city of Cartagena Monday, he and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe are sure to tick off the latest figures: crops of coca, the main ingredient in cocaine, were reduced in Colombia by 16 percent in 2003, to 213,000 acres, according to the United Nations. That's a 47 percent decline over three years, from a high of 403,000 acres in 2000. US figures, which rely on different methodology, are slightly less optimistic but still significant - a 33 percent decline since 2001. Production of poppies, the source of heroin, is down by 33 percent in the past two years, the US government says. With US help - to the tune of $3.3 billion - Colombia in recent months has seized record amounts of cocaine headed to US ports, approved the extradition of infamous drug barons like Cali cartel chief Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela, and confiscated scores of luxurious properties belonging to notorious narcotraffickers.

Also, under the hard-charging Mr. Uribe - perhaps the firmest US ally in Latin America and a strong supporter of the Iraq war - Colombia has launched an unprecedented military drive called Plan Patriot against the leftist rebels known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). And Uribe is in peace negotiations with the right-wing paramilitaries, who are heavily involved in the drug business. Up to 3,000 troops in the 20,000-man army are expected to demobilize by year's end.

The drop in drug production is largely due to the aggressive coca fumigation program, mostly executed by US planes and pilots. In 2003 they sprayed 328,500 acres, the UN says. So far in 2004, according to the Colombian government, 310,600 acres have been sprayed, a slight drop from this time last year.

Uribe said last week that he would ask Mr. Bush to maintain aid levels even after Plan Colombia, the massive antidrug plan created under President Clinton, expires at the end of 2005. He predicted that Colombia would finish the year with 160,500 acres of coca - 25 percent less than last year. "We can't leave the eradication of drugs half completed," he told local radio. "The battle needs to be fought until Colombia has defeated drugs."

Since Uribe took office, the war on drugs has rapidly evolved into a full-scale battle on terror. With enthusiastic US backing, Uribe has gone after FARC rebels, who often rely on drug proceeds to fund their armed struggle. Plan Patriot has dispatched 17,000 Colombian troops into remote southern areas to capture territory and top leaders.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:55 PM


Science wars: The election is over, but the Bush administration's battles with the scientific establishment aren't going away (Chris Mooney, November 21, 2004, Boston Globe)

THE 2004 ELECTION saw an unprecedented political mobilization of America's scientific community. Not only did scientists band together to oppose the reelection of George W. Bush, charging that his administration had systematically abused and manipulated scientific information on a variety of issues and let narrow religious concerns get in the way of potentially life-saving embryonic stem cell research. Scientists also helped fuel the state of California's end run around Bush's restrictive stem cell policy, backing a ballot initiative to invest $3 billion of public funding in the field over 10 years.

In their campaign to unseat Bush, scientists seem to have had limited electoral impact. [...]

However, the Bush administration and Republican Congress could still potentially derail the "therapeutic cloning" side of the California initiative through legislative means. Republican senator Sam Brownback of Kansas has sponsored a bill to ban and criminalize all forms of cloning, even for research purposes. The House version of Brownback's blanket cloning ban passed easily in 2001. If Brownback's bill passes the Republican-controlled Senate, the president has already said he would sign it.

Unprecedented? When hasn't science been politicized?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:47 PM


Dodging market forces gives Germany rude awakening (Charles Stein, November 21, 2004, Boston Globe)

Global competition can be a drag. It all but guarantees a steady stream of restructuring, outsourcing, and the nagging insecurity that comes from knowing someone out there may be trying to take your job.

In the United States, we have embraced market forces and the results have been pretty good: The American economy has performed well, even though many individuals have suffered.

But what if we'd chosen a different path? What if, instead of embracing competition, we had done our best to ignore it or insulate ourselves from the painful adjustments the marketplace demands? What would our economy look like then?

It might look a lot like Germany's. And that would not be so great.

The German economy grew at a 0.4 percent annual pace in the third quarter. Retail sales barely grew at all. Germany's recent dismal performance can be blamed, in part, on the rising price of oil and the rising value of the euro, which makes German goods more expensive to overseas buyers.

But the German economy has been dismal for a long time. Over the past decade Germany grew at roughly a 1.3 percent annual pace, compared to 3.3 percent for the United States. "And we worry that we are growing too slowly," said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at Global Insight in Waltham.

Germany has a long list of economic problems. Yet its central problem has been an unwillingness to recognize that it lives in an increasingly competitive world. Wages and benefits in Germany rose steadily over the decade, even as productivity grew modestly. German companies reacted by voting with their feet for cheaper production facilities in Eastern Europe. Job growth has been anemic.

Germany has been slow to shift from manufacturing to services, slow to develop "new economy" industries, slow to innovate in financial services -- mortgage refinancing is rare -- and slow to allow competitive forces to reshape retailing.

"They don't have the freewheeling, innovative situation you see in Silicon Valley," said Martin Baily, an economist and the co-author of a new book, "Transforming the European Economy."

Why should the rapidly aging populations of the secular West willing to accept less security? The old aren't risk-takers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:30 PM


CIA Terrorist Hunter: Bin Laden 'Great' and 'Admirable' (News Max, 11/21/04)

In a series of bizarre comments that show the depth of the failed thinking at the nation's premier intelligence service, the former head of the CIA unit charged with capturing or killing Osama bin Laden said on Sunday that the terror mastermind was a "remarkable," "great" and "admirable" man.

"He's really a remarkable man," former CIA agent Michael Scheuer told NBC's "Meet the Press." "[He's a] great man in many ways, without the connotation positive or negative. He's changed the course of history."

Democrats were eager to hop in bed with the CIA once it went to war with the President, but they're ending up with predictably repulsive bedfellows.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:23 PM


The Chill Pill Kids: More and more children, some just five years old, are being prescribed antidepressants. Yet nobody is sure of these drugs’ effects. So why are we using our young people as guinea pigs? (Liam McDougall, 11/21/04, Sunday Herlod)

Last week, two major studies pub lished by researchers from London University found that soaring numbers of children in the UK were being prescribed antidepressants and other mind-altering drugs. The first, published in Archives Of Disease In Childhood, found that the rate doctors were putting young people on antidepressants had jumped by 68% in recent years, rising more quickly than in eight other major countries: France, Germany, Spain, Canada, US, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico.

A second, in the same publication, focused on the rise in antidepressant prescriptions for children in the UK from 1992 to 2001. During this time, researchers found that almost 25,000 children and adolescents up to the age of 18 were given a total of 93,000 prescriptions. Children as young as five appeared to be among those receiving the drugs. Overall, it found the rate of prescriptions for anti depressants for children rose by 70% in a decade. But while the rate for tricyclics, the older generation of antidepressants, fell by 30%, prescriptions for SSRIs (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors), including Prozac and Seroxat, increased tenfold.

The findings have fuelled fears among Scottish health experts at the increasing “medicalisation” of children’s problems. In September, research by the Scottish Executive revealed that hundreds of Scottish children, some as young as two, had been diagnosed by GPs as suffering from depression last year. Meanwhile, the bill for antidepressants is also soaring, quadrupling to £55 million over the past decade.

Child psychiatrists and GPs are being blamed in large part for the increase of antidepressant use. Although no anti depressants are licensed for use among under-16s, doctors can prescribe them where they feel it is clinically appropriate.

Dr Des Spence, a GP in Glasgow, accuses medical colleagues of having a mindset in which children’s unhappiness is addressed by drugs rather than alternative therapies such as counselling. “There is this idea that life can be broken down into a collection of chemical interactions, but in reality it’s nothing like that,” he says. “It’s very convenient to give someone a tablet and try to cure them. The more their problems are medicalised, the more people will try to treat them with medication. Surely there are better ways to treat children.”

Spence, also the UK spokesman for the No Free Lunch Campaign, a group of healthcare professionals concerned at the undue influence of the pharmaceutical industry on doctors in promoting drug products, believes another reason for the rise is the drugs companies’ successful marketing of their products.

He adds: “ Recently there were figures which showed that 90% of postgraduate education in medicine is funded through the pharmaceutical industry. The people who set the agenda influence what happens.

“Medicalising kids’ problems deflects us from the real question about why they are becoming depressed. There needs to be distance between pharmaceutical companies and healthcare professionals.”

Janice Hill, founder and director of the Overload Network, an Edinburgh-based charity that campaigns on behalf of ADHD sufferers and their parents, warns that children were becoming addicted to antidepressants and had little help to come off them.

She says: “It’s all very well prescribing mind-altering drugs to children but when they want to come off these drugs it’s very hard. There’s no facility for them to do so. There’s also very little safety data on how these drugs will affect children. The norm is to have no hard information on their effects on children.”

Industry always makes a convenient scapegoat, but the truth is that the parents and teachers who deal with kids want to make them easier to control.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:07 PM

RELIGION'S CO-DEPENDENTS (via Political Theory:

Fanatical unbelief: Jonathan Miller's BBC4 history of atheism inadvertently reveals how dogmatic non-belief in the west is merely a narrow inheritance of Christianity (John Gray, November 2004, Prospect)

[A]theism has always been a mirror image of western monotheism and shares many of its worst features. It is a commonplace that atheists are often extremely dogmatic in their unbelief - more so than many Christians. At least since Pascal, scepticism has been an integral part of Christian thinking; faith and doubt have learnt to coexist. Atheism contains no such leaven of doubt. There is no atheist thinker comparable to Richard Holloway, the former bishop of Edinburgh, who has left the Christian fold without locking himself into a secular orthodoxy. So-called free thinkers are possessed by a need for certainty, and nothing is more alien to them than Keats's negative capability - the willingness to remain open to mystery.

It is not just in the rigidity of their unbelief that atheists mimic dogmatic believers. It is in their fixation on belief itself. The core of most religions is not doctrinal. In non-western traditions and even some strands of western monotheism, the spiritual life is not a matter of subscribing to a set of propositions. Its heart is in practice - in ritual, observance and (sometimes) mystical experience. It would be difficult to extract anything so simplistic as a creed from the unfathomable complex of practices of Hinduism, for example, while Buddhism has always emphasised the unimportance of doctrine and the ineffability of truth. Orthodox Judaism tends to accord priority to practice over belief. In Islam some Sufi traditions have taken a similar stance. When they dissect arguments for the existence of God, atheists parody the rationalistic theologies of western Christianity. Their anxious obsession with true belief is an inheritance from Christian traditions deformed by Hellenistic philosophy, which from Socrates onwards has been animated by the conviction (or illusion) that knowledge and the good life go together.

If atheism reflects western monotheism in its obsession with belief, it also reproduces its peculiar conception of divinity. For unbelievers as for Christians, the problem of evil is the central question in religion; but this is so only if one presupposes something like the Christian God.

Which explains this:
With respect to the theological view of the question. This is always painful to me. I am bewildered. I had no intention to write atheistically. But I own that I cannot see as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to do, evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:14 PM


Victory in Fallujah: Iraq's Iwo Jima gets scant media respect (Jack Kelly, November 21, 2004, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

The rule of thumb for the last century or so has been that for a guerrilla force to remain viable, it must inflict seven casualties on the forces of the government it is fighting for each casualty it sustains, says former Canadian army officer John Thompson, managing director of the Mackenzie Institute, a think tank that studies global conflicts.

By that measure, the resistance in Iraq has had a bad week. American and Iraqi government troops have killed at least 1,200 fighters in Fallujah, and captured 1,100 more. Those numbers will grow as mop-up operations continue.

These casualties were inflicted at a cost (so far) of 56 Coalition dead (51 Americans), and just over 300 wounded, of whom about a quarter have returned to duty.

"That kill ratio would be phenomenal in any [kind of] battle, but in an urban environment, it's revolutionary," said retired Army Lt. Col. Ralph Peters, perhaps America's most respected writer on military strategy. "The rule has been that [in urban combat] the attacking force would suffer between a quarter and a third of its strength in casualties."

The victory in Fallujah was also remarkable for its speed, Peters said. Speed was necessary, he said, "because you are fighting not just the terrorists, but a hostile global media."

Fallujah ranks up there with Iwo Jima, Inchon and Hue as one of the greatest triumphs of American arms, though you'd have a hard time discerning that from what you read in the newspapers.

When we went in it was estimated that there were about 3,000 "insurgents" there and it's now estimated we killed or captured as many as 2,600. Reports from the city uniformly tell us that the citizenry is ecstatic to be rid of them. To view all this in a negative light you really almost have to be rooting against America and iraqi democracy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:55 PM


GOP embarrassed by tax returns measure: Provision will be repealed before president signs spending bill (AP, November 20, 2004)

Congress passed legislation Saturday giving two committee chairman and their assistants access to income tax returns without regard to privacy protections, but not before red-faced Republicans said the measure was a mistake and would be swiftly repealed.

The Senate unanimously adopted a resolution immediately after passing a 3,300-word spending bill containing the measure, saying the provision "shall have no effect." House leaders promised to pass the resolution next Wednesday.

"We're going to get that done," said John Feehery, a spokesman for House Speaker Dennis Hastert.

The spending bill covering most federal agencies and programs will not be sent to President Bush until the House acts on the resolution repealing the tax returns language.

"There will be no window where this will be law," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said. He referred to the provision as the Istook amendment and congressional aides said it was put in the bill at the request of Rep. Ernest Istook Jr., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee's transportation subcommittee.

The provision and the inability of Hastert, R-Illinois., to get the votes he wanted on an intelligence overhaul bill left Republican leaders chagrinned on a day they had intended to be a celebration of their accomplishments.

"This is a serious situation," said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens, R-Alaska. "Neither of us were aware that this had been inserted in this bill," he said, referring to himself and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bill Young, R-Florida.

How can information you already provide to the government be said to be protected from government by privacy rights?

G.O.P. Says Motive for Tax Clause in Budget Bill Was Misread (DAVID E. ROSENBAUM, 11/22/04, NY Times)

Representative Ernest Istook, Republican of Oklahoma, who was responsible for the insertion of the tax provision in the 3,000-page, $388 billion legislation that provides financing for most of the government, issued a statement on Sunday saying that the language had actually been drafted by the Internal Revenue Service and that "nobody's privacy was ever jeopardized." Mr. Istook is chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that has authority over the I.R.S. budget.

John D. Scofield, the spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee, said that the purpose of the provision was to allow investigators for the top lawmakers responsible for financing the I.R.S. to have access to that agency's offices around the country and tax records so they could examine how the money was being spent. There was never any desire to look at anyone's tax returns, he said.

Mr. Scofield said the only purpose of the provision was to allow investigators to have access to revenue service offices. He said the authority would be similar to that allowed senior members and staff assistants of the House Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee, the panels with primary jurisdiction over the activities of the revenue service. [...]

Mr. Scofield, the spokesman for the House committee, called the entire matter "a tempest in a teapot" and said Mr. Istook and his colleagues had no objection to the removal of the authority.

"We don't really care," Mr. Scofield said Sunday in an interview. "It was an honest attempt to do oversight. If they want to take it out, fine."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:32 PM


Hagel poised for presidential bid in 2008 (DON WALTON, 11/21/04, Lincoln Journal Star)

Sen. Chuck Hagel appears ready to venture onto that perilous path toward a possible 2008 presidential bid. [...]

For Hagel, the first step will be more like three.

* Look for him to sharply widen and deepen his fund-raising efforts. His Sandhills political action committee, which funneled campaign funds to three dozen Republican congressional incumbents or candidates this year, already is one of the most prolific PACs established by a member of the Senate.

* Expect him to travel the country, speaking at Republican events in other states, including New Hampshire and Iowa. He's already building contacts in both presidential launching-pad states.

* Look for him to notch up his visibility on the national stage.

Hagel will be front and center when key domestic issues come before the Congress next year.

He will sponsor a comprehensive Social Security reform package that includes a personal investment component for younger Americans.

He plans to offer a new proposal to address global climate change and will travel to London to meet with British Prime Minister Tony Blair to discuss their common interest in working on that issue during a conversation covering a range of topics. The plan would serve as a means of addressing global warming concerns distinct from the 1997 Kyoto accord the United States rejected and Hagel vigorously opposed because of its impact on the U.S. economy.

Already on his plate: a landmark proposal for major immigration reform.

Mr. Hagel is a notorious lightweight, but if he were to get major Social Security and immigration reform enacted he'd have to be taken seriously.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:48 AM


Baffled over Bush win, Europeans engage expatriates (MAUREEN JENKINS, November 21, 2004, Chicago Sun-Times)

I sure picked an interesting time to move across the Atlantic. Regardless of the outcome, I knew much debate would ensue after this month's U.S. Presidential election. If Democratic challenger John Kerry had pulled it out, celebrations would have erupted all over Europe for a man regarded by many as the last hope for peace, love and understanding in these troubled times. But since President George W. Bush won re-election, the mood among much of the population here is one of indcredulity. Shock. And genuine apprehension about how the U.S. President's subsequent policies will affect everything from global warming to future world conflicts.

One gets the sense that the citizens of Europe comprise one big "blue state" that surely would have sent Kerry to the White House by large margins.

But on this continent, where so many of the national economies depend on tourist spending from abroad, how will this month's election -- now that the majority of the electorate has spoken -- affect their perceptions of American tourists who will travel here in the future?

I must admit that for me, an American who relocated to Florence less than three months ago, Nov. 3 was a tough day. Despite our Democratic leanings, a fellow American expatriate journalist friend and I were genuinely reluctant to leave the house the morning after the election, wondering how we'd be greeted in the streets by puzzled Italians. So we were determined to stalk around Florence behind our ever-present dark shades, chatting as much as possible in broken Italian, and not calling attention to our American selves. Sure enough that week, we were constantly asked how we felt about the Bush victory. (Many expressed surprise at our ability to vote absentee and at least were pleased we made our voices heard from across the ocean.) In this country where citizens staged massive demonstrations before the start of the war in Iraq -- despite Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's support of both Bush and the invasion -- the Republican president's win was seen as a giant leap back for world relations.

What can Europe learn about America from people who are as alienated from it as they are themselves?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:41 AM


New York Is Last in Freedom Index (RODERICK BOYD, November 16, 2004, NY Sun)

New York ranks dead last among the states in Forbes magazine's U.S. Economic Freedom Index, a study to be published today that considers the effects of more than 140 variables, including taxation, tort reform, and environmental regulations, in an effort to determine the amount of freedom a state's average taxpayer has and its effect on income.

The study was conducted by a policy group with a free-market orientation, the Pacific Research Institute. It is Forbes's second national survey of economic freedom. Forbes, which has its headquarters in Manhattan, also publishes the Index of Economic Freedom, a global analysis of the world's economies.

In the first national study, published five years ago, New York also ranked last. Kansas this year is ranked no. 1. In the 1999 study, Idaho finished first.

The study defines economic freedom as individuals' right to pursue the interests that best promote their well-being. The study says the states that have the most economic freedom are those that offer the fewest obstacles, in terms of taxes and regulation, to starting a business or finding a new job. The ranking compared the states based on what was termed "government intervention" in such areas as fiscal policy, welfare spending, size of government, regulatory climate, and the judiciary. [...]

With the exception of New Hampshire, the Northeast is the most economically oppressive area to launch a business or seek work, according to the study. Joining New York in the nether regions of the rankings for the second time are Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. A co-author of the study, Lawrence McQuillan, said the Northeast's population density makes it easier to develop and implement regulations here. The state ranked 49th in the survey is California.

Mr. McQuillan acknowledged the obvious political dimension to the ranking of both the top 10 and the bottom 10. In this month's election, eight of the top 10 states in economic freedom went for President Bush, and nine of the bottom 10 went for Senator Kerry. Mr. McQuillan said the divide was representative of long-standing differences in both the political philosophies and the traditions in the states' legislatures. Moreover, the prospect for upward mobility in the rankings is slim, he said, given the sway of unions and various other special-interest groups with the legislatures of New York and California.

"I'm hesitant to say that having a Republican governor and legislature is a silver bullet, but it does make it more probable that these issues will be seriously considered," Mr. Mc-Quillan said.

A nice illustration of the deeper values that drive the Red/Blue divide--in Red America freedom is of opportunity; in Blue America it is from morality.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:34 AM

AND LOWER (via Tom Morin):

Take $10 off the Price of Oil (Steve H. Hanke, 11.29.04, Forbes)

In November 2001 George W. Bush ordered the government to purchase oil and fill its reserve to full capacity of 700 million barrels. The reserve, at 670 million barrels, now accounts for 70% of U.S. oil inventories. While the stockpile's growth has left the nation's total oil inventories 10.6% higher than in December 2001, it has crowded out private stock-building, with private stocks declining by 9.2%.

The government's weight in the market for storage has been significant in pushing prices to such extraordinary levels. Many people have trouble swallowing this fact. They think government purchases are nothing more than a drop in the bucket and couldn't possibly have much effect on oil prices. To make their case, they trot out statistics about how small government purchases have been--only 1.3% of oil imports in 2004 and minuscule fractions of total U.S. consumption or world output. But this is comparing apples and oranges. If we just look at changes in inventories since December 2001, the changes in the government stocks dwarf those in private inventories.

I estimate that the government's buildup of oil stocks has added at least $10 to the price of a barrel. That's the bad news. The good news is that the government's reserve is scheduled to be at full capacity in May 2005. From that point on it will be much easier for private companies to build stocks. Indeed, when the government stops building inventories, enough oil will be freed up so that private stocks could rise to their 2001 levels in six months. A $10 decline in price is plausible.

It turns out that this inventory story is already in the market. Today's quotes for oil futures contracts are lower than today's spot price. Traders expect the price of oil to decline and return to its ordinary range. These traders, playing for real money--not for quotation in the newspaper--do not buy the notion that we have entered a new era of permanently high oil prices.

We are still left with one issue: what to do with the oil in the stockpile. It's worth $30 billion. Its eventual release is at the discretion of the President--in other words, tangled up in politics.

Nothing speaks better of the President than that he did not take political advantage of this even in an election year.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:31 AM


Falwell's School Joins Others in Teaching Law to Their Flocks: The legal program at the reverend's university represents the latest effort by the religious right to change American society. (Emma Schwartz, November 21, 2004, LA Times)

What Debra Meador read disturbed her. It didn't seem right that schoolchildren were once barred from holding prayer groups after class. Or that the Ten Commandments couldn't be displayed in a government building.

So at 34, the human relations specialist from Lynchburg made good on a longtime interest by enrolling in law school. But unlike most prospective lawyers, she applied to only one place.

"I wanted to take it in a Christian setting," said Meador, a member of the inaugural law class at Liberty University, a Baptist college founded here in 1971 by the Rev. Jerry Falwell. "I don't believe anyone could be neutral. We're willing to tell you what we believe and to follow that."

The school, like Meador, who aspires to argue cases before the Supreme Court, has grand designs. Right now, it has only 60 students and six faculty members. Provisional accreditation by the American Bar Assn. — which certifies that a school has been evaluated on the quality of its legal education and allows students to sit for the bar exam in any state — is at least two years away.

But by teaching law from a Christian perspective, Falwell hopes to train a cadre of Christian lawyers to fight what he sees as the growing secularization of public life across the country.

And the school plans to offer select students hands-on experience with a law firm that takes on constitutional issues. That would occur when Liberty Counsel, a legal organization in Orlando, Fla., that focuses on cases involving religion and traditional values, moves its legislative arm to the campus.

No private individual has done more to help the moral majority find its public voice than the Reverend Falwell.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:27 AM


A Growing Gender Gap Tests College Admissions (Peter Y. Hong, November 21, 2004, LA Times)

When admissions officers for Santa Clara University recruit new freshmen, they do their best to reach the kind of students they'd like to see more of on the Silicon Valley campus: boys.

"We make a special pitch to them to talk about the benefits of Santa Clara, as we do for other underrepresented groups," Charles Nolan, Santa Clara's vice provost for admissions, said of the school's efforts to boost male applicants.

It's a startling development to anyone who remembers that Santa Clara was all male until 1960. But the Jesuit-run school reflects an important transformation of American college life.

Among the 4,550 undergraduates at Santa Clara, 57% are female. That matches the percentage of U.S. bachelor's degrees now awarded to women, a demographic shift that has accelerated since women across the country began to attend college at a higher rate than men about a decade ago.

Today, many colleges, particularly selective residential schools, face a dilemma unthinkable a generation ago.

To place well in influential college rankings, those schools must enroll as many top high school students as they can — and most of those students are female. Administrators are watching closely for the "tipping point" at which schools become unappealing to both men and women. They fear that lopsided male-female ratios will hurt the social life and diverse classrooms they use as selling points.

Despite employing the same tactics used for years to lure ethnic minority students, few colleges say they give admissions preferences to boys. But high school counselors and admissions experts say they believe it is happening.

What ever happened to getting in to college the old-fashioned way, by having your grandfather donate a building.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:11 AM


A Doctrine Left Behind: The Powell Doctrine sets out a series of questions that
policymakers must ask and answer before going to war. They make sobering reading today. (MARK DANNER, 11/21/04, NY Times)

While the Powell Doctrine is generally thought simply to prescribe the setting of clear objectives and the use of overwhelming force to achieve them, it also sets out a series of questions that policymakers must ask and answer before committing American lives to war. They make sobering reading today:

"Is the political objective we seek to achieve important, clearly defined and understood? Have all other nonviolent policy means failed? Will military force achieve the objective? At what cost? Have the gains and risks been analyzed? How might the situation that we seek to alter, once it is altered by force, develop further and what might be the consequences?"

These questions are symptomatic of that element in the military that was so traumatized by Vietnam that they preferred not to ever fight again if possible--they are meant to be unanswerable in order to impose stasis.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:08 AM


House Leadership Blocks Vote on Intelligence Bill: A core of highly conservative Republicans aligned with the Pentagon moved to block a vote on a bill that would have enacted the recommendations of the 9/11 panel. (PHILIP SHENON and CARL HULSE, 11/21/04, NY Times)

The bill would have forced the Pentagon, which controls an estimated 80 percent of the government's $40 billion intelligence budget, to cede much of its authority on intelligence issues to a national intelligence director.

"What you are seeing is the forces in favor of the status quo protecting their turf, whether it is Congress or in the bureaucracy," said Senator Susan Collins, the Maine Republican who was the chief Senate author of the failed compromise bill, in what amounted to a slap at her Republican counterparts in the House.

The chairman of the Sept. 11 commission, Thomas H. Kean, a Republican and the former governor of New Jersey, said that the lawmakers who blocked the vote should be held accountable by the public, and he blamed senior Pentagon officials as well.

"I think there's no question that there are people in the Pentagon who want the status quo, and they fought very hard with their allies in Congress for the status quo," Mr. Kean said. [...]

The decision to block a vote was seen by the bill's proponents and others in Congress as a surprising embarrassment to the president, who had personally intervened as late as Friday night to pressure rebellious House Republicans to agree on an intelligence bill, and to Mr. Hastert, who had signaled that he wanted the legislation and was willing to overrule the opposition from within his ranks.

Congressional officials said that Mr. Bush had telephoned a leading Republican critic of the bill, Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, from Air Force One on Friday en route to a economic summit meeting in Chile to urge him to compromise.

They said a similar call was made Saturday morning by Mr. Cheney to the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Duncan Hunter of California, who has long warned that the creation of a national intelligence director could interfere with the military chain of command as American troops continue to fight in Iraq.

But the calls were to no avail, since House and Senate negotiators agreed that the continuing opposition of Mr. Sensenbrenner, Mr. Hunter and a handful of other influential Republicans had tipped the balance for Mr. Hastert in deciding to block a vote.

If the President did want this bill in its current form--an open question--and Mr. Rumsfeld helped scuttle it, he's gone.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:04 AM


A Warrior has left us (David Horowitz, November 20, 2004, Townhall)

What I admired most about Reed was that here was a man in his late sixties and then seventies when I knew him and he had more fight in him than most of the young conservatives I met at the time (Grover Norquist would be the exception) and all of the adults. Reed was like the radicals I had known in his passion for the cause and his persistence in pursuing it. And I wished that all conservatives were like him. If they were the battle would be already won.

I remember an evening in 1990 when Reed would have been 70 years old. It was a little after 8PM and I was lying in bed reading when the phone rang. It was Reed. "You've got to call in to Larry King's show. Carl Bernstein is on talking about his book on his father and the McCarthy era. You've got to take him on." Bernstein had written a preposterous book about his Communist father claming that the McCarthy era was a "reign of terror." In fact Bernstein's father was working for the Soviet enemy and the consequences to him were not that great. As Carl's book showed his father was still lying to his own son about his Communist activities. So unlike a reign of terror was McCarthyism that when Bernstein the younger told Ben Bradlee his editor at the Washington Post about his father's Communist Party membership, Bradlee kept him on the Watergate story and the hunt for President Nixon. As far as the Washington Post was concerned it was okay for the son of a Communist to bring down a sitting American President in the middle of the Cold War.

"Reed," I said. "It's 11PM where you are; you should be in bed, relaxing. Larry King will never take my call and he'll hang up on me if he does." (I knew that King was a fellow-traveler in the McCarthy period and he was obviously a fellow-traveler still.) But I said, "O.k. Reed, I'll turn on the show."

Ten minutes later the phone rang again. It was Reed: "Are you listening? Have you called?"

"No Reed. I just think there's no point."

"But you've been there. You know what this guy is doing. King is just fawning all over him. You have a responsibility to refute him with the facts."

Ten minutes later the phone rang again. By this time I was feeling guilty enough that I assured Reed I would call, and I did. I waited 45 minutes on the line before King picked up my call. "My parents were members of the Communist Party," I said, "and this is a preposterous book." King hung up on me.

I have no regrets about making the call. Whether Reed was right about this use of my time or not, he was right about the need for all of us to put our all into these battles.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:47 AM


Reshaping the electorate (Michael Barone, 11/29/04, US News)

Amid the cabinet reshuffling, little attention has been paid to the appointment of Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman as Republican National Committee chairman. But Mehlman's appointment could turn out to be as significant for our politics as Condoleezza Rice's is likely to be for foreign policy. If Karl Rove was the architect of George W. Bush's thumping re-election victory, Mehlman was the structural engineer who turned the plans into reality. Mehlman's great achievement was to create a largely volunteer organization of 1.4 million people who turned out the vote in counties big and small for Bush. He managed this task the way Rudolph Giuliani managed the New York City Police Department: by requiring metrics--numerical goals, validated by independent parties--to measure the work being done every week. This enabled the Bush organization to plug holes and to provide psychic rewards for those doing good work. No one (including Giuliani himself) thought Giuliani could cut crime in half in New York City; very few thought that Mehlman could produce 10 million new votes for Bush. But Giuliani did it, and so did Mehlman.

The surge in turnout was unusual for what was, after all, a rerun election. Turnout was up only microscopically in 1956 when Dwight Eisenhower faced Adlai Stevenson a second time. Turnout was down in 1996 when Bill Clinton faced Ross Perot and a decorated World War II veteran a second time. Many people figured they had made the decision already and didn't need to go to the polls again. Not so in 2004 when Bush faced a second liberal Democrat who had spent much of his career in the Senate. With the absentee votes in California and Washington finally counted, it appears that overall turnout was up 12 percent. John Kerry's popular vote was also 12 percent above Al Gore's. But the popular vote for Bush was up a stunning 20 percent. Before the election, some liberal commentators were claiming that Bush would win no votes he hadn't won in 2000. Not quite: He won 10 million more. [...]

Sam Walton made his fortune by selling goods at low prices in downscale rural and exurban communities where other retailers saw little profit. Mehlman won the election for Bush by increasing the Republican vote in downscale rural and exurban counties where neither party used to think many more votes could be won. Wal-Mart is now the most successful retailer in history. Mehlman seeks to be the most successful party-builder ever. No one made much money betting against Sam Walton. I wouldn't bet against Ken Mehlman either.

The real test comes in '06. Republicans tend to have a turnout advantage in midterm elections anyway--if they can keep this turnout machine up and running the turnover in Congress and at the state level could be devastating for the Democrats.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:22 AM


Fear is the key as Blair apes Bush's victory plan (BRIAN BRADY, 11/21/04, The Scotsman)

TONY Blair will place national security and crime at the heart of his bid for a third term in Downing Street under a ‘scare’ strategy similar to the one that helped return George W Bush to the White House.

‘Operation Third Term’, led by campaign supremo Alan Milburn, has identified the issues of fighting terrorism and boosting public safety as the hard edge of a campaign originally intended to focus on reforms to public services.

Beginning with this week’s Queen’s Speech, Labour’s pitch will now be a naked appeal to the electorate’s most fundamental concerns, a strategy known in the US as appealing to the ‘security moms’. [...]

Blair’s legislative programme, to be unveiled on Tuesday, contains 28 proposed new bills, plus eight draft bills, and has been drawn together under the theme of "safety and security".

It includes proposals to introduce long-awaited plans to create a national identity card, which will be sold as a crucial defence against international terrorists, some of whom the government believes are already at large in British cities.

Labour will also unveil plans to create a Serious Organised Crime Agency to tackle the ‘Mr Bigs’ of the crime underworld.

There will also be a clampdown on convicted drug offenders, who will be forced to undergo rehabilitation schemes. Police may also be able to enforce mandatory drugs tests on anyone they arrest.

And Labour also aims to win over Middle England with further sanctions on antisocial behaviour, giving courts the power to impose fines on the parents of children as young as 10.

The developing strategy, thrashed out with Blair and the Leader of the House of Commons, Peter Hain, is designed to capitalise on widespread public concerns about safety.

Interesting how caricature can become so enduring that it trumps reality--not that the campaign will focus, in part, on crime, which Europeans claim is a uniquely American problem, though it has played no role in recent American politics. It is a non-issue here these days.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:46 AM


Democrats May Use Results in Colorado as Political Primer (T.R. Reid, November 21, 2004, Washington Post)

When Democratic state chairmen gather in Florida next month to lick their wounds from the Nov. 2 election, their agenda will include a careful study of one bright spot in a generally sorry performance: Colorado, a solidly red state that went almost completely blue this year.

Despite a large Republican advantage in registered voters and the popularity of President Bush, who carried the state easily for the second time, Colorado Democrats picked up a U.S. Senate seat and House seat that had been considered safe for the GOP. They reversed Republican majorities in the state House and Senate to take control of the legislature. And they backed expensive ballot measures that passed by large majorities despite opposition from the GOP.

In the process, the Democrats tarnished the stature of Gov. Bill Owens, a popular but term-limited Republican who has made no secret of his ambition for national office. Candidates closely tied to Owens lost the Senate and House races. The governor campaigned in vain for Republican legislators and against a new transit tax that won broad voter approval.

Colorado Democrats say their success carries a lesson for the national party. "We campaigned on pragmatism," state Democratic Chairman Christopher Gates said. "We set ourselves up as the problem solvers, while the Republicans were hung up on a bunch of fringe social issues like gay marriage and the Pledge of Allegiance.

"The notion that moral issues won the 2004 election was disproven in Colorado," Gates continued. "We offered solutions, not ideology, and won almost everything."

Democrats here also made a tactical decision to distance themselves from John F. Kerry. Ken Salazar, the moderate Democrat who won the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by a Republican, said during the campaign that "my schedule has just been too busy" to allow him to appear with Kerry during the presidential candidate's many visits to the state.

Both parties agree that the Democrats did a better job of registering voters and turning them out. Further, Colorado Democrats reversed a traditional GOP edge in fund-raising, largely through "the four horsemen," four multimillionaires who helped plan and finance the statewide Democratic effort to win control of the legislature.

Political analysts say that Owens and Republican leaders hurt their party by failing to deal with the state's fiscal dilemma when they controlled the legislature.

"Here's a state with an $800 million deficit and a set of conflicting constitutional amendments that make it almost impossible to deal with the deficit, and the legislature was debating the Pledge of Allegiance," Denver-based pollster Floyd Ciruli said. "That allowed the Democrats to say, 'There's a fiscal crisis in our state, and the Republicans aren't doing anything about it.' "

During its 2002-2004 session, the Republican-led legislature worked on a high-profile bills to redesign the state's congressional districts and to require recitation of the pledge in schools -- both measures later voided on constitutional grounds. The legislators also focused on which magazine covers could be displayed in stores and on a resolution condemning same-sex marriage, which is already illegal here.

Ciruli noted that the sense of Republican inaction on the fiscal crisis was a key motivator for four wealthy Democrats -- medical-equipment heiress Pat Stryker and high-tech entrepreneurs Jared Polis, Tim Gill, and Rutt Bridges -- who poured $1.6 million into a Democratic fund for state legislative races that are usually run on the cheap.

Mr. Owens may have lost the first primary of '08 badly enough to take himself out of contention. But it seems unlikely that the path back to power for Democrats truly lies in becoming a Michael Dukakis-style technocrat party. The Greens or some other party would rise on their Left and capture all the ideological voters who make up their base.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:32 AM


Christian group awaits Catholics with open arms (DENISE FORD-MITCHELL, November 19, 2004, THE SAGINAW NEWS)

Years ago, the idea of Catholics conducting any type of joint service or alliance with mainline Protestant and Orthodox Christians was unthinkable.

All that changed this week when U.S. Roman Catholic bishops joined Christian Churches Together in the U.S.A., forming the broadest Christian group in the land.

The new alliance, which links American evangelicals and Catholics in an ecumenical organization for the first time, is set to kick off next year.

The organization also would include mainline Protestants, Orthodox Christians, black and other minority churches plus religiously oriented groups such as the Salvation Army and World Vision.

"There is a new spirit today that is open to one another as fellow Christians, which is a good thing," says the Rev. Mark J. Molldrem, pastor of Resurrection Lutheran Church, 2110 Brockway in Saginaw.

"The people of the congregations have been open to one another for a long period of time, and now it's nice to see the leadership become more engaged in that by formalizing constructive relationships."

In the context of the modern West we've more in common than we do separating us.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 AM


The Lord of the Rings, The Passion of the Christ, and the Highway of Holiness: Has God been "re-routing" us through popular movies, books, and cultural events? (Chris Armstrong, 5/07/04, Christian History)

I don't remember a time when the realm of popular culture has seemed more alive with divine purpose.

During the past year or two, how often have we been publicly reminded—through movies, books, and events—of vital truths about who we are and who God is? Through Peter Jackson's third Lord of the Rings movie, Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code, Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, and other prominent cultural events, we have been pushed off of the path of complacency and back towards the "highway" depicted by Isaiah:

"And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way; wicked fools will not go about on it. No lion will be there, nor will any ferocious beast get up on it; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away" (Isa. 35:8-10; NIV). [...]

One recent cultural event has come not so much as a push, but as a dynamite blast, helping to clear from the highway's on-ramps a huge, craggy stone of falsehood. This "blast" is Mel Gibson's portrayal of the Passion of Jesus. Not without flaw, this movie nonetheless serves the church in the best possible way: it reminds us that the common portrayal of Jesus as a Nice Man with a moralistic message is a hollow fiction. The Nice-Man Jesus crumbles before the truth of who he actually was and what he did for us. Gibson has dealt a strong blow to the complacency of quasi-Christian moralism, clearing the way to the atonement Christ provided through his sacrifice.

Another public push back towards the highway has begun as the result of an actor's private pain and his discovery of an unlikely friend from the distant past. A few years ago, the actor Gerard Depardieu (Green Card, Cyrano de Bergerac, and other noted movies), worn down by emotional troubles and hedonistic lifestyle choices, returned to the Christian faith of his youth. He also discovered a spiritual kinship with the 4th-century bishop and theologian Augustine of Hippo—who was similarly saved out of the dregs of fame-seeking and sensuality. Last year, so taken and transformed was Depardieu by Augustine's brutally honest and soaringly devotional Confessions, he pledged to do a series of dramatic public readings of passages of the Confessions. "I went to a psychoanalyst for 20 years," said the actor, "and I can say that Books X and XI of the 'Confessions' offer answers to our most intimate questions and calm our most painful queries." What a welcome blow to the modern West's most characteristic "besetting sins": the complacencies of self-centeredness and sensualism.

Though they are mixed products of sinful people (aren't all our best efforts?), these cultural products and events remind us of something we too easily forget: though these past couple of years may seem in many ways "the worst of times," they are also—because God loves us too much to leave us as we are—the best of times.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:24 AM


Britain: a nation 'in grip of drink crisis'
(Martin Bright and Gaby Hinsliff, The Guardian, November 21st,2004)

The American 'super-cop' brought in by the Home Office to cut Britain's crime rate warned last night that the nation's binge drinking culture was spiralling out of control and fuelling an epidemic of violence outside pubs and clubs that threatened to overwhelm the police.

In his first major interview the former Boston police chief, Paul Evans, described scenes he had witnessed in the early hours of the morning in city centres across Britain as chaos. 'I'm not sure it can get much worse,' he said, in response to police fears that new licensing laws allowing 24-hour drinking would lead to increased violence.

As the government prepares to put tackling crime and antisocial behaviour at the heart of this week's Queen's Speech, Evans is now considering new proposals from senior police officers for tough new sanctions against violent drinkers.

One measure would see binge drinkers caught fighting in city centres given points on their driving licences. Another would give antisocial behaviour orders to offenders banning them from high-crime nightspots.

Evans, appointed last September as the head of the Home Office's police standards unit, will launch a 'Christmas blitz' next month to crack down on alcohol-related offences using on-the-spot penalty fines, sting operations on businesses serving under-age drinkers and closure notices on pubs and clubs associated with violence.

'If you're in the business of fighting crime, then you have to be in the business of dealing with the alcohol issue,' Evans said. 'I have spent an awful lot of Fridays and Saturday nights out there. At one or two o'clock in the morning these places are chaos.

Although social conservatives are often tagged as repressed and interfering busybodies when it comes to vice, liberals and libertarians tend to be downright neurotic on the issue. As with the proverbial cowboy who jumped on his horse and “rode off in all directions”, their inability to confront the realities of human nature leads them to lurch from one extreme to the other, often at the same time. Many who see the total eradication of tobacco from society as the apogee of progress (and who are happy to enlist the aid of the most specious junk science in the cause) will, at the same time, loudly proclaim their god-given right to gamble as much as they want, anywhere, anytime. Progressive Family Court judges who condemn and often sanction a working class parent’s beer habit will then retire to enjoy their single malts and wine-sloshed dinners, telling themselves their appreciation of vintage and attendant culture makes a difference in kind. In some jurisdictions, governments are trying to lower the age of consent while coming on like St. George about protecting young girls from the sex trade. Perhaps the best example of the tortured confusion is seen when liberal jurisdictions like California, New York and Canada move to legalize the possession of marijuana and try to sell it to the public by promising to severely toughen up trafficking and cultivating penalties at the same time.

Prohibition showed that the outright ban of a popular vice can be self-defeating and a boon to criminals. The completely vice-free life may be impossible, and perhaps not even particularly healthy or desirable. But it is folly to pretend that there is no direct correlation between the general accessibility to vice and its use and abuse, with serious collective consequences for all. Everyone has a social duty to accept limits, defined by culture, tradition and the popular will, on his or her access to vice irrespective of any personal ability to indulge modestly or wisely.

In some cultures, such as Italy and Greece, strong, culturally-sanctioned conventions on vice, particularly on when and how to drink, make legal diktats largely unnecessary. Bully for Italy and Greece. In the Anglosphere, a libertarian approach has failed more often than not. A vibrant, resilient society will not permit vice to spiral out of control and threaten family and community. Nor will it allow the agenda to be hijacked by abstract blatherings on man’s inherent goodness and constitutional entitlements. It will face up to the dark side of human nature and keep it tightly controlled, legally or otherwise.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:52 AM


Victory in Fallujah (Jack Kelly, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, November 21st, 2004)

The rule of thumb for the last century or so has been that for a guerrilla force to remain viable, it must inflict seven casualties on the forces of the government it is fighting for each casualty it sustains, says former Canadian army officer John Thompson, managing director of the Mackenzie Institute, a think tank that studies global conflicts.

By that measure, the resistance in Iraq has had a bad week. American and Iraqi government troops have killed at least 1,200 fighters in Fallujah, and captured 1,100 more. Those numbers will grow as mop-up operations continue.
These casualties were inflicted at a cost (so far) of 56 Coalition dead (51 Americans), and just over 300 wounded, of whom about a quarter have returned to duty.

"That kill ratio would be phenomenal in any [kind of] battle, but in an urban environment, it's revolutionary," said retired Army Lt. Col. Ralph Peters, perhaps America's most respected writer on military strategy. "The rule has been that [in urban combat] the attacking force would suffer between a quarter and a third of its strength in casualties."

The victory in Fallujah was also remarkable for its speed, Peters said. Speed was necessary, he said, "because you are fighting not just the terrorists, but a hostile global media."

Fallujah ranks up there with Iwo Jima, Inchon and Hue as one of the greatest triumphs of American arms, though you'd have a hard time discerning that from what you read in the newspapers.

The swift capture of Fallujah is taxing the imagination of Arab journalists and -- sadly -- our own. How does one portray a remarkable American victory as if it were of little consequence, or even a defeat? For CNN's Walter Rodgers, camped out in front the main U.S. military hospital in Germany, you do this by emphasizing American casualties.

For The New York Times and The Washington Post, you do this by emphasizing conflict elsewhere in Iraq.

But the news organs that liken temporary terrorist success in Mosul (the police stations they overran were recaptured the next day) with what happened to the terrorists in Fallujah is false equivalence of the worst kind. If I find a quarter in the street, it doesn't make up for having lost $1,000 in a poker game the night before.

The resistance has suffered a loss of more than 2,000 combatants, out of a total force estimated by U.S. Central Command at about 5,000 (other estimates are higher) as well as its only secure base in the country. But both the Arab media and ours emphasize that the attack on Fallujah has made a lot of Arabs mad. By this logic, once we've killed all the terrorists, they'll be invincible.

"The experience of human history has been the more people you kill, the weaker they get," Thompson noted.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:03 AM


Saudis to Begin Registration for Historic Elections Tomorrow (Raid Qusti, 21 November 2004, Arab News)

Male Saudi citizens in the capital will begin registering tomorrow — (Monday, Nov. 22) — to vote in the coming historic municipal elections.

According to the committee supervising the elections, an agreement has been reached with a private company for the installation of a computerized network which will store all data related to registration and ballot centers.

The network will store the citizen’s name, his age, his ID number and place of birth. It will also record the ballot center at which he registers to vote.

According to a spokesman, the network will not allow any citizen to register more than once even if he attempts to do so at another location in the Kingdom.

Those registering will be asked to show property deeds, or rental agreements with their landlords, or water and electricity bills to provide proof of residency in the area. If none of the above are available, the testimony of two witnesses will be accepted.

According to the election regulations made public by the Ministry of Municipalities and Rural Affairs, every male citizen has the right to vote, provided that he is above 21 and that he is not in the military.

November 20, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:58 PM


They're so bloody polite (Jemima Lewis, 21/11/2004, Daily Telegraph)

As a libertarian feminist, I hate to see people caving into the bossiness of the religious Right. Yet there are elements of American prudery to which I find myself unexpectedly sympathetic. In Britain, the concept that people should be protected from bad language or sexual imagery has all but vanished from the public psyche.

Real-life fellatio and ejaculation can now be shown in mainstream British cinemas; The Guardian can publish a giant F-word on its cover without official rebuke; our high streets will soon be rigid with sex shops. We actually pride ourselves on being a nation of foul-mouthed shaggers: it is the central joke of every Richard Curtis film, and the driving force behind Johnny Rotten's entire career.

This moral insouciance has its virtues - it certainly makes for a much more entertaining press, and gives rise to less troublesome hypocrisy - but I'm not sure that it has done much for our standards of public behaviour. The concept of decency is not merely about sexual repression, after all. It is also about good manners. Outside the ghettoes, Americans hardly ever swear. It's amazing how restful this is to British ears - the absence of that background hum of verbal aggression.

Even New Yorkers, who pride themselves on being the rudest people in America, seem quaintly courteous by British standards. They do things that, in London, might get them beaten up: they smile at each other on the street, start conversations with strangers in lifts, call each other "Ma'am" and "Sir" without irony. This is a much easier city to live in than London, largely because the social wheels are so liberally oiled by politeness.

Can't remember who wrote it, but there was an essay by a European some years ago about how being greeted with "How you doing?" and parting with "Have a good day" drove him crazy until he realized Americans actually meant both, wondered how others were doing and hoped they would indeed have good days.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:28 PM


Who Lost Ohio? (MATT BAI, 11/21/04, NY Times Magazine)

By Election Day, ACT claimed to have registered 85,000 new voters in Ohio, while the rest of the America Votes coalition -- groups as large as the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and and as small as Music for America -- had registered another 215,000. If you were an Ohioan registered by ACT or one of its partners, Bouchard told me, you were contacted as many as a dozen times after you registered, by phone or by mail or by a live canvasser at your front door. ACT claimed to have knocked on 3.7 million doors and held more than 1.1 million doorstep conversations in the state; in contrast, the Kerry-Edwards campaign, which had its own significant turnout effort under way, had arrived in Ohio months after ACT and reported having knocked on about 595,000 doors. ''There's no way a party or a campaign could put on the ground the resources that we have,'' Bouchard told me. ''The sheer numbers of doors we knock on and phone calls we make are just astounding.''

Earlier in the year, I had spent weeks on the other side of the lines in Ohio, writing an article for the magazine about the Republican plan to vastly increase turnout using an all-volunteer network, modeled on a multilevel marketing scheme like Amway, that would focus on the new and growing exurban counties around Ohio's major cities. Democrats, traditionally the masters of field organizing, had dismissed the Republican effort as an exercise in self-delusion, insisting that volunteers could never build a turnout model to compete with professional organizers. In ACT and its partners, Democrats told me, they were building the most efficient turnout machine in political history. I returned to Ohio in the final days of the campaign to see the power of this grass-roots behemoth in action. I did -- and I came to understand its limitations as well. [...]

After breakfast, I called Steve Rosenthal on his cellphone. Rosenthal, ACT's chief executive officer and Bou-chard's boss, had been lent a private jet for the closing days of the campaign by one of the group's wealthy donors. He touched down the night before in Cincinnati, and now he was driving his rental car from Dayton to Columbus. ''I'm just blown away by what I see everywhere I go,'' he told me. ''It's raining, but our people aren't deterred. They're voting. They're organizing. They're canvassing. It's amazing. I really think we could win by a substantial margin.''

ACT represented Rosenthal's vision more than anyone else's. Ellen Malcolm, the influential president of Emily's List, had done the most to raise the money, but it was Rosenthal, the former political director of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and a labor department official in the Clinton administration, who was known inside the party as a brilliant, almost legendary field strategist. Perpetually rumpled and self-effacing, more studious than brazen, Rosenthal wasn't the kind of guy given to bold pronouncements. But everything in his experience told him the election was well within reach for Kerry. He had taken to repeating a football analogy that came from Andrew Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, who had dispatched thousands of the union's members and employees to work on ACT's behalf: ACT, Stern said, had assembled the best field-goal unit ever. All the candidate had to do was get them into range, and they would do the rest.

''For the life of me, I can't see how we could lose Ohio,'' Rosenthal had told me over lunch in Washington the previous week. ''The only way they win Ohio is to steal it like they did Florida four years ago.'' [...]

Lindenfeld and Bouchard were back on the road, checking out target precincts to make sure they were being canvassed. We rolled slowly through poor, all-black neighborhoods in Lindenfeld's rented Ford Explorer, eyeing front porches for Post-it notes and ACT flyers.

This is how white Democrats have always won elections in close states like Ohio -- by cajoling every last black urban voter to go to the polls. In Ohio, Republicans have been able to count on winning somewhere around 75 of the state's 88 counties in any statewide election. The traditional Democratic formula for victory centered on a handful of counties with a heavy concentration of minority voters: win the critical stronghold of Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland, by a margin of more than 150,000 votes; stay close in Franklin County, which contains Columbus and its suburbs; and hold the Republicans to a margin of victory of fewer than 60,000 votes in Hamilton County, the area that encompasses Cincinnati. (As it turned out, Democrats in 2004 would easily meet these criteria, and then some. Kerry won Cuyahoga by more than 217,000 votes, narrowly won Franklin, and in Hamilton lost to Bush by fewer than 25,000 votes.)

Our S.U.V. passed by polling places where people waited in line around the block, umbrellas perched over their heads. ''Look at that,'' Lindenfeld motioned to me. ''Out the door and around the block. It's a beautiful thing.'' The rule of politics had always been the same: the more people who turned out, the better it was for Democrats. [...]

What gnawed at Bouchard was that nowhere we went in Franklin County, a vigorously contested swing county, did we see any hint of a strong Republican presence -- no signs, no door-knockers, no Bush supporters handing out leaflets at the polls. This seemed only to increase Lindenfeld's confidence. He didn't believe in the Republican turnout plan. ''What they talked about is a dream,'' he told me at one point. ''We've got the reality. They're wishing they had what we've got.'' For Bouchard, however, the silence was unsettling. How could there be such a thing as a stealth get-out-the-vote drive? [...]

As night fell, we reached the city of Delaware and found a polling place at a recreation center. The only people in the parking lot were a drenched couple holding Kerry-Edwards signs. Inside, the polling place was empty. ''Look at this,'' Lindenfeld said to me triumphantly. ''Does this look like a busy polling place? Look around. There's no one here.'' He repeated this several times, making the point that turnout in the outlying areas was tailing off, while voters were lined up around the block back in Columbus. ''Do you see any Republicans?'' he asked me, motioning around the parking lot.

In fact, a quick investigation of the voter rolls, taped to the wall outside the voting area, indicated that the polling place was dead for a less encouraging reason: most of the voters in the two precincts assigned to the recreation center had already voted. The officials in charge told me that 1,175 of the 1,730 registered voters on the rolls had cast their ballots. In other words, turnout in those precincts was up to an impressive 68 percent, and there were still two hours left before the polls closed. (When it was over, Delaware County as a whole would post an astounding turnout rate of 78 percent, with two out of three votes going to Bush.)

I was beginning to understand that the rules of the game were changing, confounding even the experts who seemed to have this business of voter turnout all figured out. For decades, Democratic operatives had been virtually unchallenged by Republicans when it came to mobilizing voters, and during that time, they had come to rely on a certain set of underlying assumptions, all of them based on experience in urban areas. One was that the volume of activity at a polling place was a reliable measure of turnout; long lines meant higher turnout, and no lines meant disaster. Another was that the strength of a get-out-the-vote program could be gauged by the number of people canvassing city streets, the people holding signs in the rain, vans carrying voters to the polls.

But Ohio, like much of the country, was undergoing a demographic shift of historic proportions, and Republicans were learning to exploit their advantage in rapidly expanding rural areas that organizers like Lindenfeld, for all their technological innovation, just didn't understand. In shiny new town-house communities, canvassing could be done quietly by neighbors; you didn't need vans and pagers. Polling places could accommodate all the voters in a precinct without ever giving the appearance of being overrun. In the old days, these towns and counties had been nothing but little pockets of voters, and Republicans hadn't bothered to expend the energy to organize them. But now the exurban populations had reached critical mass (Delaware County alone had grown by almost one-third since the 2000 election), and Republicans were building their own kind of quiet but ruthlessly efficient turnout machine.

Even on the outer edges of the cities, long lines were not necessarily the indicators of Democratic muscle that they used to be. Returning to the headquarters in Columbus, we passed a polling place at the local fish and wildlife office, where a line of voters stretched around the building, even though the polls were closing. ''You see that?'' Lindenfeld exclaimed admiringly. To him, it was another sign of Democratic enthusiasm. When I walked over to the line a little later, however, the man who was administering the site told me that, judging from his precinct lists, the majority of voters standing in line lived in new town-house developments across the highway, and they had stopped in to vote on their way home from work. Most of them, he said, were Republicans. [...]

Why wasn't it enough? In the days that followed, theories circulated claiming that Republicans had stolen votes from Kerry by messing with the results from electronic voting machines. But the truth was that the Bush campaign had created an entirely new math in Ohio. It wouldn't have been possible eight years ago, or even four. But with so many white, conservative and religious voters now living in the brand-new town houses and McMansions in Ohio's growing ring counties, Republicans were able to mobilize a stunning turnout in areas where their support was more concentrated than it was in the past. Bush's operatives did precisely what they told me seven months ago they would do in these communities: they tapped into a volunteer network using local party organizations, union rolls, gun clubs and churches. They backed it up with a blizzard of targeted appeals; according to the preliminary results of a survey done by the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University, one representative home in Portage County, just outside Cleveland, received 11 pieces of mail from the Republican National Committee.

This effort wasn't visible to Democrats because it was taking place on an entirely new terrain, in counties that Democrats had some vague notion of, but which they never expected could generate so many votes. The 10 Ohio counties with the highest turnout percentages, many of them small and growing, all went for Bush, and none of them had a turnout rate of less than 75 percent.

For Democrats, this new phenomenon on Election Day felt like some kind of horror movie, with conservative voters rising up out of the hills and condo communities in numbers the Kerry forces never knew existed. ''They just came in droves,'' Jennifer Palmieri told me two days after the election. ''We didn't know they had that room to grow. It's like, 'Crunch all you want -- we'll make more.' They just make more Republicans.''

And they're not done making more...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:15 PM


A States' Rights Left? (JIM HOLT, November 21, 2004, NY Times Magazine)

When George W. Bush was re-elected, people in some of the bluer states were so angry and sad that they talked of moving to Canada or seceding from the Union. How else, they felt, could they escape the intensifying red-state control of Washington? But there is a less drastic survival strategy available to liberals in the coastal and Great Lakes states, one that involves neither emigration nor civil war. It is based on the venerable doctrine of states' rights. And the oddity is that President Bush himself is determined to give the blue states a rather generous gift to help it succeed.

The phrase ''states' rights'' has a nasty ring to it for liberals, given its historical associations. During the civil rights era, it was the proud slogan of Dixiecrats like Strom Thurmond and George C. Wallace, who fought tooth and nail against desegregation. A century earlier, it was invoked by the slave states of the Confederacy to justify their secession from the Union.

But states' rights has not always been the intellectual property of reactionaries. During the War of 1812, it was a rallying cry for antiwar forces. In the winter of 1814 and 1815, representatives from New England states came together at the Hartford Convention to express their hostility to the federal government and ''Mr. Madison's War.''

So the doctrine of states' rights has had a varied career. But why resurrect it today? The reason is simple. There are big differences among the states, as the last election showed -- differences in their understanding of tolerance, in their attitude toward the role of religion in public life, in the value they place on education, conservation and scientific research. The more sovereignty each state has, the better it can pursue policies that are appropriate to the needs and preferences of its people.

Mr. Holt isn't serious, but he's right.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:35 PM


Mineta left dangling as Bush considers choices for Cabinet (Zachary Coile, November 20, 2004, SF Chronicle)

With President Bush in the middle of a shakeup of his Cabinet, speculation has centered on whether Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta -- the former San Jose mayor and congressman, and the lone Democrat in the Cabinet -- will be forced out before a second Bush term.

Mineta, who recently turned 73, has suffered some health problems in recent years. But friends and supporters say he has recovered fully and is ready to continue running an agency with 58,000 employees and a $57.4 billion annual budget.

The resignations by six of Bush's 15 Cabinet members over the past two weeks have raised concerns among Mineta's backers that the secretary might be quietly pressured by the White House to step down.

"Obviously, we hope he stays on," said Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a longtime friend of Mineta's who represents San Jose. "It's the president's choice, but I think (Mineta) certainly has done a very capable job. I would like to think that his competence would be rewarded."

No one has questioned Mineta's vast experience as a leader on transportation issues. As a congressman, he chaired the House Public Works and Transportation Committee and wrote ground-breaking legislation that transformed how highway construction and other transportation projects are funded.

As transportation secretary, Mineta is credited with leading the agency's efforts after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to overhaul security at the nation's airports, including hiring 60,000 new federal security screeners and thousands of new air marshals.

"Transportation is his life's work, from the days he spent as a council member and mayor in San Jose to the work he's done here and his time spent in Congress," said Robert Johnson, Mineta's spokesman.

Not only has he done a good job but at a time when the President was too radioactive for other Democrats to join his government Mr. Mineta agreed to stay on from the Clinton Administration. Mr. Bush needs to honor that.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:17 PM


Remembering the Warsaw Uprising: Sixty years later, a look back at the longest and bloodiest urban insurgency of the Second World War. (Maciej Siekierski, Fall 2004, Hoover Digest)

The Home Army offensive began in the afternoon of August 1, 1944. The uprising was expected to last about a week and was seen largely as a “mopping-up” operation. This turned out to be a miscalculation. The Germans decided to make a stand and defend “fortress” Warsaw as the Soviets halted their offensive. The uprising lasted not one but nine weeks, turning into the longest and bloodiest urban insurgency of the Second World War. Despite an initial success in liberating most of the city from the Germans, the tide soon turned against the Home Army. The strength of the two sides was disproportionately in favor of the Germans. The Home Army had at its disposal about 40,000 fighters—including 4,000 women—but no more than 10 percent of them were armed, mostly with light weapons. The Germans had roughly the same number of soldiers, but they were heavily armed, with tanks, artillery, and planes.

The civilian population suffered the most. On August 5–6 alone more than 40,000 inhabitants of the district of Wola—men, women, and children—were slaughtered. The mass killing was the work of the SS, police, penal battalions, and units of the Russian People’s Liberation Army, made up mostly of Russian collaborators. Altogether, the Polish losses during the uprising included 150,000 civilian dead and about 20,000 Home Army casualties. The German forces lost about 10,000. Fighting ceased on October 2 with the formal capitulation of the Home Army forces. The remaining civilian population of 650,000 was deported to a camp south of Warsaw. During the next three months, the Germans proceeded to demolish much of what was left of the city; when the Soviet troops “liberated” Warsaw in January 1945, Poland’s capital was a vast desert of hollow-shelled buildings and rubble.

The Warsaw Uprising failed because of lack of support from the Soviets and British and American unwillingness to demand that Stalin extend assistance to their Polish ally. The Soviet advance in Poland stopped on the Vistula River, within sight of fighting Warsaw. Stalin had broken off diplomatic relations with the Polish government in exile when, in the spring of 1943, it asked the International Red Cross to investigate the killing of thousands of Polish officers at Katyn. The Polish officers were prisoners of the Soviets following its 1939 invasion of Poland in collaboration with Hitler. The Soviets tried to pin the blame on the Germans and did not admit the April 1940 summary executions of at least 21,000 Polish prisoners until some 50 years after the fact.

Simply put, the Soviets had no interest in assisting the Home Army to liberate Warsaw. The Soviets were planning to annex the eastern half of Poland, first occupied in 1939 under the provisions of the Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement, and to exercise control over the rest. The Western Allies had secretly agreed to these points at the conference in Teheran in December 1943. The Poles suspected the worst from Stalin, but they had confidence that their British and American allies would keep Soviet ambitions in check. This turned out to be a complete miscalculation. When the Home Army requested airdrops of arms and supplies into Warsaw, the Soviets refused permission for Allied planes to land and refuel on airfields under their control. In the end, the Allies did virtually nothing. FDR even turned down Winston Churchill’s suggestion for a strongly worded joint request to Stalin for help.

And then, FDR having betrayed the Poles it became necessary for New Deal historians to demonize them for the next several decades.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:09 PM


Kuwaiti Complexities: Is democracy possible in the Arab Middle East? Peter Berkowitz travels to Kuwait to find out. (Peter Berkowitz, Fall 2004, Hoover Digest)

On July 5, Kuwait held elections for its national parliament, and many Western observers didn’t like what they saw. “Women Protest Being Shut Out of Elections” reported the July 6 headline in the Los Angeles Times. “Islamic Traditionalists Sweep Liberals in Kuwaiti Election,” proclaimed the July 7 headline in the New York Times.

In fact, women are prohibited by law from voting in Kuwait, the liberals lost six of their nine seats, and the Islamists—proponents of establishing the sharia, or Muslim religious law, as the law of the land—enjoyed a small gain, giving them about a third of the seats in the 50-member National Assembly. So viewing the conduct and the results of Kuwait’s election as a major setback for democratization is seductive. But the story is far more complicated.

For starters, the remainder of the seats in parliament, or more than 50 percent of the total, went to candidates loyal to the government. And this is not bad news at all. The government, which is headed by the emir, is composed of ministers appointed by him, many of whom are drawn from the extended royal family and educated in the West. In the context of Kuwait, with its mix of old and new, city and desert, religious and secular, the royal family is a liberalizing institution.

Indeed, there is plenty of good news to report concerning the forces of democracy in Kuwait. And when the elections are placed in perspective, Kuwait’s 40-year-old constitutional monarchy can be seen as slowly, awkwardly making progress in fulfilling the promise of the preamble of its constitution, providing its citizens with “more political freedom, equality, and social justice.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 PM


A Blue Dog Muzzled (David S. Broder, November 21, 2004, Washington Post)

Bigger names are leaving Congress -- notably former Democratic leaders Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt -- but no one will be missed more on both sides of the aisle than Charlie Stenholm, the cotton farmer from Texas who has been in the House for 26 years.

Stenholm was a victim of the controversial redistricting plan pushed through the Republican legislature in Texas in 2003 at the instigation of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. The scheme -- now being given a second look by the federal courts -- succeeded in shifting the Texas delegation from 17 Democrats and 15 Republicans to a new ratio of 21 Republicans and 11 Democrats.

Tom DeLay is being reviled by the Left for his role in redistricting Texas so that its congressional representation more accurately reflects the will of Texans. Consider that, thanks to gerrymandering, Democrats had a majority of House in a state they just lost 61-38% at the top of the ticket.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 PM


The Liberal Crack-Up (R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr., 11/18/2004, The American Spectator)

History takes time. To understand the historic decline of the Democratic Party I have found it useful to reach back to a book I wrote in 1984, The Liberal Crack-Up. It is a diagnosis of what was then the core philosophy of the Democratic Party, liberalism, and a prognosis of its future. Doctor Tyrrell was not optimistic, but history takes time.

Today the Democratic Party has lost both houses of Congress, the presidency, many state offices it had controlled for at least two generations. It is about to be outpaced throughout the federal judiciary. The liberal crack-up began with the defeat of that liberal fantastico, Jimmy Carter. It picked up steam during the 1990s, when the Democrats lost the House and the Senate and many state offices -- and the media's legend endures that President Bill Clinton is a political genius. His genius is in self-promotion. He is a cunning huckster. But the liberal crack-up did not reach the point of no return until November 2, 2004. Then on that glad and glorious morn, that reductio ad absurdum of a liberal presidential candidate, Jean-François Kerry, the Democratic elites, and all the liberals in the media beheld Victory. It was to be a return to their vicarious lives as Kennedys!, Roosevelts!, Progressives!

Alas, by November 3 their delusions became very difficult to maintain. Sure there are many who still think they won. Doubtless Jean-François, his balmy wife, and many in his entourage still feel as morally and intellectually superior as they did in the expectant hours of November 2. Yet clear-headed students of politics today recognize that the Democratic Party has suffered a catastrophic defeat. Some, such as Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago and Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, are politely suggesting that their party is in need of a philosophy transplant, something less narcissistic, less out-of-this world, than the troubled philosophy that since the 1960s has been at its core, namely, liberalism.

Some will say liberalism was the very core of the Democrats' beloved New Deal, but they err. The liberalism of the New Deal was leavened with urban machine politics, Southern conservatism, and that wild and woolly philosophical hybrid, western populism. The liberalism that became rampant in the Democratic Party beginning in the late 1960s drove out all other intellectual impulses.

They are at this point essentially a European party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 PM


An All-New York Series (Washington Whispers, 11/29/04, US News)

The results are in, and the crystal ball is clear: Voters are getting into a New York state of mind. Despite more than a dozen politicians already lining up to replace President Bush in four years, pollster Tony Fabrizio tells us that voters have only two candidates in mind: ex-New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. What about Republican Sen. John McCain and Democratic Sen. John Edwards ? Fuhgeddaboudem, says Fabrizio's poll of 1,200 registered voters, one of the first on the 2008 race. Rudy beats McCain 42 percent to 24 percent. Hillary beats Edwards by a similar 18-point margin, 46 percent to 28 percent. "One thing is for sure," says Fabrizio. "After a Hillary-Rudy matchup, George Steinbrenner and the Yankees won't be the most hated New Yorkers anymore."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 PM


Powell 'pushed out' by Bush for seeking to rein in Israel (Charles Laurence in New York and Philip Sherwell, 21/11/2004, Daily Telegraph)

Colin Powell, the outgoing US secretary of state, was given his marching orders after telling President George W Bush that he wanted greater power to confront Israel over the stalled Middle East peace process.

Although Mr Powell's departure was announced on November 15, his letter of resignation was dated November 11, the day he had a meeting with Mr Bush.

Colin Powell
Colin Powell: the president's 'good cop'

According to White House officials, at the meeting Mr Powell was not asked to stay on and gave no hints that he would do so. Briefing reporters later, he referred to "fulsome discussions" - diplomatic code for disagreements.

"The clincher came over the Mid-East peace process," said a recently-retired state department official.

"Powell thought he could use the credit he had banked as the president's 'good cop' in foreign policy to rein in Ariel Sharon [Israel's prime minister] and get the peace process going. He was wrong."

Maybe Mr. Powell should have been the one reading Natan Sharansky.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:09 PM


Bush comes to aid of Secret Service agent (AP, November 20, 2004)

President Bush stepped into the middle of a confrontation and pulled his lead Secret Service agent away from Chilean security officials who barred his bodyguards from entering an elegant dinner for 21 world leaders Saturday night.

Several Chilean and American agents got into a pushing and shoving match outside the cultural center where the dinner was held. Bush noticed the fracas after posing for pictures on a red carpet with the summit host, Chilean President Ricardo Lagos and his wife and first lady Laura Bush.

Abandoning the other three, Bush walked over to the agents, reached through the dispute and pulled his agent from the scrum.

The president, looking irritated, walked away with the agent. The incident was shown on APEC television.

Was it Sadie Hawkins Day for the Secret Service?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:47 PM


Germany announces international plan to slash Iraqi debt (AFP, 11/20/2004)

Germany unveiled a breakthrough international plan to wipe out tens of billions of dollars of Iraqi debt so that the war-torn country can begin rebuilding in earnest.

The accord, announced on the sidelines of a Group of 20 meeting of finance chiefs in Berlin, could see the Paris Club of creditor nations cut up to 80 percent of Iraq`s debt and the interests it owes them.

Technical aspects of it were being thrashed out by the Paris Club members in the French capital and representatives in Berlin thought that an official announcement was imminent.

A third of Iraq`s crippling 120-billion-dollar international debt burden is owed to Paris Club members, and France and Germany, along with Russia, have up until now doggedly refused to go beyond a 50 percent cut.

But speaking in Berlin after meeting US officials, German Finance Minister Hans Eichel said that a three-phase plan had been agreed upon.

"In the first stage around 30 percent (will be waived) immediately; in the second stage around 30 percent, tied to an International Monetary Fund programme, and in the third stage 20 percent, dependent on the success of this programme," he told reporters.

When working with the allies means they cave in.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:20 PM


THE URBAN ARCHIPELAGO (The Editors of The Stranger, 11/11/2004)

It's time for the Democrats to face reality: They are the party of urban America. If the cities elected our president, if urban voters determined the outcome, John F. Kerry would have won by a landslide. Urban voters are the Democratic base.

It's time to state something that we've felt for a long time but have been too polite to say out loud: Liberals, progressives, and Democrats do not live in a country that stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Canada to Mexico. We live on a chain of islands. We are citizens of the Urban Archipelago, the United Cities of America. We live on islands of sanity, liberalism, and compassion--New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle, St. Louis, Minneapolis, San Francisco, and on and on. And we live on islands in red states too--a fact obscured by that state-by-state map. Denver and Boulder are our islands in Colorado; Austin is our island in Texas; Las Vegas is our island in Nevada; Miami and Fort Lauderdale are our islands in Florida. Citizens of the Urban Archipelago reject heartland "values" like xenophobia, sexism, racism, and homophobia, as well as the more intolerant strains of Christianity that have taken root in this country. And we are the real Americans. They--rural, red-state voters, the denizens of the exurbs--are not real Americans. They are rubes, fools, and hate-mongers. Red Virginia prohibits any contract between same-sex couples. Compassionate? Texas allows the death penalty to be applied to teenaged criminals and has historically executed the mentally retarded. (When the Supreme Court ruled executions of the mentally retarded unconstitutional in 2002, Texas officials, including Governor Rick Perry, responded by claiming that the state had no mentally retarded inmates on death row--a claim the state was able to make because it does not test inmates for mental retardation.) Dumb? The Sierra Club has reported that Arkansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Alabama, and Tennessee squander over half of their federal transportation money on building new roads rather than public transit.

If Democrats and urban residents want to combat the rising tide of red that threatens to swamp and ruin this country, we need a new identity politics, an urban identity politics, one that argues for the cities, uses a rhetoric of urban values, and creates a tribal identity for liberals that's as powerful and attractive as the tribal identity Republicans have created for their constituents. John Kerry won among the highly educated, Jews, young people, gays and lesbians, and non-whites. What do all these groups have in common? They choose to live in cities. An overwhelming majority of the American popuation chooses to live in cities. And John Kerry won every city with a population above 500,000. He took half the cities with populations between 50,000 and 500,000. The future success of liberalism is tied to winning the cities. An urbanist agenda may not be a recipe for winning the next presidential election--but it may win the Democrats the presidential election in 2012 and create a new Democratic majority.

For Democrats, it's the cities, stupid--not the rural areas, not the prickly, hateful "heartland," but the sane, sensible cities--including the cities trapped in the heartland. Pandering to rural voters is a waste of time. Again, look at the second map. Look at the urban blue spots in red states like Iowa, Colorado, and New Mexico--there's almost as much blue in those states as there is in Washington, Oregon, and California. And the challenge for the Democrats is not just to organize in the blue areas but to grow them. And to do that, Democrats need to pursue policies that encourage urban growth (mass transit, affordable housing, city services), and Democrats need to openly and aggressively champion urban values. By focusing on the cities the Dems can create a tribal identity to combat the white, Christian, rural, and suburban identity that the Republicans have cornered. And it's sitting right there, on every electoral map, staring them in the face: The cities.

Such is the battle cry of folks who don't understand demographic shifts.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:14 PM


The New Age Presidency (Tony Snow, 11/19/04, Jewish World Review)

Look carefully: In virtually every case, the president has replaced a political veteran with an equally seasoned, but younger, political warrior. The first Bush administration — call it Bush I — featured men and women who had made their fortunes and didn't need to seek approval from Official Washington. This was a good thing, and enabled the president to surround himself with people who would give wise and fair counsel.

He can expect the same thing from Bush II, but the new crew offers something more essential in a second administration — pure, ebullient ambition; not the ambition of the preening or backbiting striver, but of men and women attracted to big challenges and higher purposes. In fact, this profile describes the president himself. George W. Bush isn't the kind of guy to linger in front of a mirror admiring his stately visage. He wants to get things done.

That kind of presidential goal-setting also distinguishes this from other recent second-term presidencies. Returning presidents have a tendency to coast on first-term glory and to treat their last four years in office as a time in which to reflect upon and consolidate past achievements. There's almost a sense of nostalgia about the final years of a presidency.

Ronald Reagan followed this pattern; so did Bill Clinton. Both not coincidentally found themselves in political trouble halfway through their second terms — in part because of misbehavior in high places, but also because they had frittered away their political capital. They could not redirect public attention to larger goals; they could not pound Congress with demands to get moving on compelling action items.

This president has learned from those mistakes.

The Power of One (DAVID GERGEN, 11/19/04, NY Times)
Give the man his due: George W. Bush is emerging as one of the boldest, most audacious presidents in modern history.

Whether he is also wise is a question that will preoccupy us for another four years, but the reshuffling of his team in recent days makes clear that he intends to stretch the powers of his office to their limits. Woodrow Wilson once wrote that "the president is at liberty, both in law and conscience, to be as big a man as he can.'' President Bush comes Texas-sized.

By sending members of his White House staff to run three of the most important departments in the government - with perhaps more such appointments in the offing - Mr. Bush is centralizing power in the White House in ways not seen since Richard Nixon. Nixon had his troika of Bob Haldeman, John Ehrlichman and Henry Kissinger to run the government. Mr. Bush seems destined to run the government with his own troika: Dick Cheney, Karl Rove and Condoleezza Rice.

Moreover, he believes he has a mandate for a revolutionary agenda. Conservative presidents, as Arthur Schlesinger Jr. has argued, tend to be consolidators - men like Dwight Eisenhower, Nixon and even Ronald Reagan, who largely accepted the expansions in government made by their liberal predecessors. Mr. Bush is the first conservative whose policies would gradually unwind major commitments like Social Security and progressive taxes. It is increasingly clear that Mr. Bush embraces the view of Winston Churchill: that great leaders should set great goals. The president apparently intends no less than to overhaul government, achieve long-term Republican hegemony over American politics and ensure long-term American hegemony over the world.

Governor George Bush's Acceptance Speech (Republican National Convention, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Thursday, August 3, 2000)
If you give me your trust, I will honor it ... Grant me a mandate, and I will use it... Give me the opportunity to lead this nation, and I will lead ...

And we need a leader to seize the opportunities of this new century -- the new cures of medicine, the amazing technologies that will drive our economy and keep the peace.

But our new economy must never forget the old, unfinished struggle for human dignity.

And here we face a challenge to the very heart and founding premise of our nation.

A couple of years ago, I visited a juvenile jail in Marlin, Texas, and talked with a group of young inmates. They were angry, wary kids. All had committed grownup crimes.

Yet when I looked in their eyes, I realized some of them were still little boys.

Toward the end of conversation, one young man, about 15, raised his hand and asked a haunting question... "What do you think of me?"

He seemed to be asking, like many Americans who struggle ... "Is there hope for me? Do I have a chance?" And, frankly ... "Do you, a white man in a suit, really care what happens to me?"

A small voice, but it speaks for so many. Single moms struggling to feed the kids and pay the rent. Immigrants starting a hard life in a new world. Children without fathers in neighborhoods where gangs seem like friendship, where drugs promise peace, and where sex, sadly, seems like the closest thing to belonging. We are their country, too.

And each of us must share in its promise, or that promise is diminished for all.

If that boy in Marlin believes he is trapped and worthless and hopeless -- if he believes his life has no value, then other lives have no value to him -- and we are ALL diminished.

When these problems aren't confronted, it builds a wall within our nation. On one side are wealth and technology, education and ambition.

On the other side of the wall are poverty and prison, addiction and despair.

And, my fellow Americans, we must tear down that wall.

Big government is not the answer. But the alternative to bureaucracy is not indifference.

It is to put conservative values and conservative ideas into the thick of the fight for justice and opportunity.

This is what I mean by compassionate conservatism. And on this ground we will govern our nation.

We will give low-income Americans tax credits to buy the private health insurance they need and deserve.

We will transform today's housing rental program to help hundreds of thousands of low-income families find stability and dignity in a home of their own.

And, in the next bold step of welfare reform, we will support the heroic work of homeless shelters and hospices, food pantries and crisis pregnancy centers -- people reclaiming their communities block-by-block and heart-by-heart.

I think of Mary Jo Copeland, whose ministry called "Sharing and Caring Hands" serves 1,000 meals a week in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Each day, Mary Jo washes the feet of the homeless, then sends them off with new socks and shoes.

"Look after your feet," she tells them ...... "They must carry you a long way in this world, and then all the way to God."

Government cannot do this work. It can feed the body, but it cannot reach the soul. Yet government can take the side of these groups, helping the helper, encouraging the inspired.

My administration will give taxpayers new incentives to donate to charity, encourage after-school programs that build character, and support mentoring groups that shape and save young lives.

We must give our children a spirit of moral courage, because their character is our destiny.

We must tell them, with clarity and confidence, that drugs and alcohol can destroy you, and bigotry disfigures the heart.

Our schools must support the ideals of parents, elevating character and abstinence from afterthoughts to urgent goals.

We must help protect our children, in our schools and streets, by finally and strictly enforcing our nation's gun laws.

Most of all, we must teach our children the values that defeat violence. I will lead our nation toward a culture that values life -- the life of the elderly and the sick, the life of the young, and the life of the unborn. I know good people disagree on this issue, but surely we can agree on ways to value life by promoting adoption and parental notification, and when Congress sends me a bill against partial-birth abortion, I will sign it into law.

Behind every goal I have talked about tonight is a great hope for our country.

A hundred years from now, this must not be remembered as an age rich in possessions and poor in ideals.

Instead, we must usher in an era of responsibility.

My generation tested limits -- and our country, in some ways, is better for it.

Women are now treated more equally. Racial progress has been steady, if still too slow. We are learning to protect the natural world around us. We will continue this progress, and we will not turn back.

At times, we lost our way. But we are coming home.

So many of us held our first child, and saw a better self reflected in her eyes.

And in that family love, many have found the sign and symbol of an even greater love, and have been touched by faith.

We have discovered that who we are is more important than what we have. And we know we must renew our values to restore our country.

This is the vision of America's founders.

They never saw our nation's greatness in rising wealth or advancing armies, but in small, unnumbered acts of caring and courage and self-denial.

Their highest hope, as Robert Frost described it, was "to occupy the land with character."

And that, 13 generations later, is still our goal ... to occupy the land with character.

In a responsibility era, each of us has important tasks -- work that only we can do.

Each of us is responsible ... to love and guide our children, and help a neighbor in need.

Synagogues, churches and mosques are responsible ... not only to worship but to serve.

Corporations are responsible ... to treat their workers fairly, and leave the air and waters clean.

Our nation's leaders are responsible ... to confront problems, not pass them on to others.

And to lead this nation to a responsibility era, a president himself must be responsible.

And so, when I put my hand on the Bible, I will swear to not only uphold the laws of our land, I will swear to uphold the honor and dignity of the office to which I have been elected, so help me God.

I believe the presidency -- the final point of decision in the American government -- was made for great purposes.

It is the office of Lincoln's conscience and Teddy Roosevelt's energy and Harry Truman's integrity and Ronald Reagan's optimism.

For me, gaining this office is not the ambition of a lifetime, but it IS the opportunity of a lifetime.

And I will make the most of it. I believe great decisions are made with care, made with conviction, not made with polls.

I do not need to take your pulse before I know my own mind. I do not reinvent myself at every turn. I am not running in borrowed clothes. When I act, you will know my reasons ...When I speak, you will know my heart.

I believe in tolerance, not in spite of my faith, but because of it.

I believe in a God who calls us, not to judge our neighbors, but to love them.

I believe in grace, because I have seen it ... In peace, because I have felt it ... In forgiveness, because I have needed it.

I believe true leadership is a process of addition, not an act of division. I will not attack a part of this country, because I want to lead the whole of it.

And I believe this will be a tough race, down to the wire.

Their war room is up and running ... but we are ready. Their attacks will be relentless ... but they will be answered. We are facing something familiar, but they are facing something new.

We are now the party of ideas and innovation ... The party of idealism and inclusion.

The party of a simple and powerful hope ...

My fellow citizens, we can begin again. After all of the shouting, and all of the scandal. After all of the bitterness and broken faith. We can begin again.

The wait has been long, but it won't be long now.

A prosperous nation is ready to renew its purpose and unite behind great goals ... and it won't be long now.

Our nation must renew the hopes of that boy I talked with in jail, and so many like him... and it won't be long now.

Our country is ready for high standards and new leaders ... and it won't be long now.

An era of tarnished ideals is giving way to a responsibility era ... and it won't be long now.

I know how serious the task is before me.

I know the presidency is an office that turns pride into prayer.

But I am eager to start on the work ahead.

And I believe America is ready for a new beginning.

My friend, the artist Tom Lea of El Paso, captured the way I feel about our great land.

He and his wife, he said, "live on the east side of the mountain ...

It is the sunrise side, not the sunset side.

It is the side to see the day that is coming ... not the side to see the day that is gone."

Americans live on the sunrise side of mountain.

The night is passing.

And we are ready for the day to come.

Thank you. And God bless you.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:11 PM


Fried Rice: The Bushie who could spoil Condi's dream job. (Fred Kaplan, Nov. 19, 2004, , Slate)

Condoleezza Rice will soon face a crucial test. The outcome will signal whether she might serve her term as secretary of state with at least a modicum of independence and dignity—or whether she'll suffer the frustrations of endless subservience.

The test: Who gets to be her deputy? Colin Powell brought along his own No. 2, Richard Armitage. They'd known each other for years, shared a similar background, thought along the same lines. Anything Armitage did or said, everyone knew it might as well have come from Powell.

The man who wants to be deputy secretary of state in President Bush's second term is John Bolton. His neocon friends are lobbying fiercely on his behalf. During George W. Bush's first term, Bolton was—and still is—the undersecretary of state for arms control. More to the point, he was Vice President Dick Cheney's agent at Foggy Bottom. His function was to monitor, oppose, and, if possible, thwart the moderating tendencies of Powell and Armitage. [...]

Rice may agree with this agenda. She certainly has supported and defended the policy. She came into the White House with leanings more toward Realpolitik picked up from her graduate studies and from her work as assistant to Brent Scowcroft, the Kissinger-influenced national security adviser during Bush 41's presidency. But Rice has said that, over the past four years, she's come to adopt Bush 43's—and thus the neocons'—emphasis on "spreading global freedom."

In short, she may have fewer problems than Powell did with Bolton's views. But no self-respecting secretary of state could abide a deputy with Bolton's methods—especially his flagrant disregard for the chain of command. The problem is that, at least when Powell was in office, this disregard was mandated from on high. Bolton's whole purpose at State was to serve higher authorities—and old associates—in the White House and the Pentagon.

If Rice is to be an active top diplomat, as opposed to an errand girl, she will want her own deputy, someone she knows and trusts, someone who's clearly working for her. With Bolton, she'd have to assume he was always talking, operating, maybe even sniping behind her back.

Mr. Kaplan's test would be brilliantly devious were it not so painfully obvious--Mr. Bolton was the White House's man at State, now that the White House, in the person of Dr. Rice, is taking over State directly the crucial test is whether she keeps Mr. Bolton in a top role or not? Why would she need to fire her own flunkie to show she's her own woman?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:04 PM


Televangelical tentacles: TV evangelist Pat Robertson is threatening to mobilise millions of his Christian viewers and "de-liberalise" the US judiciary (Philip James, November 19, 2004, The Guardian)

There is a defining moment in the life of every news organisation that marks a coming of age. In the case of CNN it was the opening bombardment of the first Gulf war. The upstart cable channel went live to Peter Arnett in Baghdad, while the traditional broadcast networks could only watch from their New York studios in shock and awe.

In the case of the Manchester Guardian, it was the day in 1959 when the paper reached beyond its Mancunian roots to become a national newspaper. And in the case of The 700 Club, Pat Robertson's daily evangelical news broadcast, it was November 3 2004. The day it became clear that George Bush had won a second term.

This day formally marked the transformation of The 700 Club. No longer could it be viewed as an outlet of relevance only to the loony Christian right. Not only did it join the ranks of the mainstream media. In many ways it supplanted them. Suddenly, if you seriously wanted to take the pulse of America, you had to tune your TV to the news division of televangelism.

The 700 Club has been operating under the radar of traditional journalistic scrutiny for over two decades. Anchored by Pat Robertson, he initially created it as a vehicle to promote his personal political ambitions. After his failed presidential bid in 1988, Robertson founded the Christian Coalition and embarked on an ambitious plan to influence the mainstream political agenda from the inside out.

He used The 700 Club as the marketing and political advocacy tool of this plan. The broadcast's focus is instructing viewers on how they could best lobby elected officials to enact the Christian right's agenda.

Robertson's show regularly has more viewers than CNN.

CBN's nightly newscast is better than CNN's or any of the networks.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:48 PM


Europe: the Wrong Nation? (Joshua Livestro, 11/15/04, Tech Central Station)

All this ridiculous postulating about the supposed stupidity of the American voter is basically an attempt by Europe's progressivist elite to convince itself that "it could never happen over here." Oddly enough, that also seems to be the conclusion of the much more rigorous analysis of last week's results by the Economist journalists Adrian Wooldridge and John Micklethwait. In an echo of the arguments put forward in their book The Right Nation, they present Bush's victory as a logical consequence of the long conservative march through the institutions. Voters prefer Republican candidates over Democrats because they are convinced Republicans now best embody the typically American values of self-reliance, love of God, family and country, and liberty under the law.

Unlike most of their European colleagues, Wooldridge and Micklethwait are quite willing to accept a vote for Bush as a rational choice. But - and unfortunately there is a but - it seems they only regard this choice as rational in an American context. Hence the subtitle of their book: "Why America is different." In other words: they too accept the European mantra that "it could never happen over here."

This emphasis on American exceptionalism could be interpreted in two different ways. It could, of course, be that the authors are simply restating the old European position in a more sophisticated way. There is certainly evidence in the book of a misguided sense of European moral superiority, at least towards some Americans. For example, the authors make little effort to disguise their contempt for America's Christian communities, whom they routinely refer to as "absolutists" (read: fundamentalists). This contempt for the Christian right seems to have inspired one of the few truly bizarre passages in the book. In it, they accuse Evangelicals of trying to push American foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction on the basis of an "Evangelical belief that the Second Coming will take place in Israel - and that it will be preceded by the conversion of the Jews to Christianity." This sort of conspiracy theory is worthy of Karel de Gucht, not of serious journalists writing for one of the world's most respected news outlets.

The second interpretation argues the exact opposite of the first one. In this version, the fact that "it could never happen over here" is actually really a bad thing. After all, if America is the "Right Nation," where does that leave Europe? The Wrong Nation, with the wrong ideas and the wrong policies, doomed for ever to wander the road to serfdom? It is the flip-side of the moral superiority argument. European intellectuals like to wallow in a sense of tragic destiny. They think of themselves as the Greeks to the new Romans in America: a powerless wise counselor to the all-powerful but ignorant new emperor. Unable to believe in anything else, they have embraced imperfection and relativism as their new Godheads. A complicated solution that offers a half-answer is much preferred by them to a simple answer that actually solves the problem. Their dislike of Christianity is, at its core, a rejection of the Christian message of hope. They are Schopenhauer's spiritual grandchildren, convinced that there is no hope, not for themselves, nor for their fellow men, nor even for their countries. The best we can do is muddle through.

There is no reason for right-thinking Europeans to embrace this nihilistic view of life. Europeans aren't Aristotle's natural slaves. Just like their American cousins, they are capable of dreaming great dreams, fuelled by a passion for liberty. They have always been full of entrepreneurial zest and a spirit of adventure. There is no reason to assume that, once unleashed, their energy and creativity couldn't help to fuel another European economic and cultural Renaissance.

The main difference between Europe and America is that Europeans are still forced to put up with a political class that refuses to face the political and social facts. Europe isn't the wrong nation; it just doesn't have the right kind of politicians - yet.

Even if the remoralization of Europe is a lost cause, it's the only cause there worth fighting for. Here's a guy who knew you could yoke the political power of the masses to conservative aspirations, The life and legacy of Benjamin Disraeli, statesman, novelist and man-about-town, on the bicentenary of his birth. (T.A. Jenkins, December 2004, History Today)
The 1867 session of Parliament became celebrated for Disraeli’s brilliant display of tactical skill, in steering the Reform Bill through the Commons, despite the fact that the government was in a minority. It was essential to prevent the Liberals from uniting behind Gladstone’s leadership, and Disraeli was therefore prepared to make concessions on various points, stripping away many of the restrictions in the original bill, in order to secure support from the Radical section of the opposition. This also gave him the personal satisfaction of leaving Gladstone in a beleaguered position. Consequently, the Reform Bill in its final version almost doubled the electorate of England and Wales, to nearly two million, and gave voting rights to many working men.

Although the main reason for carrying the Bill was to give the Conservatives some much-needed credibility, as a constructive party of government, Disraeli used a public speech at Edinburgh, in October 1867, to claim that it had actually been a preconceived plan and was in keeping with the party’s eighteenth-century Tory traditions. It proved that the Conservatives were really ‘the national party of England’, who trusted in the loyalty and political responsibility of the working classes.

Disraeli succeeded the ailing Derby as prime minister in February 1868, but the Conservatives received little reward from the new electorate and suffered a heavy defeat at the general election later that year. The Liberals, now united under Gladstone, returned to power, and his government embarked on a series of ambitious reforms affecting elementary education, the army, public house licensing, the Irish church and Irish land tenure.

For some time Disraeli was obliged to lie low, but by 1872 there were unmistakable signs that the pressures of relentless reforming activity were opening-up fissures within the Liberal ranks. Whereas some feared that Gladstone was going too far too fast, others were disappointed with the legislation on offer. Among the most extreme elements, there were voices criticising the monarchy and the House of Lords, advocating the disestablishment of the Church of England, and demanding that public houses be shut down to promote temperance.

In two notable public speeches, at Manchester in April and the Crystal Palace in June 1872, Disraeli completed the task of re-working his earlier ideas to fit into a changing political context. He condemned what he called the ‘cosmopolitan’, un-English doctrines of the Liberals, and remarked that Gladstone’s was the first government to have been ‘avowedly formed on a principle of violence’ towards national institutions. There was a remarkable similarity, here, between Disraeli’s strictures against the destructive tendencies of Gladstonian Liberalism and his comments about the Whigs in the 1830s. He also accused Gladstone of weakness in the conduct of foreign policy, by failing to uphold the national interest in disputes with Russia and the USA, and alleged that there was a sinister Liberal plan to bring about the disintegration of the Empire.

Disraeli repeated the assertion he had made in 1867, that there was a natural affinity between the Conservatives and the people because they shared the same ‘national principles’. The ‘working classes’, in particular, were ‘English to the core’ and proud of their country, and they knew that ‘the greatness and the Empire of England are to be attributed to the ancient institutions of the land’. In contrast to the Liberals’ obsession with attacking these institutions, the Conservatives, according to Disraeli, were interested in carrying social reforms to promote the welfare of the people. He did not specify a programme of measures, but hinted at action in such areas as factory hours and public health. The vision of Young England, it seemed, had not entirely dimmed. Indeed, generations of Conservatives to come would believe that Disraeli had established an enduring platform for his party, based on policies of imperialism and social reform.

At the general election of 1874 the Conservatives finally broke the Liberals’ virtual monopoly of government, by recording their first overall majority since Peel’s victory in 1841. The party had significantly expanded its support beyond the traditional county strongholds, to include many seats in urban areas, particularly in London and Lancashire. Contemporary observers were agreed that there had been a marked drift of business and suburban middle-class opinion away from the Liberals, as a result of the unease about Gladstone’s style of government, which Disraeli had so astutely exploited. Nevertheless, Conservative gains in the boroughs would have been impossible without an appreciable degree of working-class support as well.

Disraeli’s social prejudices were apparent in the composition of his government, which was recruited overwhelmingly from members of the ‘natural’ ruling class. Of the twelve original Cabinet ministers, half were peers, one was the son of a Duke, four others (including Disraeli) were landowners and only one, the Home Secretary R.A. Cross, came from a ‘middle class’, banking background. Disraeli himself took a peerage in 1876, becoming the Earl of Beaconsfield, as his fragile health was no longer equal to the demands of leading the House of Commons.

The government had no blueprint for social reform and Disraeli, who never cared for the dry detail of administration, left the initiative to other ministers such as Cross. Several useful, and relatively uncontroversial measures were carried, including the Factory Act (1874), which set a maximum fifty-six hour working week for women and children, and the Artisans Dwellings Act (1875), which gave local authorities powers to carry out slum clearance projects. Disraeli attached special importance to the trade union legislation of 1875, which removed the threat of criminal prosecution of strikers and allowed peaceful picketing.

Foreign and imperial affairs were always of greater interest to Disraeli, and it was in this sphere that he made his personal mark, seeking, sometimes through symbolic gestures, to maintain national power and prestige. In 1875, for example, he received plaudits for his secret negotiation to purchase a 44 per cent stake in the Suez Canal Company, thereby registering the country’s interest in this strategically and economically important waterway. The following year, at Queen Victoria’s request, the Imperial Titles Act elevated her status to that of Empress of India, a move that Disraeli hoped would inspire the imagination and loyalty of the Indians as well as of the electorate at home. He remained convinced of the political value of the monarchy’s emotional appeal to the people, and was eager to appropriate it for the Conservative Party.

Disraeli’s handling of the ‘Eastern Question’ (the position of the Turkish Empire in Eastern Europe), in 1876-78, provoked strong passions on both sides of the political debate. Determined to prevent any extension of Russian influence towards the eastern Mediterranean, which he feared might eventually threaten the trade route to India, Disraeli refused to co-operate with international efforts to coerce the Turks, who had brutally suppressed an uprising by Bulgarian Christians. Furthermore, when Russia declared war on the Turks, Disraeli took preparatory steps to threaten the Russians with the possibility of military intervention. Public opinion was sharply divided, with some joining Gladstone in condemning the government’s ‘immoral’, warmongering behaviour, while others expressed violently anti-Russian sentiments, giving rise to the term ‘jingoism’. Disraeli’s bluff appeared to pay off when he attended a Congress of the European Powers at Berlin, which settled the Eastern crisis and enabled him to return claiming ‘peace with honour’.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:22 PM


Africa's Record on Democracy Mixed, say Analysts (Cindy Shiner, 16 November 2004, VOA News)

The New York-based policy institute Freedom House, which charts democratic reform around the world, says about 18 African countries can be considered genuine electoral democracies. A dozen African countries have undergone peaceful transfers of power from one political party to another since 1990.

But the National Democratic Institute's Mr. Fomunyoh says that, while progress has been made, more needs to be done.

"In a number of countries, whether it's Zimbabwe or Gabon or Cameroon or Togo or Guinea-Conakry, you have leaders who have been in power for well over 20 years who outlived their usefulness, but continue to cling to power and have become part of the problem rather than the solution to democratic governance. And so when you look at the African continent it's a mixed bag," he said. [...]

Analysts say successful African democracies follow no set pattern. They can be poor, such as Cape Verde and Niger, or wealthier, such as Botswana and South Africa. They can be largely Muslim, Mali is an example, or mainly Christian, like Ghana.

But Mr. Fomunyoh says successful democracies in Africa do appear to have one common factor:

"I do think the countries that have been successful in their transitions have relied very strongly on leadership that had a vision for the country and that was itself committed to democratic governance," he said. "I think that is what makes the difference say between a country such as Benin and its neighbor such as Togo. That's what makes a difference between a country such as Botswana and a country such as Zimbabwe."

The sad reality of post-colonial Africa is that a mixed bag is remarkable progress.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:13 AM


Kinsey as He Really Was--What You Won't See in the Movie (Albert Mohler, November 15, 2004, Crosswalk)

In a groundbreaking biography published in 1997, James H. Jones blew the cover on the Kinsey myth. According to this popular and pervasive mythology, Alfred Kinsey was a scientist who brought his rigorous scientific skills and objective scientific interests to the study of human sexuality. The real Alfred Kinsey was a man whose own sexual practices cannot be safely described to the general public and whose interest in sex was anything but objective or scientific.

From the onset, Jones recognized Kinsey's central role in the sexual revolution. "More than any other American of the twentieth century," Jones acknowledges, "he was the architect of a new sensibility about a part of life that everyone experiences and no one escapes."

Nevertheless, the real Kinsey was hidden from the public. Jones describes his project in these words: "As I burrowed into more than a dozen archives, read tens of thousands of letters, and interviewed scores of people who knew Kinsey in various capacities, I discovered that his public image distorted more than it revealed."

As Jones reports, "The man I came to know bore no resemblance to the canonical Kinsey. Anything but disinterested, he approached his work with missionary fervor. Kinsey loathed Victorian morality as only a person who had been badly injured by sexual repression could despise it. He was determined to use science to strip human sexuality of its guilt and repression. He wanted to undermine traditional morality, to soften the rules of restraint, and to help people develop positive attitudes toward their sexual needs and desires. Kinsey was a crypto-reformer who spent his every waking hour attempting to change the sexual mores and sex offender laws of the United States."

There was more to it than that, of course, and Jones marshals an incredible mountain of documentation to prove this point. In the first place, the adolescent Alfred Kinsey was deeply involved in masochistic self-abuse. In Jones' words, "Somewhere along the line, he veered off the path of normal development and was pulled down a trail that led to tremendous emotional conflict and self-negating physical abuse."

Driven by wild sexual fantasies and determined to overthrow what he saw as a repressive sexual morality, Kinsey eventually dropped his study of insects and turned his study to human sexuality. Tragically, Jones must acknowledge that the world of science "would have been better served had Kinsey not allowed his lust for data to obscure his judgment."

What exactly was Kinsey up to? He and his close band of young male associates went about collecting an enormous body of data on human sexuality, first looking at male and later at female populations. In his research on the sexual behavior of males, Kinsey brought his ideological and personal passions to the forefront of his supposedly scientific work. He arbitrarily decided that human beings are to be located in a continuum of development between heterosexual and homosexual poles. He developed a six-step chart and argued that men and boys are arrayed all along this line between absolute heterosexuality and absolute homosexuality. He would later argue that almost forty percent of all males would have some homosexual experience. Of course, hidden from public view was the fact that Kinsey was doing his very best to rationalize his own homosexuality--or bisexuality as later commentators would explain--and was not at all the objective scientist collecting neutral data from a responsible population base.

Among the many problems inherent in Kinsey's research is the fact that he relied upon reports and sexual studies taken from prison populations, including sex criminals. Therefore, Kinsey's notion of "normal" was drawn from a decidedly abnormal population sample.

The most troubling aspect of Kinsey's research is the data he collected on the sexual response of children--especially young boys. Chapter Five of Sexual Behavior in the Human Male considered the sexual experience of boys, including infants. Kinsey wanted to prove that children are sexual beings who should be understood to have and to deserve sexual experiences. In this chapter, Kinsey is largely dependent upon the data contributed by "Mr. X," a man who had molested hundreds of boys ranging from infants to adolescents. As Jones explains: "Viewed from any angle, his relationship with Mr. X was a cautionary tale. Whatever the putative valued as science of Mr. X's experience, the fact remains that he was a predator pedophile." Over decades, this man abused hundreds of young boys, tortured infants, and, as Jones explains, "performed a variety of other sexual acts on preadolescent boys and girls alike."

Kinsey did not condemn this man, but instead eagerly solicited his "data." As a matter of fact, Kinsey went so far as to attempt to pay Mr. X for further research and once wrote to him, "I wish I knew how to give credit to you in the forthcoming volume for your material. It seems a shame not even to name you."

Those words betray a moral monster of the most horrible depravity and assured criminality. Alfred Kinsey celebrated the fact that this man had sexually tortured children and, as Kinsey's own published work documents, had sexually abused two-month-old infants.

All this was explicit in the data published in Kinsey's 1948 volume, but he was nonetheless celebrated as a sexual pioneer and as a profit of sexual enlightenment.

Sadly, that moral monstrousness is exactly what makes a prophet of Enlightenment.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:03 AM


Members hot, cold on Dean (Hans Nichols, 11/18/04, The Hill)

Howard Dean is canvassing opinion among House members who supported his presidential ambitions — and key congressional leaders who did not — in a bid to take over as Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman.

While some of Dean’s House champions said the former Vermont governor’s energy and success at grassroots politics and fundraising is precisely what the party needs to recover from its election losses, others are cool to the idea of the firebrand’s becoming the party’s official spokesman.

Many House Democrats said they thought a Dean chairmanship would drive the party further from the mainstream of American politics. That view was also shared by Republican lawmakers and strategists, who welcomed the prospect of Dean heading the Democratic Party.

Chuck Shumer taking over the Senate Campaign post, Dick Durbin Minority Whip, Nancy Pelosi as Minority Leader in the House, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton the leaders for the '08 nomination--Howard Dean as the official Party spokesman makes perfect sense.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:39 AM


Iranians Rally at Capitol for Democracy: Rights Abuses Condemned; U.S. Is Urged to Drop Rebels From Terrorism List (Manny Fernandez, November 20, 2004, Washington Post)

The crowd around her chanted for democracy in Iran yesterday, and Zolal Habibi thought of her father. She said Mohammad Hossein Habibi, a writer and human rights activist, was killed in 1988 in Iran for speaking out against the Iranian government.

Habibi, 23, joined thousands of Iranian Americans yesterday at a rally outside the U.S. Capitol to denounce human rights abuses, political executions and nuclear ambitions of an Islamic republic that they called an oppressive regime. Habibi wiped tears from her eyes as a large television screen showed pictures of the victims of political and religious executions.

"I know that my dad would be proud of me today," she said.

Iranian American families came to Washington from across the country for the march down Pennsylvania Avenue NW and rally outside the Capitol.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:59 AM


Genesis Through the Back Door (LA Times, November 20, 2004)

[F]ighting creationism has evolved into a booming business for the American Civil Liberties Union. It is awaiting a ruling in Georgia in a suit it brought against the Cobb County school board. Seeking to mollify religious parents who take the creation story in Genesis literally and believe that their religion should intrude into their public schools, the board decided to paste a sticker inside the cover of high school biology textbooks, saying in part, "Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things." Caveat homo sapiens. What next? A back-cover sticker to American history texts wondering if ending slavery was really such a great idea?

The evolution-hedging wording ignores the overwhelming evidence supporting the widely accepted theory of evolution.

Nevermind that it is not widely accepted in America--indeed, is accepted by a mere 20% of the public--the real question is who made the LA Times editorial board refer to it as a "theory" and why a school board should not do the same.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:50 AM


Bush Plans Effort to Mend Key Alliances: He will begin renewing ties at the Asia-Pacific summit, spurred by the challenges of stabilizing the Mideast and curbing nuclear proliferation. (Tyler Marshall and Sonni Efron, November 20, 2004, LA Times)

As he puts his new foreign policy team in place, President Bush is preparing a diplomatic push to repair relations with key allies, said senior government officials, diplomats and congressional sources.

The effort stems from the administration's realization that progress on issues that include the Middle East peace process, stabilizing Iraq and preventing Iran and North Korea from developing nuclear weapons is far more likely with the cooperation of allies than if the U.S. worked alone, a White House official said.

"We've had our disagreements [with allies], and the president has said many times he'd like to move on, but the election offers the chance of a rebirth of these efforts," the official added.

Bush will personally head the effort to reengage with other countries when he meets today with key Pacific Basin leaders, including Presidents Hu Jintao of China and Roh Moo-hyun of South Korea and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Santiago, Chile. Bush will focus on North Korea in one-on-one discussions.

At least five other high-level meetings over the next several weeks are expected to bring top American and European officials together to address crucial issues. The sessions will also be a chance for the administration to display its new willingness to work together, though it is unknown whether the U.S. will offer anything for the allies' support.

"There's plenty of opportunity to send the message of multilateralism," concluded a senior administration official who declined to be named.

Mr. Bush offered his vision of multilateralism at his post-Election press conference:
In the election of 2004, large issues were set before our country. They were discussed every day on the campaign. With the campaign over, Americans are expecting a bipartisan effort and results. I'll reach out to everyone who shares our goals.

For instance, France vows to support Lebanon sovereignty (UPI, Nov 20, 2004)
French President Jacques Chirac Saturday pledged to support Lebanon's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.

The presidential palace said Chirac made his promise in a letter he sent to Lebanese President Emile Lahoud on the occasion of Lebanon's 61st anniversary of its independence from France.

The letter said France "will always stand by Lebanon and is committed to respecting Lebanon's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. This is something we confirmed in the U.N. Security Council."

He was referring to a September Security Council resolution sponsored by France and the United States that called for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon and the dismantling of the militias, in clear reference to Syrian forces and the Lebanese Hezbollah guerrilla group and Palestinian militias, in that order.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:44 AM


A Scandal Waiting to Happen: Tom DeLay's standing is eroding among Republicans, who see him, increasingly, as the G.O.P.'s Boss Tweed. (DAVID BROOKS, 11/20/04, NY Times)

Tom DeLay is bleeding and he doesn't even know it.

This week, House Republicans bent their accountability rules to protect their majority leader from what they feel is a partisan Texas prosecutor. But they hated the whole exercise. They sat in a conference room hour after hour wringing their hands. Only a few members were brave enough to stand up and say they shouldn't bend the rule. But afterward, many House Republicans came up to those members and said that secretly they agreed with them.

Somewhere in the psychology of the caucus something shifted. That ineffable thing called political capital began seeping away from DeLay. Someday people will look back and say this could be the moment when his power begins to ebb.

It's shifted because many House Republicans know that DeLay has been playing close to the ethical edge for years. They've noticed the number of scandals - the latest involving lobbying fees for some Indian casinos - that trace back to DeLay cronies. They still remember that delicious feeling of possibility when they arrived in Washington and vowed they would not turn into the corrupt old majority they had come to replace. They know Delay symbolizes their descent from that reformist ideal.

Though there's no question that Mr. DeLay administer power with the bark on, most of his "ethical" problems seem to trace to the partisan politics of Texas and his presiding over the crushing of the Democratic Party in the state, Foe of DeLay Rebuked by House Ethics Panel (CARL HULSE, 11/20/04, NY Times)
The House ethics committee has ruled that a Democratic lawmaker exaggerated in the accusations he brought in June against the majority leader, Representative Tom DeLay.

Mr. DeLay invoked the finding to claim vindication Friday despite having been admonished by the committee after its inquiry into the complaint.

In a letter issued Thursday night, the two leaders of the bipartisan ethics panel told the accuser, Representative Chris Bell, like Mr. DeLay a Texan, that his charges violated a committee rule that prohibits "innuendo, speculative assertions or conclusory statements'' in accusations against a colleague.

"This is a serious matter,'' the senior members told Mr. Bell, who lost his seat in a March primary as a result of a redistricting plan that Mr. DeLay helped devise.

Prosecutors Look Into Possible DeLay PAC Violations (Fox News, February 26, 2004)
A few years ago, Republican state Rep. Tom Craddick (search) set his sights on the Texas House speaker's job and quietly began lining up support from fellow lawmakers.

At the same time, Craddick began doling out $152,000 to state House candidates from a political action committee created by rising Republican congressman Tom DeLay of Texas, soon to become U.S. House majority leader.

In 2002, the GOP won a majority in the Texas Legislature, and Craddick got his prize: He was elected speaker.

Now, prosecutors want to know whether the $152,000 in payments amounted to influence-buying, and whether DeLay's PAC, Texans for a Republican Majority, was used to violate campaign finance law in other ways as well.

District Attorney Ronnie Earle, a Democrat, has been conducting a grand jury investigation and has issued dozens of subpoenas in recent months. [...]

Republicans claim Earle has long used his office for political gain.

Among the politicians he has tangled with is Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. Earle accused her of using her previous office as state treasurer for personal and political purposes. But he abruptly dropped his case in 1994 before it could go to trial.

"He did it to Kay Bailey Hutchison and lost that case," DeLay said Tuesday. "He's done it to other people so he can get press but doesn't even carry through and file charges. This is an attempt to criminalize politics and we have a runaway district attorney in Texas."

Losing at the polls, Texas Democrats seem to seek revenge via bogus legal actions.

Posted by Paul Jaminet at 9:42 AM


The only show in town: The left, as history knew it, is dead - and it will not be reborn (Martin Jacques, The Guardian, 11/20/2004)

The spectacle of a Labour prime minister becoming the water-carrier, mouthpiece, bed-fellow and intimate of the most rightwing president of the United States in the last half-century is hard to believe ...

[T]here is no serious, ideologically based opposition to Blair within the party. The left ... has disintegrated....

The reason for the collapse of the left could not be clearer - or more fundamental. Its parameters, its confidence, its mode of organisation, its narrative, its very being, depended on the existence of the labour movement. And it is the latter that has effectively disappeared.

This is a very insightful piece, but Mr. Jacques is a little too narrow in his explanation. We are evolving from a relatively combative world to a more cooperative one, as technologies like the Internet reduce the cost of cooperation.

The decline of the labor movement is just one example of that change. In a time when communication was difficult, workers relied on delegation of their authority to union leaders, creating a combative environment with only two sides. In modern times, it is possible to understand and address individual needs. Labor declined because it no longer makes economic sense for workers to delegate authority to unions.

The Left has always been the party of conflict. They are proud to be "fighters," and they are always fighting against someone. The left is declining everywhere because people don't want to fight their neighbors anymore. The calls for warfare against big corporations, against the wealthy, against "racists" from the other race, don't resonate like they used to. When your supposed enemies are cooperating with you, why fight?

This is also why moral values are significant in elections now. It is not about gay marriage. It is a general attitude of kindness, mercy, generosity, willingness to forgive, and eagerness to cooperate that are the moral values voters want to reward. And these qualities are found in greater abundance on the right than the left. Figures like Tony Blair who have them are winners for the left. Bill Clinton, though he had many flaws, yet was willing to cooperate with conservatives on many issues -- and he was rewarded for it by the voters.

Anti-Americanism is the strongest theme of the global left. America possesses the most cooperative society on earth and is the leading edge of the 21st century "new economy" or, to coin a more descriptive phrase, "cooperative economy"; and they hate us as everyone hates a messenger of doom. But these next few decades will be leftism's last gasp. Will they go out with a whimper or a bang?

UPDATE: Orrin also comments.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:19 AM


Do Ideas Matter in America? (Wilfred M. McClay, November 2004, Wilson Quarterly)

In his classic study, Childhood and Society (1950), the psychologist Erik Erikson observed that “whatever one may come to consider a truly American trait can be shown to have its equally characteristic opposite.” Though a similar ambivalence can be found in many national cultures, traceable to a variety of causes, Erikson insisted that the bipolarity was especially pronounced in the modern American instance. In none of the other great nations of the world, he contended, were the inhabitants subjected to more extreme contrasts than in the United States, where tensions between individualism and conformity, internationalism and isolationism, open-mindedness and closed-mindedness, cosmopolitanism and xenophobia were powerfully felt.

Sweeping generalizations of that sort about “national character,” American or otherwise, have come to be regarded as artifacts of the 1950s. They’ve been superseded by doctrines that emphasize pluralism and social heterogeneity and stress the “inventedness” of the modern nation-state. But there is plenty of evidence for the cogency of Erikson’s dictum, which is nowhere more vividly illustrated than in the paradoxical role of ideas in American culture. One can make an equally plausible case that ideas are both nowhere and everywhere in America, that they have played a uniquely insignificant role in shaping America or a uniquely commanding one.

So which of the two assertions is the more accurate? At first blush, one would have to acknowledge that there is a strong basis for the familiar view that Americans are a relentlessly action-oriented people, constituents of a thoroughgoing business civilization, a culture that respects knowledge only insofar as it can be shown to have immediate practical applications and commercial utility. Alexis de Tocqueville voiced the theme early in the 19th century: To the extent that Americans cultivated science, literature, and the arts, he remarked, they invariably did so in the spirit of usefulness, not out of any high regard for the dignity of thought itself. His observation presaged what would become a consistent complaint of intellectuals from Walt Whitman to Matthew Arnold to Sinclair Lewis to George Steiner today: America is a philistine society, interested only in the arts of self-aggrandizement and enhanced material well-being, reflexively anti-intellectual, utterly lacking in the resources needed to support the high and disinterested curiosity that is the stuff of genuine cultural achievement.

A variation on this theme, also sounded early on by Tocqueville, was that America embodied a fresh and distinctive theory of government, even though its citizenry couldn’t begin to articulate what that theory was. Tocqueville claimed that there was no country in the civilized world where less attention was paid to philosophy—and yet Americans seemed enthusiastically committed to a particular, and very modern, philosophical method. Their country, he quipped, was the place where “the precepts of Descartes are least studied and best applied,” since it was the place where everyone believed that one should “seek the reason of things for oneself, and in oneself alone.” Yet the range of ideological possibilities in America was narrow, with comparatively little space between the supposed opposites of “left” and “right” and relatively little deviation from fundamental liberal principles. The very notion of intellectual debate as a process of public wrangling about alternative ideas of the political and social order tended to be regarded as anathema, even dangerous.

In 1953, the historian Daniel Boorstin went so far as to argue that the absence of debate over American political theory was one of the nation’s chief virtues. The unpremeditated “givenness” of American political institutions constituted for him the genius of American politics and defined the difference between the placid stability of American politics and the ideology-ridden horrors that had so recently erupted in European politics. “Our national well-being,” said Boorstin, is “in inverse proportion to the sharpness and extent of [our] theoretical differences.” So breathtaking a statement formulates on a national scale the powerful, if largely informal, everyday American social taboo against discussing either religion or politics in public. The taboo makes for a considerable measure of social peace, but it would be hard to imagine a deeper devaluation of the role of ideas.

Small wonder that Boorstin became one of the principal exponents of the “consensus” view of American history that was prevalent at midcentury: A rough but stable ideological homogeneity, built upon the cultural and economic premises of liberal capitalism, encompassed nearly the entire American people. Contemporaries of Boorstin who were associated with this view, such as Richard Hofstadter and the political scientist Louis Hartz, had a less positive regard for the alleged homogeneity—yes, they sighed, Americans all think the same way, and more’s the pity—but they did not challenge its basic outline. Nor, for that matter, was there much fundamental disagreement to be found in the writings of the consensus theorists’ immediate predecessors, such as historians Vernon Louis Parrington, Charles Beard, and Frederick Jackson Turner. Although all of these scholars saw conflict rather than consensus as the most salient characteristic of American history, they conceived the conflict primarily as one between rival material interests, in which ideas and ideologies played, at best, a supporting or derivative role.

Thus, a well-established tradition, shared by intellectuals and non-intellectuals alike, holds that ideas have been largely irrelevant to the nation’s practical concerns, and therefore tangential to the real business of American life. [...]

In the face of all this evidence, can one seriously entertain the opposite side of the Eriksonian paradox—that ideas have played a commanding role in Amer­ican history? Indeed, one can, for the idea of America itself has remained powerful and alluring and multifaceted. If we do not readily perceive the pervasiveness of ideas in American history, it is for the same reason that deep-sea fish do not perceive the existence of water. Ideas provide the very medium within which Amer­ican life is conducted. From the start, the nation’s history has been weighted with a sense of great destiny and large meaning, of visions found not on the fringes of the story but at its very core, actively shaping the minds of those who make the history and those who write about it. One cannot tell the story without reference to the visions.

Talk about “the idea of America” is likely to be dismissed these days as a species of “American exceptionalism.” But invoking that familiar catchphrase simply fails to do justice to the matter. The concept of America has always carried large, exceptional meanings. It even had a place in the European imagination long before Columbus. From Homer and Hesiod, who located a blessed land beyond the setting sun, to Thomas More and his Utopia, to English Puritans seeking Zion, to Swedish prairie homesteaders and Scotch-Irish hardscrabble farmers and Polish and Italian peasants who made the transatlantic voyage west in search of freedom and material promise, to Asian and Latin American immigrants who have thronged to these shores and borders in recent decades—for all of these, the mythic sense of a land of renewal, regeneration, and fresh possibility has remained remarkably deep and persistent.

Though almost everyone is convinced that America means something, there are disagreements—sometimes quite basic—about what that something is. For example, is the United States to be understood as a nation built upon the extension of European—and especially British—laws, institutions, and religious beliefs? Or is it more properly understood as a modern, Enlight­enment-based, postethnic nation built on abstract principles such as universal individual rights rather than with bonds of shared tradition, race, history, conventions, and language? Or is it rather a transnational and multicultural “nation of nations,” in which diverse sub- or supranational sources of identity—race, class, gender, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual identity, and so forth—are what matter, and only a thin and minimal sense of national culture and obligation is required? Or is it something else again?

Each of those propositions suggests, in its own way, that American history has a distinctive meaning. Americans of years past actively sought a broad, expansive, mythic way to define what distinguished the nation. Consider this short list of appellations America has accumulated over the years: City upon a Hill, Empire of Reason, Novus Ordo Seclorum, New Eden, Nation Dedicated to a Proposition, Melting Pot, Land of Opportunity, Nation of Immigrants, Nation of Nations, First New Nation, Unfinished Nation, and, most recently, Indispensable Nation. Other nations sometimes earn names of this sort, but they are not so numerous, and they lack the universalistic implications that complicate the sense of American exceptionalism.

Nor should one neglect the religious dimension of Americans’ self-understanding, which continues to be powerfully present, even in the minds of the nonreligious. The notion that America is a nation chosen by God, a New Israel destined for a providential mission of world redemption, has been a near-constant element of the national experience. The Puritan settlers in Massachusetts Bay’s “city upon a hill” had a strong sense of historical accountability and saw themselves as the collective bearers of a world-historical destiny. That same persisting conviction can be found in the rhetoric of the American Revolution, in the vision of Manifest Destiny, in the crusading sentiments of Civil War intellectuals, in the benevolent imperialism of fin-de-siècle apostles of Christian civilization, and in the fervent speeches of President Woodrow Wilson during World War I.

Few presidents after Wilson cared to make a direct appeal to Americans’ sense of chosenness by God as a justification for foreign policy, and the disastrous intervention in Vietnam provided an especially severe chastening of such ambitions. But Wilson’s belief in America’s larger moral responsibility—particularly its open-ended obligation to uphold human rights, defend democracy, and impart American-style institutions, technologies, and values to the rest of the world—did not vanish with him. Indeed, by the time of the second American war against Iraq, that aspect of Wilson’s legacy had become the preferred position even of American conservatives, and in the oratory of George W. Bush, arguably the most evangelical president in modern American history, the legacy’s quasi-religious dimension seemed to have survived intact. “The advance of freedom is more than an interest we pursue,” the president declared last May. “It is a calling we follow. Our country was created in the name and cause of freedom. And if the self-evident truths of our founding are true for us, they are true for all.”

To be sure, other strains of American thought have operated, including a sober realist tradition grounded in John Quincy Adams’s famous assertion that the United States does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. There has been a reflexive, if shallow, reluctance in many quarters to “impose our values” on the rest of the world, although even in the protests of the critics it’s implicit that the temptation and the power to do so are somehow uniquely American. There’s a counterstrain, too, represented by the radical political views of the influential linguist Noam Chomsky, that envisions the United States as a uniquely pernicious force in human history, unexcelled in its guilt rather than its virtue. One could say that this is American exceptionalism with a vengeance—but exceptionalism nonetheless.

All of which goes to show how difficult it has been for Americans, and others, to think of the United States as “just another nation.” The idea of America, and of its national destiny, clings as tenaciously as ever to the nation’s self-consciousness, and if only by virtue of the influence of this one large idea, the second half of the Eriksonian paradox would seem to hold. That many Americans have believed steadily in their nation’s special mission is a fact of American history. In the 20th century it became a fact of world history, and by the early years of the 21st, it had almost come to seem a pattern for universal emulation.

So because America has had a broad and enduring consensus about the core ideas formally adopted at the Founding--ideas it has felt no compunction about imposing across the globe--and has had rather little interest in alternatives--except for the brief and disastroius flirtation with socialism during the New Deal/Great Society period--people say ideas don't matter to us? Isn't it simply a case where our old ideas have been sufficient to make us a great nation and our, therefore, being incurious about the fads that lesser nations try out because they're in decline, stagnant or have never risen?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:18 AM


Negotiators Add Abortion Clause to Spending Bill: House and Senate negotiators have tucked a potentially far-reaching anti-abortion provision into a $388 billion must-pass spending bill. (SHERYL GAY STOLBERG and CARL HULSE, 11/20/04, NY Times)

The abortion language would bar federal, state and local agencies from withholding taxpayer money from health care providers that refuse to provide or pay for abortions or refuse to offer abortion counseling or referrals. Current federal law, aimed at protecting Roman Catholic doctors, provides such "conscience protection'' to doctors who do not want to undergo abortion training. The new language would expand that protection to all health care providers, including hospitals, doctors, clinics and insurers.

"It's something we've had a longstanding interest in," said Douglas Johnson, a spokesman for the National Right to Life Committee. He added, "This is in response to an orchestrated campaign by pro-abortion groups across the country to use government agencies to coerce health care providers to participate in abortions."

The provision could affect millions of American women, according to Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, who warned Friday that she would use procedural tactics to slow Senate business to a crawl if the language was not altered.

"I am willing to stand on my feet and slow this thing down," Ms. Boxer said. "Everyone wants to go home, I know that, and I know I will not win a popularity contest in the Senate. But they should not be doing this. On a huge spending bill they're writing law, and they're taking away rights from women."

Ms. Boxer said that she complained to Senator Ted Stevens, the Alaska Republican who is the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, but that he told her that House Republican leaders insisted that the provision, which was approved by the House in July but never came to the Senate for a vote, be included in the measure.

"He said, 'Senator, they want it in, and it's going in,' " Ms. Boxer recalled.

Democrats can't win a fight that asks the public to side with the government in forcing people to participate in abortions.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:30 AM


Two Great Dissidents: Natan Sharansky’s vision, and President Bush’s. (Joel C. Rosenberg, 11/19/04, National Review)

When Natan Sharansky stepped into Condoleezza Rice's West Wing office at 11:15 last Thursday morning, he had no idea the national security advisor would soon be named the next secretary of state. He was just glad to see her holding a copy of his newly published book, The Case for Democracy.

"I'm already half-way through your book," Rice said. "Do you know why I'm reading it?"

Sharansky, a self-effacing man who spent nine years in KGB prisons (often in solitary confinement) before becoming the first political prisoner released by Mikhail Gorbachev, hoped it had to do with his brilliant analysis and polished prose.

Rice smiled. "I'm reading it because the president is reading it, and it's my job to know what the president is thinking." [...]

At precisely 2 P.M., Sharansky and Dermer were ushered into the Oval Office for a private meeting with the president. They were scheduled for 45 minutes. They stayed for more than an hour. What the president told Sharansky was off the record. What Sharansky told the president was not.

"I told the president, 'There is a great difference between politicians and dissidents. Politicians are focused on polls and the press. They are constantly making compromises. But dissidents focus on ideas. They have a message burning inside of them. They would stand up for their convictions no matter what the consequences.'

"I told the president, 'In spite of all the polls warning you that talking about spreading democracy in the Middle East might be a losing issue — despite all the critics and the resistance you faced — you kept talking about the importance of free societies and free elections. You kept explaining that democracy is for everybody. You kept saying that only democracy will truly pave the way to peace and security. You, Mr. President, are a dissident among the leaders of the free world.'"

From one of the most famous dissidents of era of the Evil Empire, such is not faint praise.

Mr. Sharansky is the most influential person few people even know of.

November 19, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:48 PM


The Man, In Full (Ed Driscoll, November 19, 2004)

Tom Wolfe spoke yesterday in San Francisco, at the Herbst Theatre, an early 1930s, 916-seat auditorium. He was introduced by Michael Lewis, who began by describing a visit to New York in 1989, shortly after Liar's Poker was released.

"Tom Wolfe really loves your book", his agent said.

"Oh suuuure, he does", Lewis replied to his agent, who said, "No really, he does. And he'd like to meet you for lunch".

"Well, I'm staying at the Algonquin. Tell him to give me a call", Lewis told him.

"The next day, the phone rang. And a voice said, "Hi, I'm Tom Wolfe. I really loved Liar's Poker. Where do you want to meet for lunch?"

"Well, where do you go if you want to make a splash in this town?", Lewis replied.

"The Pool Room of the Four Seasons", Wolfe replied.

Lewis told the audience that this room, so named because of the enormous marble fountain in the middle of it, was where so many of the movers and shakers of the 1980s met. And how he arrived there, was escorted by the maitre d' through "Picasso Alley" until he saw a man at the other end. Lewis described him looking like as a negative image version of the famous scene in Lawrence of Arabia where Peter O'Toole's Lawrence first meets Omar Sharif. Sharif began that scene as a small squiggly line in black, shimmering in the distance and getting larger and larger.

Wolfe, standing in the entranceway to the Pool Room, was a small squiggly line in white, getting larger and larger as Lewis approached. Meanwhile, everyone in the room was staring at the Man In White and wondering whom the young fellow Wolfe was meeting for lunch was.

After that knockout of an introduction, Lewis brought Wolfe onto the stage at the Herbst Theatre.

Hopefully C-SPAN was there.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:42 PM


In Iran, Students Urge Citizens Not to Vote (Robin Wright, November 19, 2004, Washington Post)

A new movement of passive resistance is quietly sweeping young people in Iran, a response both to the reform movement's failure to introduce political and economic change and conservatives' control over who can run for office, according to Iranian student leaders and political analysts.

Students have launched a campaign to convince people not to vote in presidential elections next May, so as to discredit the results -- and all parties. The movement, combined with significant apathy among older voters, represents one of the most significant challenges to the Islamic republic 25 years after a revolution toppled the monarchy, students and analysts here say.

"Our message is that by not giving our vote, the government won't have legitimacy," said Abdollah Momeni, a leader of the Office to Consolidate Unity who has been detained by authorities twice. "We want to show that it is an undemocratic government."

With some 70 percent of the population under age 25, Iran's youth is a pivotal voice in politics, especially since the voting age is 16. They were the most influential force in the 1997 upset victory of President Mohammed Khatami, a dark-horse reform candidate, largely through a word-of-mouth campaign, analysts here say.

They now plan to do it again.

You don't have to have much grasp of demographics to see the mullahs' problem here.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:21 PM


New GDP calculation likely to show shrinkage (Japan Times, 11/20/04)

The government is maintaining its bullish view on the economy even though the real gross domestic product is projected to have shrunk in the third quarter with the adoption of a new GDP data calculating method, the economic minister said Friday.

The Cabinet Office said Thursday it will adopt a new method beginning with revised data for the July-September quarter due out Dec. 8.

Using the new method, the preliminary real GDP growth in the quarter comes to an annualized 0.1 percent shrinkage -- the first economic contraction in six quarters -- against 0.3 percent growth as earlier reported.

While folks go whistling past the graveyard...

Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:31 PM


H-hour has arrived (Caroline Glick, Jerusalem Post, November 18th, 2004)

Iran's interest in making the deal (with Germany, France and Britain) is clear. The IAEA governing board is set to meet next week to discuss Iran's nuclear program. By agreeing to the deal with the Europeans, Iran has effectively foreclosed the option, favored by the US, of transferring Iran's nuclear program to the UN Security Council for discussions that could lead to sanctions on Iran.

Aside from that, all along, Iran has been gaming the system. It has pushed to the limits all feasible interpretation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, of which it is a signatory, to enable it to reach the cusp of nuclear weapons development without breaking its ties or diminishing its leverage over the Europeans as well as the Russians and Chinese. In so doing, it has isolated the US and Israel – which have both gone on record that Iran must not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons – from the rest of the international community, which is ready to enable Iran to achieve nuclear weapons capabilities.

In the meantime, as Iran has negotiated the deal with the Europeans, it has moved quickly to develop its nuclear weapons delivery systems. Its recent Shihab-3 ballistic missiles tests seem to have demonstrated that Iran can now launch missiles to as far away as Europe. In addition, last week's launching of an Iranian drone, as well as this week's Katyusha rocket attacks on northern Israel, have shown that Iran has developed a panoply of delivery options for using its nuclear (as well as chemical and biological) arsenals to physically destroy Israel.

For their part, the European powers must know that this deal is a lie. The ink had not dried on their signatures when Iran announced that it wasn't obligated by the agreement to end its uranium enrichment. As well, on Wednesday, just two days after the deal was announced formally, the Iranian opposition movement, the National Council of Resistance – the political front for the People's Mujahedeen (which the deal stipulates must be treated as a terrorist organization comparable to al-Qaida) – held press conferences in Paris and Vienna where its representatives stated that Iran is continuing to enrich uranium at a Defense Ministry facility in Teheran and that it bought blueprints for nuclear bombs three years ago from Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan's nuclear bomb store. The Council of Resistance is the same organization that blew the whistle on Iran's nuclear program in 2002, when it exposed satellite imagery of Iran's nuclear facility in Natanz.

Aside from this, European leaders themselves have said that in their view there is no military option for taking out Iran's nuclear facilities. In an interview with the BBC this week, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said, "I don't see any circumstances in which military action would be justified against Iran, full stop." Straw made this statement the same week that French President Jacques Chirac made an all-out diplomatic assault against British Prime Minister Tony Blair for his alliance with US President George W. Bush. Speaking to British reporters on Monday, Chirac said, "Britain gave its support [to the US in Iraq] but I did not see much in return. I am not sure that it is in the nature of our American friends at the moment to return favors." Chirac added that he had told Blair that his friendship with Bush could be of use if the US adopted the EU position on Israel and the Palestinians. Since Bush has refused to do so, Chirac argued, Bush has played Blair for a fool.

From these statements, two things about the European agenda become clear. First, by bringing Britain into the talks with Iran, the French have managed to ensure that the Americans, if they decide to do something about Iran's nuclear weapons programs, will be forced to act without British backing and at the expense of the British government, thus causing a serious fissure in the Anglo-American alliance. Straw's statement is breathtaking in that it shows that on the issue of Iranian nuclear weapons, the British prefer to see Iran gain nuclear weapons to having anyone act to prevent them from doing so.

Chirac's statement exposes, once again, France's main interest in international affairs today. To wit: France wishes only to box in the US to the point that the Americans will not be able to continue to fight the war against terrorism. The French do this not because they necessarily like terrorists. They do this because as Chirac has said many times, he views the central challenge of our time as developing a "multipolar" world. France's obsession with multipolarity stems from Chirac's perception that his country's primary aim is not to free the world from Islamic terror, but to weaken the US.

Why were those three negotiating in the first place? Did Kofi give them power of attorney?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:17 PM


ZIMBABWE: 'NEW ALQAEDA HUB' (Zim Daily, 11/19/04)

Zimbabwe has become al-Qaeda’s newest hub amid reports that the embattled country has now become a sanctuary harboring militant Islamist groups and a territorial medium to smuggle people, arms, material and contraband, Zimdaily exclusively reveals today.

Zimbabwe, which borders South Africa to the south, Mozambique to the East and lies close to the neighboring territory of Angola to the west has been offering an attractive operational theater on account of its modern and largely western character.

An intelligence document leaked to Zimdaily and authorerd by Andrew Holt, an independent, US-based terrorism and security agent states that Zimbabwe had become a major hub for al-Qaeda through the relaxed entry requirements into South Africa from Zimbabwe. The existence of major road transportation networks connecting the two countries and the lack of concerted border controls, even at major crossings such as Beitbridge, was clearly a feature that attracted militant groups into the country, the top US security agent said.

The explosive report, reproduced last week with permission of the Jamestown Foundation said Zimbabwe was convenient for the militant groups because it bordered Mozambique and Angola, two countries that represent significant sources of weaponry as a result of stocks left over from former civil wars and the failure of internationally mediated disarmament programs.

There's nothing not to like about regime changing Zimbabwe.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:12 PM


Republicans Outnumbered in Academia, Studies Find (JOHN TIERNEY, 11/18/04, NY Times)

Conservatism is becoming more visible at the University of California here, where students put out a feisty magazine called The California Patriot and have made the Berkeley Republicans one of the largest groups on campus. But here, as at schools nationwide, the professors seem to be moving in the other direction, as evidenced by their campaign contributions and two studies being published on Nov. 18.

One of the studies, a national survey of more than 1,000 academics, shows that Democratic professors outnumber Republicans by at least seven to one in the humanities and social sciences. That ratio is more than twice as lopsided as it was three decades ago, and it seems quite likely to keep increasing, because the younger faculty members are more consistently Democratic than the ones nearing retirement, said Daniel Klein, an associate professor of economics at Santa Clara University and a co-author of the study.

In a separate study of voter registration records, Professor Klein found a nine-to-one ratio of Democrats to Republicans on the faculties of Berkeley and Stanford. That study, which included professors from the hard sciences, engineering and professional schools as well as the humanities and social sciences, also found the ratio especially lopsided among the younger professors of assistant or associate rank: 183 Democrats versus 6 Republicans.

In a related story, the sun rose today.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:07 PM


Formal apology from Spanish
(The Guardian, November 19th, 2004)

The Football Association today received a formal apology from the Spanish Football Federation for the racist abuse directed at England's black players in Wednesday's international friendly.

The FA reported the abuse following the match, during which Ashley Cole, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Ashley Cole were taunted with 'monkey' chants, to Uefa and Fifa.

England's black under-21 players were subjected to similar abuse during their fixture the night before.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 12:23 PM


Theo and the politically correct tyranny (Radio Netherlands, November 19th, 2004)

Theo van Gogh thought Muslim culture was out of tune with Dutch society, and saw Islam as repressive and threatening. However, Muslims weren't his only target, he didn't spare Christians or Jews either. His comments were childish, outspoken and sometimes obscene. Oscar Hammerstein admits that Theo van Gogh sometimes went too far:

"People mix up things which have to do with freedom of speech. If you sit in a train and you say to a lady sitting opposite, 'you are the most ugly woman I have ever seen,' everybody knows that is very impolite. So that has nothing to do with freedom of speech. And Theo van Gogh in expressing his freedom of speech was quite often very impolite. Theo van Gogh said whatever he wanted to say, even when it was indecent."

Yassin Hartog, who heads the Dutch organisation Islam and Citizenship, argues that freedom of speech can and should be reinforced, but also believes that, in the Netherlands, the right to say exactly what you think depends on who you are:

"Here in Holland we've ended up with members of parliament, people in authority talking about the prophet of the Muslims as a perverted tyrant. We've had another member of parliament saying he could eat headscarves raw […] These are people placed in authority."

The Netherlands may be tolerant to those who want to speak out, but there are limits. Theo van Gogh was taken to court several times for anti-Semitic comments, although the courts ruled on each occasion that freedom of speech took precedence. A few years ago, Oscar Hammerstein threatened to sue everyone who demonised his then client, Pim Fortuyn:

"People didn't give an answer to what Pim Fortuyn had to say, but they said he was a demon […] They made him bad to the people, and the more they made him bad, the more people loved him."

"Theo van Gogh never demonised Islam, but he said Islam [lags] very much behind what we believe about society in Holland, and especially about the way we like to deal with the rights of women."

He says it's difficult to draw a legal line between free speech and causing offence. Theo van Gogh often described Muslims as people who have sex with goats, and although Oscar Hammerstein believes that wasn't decent, he doesn't think it was illegal.

The easy part will be understanding they have to take tough steps to check the influence of Islamicism in Holland. The hard part will be agreeing in the name of what.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:09 PM


Western Europeans 'World's most pessimistic people' (Richard Carter, 18.11.2004, EU Observer)

People from Western Europe are more pessimistic about the future than in any other region in the World, a new survey has shown.

A global survey of 50,000 people in over 60 countries by the World Economic Forum shows that a majority of Europeans (55 percent) believes that the next generation will live in a less safe world.

Although this percentage has declined since last year, Europeans are still ahead of their closest competitors in the pessimism stakes, people from the Middle East and Asia Pacific.

Amongst Europeans, Germans are the most pessimistic, with 63 percent believing that the next generation will live in a less safe world.

Why shouldn't a dying people be pessimistic about the future?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:03 PM


La. romp helps Jindal gain clout: GOP freshmen tap him as their leader (Bill Walsh, November 17, 2004, New Orleans Times Picayune)

While other candidates were focused on winning a seat in Congress on Nov. 2, Louisiana's Bobby Jindal already was campaigning to become president of the House GOP's incoming freshman class.

The effort paid off Tuesday when the two dozen other newly minted Republican members, many of whom received financial contributions from Jindal during their races, voted unanimously to make him their leader. [...]

Jindal raised more than $2 million for his run and used part of it to help other Republicans, which in turn strengthened his position with his fellow candidates and his party.

Records show that through mid-October, his campaign committee made donations of $71,750, including $25,000 to the National Republican Campaign Committee, which assists GOP candidates across the country. Jindal said Tuesday that ultimately, he donated or helped raise "at least" $150,000 for his fellow Republicans.

Jindal said that before Nov. 2, he never explicitly told his future colleagues that he wanted to run for freshman class president. But those who won their own races that day got the message soon enough.

On Nov. 3, they each had a Federal Express letter waiting for them. It was from Jindal announcing his candidacy.

The House can't hold him.

'My victory sign of US' openness (IANS, 11/19/04)

Republican candidate Bobby Jindal, who made history on November 2 by becoming the first Indian American to be elected to the US Congress in nearly 50 years, has said he hopes to further solidify US-India relations.

In an exclusive interview on Thursday with Voice of America, Jindal said: "I absolutely think it makes sense for America and India to improve and strengthen their relationship."

Jindal also said that his success reflected the absolute strength of America and the opportunities it provides for immigrants.

On US-India relations, Jindal said: "We are talking about two large democracies with open markets. You are talking about India being a natural ally in the war against international terrorism, a great example in South Asia that serves as an example for peaceful regimes. So I think the opportunities for the two countries to work together are wonderful."

"I intend certainly, I encourage this administration or any president, to make a visit to India to continue to build our relationship. I think it is very important whether the administration is Democrat or Republican. I think the two countries share many common interests."

Describing America, Jindal said: "This is a country of opportunities where people are judged on their ability and their performance. I think that is very important. What makes the American system so successful is the fact that immigrants and their children born here can get ahead, can do very well, just do hard work."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:58 AM


UN staff lose faith in Kofi Annan (Marc Carnegie, 19 Nov 2004, AFP)

UN employees were readying on Friday to make a historic vote of no confidence in scandal-plagued Secretary General Kofi Annan, sources told AFP.

The UN staff union, in what officials said was the first vote of its kind in the more than 50-year history of the United Nations, was set to approve a resolution withdrawing its support for the embattled Annan and UN management.

Annan has been in the line of fire over a high-profile series of scandals including controversy about a UN aid programme that investigators say allowed deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to embezzle billions of dollars.

But staffers said the trigger for the no-confidence measure was an announcement this week that Annan had pardoned the UN's top oversight official, who was facing allegations of favouritism and sexual harassment.

Mr. Clinton seemed shockingly old, almost debilitated or mentally adrift, yesterday, but if he's healthy he's a natural for this job.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:42 AM


Al-Qaida kept off balance, U.S. commander says (ROBERT BURNS, November 19, 2004, Chicago Sun-Times)

Pakistan's military has been so effective in pressuring al-Qaida leaders hiding in the tribal region of western Pakistan that Osama bin Laden and his top deputies no longer are able to direct terrorist operations, a senior American commander said Thursday.

''They are living in the remotest areas of the world without any communications -- other than courier -- with the outside world or their people and unable to orchestrate or provide command and control over a terrorist network,'' said Lt. Gen. Lance Smith, deputy commander of Central Command.

''They are basically on the run and unable to really conduct operations except, in the very long term, provide vision and guidance as Osama bin Laden does when he provides one of those tapes,'' he added, alluding to a bin Laden videotape released three weeks ago.

Pakistan arrests key Al-Qaeda operative (New Straits Times, 11/19/04)
Pakistani security forces have arrested a key Al-Qaeda operative wanted in connection with attacks on Christian targets and a failed bid to kill President Pervez Musharraf, an official said.

"He is a prized catch and was a main link between foreign Al-Qaeda operatives and local jihadi (Islamic militant) groups."

Nazir headed a group of 24 militants and masterminded the March 2002 attack on a Church in Islamabad's high security diplomatic enclave in which five people including a US diplomat's wife and stepdaughter were killed.

He was also involved in the August 5, 2002 attack on the Murree Christian School, northeast of Islamabad, in which six Pakistani guards were killed, and August 9 attack on the Christian Hospital chapel in Taxila, west of Islamabad. Four Pakistani nurses and one of the attackers were killed, while 26 people were wounded in Taxila attack.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:37 AM


Are Democrats Painted Into a Corner? Not Yet: The National Endowment for the Arts is a perfect target in the culture wars. (Jonathan Chait, November 19, 2004, LA Times)

After discovering that 59 million Americans voted to reelect a demonstrably failed president largely because he related to their culture and values, Democrats spent about a week desperately casting about for some social issue to chuck overboard so they could get right with middle America. Alas, after running through the usual list, they decided that they weren't prepared to abandon abortion or gay rights and had all but given up on gun control anyway, so there wasn't much they could do.

Well, even though the search was called off early, I have a late entry: Abolish the National Endowment for the Arts.

The NEA is a major stick in the eye to the, um, culturally traditional. (I was going to write "guys named Jethro who own pickup trucks" but I'm trying not to inflame cultural sensitivities here.) In the past, the NEA has provoked enormous controversy by funding artists such as Andres Serrano, whose artworks include a photograph of a crucifix submerged in urine. Two years ago, the NEA helped support a group that put on "Broadway Bares XII," an AIDS fundraiser featuring nude performers. And even though the overwhelming majority of its projects aren't controversial, let's face it, the NEA is in large part a way of forcing the NASCAR set to subsidize the art house set.

None of that would matter if there was a strong, principled argument for the NEA. In fact, there isn't.

The basic rationale for the NEA is that art is good — advocates tend to use loftier terms, but they're all synonymous with "good" — and the NEA provides for more of it. But there are lots of good things that don't deserve government support. [...]

It's amazing, in a way, that the NEA has survived as long as it has. It was created in 1965, probably the single year in American history when we paid the least attention to the dangers of government overreach. It faced budget cuts in the 1990s, but Republicans never killed it, and George W. Bush actually gave the NEA a healthy boost.

President Bush, to the consternation of the reactionary Right, saved the NEA by appointing a chairman who, unlike his predecessors, does not believe that art is good but that great art is good. Mr. Chait is, as is the Left's wont these days, trying to fight a battle the President already won.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:22 AM


Jailed in Israel, Palestinian Symbol Eyes Top Post (JAMES BENNET, 11/19/04, NY Times)

Running through the political chatter among both Palestinians and Israelis since Mr. Arafat died a week ago has been speculation electrifying to both - that Israel would pardon Mr. Barghouti or release him in some sort of prisoner exchange.

That possibility is extremely remote, Israeli politicians and analysts say. An Israeli court has found Mr. Barghouti to have blood on his hands. But some Israelis also remember him for his support of a two-state solution and his formerly close relationships with Israeli politicians, including some right-leaning ones.

The newspaper Maariv published a cartoon this week that showed a prison guard sitting alone before a chessboard outside a cell door marked "Barghouti." Through the door comes a voice: "Do you need a partner?"

Mr. Barghouti is the most prominent member of the rising generation of Palestinian leaders - men in their 40's who, unlike Mr. Arafat and his fellow exiles, grew up under Israeli occupation, learned Hebrew in an Israeli prison and came to admire aspects of Israeli democracy even as they resented their occupiers. As a Palestinian legislator, Mr. Barghouti was a frequent critic of governance under Mr. Arafat.

Asked about her husband's view of Mr. Arafat, Mrs. Barghouti said that he admired Mr. Arafat's "commitment to the Palestinian people" but that "on the issue of democracy and corruption, he used to have his own observations."

Sounding a common complaint by the younger leadership, she said of Mr. Arafat's older comrades, "They look at the leadership as a kind of monopoly for their generation. It's for them only."

Mr. Barghouti also learned English in previous stints in Israeli jails. Having read his way through Marx and the biographies of Israeli leaders, he recently finished Bill Clinton's autobiography, Mrs. Barghouti said.

Some allies of Mr. Barghouti say he is unlikely to challenge Mahmoud Abbas, the new chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, should Mr. Abbas be picked as the presidential candidate of their shared faction, Fatah. In that event, they say, Mr. Barghouti is likely to throw his support behind the consensus candidate.

Unlike Mr. Barghouti, Mr. Abbas, 69, a longtime Fatah leader, is an opponent of the armed uprising. He has almost no popular following.

Mrs. Barghouti said she did not know if her husband would step aside if Mr. Abbas were nominated for president. But she said he thought the P.L.O. leader was "a person of ethics - sincere."

In internal deliberations, some senior Palestinian officials are arguing that Mr. Barghouti should be the faction's candidate, to emphasize the plight of Palestinian prisoners and to end the mixing of institutional roles under Mr. Arafat. They say the Palestinians should turn the presidency of the Palestinian Authority into a largely symbolic role, like the presidency of Israel, and let Mr. Abbas focus on the more overarching duties of chairman of the P.L.O., which represents the millions of Palestinians overseas as well as those in the West Bank and Gaza.

For all those reasons, Sakher Habash, a gray-haired member of Fatah's policy-setting Central Committee, said in a conversation near Mr. Arafat's tomb here on Thursday that he would nominate Mr. Barghouti for president. "He is a symbol of the intifada," he said, referring to the violent Palestinian uprising of the past four years. Asked how Mr. Barghouti could lead from prison, he cited the case of Nelson Mandela, who led the African National Congress from prison before becoming president.

Some Palestinians believe that Israel chose to arrest Mr. Barghouti in April 2002 and then give him a very public trial in order to burnish his credentials as a leader among Palestinians while preventing him from further tarnishing his credentials among Israelis.

The Barghouti/Abbas partnership seems especially sensible.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:07 AM


The purge at CIA (H.D.S. Greenway, November 19, 2004, Boston Globe)

PORTER GOSS, President Bush's new director of central intelligence, has told his staff that their job is to "support the administration and its policies" and cautioned them not to "identify with, support, or champion opposition to the administration." OK, the Central Intelligence Agency is part of the executive branch of government, and it goes without saying that it should support its foreign policy goals.

But wait a minute. CIA, of all the branches of executive power, is not paid simply to charge ahead blindly in the direction the administration points like the Light Brigade at Balaclava: "Theirs not to make reply/ Theirs not to reason why/ Theirs but to do and die." The CIA's job is to use its head and advise, not just blind obedience.

The CIA has been hemorrhaging top-level personnel. Some of the best-trained and senior officers are being forced out. For weeks the administration has been whispering to any journalist within earshot how CIA has not been sufficiently on the president's team, abetted by Senator John McCain's calling CIA a "rogue agency" that leaked information detrimental to Bush's reelection -- "dysfunctional and unaccountable" -- and refusing to change.

There certainly were intelligence failures in the lead-up to 9/11 and the Iraq war. And you can say at any given time and in any given year that someone needs to clean up the mess at CIA. It's like the mess in Washington. There always is one. Goss did go on to say in his memo to the staff that CIA should "provide intelligence as we see it -- and let the facts alone speak to the policymaker." And, on the whole, a good shake-up of any organization helps from time to time.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:05 AM


Romney in spotlight at GOP meeting: Brushes off talk of presidential run (Yvonne Abraham, November 19, 2004, Boston Globe)

He often bats away talk of his presidential prospects, but yesterday, among friends at the Republican Governors Association annual conference, there was no way of avoiding it for Governor Mitt Romney. When a panel discussion on the 2004 election turned to talk of likely GOP presidential candidates in 2008, two of the pundits mentioned the Massachusetts governor.

Romney, scribbling notes on the draft of an article through the morning's formal session, seemed to be paying no attention at first. Then, when he was mentioned by columnist Kate O'Beirne, he fixed a faint smile on his face and nodded a thank you.

Afterward, however, he refused to be drawn out on the subject, laughing it off in a brief interview.

''I missed [most] of it," he said. ''I heard it mentioned one time. Frankly, that's for you guys who are the pundits to talk like that. . . . It's too remote to worry about. And in the case of those panelists, it just shows, if you buy someone dinner, they say good things."

But today Romney is expected to be elected vice chairman of the association, which will put him in place to collect some big chits if he chooses to run in 2008. After a one-year term, the vice chairman becomes chairman. And the chairman travels the country, doling out millions in campaign donations and helping other governors get reelected. Romney, who has been one of the nation's more prominent governors since winning office in 2002, will see his national profile further raised as a result.

Ant list of contenders for the 2008 nomination has to place the Governor in the top 3.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:00 AM


The Secret of Jacob: Real Love means embracing Conflict (Rabbi David Aaron, Nov. 19, 2004, Jewish World Review)

The Torah (Bible) teaches us that Jacob went to the house Laban, his uncle, and dwelt there for many years. He married Rachel and Leah, Laban's daughters, and had eleven sons there. After years of struggling with Laban constantly deceiving him he finally left to return home and face Esau who hated him. In the middle of the night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two handmaids and his eleven sons, and sent them across the Jabbok River shallows. After he had taken them and sent them across, he also sent across his possessions. Jacob alone remained on the other side of the river. It was there that the famous "stranger" appeared and wrestled with him until just before daybreak:

When the stranger saw that he could not defeat him, he touched the upper joint of Jacob's thigh. Jacob's hip was dislocated as he wrestled with him.

"Let me leave!" said the stranger. "Dawn is breaking."

And he (Jacob) said: "I will not let you leave until you have blessed me."

"What is your name?"


"Your name will no longer be said to be Jacob, but Israel: for you have wrestled with ELOKIM and man and you have won."

Who was this mysterious stranger? According to the Oral Tradition the stranger was the angel of Esau — Samael — the angel of evil.

Clearly, this was no mere wrestling match, but a holy struggle. The Talmud states that the dust they kicked up, while fighting, ascended to the Holy Throne.

In other words, Jacob was willing to wrestle with the forces of evil, knowing that the struggle itself is a Divine mission meant to augment his love for G-d and reveal G-d's oneness. Although it entailed having to roll around in the dust of the earth, soiling himself with the dirt of this world and risking casualties, Jacob knew that ultimately he was kicking up the dust for the sake of the Holy Throne.

In Holland today--and Europe generally--we see what happens when you try to avoid conflict by denying that evil exists.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:53 AM



THE people of South Orange and Maplewood, N.J., where I went to high school, are going to find some thing missing from their towns next month — the sound of schoolchildren performing holiday music. The district has banned students from performing music related to any religious holiday — defeating the purpose of the schools' traditional "holiday concerts."

It's a terrible loss, for the town and the kids. [...]

Many parents are outraged, and they should be. Their children will miss out on some of the most challenging and enriching musical experiences of their high-school career — all to satisfy administrators who'd rather please no one than make the effort to oversee a culturally diverse and rich holiday program.

Even First Amendment lawyer Ron Kuby, an avowed atheist, is on the side of the angels. "Unfortunately, it's always easier to stifle the speech than to risk a lawsuit," he says. "But this serves no one's interest. It infuriates the religious community without any corresponding benefit to maintaining the separation between church and state."

And so what was once one of New Jersey's greatest music programs goes from Handel to scandal — all so that students barred from singing about a living God can instead sing about a living snowman.

Growing up in East Orange I was in a public school Gospel Chorus (the lone ofay, or cracker, as we were called back then). We routinely performed in churches in the Oranges and Newark. You have to be pretty young or willfully ignorant to think that the secularists haven't really assaulted the traditional role of religion in the public square.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:45 AM


Privatization is right back on track in India: Good news for local and foreign investors: divestment has made a comeback on the government's agenda, though in a different form. In its new avatar, public sector units will be privatized, but the government will retain control of the profit-making ones. (Indrajit Basu, 11/20/04, Asia Times)

Local and foreign institutional investors (FIIs) who thought divestment of India's state-owned units was dead and buried under the newly elected Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government can take heart. The much-touted divestment plan is very much alive and kicking on the government's agenda.

Finance Minister P Chidambaram said on Wednesday that he plans to raise more than US$33 billion in the next five years from the sale of minority holdings in profit-making government-owned enterprises. He also announced setting up of a new body called the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGM) to identify the public-sector units (PSUs) that can be taken to the market, and to decide on the pricing of the shares and the quantum of the stake to be offloaded.

Succumbing to the pressure of its leftist-party allies, who insist that profitable state units remain under government control, the UPA government, soon after it assumed power in May, had shunted the previous government's "strategic sale" plans by which it had planned to raise more than $22 billion a year for the next five years. To appease the intensely privatization-averse leftist allies, Chidambaram, while assuming his new job, quipped that he wanted "to be an investment minister, not a disinvestment minister". In a loaded gesture, he also dismantled the previous government's divestment panel, called the Cabinet Committee on Disinvestment.

But encouraged by its recent victory in state elections in the western province of Maharashtra, and confronted with a funds crunch that threatens to stall its ambitious expenditure plans, the UPA is now crafting its own divestment plan that actually brings the old process back on track, but in a new mold.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:36 AM


The case of Kim's missing portraits: Speculation is feverish as North Korea watchers try to divine the meaning of the removal of leader Kim Jong-il's portraits from some public places in Pyongyang - and dropping his honorific Dear Leader. Theories include a power struggle, tactical feint, downsizing the world's last great personality cult to win friends - or just getting new pictures. (Kosuke Takahashi, 11/20/04, Asia Times)

Faced with recent mass movements of refugees from North Korea - more than 460 in July - Kim might have wanted to play down the personality cult to stem the outflow, with some so desperate to leave the worker's paradise that they even climb the walls of various embassies and consulates in China, to Beijing's great embarrassment. Moreover, the decision to lower the profile of the dictator in the reclusive communist state is in line with the extremely adverse situation that North Korea has created for itself. In the past four years, US President George W Bush has applied increasing pressure to thwart North Korea's nuclear-weapons program and chronic human-rights violations. This approach appears to have been reinforced by his appointment of the tough and pragmatic Condoleezza Rice as new secretary of state in his second administration once Colin Powell leaves that post.

As for Japan, Pyongyang has continued the risky cat-and-mouse game of diplomacy with Tokyo as its economy continues to deteriorate - in a bid to run up the amount of potential Japanese economic aid and post-World War II reparations for past wrongs. Today in Tokyo, however, not a few lawmakers and citizens are asking the administration of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to consider economic sanctions on North Korea. The anti-North Korea attitude has become even more acute after a Japanese delegation's week-long stay in Pyongyang did not yield good news about the fate of abducted Japanese. Instead, they brought back to Tokyo the ashes of at least two persons, including Megumi Yokota, who was kidnapped in 1977 at age 13 (see The ashes of little Megumi, November 18).

North Korea now can only rely on South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun's center-left, pro-Pyongyang administration. South Korean political circles are sharply divided into conciliatory pro-North progressive camps of the Uri Party and antagonistic conservatives of the main opposition, the Grand National Party. Capitalizing on these divided political circles, Kim basically appears to have adopted a conciliatory strategy toward South Koreans by downsizing the personal cult of ideology.

Professor Lee Young-hwa, who said Pyongyang is trying to get more Seoul sympathizers, also pointed out that Kim once ordered his portraits alongside those of his father Kim Il-sung to be taken from public buildings in 1978, four years after Kim Il-sung officially nominated his son as his dynastic successor. Lee, an associate professor of economics at Kansai University, said that at the time Kim Jong-il was testing his people's loyalty to him: those who actually took down his portraits as ordered were said to have been punished and sent to gulags, or prison camps, often meaning death. This is one of the major reasons, Lee said, that Koreans cannot take what appears to be Kim's direct order at face value this time around. They are cautious: wanting to obey their leader who says take down his pictures, but also aware that obedience may carry a price.

Moreover, concerning the removal of the glorifying - though some find it odious - honorific "Dear Leader" from Kim's title, Lee said that also signifies Kim's efforts at conciliation toward South Korea. "Recently North Korea has intensified its media campaigns towards [the] South Korean audience, especially in Hangul [the Korean alphabet] on the Internet," said Lee. Now North Korea is coming to realize that the "Dear Leader" title inspires disgust among Korean audiences, especially the young.

Because he's a lunatic it's hard to rule anything out, but the notion that he's taken actions that undermine his own rule in the hopes that it will influence school choice seems over-ingenious.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:10 AM


The only show in town: The left, as history knew it, is dead - and it will not be reborn (Martin Jacques, November 20, 2004, The Guardian)

The reason for the collapse of the left could not be clearer - or more fundamental. Its parameters, its confidence, its mode of organisation, its narrative, its very being, depended on the existence of the labour movement. And it is the latter that has effectively disappeared. The trade unions are a shrunken and wizened version of what they were, pushed to the perimeters of political life, while the party itself has, in its New Labour guise, been reconstituted, such that in style, funding and apparat, it looks much like what a modernised Tory party might be. Labour has been shorn of its roots and meaning.

The collapse of the labour movement is not just a British phenomenon, but one shared with much of Europe. There are two underlying reasons for its demise. The first is the loss of agency, the decline of the industrial working class and its consequent erosion as a meaningful and effective political force. It was the working class - in terms of workplace, community, unions and party - that invented and gave expression to the labour movement. The second reason is the collapse of communism. Of course, the mainstream labour movement in this country never subscribed to its tenets, but both the social democratic and communist traditions shared, in different ways, the vision of a better society based on collectivist principles. It is that vision that was buried with the interment of communism. For over a century, European politics was defined by the struggle between capitalism and socialism: suddenly, capitalism became the only show in town, both in Europe and globally. The result was the rapid deconstruction of the left such that it now exists as but a rump of its former self - not just in Britain, or Europe, but everywhere.

There is also a specifically European dimension. Europe was the intellectual and political birthplace of socialism. It was the home of the modern labour movement. And it was from Europe that the idea was exported - to the US, Russia, China, Latin America and around the globe. The worldwide socialist project was a product of the expansiveness and self-confidence of Europe. But the latter has turned into the opposite.

Europe itself is a declining continent, squeezed between the overweening power and influence of the US and the irresistible rise of east Asia. The latter, in their different ways, embrace very distinct values, cultures, histories and institutions from those of Europe. The global contraction of European influence has served to accelerate and deepen the crisis and confusion of the left.

And yet, when all is said and done, there is something profoundly paradoxical about this story. The left may have been marginalised - but the imperatives that gave rise to it and which it sought to address are now more glaring and insistent than at any time since the second world war. Inequality, at both a global and national level, has been steadily increasing, an integral product of the neoliberal model of globalisation that has dominated the world order over the last quarter-century.

They'll never get it will they? People will tiolerate a significant amount of actual inequality so long as they feel that they have (and to some degree everyone else has) genuine opportunity. They are afforded such opportunity by the liberal democratic-capitalist-protestant society that characterizes the End of History. Globalization, essentially the universal imperialism of Anglo-American ideas, is bringing opportunity to everyone which is a powerful, though unfortunately not likely to be permanent, antidite to the old belief in using the State to force egalite.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:10 AM


Tolerant Dutch Wrestle With Tolerating Intolerance (BRUCE BAWER, 11/14/04, NY Times)

Three days after Mr. van Gogh's murder, I traveled to Amsterdam to see for myself how things were going. It seemed a long time since 1999, when I lived in a largely Muslim neighborhood of Amsterdam only a block from the mosque attended by the man accused in Mr. van Gogh's murder. During my time there, I quickly came to see that the city (and, I later recognized, Western Europe generally) was a house divided against itself.

The division was stark: The Dutch had the world's most tolerant, open-minded society, with full sexual equality and same-sex marriage, as well as liberal policies on soft drugs and prostitution; but a large segment of the fast-growing Muslim population kept that society at arm's length, despising its freedoms.

Instead of addressing this issue, Dutch officials (like their counterparts across the continent) churned out rhetoric about multicultural diversity and mutual respect. By tolerating Muslim intolerance of Western society, was the Netherlands setting itself on a path toward cataclysmic social confrontation? When I tried to broach the topic, Dutch acquaintances made clear it was off limits. [...]

In the 1930's, Europe faced a struggle and, many thought, a need to choose between two competing totalitarianisms. Many analysts are wondering if this is Europe's future, as well. They also wonder whether the Dutch people's anger will blow over or whether they will act decisively to protect their democracy from the undemocratic enemy within.

As de Tocqueville recognized, though he found it troubling, intolerance and conformity have been central to the American Republic. Were he to observe the modern version of tolerance, he'd quickly grasp how necessary our intolerant tolerance is to a successful society. You can have some differences over means, but not over ends--indeed, tolerance can only be a means, not an end, or the society is rendered incoherent.

Dutch Cardinal: Moral Breakdown Has Left Holland Open to Islamic Takeover (, 11/18/04)

Cardinal Adrianis Simonis of Utrecht believes that the "spiritual vacuity" of Dutch society has left the Netherlands open to an Islamic cultural takeover.

"Today we have discovered that we are disarmed in the face of the Islamic danger," the cardinal told the Italian daily Avvenir. He pointed out that even some young people who were born and raised in the Netherlands have become militant Muslims. The rise of Islam, Cardinal Simonis said, is related to "the spectacle of extreme moral decadence and spiritual decline that we offer" to young people.

"Nowadays political leaders ask whether the Muslims will accept our values," the Dutch cardinal observed. "I ask, 'What values are those? Gay marriage? Euthanasia?'"

If those are the reigning moral principles on which today's society is built, Cardinal Simonis continued, he rejects them as emphatically as Islamic leaders.

The cardinal said that he did not intend to take an extreme position, insisting "fundamentalism is always a problem." But on the other hand, he said, a society must be based on a common understanding of public order and morality. "It isn't enough to learn our language," he said.

The problem for the Netherlands, the cardinal continued, is a "lack of identity."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:58 AM


How Bush Camp Won Ohio: Religious, Rural Voters Were Key; Cities Not Enough for Kerry (JEANNE CUMMINGS, November 19, 2004, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL)

A close analysis of Ohio, which turned out to be the key swing state in the presidential election, shows that President Bush won thanks to a pitch on morals that went beyond evangelicals to Roman Catholics, a strong effort to turn out rural voters and a last-minute tax break for farmers, small businesses and families.

Those factors trumped the economic message of Democratic challenger John Kerry, which won little traction despite the state's depressed job market, according to a close analysis of county-by-county results from the Nov. 2 vote.

Election Day interviews with voters offered evidence that Mr. Bush's strategy of mixing cultural, security and economic messages resonated more strongly with Ohio voters than Mr. Kerry's message, which was largely focused on the economy. Though exit polls showed that Ohioans ranked jobs and the economy as their top concern, 43% of them trusted Mr. Bush to manage a recovery compared with 38% who trusted Mr. Kerry. Right below those pocketbook issues, Ohioans ranked moral values and the war on terrorism in importance -- and on both, Mr. Bush scored double-digit advantages over Mr. Kerry.

Just one of the many problems that confront a Democratic Party that remains trapped in amber is that they think the electorate is still shaped by the Great Depression and associates Republicans with Hoover. People don't just doubt the Democrats capacity to handle national security but to govern.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:53 AM


Annan calls on UN council to sound warning on Sudan (Chris Tomlinson, Associated Press, November 19, 2004)

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan urged the Security Council to issue ''the strongest warning" to all forces fighting in Sudan, saying that ending the 21-year civil war in the country's south would help halt a humanitarian catastrophe in its western Darfur region.

The council's meeting in the Kenyan capital, a rare appearance outside the United States, was intended to focus attention on two wars that have left millions dead or homeless.

Southern rebels have been fighting the government since 1983, and Darfur erupted into violence in February 2003.

''I regret to report that the security situation in Darfur continued to deteriorate despite the cease-fire agreement signed earlier," Annan told council members.

''When crimes on such a scale are being committed and a sovereign state appears unable or unwilling to protect its own citizens, a grave responsibility falls on the international community, and specifically on this council."

John Danforth, the US ambassador to the United Nations, said holding the meeting in Nairobi would put ''the problems of Sudan at the center of the world stage."

''This is a very unusual thing for the Security Council to do," Danforth said. ''In the view of the Security Council, Sudan is important and establishing peace is so important to Africa." [...]

''Only a comprehensive political solution for the Sudan as a whole offers any longer-term hope," Annan said. ''The strongest warning to all the parties that are causing this suffering is essential."

But the council was expected to pass a resolution today that only promises it will monitor the situation in Sudan and ''take appropriate action" against any side that does not support the peace process.

While two previous resolutions have threatened sanctions against the government, Danforth said this one would offer positive reinforcement if steps toward peace are taken. ''There is nothing threatening about it," he said. ''What we want to do is point out that the international community is going to be there for Sudan in the long run."

The very long run, it appears.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:52 AM


Thinking about the Supreme Court: The Next Nominee (Karlyn H. Bowman, November 17, 2004, Roll Call)

President Bush could soon make one of the momentous decisions of his presidency: the selection of a Supreme Court justice. What does the United States think?

In a Nov. 3-5 AP/Ipsos Public Affairs poll, a plurality of 37 percent of registered voters said they were very comfortable that Bush would nominate the "right kind of justice to the Supreme Court." Another 22 percent were somewhat comfortable, 12 percent were not too comfortable, and 29 percent were not at all comfortable. [...]

An ABC News poll from June 2003 found that 56 percent of respondents thought the next person appointed to the court should be someone who favors giving state governments more authority than the federal government. By contrast, only 31 percent wanted that person to give the federal government more authority than the states. [...]

ABC found that 60 percent of respondents said the nominee should try to follow the original intentions of the authors of the Constitution, while 34 percent said he should follow an interpretation of what the Constitution means in current times. [...]

Since 1991, Gallup has been asking people whether the court is too liberal, too conservative or just about right. In 1991, 20 percent said it was too liberal, 39 percent just about right and 25 percent too conservative. In 2003, those responses were 31 percent too liberal, 39 percent just about right and 25 percent too conservative.

It can't help thatr the issues that scare Democrats the most and about which they're most vocal and hysterical are the ones where they're the <40% end of the wedge.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:45 AM


Sudan Officials, Rebels Pledge to Sign Peace Accord by Year's End: U.N. Security Council, in Kenya to witness the two sides' commitment, is to OK an aid package.
(Maggie Farley, November 19, 2004, LA Times)

The leaders of Sudan's warring forces pledged Thursday to sign a peace agreement by Dec. 31, a move aimed at ending the nation's 21-year-long civil war and providing hope for new stability in the crisis-torn region of Darfur.

Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Mohammed Taha and rebel leader John Garang said they would today sign the commitment, which promises to wrap up peace talks by year's end. The memorandum of understanding will be witnessed by the entire U.N. Security Council, whose members have come to Nairobi in a rare move to focus attention on Sudan's two civil wars and burgeoning humanitarian crisis.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged the two sides to forge peace quickly, and for the Security Council to back them up with political and financial support, or penalties if they failed to keep their promises. Although he focused on the peace agreement, he also decried continued violence against civilians in Darfur by soldiers — and even police — despite the government's pledges to stop it.

Rebels seeking a greater share of power and wealth for the largely Christian and animist south have battled the Islamic national government for more than two decades.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:14 AM


Who says science is about facts? They only get in the way of a good theory (Terence Kealey, 11/15/04, Times of London)

WHEN CHARLES MOORE was editing The Spectator he once asked me why, of his contributors, it was those trained in science who were the least honest. Most contributors respected truth but articles from people trained in science (medical doctors were the worst) would often provoke letters to complain of factual errors.

Charles Moore had supposed that scientists would revere facts, but that supposition is a myth: scientists actually treat facts the way barristers treat hostile witnesses — with suspicion.

The mythmaker was Karl Popper. Popper was not a scientist but a political philosopher who proposed that science works by “falsifiability”: scientists discover facts; they create a theory to explain them; and the theory is accepted until it is falsified by the discovery of incompatible facts that then inspire a new theory. Popper needed “falsifiability” to attack his enemies, namely Marx and Freud (and by extension the fascist apologists). Those writers claimed to be scientists but they made statements that could not be falsified by empirical testing: Freud might assert that, in our minds, an ego mediates between an id and a superego, but because those entities are subconscious their existence cannot be tested. Popper said, therefore, that Freud’s assertion was not scientific and was thus invalid.

Yet it is a myth that working scientists always respect falsifiability.

No religion requires falsifiability.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:58 AM


Word of the Day ( November 18, 2004)

clerisy \KLER-uh-see\, noun:
The well educated class; the intelligentsia. [...]

Clerisy is from German Klerisei, "clergy," from Medieval Latin
clericia, from Late Latin clericus, "priest," from Late Greek
klerikos, "belonging to the clergy," from Greek kleros,
"inheritance, lot," in allusion to Deuteronomy 18:2
("Therefore shall they have no inheritance among their
brethren: the Lord is their inheritance, as he hath said unto

November 18, 2004

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:05 PM


President's Remarks at the Clinton Presidential Center Dedication (President George W. Bush, Little Rock, Arkansas, 11/18/04)

President Clinton, Senator Clinton, President Carter and Mrs. Carter, President Bush and Mother -- (laughter )-- Governor and Mrs. Huckabee, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen: Laura and I are really pleased to be a part of this happy and historic occasion. On this day of dedication, we honor the man from Hope, Arkansas, who became the 42nd President of the United States. Mr. President, congratulations. (Applause.)

This presidential library chronicles a vivid era in American history, for the benefit of future generations. It will contribute to the vitality of this fine city and to the great state of Arkansas. The collections here record the dedication and hard work of thousands, who brought talent and idealism to public service. And at the center of that era, at the head of that administration, was an able and energetic American. President Bill Clinton led our country with optimism and a great affection for the American people, and that affection has been returned. He gave all to his job, and the nation gave him two terms.

In the early 1990s, the American people saw a young, well-spoken, relatively unknown governor rise to national prominence. Yet for decades here in Arkansas, the signs of destiny were clear. When young William entered a new school in the 4th grade, a classmate recalls, "He didn't mean to, but he just took the place over." (Laughter.) When Governor Clinton declared his candidacy for President in this city, his close friends were not surprised in the least. They'd always known that Bill Clinton's moment in history would come.

Arkansas is a state that knows political skill when you see it. A fellow in Saline County was asked by his son why he liked Governor Clinton so much. He said, son, he'll look you in the eye, he'll shake your hand, he'll hold your baby, he'll pat your dog -- all at the same time. (Laughter.)

Over the years, Bill Clinton showed himself to be much more than a good politician. His home state elected him governor in the 1970s, the 1980s, and the 1990s, because he was an innovator, a serious student of policy, and a man of great compassion. In the White House, the whole nation witnessed his brilliance and mastery of detail, his persuasive power, and his persistence. The President is not the kind to give up a fight. His staffers were known to say, "If Clinton were the Titanic, the iceberg would sink." (Laughter.)

During his presidency, Bill Clinton seized important opportunities on issues from welfare to free trade. He was a tireless champion of peace in the Middle East. He used American power in the Balkans to confront aggression and halt ethnic cleansing. And in all his actions and decisions, the American people sensed a deep empathy for the poor and the powerless. Shortly before leaving office, President Clinton said, "Christ admonished us that our lives will be judged by how we do unto the least of our neighbors." Throughout his career, Bill Clinton has done his best to live up to that standard. And Americans respect him for it.

At every stage of his remarkable life, President Clinton has made and kept countless friends, who share in the joy of this day. And three people in particular have the largest part in this remarkable story. One day more than 30 years ago, inside the Yale Law Library, a fellow student walked over to Bill Clinton and said, "If you're going to keep staring at me, and I'm going to keep staring back, we ought to at least know each other's name. Mine's Hillary Rodham. What is yours?" (Laughter.) That was a good day for both of them, and the beginning of a partnership unique in American history. So today, we honor the former First Lady of Arkansas, the former First Lady of America, the United States Senator from New York, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Applause.)

Perhaps the Clintons' greatest achievement is their daughter, who moved into the White House as a young girl, and left as an accomplished young lady. It's not easy to be a teenager in the White House, but it's a lot easier when you have a loving mother and a loving father that Chelsea Clinton had.

This magnificent presidential library, and the American life it celebrates, would not have been possible without the love and sacrifice of a special lady. Among his heroes, President Clinton always includes his mother, Virginia Kelley, "a working woman and a widow." Virginia was there when her son took the oath of office, and we know that she would be incredibly proud of this day.

The story that began in a little house on Hervey Street in Hope, Arkansas is the kind of story that inspires people from every background, all over America. In this great nation, it is always possible for a child to go as far as their talent and vision can take them. Visitors to this place will be reminded of the great promise of our country, and the dreams that came true in the life of our 42nd President. The William J. Clinton Presidential Library is a gift to the future by a man who always believed in the future. And today, we thank him for loving and serving America.

God bless.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:48 PM


Can a former footballer unite Liberia?: Wildly popular soccer star George Weah announced this week he'll run for president next year. (Mike Crawley, 11/19/04, CS Monitor)

There's a saying here that only one thing can bring Liberians together: their love for soccer.

Now the most talented Liberian ever to kick a ball wants to parlay that love for the sport into votes at election time. Soccer star and national hero George Weah announced this week that he will run for president.

Mr. Weah's candidacy is anything but trifling - his popular appeal here cuts across ethnic groups, gender, class, and even warring factions. Many people perceive him as a neutral who could heal a bitterly divided society, a man with the stature to transcend the coups and civil war that have plagued Liberia for the past two decades.

Coming from outside typical political channels, he could be called the Arnold Schwarzenegger of West Africa.

"At this moment, he's the only person who can unify the entire country," says Joseph Dortu, general manager of Royal Communications, which consists of a TV station and radio station owned by Weah in the capital Monrovia. Weah is "embedded with charisma, a born leader," continues Mr. Dortu. But he cautions: "I've told him he's got to be strategic. This isn't football, this is a nation." [...]

"The bottom line is that he has a good heart," says Jacqueline Capehart, owner of a travel agency in central Monrovia and a prominent figure among a group of women supporting Weah's candidacy. "He has always helped his friends, his family, his neighbors, and people he doesn't even know."

Weah has certainly shown more of a social conscience than the typical pro athlete.He has been a United Nations Children's Fund goodwill ambassador for seven years, speaking out about AIDS prevention, urging children to stay in school, and publicizing the plight of child soldiers. In July, the actor Denzel Washington presented him with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, given to a sports figure for outstanding humanitarian work.

Seems like he'd be particularly staff and advisor dependent.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:43 PM


GOP's bolder reign on Hill: Republicans act quickly, showing a postelection confidence, while Democrats struggle to regroup. (Gail Russell Chaddock, 11/19/04, CS Monitor)

Fresh from a victory that stunned even their optimistic partisans, Republicans brushed critics aside with a vote that would have been hard to imagine before the Nov. 2 elections: changing their House rules to allow leaders to stay in their post even if criminally indicted.

Democrats, for their part, showed that they are also in a new postelection place. This week, they quietly elected new leadership while bracing for fights with the GOP on everything from big staff reductions to a rule change that would limit their power to block judicial nominations.

After four years of near parity on Capitol Hill, both parties show signs of settling into the mind-set of majority or minority roles - and the dangers each includes.

The risks are most obvious for Democrats. Their challenge is to avoid getting used to being the party out of power - and keeping talented people interested enough to stay in the game. Some now talk openly of a long-term decline.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:38 PM


11/18/04 FOX Poll: Iraq Top Priority For Second Term (Dana Blanton, 11/18/04, Fox News)

President Bush’s overall job approval rating is up six points since polling conducted just prior to Election Day and currently stands at 53 percent approve and 40 percent disapprove. Vice President Dick Cheney receives somewhat similar ratings: 50 percent approve and 38 percent disapprove. [...]

[National Security Advisor Condoleezza] Rice has a solidly positive job rating: 57 percent approve and 24 percent disapprove of her job performance as national security advisor. Likewise, 54 percent think Rice will make a good secretary of state, while 27 percent disagree.

As is the case with other administration officials, Rice received her highest approval rating, 61 percent, in the aftermath of 9/11. Her lowest marks came earlier this year (47 percent approve, April 2004) — around the time Rice gave testimony before the commission investigating the 9/11 attacks.

Attorney General John Ashcroft also announced his resignation in the days following Bush’s reelection. Nearly half of voters (49 percent) approve of the job Ashcroft has done, 29 percent disapprove and more than one in five (22 percent) are unsure. [...]

A 59 percent majority of voters say they are either very (39 percent) or somewhat (20 percent) comfortable with President Bush nominating the next justice to the U.S. Supreme Court. [...]

Looking Ahead to 2008

For fun, voters were asked to look ahead and consider some hypothetical matchups for the 2008 race for the White House. The candidates included former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, Arizona Sen. John McCain, North Carolina Sen., Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards and Massachusetts Sen. and Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. Here are the highlights:

The poll shows both how foolish it was for Democrats to run a campaign on the assumption that all America hates Bush/Cheney/Ashcroft as much as they do and that if John McCain wants it enough to repair relations with the Right he's our next president.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:36 PM


Dirge for the decline and fall of the Western intelligentsia
(Paul Johnson, The Spectator, November 18th, 2004)

Whatever else the re-election of Bush signifies, it was a smack in the face for the intelligentsia. Like a crazed Kappelmeister sitting at a nightmare organ, they pulled out all the stops, from the bourdon in lead to the fiffaro, not excluding the trompeta magna, and what emerged, far from being a thanksgiving gloria in excelsis, was a lugubrious marche funèbre. In America they were all at it, from old Chomsky to that movie-maker who looks like a mushy jumbo cheeseburger. In Germany the Heidegger Left were goose-stepping in force. In France the followers of ‘Jumping Jack’ Derrida were at the barricades. Here in England all the usual suspects were on parade, from the Oxford stinks-don to the public-sector playwrights, with the Eumenides-novelists spitting fury. What a caterwauling and trilling! Why are intellectuals so impotent today? It was not always so. The term, of course, is French and dates back to the Dreyfus case, most likely to the year 1895. Certainly it is not to be found in the Littré dictionary of 1877. Maurice Paleologue, in his Journal de l’Affaire Dreyfus (1955), recalls an evening of frenzied argument on 15 January 1898, two days after Zola published his sensational letter, J’Accuse:

As for this petition which is being circulated among the Intellectuals! The mere fact that one has recently created this word Intellectuals to designate, as though they were an aristocracy, individuals who live in laboratories and libraries, proclaims one of the most ridiculous eccentricities of our time — I mean the pretension of raising writers, scientists, professors and philologists to the rank of supermen.

Shortly afterwards Albert Réville, in his pamphlet Les étapes d’un intellectuel (1898), fiercely proclaimed, ‘Let us use this word since it has received high consecrations’. Le Temps took it up the same winter, publishing an open letter from Jean Psichari, demanding ‘the right of intellectuals’ to intervene actively in politics. Le Temps used the term repeatedly, and by summer it was an explosive part of the language. And the intellectuals won their first big battle, which brought them together, helped by the fact that Dreyfus was innocent. Then again, they were men of talent, in some cases genius: Zola himself, Anatole France, Marcel Proust, Daniel Halevy, Clemenceau and so many others. I recall François Mauriac, who had been a young Dreyfusard (albeit Catholic), saying to me in 1953, ‘We had all the minds of France fighting for her soul.’

Today, I suspect, the intellectuals are impotent because so many of them are no good. In America it is a sign of the times that their leader is the mobile cheeseburger. The Right attracts at least as many stars as the rest: they write in the New Criterion, the National Review, Commentary and the American Spectator, and don’t call themselves intellectuals at all. By contrast, the anti-Bush stage army are often ill educated and ignorant. I doubt if any of the so-called pundits who have been holding forth about Iraq in the Guardian have ever been there or know anything about the complex peoples and history of the area. They have no intention of going there either; might be dangerous. They don’t mind going to safe, generous America, though. While cursing the US and all its people, they love tripping over to New York to party and collect their royalties. At least those original French intellectuals were prepared to make sacrifices and take risks. Zola went into exile (like Victor Hugo before him) and might well have gone to prison. Today’s anti-Americans risk nothing.

Forgive the self-reference, but one thing I noticed during arguments with anti-war, anti-Bushites during the election was how unread and uninformed so many were. A little CBC boilerplate, Sixty Minutes and Michael Moore were all they needed to ground their angry certainties on the war on terror and, indeed, whatever else ails the world. Brothersjudd savages the intellectual “elites” mercilessly, but in many cases it is all too easy. Too often, the enemy is not a courageous cutting edge of iconoclastic and original thought, but rather a sort of dull, crabby lumpen-elite that keeps repeating shibboleths adopted decades ago. Perhaps, like arcades and television talk shows, leftist cant is dumbing down and working its way down the social ladder. We may live to see the day it is featured primarily, not in centers of serious, original thought and debate, but in articles by Theodore Dalrymple .

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:28 PM


Hagel says Nelson ag move not likely (JAKE THOMPSON, November 18, 2004, Omaha WORLD-HERALD)

While rumors continued to circulate that Sen. Ben Nelson was under consideration to be the next agriculture secretary, Sen. Chuck Hagel said Thursday that he doesn't think Nelson is in serious contention.

The Nebraska Republican said he and a senior aide had spoken with White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card and President Bush's senior political adviser, Karl Rove, since CNN first reported Wednesday that Rove had talked with Nelson about taking the job being vacated by Ann Veneman.

"No job offer has been made to Senator Nelson," Hagel said on his weekly conference call with reporters. "I don't know if this will get to a serious point or not.

"It's my understanding that right now it's not a serious situation, that they're not in any serious discussions."

The White House, Hagel said, was not "even close to a job offer" for Nelson, a Nebraska Democrat. Hagel had told Card in a call Wednesday night that he would support Nelson's appointment as ag secretary.

At the same time, Hagel said, White House officials are having "very serious discussions" with other potential candidates, whom he declined to name.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:25 PM


Democratic suburbs abandon Gregoire (CHRIS MCGANN AND ANGELA GALLOWAY, November 18, 2004, SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER)

Suburban counties that haven't swung Republican in more than two decades helped Dino Rossi finish ahead in Washington's suspenseful race for governor.

He won by more than 6,000 votes in Snohomish County and more than 12,000 in Pierce County -- places Democratic gubernatorial candidates have dominated in every election since 1980.

Democrat Christine Gregoire easily took populous King County by more than 150,000 votes, and led in left-leaning counties such as Thurston, Grays Harbor, Cowlitz and Whatcom. But Rossi's 31-county winning streak fell only eight short of a statewide sweep.

That was no accident. Since being elected as state Republican Party chairman four years ago, Chris Vance has been targeting what he calls the "suburban crescent" -- counties such as Pierce and Snohomish that don't share urban King County's love for all things liberal.

"The Democrats love to brag about how they are making inroads in east King County, which, I have to admit, they are," Vance said. "But that is being offset by the enormous gains we are making in Pierce, Snohomish, Clark, Skagit, Mason -- everywhere else.

"King County is becoming more Democratic, but the rest of the state is becoming more Republican. This governor's race is really demonstrating that."

The Democrats are developing into a party that holds only the cities--and only on the national level, as Republicans mayors in places like NYC show--and cedes everything else (except, perhaps, for beachfront properties).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:55 PM





- The only president ever impeached on grounds of personal malfeasance

- Most number of convictions and guilty pleas by friends and associates**

- Most number of cabinet officials to come under criminal investigation

- Most number of witnesses to flee country or refuse to testify

- Most number of witnesses to die suddenly

- First president sued for sexual harassment.

- First president accused of rape.

- First first lady to come under criminal investigation

- Largest criminal plea agreement in an illegal campaign contribution case

- First president to establish a legal defense fund.

- Greatest amount of illegal campaign contributions

- Greatest amount of illegal campaign contributions from abroad

** According to our best information, 40 government officials were indicted or convicted in the wake of Watergate. A reader computes that there was a total of 31 Reagan era convictions, including 14 because of Iran-Contra and 16 in the Department of Housing & Urban Development scandal. 47 individuals and businesses associated with the Clinton machine were convicted of or pleaded guilty to crimes with 33 of these occurring during the Clinton administration itself.


- Number of Starr-Ray investigation convictions or guilty pleas (including one governor, one associate attorney general and two Clinton business partners): 14

- Number of Clinton cabinet members who came under criminal investigation: 5

- Number of Reagan cabinet members who came under criminal investigation: 4

- Number of top officials jailed in the Teapot Dome Scandal: 3


- Number of individuals and businesses associated with the Clinton machine who have been convicted of or pleaded guilty to crimes: 47

- Number of these convictions during Clinton's presidency: 33

- Number of indictments/misdemeanor charges: 61

- Number of congressional witnesses who have pleaded the Fifth Amendment, fled the country to avoid testifying, or (in the case of foreign witnesses) refused to be interviewed: 122


- Guilty pleas and convictions obtained by Donald Smaltz in cases involving charges of bribery and fraud against former Agriculture
Secretary Mike Espy and associated individuals and businesses: 15

- Acquitted or overturned cases (including Espy): 6

- Fines and penalties assessed: $11.5 million

- Amount Tyson Food paid in fines and court costs: $6 million


Drug trafficking (3), racketeering, extortion, bribery (4), tax evasion, kickbacks, embezzlement (2), fraud (12), conspiracy (5), fraudulent loans, illegal gifts (1), illegal campaign contributions (5), money laundering (6), perjury, obstruction of justice.

Mr. Smith dislikes Bill Clinton for the reasons we like him--forsaking liberalism and destroying the Democratic party--but this is a delightfully harsh takedown.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:46 PM


Empty Maternity Wards Imperil a Dwindling Germany (MARK LANDLER, 11/18/04, NY Times)

It is a typical night in the maternity ward of this city's second biggest hospital and the loneliest place is the nursery. Empty baby beds are lined up against a wall like rental cars in an airport parking lot. A colorful mobile hangs hopefully over the still room.

With more than 1,000 beds, a team of doctors and midwives but only a few births a day, the Frankfurt-Höchst hospital has an abundance of everything except babies.

Germany's falling birthrate, like that in much of Western Europe, is entering its second generation. This means not only that mothers continue to have one or at most two children - too few to reproduce the population - but also that the number of potential mothers has dwindled.

The reunification with eastern Germany, where the birthrate is even lower than in the west, has made matters worse. Dresden, the capital of depopulated Saxony, closed 43 schools this summer because of a lack of children. Elsewhere in the country, there are too many hospitals and even too many roads.

Germany, like several of its neighbors, is running out of the people it needs to sustain its advanced social systems and public infrastructure.

"There will be 10 million fewer young people in my lifetime," observed Frank Schirrmacher, an editor at the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, who has written a best-selling book about population trends in Germany. "Our whole infrastructure is designed for a bigger population."

Mr. Schirrmacher and other commentators conjure up a sort of reverse Malthusian nightmare: Germany as a land of predominantly geriatric towns and cities set in a deserted, creeping countryside.

If you're just now figuring out that Malthus used his rectum for a hat your society doesn't deserve to make it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:59 PM


Reed Irvine, R. I. P. (Malcolm A. Kline, November 17, 2004, Campus Report)

Accuracy in Academia (AIA)’s founder, Reed Irvine, died November 16, 2004 at the age of 82. Born in 1922, he served his country in World War II as a marine. He really never stopped serving his country.

He started Accuracy in Media (AIM), AIA’s parent organization, in 1969, to scrutinize the then-dominant old media at a time when few questioned its reporting. From the time he retired as a Federal Reserve Board economist in the 1970s until late last year, when he suffered a serious heart attack, he worked for AIM full-time.

It is fair to say that the so-called new media—Fox News, talk radio and even internet blogs—that prove the reporting of the venerable CBS News and company to be inaccurate are rushing through a door that Reed Irvine opened when he started going head-to-head with media heavyweights such as then-Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee.

Saw a report about this a few days ago, but figured we'd run the NY Times obit. Now it appears there may not be one. They used an AP one and don't have even that posted at their Obituaries page--think they'd treat the death of a comparable man of the Left, a Ralph Neas or a Barry Lynn--similarly? Kind of a cool way to go out, proving your point on the way.

They finally caught up, Reed Irvine, 82, the Founder of a Media Criticism Group, Dies (MICHAEL T. KAUFMAN, November 19, 2004, NY Times)

Founded in 1969, Accuracy in Media is a group that, as Mr. Irvine described it, was intended to be "representative of the consumers of the journalistic product and not the producers." Outlining its mission, he said that AIM would "investigate complaints, take proven cases to top media officials, seek corrections and mobilize public pressure to bring about remedial action."

Ideologically, it paved the way for the tide of conservative talk shows, Web sites and news programming that would follow decades later. [...]

"I think AIM really was the fountainhead of the effort to denounce the liberal media, and create the image of the mainstream media as very liberal," Alex S. Jones, the director of the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, said in a telephone interview yesterday. "And that effort has proved quite successful."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:04 PM


Goss Isn't Done With Housecleaning at CIA
: Sources close to the spy agency say the new director will address the analytic branch, where assessments on Iraq weapons were flawed. (Greg Miller, November 18, 2004, LA Times)

In the wake of high-level departures in the CIA's clandestine service, intelligence officials are bracing for an even more aggressive overhaul of the agency's analytic ranks by Director Porter J. Goss.

Current and former intelligence officials said Goss planned to replace the head of the CIA's analytic branch, Jami A. Miscik, with a veteran analyst who already runs one of the agency's major offices.

Miscik heads the CIA's Directorate of Intelligence, the division that drew much of the blame for erroneous assessments of weapons programs in prewar Iraq.

Goss also is said to be planning to replace other senior officers in the analytic branch and to push through changes designed to encourage analysts to be more aggressive in their assessments of developments on terrorism, weapons proliferation and other priority topics. [...]

"They haven't gotten to the D.I. yet, but when they do, there will be more people screaming bloody murder," the official said, referring to the outcry this week in Washington over the resignations of the two top officials in the CIA's clandestine service. "There's going to be a new deputy director for intelligence, and there's going to be many senior-level positions that are going to be reassigned."

The time to worry is when the screaming stops.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:00 PM


Young Buck sought in Vibe stabbing (Ryan Pearson, November 17, 2004, Canadian Press)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:42 PM


Sources: Dem approached for agriculture post: Nelson won't confirm discussion with Rove (Ed Henry and John King, 11/18/04, CNN)

Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska has been approached about becoming agriculture secretary in the Bush administration, according to two sources.

His appointment could add a second Democrat to Bush's Cabinet, as well as possibly increasing the GOP's Senate majority.

Republican Gov. Mike Johanns would get to choose Nelson's replacement, which could increase the GOP's advantage in the Senate to 56 seats.

Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman announced her resignation Monday.

President Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, spoke to Nelson about the possibility in a telephone conversation last Friday, according to the two sources familiar with their conversation. Nelson has thus far declined to accept what the sources described as an offer or solicitation.

So, here's the thing, your seat is very vulnerable anyway and you've been offered an honorable out and up--meanwhile, do you really want to say "no" to Karl Rove?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:31 PM


The fear myth: Actually, George Bush's victory had more to do with hope and growth (Lexington, Nov 18th 2004, The Economist)

IN THE past fortnight, the Democrats have come up with lots of comfort-food explanations of George Bush's victory—from the idea that the rascal stole the election for a second time (there were a mere 3.3m votes in it, after all) to the notion that he rode into Washington, DC, at the head of an army of hooded fundamentalists. But perhaps the most dangerous of all these myths is the idea that Mr Bush terrified the voters into re-electing him. He divided the country along “fault lines of fear”, according to Maureen Dowd in the New York Times; he relied on “fear of and hatred for modernity”, added Garry Wills, polymath and devout Catholic. Sooner or later every Democrat starts saying that the president used terrorism to partisan advantage.

This explanation is dangerous because it contains a measure of truth. The election certainly took place against a background of fear (Islamic fanatics are, after all, bent on killing as many Americans as they can). And the Republicans certainly played the fear card with gusto (as indeed did the Democrats: remember all the talk about reintroducing conscription). But if they are going to extract any useful lessons from their humiliation, the Democrats need to realise that the Republicans didn't just beat them on fear. They clobbered them on hope.

For the moment, the American right is better at talking about the future than the left. It is better at exuding optimism. And it is better at addressing the aspirations of an aspirational people. [...]

Mr Bush's optimistic message gave him a commanding advantage in pro-growth America. Joel Kotkin, a Los Angeles-based writer who knows as much about the grassroots economy as anyone, points to the close relationship between growth, both demographic and economic, and a propensity to vote Republican. Most of Mr Kerry's base was in stagnant America. Democratic strongholds such as Chicago, Cleveland, San Francisco and Mr Kerry's Boston have been losing people and jobs.

Mr Bush's America, for the most part, is booming. This is not just because the red states that voted for Mr Bush are growing faster than the blue states that voted for Mr Kerry. It is also because Mr Bush did well in the fast-growing suburbs and “exurbs” in both red and blue states. Mr Bush's triumph in greater Phoenix, greater Houston and greater Atlanta was perhaps predictable. But Mr Kotkin points out that he also triumphed in what he calls the “third California”: the vast inland region that is producing the bulk of the state's growth at the moment.

How have the Republicans succeeded in turning themselves into the party of the future?

Turning themselves into? The point is that the future turned out to be what they predicted all along. The New Deal/Great Society-secular-permissive trial failed miserably. Archie Bunker was right--we needed the party of Hoover again.

Strangely enough, it was a man noted best for his trouble expressing ideas and passion who captured this truth most eloquently, Remarks by Senator Bob Dole: Dole Accepts Nomination (San Diego, California, August 15, 1996):

Ladies and gentlemen, delegates to the convention, and fellow citizens, I cannot say it more clearly than in plain speaking. I accept your nomination to lead our party once again to the Presidency of the United States.

And I am profoundly moved by your confidence and trust, and I look forward to leading America into the next century. But this is not my moment, it is yours. It is yours, Elizabeth. It is yours, Robin. It is yours, Jack and Joanne Kemp.

And do not think I have forgotten whose moment this is above all. It is for the people of America that I stand here tonight, and by their generous leave. And as my voice echoes across darkness and desert, as it is heard over car radios on coastal roads, and as it travels above farmland and suburb, deep into the heart of cities that, from space, look tonight like strings of sparkling diamonds, I can tell you that I know whose moment this is: It is yours. It is yours entirely.

And who am I that stands before you tonight?

I was born in Russell, Kansas, a small town in the middle of the prairie surrounded by wheat and oil wells. As my neighbors and friends from Russell, who tonight sit in front of this hall, know well, Russell, though not the West, looks out upon the West.

And like most small towns on the plains, it is a place where no one grows up without an intimate knowledge of distance.

And the first thing you learn on the prairie is the relative size of a man compared to the lay of the land. And under the immense sky where I was born and raised, a man is very small, and if he thinks otherwise, he is wrong.
I come from good people, very good people, and I'm proud of it. My father's name was Doran and my mother's name was Bina. I loved them and there's no moment when my memory of them and my love for them does not overshadow anything I do -- even this, even here -- and there is no height to which I have risen that is high enough to allow me to allow me to forget them -- to allow me to forget where I came from, and where I stand and how I stand -- with my feet on the ground, just a man at the mercy of God.

And this perspective has been strengthened and solidified by a certain wisdom that I owe not to any achievement of my own, but to the gracious compensations of age.

Now I know that in some quarters I may not -- may be expected to run from this, the truth of this, but I was born in 1923, and facts are better than dreams and good presidents and good candidates don't run from the truth.

I do not need the presidency to make or refresh my soul. That false hope I will gladly leave to others. For greatness lies not in what office you hold, but on how honest you are in how you face adversity and in your willingness to stand fast in hard places.

Age has its advantages.

Let me be the bridge to an America than only the unknowing call myth. Let me be the bridge to a time of tranquility, faith and confidence in action.

And to those who say it was never so, that America's not been better, I say you're wrong. And I know because I was there. And I have seen it. And I remember.

And our nation, though wounded and scathed, has outlasted revolutions, civil war, world war, racial oppression and economic catastrophe. We have fought and prevailed on almost every continent. And in almost every sea.

We have even lost. But we have lasted, and we have always come through.

And what enabled us to accomplish this has little to do with the values of the present. After decades of assault upon what made America great, upon supposedly obsolete values, what have we reaped? What have we created? What do we have?

What we have in the opinions of millions of Americans is crime and drugs, illegitimacy, abortion, the abdication of duty, and the abandonment of children.

And after the virtual devastation of the American family, the rock upon which this country was founded, we are told that it takes a village, that is collective, and thus the state, to raise a child.

The state is now more involved than it ever has been in the raising of children. And children are now more neglected, more abused and more mistreated than they have been in our time.

This is not a coincidence. This is not a coincidence. And with all due respect, I am here to tell you it does not take a village to raise a child. It takes a family to raise a child.

If I could by magic restore to every child who lacks a father or a mother that father or that mother, I would. And though I cannot, I would never turn my back on them. And I shall as President vote measures that keep families whole.

And I'm here to tell you that permissive and destructive behavior must be opposed. That honor and liberty must be restored and that individual accountability must replace collective excuse.

And I'm here to say I am here to say to America, do not abandon the great traditions that stretch to the dawn of our history. Do not topple the pillars of those beliefs -- God, family, honor, duty, country -- that have brought us through time, and time, and time, and time again.

And to those who believe that I am too combative, I say if I am combative, it is for love of country. It is to uphold a standard that I was I was born and bread to defend. And to those who believe that I live and breathe compromise, I say that in politics honorable compromise is no sin. It is what protects us from absolutism and intolerance.

But one must never compromise in regard to God and family and honor and duty and country. And I'm here to set a marker, that all may know that it is possible to rise in politics, with these things firmly in mind, not compromised and never abandoned, never abandoned.

For the old values endure and though they may sleep and though they may falter, they endure. I know this is true. And to anyone who believes that restraint honor and trust in the people cannot be returned to government, I say follow me, follow me.

Only right conduct, only right conduct distinguishes a great nation from one that cannot rise above itself. It has never been otherwise.

Right conduct every day, at every level, in all facets of life. The decision of a child not to use drugs; of a student not to cheat; of a young woman or a young man to serve when called; of a screenwriter to refuse to add to mountains of trash; of a businessman not to bribe; of a politician to cast a vote or take action that will put his office or his chances of victory at risk, but which is right.

And why have so many of us -- and I do not exclude myself, for I am not the model of perfection -- why have so many of us been failing these tests for so long? The answer is not a mystery. It is to the contrary quite simple and can be given quite simply.

It is because for too long we have had a leadership that has been unwilling to risk the truth, to speak without calculation, to sacrifice itself.

An administration, in its very existence, communicates this day by day until it flows down like rain and the rain becomes a river and the river becomes a flood.

Which is more important, wealth or honor?

It is not as was said by the victors four years ago, the economy stupid. It's a kind of nation we are. It's whether we still possess the wit and determination to deal with many questions including economic questions, but certainly not limited to them. All things do not flow from wealth or poverty. I know this firsthand and so do you.

All things flow from doing what is right.

The cry of this nation lies not in its material wealth but in courage, and sacrifice and honor. We tend to forget when leaders forget. And we tend to remember it when they remember it.

The high office of the presidency requires not a continuous four year campaign for re-election, but rather broad oversight and attention to three essential areas: the material, the moral and the nation's survival in that ascending order of importance.

In the last presidential election, you the people were gravely insulted. You were told that the material was not only the most important of these three, but in fact, really the only one that mattered.

I don't hold to that for a moment. No one can deny the importance of material well-being. And in this regard, it is time to recognize we have surrendered too much of our economic liberty. I do not appreciate the value of economic liberty nearly as much for what it has done in keeping us fed, as to what it's done in keeping us free.

The freedom of the marketplace is not merely the best guarantor of our prosperity. It is the chief guarantor of our rights, and a government that seizes control of the economy for the good of the people ends up seizing control of the people for the good of the economy.

And our opponents portray the right to enjoy the fruits of one's own time and labor as a kind selfishness against which they must fight for the good of the nation. But they are deeply mistaken, for when they gather to themselves the authority to take the earnings and direct the activities of the people, they are fighting not for our sake but for the power to tell us what to do.

And you now work from the first of January to May just to pay your taxes so that the party of government can satisfy its priorities with the sweat of your brow because they think that what you would do with your own money would be morally and practically less admirable than what they would do with it.

And that simply has got to stop. It's got to stop in America.

It is demeaning to the nation that within the Clinton administration, a core of the elite who never grew up, never did anything real, never sacrificed, never suffered and never learned, should have the power to fund with your earnings their dubious and self-serving schemes. [...]

[I] have learned in my own life, from my own experience that not every man, woman or child can make it on their own. And that in time of need, the bridge between failure and success can be the government itself. And given all that I have experienced, I shall always remember those in need. That is why I helped to save Social Security in 1983 and that is why I will be, I will be the president who preserves and strengthens and protects Medicare for America's senior citizens.

For I will never forget the man who rode on a train from Kansas to Michigan to see his son who was thought to be dying in an Army hospital. When he arrived, his feet were swollen and he could hardly walk because he had to make the trip from Kansas to Michigan standing up most of the way.

Who was that man? He was my father. My father was poor and I love my father. Do you imagine for one minute that as I sign the bills that will set the economy free, I will not be faithful to Americans in need? You can be certain that I will.

For to do otherwise would be to betray those whom I love and honor most. And I will betray nothing. [...]

The Republican Party is broad and inclusive. It represents -- The Republican Party is broad and inclusive. It represents many streams of opinion and many points of view.

But if there's anyone who has mistakenly attached themselves to our party in the belief that we are not open to citizens of every race and religion, then let me remind you, tonight this hall belongs to the Party of Lincoln. And the exits which are clearly marked are for you to walk out of as I stand this ground without compromise.

And though, I can only look up -- and though I can look up, and at a very steep angle, to Washington and Lincoln, let me remind you of their concern for the sometimes delicate unity of the people.

The notion that we are and should be one people rather than "peoples" of the United States seems so self-evident and obvious that it's hard for me to imagine that I must defend it. When I was growing up in Russell, Kansas, it was clear to me that my pride and my home were in America, not in any faction, and not in any division.

In this I was heeding, even as I do unto this day, Washington's eloquent rejection of factionalism. I was honoring, even as I do unto this day, Lincoln's word, his life and his sacrifice. The principle of unity has been with us in all our successes.

The 10th Mountain Division, in which I served in Italy, and the Black troops of the 92ndm Division who fought nearby were the proof for me once again of the truth I'm here trying to convey.

The war was fought just a generation after America's greatest and most intense period of immigration. And yet when the blood of the sons of immigrants and the grandsons of slaves fell on foreign fields, it was American blood. In it you could not read the ethnic particulars of the soldier who died next to you. He was an American.

And when I think how we learned this lesson I wonder how we could have unlearned it. Is the principle of unity, so hard-fought and at the cost of so many lives, having been contested again and again in our history, and at such a terrible price, to be casually abandoned to the urge to divide?
The answer is no.

Must we give in to the senseless drive to break apart that which is beautiful and whole and good?

And so tonight I call on every American to rise above all that may divide us, and to defend the unity of the nation for the honor of generations past, and the sake of those to come. [...]

[O]n my first day in office, I will put America on a course that will end our vulnerability to missile attack and rebuild our armed forces.

It is a course President Clinton has refused to take. And on my first day in office, I will put terrorists on notice. If you harm one American, you harm all Americans. And America will pursue you to the ends of the earth.

In short, don't mess with us if you're not prepared to suffer the consequences.

And furthermore, the lesson has always been clear, if we are prepared to defend, if we are prepared to fight many wars and greater wars than any wars that come, we will have to fight fewer wars and lesser wars and perhaps no wars at all.

It has always been so and will ever be so. And I'm not the first to say that the long gray line has never failed us, and it never has.

For those who might be sharply taken aback and thinking of Vietnam, think again. For in Vietnam the long gray line did not fail us, we failed it in Vietnam.

The American soldier -- the American soldier was not made for the casual and arrogant treatment that he suffered there, where he was committed without clear purpose or resolve, bound by rules that prevented victory, and kept waiting in the valley of the shadow of death for 10 years while the nation invaded the undebatable question of his honor.

No, the American soldier was not to be thrown into battle without a clear purpose or resolve, not made to be abandoned in the field of battle, not made to give his life for indifference or lack of respect. And I will never commit the American soldier to an ordeal without the prospect of victory.

And when I am president, and when I am president every man, and every women in our armed forces will know the president is Commander-in-Chief, not Boutros Boutros-Ghali or any other UN Secretary General.

This I owe not only to the living, but to the dead, to every patriot, to every patriot grave, to the ghosts of Valley Forge, of Flanders Field, of Bataan, the Chosin Reservoir, Khe Sanh, and the Gulf.

This I owe to the men who died on the streets of Mogadishu not three year ago, to the shadows on the bluffs of Normandy, to the foot soldiers who never came home, to the airmen who fell to earth, and the sailors who rest perpetually at sea.

This is not an issue of politics, but far graver than that. Like the bond of trust between parent and child, it is the lifeblood of the nation. It commands not only sacrifice but a grace in leadership embodying both caution and daring at the same time. And this we owe not only to ourselves. Our Allies demand consistency and resolve, which they deserve from us as we deserve it from them. But even if they falter, we cannot, for history has made us the leader, and we are obliged by history to keep the highest standard possible.

And in this regard may I remind you of the nation's debt to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Bush. President Nixon engaged China and the Soviet Union with diplomatic genius. President Ford, who gave me my start in 1976, stood fast in a time of great difficulty, and with the greatest of dignity. Were it not for President Reagan, the Soviet Union would still be standing today.

He brought the Cold War to an end, not, as some demanded, through compromise and surrender -- but by winning it. That's how he brought the Cold War to an end.

And President Bush, with a mastery that words fail to convey, guided the Gulf War coalition and its military forces to victory. A war that might have lasted years and taken the lives of tens of thousands of Americans passed so swiftly and passed so smoothly that history has yet to catch its breath and give him the credit he is due.

History is like that. History is like that. Whenever we forget its singular presence, it gives us a lesson in grace and awe.

And when I look back on my life, I see less and less of myself and more and more a history of this civilization that we have made that is called America.

And I am content and always will be content to see my own story subsumed in great events, the greatest of which is the simple onward procession of the American people. What a high privilege it is to be at the center in these times -- and this I owe to you, the American people.

I owe everything to you. And to make things right, and to close the circle, I will return to you as much as I possibly can. It is incumbent upon me to do so. It is my duty and my deepest desire. And so tonight, I respectfully -- I respectfully ask for your blessing and your support. [...]

My friends, a presidential campaign is more than a contest of candidates, more than a clash of opposing philosophies.

It is a mirror held up to America. It is a measurement of who we are, where we come from, and where we are going. For as much inspiration as we may draw from a glorious past, we recognize American preeminently as a country of tomorrow. For we were placed here for a purpose, by a higher power. There's no doubt about it.

Every soldier in uniform, every school child who recites the Pledge of Allegiance, every citizen who places her hand on her heart when the flag goes by, recognizes and responds to our American destiny.

Optimism is in our blood. I know this as few others can. There once was a time when I doubted the future. But I have learned as many of you have learned that obstacles can be overcome.

And I have unlimited confidence in the wisdom of our people and the future of our country.

Tonight, I stand before you tested by adversity, made sensitive by hardship, a fighter by principle, and the most optimistic man in America.

Not only did this present us a Bob Dole who was, maybe for the first time in his public career, a sympathetic and comprehensible character, but it provided a profound metaphor for conservatism: a bridge that can connect us to the best of our past--in this case skipping over the detritus of the 60s and 70s in particular.

Posted by David Cohen at 12:34 PM


Guinea Get Your Gun: How I learned to love firearms (Emily Yoffe, Slate, 11/18/04)

I pressed the Beretta AL391 Urika deep into my shoulder and against my cheek, as if gripping a shotgun stock were as natural as holding the strap of my purse. I said, "Pull," in a firm yet casual way, to convey that, sure I drove here in a Volvo, and the radio in the Volvo is tuned to NPR, but I'm actually the kind of woman who loves the smell of cordite in my hair. Two weeks ago I was so ignorant about firearms that I thought shotguns discharged bullets and I didn't know the difference between a revolver and a semiautomatic. But here I was shooting trap, in which clay disks, the moving target simulating a bird in flight, are released at unpredictable angles from a small trap house. As the "pigeon" flew on my command, I swung the shotgun to follow its arc and pulled the trigger. My instructor called out, "Oh, yeah!"
I don't own a gun and I don't shoot very often, not more than once every couple of years, but it is the universal experience of everyone who has dragged a reluctant friend or relative to the range that they have a blast.

Posted by David Cohen at 11:30 AM


Senate OKs $800B Debt Limit Hike (Alan Fram, AP, 11/17/04)

A divided Senate approved an $800 billion increase in the federal debt limit Wednesday, a major boost in borrowing that Sen. John Kerry and other Democrats blamed on the fiscal policies of President Bush.

The mostly party line, 52-44 vote was expected to be followed by House passage Thursday. Enactment would raise the government's borrowing limit to $8.18 trillion - $2.23 trillion higher than when Bush became president in 2001, and more than eight times the debt President Reagan faced when he took office in 1981.

You won't see it reported this way anywhere, but this is slightly better than two year's coverage and will keep the debt pretty much constant at around 70% of GDP, which is not a problem.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:02 AM


Military Believes Zarqawi Headquarters Found: Army Major Calls Fallujah Street 'One-Stop Shop for Terrorists' (Jackie Spinner, November 18, 2004, Washington Post)

U.S. soldiers discovered a house in southern Fallujah on Thursday believed to be a main headquarters for Jordanian-born militant Abu Musab Zarqawi, the leader of an insurgent network responsible for bombings, kidnappings and beheadings across Iraq.

A mural in the house indicated that it belonged to Zarqawi's organization.

In the house, the soldiers found letters reportedly written by Zarqawi to his lieutenants, medical supplies from the U.S. Agency for International Development and boxes of ammunition from the Chinese and Jordanian armies.

Nearby were medical supplies from the International Red Cross.

The house, a simple cement structure, was on a block that Army Maj. David Johnson described as a "one-stop shop for terrorists."

"That part of town is the most dangerous place on earth," said Johnson, a historian attached to 1st Infantry Division's Task Force 2-2, which conducted the raid.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:54 AM


Goss aims to rein in the rogues (ROBERT NOVAK, November 18, 2004, Chicago SUN-TIMES)

After President Bush nominated him to be director of Central Intelligence, Rep. Porter Goss walked across the Capitol to meet with a senator he hardly knew and who had criticized him: John McCain. There he received advice confirming his determination to take a course that soon became the talk of Washington.

McCain told Goss the CIA is ''a dysfunctional organization. It has to be cleaned out.'' That is, the CIA does not perform its missions. McCain told Goss that as director, he must get rid of the old boys and bring in a new team at Langley. Moreover, McCain told me this week, ''with CIA leaks intended to harm the re-election campaign of the president of the United States, it is not only dysfunctional but a rogue organization.''

Following a mandate from the president for what McCain advised, Goss is cleaning house. [...]

Traditional bipartisanship in intelligence has been the victim, with Democrats cheering the CIA Bush-bashing. Rep. Jane Harman, ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, abandoned pretense of bipartisanship, and Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the Senate committee's vice chairman, never pretended. Both are attacking former colleague Goss.

McCain's use of the word ''rogue'' carries historical implications. A long, debilitating time of troubles began for the CIA in 1975 after Sen. Frank Church called it ''a rogue elephant'' that is out of control causing trouble around the world. The current use of the word refers to the intelligence agency playing domestic politics, which is an even more disturbing aberration.

The press has built Senator McCain into such a mythic hero that when he disagrees with them they're left completely flummoxed. His forceful backing of Goss's house-cleaning is an especially delicious instance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:42 AM


Toward a moral foreign policy (Cal Thomas, Nov. 18, 2004, Jewish World Review)

In nominating Condoleezza Rice to replace Colin Powell as Secretary of State, President Bush has chosen someone who is a kindred spirit. The two not only subscribe to the same religious beliefs, they also believe that America has been commissioned to share its freedom with the rest of the world.

Natan Sharansky, the former Soviet dissident and current Israeli government official, told me the president invited him to the White House a few days ago to discuss Sharansky's new book, The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror, which he said the president had nearly finished and Dr. Rice was also reading. The book is a powerful argument for spreading freedom around the world as the ultimate weapon against totalitarian societies and fundamentalist movements.

Sharansky states his premise in the introduction: "I am convinced that all people desire to be free. I am convinced that freedom anywhere will make the world safer everywhere. And I am convinced that democratic nations, led by the United States, have a critical role to play in expanding freedom around the globe."

From fear to freedom: Even the most brainwashed individual can find liberation: an excerpt from The Case for Democracy by Natan Sharansky (Natan Sharansky, 11/22/04, US News)
The 1979 revolution against the shah of Iran had broad support in the population. It would quickly become clear, however, that the revolution had imposed a totalitarian religious order that was no less corrupt and even more repressive. In less than a generation, popular support has turned completely against the regime. Though elections in Iran are strictly controlled, with candidates vetted by the ayatollahs and with the media fully controlled by the state, Iranians have increasingly shown their opposition to the mullahs by electing those candidates who are seen as the most hostile to the ideology of the regime. After 25 years of failure, oppression, and economic stagnation, few Iranians can be brainwashed into supporting the ayatollahs.

The attitude of those living in fear societies toward America is a reflection of their attitudes toward their own regime. If America is seen as supporting that regime, as in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the people hate America. If America is seen as opposing the regime, as in Iran, the people admire it. A few months ago, a leader of a former Soviet republic told me about his recent visit to Iran: "It reminded me of the Soviet Union. All the officials criticize and condemn America, and all the people love America."

Even those who genuinely do hate America do not necessarily hate free societies. Rather, part of their hatred