January 31, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:46 PM


Optimism After Iraq Election, but.... (ABBY GOODNOUGH, 2/01/05, NY Times)

Some glimpsed the ink-stained fingers of beaming Iraqis on television and felt their first stirrings of optimism about the war effort. Others said the healthy turnout and relative calm that marked Iraq's first free elections in decades merely reaffirmed their support for President Bush's agenda there.

In interviews around the country on Monday, many Americans voiced surprise and at least some satisfaction about the apparent smoothness of the proceedings, which brought out millions of Iraqi voters. But most were consistent in saying the elections did not change their fundamental views of their country's involvement in Iraq.

"If they learn something about what democracy is, that could be good for them," O'Neill Espinal, 34, said of Iraqi citizens as he lounged at an outdoor mall in Miami Beach. "But I still think we are fighting the wrong war, and Bush set this election up to make the U.S. government look like the good boys."

Yvonne Roper, who was on her lunch break in Houston, said that what she had seen of the elections backed up her sense that the American news media put an unfairly negative spin on the war effort.

"The way the Iraqi people reacted disproves what we see on TV every day," Ms. Roper, 40, said. "The way they were cheering and putting their fingers up - they were proud to participate."

For others, the images of Iraqis lining up to vote brought a far more personal, if fragile, sense of vindication. Nelson Carman, a purchasing agent in Jefferson, Iowa, whose 20-year-old son died last April while fighting in Iraq, said the turnout on Sunday put "a big stamp of approval" on Mr. Bush's mission. He recalled the disappointment he felt after the Vietnam War, and said the election helped him believe that his son and other American soldiers had not died in vain.

Readers of the Times's editorial page must have been particulary surprised.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:43 PM


Democrats flash steel on Gonzales: Their opposition, to the point of alienating Hispanics, offers a preview of likely fight over judicial nominations. (Gail Russell Chaddock, 1/31/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

This week's expected face-off on the nomination of Alberto Gonzales to be the next US attorney general signals how aggressively Democrats on Capitol Hill will oppose the White House - even at the risk of alienating Hispanic supporters.

Long rumored to be a candidate for a Supreme Court vacancy, Mr. Gonzales enjoys broad support in the Hispanic community. His personal story - up from a humble home with seven siblings and no running water - is inspiring, and his confirmation would mark the first time a Latino has held a top cabinet position.

Hispanic groups ranging from the National Council of La Rasa, the League of United Latin American Citizens, and the Hispanic National Bar Association back the nominee. "This is a milestone for the community," says Lisa Navarrete, a spokeswoman for La Rasa.

Maybe George Bush and Karl Rove are evil geniuses. Getting the Democrats to torch their remaining ties to Latinos when all it would get them is a more conservative AG certainly smacks of Machiavellian brilliance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:43 PM


Healthcare Overhaul Is Quietly Underway (Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, January 31, 2005, LA Times)

Emboldened by their success at the polls, the Bush administration and Republican leaders in Congress believe they have a new opportunity to move the nation away from the system of employer-provided health insurance that has covered most working Americans for the last half-century.

In its place, they want to erect a system in which workers — instead of looking to employers for health insurance — would take personal responsibility for protecting themselves and their families: They would buy high-deductible "catastrophic" insurance policies to cover major medical needs, then pay routine costs with money set aside in tax-sheltered health savings accounts.

Elements of that approach have been on the conservative agenda for years, but what has suddenly put it on the fast track is GOP confidence that the political balance of power has changed.

With Democratic strength reduced, President Bush, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Bakersfield) are pushing for action.

Supporters of the new approach, who see it as part of Bush's "ownership society," say workers and their families would become more careful users of healthcare if they had to pay the bills. Also, they say, the lower premiums on high-deductible plans would make coverage affordable for the uninsured and for small businesses.

"My view is that this is absolutely the next big thing," said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, whose consulting firm focuses on healthcare. "You are going to see a continued move to trying to get people involved in the process by owning their own health accounts."

Critics say the Republican approach is really an attempt to shift the risks, massive costs and knotty problems of healthcare from employers to individuals. And they say the GOP is moving forward with far less public attention or debate than have surrounded Bush's plans to overhaul Social Security.

Indeed, Bush's health insurance agenda is far more developed than his Social Security plans and is advancing at a rapid clip through a combination of actions by government, insurers, employers and individuals.

Health savings accounts, known as HSAs, have already been approved. They were created as a little-noticed appendage to the 2003 Medicare prescription drug bill.

As the story almost recognizes, Mr. Bush already won the HSAs, he doesn't need to go back and debate them now.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:29 PM


Pakistan, Israel put out feelers (ANWAR IQBAL, Jan. 31, 2005, UPI)

Israel and Pakistan should have "direct, personal contact, publicly, without being ashamed about it," Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres told the Pakistani newspaper Jang.

The exclusive interview last week with a reporter from Jang, which has a large circulation, sparked a militant rampage on the newspaper's offices in Karachi. But Saturday's vandalism did not shock many in Pakistan. Most people had expected some violent reaction from the country's religious extremists soon after Jang published the interview on Friday.

What surprised them most is that less than 30 people participated in the assault in a city of almost 14 million people. Equally surprising for most Pakistanis was the reaction to the attack.

Almost all major political parties, social organizations and media groups condemned the ransacking and the beating of guards trying to protect the office. The condemnation was so strong that Pakistan's main religious alliance, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, was also forced to join the chorus.

Colonel Qaddafi (or, more likely, his son) was the first to figure out that if the Palestinians don't have a quarrel with Israel anymore (and therefore none with the U.S.) there's no percentage in pretending that you do.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:22 PM


Army suicide rate in Iraq plummets (Dan Olmsted, 1/28/2005, UPI)

The number of suicides by soldiers serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom dropped last year by at least half -- a decline that helped lower significantly the Army's overall suicide rate.

Nine soldiers' deaths in Iraq in 2004 have been ruled suicides, compared with 24 in 2003, the Army told United Press International. Three other deaths in 2004 are being investigated as possible suicides.

Suicide rates are expressed as the number of suicides per 100,000 individuals per year. By that measure, the Army suicide rate in Iraq dropped from 18 per 100,000 in 2003 to 7.9 in 2004.

For the Army as a whole, the number of suicides fell from 77 in 2003 to 58 in 2004, dropping the suicide rate from 12.8 per 100,000 in 2003 to 9.5 in 2004.

How many trees died to provide the pulp on which the Left argued that those suicides demonstrated the horror of the mission? And how many more will be required for the mea culpas? Only kidding....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:09 PM


Triumphant White House now looks to Europe (Julian Borger, February 1, 2005, The Guardian)

The high turnout in the Iraqi election has strengthened President Bush's hand at home and abroad, administration officials and the president's supporters said yesterday.

The courage of Iraqi voters was the perfect illustration of the Mr Bush's "freedom speech" at last month's inauguration, Bush supporters said.

They also said it would have an impact on transatlantic ties, making it harder, for example, for European critics to reject his calls for greater involvement in Iraq's stabilisation.

Yesterday, Mr Bush phoned the two European leaders who most vocally opposed the war in Iraq, the French president, Jacques Chirac, and German chancellor Gerhard Schröder.

A phone call served cold.

Europe to step up Iraq security effort (Judy Dempsey, February 1, 2005, International Herald Tribune)

European Union governments, which were divided over the U.S.-led war against Iraq, pulled together Monday and agreed to step up efforts to improve security after Iraqis held their first democratic elections in 50 years.

President Jacques Chirac of France, who along with Chancellor Gerhard Schröder of Germany had spearheaded the opposition in Europe to the war, spoke by telephone Monday with President George W. Bush and said the election Sunday "was an important stage in the political reconstruction of Iraq."

"The strategy of terrorist groups had partly failed," Chirac told Bush, according to Chirac's spokesman, Jérôme Bonnafont.

Germany, which has been slowly mending fences with Washington, praised the courage of Iraqi voters. "They deserve great recognition for the will they have shown to shape the future of the country peacefully and democratically, despite massive intimidation," said Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer.

The sense of European unity, at least for the moment, was made during a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels and came three weeks before Bush visits Europe, stopping off in Brussels, where he will meet European and NATO leaders.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 PM


HILL SELLS OUT (Dick Morris, January 31, 2005, NY Post)

So why are the Democrats selecting Dean? And why is Harold Ickes, the putative spokesperson for the Clintons, embracing the choice? Because Dean's momentum is unstoppable and nobody wants to stand in the way of the avalanche of self-destructiveness which is pouring onto the Democrats from their left-wing supporters.

Here's how it work: When moderates and centrists embrace the GOP and President Bush, they leave the Democrats to the tender mercies of the liberals. The party is deprived of the ballast offered by swing voters, the party moves further and further to the left, driven by a Jacobin desire for revolutionary purity and revenge against those who urge pragmatism and point to the path to victory.

And the Clintons? Even as Hillary tries to fool us once more into believing in her political moderation, they do not dare stand up against Dean. Even though they know that Dean knows that it was the Clintons who assassinated him en route to the nomination last year, neither Bill nor Hillary utter a peep as their party falls off the deep end.

The Clintons could have gotten Ickes the job, but neither one did any heavy lifting on his behalf. Why not? I'm no longer privy to their secrets, but my guess is that Bill was too sick, sad, physically weakened and unfocuse — and that Hillary, an ingénue without his guidance and leadership, didn't dare to try on her own for fear of publicly failing.

For his part, Ickes likely acted out of pique in demeaning Hillary's chances for victory in 2008 and in withdrawing from the race for chairman entirely a few weeks later. Left to twist slowly in the wind, this normally loyal operative probably felt abandoned and unappreciated, as he did when he was passed over for chief of staff in Clinton's second term.

One wonders if Mr. Morris's own grudge against Ms Clinton doesn't blind him to her quite canny decision to adopt his own strategy and triangulate between a far Left Democratic leadership and the GOP.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:39 PM


Fagin, Shylock and Blair (William Rees-Mogg, 1/31/05, Times of London)

THERE are two great anti-Semitic personas in English literature. Both were created by men of genius, William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens, in works of genius, The Merchant of Venice and Oliver Twist. Both portray a stereotypical Jew as avaricious, ruthless and cunning. The names of both of these characters are so familiar that they have entered the language. They are Shylock and Fagin.

Yesterday, The Mail on Sunday rightly published two striking photographs side by side. Both are carefully staged, with a Fagin figure holding an old-fashioned pocket watch on a chain. The first is a picture of Barry Humphries actually playing Fagin. The second is a Labour Party poster of Michael Howard, carefully chosen to fit the Fagin image.

The second picture has, of course, been doctored by Labour. The watch and chain have been added. The relationship between the two poses is obviously intentional; there is even an unusual knot in the watch chain that appears in both. We are intended to associate Mr Howard with Fagin, that is with a sinister Jewish criminal as seen by anti-Semites.

This is part of the Labour pre-election campaign.

Well, Shakespeare and Dickens are good company anyway.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:16 PM


Resist the Filibuster Fiat (Kevin Drum, January 31, 2005, Washington Post)

Senate Democrats have relied on filibusters to block judicial nominees far more often than have minority parties in previous congresses. But there's good reason for this: Republicans have steadily done away with every other Senate rule that allows minorities to object to judicial nominees -- rules that Republicans took full advantage of when they were the ones out of power.

Originally, after Republicans gained control of the Senate in the 1994 elections and Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch assumed control of the Judiciary Committee, the rule regarding judicial nominees was this: If a single senator from a nominee's home state objected to (or "blue-slipped") a nomination, it was dead. This rule made it easy for Republicans to obstruct Clinton's nominees.

But in 2001, when a Republican became president, Hatch suddenly reversed course and decided that it should take objections from both home-state senators to block a nominee. That made it harder for Democrats to obstruct George W. Bush's nominees.

In early 2003 Hatch went even further: Senatorial objections were merely advisory, he said. Even if both senators objected to a nomination, it could still go to the floor for a vote.

Finally, a few weeks later, yet another barrier was torn down: Hatch did away with "Rule IV," which states that at least one member of the minority has to agree in order to end discussion about a nomination and move it out of committee.

These rule changes aren't a direct explanation for every Democratic filibuster. In fact, some of the filibustered judges have been approved by both of their home-state senators, so they wouldn't have been blue-slipped in any case.

But Democratic frustration is still understandable. For better or worse, the Senate has long been dominated by rules that give minorities considerable power over the legislative and appointment process. The usual justification for this is that it forces compromise and curbs extremism.

When Democrats were in the majority, Republicans defended these traditional Senate rules and used them freely to block judges they had strong objections to. But when they became the majority party themselves, they gradually decided the rules should no longer be allowed to get in the way of unbridled majority power. It was only after Democrats were left with no other way to object to activist judges that they resorted to their last remaining option: the filibuster.

It's arguable, of course, that none of these rules made sense in the first place.

What Mr. Drum has demonstrated here, though unintentionally, is that the rules are always subject to change. Hard to see why they should suddenly be set in stone now, eh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:12 PM


Iraqi Election May Affect Middle East (SAM F. GHATTAS, 1/31/05, Associated Press)

Iraq's election, however imperfect, could increase pressure on other authoritarian Arab countries to begin political reforms and hold free balloting.

"The Americans were able to hold elections in Iraq and that made them much more comfortable in carrying on with their policies in the Middle East," said Lebanese political analyst Ali Hamadeh. "They showed everybody that you can carry on with an electoral process even when you have security problems."

Hamadeh said the message of the election is that if Iraq could carry out "an all-weather democratic process" there is no excuse for other countries not to reform.

Many are feeling the pressure at least to make a show of democratic reform, and 2005 is shaping up to be the year of Middle East elections...

Don't you wish you had a dollar for every Realist who scoffed at the notion that Iraq would set the dominoes tumbling.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:07 PM


(Culture) War Is Declared in Europe: U.S.-style religious and 'town vs. country' conflicts take hold. (John Micklethwait, Adrian Wooldridge, January 31, 2005, LA Times)

[L]ately, cultural issues have begun to force their way back into the mainstream of European politics, stoked by three things.

The first is the willingness of politicians to ride roughshod over ancient traditions — and the growing willingness of what Edmund Burke called the "little platoons" to fight back.

The Labor government's bill banning fox hunting in England and Wales, for instance, delighted metrosexual Islington, where people are less exercised by the rights of foxes than the wrongs of the upper classes. But it has created a furor in rural England — and not just among toffs. [...]

The second factor is the revival of religion — or at least its refusal to die. Europe has long been the world's most secular continent — fittingly so given that the great prophets of secularization such as Emile Durkheim and Max Weber were European. But now religion is again entangling itself with politics.

The most obvious example is the resurgence of radical Islam. [...]

But Christians are also causing more fuss in Europe these days. [...]

The third factor is the growing ambition of the ultimate technocratic project. The European Union is run by gray men who talk about protocols and summits with the same relish that real people reserve for sports teams. Yet their enthusiasm for both deepening Europe (by creating a European constitition) and broadening it (by admitting Turkey) is stirring up a formidable backlash. The upcoming votes about the European constitution will inevitably raise questions about national identity.

The chicken runs for awhile even after you lop off its head.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 PM


VIDEO: Iraq Election Day

The music is especially appropriate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:47 PM


The Castro Experience: A new PBS documentary takes a hard-headed look. (Catherine Seipp, 1/21/05, National Review)

The latest sign that PBS may be indeed moving away from reflexive lefty politics is its hardheaded and compelling new documentary Fidel Castro, which premieres Jan. 31 and is the first non-American biography in the network’s American Experience series. (As executive producer Mark Samuels pointed out at the PBS news conference, an argument can be made that Castro, with his half-century-long "impact on American history," is an American experience, besides being "also a tremendous story.")

Veteran documentarian Adriana Bosch clearly shows the appeal of a charismatic revolutionary like Castro to a populace suffering from the oppressive Batista regime, but refuses to sentimentalize the cigar-smoking, iconic leader they got as a replacement. "It is the tragic story of a nation who saw a messiah in just a man," she says of her film, which doesn’t flinch from detailing the brutal reality beneath Castro’s charm: 500 Bastistianos tried and executed in less than three months, 20,000 people arrested after the Bay of Pigs, and so on.

Was Communism the reason for the treason of Castro's revolution — as Cuban exiles protested in the early '60s? (Castro never actually admitted that the Cuban revolution was socialist in nature until after the Bay of Pigs.) Or was it that Castro himself, as the film reveals, is simply a megalomaniac — someone who as a small boy threatened to burn his family's house down if they didn’t send him to the school of choice, and who confiscated land from his own mother when he grew up? A University of Havana classmate interviewed by Bosch describes young Fidel as a combination of genius and juvenile delinquent, which seems pretty much on the mark.

At the very least, Fidel Castro is a welcome antidote to last year's Looking For Fidel, Oliver Stone's pro-Castro documentary for HBO. "I think it approached a work of fiction," Bosch said, describing the infamous moment in that film when a Cuban prisoner insists to Stone’s cameras that 30 years in jail for stealing a boat seems quite fair to him.

The four decade long tolerance of his regime by presidents of both parties is an American low point.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:10 PM


Transcript for Jan. 30
Guests: Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.
(Meet the Press, Jan. 30, 2005)

MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to Social Security and find out your current thinking. I want to take you back to your campaign in '96 when you talked to your hometown paper, the Boston Globe, and said that, "Dramatic changes are needed to make sure Social Security benefits are available for future retirees." Kerry "said the next Congress should consider controversial measures, such as raising the retirement age and means-testing benefits, called it `wacky' that taxes that pay for the system do not apply to income over $62,700." It's now 90,000. "I know it's all going to be unpopular."

SEN. KERRY: So I was right about wacky.

MR. RUSSERT: Well, we'll see if he runs it--"We have a generational responsibility to fix them."

And then in 2003, you said--"Declaring `I am blessed to be wealthy,' Senator John F. Kerry said that, if elected president, he would consider some form of means-testing for rich Americans as part of a broader review of ideas to shore up the Social Security system." ... But "`Rich people are getting checks from poor people well beyond what they put in the system,' said Kerry. ...Another idea Kerry said he would consider is raising the cut-off point after which people no longer pay into the system. ...`Maybe people ought to pay up to $100,000 or $120,000, I don't know,' the senator said."

Specifically, Senator, do you still agree with yourself? Should we raise the retirement age or consider it? Should we raise the cap on income level that people pay payroll tax?

SEN. KERRY: Precisely what I said in 1996 is "We should consider" a number of these things. We did consider them. I considered them. Others did. I rejected them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:33 PM


State Democrats back Dean for DNC post (WILL LESTER, January 30, 2005, Associated Press)

Howard Dean won the backing of state Democratic Party leaders Monday, putting him in a strong position to win the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee.

"If all of our members vote for him, that will be half of what he needs to win the chairman's job," said Mark Brewer, chairman of the Association of State Democratic Chairs.

The party's presidential front-runner in 2003 won 56 votes from the state chairs and Democratic activist Donnie Fowler won 21 during a national conference call. The state chairs ignored a recommendation made Sunday by the executive committee to back Fowler. Other candidates' support Monday was in single digits.

"We're asking all of our state chairs and vice chairs to follow our endorsements," Brewer said, noting that would bring 112 votes. "And we think they will."

Every dollar spent and minute invested in states that they can't carry takes away from the battlegrounds where they aren't quite dead yet.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:10 PM


'If you don't take a job as a prostitute, we can stop your benefits' (Clare Chapman, 30/01/2005, Daily Telegraph)

A 25-year-old waitress who turned down a job providing "sexual services'' at a brothel in Berlin faces possible cuts to her unemployment benefit under laws introduced this year.

Prostitution was legalised in Germany just over two years ago and brothel owners – who must pay tax and employee health insurance – were granted access to official databases of jobseekers.

The waitress, an unemployed information technology professional, had said that she was willing to work in a bar at night and had worked in a cafe.

She received a letter from the job centre telling her that an employer was interested in her "profile'' and that she should ring them. Only on doing so did the woman, who has not been identified for legal reasons, realise that she was calling a brothel.

Under Germany's welfare reforms, any woman under 55 who has been out of work for more than a year can be forced to take an available job – including in the sex industry – or lose her unemployment benefit.

...he must have been told it would contain a similar provision.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:05 PM


Senator reignites debate on abortion 'epidemic' (Orietta Guerrera, February 1, 2005, The Age)

Nationals Senator Ron Boswell has placed the controversial issue of abortion issue back on the national agenda, calling on Health Minister Tony Abbott to reveal the extent of what has been described as an abortion "epidemic".

Less than three months after Prime Minister John Howard moved to quell a row among Coalition MPs on the issue, Senator Boswell tabled 16 questions for Mr Abbott relating to the number of terminations, funding of the procedures, and the counselling available to women considering an abortion.

You'd think Michael Howard--or someone in the Tory Party--would figure out that the conservative parties that dominate America and Australia are very different from the one that's imploding in Britain.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:57 PM



A fee charged to airline travelers to help pay for airport security would more than double under President Bush's proposed spending plan for the Department of Homeland Security.

Bush's plan calls for raising the security fee from $2.50 to $5.50 for a one-way ticket and from $5 to $8 for a round trip.

Bush's plan, due to be released Feb. 7, would add $48 million to Homeland Security's overall $41 billion budget, according to a copy of the proposal.

The user fee should be high enough to pay for all the security services flight requires and for the air traffic control system, at a minimum.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:53 PM


2020 Vision (Fred Kaplan, Jan. 26, 2005, Slate)

Who will be the first politician brave enough to declare publicly that the United States is a declining power and that America's leaders must urgently discuss what to do about it?

Jimmy Carter.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:31 PM


Iraq Elections: A Large Step Towards Legitimate Self-Government (New Democrat No-Longer-Daily, 1/31/05)

Although the results of yesterday's Iraqi elections will not be compiled for a number of days, several important facts appear beyond dispute:

* Despite the threat and reality of violence aimed at voters and candidates, turnout was impressively high -- indeed, higher than in most recent U.S. elections;

* Despite a boycott sponsored by most Sunni Arab leaders, Sunni turnout was much better than expected wherever it was physically possible;

* While Shia are sure to dominate the new government, Sunni representation will likely reflect that community's proportion of the population, and President Allawi 's secular-minded multi-party alliance appears to have done quite well;

* The Iraqi elections were widely publicized in independent Arab media as successful, and as more significant than the insurgents' efforts to subvert them.

This means that during the last year, elections have been successfully carried out -- with women participating -- in three very unlikely places: Afghanistan, Palestine, and now Iraq, despite strong efforts by Jihadists to reduce participation.

There is no question this should be grounds for celebration in all democratic countries, regardless of one's views on the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. And it should definitely be happily welcomed by everyone in the United States, regardless of one's views on the foreign policy of the Bush administration. It's a vindication of the universal appeal of our most fundamental values, and Democrats in particular should make that clear.

At the same time...

You'd think it would bother them more that the rest of the Democrats don't share their faith in those values anymore.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:22 PM


America's Jihad: the chilling rhetoric of George W Bush's inaugural speech (Hassan Nafaa, 1/27/05, Al-Ahram)

George W Bush's inaugural address was unlike that of any of his predecessors. Whereas they attempted to strike a conciliatory mood as they laid out their domestic and foreign policy programmes his was nothing less than a neo-conservative manifesto that came perilously close to declaring holy war.

The speech must have come as a shock to the many who had hoped that Bush had learned from the mistakes his administration made during his first term. Certainly four years in office should have furnished the experience necessary to lead the world towards greater security and stability. It hasn't -- there was nothing in his speech to give comfort, not one hint of an admission that he may have made some mistakes, not a single sign that he has absorbed the lessons of the consequences of his actions. He made no reference to the wars he declared during his first term or to a timeframe for withdrawal from the Iraqi quagmire in which American forces have sunk up to their ears. There was no indication that he has begun to fathom the limits of recourse to force or the value of diplomacy in resolving international problems. As for the events of 11 September, 2001 which handed him the opportunity to metamorphose from a presidential novice who scraped into power through a dubious process into a latter day Alexander the Great, as his admires would have it, he did not refer to them by name. Instead he spoke of the "day of the conflagration".

It would be a great mistake to dismiss Bush's inaugural address on the grounds that it was merely a formality in which ideological platitudes were spouted with a rhetorical fervour suited to the occasion. This was a very significant speech, and it was drafted carefully. Michael Girson, Bush's favourite speechwriter, wrote it and Bush read and revised it 21 times before settling on the final version delivered to Congress on 20 January. The speech serves as an outline of the agenda of the American ultra-right.

Bush wasted no time in getting down to what his administration has identified as the primary threat to US national security. The most frequently repeated word in his address in this regard was not terrorism, as has been the case in so many of his speeches since 11 September, but dictatorship. It would be foolish, though, to assume that the change in terminology heralds a shift in US foreign policy. There may be some change in means and tactics but not in general strategies and objectives. The neo-conservatives whom Bush represents still believe terrorism is the major peril, but they have also come to realise that the phenomenon is an offshoot of despotism and that their objectives would be better served by treating the ailment and not just its symptoms. I have no doubt whatsoever that America's ultra-conservatives, who now hold the reins of power in the US, are convinced that the terrorism that struck New York and Washington in September 2001 was a product of dictatorial regimes and of nothing else.

It follows that uprooting terrorism requires the destruction of the soil in which it breeds. If Bush's inaugural address was clear about anything it was about the nature of that soil -- dictatorial regimes that whip their people into subjugation and fetter their will. These have to be done away with and replaced by democratic governments with established mechanisms for the peaceful rotation of power.

When you compare the hyperbolic rhetoric to obviously desirable ends he depicts, you're forced to wonder if he didn't just pull a fast one on the censors.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:03 PM


Bush Forges Weak Links to Legacies of Democratic Predecessors
(Ronald Brownstein, January 31, 2005, LA Times)

Probably the last Democratic president who held views roughly similar to President Bush's was Grover Cleveland in the late 19th century. Cleveland embodied the resistance to activist government that dominated the Democratic Party through its first century and fuels the GOP today.

But the unlamented Cleveland isn't one of the predecessors Bush and his allies are enlisting to sell his initiatives at home and abroad. Instead, they are trying to link Bush's agenda with Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Bill Clinton.

In each case, to put it mildly, the connection is a stretch. In fact, in each instance, the Bush team is citing the Democrats to sell policies that reverse the strategies those presidents pursued. It's as if General Motors were using a testimonial from Ralph Nader to sell an updated Corvair.

Bush's allies have routinely described his recent inaugural address as the most idealistic statement of America's commitment to expanding liberty since Wilson's declaration in 1917 that, "The world must be made safe for democracy."

Up to a point the analogy holds. Like Bush, Wilson believed that the spread of democracy would make America more secure. And Wilson, like Bush, considered U.S. influence key to encouraging that spread.

But the differences dwarf the similarities. Wilson wanted the U.S. to help organize the world into a League of Nations that would confront threats as "a community of power." In both Iraq and Afghanistan, Bush has demonstrated that he is more comfortable working virtually alone than accepting restrictions on America's freedom of action.

It goes on like that for awhile, with Mr. Brownstein apparently puzzled that the President learned from his predecessors' most conspicuous failures and is only linking himself to the positive contributions they made.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:57 PM


Israel to Leave 4 West Bank Towns Soon (Ken Ellingwood, January 31, 2005, LA Times)

In the latest sign of budding cooperation, Israel's defense minister said Sunday that the army probably would withdraw troops from some West Bank cities in a matter of days, turning security over to Palestinian forces.

A pullback of Israeli troops from cities where they have operated during the nearly 4 1/2 -year-old conflict would meet a key demand of the new Palestinian leadership, which has impressed Israel by moving to quell the activities of armed militants in the Gaza Strip. [...]

Israeli officials said the withdrawal probably would be accompanied by the removal of roadblocks, which Palestinians complain inhibit their movements and choke their economy. Israel has said the roadblocks and checkpoints around Palestinian towns are needed safeguards against suicide bombers making their way into Israel proper.

Mofaz said Israel could remove troops from all Palestinian cities by year's end.

Is someone keeping track of how many democratic Arab states will be born in 2005?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:43 PM


For a Battered Populace, a Day of Civic Passion (JOHN F. BURNS, 1/31/05, NY Times)

Nobody among the hundreds of voters thronging one Baghdad polling station on Sunday could remember anything remotely like it, not even those old enough to have taken part in Iraq's last partly free elections more than 50 years ago, before the assassination of King Faisal II began a spiraling descent into tyranny.

The scene was suffused with the sense of civic spirit that has seemed, so often in America's 22 months here, like a missing link in the plan to build democracy in Iraq. Gone, for this day at least, was the suspicion that 24 years of bludgeoning under Saddam Hussein had bred a disabling passivity among the country's 28 million people, an unwillingness, among many, to become committed partners in fashioning their own freedoms.

At the Darari primary school, east of the Tigris River in central Baghdad, the courtyard teemed with people of all ages, and of all ethnic and religious groups, doing what American military commanders here have urged for so long: standing up for themselves, and laying down a marker, with their votes, that signaled they could not be intimidated into surrendering their rights by the insurgents who have terrorized the country with guns and bombs and butchers' knives.

The voters were the same people, mostly, who crowded polling centers in the fall of 2002, six months before American troops toppled Mr. Hussein, to re-elect him in a one-candidate referendum by an official vote count of 100 percent. Then, all was uniformity, and cries of fealty to the dictator.

On Sunday, everything about the voting resonated with a passion for self-expression, individuals set on their own choices, prepared to walk long distances through streets choked with military checkpoints, and to stand for hours in line to cast their ballots.

"A hundred names on the ballot are better than one, because it means that we are free," said Fadila Saleh, a 37-year-old engineer, as she hurried about the courtyard trying to find an official who would allow her to transfer her vote to the Darari center, setting aside a mistaken register that had her living miles away. Eventually, she prevailed, along with several friends dressed like her in the head-to-toe cloaks of conservative Muslim women.

Because so much of the media is anti-American/anti-war/anti-Iraqi/anti-whatever it's almost as if Mr. Burns, who's made no bones about being glad Saddam is gone, has a conflict of interest.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:28 PM


Approval rates for Dayton, Coleman drop (Rob Hotakainen, 1/31/05, Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Minnesota Sens. Mark Dayton and Norm Coleman both took hits to their public image in the past year, with their job approval ratings falling below 50 percent, according to the latest Minnesota Poll.

Dayton, a Democrat who's up for reelection next year, took the heaviest blow: His approval rating declined by 15 points in a year, from 58 percent to 43 percent. [...]

Dayton's job approval decreased among all categories of Minnesotans, grouped by age, education, income, party and ideology, with the largest drop among men -- down 27 points -- and 18- to 24-year-olds -- down 31 points. [...]

The poll, which was conducted from Sunday, Jan. 23, through Wednesday, came during a week in which Dayton was in the headlines. First, Rep. Gil Gutknecht, R-Minn., announced that he was considering a run against Dayton, who is regarded by the Cook Political Report as the most vulnerable Senate Democrat seeking reelection next year. Then Dayton gave a highly publicized speech on the Senate floor, accusing Rice of lying to the American people and Congress while making the case for war against Iraq in 2002. In his Tuesday speech, Dayton said his vote against Rice was "a statement that this administration's lying must stop now."

Dayton, who routinely accuses the Bush administration of making false statements, received national -- even worldwide -- attention after making his remarks as part of such a high-profile debate. His office was flooded with more than 4,000 e-mails and phone calls, most of them positive, and Dayton was featured on Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show."

This should be the easiest, but far from only, GOP pickup in '06.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:27 PM


New dawn in Iraq (Hassan Hanizadeh, 1/31/05, Tehran Times)

The new era in Iraq finally began to dawn with a massive voter turnout in Sunday’s election and some bloody incidents.

Criminal terrorists tried to sabotage the election by carrying out attacks on polling stations, but the determined Iraqi people braved the threats of the gunmen.

After enduring eight decades of dictatorship and crime, the Iraqi nation has taken the first steps on the path toward a bright future and democracy -- a new phenomenon in Arab world.

The Iraqi people have experienced great suffering due to dictatorships, geopolitical conditions, and demography.

And, unfortunately, some neighboring Arab countries played a direct role in setting up despotic governments in Iraq, since they cannot tolerate the rule of democracy in Iraq due to its complicated ethnic makeup.

Indisputable evidence discovered after the fall of the Baath regime showed that Saddam Hussein could not have committed such crimes against his own people without these Arab states’ support.

The Shia in the south of Iraq and the Kurds in the north succeeded in liberating 14 of the country’s 18 provinces in 1991, shortly after the Iraqi Army was driven out of Kuwait. But certain Arab states pressured former U.S. president George Bush and he eventually gave Saddam the green light to brutally suppress the Shia and Kurdish uprising.

Saddam’s government was on the brink of collapse, but the leaders of some Arab countries helped the Baathists quell the Iraqi nation’s uprising mercilessly, since they preferred a weak Saddam to a democratic government.

Some 450,000 Shia and Kurds were massacred by Iraqi troops loyal to Saddam, who continued carrying out crimes due to the Arab states’ misunderstanding of the Shias.

If power had been transferred through holding a free referendum under the supervision of the United Nations and the international community in 1991, Iraq and the rest of the region would not have witnessed such painful events.

In addition, the United States would not have felt compelled to sacrifice so many lives and spend such a huge amount of money to overthrow Saddam, and the Iraqi nation would have been able to establish a popular government calmly and without carnage.

Yet, the Iraqi people, despite their ethnic and sectarian differences, have maintained their national identity and cast their votes freely in order to find a logical way to resolve the current crisis.

One of the most delicious aspects of the elections was the way the anti-Americanism of the Left, far Right, and the terrorists played into our hands. It was an article of faith for all that we couldn't be there to impose democracy and that the Iraqis wouldn't take it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:14 AM


Be careful picking baby's name (DELIA O'HARA, January 31, 2005, Chicago Sun-Times)

Parents spend countless hours trying to come up with the coolest baby names, but they may be doing nothing more than setting up the young heirs for a lifetime of rude jokes.

Joe Borgenicht's new book, What Not to Name Your Baby (Simon Spotlight, $7.95), tries to save parents from that fate.

Most people your child will encounter will not know the noble provenance of his name or how it resonated with you when you selected it. Rather, they will think of the mentally challenged character who bears that name on "The Simpsons," or the fact that the moniker rhymes with a titillating body part.

"Parents know that the name they give their child will dictate a lot later in life," Borgenicht says, but they may not know every pop-culture nuance of the names they are considering. He advises them to "be sure your name doesn't appear in this book. You can at least give the child a name schoolyard kids have the least opportunity to make fun of."

While my fraternity brother John Hoff never forgave his parents, many of the most amusing inappropriate names for the playground are urban legends.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:59 AM


VIDEO: Second Term (Jib Jab)

Forget all the analysis you've read and heard, George Bush's victory in November is amply explained by who's upset about him winning in this skit.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:06 AM


Credit where it's due? Blair's balance sheet: In the first of a three-part serialisation of their new book, Polly Toynbee and David Walker assess whether Labour has delivered on its second-term promises. Today they examine the economy and social justice (Polly Toynbee and David Walker, January 31, 2005, The Guardian)

Gordon Brown's Treasury dominated the domestic agenda of the second Blair term, as it had from 1997 to 2001. Credit for the buoyant state of the economy was claimed, with justification, by New Labour's chancellor. Brown's supporters liked to claim progressive measures and the pursuit of social justice were down to Gordon, while Blair did Middle England, ensuring the electoral coalition Labour had built for 1997 prospered.

The division of labour was in fact nothing like as simple. Brown had become a capitalist-fatalist. He believed that if the markets paid staff less than they could live on, if they showered not-especially competent executives with gold and silver, then a government's only duty was to compensate the losers, not to meddle with the sanctity of markets.

But the Brown camp did provide for the market losers. From the thickets of tax and- benefit details emerged a chancellor intent on making poor people better off, as well as the rest of us. New Labour's second term was a growth era. In the 1990s, the UK economy had grown by 1.7% a year; in Labour's new century, it was 2.7%. Whatever else Blair's Britain did, it worked. From 2001 to 2005, some 1.5m jobs were created; a million or so disappeared. The net result was near-full employment, even in the most deprived parts of the UK, with unemployment at a historic low.

Brown's objective was simple: to create conditions of stability within which private business could flourish. However, British business could not be trusted to invest, innovate, re-skill or play fair. Under Labour, the government was not going to retreat from inspecting or worrying about markets; but then, neither had it really retreated under Thatcher. Brown's problem was that he had no model for intervention. He had a vision of what the economy could look like, which is why he was happy opening pharmaceutical labs. But what else?

There's not much else: govern like Thatcher, talk like FDR.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:48 AM


Acts of Bravery (BOB HERBERT, 1/31/05, NY Times)

You'd have to be pretty hardhearted not to be moved by the courage of the millions of Iraqis who insisted on turning out to vote yesterday despite the very real threat that they would be walking into mayhem and violent death at the polls.

At polling stations across the country there were women in veils holding the hands of children, and men on crutches, and people who had been maimed during the terrible years of Saddam, and old people. Among those lined up to vote in Baghdad was Samir Hassan, a 32-year-old man who lost a leg in the blast of a car bomb last year. He told a reporter, "I would have crawled here if I had to."

In a war with very few feel-good moments, yesterday's election would qualify as one. But...

Why don't we start collecting the "but" columns here--those from opponents of Iraqi liberation who can't accept that what happened yesterday was a world historical event.

-Birth of a Nation? (Fred Kaplan, Jan. 30, 2005, Slate)

Few sights are more stirring than the televised images of Iraqi citizens risking their lives to vote in their country's first election in a half-century, kissing the ballot boxes, dancing in the streets, and declaring their hopes for a new day of democracy.

And yet...

-Fig-leaf freedom: One election does not a democracy make (Brian Whitaker, January 31, 2005, Guardian Unlimited)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 AM


Congressional Republicans Agree To Launch Social Security Campaign (Mike Allen, January 31, 2005, Washington Post)

Congressional Republicans, after three months of internal debate, this weekend launched a months-long campaign to try to convince constituents that rewriting the Social Security law would be cheaper and less risky than leaving it alone, as the White House opened a campaign to pressure several Senate Democrats to support the changes.

The Republicans left an annual retreat in the Allegheny Mountains with a 104-page playbook titled "Saving Social Security," a deliberate echo of the language President Bill Clinton used to argue that the retirement system's trust fund should be built up in anticipation of the baby boomers' retirement.

The congressional Republicans' confidential plan was developed with the advice of pollsters, marketing experts and communication consultants, and was provided to The Washington Post by a Republican official. The blueprint urges lawmakers to promote the "personalization" of Social Security, suggesting ownership and control, rather than "privatization," which "connotes the total corporate takeover of Social Security." Democratic strategists said they intend to continue fighting the Republican plan by branding it privatization, and assert that depiction is already set in people's minds.

Can Democrats really win by arguing for Big Government and against the Private Sector?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:37 AM


Chairman Kim’s dissolving kingdom (Michael Sheridan, 1/30/05, Times Of London)

FAR across the frozen river two figures hurried from the North Korean shore, slip-sliding on the ice as they made a break for the Chinese riverbank to escape a regime that, by many accounts, is now entering its death throes.

It was a desperate risk to run in the stark glare of the winter sunshine. We had just seen a patrol of Chinese soldiers in fur-lined uniforms tramping along the snowy bank, their automatic rifles slung ready for action.

Police cars swept up and down the road every 10 or 15 minutes, on the look-out for refugees. A small group of Chinese travellers in our minibus, some of whom turned out to have good reasons to be discreet, pretended not to notice.

The two made it to shelter and we ploughed on towards a border post that offered us a rare opportunity to cross into the northeastern corner of the last Stalinist state, posing as would-be investors in an experimental free trade zone.

We had already witnessed one sign that North Korea’s totalitarian system is dissolving, even as its leaders boast of owning nuclear weapons to deter their enemies.

“It’s just like the Berlin Wall,” Pastor Douglas Shin, a Christian activist, said by telephone from Seoul. “The slow-motion exodus is the beginning of the end.”

In interviews for this article over many months, western policymakers, Chinese experts, North Korean exiles and human rights activists built up a picture of a tightly knit clan leadership in Pyongyang that is on the verge of collapse.

Time for the President to give a Westminster speech, talking about North Korea in the past tense and about how we'll work with the citizens of the free Korea that follows.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:22 AM


Form Follows Fascism (MARK STEVENS, 1/31/05, NY Times)

Traditionally, [Philip] Johnson is presented as the great champion of modern architecture - organizer of the landmark 1932 Museum of Modern Art show on the International Style, and architect of the Glass House on his Connecticut estate, which quickly came to symbolize American modernism. He is equally celebrated for abandoning classical modernism in the late 50's and adopting in the decades that followed a succession of styles that mirrored the changing taste of the time.

It hardly mattered that many of his skyscrapers were corporate schmaltz; he was an enlivening, generous figure, a man who charmingly described himself as a "whore" as he picked the corporate pocket. Always ready to challenge the earnest, Mr. Johnson, who understood Warhol as well as Mies, became both an icon and an iconoclast.

Only one aspect marred this picture: His embrace of fascism during the 1930's, which was mentioned only in passing in most obituaries. He later called his ideological infatuation "stupidity" and apologized whenever pressed on the matter; as a form of atonement, he designed a synagogue for no fee. With a few exceptions, critics typically had little interest in the details, granting Mr. Johnson a pass for a youthful indiscretion.

Then, in 1994, Franz Schulze's biography presented this period of Mr. Johnson's life in some depth. Mr. Schulze's account was as sympathetic as possible - and many reviews of the book still played down the importance of Mr. Johnson's politics - but it was clear that views of Mr. Johnson's import for American culture would change significantly.

Philip Johnson did not just flirt with fascism. He spent several years in his late 20's and early 30's - years when an artist's imagination usually begins to jell - consumed by fascist ideology. He tried to start a fascist party in the United States. He worked for Huey Long and Father Coughlin, writing essays on their behalf. He tried to buy the magazine American Mercury, then complained in a letter, "The Jews bought the magazine and are ruining it, naturally." He traveled several times to Germany. He thrilled to the Nuremberg rally of 1938 and, after the invasion of Poland, he visited the front at the invitation of the Nazis.

He approved of what he saw.

It can hardly be surprising that anti-human building proceeded from such an anti-human personality.

As Tom Wolfe asked:

O beautiful, for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, has there ever been another place on earth where so many people of wealth and power have paid for and put up with so much architecture they detested as within they blessed borders today?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:03 AM


The Old Man (Paul Greenberg, Jan. 31, 2005, Jewish World Review)

There is a small vignette featuring Colonel Holmes and his young visitor back in 1969 in one of the better - and most readable — books of social history published in recent years: "Horns, Hogs and Nixon Coming." Its theme is the big shoot-out that year between the Razorbacks and Longhorns, a game it still hurts Arkies to think about.

But this book is about a lot more than a game. On Page 46, you'll find a brief but telling description of Bill Clinton's demeanor when he came to see the colonel in Fayetteville:

"In July, during the week of the launching of the history-making Apollo 11 mission to the moon . . . William Jefferson Clinton knocked on the colonel's front door. . . . 'He didn't want to come inside,' Holmes says. 'He wanted to sit out on the curb. I had just met him. I thought he was just a normal, young American guy who would fulfill his duty to his country if it came up.'"

Only later would Colonel Holmes decide he'd been hoodwinked.

But what gets me was young Clinton's hesitating to cross the colonel's threshold. As if he wouldn't be deceiving the old man if he didn't actually go into the house. As if he still had some qualms about what he was doing. It's hard not to like that 23-year-old no-longer-boy, not-quite man. Maybe he still had some vestigial sense of Southern honor that would not let him go inside to consummate the deal. Instead he did it outside, on the back patio.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:19 AM


Iraqis put freedom before fear and vote in their millions (COLIN FREEMAN IN BAGHDAD, NICK BIRCH IN SULEIMANIYA AND GETHIN CHAMBERLAIN IN BASRA, 1/31/5, The Sctsman)
IRAQIS turned out in their millions to vote in the country’s first free elections for half a century yesterday, sending a clear message of defiance to militants who had threatened to disrupt the historic poll with a campaign of violence.

Early fears that many would be deterred from voting by warnings of a bloodbath failed to materialise, and by the time the polling stations closed last night officials estimated a significant turnout of about 60 per cent. [...]

Observers put the lack of a concerted attack down to the tough security measures in place for polling day.

Iraq’s borders have been sealed since Friday and private vehicles have been banned from the country’s roads, depriving suicide bombers of their favoured form of attack.

But despite the Draconian security measures, much of the country saw something of a party atmosphere yesterday as Iraqis cast their votes. "This is my great happiness to do this today - I am not scared of car bombs," said Saleem Khadom, 72, as he voted in southern Baghdad.

"This is my chance to choose who I want in government to bring us a comfortable future."

Mr Khadom, a farmworker, was the first in the queue at the Al Ahrar school polling centre in Baghdad’s Karada district when it opened just before 8am.

Dressed in his best clothes - a grey dishdasha robe and tweed jacket - he disappeared behind the cardboard polling booth, folded his ballot slip into the plastic box and then proudly refused to tell waiting reporters who he had voted for. "It’s my right to keep it secret," he said, grinning.

'Saddam would not allow us to breathe - now we are free' (GETHIN CHAMBERLAIN , 1/31/05, The Scotsman)
"This is the first time to decide for ourselves," said Taliaa Abdul Karim, a young bank worker who turned up at the al Kamadil girls’ primary school with her friends to vote.

It was already late in the day when she walked in, and there was precious little room left in the transparent plastic ballot boxes for her paper. She waited for the clerk to find her name on the register of voters, took her voting forms, went behind one of the cardboard booths set up at the far end of the room, and emerged to drop the two completed forms into the boxes.

Then she dipped her finger into the tub of indelible indigo ink. It was there to make sure no-one voted twice, but people brandished their marked index fingers like badges of honour.

"This is the first time we can be free," she said. "Saddam Hussein was putting us in jail - he would not allow us to breathe."

The future, she said, would not be that way. "We want freedom, freedom of opinion, and I hope it will be just and we will have equality and no sectarian differences. The voice of women should he heard in this society."

Nori Jawad, the jovial headmaster running the polling station, could not contain his excitement. The first people turned up at 7am; by 4pm, an hour before the polls closed, 80 per cent of the 4,020 people on his list had cast their votes.

"Today, everyone is treating it like Christmas," he said. "Yes, Christmas. The old regime is finished. This will succeed. Saddam put pressure on people to come to the elections, but now they come because they want to."

Iraq embraces a brave new world of democracy (James Hider in Baghdad and Richard Beeston in Najaf, 1/31/05, Times of London)
THE last time that Iraqis went to the polls was in 2002 when they voted 100 per cent for Saddam Hussein, the only candidate on the ballot paper.

They voted again yesterday, millions of them, for a host of candidates, in the first free elections that any but the very oldest could remember. [...]

The sick, the old, the blind and lame surged to polling centres, sometimes carried, sometimes wheeled in carts by relatives. Many put on their best clothes and handed out sweets, in imitation of the Muslim holiday of Eid, a week ago.

“This is an historic moment for Iraq, a day when Iraqis can hold their heads high because they are challenging the terrorists and starting to write their future with their own hands,” Iyad Allawi, the interim Prime Minister, said.

In the north, a 100-year-old Kurdish woman named Khadija Chalabi came down from the mountains to cast her ballot. “She told us that as long as she’s alive she must vote for the Kurdish people,” said one of her grandsons.

In Baghdad, Samir Hassan, 33, who lost a leg in a terrorist attack, said: “I’d have crawled here if I had to. I don’t want terrorists to kill other Iraqis like they tried to kill me. Today I am voting for peace.”

In the southern city of Basra, women in black abayas queued for up to three hours to vote. People jubilantly waved the ink stain on their index fingers — a device to prevent fraud. “I’m a human being again,” said a Shia man, overcome by tears. “Showing emotion is part of being human. Saddam dehumanised us.”

A proud city defies terrorists (James Glanz, January 31, 2005, The New York Times)
In Basra, the voting got off to a slow start, as if people were waiting to assess the situation before venturing to the polling centers. The streets were nearly deserted in the early morning, creating an eerie calm, and there were no vehicles except those driven by the hundreds of Iraqi police and the Iraqi National Guard.

It looked at first as if the election experiment might be a failure. But then something changed. By shortly after 9 a.m. the streets looked like a citywide marketplace. The city took on a festive air; people were proud and happy - upbeat about the opportunity to vote.

The turnout was "excellent," said one election worker, Hani Abbas, as he handed out ballots and stamped them at polling station No. 1, the Uday Oda school in the center of the city. "I didn't expect so many people to show up. I feel proud of my people."

Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:59 AM


Davos Succumbs to Star Power (Deutsche Welle, January 30th, 2005)

Movers and shakers from business and politics at this year's World Economic Forum in Switzerland were pushed to one side, as international celebrities added combating poverty and AIDS to the agenda.

Hollywood film stars Angelina Jolie, Sharon Stone and Richard Gere, as well as singers Bono and Lionel Ritchie, vied for attention with the leaders of Britain, France and Germany at Davos. Normally at the center of attention at the annual event, the world's business elite were left to play supporting roles on the sidelines this time around.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac, and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder successively pledged to find ways of spending billions of dollars in aid, trade or debt relief into poor countries this year.

But Stone, an anti-poverty activist like other celebrities invited to the Swiss Alpine resort of Davos, stole the limelight by making "an ass of myself" and extracting one million dollars from the largely corporate audience within minutes. She stood up during a debate on poverty involving Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, pledging $10,000 (€7,660) for anti-mosquito bed nets to help prevent malaria in Tanzania and challenged her fellow onlookers to follow suit.

"A lot of them, let's face it, are pretty square," she later said of the business leaders at the debate. But thirty of them responded to her challenge to stump up cash for her cause.[...]

The elite business, political, academic and civil society participants invited to the five day meeting appeared to have sensed the mood of the moment. Asked by the forum organizers to choose six issues that urgently needed to be tackled in the world -- and by the forum over the next year -- 64 percent of them placed poverty at the top, followed by "equitable globalization" and climate change.

Traditional Davos favorites, the global economy and trade, were almost left out altogether, depriving about 100 anti-globalization protestors of their key themes as they trudged peacefully through the resort's icy streets on Saturday.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates tried to grab the spotlight briefly when he heaped praise on communist China for creating "a brand-new form of capitalism". But the drawing power of the geeky computer pioneer paled in comparison to Angelina Jolie, recently voted the sexiest woman alive by Esquire magazine.

Jolie, who has carried out field trips to 20 countries, including Cambodia, Ivory Coast, Sri Lanka and Sudan, said keeping near the spotlight was crucial to publicizing humanitarian needs. She said her ambassadorial role with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees was "more fulfilling and more interesting to me" than films. "And I know it's more important."

We instinctively grasp the fecklessness and fatuity of many Hollywood activists, but why in the world do conservatives tend to think that success in business bestows a special insight into the ills of the world and how to cure them?

Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:42 AM


Politician's promises not set in stone, court says (Kirk Makin, Globe and Mail, January 31st, 2005)

It's official: Politicians can break campaign promises with impunity.

An Ontario Superior Court judge has absolved Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty of breaking an elaborately signed contract promising not to raise or create new taxes, saying anyone who believes a campaign promise is naive about the democratic system.

If anyone who voted for a politician based on a particular promise later were to go to court alleging a breached contract, ”our system of government would be rendered dysfunctional. This would hinder, if not paralyze, the parliamentary system,” Mr. Justice Paul Rouleau said.

The judge was ruling on a request from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation to quash the Liberals' new health premium on the grounds that it broke an election promise.

But in unreported obiter dicta, Judge Rouleau went on to opine that he nevertheless thought President Bush could be sued for keeping his.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:22 AM


Global warming may kill off polar bears in 20 years, says WWF
(Bradley Klapper, The Guardian, January 31st, 2005)

Many Arctic animals, including polar bears and some seal species, could be extinct within 20 years because of global warming, a conservation group said yesterday.

Traditional ways of life for many indigenous people in the Arctic would also become unsustainable unless the world "takes drastic action to reduce climate change", said the conservation organisation WWF.

"If we don't act immediately the Arctic will soon become unrecognisable" said Tonje Folkestad, a WWF climate change expert. "Polar bears will be ... something that our grandchildren can only read about in books."

Self-reference alert: In the early eighties, I was working as a legal adviser to a Quebec Inuit political/development corporation that had settled a land claim. The Quebec legislature was studying wildlife management in Arctic Quebec and the Inuit were anxious to have a special role. A hulking traditional Inuk hunter was chosen to appear at legislative hearings. All the progressive white advisers briefed him carefully on what to say–-how the Inuit were natural conservationists who had practiced traditional wildlife management since time immemorial and how they instinctively understood how important a delicate ecological balance was to maintaining their traditional livelihood, which of course was their number one priority. But they forgot how short-fused he was. Grilled by legislators in unfamiliar surroundings, he eventually lost it and started screaming: “Why white man worry so much about polar bear? Polar bear kill Inuit! Polar bear eat fish and seal! Polar bear no good! Inuit want to kill all polar bear!!!”

January 30, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:33 PM


Voting, Not Violence, Is the Big Story on Arab TV (HASSAN M. FATTAH, 1/30/05, NY Times)

Sometime after the first insurgent attack in Iraq this morning, news directors at Arab satellite channels and newspaper editors found themselves facing an altogether new decision: should they report on the violence, or continue to cover the elections themselves?

After close to two years of providing up-to-the-minute images of explosions and mayhem, and despite months of predictions of a bloodbath on election day, some news directors said they found the decision surprisingly easy to make. The violence simply was not the story this morning; the voting was.

Overwhelmingly, Arab channels and newspapers greeted the elections as a critical event with major implications for the region, and many put significant resources into reporting on the vote, providing blanket coverage throughout the country that started about a week ago. Newspapers kept wide swaths of their pages open, and the satellite channels dedicated most of the day to coverage of the polls.

Often criticized for glorifying Iraq's violence if not inciting it, Arab news channels appeared to take particular care in their election day reporting. For many channels, the elections were treated on a par with the invasion itself, on which the major channels helped build their names.

Far from the almost nightly barrage of blood and tears, Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera, the kings of Arab news, barely showed the aftermath of the suicide bombings that occurred in the country.

Instead, the channels opted to report on the attacks in news tickers, and as part of the hourly news broadcasts, keeping their focus on coverage and analysis of the elections themselves. And the broadcasters spared no expense to provide an entire day of coverage from northern to southern Iraq.

Democrats may not understand what happened today, but Arabs do.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:29 PM


Letwin member of anti-war tax group (Andrew Sparrow, 31/01/2005, Daily Telegraph)

Oliver Letwin, the shadow chancellor, is backing plans for pacifist taxpayers to be allowed not to contribute to the Government's defence spending.

He was identified yesterday as a supporter of Conscience: The Peace Tax Campaign, which wants the law to be changed to allow conscientious objectors to have their money spent on "peace building initiatives" instead of the military.

A spokesman for the shadow chancellor said that it was a personal belief rather than party policy, but if he became chancellor, this was an idea "that he would want to think about".

Mr Letwin's stance, which was strongly condemned by both Labour and Lord Tebbit, the former Conservative chairman, came to light when his name was found on the Conscience website. [...]

More than 75 MPs are listed as supporters on the Conscience website. Most of them are Labour, and Mr Letwin is the only Tory.

He's not a flying pig, he's a flaming idiot.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:12 PM


Looking for Purple Fingers in Sadr City: Let nobody tell you that this Iraqi election was anything but real. (BARTLE BREESE BULL, 1/31/05, NY Times)

Iraqis are scheduled to go to the national polls twice more this year: in October for a referendum on the permanent constitution that the new assembly is charged with writing, and again in December to elect a new government under the rules of that constitution. Each of the country's three main groups - Kurds, Sunni Arabs and Shiites - has a veto over the permanent constitution. And each enjoys a de facto veto as well: not one is strong enough to impose majoritarian misrule on the others.

It would be blatantly against Shiite and Kurdish interests for either group to try to take advantage of any Sunni parliamentary underrepresentation. They have been waiting centuries for this opportunity, and the last thing they want is to make their country ungovernable.

Federalism, enshrined in the interim constitution, is another safety valve. "Regional autonomy will not tear Iraq apart," said Ahmad Chalabi, the clever Shiite politician who, although now disowned by the Americans who long sponsored him, will be a central figure in the new government. "It is the only way to keep it together."

More important, it is not likely that yesterday's low turnout among Sunnis will lead to their dramatic underrepresentation in the Assembly. The latest estimates put Sunni Arabs at a little less than 13 percent of Iraq's population. Yet there were 50 to 60 Sunni Arabs in viably high slots on yesterday's ballots - even if just 40 Sunnis are elected, that would be 15 percent of the 275-seat assembly.

The candidate list compiled by the Shiite religious leadership, the United Iraqi Alliance, had 11 Sunni Arabs from Mosul alone, as well as the head of Iraq's largest Sunni tribe. Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's secular list also had many Sunnis. So did the lists of the monarchists, Socialists, Communists and others. And now the betting is that a Sunni will be named to head one of the big three ministries in the new government: foreign, defense or interior. Sunnis will also likely get a vice presidency of the state and the presidency of the Assembly.

None of this is by accident. Car bombs might make headlines, but the real politics in Iraq is about something much deeper than the fanaticism of the country's 5,000 or 10,000 terrorists. The people who are going to run Iraq are profoundly pragmatic.

The Kurdish leaders in the valleys of the north, the Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in the alleys of Najaf, the radical Shiite Moktada al-Sadr in his hiding place - all understand what they have achieved over the last two years. By showing great restraint toward one another's communities and a spectacular patience with the necessary evil of American occupation, they have woven together the long, improbable, unfinished carpet of an Iraqi future.

This attitude of restraint is echoed on the street. A 34-year-old Shiite engineer I met in Sadr City last week told me, "If we had wanted revenge on the Sunnis, we would have taken it in 2003." Soldiers in Mr. Sadr's Mahdi Army told me that their leader has sent them to pray with Sunnis and to provide security at their mosques. And the widespread campaign of Sunni extremist violence against Shiites has been met with deafening forbearance.

Iraq as a nation never rose up against the occupation, and after yesterday it does not need to. Iraqis have just elected the only legitimate government between Istanbul and New Delhi. The prestige and moral force of popular representation cannot be denied, even by Washington. When the Iraqi government tells the Americans to leave, they will not be able to stay. Whether a little too soon or a little too late, this is the way it is supposed to be.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:02 PM


Stealth Attack On Evolution: Who is behind the movement to give equal time to Darwin's critics, and what do they really want? (MICHAEL D. LEMONICK NOAH ISACKSON; JEFFREY RESSNER, Jan. 31, 2005, TIME)

Ken Bingman has beern teaching biology in the public schools in the Kansas City area for 42 years, and over the past decade he has seen a marked change in how students react when he brings up evolution. "I don't know if we're more religious today," he says, "but I see more and more students who want a link to God." Although he is a churchgoer, Bingman does not believe that link should be part of a science class. Neither does the Supreme Court, which declared such intermingling of church and state unconstitutional back in 1988.

But that decision does not sit well with a lot of Americans. So at a time when religious faith is increasingly worn on public sleeves--most prominently that of the President--a dispute that dates back to the celebrated 1925 Scopes "Monkey Trial" is being replayed around the country in legislatures, courts, school-board meetings and parent-teacher conferences. School administrators in rural Dover, Pa., visited biology classes last week to read a declaration proclaiming, among other things, that "Darwin's theory [of evolution] ... is a theory, not a fact." And in suburban Cobb County, Ga., officials pasted stickers on biology textbooks declaring the same thing and are now appealing a court order to remove them.

The intellectual underpinnings of the latest assault on Darwin's theory come not from Bible-wielding Fundamentalists but from well-funded think tanks promoting a theory they call intelligent design, or I.D. for short. Their basic argument is that the origin of life, the diversity of species and even the structure of organs like the eye are so bewilderingly complex that they can only be the handiwork of a higher intelligence (name and nature unspecified).

All the think tanks want to do, they insist, is make the teaching of evolution more honest by bringing up its drawbacks. Who could argue with that? But the mainstream scientific community contends that this seemingly innocuous agenda is actually a stealthy way of promoting religion. "Teaching evidence against evolution is a back-door way of teaching creationism," says Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education.

It's not even necessary to make fun of them anymore, they make fun of themselves.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:54 PM


25 Most Influential Evangelicals: Richard John Neuhaus (TIME, 1/30/05)

Bushism Made Catholic: When Bush met with journalists from religious publications last year, the living authority he cited most often was not a fellow Evangelical but a man he calls Father Richard, who, he explained, "helps me articulate these [religious] things." A senior Administration official confirms that Neuhaus "does have a fair amount of under-the-radar influence" on such policies as abortion, stem-cell research, cloning and the defense-of-marriage amendment.

Neuhaus, 68, is well-prepared for that role. As founder of the religion-and-policy journal First Things, he has for years articulated toughly conservative yet nuanced positions on a wide range of civic issues. A Lutheran turned Catholic priest, he can translate conservative Protestant arguments couched tightly in Scripture into Catholicism's broader language of moral reasoning, more accessible to a general public that does not regard chapter and verse as final proof.

It just wouldn't be at all surprising if both Tony Blair and George W. Bush become Catholics.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:50 PM


Fowler 1, Dean 0: The former Vermont governor's candidacy to lead the DNC hits a snag (VIVECA A. NOVAK, Jan. 30, 2005, TIME)
A dent was knocked into the aura of inevitability surrounding Howard Dean's run to be the next Democratic Party chair Sunday afternoon when the executive committee of state party chairs voted to endorse Donnie Fowler rather than Dean. Just last week the former Vermont governor had touted endorsements from some state party leaders. But it was Fowler — bespectacled, Southern, and, at 37, the youngster of the field — who prevailed in Sunday's vote. Fowler, a South Carolinian who lives in California and is the son of former Democratic National Committee Chairman Don Fowler, headed Al Gore's field operation in the 2000 presidential election. Last year he ran the field operation in Michigan for John Kerry, who won that state by three percentage points. [...]

The race now moves to the house of labor, where a committee of the AFL-CIO could vote to endorse one of the candidates on Tuesday.
House of labor? Does even the Labour Party still allow labor much sway?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:37 PM


Chief Senate Dem to request Iraq exit plan (DAVID ESPO, 1/30/2005, The Associated Press)

In a pre-State of the Union challenge to President Bush, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid intends to call Monday for the administration to outline an exit strategy for Iraq.

Reid plans to raise the issue as part of back-to-back speeches in which he and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi will sketch outline their differences with Bush on two issues likely to dominate Congress' work this year, the war on terror and Social Security.

U.S. troops out of Iraq within next 18 months? (WorldNetDaily, January 30, 2005)
U.S. troops stationed in Iraq could be out of the war-torn country by the middle of next year, if all goes well.

That according to Iraqi interim Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib, who told Britain's Channel 4 News that coalition forces would likely not be necessary in a year and a half.

"I think we will not need the multinational, foreign forces, in this country within 18 months," al-Naqib said. "I think we will be able to depend on ourselves, if everything goes in the right direction.

"We are building our forces and I think we will need 18 months. It's my estimate that we will have quite a reasonable-sized force, trained, well-trained force, well-equipped to protect the country. So I believe very much that we won't need more than 18 months."

His optimism was tempered, though, by Iraqi national security adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie, who told CNN he believes the U.S.-led force should remain in Iraq for "at least a couple of years" until Iraq's security force is up to speed.

The Democrats remain several beats behind the tempo of the march.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:33 PM

DEMOCRACY IN ACTION (via David Hill, The Bronx):

Nazi road signs ripped down day after report (KATU, January 28, 2005)

Two controversial road signs that were put up in Marion County have already been ripped down.

The road signs read, "The American Nazi Party has adopted a two mile stretch of Sunnyview Road" and were put up by Marion County officials one week ago.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:31 PM


Transcript for Jan. 30: Guests: Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. (Meet the Press, Jan. 30, 2005)

MR. RUSSERT: At the Clinton Library dedication on November 18, a few weeks after the election, you were quoted as saying, "It was the Osama bin Laden tape. It scared the voters," the tape that appeared just a day before the election here. Do you believe that tape is the reason you lost the race?

SEN. KERRY: I believe that 9/11 was the central deciding issue in this race. And the tape--we were rising in the polls up until the last day when the tape appeared. We flat-lined the day the tape appeared and went down on Monday. I think it had an impact. But 9/11, you know, it's a very difficult hurdle when a country is at war. I applauded the president's leadership in the days immediately afterwards. I thought he did a good job in that, and he obviously connected to the American people in those immediate days. When a country is at war and in the wake of 9/11, it's very difficult to shift horses in midstream. I think it's remarkable we came as close as we did as a campaign. Many Republicans say we beat their models by four or five points as to what they thought we could achieve.

I am proud of the campaign, Tim. And I think if you look at what we did in states, I mean, millions of new voters came into this process. I won the youth vote. I won the independent vote. I won the moderate vote. If you take half the people at an Ohio State football game on Saturday afternoon and they were to have voted the other way, you and I would be having a discussion today about my State of the Union speech.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:25 PM


Iraqis clash at polling station (BBC, 1/30/05)

Iraqis have clashed with demonstrators against the election outside a polling station in Manchester.

About 200 demonstrators were chased by another group who burned their flags, while other Iraqis clashed with police.

Should have burned the demonstrators.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:10 PM


Spendthrift nation: Why don't Americans save more? (Drake Bennett, January 30, 2005, Boston Globe)

NATIONAL THRIFT WEEK came and went two weeks ago, uncelebrated and unremarked. But the holiday -- once promoted by President Calvin Coolidge as a rebuke to the free-spending 1920s -- was nonetheless honored in the breach, as American prodigality was very much in the news.

Buoyed by reelection, the Bush administration has in recent weeks been pushing for tax-free "Lifetime Savings Accounts," as well as for tax reform that will shift the burden away from savings and investment and onto earnings and consumption. Even the centerpiece of the president's domestic agenda, Social Security reform, is pitched in part as a way to get Americans to save more.

Last year, after 25 years of decline, Americans' household savings rate stood at less than 1 percent of after-tax income. Japanese households, by comparison, saved 7.7 percent, while the French socked away 16 percent. Our national savings, which takes into account government and corporate savings, isn't impressive either. We save 13.6 percent of gross domestic product, compared with Japan's 25 percent and China's 50 percent. As Morgan Stanley chief economist Stephen S. Roach has warned, "America's saving problem is off the charts -- possibly the most serious imbalance in an unbalanced world."

Both as individuals and as a nation, it seems, Americans are gambling with their future. "We don't want to have the poverty rate of the elderly go back up, so it's a significant problem that people are not saving for their retirement," says Boston University economist Laurence J. Kotlikoff. And low savings exposes the country as a whole to the risk of financial crisis. As Dartmouth's Jonathan Skinner puts it, "With the low measured US savings rate, we have money flowing in to the US to be invested in US stocks and a larger share of US assets being owned by all these foreign entities. If they all decide to dump their US assets we'd be in trouble -- it would make the US dollar look like the Italian lira."

But lost in the din of dismay is the question of why Americans are such poor savers. How is it, after all, that the nation of Ben Franklin, apostle of frugality, has become a republic of spendthrifts? Should we blame a cultural proclivity or a changing economic climate, the blandishments of credit card companies or the arrogance bred of economic preeminence?

"I don't think you'll get a definitive answer from anyone you talk to," says Yale University economics professor Robert J. Shiller. In fact, it turns out that there is little consensus not only as to the root causes of our savings problem but how much of a problem it really is.

Most economists agree that savings rates can be misleading. The household savings rate is calculated simply as after-tax income minus the amount spent on consumption. But this leaves out increases in the value of stocks or real estate, often a considerable source of wealth. In fact, selling assets at a profit often ends up depressing savings on paper, even if none of the proceeds are spent.

Which, sadly for the author, vitiates the rest of his essay.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:53 PM


Iraq confounds the prophets of doom (Daily Telegraph, 31/01/2005)

That elections are a better thing than tyranny seems a truth so obvious as not to be worth stating. Yet such were the passions aroused by the Iraq war that many Western observers now find themselves hoping, disgracefully, that that country's first free poll will fail.

Left-wing commentators, in Britain as in much of Europe, have focused disproportionately on the difficulties that any state must undergo during a transition process. To many of them, every terrorist bomb, every murdered election official, every sign of heightened military alertness - even the loss of a British aircraft - makes a nonsense of Iraq's democratic aspirations.

Yesterday's high turnout, in defiance of the gunmen, should be celebrated. Of course the Iraqi insurgency is an important story. But this does not explain the loving attention devoted to each setback faced by the forces of order. Compare yesterday's reports with those by the same commentators during South Africa's first democratic election. Then, too, there were many technical problems: electors who were not properly registered, voter intimidation, long queues. But these things were set in their proper context, as the backdrop against which the moving drama of people casting their first ballots was being played out. No one suggested that the clashes between IFP and ANC supporters in Zululand undermined the whole process. No one argued that the backlash by a handful of black homeland chieftains and Boer irreconcilables made South Africa unfit for democracy.

Evertime the End of History has supposedly met its match it just goes out and wins in a walkover.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 PM


Democrats cautiously welcome Iraqi elections (AFP, 1/30/05)

Leading Democratic Party critics of US President George W. Bush's Iraq policy cautiously welcomed the successful staging of elections and distanced themselves from calls for the start of an immediate US troop withdrawal.

Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, who lost the November presidential election against Republican President George W. Bush, described the Iraqi elections as "significant" and "important" but said they should not be "overhyped."

Anyone wanna take a crack at explaining how there could be too much hype surrounding the transition from one of the most vile totalitarian regimes of modern times to a democracy?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 PM


Grim Tales: Want to get scared? Ignore what you see. Believe only what you read. (Denis Boyles, 1/28/05, National Review)

Auschwitz adds to U.S.-EU friction

This headline, on a Judy Dempsey item in the International Herald Tribune, is this week's ultimate in bizarre, out-of-reality reporting. According to Dempsey, "the attendance of Vice President Dick Cheney is a bitter disappointment" to "prominent Poles" — who apparently represent the entire EU — because Cheney is not Bush. After all, writes Dempsey, "The Auschwitz ceremony will include President Vladimir Putin of Russia, President Horst Köhler of Germany, President Jacques Chirac of France and President Moshe Katzav of Israel." As evidence of how "Auschwitz adds to US-EU Friction," Dempsey quotes "veteran intellectuals," including MEP Bronislaw Geremek: "I would like to see the president of the United States attend the...Auschwitz commemoration." Who wouldn't? But why? Says Geremek, a historian, "[I]t should be said that the Holocaust helped to create the European Union. It was the answer to the totalitarian ideology created on European soil, such as Auschwitz."

A digression: I admire Prof. Geremek. But it should not be said that the Holocaust helped to create the European Union. In fact, the European Union owes its provenance to Walther Funk and other architects of Hitler's New Order, not to Auschwitz. Historian Mark Mazower, in Dark Continent: Europe's Twentieth Century, claims that the Funk plan "...bore more than a passing resemblance to the post-war Common Market. The 'New Order' beloved of the youthful technocrats at the Reich Ministry of Economics involved the economic integration of western Europe and the creation of a tariff-free zone." Eugen Weber, writing a few years ago in The Atlantic (here, if you're a subscriber), agrees: "The European Union, its attendant bureaucracy, even the euro, all appear to stem from the Berlin-Vichy collaboration." To the extent that France did more than its share to fill the concentration camps for their partners, the Germans, and that their mutual hatred of Jews brought them both closer together, Geremek may have a point.

Of course, the real story about Bush, Poland, and the EU was not to be seen in the IHT. It was in Die Zeit, where Poland's Wladyslaw Bartoszewski explained the reasons for Polish loyalty toward the US, and in Brussels, where, according to Handelsblatt, Polish representatives didn't take very kindly to leftwing British and German efforts to spare German feelings by attempting to identify Auschwitz as a "Polish camp" in the official EU resolution commemorating the 60th anniversary of the liberation. The issue blossomed into a Brussels-sized furor, according to the EU Observer. Schroder had to call off his MEPs, who finally agreed to admit that "Nazis" had built the camps.

Meanwhile, Davids Medienkritik has collected a bunch of clips from the German press in which the Auschwitz-Abu Ghraib connection is finally explained. A sample, from TAZ: "The torture scandal of the US army in Abu Ghraib shows that sadism has a place in civilized nations, while Guantánamo Bay proves that the principle of the concentration camp...today is upheld with pride by the leading nation of the civilized world."

Now there's an artificial reality any German can uphold with pride.

It would be worse that the EU represented a triumph of secular statism were it not for the fact that therein lie the seeds for its very rapid self-destruction.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 PM


Catfish licking: a new high?: It's said that fish's slime is hallucinogenic (Tony Bridges, 1/29/05, Tallahasee DEMOCRAT)

It could be the strangest thing anyone ever asked Tolly Van Brunt.

He was at a boat basin in Franklin County, waiting for a buddy who'd gone to the bait shop. They were headed out to the Gulf for some saltwater fishing.

A boy, maybe 17 or so, sidled up to him on the dock.

The kid wanted to make a deal. He'd buy any catfish the anglers caught that day.

"I told him they weren't any good to eat," Van Brunt said. "And he says, 'Yeah, I know that, but we'd like to get some. We've found a way to get high off the slime.'"

Oh, c'mon.

Recreational use of fish goo? That has to be a joke, right?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Turns out, a story's been going around for years about hallucinogenic properties in the slime of a certain kind of saltwater catfish. But whether fact or urban legend is not exactly clear.

"I've heard of people licking them and getting zonked like they're on LSD," said Dr. John Hitron, with the Florida State University marine lab in St. Teresa Beach. "I'm not sure how true it is."

OK, first a few basics on the fish.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:18 PM


The Doctrine That Never Died (TOM WOLFE, 1/30/05, NY Times)

SURELY some bright bulb from the Council on Foreign Relations in New York or the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton has already remarked that President Bush's inaugural address 10 days ago is the fourth corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. No? So many savants and not one peep out of the lot of them? Really? [...]

Theodore Roosevelt's corollary to President James Monroe's famous doctrine of 1823 proclaimed that not only did America have the right, à la Monroe, to block European attempts to re-colonize any of the Western Hemisphere, it also had the right to take over and shape up any nation in the hemisphere guilty of "chronic wrongdoing" or uncivilized behavior that left it "impotent," powerless to defend itself against aggressors from the Other Hemisphere, meaning mainly England, France, Spain, Germany and Italy.

The immediate problem was that the Dominican Republic had just reneged on millions in European loans so flagrantly that an Italian warship had turned up just off the harbor of Santo Domingo. Roosevelt sent the Navy down to frighten off the Italians and all other snarling Europeans. Then the United States took over the Dominican customs operations and debt management and by and by the whole country, eventually sending in the military to run the place. We didn't hesitate to occupy Haiti and Nicaragua, either.

Back in 1823, Europeans had ridiculed Monroe and his doctrine. Baron de Tuyll, the Russian minister to Washington, said Americans were too busy hard-grabbing and making money to ever stop long enough to fight, even if they had the power, which they didn't. But by the early 1900's it was a different story.

First there was T.R. And then came Senator Henry Cabot Lodge. In 1912 Japanese businessmen appeared to be on the verge of buying vast areas of Mexico's Baja California bordering our Southern California. Lodge drew up, and the Senate ratified, what became known as the Lodge Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. The United States would allow no foreign interests, no Other Hemispheroids of any description, to give any foreign government "practical power of control" over territory in This Hemisphere. The Japanese government immediately denied having any connection with the tycoons, and the Baja deals, if any, evaporated.

Then, in 1950, George Kennan, the diplomat who had developed the containment theory of dealing with the Soviet Union after the Second World War, toured Latin America and came away alarmed by Communist influence in the region. So he devised the third corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. The Kennan Corollary said that Communism was simply a tool of Soviet national power. The United States had no choice, under the mandates of the Monroe Doctrine, but to eradicate Communist activity wherever it turned up in Latin America ... by any means necessary, even if it meant averting one's eyes from dictatorial regimes whose police force did everything but wear badges saying Chronic Wrongdoing.

The historian Gaddis Smith summarizes the Lodge and Kennan Corollaries elegantly and economically in "The Last Years of the Monroe Doctrine, 1945-1993." Now, Gaddis Smith was a graduate-schoolmate of mine and very much a star even then and has remained a star historian ever since. So do I dare suggest that in this one instance, in a brilliant career going on 50 years now, that Gaddis Smith might have been ...wrong? ... that 1945 to 1993 were not the last years of the Monroe Doctrine? ... that the doctrine was more buff and boisterous than it has ever been 10 days ago, Jan. 20, 2005?

Actually, even the Monroe Doctrine is just a gloss on the Declaration. Every great revolution in American foreign affairs thinking has really just been an extension of the universalist principles contained therein to farther shores.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:02 PM


Each Vote Strikes at Terror (Walter Russell Mead, January 30, 2005, LA Times)

The teleprompter providing President Bush with his second inaugural address had scarcely gone blank before American and European commentators turned to dismissing his calls for a "war against tyranny" and progress toward universal democracy as naive, dogmatic, overstated and a recipe for chaos in U.S. foreign policy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:51 PM


Israelis, Palestinians to Hold High-Level Talks (VOA News, 29 January 2005)

Officials say Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas plan to meet in two weeks for their first face to face talks since Mr. Abbas' election earlier this month.

The meeting will coincide with a planned visit to the region by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Remember how all the foreign policy experts oinsisted you had to deal with Palestine before you took on Iraq? The President did both simultaneously instead and neither could have worked out any better.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:46 PM


Under Pressure, Qatar May Sell Jazeera Station (STEVEN R. WEISMAN, 1/30/05, NY Times)

The tiny state of Qatar is a crucial American ally in the Persian Gulf, where it provides a military base and warm support for American policies. Yet relations with Qatar are also strained over an awkward issue: Qatar's sponsorship of Al Jazeera, the provocative television station that is a big source of news in the Arab world.

Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and other Bush administration officials have complained heatedly to Qatari leaders that Al Jazeera's broadcasts have been inflammatory, misleading and occasionally false, especially on Iraq.

The pressure has been so intense, a senior Qatari official said, that the government is accelerating plans to put Al Jazeera on the market, though Bush administration officials counter that a privately owned station in the region may be no better from their point of view.

"We have recently added new members to the Al Jazeera editorial board, and one of their tasks is to explore the best way to sell it," said the Qatari official, who said he could be more candid about the situation if he was not identified. "We really have a headache, not just from the United States but from advertisers and from other countries as well."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:22 PM


MEASURE FOR MEASURE: The strange science of Francis Galton (JIM HOLT, 2005-01-17, The New Yorker)

Galton might have puttered along for the rest of his life as a minor gentleman scientist had it not been for a dramatic event: the publication of Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species,” in 1859. Reading his cousin’s book, Galton was filled with a sense of clarity and purpose. One thing in it struck him with special force: to illustrate how natural selection shaped species, Darwin cited the breeding of domesticated plants and animals by farmers to produce better strains. Perhaps, Galton concluded, human evolution could be guided in the same way. But where Darwin had thought mainly about the evolution of physical features, like wings and eyes, Galton applied the same hereditary logic to mental attributes, like talent and virtue.“If a twentieth part of the cost and pains were spent in measures for the improvement of the human race that is spent on the improvements of the breed of horses and cattle, what a galaxy of genius might we not create!” he wrote in an 1864 magazine article, his opening eugenics salvo. It was two decades later that he coined the word “eugenics,” from the Greek for “wellborn.”

Galton also originated the phrase “nature versus nurture,” which still reverberates in debates today. (It was probably suggested by Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” in which Prospero laments that his slave Caliban is “A devil, a born devil, on whose nature / Nurture can never stick.”) At Cambridge, Galton had noticed that the top students had relatives who had also excelled there; surely, he reasoned, such family success was not a matter of chance. His hunch was strengthened during his travels, which gave him a vivid sense of what he called “the mental peculiarities of different races.” Galton made an honest effort to justify his belief in nature over nurture with hard evidence. In his 1869 book “Hereditary Genius,” he assembled long lists of “eminent” men—judges, poets, scientists, even oarsmen and wrestlers—to show that excellence ran in families. To counter the objection that social advantages rather than biology might be behind this, he used the adopted sons of Popes as a kind of control group. His case elicited skeptical reviews, but it impressed Darwin. [...]

In his long career, Galton didn’t come close to proving the central axiom of eugenics: that, when it comes to talent and virtue, nature dominates nurture. Yet he never doubted its truth, and many scientists came to share his conviction. Darwin himself, in “The Descent of Man,” wrote, “We now know, through the admirable labours of Mr. Galton, that genius . . . tends to be inherited.” Given this axiom, there are two ways of putting eugenics into practice: “positive” eugenics, which means getting superior people to breed more; and “negative” eugenics, which means getting inferior ones to breed less. For the most part, Galton was a positive eugenicist. He stressed the importance of early marriage and high fertility among the genetic élite, fantasizing about lavish state-funded weddings in Westminster Abbey with the Queen giving away the bride as an incentive. Always hostile to religion, he railed against the Catholic Church for imposing celibacy on some of its most gifted representatives over the centuries. He hoped that spreading the insights of eugenics would make the gifted aware of their responsibility to procreate for the good of the human race. But Galton did not believe that eugenics could be entirely an affair of moral suasion. Worried by evidence that the poor in industrial Britain were breeding disproportionately, he urged that charity be redirected from them and toward the “desirables.” To prevent “the free propagation of the stock of those who are seriously afflicted by lunacy, feeble-mindedness, habitual criminality, and pauperism,” he urged “stern compulsion,” which might take the form of marriage restrictions or even sterilization.

Galton’s proposals were benign compared with those of famous contemporaries who rallied to his cause. H. G. Wells, for instance, declared, “It is in the sterilisation of failures, and not in the selection of successes for breeding, that the possibility of an improvement of the human stock lies.” Although Galton was a conservative, his creed caught on with progressive figures like Harold Laski, John Maynard Keynes, George Bernard Shaw, and Sidney and Beatrice Webb. In the United States, New York disciples founded the Galton Society, which met regularly at the American Museum of Natural History, and popularizers helped the rest of the country become eugenics-minded. “How long are we Americans to be so careful for the pedigree of our pigs and chickens and cattle—and then leave the ancestry of our children to chance or to ‘blind’ sentiment?” asked a placard at an exposition in Philadelphia. Four years before Galton’s death, the Indiana legislature passed the first state sterilization law, “to prevent the procreation of confirmed criminals, idiots, imbeciles, and rapists.” Most of the other states soon followed. In all, there were some sixty thousand court-ordered sterilizations of Americans who were judged to be eugenically unfit.

It was in Germany that eugenics took its most horrific form. Galton’s creed had aimed at the uplift of humanity as a whole; although he shared the prejudices that were common in the Victorian era, the concept of race did not play much of a role in his theorizing. German eugenics, by contrast, quickly morphed into Rassenhygiene—race hygiene. Under Hitler, nearly four hundred thousand people with putatively hereditary conditions like feeblemindedness, alcoholism, and schizophrenia were forcibly sterilized. In time, many were simply murdered.

The Nazi experiment provoked a revulsion against eugenics that effectively ended the movement.

Amazing what damage you can do just by starting with the obviously inane comparison of the selective breeding of plants and animals by humans to Natural Selection.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:17 PM


Sistani thanks Iraqis for voting (Agence France-Presse, January 31, 2005)

SHIITE spiritual leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani today congratulated Iraqis on turning out to vote and expressed regret he had been unable to take part himself because of his Iranian nationality.

The reclusive cleric, who rarely ventures from his home in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, relayed his message through his representative in the nearby shrine city of Karbala.

"Grand Ayatollah Sistani thanks the Iraqi people for going to vote," said Ayatollah Ahmed al-Safi.

"(He) has not headed to the polling centre himself because he does not have the right to vote."

The cleric shepherded Iraq on the road to democracy, insisting on elections under the US-led occupation and engineering the frontrunning Shiite list, the United Iraqi Alliance, which is expected to win the biggest number of seats in the new national assembly.

Today the people of Iraq have spoken to the world, and the world is hearing the voice of freedom from the center of the Middle East.

In great numbers, and under great risk, Iraqis have shown their commitment to democracy. By participating in free elections, the Iraqi people have firmly rejected the anti-democratic ideology of the terrorists. They have refused to be intimidated by thugs and assassins. And they have demonstrated the kind of courage that is always the foundation of self-government.

Some Iraqis were killed while exercising their rights as citizens. We also mourn the American and British military personnel who lost their lives today. Their sacrifices were made in a vital cause of freedom, peace in a troubled region, and a more secure future for us all.

The Iraqi people, themselves, made this election a resounding success. Brave patriots stepped forward as candidates. Many citizens volunteered as poll workers. More than 100,000 Iraqi security force personnel guarded polling places and conducted operations against terrorist groups. One news account told of a voter who had lost a leg in a terror attack last year, and went to the polls today, despite threats of violence. He said, "I would have crawled here if I had to. I don't want terrorists to kill other Iraqis like they tried to kill me. Today I am voting for peace."

Across Iraq today, men and women have taken rightful control of their country's destiny, and they have chosen a future of freedom and peace. In this process, Iraqis have had many friends at their side. The European Union and the United Nations gave important assistance in the election process. The American military and our diplomats, working with our coalition partners, have been skilled and relentless, and their sacrifices have helped to bring Iraqis to this day. The people of the United States have been patient and resolute, even in difficult days.

The commitment to a free Iraq now goes forward. This historic election begins the process of drafting and ratifying a new constitution, which will be the basis of a fully democratic Iraqi government. Terrorists and insurgents will continue to wage their war against democracy, and we will support the Iraqi people in their fight against them. We will continue training Iraqi security forces so this rising democracy can eventually take responsibility for its own security.

There's more distance to travel on the road to democracy. Yet Iraqis are proving they're equal to the challenge. On behalf of the American people, I congratulate the people of Iraq on this great and historic achievement.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:11 PM

Give Terror the Finger

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:09 PM


Brookline Democrat Diven switches to GOP (Tom Barnes, January 30, 2005, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

State Rep. Michael Diven, of Brookline, has been a member of the Democratic Party for all of his voting life.

But that's going to change. During a spaghetti dinner at Resurrection Church in Brookline last night, Diven told about 200 constituents and supporters that because of his growing dissatisfaction with the state House Democratic leadership, he's changing his party registration to Republican.

That's not all he's up to. He hasn't made a public announcement, but he's all but certain to disclose plans soon to run as a Republican candidate for the 42nd District state Senate seat. It's the seat just vacated by Jack Wagner, of Beechview, who is now the state auditor general.

"I decided to change to the Republican Party because I will be better positioned to serve my constituents," Diven said in a phone interview.

Republicans control both the state House and Senate. With Diven's switch, there will be 110 Republicans in the House and 92 Democrats, with one vacant seat from Eastern Pennsylvania to be filled next month.

Jeb will carry PA rather easily in '08.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:05 PM


Finally, a budget ax appears (David R. Francis, 1/31/05, CS Monitor)

Next Monday, the president is expected to propose real spending reductions in the first budget of his second term.

That's probably significant.

Up to now, the administration has let deficits mushroom. President Bush did not veto any appropriations bills in his first term. Last week, the White House estimated that this year's red ink would reach a record $427 billion.

But deficits and the costs of war - plus Mr. Bush's promise to halve the deficit, as a proportion of gross domestic product, in five years - are forcing change. So the beneficiaries of federal largesse - civil servants, lobbyists, even some military contractors - are edgy.

"I'm hearing a lot of anecdotal material that there will be an unprecedented squeeze on federal spending," says George Krumbhaar, senior editor of USBudget.com, a commercial service that monitors budget developments. [...]

A possible scenario for the fiscal budget starting in October: a mere 1 percent hike in federal spending outside defense and most of homeland security. That would be tough - a real decline after inflation. "It would be historic for this White House," says Stephen Slivinski, director of budget studies at the Cato Institute in Washington.

No politician ever hurt himself by going after lobbyists, bureaucrats, and the military-industrial complex.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:58 PM


Insurgent Attacks in Baghdad and Elsewhere Kill at Least 24 (DEXTER FILKINS and JOHN F. BURNS, 1/30/05, NY Times)

After a slow start, voters turned out in very large numbers in Baghdad today, packing polling places and creating a party atmosphere in the streets as Iraqis here and nationwide turned out to cast ballots in the country's first free elections in 50 years.

American officials were showing confidence that today was going to be a big success, despite attacks in Baghdad and other parts of the country that took at least two dozen lives. The Interior Ministry said 36 people had been killed in attacks, Agence France-Presse reported.

But the violence did not seem to have deterred most Iraqis. In Baghdad, Basra in the South, the holy Shiite city of Najaf and even the restive Northern city of Mosul, Iraqi civilians crowded the polling sites, navigating their way through tight security and sometimes proudly displaying the deep blue ink stain on their fingers that confirmed they had voted.

The chairman of the Independent Election Commission of Iraq, Fareed Ayar, said as many as 8 million people turned out to vote, or between 55 percent and 60 percent of those registered to cast ballots. If 8 million turns out to be the final figure, that would represent 57 percent of voters.

This would be the same Iraq that those Democrat Senators just spent a week pointing out is entirely a product of Bush policy that they opposed? Nice timing Senator Bayh...

Less moderate Bayh (ROBERT NOVAK, January 30, 2005, Chicago SUN-TIMES)

Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, feared by Republicans as a dangerously moderate presidential candidate for the Democrats in 2008, surprised colleagues by joining 12 left-of-center senators in voting against confirmation of Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state.

In declaring his opposition to Rice's confirmation, Bayh told the Senate on Tuesday: ''I believe she has been a principal architect of policy errors that have tragically undermined our prospects for success in this endeavor [the military operation in Iraq].'' Bayh's statement follows support for Bush's Iraq policy during his re-election campaign last year.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:53 PM


Bush Aims To Forge A GOP Legacy: Second-Term Plans Look to Undercut Democratic Pillars (Thomas B. Edsall and John F. Harris, January 30, 2005, Washington Post)

[A] recurring theme of many items on Bush's second-term domestic agenda is that if enacted, they would weaken political and financial pillars that have propped up Democrats for years, political strategists from both parties say.

Legislation putting caps on civil damage awards, for instance, would choke income to trial lawyers, among the most generous contributors to the Democratic Party.

GOP strategists, likewise, hope that the proposed changes to Social Security can transform a program that has long been identified with the Democrats, creating a generation of new investors who see their interests allied with the Republicans.

Less visible policies also have sharp political overtones. The administration's transformation of civil service rules at federal agencies, for instance, would limit the power and membership of public employee unions -- an important Democratic financial artery.

If the Bush agenda is enacted, "there will be a continued growth in the percentage of Americans who consider themselves Republican, both in terms of self-identified party ID and in terms of their [economic] interests," said Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform and an operative who speaks regularly with White House senior adviser Karl Rove.

Many Democrats and independent analysts see a methodical strategy at work. They believe the White House has expressly tailored its domestic agenda to maximize hazards for Democrats and tilt the political playing field in the GOP's favor long after this president is out of the White House.

Now if only the Stupid Party could figure this out too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:50 PM


Out of tsunami, a quiet Arab media revolution (Marc Lynch, 1/31/05, CS Monitor)

On Jan. 5, the editor of the Palestinian-owned, London-based Al Quds al Arabi - probably the most anti-American of the leading Arab newspapers - described the response of Arab rulers and the wider public alike as "humiliating" and deeply frustrating. Other Arab newspapers such as the Saudi-owned, London-based Al Hayat began publishing article after article lambasting Arab rulers for their absurdly small - and far too tardy - response. Satellite TV stations such as Qatar-based Al Jazeera and Dubai-based Al Arabiya covered the humanitarian disaster heavily, with Al Jazeera beginning its own heavily publicized drive to collect donations, featuring daily advertisements from figures such as the popular Egyptian cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

Even more remarkable than this outburst of public criticism is that, stung by these criticisms, shamed before their own people, Arab leaders changed their tune. Saudi Arabia, which initially offered only token sums of relief, launched a high-profile telethon to which senior members of the royal family ostentatiously contributed large sums; at last count, more than $82 million had been raised. Other Arab states increased their relief contributions, as well.

The Arab media's success in forcing Arab leaders to change their response to the tsunami is quietly revolutionary. Arab leaders haven't generally been accustomed to paying attention to public opinion, nor to the media, which they generally can control, repress, or shut down. Satellite TV stations such as Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya can not be so easily controlled - nor ignored. That humanitarian relief for the victims of the tsunami - rather than more predictable issues such as Israel or Iraq - has become a focus of the Arab media's outrage, and that Arab leaders responded, offers a genuine new road for Arab politics.

It is not only the Arab regimes that have come in for scorn. Several Arab columnists pointedly asked what kind of relief Osama bin Laden has had to offer to the Muslims he claims to represent. Others criticized more mainstream Islamist movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood for their efforts. And not a few have criticized the Arab public itself for failing to mobilize in support of the victims of the tsunami in the way that they did for Palestinians or Iraqis.

The Arab response to the tsunami has become a moment for Arab self-criticism and soul-searching, as an impressive roster of Arab journalists and political personalities have demanded a public accounting for the tepid Arab response.

Our liberalization of the Middle East means increasing accountability for its leaders.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:39 PM


John Howard blasts 'irrational' Europeans (Robert Gottliebsen and John Kerin, January 31, 2005, The Australian)

"Some of the criticism (of the US) by some of the Europeans is unfair and irrational," Mr Howard said in the panel debate, organised by Britain's BBC TV.

"I mean the negative mindset of the last five minutes (of this debate) is ridiculous - of course America has made mistakes," he said.

Later Mr Howard told The Australian he found the European "irrational level of anti-Americanism" perplexing.

"It is a sign of parochialism and it is disturbingly intense."

He said the BBC debate "was based on an anti-American mindset which was established right at the beginning by the moderators from the BBC".

So this thing was pretty much just the Anglosphere vs. all comers, huh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:26 PM


Soros Says Kerry's Failings Undermined Campaign Against Bush (Bloomberg, 1/30/05)

Billionaire investor George Soros, the biggest financial contributor to the failed effort to defeat President George W. Bush in November's election, said Democratic challenger John Kerry was a flawed candidate.

Soros, chairman of Soros Fund Management LLC, spent $26 million in last year's campaign that he said was undermined by the candidate he supported.

``Kerry did not, actually, offer a credible and coherent alternative,'' Soros, 74, said yesterday in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. ``That had a lot to do with Bush being re-elected.''

The comments by the Hungarian-born Soros marked his sharpest criticism of Kerry, a Vietnam War veteran who later spoke against the war and focused his campaign against Bush on the war in Iraq. Republicans gained four seats in the Senate, including the defeat of the Senate's highest-ranking Democrat, Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota. Republicans have 55 seats in the 100-seat chamber.

The Kerry campaign ``tried to emphasize his role as a Vietnam War hero and downplay his role as an anti-Vietnam War hero, which he was,'' said Soros. ``Had he admitted, owned up to it, I think actually the outcome could have been different.''

Soros said he also now questions ``what the Democratic party stands for.'' Democrats need to counter ``a very effective conservative message machine,'' he said. ``There really needs to be an alternative.''

Here's a radical idea: America prefers George Bush's vision to that of George Soros.

MORE (via Jim Yates):
Leftwing Billionaires Try to Sink US Economy (Richard Poe, 1/30/05)

Do you believe in coincidences? I don't. Former CIA division chief David Atlee Philips once said, "The intelligence profession does not exactly condition one to accept coincidence as an explanation for a sequence of events." The same can be said of blogging. When a bevy of public figures all begins reading from the same script at the same time, the alert blogger takes note. Consider the following.

On January 19, leftwing billionaire Warren Buffett told CNBC, "Unless we have a major change in trade policies, I don't see how the dollar avoids going down."

Well, we've all heard that before. Buffett's position is hardly new. He has repeatedly announced that he is "shorting" the dollar – that is, betting against the dollar in global markets – since at least 2002. George Soros has been shorting the U.S. greenback since at least 2001. Moreover – like Buffett – Soros has announced his anti-dollar position repeatedly in the media. These frequent public announcements on the part of Soros and Buffett appear to be aimed at encouraging other investors to follow their example.

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates has now joined the anti-dollar crusade. "I'm short the dollar," Gates told PBS interviewer Charlie Rose on January 29. "The 'ol dollar, it's gonna go down."

Gates is betting instead on the Chinese yuan. In September, he received permission from the Chinese government to invest $100 million in yuan shares and bonds. Gates praises China as a "change agent" in the world. "It's phenomenal. It's a brand new form of capitalism," he enthuses.

Not to be left out of the feeding frenzy, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has also been spotted swimming with the short-dollar shark pack. In a statement that appears to serve no conceivable purpose other than to help the Gates-Buffett-Soros axis win more converts, Hillary stunned an audience of Brandeis University alumni in Florida on January 24, 2005 when she said, "[T]he economy may be on the brink of collapse... I think the economy is standing on a trap door, and I don't know that we necessarily hold the levers."

If these machinations leave some readers befuddled, a review of recent history might prove clarifying.

Remember that George Soros famously broke the Bank of England in 1992, forcing a devaluation of the British pound. He also helped trigger the "Asian flu" – a general collapse of Asian markets in 1997 – by shorting the Thai baht and the Malaysian ringgit. One year later, Soros called for a devaluation of the Russian ruble in the Financial Times of London, thus kicking off a wave of panic selling that forced the Russian treasury into default.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 9:54 AM


For those not under doctor’s orders to avoid stress and rage, compare these pictures (click on: “Pictures: Iraqis at the polls”) with many of these comments.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:06 AM


Iraqis fight a lonely battle for democracy (Michael Ignatieff, The Observer, January 30th, 2005)

The election in Iraq is without precedent. Never, not even in the dying days of Weimar Germany, when Nazis and Communists brawled in the streets, has there been such a concerted attempt to destroy an election through violence - with candidates unable to appear in public, election workers driven into hiding, foreign monitors forced to 'observe' from a nearby country, actual voting a gamble with death, and the only people voting safely the fortunate expatriates and exiles abroad.

Just as depressing as the violence in Iraq is the indifference to it abroad. Americans and Europeans who have never lifted a finger to defend their own right to vote seem not to care that Iraqis are dying for the right to choose their own leaders.

Why do so few people feel even a tremor of indignation when they see poll workers gunned down? Why isn't there a trickle of applause in the press for the more than 6,000 Iraqis actually standing for political office at the risk of their lives?

Explaining this morose silence requires understanding how support for Iraqi democracy has become the casualty of the corrosive bitterness that still surrounds the initial decision to go to war. Establishing free institutions in Iraq was the best reason to support the war - now it is the only reason - and for that very reason democracy there has ceased to be a respectable cause.

The Bush administration has managed the nearly impossible: to turn democracy into a disreputable slogan.

Liberals can't bring themselves to support freedom in Iraq lest they seem to collude with neo-conservative bombast. Anti-war ideologues can't support the Iraqis because that would require admitting that positive outcomes can result from bad policies. And then there are the ideological fools in the Arab world, and even a few in the West, who think the 'insurgents' are fighting a just war against US imperialism. This makes you wonder when the left forgot the proper name for people who bomb polling stations, kill election workers and assassinate candidates - fascists.

What may also be silencing voices is the conventional wisdom that has been thrown over the debate on Iraq like a fire blanket - everyone believes that Iraq is a disaster; hence elections are doomed. As I was told by one European observer, all that remains is the final act. We are waiting, he said, for the helicopters to lift off the last Americans from the roofs of the green zone in Baghdad. For its part, the Bush administration sometimes seems to support the elections less to give the Iraqis a chance at freedom than to provide what Henry Kissinger, speaking of Vietnam, called 'a decent interval' before collapse.

Beneath the fire blanket of defeatism, everyone - for and against the war - is preparing exit strategies. Those who were against tell us that democracy cannot be imposed at gunpoint, when the actual issue is whether it can survive being hijacked at gunpoint.

Other experts tell us how 'basically' violent Iraqi society is, as a way of explaining why insurgency has taken root. A more subtle kind of condescension claims that Iraq has been scarred by Ba'athism and cannot produce free minds. All this savant expertise ignores the evidence that Iraqis want free institutions and that their leaders have fought to establish them in near-impossible circumstances.

One wonders how many millions of Westerners are today privately hoping democracy in Iraq will fail.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:59 AM


God, physics and Darwin: Why scientists aren’t sceptical (Richard Webster, from a draft of Chapter 24 of Why Freud Was Wrong)

ONE OF THE OBSTACLES which stands in the way of the Darwinian or neo-Darwinian programme to construct an adequate theory of human nature is science itself. For modern science was, as Bacon conceived it, and as it has subsequently developed, ‘a legitimate, chaste and severe form of inquiry.’ In these words we can see the influence of Purit­anism on scientific thought at its most direct. An attitude of chastity is certainly fitting for the scientist probing into the secrets of mother nature. It is, however, in no way appropriate to the study of carnal humanity. When we confuse the pursuit of knowledge with the pursuit of virtue it is usually at the expense of truth.

Truly scientific empiricism cannot be chaste. Although Freud challenged the chastity of science in a more interesting manner than any other thinker who has claimed, and sometimes been accorded, the title of ‘scientist’, his challenge was broken in its very conception both by his mentalism and by his parallel compulsion to subject emotional and erotic behaviour to a process of purificatory rationalisation.

When he insisted on basing his theory of human motives on an essentially transcendental conception of ‘mind’ Freud was not only succumbing to the orthodoxies of nineteenth century psychology, he was also allowing himself to fall victim to the profound religiosity of Western science. This religiosity is by no means entirely confined to history. We have already encountered Stephen Hawking’s meditation on physics and cosmology as methods of exploring ‘the mind of God’. We might set this idea alongside the words of the physicist Paul Davies:

It may seem bizarre, but in my opinion science offers a surer path to God than religion … science has actually advanced to the point where what were formerly religious questions can be seriously tackled.

The statements of Hawking and Davies remain exceptional, however. For the most part the otherworldliness of modern science is not expressed in explicitly theistic terms and remains implicit rather than explicit. Our powerful assumption that physics is a form of materialism and that as such it is by definition free from all traces of mysticism sometimes prevents us from registering this. But the abstruseness of the modern scientific mysteries which are embraced as orthodoxies by every contemporary physicist is captured well by Bas von Frassen:

. . . once atoms had no colour, now they also have no shape, place or volume...There is a reason why metaphysics sounds so passé, so vieux-jeu today; for intellectually challenging perplexities and paradoxes it has been far surpassed by theoretical science. Do the concepts of the Trinity and the soul, haecceity, universals, prime matter, and potentiality baffle you? They pale beside the unimaginable otherness of closed space-time, event horizons. EPR correlations and bootstrap models.

What is so subversive, or potentially subversive, about this particular way of teasing scientists is Bas von Frassen’s suggestion that modern physics is even more metaphysical than religious metaphysics and even more committed to a form of transcendentalism. His words should serve to remind us that although the particular form of reason which has been legitimated by modern science is generally regarded as having no association with religion, modern physics remains inexorably linked to its origins in seventeenth century Christianity.

Because we associate rationalism with science, and because science tends now always to be opposed to religion, we tend to lose sight of what kind of attitude rationalism implied when it was still the ally of religion. The rationalism of Judaism is not cognate with the rationalism of Christianity, though the prophetic traditions of both oppose magic, ritualism, idolatry and sensuality while idealising systematic self-control, which is what leads some commentators at least to stress their rational character. The rationalism of Plato differs significantly from that of Aristotle, though both thinkers agreed that the universe was essentially rational. The rationalism of the great medieval monastic orders differs from the secularised rational asceticism of Puritanism which it helped to engender.

It should be noted immediately, however, that the assumption which is common to all these forms of rationalism is monotheism – that there is one god and that he presides over both the material universe and the living beings that populate it. The further assumption is that order and rationality are either in themselves divine or in some other way to be construed as an essential aspect of godhood so that knowledge of the order and rationality of the universe, or of the human soul are themselves to be understood as ways of approaching, or knowing, or glorifying, or contemplating the goodness of God. Even Aristotle, who may have ended by abandoning belief in a transcendent god, still understood knowledge as a way of making contact with the divinely rational order of the universe, which existed in some way above and beyond human beings.

It will be noted that, under the characterisation I have offered, rationalism, which is now widely understood to exist in opposition to religion, is itself not only a profoundly religious doctrine, but an interestingly irrational one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:58 AM


What is Conservatism (John Kekes)

One of the safest generalizations is that conservatives tend to be pessimists. In some conservative writings - Montaigne's, Hume's, and Oakeshott's - cheerfulness keeps breaking through, but even then, it does so in spite of their doubts about the possibility of a significant improvement in the human condition. Conservatives take a dim view of progress. They are not so foolish as to deny that great advances have been made in science, technology, medicine, communication, management, education, and so forth, and that they have changed human lives for the better. But they have also changed them for the worse. Advances have been both beneficial and harmful. They have certainly enlarged the stock of human possibilities, but the possibilities are for both good and evil, and new possibilities are seldom without new evils. Conservatives tend to be pessimistic because they doubt that more possibilities will make lives on the whole better. They believe that there are obstacles that stand in the way of the permanent overall improvement of the human condition.

Conservatism has been called the politics of imperfection. This is in some ways an apt characterization, but it is misleading in others. It rightly suggests that conservatives reject the idea of human perfectibility. Yet it is too sanguine because it implies that, apart from some imperfections, the human condition is by and large all right. But it is worse than a bad joke to regard as mere imperfections war, genocide, tyranny, torture, terrorism, the drug trade, concentration camps, racism, the murder of religious and political opponents, easily avoidable epidemics and starvation, and other familiar and widespread evils. Conservatives are much more impressed by the prevalence of evil than this label implies. If evil is understood as serious unjustified harm caused by human beings, then the conservative view is that the prevalence of evil is a permanent condition that cannot be significantly altered.

The politics of imperfection is a misleading label also because it suggests that the imperfection is in human beings. Conservatives certainly think that human beings are responsible for much evil, but to think only that is shallow. The prevalence of evil reflects not just a human propensity for evil, but also a contingency that influences what propensities human beings have and develop independently of human intentions. The human propensity for evil is itself a manifestation of this deeper and more pervasive contingency, which operates through genetic inheritance, environmental factors, the confluence of events that places people at certain places at certain times, the crimes, accidents, pieces of good or bad fortune that happen or do not happen to them, the historical period, society, and family into which they are born, and so forth. The same contingency also affects people because others, whom they love, depend on, and with whom their lives are intertwined in other ways, are as subject to it as they are themselves.

The view of thoughtful conservatives is not a hopeless misanthropic pessimism, according to which contingency makes human nature evil rather than good. Their view is rather a realistic pessimism that holds that whether the balance of good and evil propensities and their realization in people tilts one way or another is a contingent matter over which human beings and their political arrangements have insufficient control. This point needs to be stressed. Conservatives do not think that the human condition is devoid of hope. They are, however, realistic about the limited control a society has over its future. Their view is not that human beings are corrupt and that their evil propensities are uncontrollable. Their view is rather that human beings have both good and evil propensities and neither they nor their societies can exercise sufficient control to make the realization of good propensities reliably prevail over the realization of evil ones. The right political arrangements help, of course; just as the wrong ones make matters worse. But even under the best political arrangements a great deal of contingency remains, and it places beyond human control much good and evil. The chief reason for this is that the human efforts to control contingency are themselves subject to the very contingency they aim to control. And that, of course, is the fundamental reason why conservatives are pessimistic and skeptical about the possibility of significant improvement in the human condition. It is thus that the skepticism and pessimism of conservatives reinforce one another.

It does not follow from this, and conservatives do not believe, that it is a matter of indifference what political arrangements are made. It is true that political arrangements cannot guarantee the victory of good over evil, but they can influence how things go. Whether that is sufficient at a certain time and place is itself a contingent matter insufficiently within human control. The attitude that results from the realization that this is so has a negative and positive component. The negative one is acceptance of the fact that not even the best political arrangements guarantee good lives. The positive one is to strive nevertheless to make the political arrangements as good as possible. The impetus behind the latter is the realization that bad political arrangements worsen the already uncertain human condition.

If the choice of political arrangements is governed by this conservative attitude, it results in arrangements that look both to foster what is taken to be good and to hinder what is regarded as evil. One significant difference between conservative politics and most current alternatives to it is the insistence of conservatives on the importance of political arrangements that hinder evil. This difference is a direct result of the pessimism of conservatives and the optimistic belief of others in human perfectibility. Their optimism rests on the assumption that the prevalence of evil is the result of bad political arrangements. If people were not poor, oppressed, exploited, discriminated against, and so forth, it is optimistically supposed, then they would be naturally inclined to live good lives. The prevalence of evil is thus assumed to be the result of the political corruption of human nature. If political arrangements were good, there would be no corruption. What is needed, therefore, is to make political arrangements that foster the good. The arrangements that hinder evil are unfortunate and temporary measures needed only until the effects of the good arrangements are generally felt.

Conservatives reject this optimism. They do not think that evil is prevalent merely because of bad political arrangements. It needs to be asked why political arrangements are bad. And the answer must be that political arrangements are made by people, and they are bound to reflect the propensities of their makers. Bad political arrangements are ultimately traceable to the evil propensities of the people who make them. Since the propensities are subject to contingencies over which human control is insufficient, there is no guarantee whatsoever that political arrangements can be made good. Nor that, if they were made good, they would be sufficient to hinder evil.

Conservatives insist, therefore, on the necessity and importance of political arrangements that hinder evil. They stress moral education, the enforcement of morality, the treatment of people according to what they deserve, the importance of swift and severe punishment for serious crimes, and so on. They oppose the prevailing attitudes that lead to agonizing over the criminal and forgetting the crime, to perpetuating the absurd fiction of a fundamental moral equality between habitual evil-doers and their victims, to guaranteeing the same freedom and welfare-rights to good and evil people, and so forth. Conservatives reject, therefore, the egalitarian view of justice championed by liberals and socialists, which recommends taking economic resources from people who have more and giving them to those who have less without asking whether the first deserve to have them and the second deserve to receive them. Conservatives think that justice is essentially connected with desert, and its aim is, not equality, but the upholding of the rule of law that assures that people get what they deserve.

Political arrangements that are meant to hinder evil are liable to abuse. Conservatives know and care about the historical record that testifies to the dreadful things that have been done to people on the many occasions when such arrangements have gone wrong. The remedy, however, cannot be to refuse to make the arrangements; it must be to make them, learn from history, and try hard to avoid their abuse. Conservatives know that in this respect, as in all others, contingency will cause complete success to elude them. But this is precisely the reason why political arrangements are necessary for hindering evil. Their pessimism leads conservatives to face the worst and try to deny scope to it, rather than endeavor to build the City of Man on the illusion of human perfectibility.

Of course, all of that derives directly and exclusively from Judeo-Christianity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:57 AM


Question what you're told about faith-driven voters (Timothy Burgess, 1/26/05, Seattle Times)

So, who are Seattle's faith-driven values voters? How can we be "reached" by political candidates?

We take our faith and citizenship seriously. In fact, for many of us, our political views are shaped and guided by our religious faith.

We're not Bible-thumpers, but we read it, study it and believe it.

We don't preach hellfire and brimstone, but we acknowledge the power of sin in our lives, and its cunning ability to destroy relationships. Confession is something we do every week because we know who we really are and what the grace of God offers. This perspective gives us pause when we engage politically; we try to listen hard and seek understanding. We're well aware of our faults and biases.

We believe the core fundamentals of the Christian faith — that a loving God made the universe, created us in his image (we don't have a clue how he did that), and sent his son, Jesus, to be our savior. We easily embrace reason and science and see no conflict in that with our faith.

We look back at what Christians sparked in this country — the anti-slavery movement, women's suffrage, prison reform, the civil-rights revolution — and then ask ourselves what we should be doing today to make our city a better place.

We place significant value on personal responsibility and contributions to the community.

We try to teach our kids these things.

We worry about the vulgarity and coarseness of our culture and the "values" preached to our children day after day on television, in movies and magazines, and through music lyrics. We despair at the level of coarseness in our political discourse, too.

Admittedly, we struggle with a lot of pressing issues. We don't like abortion. We value the sacredness of marriage between a woman and man. We recognize that not everyone agrees with us and we know the law isn't a good mechanism to resolve these issues, but moral persuasion is.

We abhor racism and desire justice and fairness for all, especially in our courts, but also in our personal relationships. We're conflicted about capital punishment because all life is sacred. We value truth-telling and integrity.

We worry about America's foreign policy while, at the same time, we love our country.

We're leery of politicians who use God-words and quote Scripture. We can sense the natural sincerity of religious expression that comes from a deep, abiding faith. Yet, we have no problem with religious influence in our culture; in fact, we value it. Our religious pluralism is our strength.

Well, except for that women's suffrage bit...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:54 AM


OPEC has decided to keep output steady (MATT MOORE, January 30, 2005, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

OPEC will keep its output limit steady, Libyan Oil Minister Fathi Hamed Ben Shatwan said Sunday, as crude prices hovered near the $50 a barrel.

Nothing ever gets more expensive anymore...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:33 AM


They Invested Years in Private Accounts: Conservatives who want to alter Social Security have long worked to nudge public opinion. Bush will likely advance the cause this week. (Janet Hook, January 30, 2005, LA Times)

Back in 1997, proponents of overhauling Social Security met with the man who would become their most powerful convert: Texas Gov. George W. Bush, whose presidential ambitions were beginning to gel.

The governor dined with Jose Piñera, architect of Chile's 1981 shift from government pensions to worker-owned retirement accounts, in a meeting that helped bring Bush a big step closer to embracing a similar plan for Social Security in his emerging presidential platform.

"I think he wanted to support the idea but needed to be convinced," said Edward H. Crane, president of the libertarian Cato Institute, who was at the dinner. "I really think Jose convinced him."

This week, President Bush's plan to allow younger workers to divert Social Security taxes into personal investment accounts will be a centerpiece of his State of the Union address and a barnstorming tour of the country. It is a tough sell to an uncertain public, but Bush has a secret weapon: A generation of free-market conservatives like Crane and Piñera has been laying the groundwork for this debate.

"It could be many years before the conditions are such that a radical reform of Social Security is possible," wrote Stuart Butler and Peter Germanis, Heritage Foundation analysts, in a 1983 article in the Cato Journal. "But then, as Lenin well knew, to be a successful revolutionary, one must also be patient and consistently plan for real reform."

Now, Bush is drawing on a deep reservoir of resources — including policy research, ready-to-hire experts and polling on how to discuss the issue — that conservatives have created over the last 20 years.

When he needed a committed ally at the highest levels of the Social Security Administration, Bush two years ago tapped Cato's staff. When Bush told African American leaders last week that blacks would especially benefit from his proposal, he drew from a controversial 1998 Heritage Foundation paper arguing that African Americans were shortchanged by the current system because of their shorter life spans.

Thanks in part to the work of think tanks like Cato, Heritage and the National Center for Policy Analysis, Bush is also benefiting from a public opinion climate that is far more receptive to changing the government retirement system than it was 20 years ago.

The reality is that none of this mattered much--it was the 401k and the dying off of the Depression generation that made reform inevitable.

Tax Fears Help Bush's Plan Win Business Backing: Manufacturers, restaurateurs and small firms are lining up in favor of restructuring Social Security -- and averting higher payroll levies. (Tom Petruno, January 30, 2005, LA Times)

Some of the nation's major business organizations are preparing to enter the fray over restructuring Social Security, spurred by concern that companies could get stuck with the bill if the system faces money shortfalls.

The groups, including manufacturers, restaurant owners and small businesses, say they will spend millions of dollars to support President Bush's efforts to create private Social Security investment accounts. Leaders say the campaign is being driven by fears that, without an overhaul, the government could resort to raising the Social Security payroll tax to bridge any funding gaps.

"It is a job killer, particularly for small businesses," Dan Danner, senior vice president of public policy at the Washington-based National Federation of Independent Business, said of raising the payroll tax.

He said his members "would come unglued at the prospect" of any tax increase as a solution to long-term funding of Social Security.

Although there is vigorous debate over the long-term fiscal health of Social Security, concerns about a payroll tax hike are not far-fetched, according to business groups.

The Social Security payroll tax has been raised 20 times since it was imposed in 1937. The levy, originally 2%, is now 12.4% — half paid by employers, half by workers.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:30 AM


In pictures: Iraqis vote (BBC, January 30th, 2005)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:18 AM


The exhilaration of democracy after years of exile (SALAH NASRAWI, 1/30/05, The Scotsman)

WE DIDN’T look much alike, those of us milling around the school courtyard and lining up to vote: elderly men in traditional Arab gowns, young men in vinyl ski jackets and women in bright, flowing robes or beneath long, black abayas.

Clearly we were a mix - Shiites, Sunnis, Christians; Kurds, Arabs - but we were all Iraqis and all willing to ignore boycott calls and intimidation to have a say in our future and maybe one day live in the free, democratic, federal and united Iraq touted in election posters.

It was exhilarating, and it was why I travelled to Amman in Jordan from my home in exile in Egypt, which was not among the countries where Iraqi expatriates could vote. As I stood in line, I recalled scenes from South Africa in 1994, when blacks, whites and South Africans of mixed race lined up to participate in the election marking apartheid’s demise.

Some of the people around me must have, like me, fled Saddam Hussein’s tyranny. Others fled the insurgency Saddam’s diehard loyalists and other terrorists are bent on pursuing. For all of us, the vote is remarkable: we survived Saddam’s brutality and also are deciding our future, regardless of when or why we left our homeland.

They Drove 22 Hours for a Defining Moment: A caravan of expatriates travels from Seattle to Irvine to vote. 'I feel very fortunate,' one says. (Maria L. La Ganga, January 30, 2005, LA Times)

The waning moon hangs low above the modest mosque as the members of the caravan make their final preparations. Marwa Sadik, 19, watches her mother attach an Iraqi flag to the family's red minivan and steps in to help the older woman explain the passion that fuels the grueling trip ahead.

They will travel nearly 1,200 miles this day through fog and rain, wind and hail, in a 13-van convoy that stretches like an out-of-control slinky moving down Interstate 5 through three states.

It is 6:55 a.m. Friday, and they are heading off to participate in Iraq's first free election in more than 50 years. But the only polling place in the western United States is at the officers' club at the former El Toro Marine Base in Irvine.

Their exercise in prayer, pain and perseverance, somber and celebratory in equal measure, will eventually take the group nearly 22 hours, one way. But it is a trip they make gratefully, fully aware of the much more severe voting hardships in their homeland.

"Last month they kidnapped my uncle from his house in Baghdad," Sadik says about the insurgents, her breath a white plume in the inky morning. "He escaped from them. He is safe, but he's still worried. He can't go out. He can't work. He's depressed. He has four kids. The situation is really bad.

"But he's going to vote," says Sadik, whose family came from Baghdad via Syria to Seattle three years ago because her mother wanted the children to have an education, medicines, a future. "He's really excited to vote, so he can live safe with his children. Especially now, after what happened to him. He really wants a better life."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:16 AM


They died – and now we sneer (Leo McKinsry, 30/01/2005, Sunday Telegraph)

Last week, the world marked the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Although it was achieved by the Russian army, it would never have happened without US intervention in western Europe, which forced Germany to fight on two fronts. America's action was purely altruistic. Whereas Russia was engaged in a life-and-death struggle for survival, the USA was not directly threatened by the Nazi domination of Europe.

What sickens me is that we in Europe are fed a constant diet of anti-American propaganda because of the USA's supposed aggression, greed, imperialism or insularity. Yet, at the very same time, we are urged, through the remorseless process of European integration, to embrace Germany, the country responsible for most of the ills of Europe for the past 140 years. Perhaps even worse is the way the experience of Nazism has been used to promote the ideology of multi-culturalism.

Any objection to mass immigration or the destruction of traditional Judaeo-Christian moral values is deemed as racist, akin to support for fascism. As a result, in the name of multi-cultural tolerance, we have allowed the creation of the brutal, anti-democratic monster of Islamism in our midst.

It is a bizarre paradox that the hysteria over Nazism has encouraged Europe to be swamped by Islam, in which anti-Semitism appears to be an integral part of the creed – tellingly, the Muslim Council of Britain refused to take part in the Holocaust commemorations. Instead of falling under the sway of Islam and European federalism, it would be better if Europe followed the values of America, a country that has always understood the meaning of the word "freedom".

They do just lurch from ism to ism, eh?

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:00 AM


Iran puzzle: U.S. and Europe on separate tracks (Elaine Sciolino, International Herald Tribune, January 28th, 2005)

Iran is shaping up as the most serious diplomatic challenge for President George W. Bush's second term, and conflicting pronouncements by Bush and his national security team have left Iran's leadership frustrated and angry about the direction of American policy and the Europeans more determined than ever to push Washington to embrace their engagement strategy.

To the outside world, the administration seems divided over whether to promote the overthrow of the Islamic Republic of Iran, perhaps by force, or to tacitly support the negotiating approach embraced by the Europeans.

That approach implicitly recognizes Iran's legitimacy because it would give concrete benefits to Iran if the country permanently stopped key nuclear activities.

"You need to get everybody to read from the same page, the Europeans and the Americans," said Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in an interview in Davos, Switzerland, on Friday. [...]

The Europeans have made the determination that any negotiation - however flawed - that slows and perhaps eventually even halts Iran's nuclear program is better than the alternatives put forward by the United States.

"Is this approach free of risks? No," Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, said in a telephone interview. "Does it have a guarantee of success? No. But at this point in time it is the only game in town, no doubt about that. The other options are worse."

Some senior Iranian officials make the same point. "The West has suspicions about our nuclear program; we have suspicions of the Europeans," said Mohammad Javad Zarid, the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations and a key negotiator with the Europeans.

Speaking in a telephone interview, Zarid said, "We are eager to use any possible avenue to resolve those suspicions. That's why we have had the pragmatism to understand that the European game is a very serious game. Washington has yet to understand that the European game is the only game in town."

Finally we understand the problem here.

January 29, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:16 PM


Segway’s expansion on course (ERIK STETSON, 1/29/05, AP)

Europe is become a key new market for Segway LLC, with a pilot project underway to tie the self-balancing, two-wheeled devices into France’s mass-transportation system and sales picking up, particularly in Italy.

"It feels like we’re constantly on back order," said marketing vice president Klee Kleber. "We’re constantly rushing shipments over there."

Segway’s smallest model is its most popular overseas, a situation opposite to America’s, chief technology officer J. Douglas Field said. The smaller model’s tires measure 3 inches less in diameter than the larger model’s. It also weighs 13 pounds less.

Field said the measurements make the model easier to store and manage in confined areas, trade-offs for its slower speed and shorter range.

"There’s no question that the p series, which is a much smaller part of our market here, is really important in Europe," he said.

The pilot program, named the "Oxygen Network," is based in Lille, France, and managed by the Keolis Group, a transportation company with operations in seven European countries and Canada. It features a rental station that lets commuters rent Segways, electric bicycles and other vehicles, adding another layer to the city’s mass-transit system.

"There is a different motivation in Europe," Kleber said. "They want to get the cars off the road. They want to get pollution down."

He said European cities, which were designed before cars, also are more Segway friendly. Cars and related expenses such as gas and parking are more expensive there as well, he added.

"It’s a totally different transportation environment," he said. "You just don’t drive."

The privately held firm doesn’t release financial figures, but Kleber said the company’s American sales also had doubled in the fourth quarter, fueled by a growing dealership network and a series of promotions, including a free in-home trial offer. The company has about 80 dealerships nationwide, with a goal for roughly 100 overall, he said.

"We have a strategy," he said. "We’re still executing that strategy, and it’s working.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:10 PM


BBC apologises for misinterpreting Iraqi death stats (Reuters, 1/29/05)

The BBC apologised on Saturday for erroneously reporting that U.S.-led and Iraqi forces may be responsible for the deaths of 60 percent of Iraqi civilians killed in conflict over the last six months.

The British broadcaster said on Friday in broadcasts and a news statement that its Panorama investigative show would air a report on Sunday citing "confidential" records from Iraq's health ministry to support the contention.

Iraq's health minister said the BBC misinterpreted the statistics it had received and had ignored statements from the ministry clarifying the figures.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:04 PM


Labour pigs poster divides Jews (Steven Morris, January 29, 2005, The Guardian)

The Labour party refused to back down yesterday over a proposed campaign poster in which the heads of Michael Howard and Oliver Letwin are grafted on to the bodies of flying pigs.

Some Jewish academics called for the poster to be shelved, claiming it could be interpreted as anti-Semitic as the Tory leader and shadow chancellor are Jewish.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:48 PM


In Kurdish North, Campaign Turns Into a Street Party: 'We Were Dreaming for This Day to Come' (Jackie Spinner, January 28, 2005, Washington Post)

Adnan Ismael raced to the back of the campaign bus carrying supporters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and frantically pulled aside a dark blue curtain so he could see out.

Hundreds of honking cars were following behind in an impromptu rolling celebration late Thursday afternoon through this ancient city. Passengers hung out of vehicles, shouting and waving the yellow flag of the KDP and the red, white and green flag of the Kurdish semiautonomous region here in northern Iraq.

Ismael turned from the window, a stunned look on his face.

Inside the bus, a group of aging, bewhiskered former guerrilla fighters struck up an old revolutionary song. Their eyes brimmed with tears as they sang in husky voices: "Our flag is waving high in the sky. We are still alive. The Kurds are alive. There is no cannon that will break our will."

"We were dreaming for this day to come," said Ismael, the KDP leader for Irbil's Tajil district, who darted back and forth to get a look at the scene unfolding on every side of the bus. "Now we will all choose our representatives for the future. Every Kurd wishes to see this day."

The war was entirely one of the President's choosing, fought for no other reason than to make Iraq democratic. Now look what he's caused.

Likewise his Rose Garden speech forced this, Democracy's New Face: Radical and Female ( (Molly Moore, January 29, 2005, Washington Post)

Fathiya Barghouti Rheime sees herself as the new face of Islam in the democratic Middle East espoused so fervently by President Bush.

She is a 30-year-old high school teacher, mother of a 9-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old son. She describes herself as a "very religious" Muslim. She wears the hejab, a scarf wrapped tightly over her head. She does not shake hands with men outside of her family.

Two weeks ago, Rheime became the first woman ever elected mayor of a Palestinian community, an achievement that stunned many residents in this traditional, patriarchal society.

"It's a sign of change, a quantum leap," Rheime said while sitting in her newly painted office with blank white walls and peach draperies. "I'm deeply concerned about transmitting the picture of the active Islamic woman to the world, to wipe away the blemish of the veil."

Were Democrats in control all this instability would have been avoided.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:55 PM


How the World Ends: a review of COLLAPSE: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. By Jared Diamond. (Gregg Easterbrook, NY Times Book Review)

EIGHT years ago Jared Diamond realized what is, for authors, increasingly a fantasy -- he published a serious, challenging and complex book that became a huge commercial success. ''Guns, Germs, and Steel'' won a Pulitzer Prize, then sold a million copies, astonishing for a 480-page volume of archeological speculation on how the world reached its present ordering of nations. Now he has written a sequel, ''Collapse,'' which asks whether present nations can last. Taken together, ''Guns, Germs, and Steel'' and ''Collapse'' represent one of the most significant projects embarked upon by any intellectual of our generation. They are magnificent books: extraordinary in erudition and originality, compelling in their ability to relate the digitized pandemonium of the present to the hushed agrarian sunrises of the far past. I read both thinking what literature might be like if every author knew so much, wrote so clearly and formed arguments with such care. All of which makes the two books exasperating, because both come to conclusions that are probably wrong.

''Guns'' asked why the West is atop the food chain of nations. Its conclusion, that Western success was a coincidence driven by good luck, has proven extremely influential in academia, as the view is quintessentially postmodern. Now ''Collapse'' posits that the Western way of life is flirting with the sudden ruin that caused past societies like the Anasazi and the Mayans to vanish. Because this view, too, is exactly what postmodernism longs to hear, ''Collapse'' may prove influential as well. [...]

''[G]uns, Germs, and Steel'' is pure political correctness, and its P.C. quotient was a reason the book won praise. But the book must not be dismissed because it is P.C.: sometimes politically correct is, after all, correct. The flaws of the work are more subtle, and they set the stage for ''Collapse.'' One flaw was that Diamond argued mainly from the archaeological record -- a record that is a haphazard artifact of items that just happened to survive. We know precious little about what was going on in 11,000 B.C., and much of what we think we know is inferential. It may be decades or centuries until we understand human prehistory, if we ever do.

Diamond's analysis discounts culture and human thought as forces in history; culture, especially, is seen as a side effect of environment. The big problem with this view is explaining why China -- which around the year 1000 was significantly ahead of Europe in development, and possessed similar advantages in animals and plants -- fell behind. This happened, Diamond says, because China adopted a single-ruler society that banned change. True, but how did environment or animal husbandry dictate this? China's embrace of a change-resistant society was a cultural phenomenon. During the same period China was adopting centrally regimented life, Europe was roiled by the idea of individualism. Individualism proved a potent force, a source of power, invention and motivation. Yet Diamond considers ideas to bet environmental conditions, and inevitably there will be a factory manufacturing jet engines.

Many thinkers have attempted single-explanation theories for history. Such attempts hold innate appeal -- wouldn't it be great if there were a single explanation! -- but have a poor track record. My guess is that despite its conspicuous brilliance, ''Guns, Germs, and Steel'' will eventually be viewed as a drastic oversimplification. Its arguments come perilously close to determinism, and it is hard to believe that the world is as it is because it had to be that way.

Guns and Germs is even sillier, more determinist and more PC than Mr. Easterbrook can acknowledge, because PC in a way he agrees with as regards Darwinism. His entire thesis crumbles in the face of the fox.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:26 PM


Tooth used to save woman's sight (BBC, 8/18/04)

A blind woman can see again thanks to UK surgeons who used her own teeth to restore her vision. [...]

It is an option for people with corneal blindness which has not been amenable to conventional eye surgery.

The surgery takes part in two stages, each taking around six hours and carried out about six months apart.

Two surgeons, an eye surgeon and a maxillo-facial surgeon, work together to repair the damaged eye.

During the first stage, the superficial scar tissue over the damaged cornea is removed and the whole surface is then covered with a patch of tissue taken from the inside of the patient's cheek.

This will create a new surface for the eye.

The surgeons then remove one of the patient's teeth, usually a canine, together with a small block of jawbone.

This is used to fashion a rectangular plate with a hole drilled through the middle.

A small synthetic tube is inserted into this hole and the whole thing, now called an OOKP lamina, is placed under the muscle of the lower eyelid for two to four months to allow surrounding tissue to grow into the substance of this implant.

During the second stage, the cheek tissue covering the eye's surface is raised and a hole is made through the centre of the scarred cornea.

The surgeons then remove the iris, the lens and the jelly of the eye that lie behind the cornea.

They extract the OOKP lamina that they had implanted and then insert it into the hole they have made in the cornea and sew it firmly in place.

The cheek tissue is lowered back down to cover the eye again.

About 80% of people who have this surgery achieve an improvement of their vision, according to he eye surgeon who carried out the procedure, Mr Christopher Liu.

Of course, it's not easy flossing your eyelashes...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:16 PM


Feith Resigns Under Pressure of Investigations (Juan Cole, 1/29/05, Informed Comment)

Douglas Feith, the number three man at the Pentagon who went there from the pro-Likud Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) and the Project for a New American Century, will leave the Pentagon as of this summer. Feith's office is the subject of an FBI investigation as well as two Congressional investigations, one by the Senate Intelligence Committee. Feith helped set up an Office of Special Plans in the Near East and South Asia desk of the Pentagon to cherry-pick Iraq intelligence and create a case for Iraq having weapons of mass destruction and having operational links with al-Qaeda. At one point, contrary to Federal law, Feith's people actually briefed officials in the Executive on intelligence. Feith sent David Wurmser from the Office of Special Plans, once its work was well under way, over to the staff of Vice President Dick Cheney, so that he could stove pipe OSP analyses into the VP's office and thence directly to the president, doing an end run around the CIA and the State Department Intelligence and Research division.

Having a Likudnik as the number three man in the Pentagon is a nightmare for American national security, since Feith could never be trusted to put US interests over those of Ariel Sharon.

In the first instance, it seems improbable that if there truly is a law that forbids one of the President's staffers to brief him it could conceivably be constitutional. In the second though, it's no surprise to see the Left resurrect the old canard about the dual loyalty of Jews. Of course, if such a notion has any validity it more than justifies Manzanar and the prospective round up Muslim Americans.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 10:46 AM


Parents lose court battle over keeping critically ill girl alive (Nicole Martin, The Telegraph, January 29th, 2005)

The parents of a desperately ill baby yesterday lost the latest round in their legal battle to give their daughter the chance to live.

Darren Wyatt, 33, and his wife, Debbie, 23, had gone to the High Court to try to lift an order allowing doctors not to resuscitate 15-month-old Charlotte if she stops breathing.

They argued that her condition had significantly improved since October, when Mr Justice Hedley made the ruling, and asked for it to be temporarily lifted while independent medical experts reassessed the child's chances of survival. The judge granted the Wyatts permission to conduct an investigation into their daughter's condition and ruled that there should be a hearing before Easter to review the new independent medical reports.

But, rejecting their application to lift the order, he said: "The delight at her improvement has to be qualified by the fact that at present I have no evidence to support any proposition that her improvements reflect any change in the underlying condition from which she is suffering.[...]

Citing one of the medical experts, Dr C, he said that Charlotte had "genuinely good days" when she received no sedatives and was taken out of her oxygen box. She responded to stimulation, had limited perception of light and dark and was able to react, to a limited extent, to noise.

"Contrary to the expectation of many of the doctors, Charlotte has survived and her condition appears to be improving," he said. "What's not yet clear is the extent of the change, the reason for the change and the implications of the change. But the appearance of change is not disputed."

We are obviously dealing with a shrewd judge who can see that Charlotte is faking it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:34 AM


LaHood looks good for governor (THOMAS ROESER, January 29, 2005, Chicago Sun-Times)

Whenever an ocean liner approaches a harbor, it calls for a seasoned pilot who knows the eddies and secret channels to come and steer the ship into port. In the House of Representatives (where I served as a staffer years ago with another unknown named Don Rumsfeld), when passage of legislation runs into trouble, Speaker J. Dennis Hastert calls on a sage master of parliamentary procedure to guide the craft to passage. That pilot is usually Ray LaHood, a beetle-browed 59-year-old Lebanese Catholic, pro-life five-term member from Peoria. LaHood can be warm and ingratiating but also abrasive with the gavel. The other night during inauguration festivities, he had the gavel at the Illinois State Society and tried to get the crowd to calm down. Most of the crowd was circulating around Illinois' rock-star senator, Barack Obama, and Obama wasn't about to dissuade them.

''Sen. Obama,'' LaHood rasped in a voice that silenced the group, ''if you want people to listen to you when you are up here, you should probably listen while other people are trying to speak.''

Obama, chastened, shut up.

These days Ray LaHood is taking time away from his 18th District, where he won with 70 percent of the vote in November, to explore a run for governor. His experience in monitoring the House for his old boss Bob Michel has won him acclaim under Hastert with gilt-edged committee assignments: appropriations, budget and intelligence. But he's a rebel, one of only three GOP members to balk at signing Newt Gingrich's Contract with America (because it put tax cuts ahead of budget balancing), and the first to attack Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (purportedly for insulting Hastert, but also for not supporting public works goodies for Illinois that the delegation had approved). LaHood declared publicly he was looking around for someone to run against Fitzgerald (that someone was Andy McKenna, the multimillionaire paper company executive who is now state GOP chairman). Later, LaHood warned publicly that Rep. Phil Crane was in trouble because he wasn't working hard enough. (LaHood was right; Crane lost to Melissa Bean). [...]

[A]ll things being equal he's an excellent campaigner. Talking with him is like breathing pure oxygen after working in a salt mine. His social instincts are excellent, and his rebellious nature might just be what Illinois needs. Yes, he needs a crash course in Chicago. Knowing him, he'll get on it pronto. We need a good pilot for this leaky ship of state. Gov. LaHood sounds good.

A strong run by Mr. LaHood would be particularly important because--if some top of the head calculations are accurate--IL is one of only five states where Democrats hold the big three (governor and U.S. senators) statewide elected offices. It's important for the GOP to drive home the permanent nature of the realignment by reducing these last bastions (IL, WA, DE, NJ, WV).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:25 AM


The Bushies' New Groove (DAVID BROOKS, 1/29/05, NY Times)

F. Scott Fitzgerald said there are no second acts in American life. That's got to be one of the most untrue truisms ever uttered. As everybody from Donald Trump to Ozzy Osborne can tell you, there are nothing but second acts in American life.

The Bush administration has started its second act, and it is striking how different this one feels. When you ask senior officials to remember the first term, they remember it as a time of war. There was the attack of Sept. 11. There were invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. There was the political war of the 2004 campaign.

That was a time when pieces of things were cast asunder. Senior Bush officials talk about this term as a time when pieces of things will be put back together. There's almost a springlike, postwar mood.

In the ultimate blow to his opponents, the President has moved on from 9-11 before they've moved on from 12/12/00.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:17 AM


Flashback to the 60's: A Sinking Sensation of Parallels Between Iraq and Vietnam: Nearly two years after the American invasion of Iraq, comparisons to the conflict in Vietnam are bubbling to the fore. (TODD S. PURDUM, 1/29/05, NY Times)

Bubbling? The Left and the far Right have been flogging the Vietnam analogy since around 9-12.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:08 AM


Democrats Decry Use of Agency in Social Security Battle (Charles Babington, January 29, 2005, Washington Post)

"The president cannot turn the Social Security Administration into his own lobby shop," Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) said at a three-hour Capitol Hill hearing run by Democratic senators opposing the White House plan.

The hearing featured two Social Security Administration employees who said the agency's marketing plan inappropriately calls on workers to publicly promote Bush's goals.

"That is a political message, and it's not my job as an agency employee to project a political message," said Debbie Fredericksen, a Minneapolis-based employee.

Steve Kofahl, a Social Security claims representative from Seattle who addressed the all-Democrat panel, said SSA employees have been told that Social Security is in a crisis that only private accounts can salvage. He said the employees "have been directed to share this message with the public at every opportunity."

"I do not believe it is proper for public funds or public employees to be used to stir up fear" and push the White House agenda, Kofahl said.

Who paid for this hearing to whip up anti-reform hysteria through the use of SSA employees?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:03 AM

BLAMING SADDAM (via Matt Murphy):

CU prof's essay sparks dispute: Ward Churchill says 9/11 victims were not innocent people (John C. Ensslin, January 27, 2005, Rocky Mountain News)

A University of Colorado professor has sparked controversy in New York over an essay he wrote that maintains that people killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were not innocent victims.

Students and faculty members at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., have been protesting a speaking appearance on Feb. 3 by Ward L. Churchill, chairman of the CU Ethnic Studies Department. They are upset over an essay Churchill wrote titled, "Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens."

The essay takes its title from a remark that black activist Malcolm X made in the wake of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Malcolm X created controversy when he said Kennedy's murder was a case of "chickens coming home to roost."

Churchill's essay argues that the Sept. 11 attacks were in retaliation for the Iraqi children killed in a 1991 U.S. bombing raid and by economic sanctions imposed on Iraq by the United Nations following the Persian Gulf War.

The essay contends the hijackers who crashed airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11 were "combat teams," not terrorists.

It states: "The most that can honestly be said of those involved on Sept. 11 is that they finally responded in kind to some of what this country has dispensed to their people as a matter of course."

So we're all agreed on the Iraqi ties to 9-11? Wasn't the Left saying there were none?

Posted by David Cohen at 9:49 AM


Single-game tickets on sale today: Seats will be available online or by telephone at 10 a.m. (Ian Browne, MLB.com, 01/29/05)

The Red Sox, who had sold out their last 145 regular season home games even before winning the World Series last October, will put 2005 single-game tickets on sale via telephone and the Internet, beginning at 10 a.m. ET today. . . .

With the exception of Opening Day (Yankees on April 11), Patriots Day (April 18 vs. Toronto) and the nine other regular season games against the Yankees, fans will be able to purchase tickets for all home games at redsox.com or by calling (617) 482-4SOX. Fans with disabilities can call (877) REDSOX-9 to purchase accessible seating as long as it is available.

Opening Day is my birthday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:35 AM


Meal from Hell Whets Appetite for US-Iran Clash (Paul Taylor, 1/29/05, Reuters)

Call it the meal from hell.

A World Economic Forum dinner designed to promote dialogue between Iran and the United States on Friday night began with a comic strip series of diplomatic and gastronomic blunders, and ended with a sharp exchange over nuclear weapons.

With Iran's vice-president and foreign minister in the room, the organizers began by announcing they had disinvited Swiss cartoonist Patrick Chappatte, one of the listed panelists, because the issues were too serious.

The star guest, U.S. Senator Joe Biden, ranking Democrat on the Senate foreign relations committee, was missing. The organizers kept saying he was on his way.

Moderator David Ignatius, a Washington Post columnist, apologized for the fact that wine had been served, upsetting the Muslim guests. Waiters cleared the offending glasses.

They also removed the menus since the hotel had planned to serve non-hallal meat, breaching Islamic dietary rules. Even the soup spoons were withdrawn -- erroneously, it transpired.

One participant asked whether different cultures could not tolerate each other's dietary customs. Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi responded that tolerance was fine but it did not mean people should not respect each other's religious values.

If wine was served, his delegation could not participate in the meal, he said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:32 AM


The Iraqi people will defy the Ba'athists and Islamofascists: Blair is right. Why aren't more democrats backing these elections? (William Shawcross, January 24, 2005, The Guardian)

Just look at who is trying to stop Iraqis voting and by what methods. That alone shows how important this week's elections are to Iraq. [...]

The Iraqi elections are at one level a brutal theocratic struggle between Sunni and Shia, between Bin Laden and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Sistani, the principal leader of the Shias, who constitute 60% of the Iraqi population, has told his followers that it is their duty to vote. But in a video aired on al-Jazeera, Bin Laden declared that "Anyone who participates in these elections... has committed apostasy against Allah". He endorsed killing of security people in the new government - "Their blood is permitted. They are apostates whose deaths should not be prayed over."

Zarqawi describes the Shias as "the lurking snakes and the crafty scorpions, the spying enemy and the penetrating venom, the most evil of mankind". Every day he murders more. Last Friday a car bomber murdered 14 people, including children, as they left their mosque in Baghdad. He murdered Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al-Hakim, the head of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, one of the principal Shia parties, and he recently tried to murder Hakim's brother and successor. In that attack 13 other Iraqis were killed and 66 wounded.

Allied to the Islamist groups are Ba'athist groups who want to restore Sunni Ba'athist dictatorship. Several of their military leaders were arrested in Falluja in November.

One was Colonel Muayed al-Nasseri, who said that Saddam had set up his group, Muhammad's Army, after the fall of Baghdad. Under interrogation he said that his group had been receiving aid from both Iran and Syria, neither of which wish to see a democracy in Iraq. He said Iran had given them "one million dollars... cars, weapons... even car bombs". He said that Saddam had sent him to Syria to liaise with Syrian intelligence, which was proving especially helpful with money. Other Saddamite officials are working with impunity from Damascus. Washington has protested about this, but the US has not yet put any really strong pressure on Syria.

The impact of terrorism on the election has already been huge. Many of the political parties have not dared name their candidates for fear they will be murdered. Public meetings are virtually impossible. The risks of going to the polling stations are real everywhere, huge in some places. Many candidates have been murdered; those who are elected will face real dangers.

What is astonishing is that people still seem determined to vote for a new Iraq. [...]

Tony Blair said in Baghdad in December: "On the one side you have people who desperately want to make the democratic process work, and want the same type of democratic freedoms other parts of the world enjoy, and on the other side people who are killing and intimidating and trying to destroy a better future for Iraq. Our response should be to stand alongside the democrats."

Blair is absolutely right. It is shocking that so few democratic governments support the Iraqi people.

There seem to be two possibilities:

(1) Opponents of liberalization in the Arab world are democrats who oppose democracy in this instance.

(2) Opponents aren't democrats.

Given that all the same suspects were arrayed against all the same advocates in the Cold War you'd have to say that (b) is closer to the truth.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 AM


Sac Bee Watch: Watching liberal bias at the Sacramento Bee

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:23 AM


Overcoming the Constraints of Sovereignty (Sidney Goldberg, 01/21/2005, Tech Central Station)

A chief complaint against the Bush inaugural speech is that he seems to ignore the constraints of sovereignty, which prevent the United States from encroaching on the legitimacy of even the most evil of regimes and proclaims their borders sacrosanct.

But sovereignty often has nothing to do with ethics and one can respect sovereignty and commit ethical crimes in doing so. Was it ethical to abide by the sovereignty of Sudan while it was committing genocide? Is it ethical for us to sit on our hands while millions of Africans are maimed or slaughtered? [...]

[W]here the United States finds a people who are suffering under the yoke of a tyrant, and it is a tyrant that we can eliminate and thereby ease the suffering, we should go ahead and do it. This would violate the laws of sovereignty in favor of the obligations of ethics. This action should be taken unless it causes even more deaths and suffering than the existing tyranny. In that case we have to put it on a back burner until a better opportunity for change occurs.

What we have to do, and I'm sure the President has thought this through, is go after the horrible but easy cases first, just as a good salesman makes the easy sales first and works his way up to the most difficult for last. He sells refrigerators first to people who have none and only at the very end of his campaign will he attempt to sell refrigerators to people who already have them. Therefore, China and Russia shouldn't be at the top of our list for "regime change." As the easier tyrannies open up to greater freedom, China and Russia will become more vulnerable and therefore subject to our pressure and influence.

President Bush understands that "sovereignty" can be the greatest cover for evil and that respect for sovereignty is a minor if sometimes necessary virtue compared to ignoring it in the interest of doing what is right and easing human suffering. We do this in our personal life and we should do it as a nation. What the President has chosen to do is accept the challenge of doing the right thing. Sometimes you can get away with it. If he achieves only 25% of his immensely difficult goals during his tenure, he should be enshrined on Mt. Rushmore.

The U.S. has never much given a fig for the sovereignty of others -- though we've jealously guarded our own -- but the practice of more consistently ignoring sovereignty questions in order to intervene abroad for humanitarian reasons has definitely quickened under Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, both working with Tony Blair.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:03 AM


INTERVIEW: with GK Chesterton: Chesterton is dismayed at the onward march of relativism and secularism. He also thinks the novel has lost its way, understands Islamic grievances against the west and is a proud mentor to satirists (Tobias Jones, January 2005, Prospect)

Tobias Jones: We'll come back to Christianity. But you mention postmodernism: what do you take it to mean?

GKC: Ha! Have you ever asked a postmodernist the meaning of postmodernism? It's all absolute hogwash, or as they would say, meta-hogwash. The whole point is that postmodernism is the negation of meaning and belief and faith. Postmoderns can't say what they mean because that would imply meaning, something they're at pains to deny. Of course, at table you can ask them to pass the mustard, and they seem perfectly able; and they know two plus two is four, even though they get very cross if you affirm your belief in objective reality. In some ways my entire oeuvre, published before and after the first world war, was dedicated to battling the nascent phenomenon of postmodernism. I described the tendency in a book called Heretics and summarised its motto with the line: "let us not decide what is good, but let it be considered good not to decide it." That is their ambition: to be relieved of the responsibility of deciding what is good and what evil by pretending that those concepts don't exist. As George Bernard Shaw, the first postmodernist, wrote in his The Quintessence of Ibsenism, "the golden rule is that there is no golden rule."

TJ: Might that not be sensible in a multi-faith society? The intolerance and absolutism of monotheism can be swapped for the tolerance of multiculturalism.

GKC: Dear dear, I can see that you too have been hoodwinked. That is their rhetoric: tolerance, the peaceful coexistence of competing beliefs. In reality, now that their heresy has become enshrined as orthodoxy, you're not even allowed to express a belief. Take, for example, the country which was the cradle of this silly craze: France. There, tolerance apparently implies that one isn't even allowed into school with a veil. Come come. If I may quote myself again, "the old restriction meant that only the orthodox were allowed to discuss religion. Modern liberty means that nobody is allowed to discuss it." Or take the case of Rocco Buttiglione and his interrogation before joining the European commission: he expressed a personal belief about homosexuality and distinguished between a sin and a crime. That distinction is the cornerstone of a secular body politic; in a theocracy, and in liberal totalitarianism, it is non-existent. Buttiglione was displaying both sincerity and subtlety and tolerance. What could be more tolerant than a man believing that something is wrong but allowing it to happen because he accommodates other beliefs? By contrast, postmoderns believe in nothing and so countenance no dissent.

TJ: You're not seriously telling me we're less tolerant than we were, say, in the Edwardian era?

GKC: My dear boy, I think you're mistaking tolerance for relativism. If the only dogma you have is tolerance, the only thing you believe in is relativism. What nobility is there in tolerance if you don't believe in anything in the first place? You're like someone who makes a great show of denying themselves something they didn't even want anyway. It's an illusion of virtue. Your entire morality, if so it can be called, is negative: against racism and against sexism and against war and so on and so forth.

TJ: We do believe in things: democracy, freedom....

GKC: Your thinking is irredeemably muddled. Those are means, not ends. You can't say you believe in democracy per se. You would have to tell me what you believe democracy can achieve. Besides, I think you're confusing liberty with libertinism, freedom -- as Milton said -- with licence. Freedom, for your generation, implies the removal of all constraint. That's not freedom but licentiousness; from a Christian point of view, it's nothing other than the complete removal of freedom. It is slavery to sin. You see, freedom only has meaning if it is accompanied by morality, if it implies a choice between good and evil. You can hardly blame the vast majority of the Arab world if they equate your freedom with immorality because they know that you no longer believe in good and evil. A few decades into my afterlife I met Viktor Frankl, and I greatly admired his notion that if the east coast of America has a statue of liberty, the west one desperately requires a statue of responsibility. The one without the other has no meaning. Talk all you want about human rights, gay rights, women's rights… but I insist that you tell me what you think are the complementary human responsibilities, gay responsibilities, women's responsibilities. That is why I wrote in What's Wrong With The World that: "Most modern freedom is at root fear. It is not so much that we are too bold to endure rules; it is rather that we are too timid to endure responsibilities."

Now that's a scoop....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 AM


The conservationist: Under the direction of Bruce Cole, the once-radical National Endowment for the Humanities has returned to the role of preserving America's heritage (Gene Edward Veith, 1/22/05, World)

The National Endowment for the Humanities began in 1965 as part of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society initiative. Proponents saw it as a parallel effort to the National Science Foundation, established in 1950 under President Truman. Just as the government funded scientific research in the national interest, it would fund projects in the humanities (that is, history, literature, language, philosophy, and the like).

Over its 40 years of existence, the NEH has helped pay for archeological digs at Jamestown and other important historical sites, accurate editions of the works of classic American authors, museum exhibitions such as "Treasures of Tutankhamen," and documentary films such as Ken Burns's Civil War series. In addition to these relatively popular projects, NEH gives grants to support professors' research projects and academic seminars, which some critics label "welfare for college professors."

The most intense controversy over the NEH came as the academic world became more and more radicalized. Taxpayers sometimes had to foot the bill as researchers set about deconstructing the traditional humanities and constructing new approaches grounded in gender, race, and multiculturalism.

Under Ronald Reagan, William Bennett headed the NEH and brought its focus back to the conservation of American culture. Lynne Cheney, who served under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush, succeeded Mr. Bennett and was even more aggressive in using the NEH to challenge current academic trends.

When Democrats returned to power, however,the NEH turned liberal again. The "National Conversation on Diversity" initiative funneled grant money to liberal activist groups such as the National Council on Aging and the American Bar Association. Then the NEH released educational standards for teaching history that left out George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Thomas Edison. Instead, it presented what historian Richard Jenson called "a highly negative image of American history as basically the story of how heroic women and minorities resisted oppressive white males."

The history standards were so extreme that the Senate, in a bipartisan stand, voted 99-1 to repudiate them. Mrs. Cheney, the endowment's former director, called for its abolition.

But with Republicans back in power and the agency under new leadership, those days seem long gone. The overall NEH budget is back up, to $162 million for 2005, with strong GOP support. And overall, under the Republican administration, the NEH is funding culture in a distinctly conservative direction. Not conservative politically, so much—­politicizing the humanities is what the academic liberals do—but in the sense of "conserving" America's history and great ideas and trying to transmit them to future generations.

President Bush's NEH director, Bruce Cole, has the specific goal of combating what he calls America's "amnesia" about its own history.

Nothing scares the libertarians more than the fact that, especiually as regards the social welfare net, President Bush's conservative reforms will redeem government.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:56 AM


Idealism swings back in fashion (Gareth Harding, Jan. 28, 2005, UPI)

Idealism is back. After years of hard-headed pragmatism, world leaders are daring to talk about their hopes, dreams and ideals and are risking precious political capital by launching bold plans to tackle some of the most pressing problems of the day.

U.S. President George W. Bush set the tone taking his oath of office last week.

"No-one could say the inauguration speech was lacking in idealism," British Prime Minister Tony Blair Wednesday told political and business leaders in Davos, Switzerland.

They certainly could not. Bush, who is not renowned for being a wishy-washy liberal dreamer, spoke repeatedly of the importance of ideals and idealism. There was no shortage of either in his second address from the steps of the Capitol. He said governments faced a "moral choice between oppression, which is always wrong, and freedom, which is eternally right." He talked of his administration's "ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world." And he pledged to support freedom fighters in their struggle for liberty, democracy and self-determination.

"All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: The United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors," he said. "When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you."

It was stirring stuff -- the noblest of ideals driven by oratory of the highest order. Of course, this did not stop Bush's critics scoffing at his speech as phony, hypocritical and utopian. The speech was ambitious -- highly ambitious -- but as Blair said in Davos, it is difficult to argue now that Bush is in the grip of neo-conservative hawks in Washington. "I thought progressives were all in favor of freedom rather than tyranny," said the president's most enthusiastic cheerleader in Europe.

Blair's political discourse has always had an evangelical ring to it, but he has often been compromised by his desire to be all things to all men and women. Lately, the Labor leader seems to have run out of patience with half-measures and there is a renewed sense of outrage and urgency in his speeches about world affairs.

So now the moron has completely reshaped the way the world thinks and speaks. That's one heck of a shrub we bought.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:45 AM

Subject: Watch Spirit of America on C-SPAN Sunday 2pm Eastern, broadcast of Iraq election coverage
Date: Sat, 29 Jan 2005 00:52:07 +0000
From: Jim Hake, Spirit of America
To: brothersjudd.com


Great news! We've just received confirmation that C-SPAN is planning to cover Spirit of America's Iraq election event this Sunday from 2pm to 4pm Eastern (11am to 1pm Pacific). Please watch. Your support has made this possible. Please forward this message far and wide and encourage people to tune in.

Iraq's elections are an historic event. This broadcast will provide a unique, more complete picture of the elections with ground-level news and views from the Iraqi people. You will get much more than the typical focus on violence and terrorism. We'll have reports, photos and video from all corners of Iraq. The broadcast event is described more here: http://www.spiritofamerica.net/site/blog/459

You can see reports and photos now at:


And, during the show on Sunday, we will be publishing the discussion at


and asking for your comments.

Please visit the site and tell us what you think.

All the best,
Jim Hake and the Spirit of America team

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 AM


Report: Soccer Referee Was Paid $65,000 to Fix Games (January 29, 2005, LA Times)

Germany's biggest soccer scandal in more than 30 years deepened Friday when four people were arrested and a newspaper reported that a referee told prosecutors he was paid more than $65,000 to fix games.

The referee, Robert Hoyzer, admitted getting money for rigging three games and also implicated players and other refs, the newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:39 AM


Recasting Republicans as the Party of Civil Rights Strategists reach back to GOP's antislavery roots in an attempt to lure black voters. (Peter Wallsten, January 29, 2005, LA Times)

Condoleezza Rice took the oath Friday as the first black woman to be secretary of State, then immediately reached back into history to invoke the legacy of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

Her words were the latest example of President Bush and his top aides citing the Republican Party's often-forgotten 19th century antislavery roots — a strategy that GOP leaders believe will help them make inroads among black voters in the 21st century.

And if it reminds voters that the Democrats once embraced slavery, that's not such a bad byproduct, strategists say.

Bush, who keeps a bust of Lincoln prominently displayed in the Oval Office, is making Civil War references a staple of his speeches promoting democracy overseas and policy changes at home. And a glossy, GOP-produced "2005 Republican Freedom Calendar," spotlighting key moments in the party's civil rights history, has been distributed to party officials nationwide.

"We started our party with the express intent of protecting the American people from the Democrats' pro-slavery policies that expressly made people inferior to the state," Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Newport Beach) wrote in a letter printed on the calendar.

The letter continued: "Today, the animating spirit of the Republican Party is exactly the same as it was then: free people, free minds, free markets, free expression, and unlimited individual opportunity."

The Democrats certainly seem grayer every day.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:37 AM


Hamas Builds Political Clout With Wins in Gaza Elections: The militant group's candidates take most of the races held in 10 small locales. The strong show could affect cease-fire talks with Abbas. (Laura King, January 29, 2005, LA Times)

Thousands of cheering Hamas supporters took to the streets of Gaza to celebrate after the group easily triumphed in seven out of the nine small to medium-size towns in the seaside territory where its candidates had run.

The group did not field a candidate in the 10th locality where voting was held, a village populated by a single Bedouin extended family. [...]

Analysts said the outcome, like that in municipal races last month in the West Bank, was probably significantly influenced by factors such as clan ties, narrowly focused local issues and long-simmering anger over corruption by Arafat loyalists.

Hamas, formally known as the Islamic Resistance Movement, also has a strong and well-disciplined organizational base in impoverished Gaza. The group runs an extensive social-services network that includes much-needed clinics and schools. Using its many community contacts, it simply did a better job in getting out the vote, local officials said. [...]

"This is a big victory," said Mahmoud Zahar, a founding member of Hamas and the group's main surviving leader in Gaza. Most of the group's other prominent figures, including spiritual leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin, have been slain by Israel over the last 18 months in "targeted killings" with helicopter-fired missiles.

Much in the manner of Hamas' usual public rallies, supporters marched en masse in half a dozen Gaza towns and cities, waving the group's green Islamic flags, passing out celebratory sweets and shouting "God is great!" through loudspeakers.

But Zahar, in remarks that seemed emblematic of Hamas' new aspirations, sounded like an earnest politician anywhere extolling the virtues of democracy.

"Everybody won, those who were elected and those who were not, because the exercise of this process is more important than the winners," Zahar said at a news conference in Gaza City.

Odd as that assertion might have sounded coming from a leader of a violent armed faction, the turnout — more than 85%, according to Jamal Shoubaki, the Palestinian minister for local government — suggested a strong pent-up desire to practice democracy.

Many Palestinians, even those who were supporters of Arafat's ruling Fatah movement, felt stifled and disenfranchised by the late president's near-absolute grip on power.

Of the 118 winners of seats on municipal councils, 75 were from Hamas, according to final official tallies. Fearing arrest or other repercussions, those candidates did not openly claim affiliation with the militant group, but instead called themselves the Change and Reform slate. Two other known Hamas members ran as independents and won.

Candidates affiliated with Fatah won 26 seats, and at least 11 posts went to independents thought to be Fatah supporters. The remaining seats were scattered among other independent candidates and a smaller party.

Continuing a trend set in municipal elections in the West Bank, female candidates also ran in substantial numbers. Shoubaki told reporters that women garnered 17% of the seats being contested, and added: "We are proud of this."

They appear to be getting the hang of this democracy deal pretty quickly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:37 AM


Swede's Sermon on Gays: Bigotry or Free Speech? (Keith B. Richburg and Alan Cooperman, January 29, 2005, Washington Post)

One Sunday in the summer of 2003, the Rev. Ake Green, a Pentecostal pastor, stepped into the pulpit of his small church in the southern Swedish village of Borgholm. There, the 63-year-old clergyman delivered a sermon denouncing homosexuality as "a deep cancerous tumor in the entire society" and condemning Sweden's plan to allow gays to form legally recognized partnerships.

"Our country is facing a disaster of great proportions," he told the 75 parishioners at the service. "Sexually twisted people will rape animals," Green declared, and homosexuals "open the door to forbidden areas," such as pedophilia.

With these words, which the local newspaper published at his request, Green ran afoul of Sweden's strict laws against hate speech. He was indicted, convicted and sentenced to 30 days in jail. He remains free pending appeal.

U.S. law regulates what can be said about individuals, but it generally protects speech directed against groups, however harsh, allowing Ku Klux Klan leaders and neo-Nazis, for example, to state their ideologies publicly. But in Europe, laws banning such speech and similarly controversial symbols are common.

Such speech?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:12 AM


The Branding of a Heretic (DAVID KLINGHOFFER, January 28, 2005, Wall Street Journal)

The question of whether Intelligent Design (ID) may be presented to public-school students alongside neo-Darwinian evolution has roiled parents and teachers in various communities lately. Whether ID may be presented to adult scientific professionals is another question altogether but also controversial. It is now roiling the government-supported Smithsonian Institution, where one scientist has had his career all but ruined over it.

The scientist is Richard Sternberg, a research associate at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington. The holder of two Ph.D.s in biology, Mr. Sternberg was until recently the managing editor of a nominally independent journal published at the museum, Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, where he exercised final editorial authority. The August issue included typical articles on taxonomical topics--e.g., on a new species of hermit crab. It also included an atypical article, "The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories." Here was trouble.

The piece happened to be the first peer-reviewed article to appear in a technical biology journal laying out the evidential case for Intelligent Design. According to ID theory, certain features of living organisms--such as the miniature machines and complex circuits within cells--are better explained by an unspecified designing intelligence than by an undirected natural process like random mutation and natural selection. [...]

The Biological Society of Washington released a vaguely ecclesiastical statement regretting its association with the article. It did not address its arguments but denied its orthodoxy, citing a resolution of the American Association for the Advancement of Science that defined ID as, by its very nature, unscientific.

It may or may not be, but surely the matter can be debated on scientific grounds, responded to with argument instead of invective and stigma. Note the circularity: Critics of ID have long argued that the theory was unscientific because it had not been put forward in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Now that it has, they argue that it shouldn't have been because it's unscientific. They banish certain ideas from certain venues as if by holy writ, and brand heretics too. In any case, the heretic here is Mr. Meyer, a fellow at Seattle's Discovery Institute, not Mr. Sternberg, who isn't himself an advocate of Intelligent Design. [...]

Intelligent Design, in any event, is hardly a made-to-order prop for any particular religion. When the British atheist philosopher Antony Flew made news this winter by declaring that he had become a deist--a believer in an unbiblical "god of the philosophers" who takes no notice of our lives--he pointed to the plausibility of ID theory.

Darwinism, by contrast, is an essential ingredient in secularism, that aggressive, quasi-religious faith without a deity. The Sternberg case seems, in many ways, an instance of one religion persecuting a rival, demanding loyalty from anyone who enters one of its churches--like the National Museum of Natural History.

Like any rigid institution, Darwinism should be expected to lash out wildly as it is overthrown.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 AM


The hard road to democracy (Victor Davis Hanson, 1/27/05, Jewish World Review)

Fostering elections in Iraq is a hard road, well apart from the daily violence of the Sunni Triangle. The autocratic Sunni elite of surrounding countries prefers democracy to fail, warning us that an Iranian-sponsored theocracy will surely follow in Iraq, legitimizing a new Arab Khomeinism.

Sunni Iraqis want exemption from, or a delay of, the election — even though they cannot or will not stop their own violence that imperils it. The United States earns very little credit abroad for its newfound dedication to democratic reform — even as realists at home warn that we should instead back the status-quo who better guarantee order that purportedly favors our own national security.

There are rarely supporters of the hard road of promoting democracies abroad until they are well established. We learned that well enough both before and after the Afghanistan war. Many swore that the Taliban could not be removed. After their demise, new critics warned that the fascists could not be replaced with democrats — and now suddenly they are mostly silent or indeed supportive of the new Afghanistan.

In the face of censure, the United States once bombed Christian Europeans in the Balkans to arrest an Islamic genocide, in hopes of stopping Milosevic and ushering in a democracy. Greeks and Russians were furious. The Arab world offered little thanks that we saved their fellow Muslims. Europeans who had watched the carnage on their doorstep for a near decade whined about our heavy-handed bombing. But perseverance in pursuit of principle — perhaps the Clinton administration's most controversial hour — saved thousands of lives and gave the Balkans a chance at consensual government.

America's calls for fair elections in the Ukraine only alienated a far more powerful Russia. The Putin administration remonstrated that Russia is the world's largest oil producer and a similar victim of mass terrorism and thus an ally in our war. Yet the Ukraine now has a fairly elected leader and we proved that America is not anti- Russian, but rather pro-democratic.

We are at last pressing Saudi Arabia for internal reform in the knowledge that their monarchy is a fertile ground for religious fascists who manipulate understandable popular discontent against the monarchy for their own Islamic agendas. These efforts at promoting Western-style democracy are either slurred as cultural chauvinism against Arabs or dismissed as criminally naive idealism that will ensure a far worse anti-American theocracy — supposedly a lose/lose proposition.

Yet a day will come when it is recognized that the American withdrawal of 10,000 troops from the Wahhabi state was a wise move — and should be followed by sober reassessment of American subsidies to the Mubarak dynasty in Egypt that is heading toward to a crisis of succession.

America was castigated for isolating Yasser Arafat. However, this ostracism ensured at Arafat's passing that he was not a messianic figure, but generally felt to have been an obstacle to open elections that are moving ahead. So the United States was attacked for shunning a dictatorial nationalist, but never thanked for opposing the corruption and authoritarianism that had ruined the Palestinian state.

In all these cases, the preference for the status quo offers short-term stability, while the principled insistence on consensual government proves risky and hinges on unproven reformers. Yet in the long-term, America has rarely gone wrong for being on the democratic side of history.

Considering we've only been at this for 40 months, and have had rather rapid and steady success, isn't it a bit early to call democratizing the Middle East a hard road?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:47 AM


Stories of Imperial Collapse Are Getting Old (Victor Davis Hanson, 1/26/05, New Criterion)

The most recent doom-and-gloom forecast by Matthew Parris of the London Times would be hilarious if it were not so hackneyed. After all, Americans long ago have learned to grin any time a British intellectual talks about the upstart’s foreordained imperial collapse. And as in the case of our own intelligentsia’s gloominess, it is not hard to distinguish the usual prophets’ pessimistic prognostications from their thinly-disguised hopes for American decline and fall.

But this country is now in its third century and assurances that the United States is about through are getting old. In the early 20th century the rage was first Spengler and then Toynbee who warned us that our crass consumer capitalism would lead to inevitable spiritual decay. Next, the Hitlerians assured the Volk that the mongrel Americans could never set foot on German-occupied soil, so decadent were these Chicago mobsters and uncouth cowboys. Existentialism and pity for the empty man in the gray flannel suit were the rage of the 1950s, as Americans, we were told, had become depressed and given up in the face of racial inequality, rapid suburbanization, and the spread of world-wide national liberationist movements.

In the 1960s and 1970s we heard of the population bomb and all sorts of catastrophes in store for the United States and the world in general that had unwisely followed its profligate paradigm of consumption; yet despite Paul Ehrlich’s strident doomsday scenario, the environment got cleaner and the people of the globe richer. And then came the historian Paul Kennedy, who, citing earlier Spanish and English implosions, "proved" that the United States had played itself out in the Cold War, ruining its economy to match the Soviet Union in a hopeless arms race–publishing his findings shortly before the Russian empire collapsed and the American economy took off (again).

In the Carter ‘malaise years,’ we were warned about the impending triumph of ‘Asian Values’ and the supposed cultural superiority of Japan, Inc., which would shortly own most of whatever lazy and ignorant Americans sold them–before the great meltdown brought on by corruption, censorship, and ossified bureaucracies in Asia.

Currently Jared Diamond is back with Collapse, another grim tale from the desk of a Westwood professor, full of remonstrations about social inequality and resource depletion that we have come to expect from the rarified habitat in which tenured full professors thrive.

All that disenchantment is the context in which Matthew Parris now warns us that our military is overstretched and our economy weak–despite the fact that our gross domestic product is larger than ever and the percentage of it devoted to military spending at historic lows, far below what was committed during WWII, Korea, or Vietnam.

Where Have All the Children Gone? (Pavel Kohout, 1/27/05, Tech Central Station)
The question of why fertility has been falling so dramatically in continental Europe has been food for thought for both demographers and economists. The answer must be looked for in several important factors, which, to further complicate matters, do not simply add up in their impact. Nevertheless, it can be said with a fair amount of certainty that the existence of pay-as-you-go pension systems has had a very negative impact on birth rate. The National Report on Family published by the Czech Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs in August 2004 says:

"In terms of intergenerational solidarity, the importance of the child as an investment for material support in old age has been limited by the social security and pension insurance system, which has eliminated people's immediate dependence on children. The importance of the child's role in relation to its parents has transferred to the emotional sphere, which reduced the direct material indispensability of children in a family, while also allowing for them being replaced with certain substitutes bringing emotional satisfaction."

To put it straightforwardly, and perhaps a little cynically, in the past children used to be regarded as investments that provided their parents with means of subsistence in old age. In Czech the word "vejminek" (a place in a farmhouse reserved for the farmer's old parents) is actually derived from a verb meaning "to stipulate": in the deed of transfer, the old farmer stipulated the conditions on which the farm was to be transferred to his son. Instead of an "intergenerational" policy, there used to be direct dependence of parents on their children. This meant that people had immediate economic motivation to have a sufficiently numerous and well-bred offspring - whereas today's anonymous system makes all workers pay for the pensions of all retirees in an utterly depersonalized manner.

This system enables huge numbers of "free riders" to receive more than what would correspond to their overall contribution in their productive life. Those with incomes way above the average, on the contrary, are penalized, as the system gives them less money than they contributed to it. This is referred to as the "solidarity principle". In terms of birth rate, this arrangement is discouraging for both the low-income group and the high-income one. The latter feel that they are not going to need children in the old age, while the former believe that they can't afford to have them.

Today, children no longer represent investments; instead, they have become pets - objects of luxury consumption. However, the pet market segment is very competitive. It is characteristic that the birth rate decline in the 1980s, and especially in the 1990s, was accompanied by soaring numbers of dog-owners in cities. While in the past dog-owners were predominantly retirees, today there are many young couples that have consciously decided to have a dog instead of a baby. These are mainly young professionals who have come to a conclusion (whether right or wrong) that they lack either time or money to have a child. Thus, they invest their emotional surpluses into animals. [...]

The birth rate in the US is nearing the replacement level -- about two children per woman. Even so, comparing to Europe, the United States still appears to be a confirmed and stable superpower.

"Even if we include immigration, the population of the original EU-12 will fall by 7.5 million over the next 45 years, according to the UN calculations. Since the times of the 'Black Death' epidemic in the fourteenth century, Europe has never seen such an extensive population decline," writes Niall Ferguson, a British historian. He also predicts that in 2000-2050, the US population will grow by 44 percent. It seems that the European Union will have to forget for good about its ambitious dreams of becoming a "counterbalance" to America.

The demographic trends in Europe are indeed worrying. In Italy, for instance, the birth rate has fallen to an average level of 1.2 children per woman. Why? A journalist from the Daily Telegraph describes the life of young Italians in the following terms:

"It is virtually impossible to make a living. Just take Rome. Life with a minimum of human dignity (a small rented apartment, occasional dinner in a restaurant) requires a monthly pay of 3,000 euros before taxation, which accounts for some 1,800 euros after tax. If in the Anglo-Saxon world a majority of adults is expected to live an independent life on their own salaries, in Italy this is often not the case. An incredible 70 percent of unmarried Italians aged between 25 and 29 live with their parents, where they benefit from subsidized housing and where their poor incomes amount to a handsome pocket money."

When a modern young European has to choose between setting up a family of his own and a comfortable life without children, he is very likely to pick the latter option -- unless he belongs to a social class which regards children chiefly as a source of social benefits. A high amount of taxation combined with ill-functioning labor and housing markets is a truly genocidal mix. That is the case of Italy, but also Bulgaria and the Czech Republic. Its impact cannot be corrected by all sorts of government subsidies paid out to young families. On the contrary, under certain circumstances the benefits for families may even lead to a drop in birth rate.

And any European who cares about the quality of life for his children will leave to come to America. The end will come far quicker than anyone now comprehends.

-How the U.S. Became the World's Dispensable Nation (Michael Lind, 25 January 2005, Financial Times)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 AM


The Strange Death That No One Cares About (Orrin C. Judd, 1/27/05, Tech Central Station)

There was a death in Washington recently that received far less attention than it deserved: the New Democrat philosophy of Bill Clinton is dead. This is a truly extraordinary development; one that should not be allowed to pass so quietly.

I'd no sooner written and sent off this piece than the following email came:
Subject: NEW DEM DAILY: From Daily to Dispatch
Date: Mon, 24 Jan 2005 22:10:20 UT
From: New Democrats Online
To: orrin@brothersjudd.zzn.com

*Dear Subscriber:*

After more than four years and over 1,100 New Dem Daily offerings, we've decided to make a change in the frequency of the DLC's regular message, idea and commentary product. Starting this week, it will be called the New Dem Dispatch, and will be released on an "as-needed" rather than daily basis. The purpose of this change is to allow for more focused reporting and commentary on the big challenges facing the country and our political system. We will continue to offer an "Idea of the Week" and while the quantity of e-mails you receive from us may go down, we are determined to make sure the quality of these messages goes up.

As we say goodbye to the New Dem Daily, we would like to thank each of you for inviting our ideas and thoughts into your homes and offices each day and for expanding our reach through passing our messages along to your colleagues and friends. Your subscription to the New Dem Daily will automatically switch over to the New Dem Dispatch, so you don't need to do anything to continue hearing from us.

You can hear the clods hitting the coffin lid....

January 28, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:38 PM


The Promise of a Republican New Deal (MARSHALL BREGER, January 28, 2005, Forward)

[T]he president's agenda, I believe, will focus on three themes: creating an ownership society, fostering a compassionate society and reinforcing America as a responsibility society.

The premise of an ownership society is quite straightforward: giving Americans greater control and responsibility over the structures essential to their lives. In its first term, this administration made considerable progress toward this goal. The percentage of Americans owning their own homes trended upward every year from the beginning of 2001 to 69.5% in the third quarter of 2004. And the president plans a variety of programs to increase the number of minority homeowners another 5.5 million by 2010.

The president's ownership society also aims at securing Americans' retirement by offering young workers the opportunity to place part of their retirement money in private pension arrangements similar to the Thrift Savings Plan now available to federal employees. The pension plans will provide American workers with a pre-funded retirement nest egg they can use or bequeath to their families. In the president's words, these reforms will allow every citizen to be, in some small measure, "an agent of his own destiny."

Other efforts to engender an ownership society include encouraging consumer-driven health care and private competition to give patients and doctors more control over health care decisions. As but one example, note the president's proposals for refundable tax credits to help low-income Americans buy health insurance.

Bush is also hard at work fostering a compassionate society. The president reached out to his two predecessors, former foe Bill Clinton and his own father, to spearhead the relief effort for victims of the recent tsunami disaster in South Asia. Moreover, the administration is planning to expand its efforts in hunger disaster relief, and the exciting Millennium Challenge Account will aid the long-term development of those countries that are working on democratization and market reforms.

Wherever possible, the administration wants to promote this American generosity by assisting volunteer efforts and public-private partnerships. [...]

The goal of personal responsibility is one that stands behind much of the president's second-term agenda — whether it is efforts to facilitate job training, or to create choices in Medicare and education. Thus, welfare reform will continue with the goal of maximizing self-sufficiency through ending welfare dependency wherever possible. Likewise, further development of the No Child Left Behind Act will include expanded testing and accountability of schools.

This administration's policies will strive for promoting responsibility in personal conduct as well. Efforts have been and will continue to be made to promote abstinence among teenagers — and contrary to what the cynics say, the numbers show considerable success. Bush has also asked for funds to promote responsible fatherhood — and again, the numbers show that the proportion of children in married families, after two decades, is slowly trending upward. And wherever possible, the Bush administration will seek to strengthen the institution of marriage.

If those three themes can provide the kind of societal infrastructure that affords folk a sense of economic security, it will indeed have the long-term political effects that the New Deal had for Democrats.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:35 PM


American Nazi Party adopts Salem road
(CARA ROBERTS MUREZ, January 28, 2005, Statesman Journal)

Marion County has allowed a Portland-area skinhead group to adopt a rural Salem road as part of a volunteer litter clean-up program.

The signs proclaiming that Sunnyview Road NE between Cordon Road and 82nd Avenue is sponsored by the American Nazi Party NSM were installed Monday.

County officials say they were legally advised that excluding the organization would violate a constitutional right to free speech. Their choices, they said, were: allow the group to join the program, remove all of the signs from the program or refuse the group and risk a lawsuit.

Commissioner Sam Brentano said he wanted to turn the organization down anyway and face whatever lawsuits came.

He was outnumbered by commissioners Patti Milne and Janet Carlson. The commissioners did not vote on the issue, but gave staff direction by consensus.

Milne said she considers it strictly a constitutional issue that goes to the core of being American.

You have to pretty badly misapprehend what it is to be an American in order to believe Nazis have to be tolerated. At any rate, the locals could have some fun creatively defacing the signs--pink triangles and Darwin fish would be a good start.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:33 PM


Savoring Debussy's 'Pelléas' (Anthony Tommasini, January 19, 2005, The New York Times)

Sigmund Freud's seminal "Interpretation of Dreams" was published in 1900. But Claude Debussy had already poked around in the unconscious in his landmark opera "Pelléas et Mélisande," which he had essentially composed (though not orchestrated) by 1895.

Of course, Maurice Maeterlinck, whose play Debussy adapted into his opera, had been treading through Freudian terrain even earlier. Maeterlinck, a leading figure in the Symbolist movement, which arose in the 1880s, espoused veiled emotions, mystery and indirection over realism.

On the surface of a Maeterlinck play, the dialogue might seem everyday, the action inconsequential. But below, his works stirred up disturbing, confounding and sensual feelings. Debussy read the newly published script for "Pelléas et Mélisande" in 1892, saw a production in Paris the next year and immediately seized on it as a subject.

As he wrote at the time, the play had "far more humanity than those so-called 'real life' documents" and contained "an evocative language whose sensitivity can be extended into music and into the orchestra décor." There will be two opportunities to encounter the work here: On Wednesday and Friday, L'Opéra Français de New York will present a staged production of what it calls the "original version" of the opera, for voices and piano. On Jan. 29 the Metropolitan Opera revives Jonathan Miller's alluring 1995 production of the familiar final version.

The mysterious story, set in some vaguely medieval time and place, tells of a sullen middle-aged widower, Golaud, the son of the frail King Arkel of Allemonde. One day, while hunting aimlessly in the forest, Golaud comes upon a lovely, frightened and evasive young woman who cannot bear to say a word about her past life. Passively, she follows Golaud and later marries him, only to find her emotional armor threatened by Golaud's attractive and adoring young half-brother, Pelléas.

For all the perplexing richness of the play, Debussy's deceptively calm music taps the subliminal emotions of the characters more deeply than Maeterlinck's words. Though he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1911, Maeterlinck is probably best known today for his role in the creation of Debussy's opera.

"Pelléas et Mélisande" is a radical work, a kind of anti-opera that has long divided audiences. Some listeners find it dramatically static and exasperating. Admittedly, the pacing is glacial; inconsequential events are stretched into entire scenes. Debussy's music, sensuous and radiant, can seem as murky and evasive as Mélisande, the most striking example of a compulsive liar in all of opera. Even Maeterlinck nodded off when Debussy played through the score for him at the piano, though, from all reports, Maeterlinck had little sensitivity for music.

But many other opera enthusiasts (myself among them) find "Pelléas" riveting precisely because it is so daringly restrained and oblique. The subliminal impact of the surging, restless, harmonically lush music charges the grim story with intensity. In a good performance, the conversational quality of the vocal writing has an affecting naturalness and an austere beauty.

It's kind of opera as Muzac.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:07 PM


PM attacks Chirac's 'pathetic' power vision (Nicholas Watt, January 29, 2005, The Guardian)

Tony Blair yesterday risked a fresh row when he branded the policies of Jacques Chirac, the French president, as "dangerous" and "pathetic".

In a sign of cross-Channel tensions after the Iraq war, the prime minister showed contempt for two key elements of Mr Chirac's presidency: his attempts to turn Europe into a centre of power rivalling Washington and his personal relations with George Bush.

Geez, if everyone starts speaking their mind what'll diplomats do for a living?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:59 PM


Newfound Star Sparks Brown-Dwarf Debate (Joshua Roth, January 25, 2005, Sky and Telescope)

[A]n international research team has determined an orbit — and a precise mass — for the youngest brown dwarf yet. There's just one problem: that object, AB Doradus C, isn't a brown dwarf after all. It has an ostensibly stellar mass of 90 Jupiters — up to twice what evolutionary models predict for the 50-million-year-old object given its distance and near-infrared magnitude.

University of Arizona astronomer Laird M. Close discovered AB Dor C on February 4, 2004, using the Very Large Telescope in Chile. When he found the object, it was just 1/6 arcsecond (2.3 astronomical units) from the 7th-magnitude type-K variable star AB Dor A, which is 120 times brighter. His team then combined the adaptive-optics discovery image with existing astrometry from the Hipparcos satellite and radio telescopes to determine AB Dor C's orbit and mass.

Spotting and "weighing" so dim a companion is a noteworthy achievement, astronomers agree. But Close and his colleagues may get more press for the inferences they draw than from their technical prowess. Because AB Dor C's dynamical mass significantly exceeds the predictions of most widely used evolutionary models, Close implies, those models are now suspect. "Some young objects that people are calling brown dwarfs are really low-mass stars," he says, and "things that people are calling free-floating planets, in almost every case, are likely low-mass brown dwarfs."

That doesn't sit well with Isabelle Baraffe (Astronomical Research Center of Lyon, France), one of the reigning model's architects.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:09 PM


Sen. Biden, Iran Minister Clash Over Nukes (GEORGE JAHN, 1/28/05, Associated Press)

Sen. Joseph Biden and Iran's foreign minister clashed Friday over Tehran's nuclear ambitions, with Biden hinting at the possibility of armed conflict unless fears of an Iranian weapons program were put to rest.

The rare and frank public exchange between a senior American politician and a ranking member of the Iranian government came at a dinner during the World Economic Forum held in this Alpine resort town.

When it comes to dealing with the world instead of sniping at the President, we're all Jacksonians, huh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:10 PM


Rumblings & Grumblkings (Jayson Stark, January 28, 2005, ESPN.com)

Here's something to ponder: Football is the sport that's always praised for its spectacular competitive balance. But as loyal reader David Hallstrom reports, five different baseball teams have won the World Series over the last five years. Think that happens all the time in football? Think again.

In the NFL's 39-year Super Bowl era, there has been exactly one five-year period in which five different teams won a title -- 1984-88. And even if you include the pre-Supe era, that's the only five-year span in which the NFL can make that claim over its last 57 seasons.

# Then there's this year's Super Bowl matchup -- which didn't exactly come out of nowhere. It matches one team going for its third title in four years (the Patriots) versus another team (the Eagles) that has made it to four straight conference finals.

In other words, for a sport that's supposed to be so wide open, there sure has been a lot of regularity to the NFL's postseason final four.

In fact, it turns out the NFL's final four teams actually have been more predictable over the last four years than baseball's final four. In baseball, 12 of the 30 franchises have made it to a League Championship Series over the past four seasons. In football, only 10 have been to a conference final.

# Or let's take this back even more years. Over the last eight baseball postseasons, 16 of the 30 MLB franchises have been to at least one LCS (53.3 percent). That's virtually exactly the same percentage as the NFL (17 of 32, 53.1 percent).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:03 PM


Dutch court to free 'Saddam's chemical fixer' (Ian Traynor, January 29, 2005, The Guardian)

An appeal judge in The Hague has ordered the release of a Dutch businessman accused of supplying the chemicals to Saddam Hussein that enabled him to gas the Kurds.

The ruling is a setback for Dutch prosecutors seeking to bring their first case of involvement in genocide.

Frans van Anraat was arrested six weeks ago on suspicion of complicity in genocide. He is accused of supplying the chemicals that enabled the Iraqi dictator to make the mustard gas with which he killed and maimed thousands of Kurds in attacksin 1988. About 5,000 were killed in the town of Halabja alone.

Mr Van Anraat, 62, has never denied supplying the chemicals, but says he did not know what they were to be used for.

Officials and lawyers involved in the case say that the judge's decision reflects judicial reluctance to pursue such cases.

After a year-long investigation, the Dutch authorities arrested Mr Van Anraat early last month at his canal-side house in west Amsterdam.

US customs had Mr Van Anraat on their most wanted list for several years, and had issued an international arrest warrant for him alleging that he provided Saddam with 538 tonnes of a chemical solvent called thiodiglycol, or TDG, which is used in the textile industry and is also the main ingredient in the manufacture of mustard gas.

The Dutch say they have information indicating that Mr Van Anraat supplied more chemicals than the Americans suspect.

What? You didn't think the Europeans meant anything they said at Auschwitz yesterday, did you?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:54 PM


Ex-Clinton Aide Ickes Backs Dean for DNC (WILL LESTER, 1/28/05, Associated Press)

Harold Ickes, a leading Democratic activist and former aide to President Clinton, said Friday he is backing Howard Dean to be chairman of the Democratic National Committee — giving a powerful boost to the front-runner.

"I think all the candidates who are running have strong attributes, but Dean has more of the attributes than the others," said Ickes, who considered running for chairman himself before dropping out in early January. "Many people say Howard Dean is a northeastern liberal, he is progressive, but his tenure as governor of Vermont was that of a real moderate."

Ickes, who is chairman of the political action committee of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., said the endorsement was his alone and "does not reflect Sen. Clinton's opinion."

While Ickes would not comment on the Clintons' preferences, he is a close ally and would not be endorsing Dean against their strong objections.

...look who they've been reduced to accepting. On the other hand, it does position Ms Clinton to triangulate against her own party chairman.

Ancient Woes Resurfacing As Dean Eyes Top Dem Post (E.J. KESSLER, January 28, 2005, The Forward)

One of Dean's top backers, as he was during the primary, is Steve Grossman, a former DNC chairman who also once served as president of the pro-Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Grossman waved away the criticism of Dean, saying it was reminiscent of the barbs lobbed at the late Ron Brown when he ran for DNC chairman in 1988. "Party chairs do not make foreign policy," Grossman said, adding that Dean nonetheless favors a "robust" one.

Grossman said that Dean "recognizes he misspoke himself on several occasions" and regretted those statements. In the end, however, Dean "does not want to lose nor does he expect to lose the overwhelming support of the Jewish community" and would spend time rebuilding that relationship.

Even as Dean's critics hammer him for his past statements, his backers cite his rhetoric as being one of the doctor's main draws.

"It seems to me that Governor Dean combines in exactly the correct proportions the rhetorical and inspirational and visionary qualities required by a political party in need of direction with the sound and sensible practical skills that he exhibited for many years as a successful governor," Dean adviser Jim Jordan wrote in an e-mail. "He can reform us and transform us and lead while building on the good practical institution-building work done over the past few years by [current DNC Chairman Terry] McAuliffe."

Dean's image problems are broader than his problems with the pro-Israel community. According to a survey cited last week by The Wall Street Journal, only 27% of Democrats view the Vermonter positively, down from 48% a year ago.

Dismal as the poll numbers are, you'd prefer them to being compared to Ron Brown and Terry McAuliffe, no?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:20 PM


Furnace creates instant fossils (Geoff Brumfiel, 1/28/05, Nature)

A group of US researchers have petrified wood in record time, compressing a process that normally takes eons into a matter of days.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:47 PM


C-SPAN Special Alert!: This Sunday: President Bush on Q&A

Plan to watch the C-SPAN networks this Sunday night for two special interviews. First, this Sunday's Q&A at 8 & 11 pm ET on C-SPAN features an exclusive half-hour interview with President George W. Bush taped on Thursday afternoon at the White House. Immediately following the interview, presidential historians Doug Brinkley, the director of the Eisenhower Center, and Richard Norton Smith, the executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, offer their perspectives on what the president has to say.

Posted by David Cohen at 2:06 PM


Ethnic Warfare: A bitchy academic fight within SFSU's College of Ethnic Studies puts the future of the program in question (Tommy Craggs, sfweekly.com, 1/26/05)

The story of San Francisco State's College of Ethnic Studies, the first and still the only program of its kind, is a sort of shadow history of America's latter half-century. In it you'll find all the familiar blips of the past 40 years. There is student radicalism and campus rebellion; there is hopped-up idealism, followed closely by compromise and a struggle against an encroaching obsolescence. And today, the cold, gray Wednesday after the November election, there is this: the school's recently deposed dean, sitting in a Castro coffee shop, offering a postmodern sociosexual justification for using the word "bitch."

"As a gay man, in the Castro in San Francisco, and camp such as it is, we refer to ourselves in very gendered terms," says Tomás Almaguer, who spent 4 1/2 years as dean before resigning this past fall amid accusations that he created a hostile work environment within the college. "You might notice that my e-mail address is 'tomasa' -- it's a play. Have I ever referred to myself and my friends as bitches? All the time! I've been referred to as Queen Bitch of the Universe! Megabitch! That's one of my identities."

If state schools just automatically sent every high school graduate a college degree in the mail four years after high school graduation, would 90% be better off, or all of them?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:54 PM

DESIGNING NATURE (via Bryan Francoeur):

Study: Large fires created Australian desert (Reuters, 1/27/05)

Settlers who came to Australia 50,000 years ago and set fires that burned off natural flora and fauna may have triggered a cataclysmic weather change that turned the country's interior into the dry desert it is today, U.S. and Australian researchers said on Tuesday.

Their study, reported in the latest issue of the journal, Geology, supports arguments that early settlers literally changed the landscape of the continent with fire.

"The implications are that the burning practices of early humans may have changed the climate of the Australian continent by weakening the penetration of monsoon moisture into the interior," Gifford Miller of the University of Colorado at Boulder, who led the study, said in a statement. [...]

People are also blamed for killing off 85 percent of Australia's huge animals, including an ostrich-sized bird, 19 species of marsupials, a 25-foot-long (7.5-meter) lizard and a Volkswagen-sized tortoise.

Some experts have suggested climate change caused by burning killed off these species, rather than direct hunting by human.

Nature doesn't select--we do.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:21 PM


Cato/Zogby poll: Majority backs individual accounts for Social Security (Cato.org, 1/28/05)

A majority of Americans agree that younger workers should be allowed to invest a portion of their Social Security taxes in individual accounts, according to a new poll conducted by Zogby International for the Cato Institute.

Despite a drumbeat of criticism for weeks by congressional Democrats and a concerted public relations campaign by powerful interest groups such as the AARP against Social Security choice, 51 percent of those polled by Zogby support the introduction of individual accounts. Only 39 percent opposed individual accounts being part of any Social Security reform.

Not surprisingly, the results showed a split along age lines, with younger voters (61 percent among those under 30, 58 percent of those under 50) strongly in favor of individual accounts, while those over 65 were opposed (55 percent against). However, opposition by seniors dropped to just 45 percent if they were assured that their own benefits would not be affected.

Reflecting the sharp partisan divide nationally, opinion of individual accounts also split along political lines. Republicans were overwhelmingly united behind the reform proposal, which is a priority of President Bush's second-term agenda (74 percent supporting, 14 percent opposed). Most Democrats remain opposed with 61 percent saying they are against individual accounts. However, a surprisingly strong minority among Democrats (more than 30 percent) favor individual accounts.

Independents polled leaned toward individual accounts, 45 percent to 40 percent, with a high proportion of undecided.

The takeaway, as should be obvious from the last three elections, is that there's no political price to be paid for backing private accounts.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 1:07 PM


A self-made man is master of his domain (Kirk Makin, Globe and Mail, January 28th, 2005)

A man's home is his castle -- even if he accidentally turns it into a neighbourhood peep show.

A Supreme Court of Canada ruling yesterday found that a Nanaimo, B.C., man was wrongly convicted of committing an indecent act in 2000, after he was spotted masturbating near his living room window.

The accused, Daryl Milland Clark, was reported to police after a neighbouring couple furtively observed him through binoculars for 10 to 15 minutes, then called police.

"This is an important case from the perspective of defining a public place," Mr. Clark's lawyer, Gil McKinnon, said in an interview.

"People can be comforted to know that a law-abiding citizen who does some kind of act in privacy -- without knowledge he is being observed by someone outside -- is not at risk of being prosecuted," Mr. McKinnon said.

Unfortunately, exoneration came too late for the married, retired defendant. Mr. Clark has already served a four-month jail sentence and seen his name etched into law books forever. [...]

The complainants, a couple who lived next door to Mr. Clark, told police they were worried for the welfare of their two daughters when they spotted Mr. Clark masturbating about 40 metres away, across their contiguous back yards.

Retreating to their darkened bedroom to get a better look, they peered through a chink in the blinds. One of them -- identified only as Mr. S. -- even fetched binoculars and a telescope.

"He also tried, unsuccessfully, to videotape the appellant in action," Mr. Justice Morris Fish noted, writing for a 9-0 majority.

As much as we rejoice at seeing Locke and Hayek vindicated, one does wonder how many idiots it took to turn this sordid little story into a Supreme Court case.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:58 PM


In 'Spaces' Makeover, It's Curtains for Paige (Hank Stuever, January 28, 2005, Washington Post)

To think of all the many around-the-house tasks, circa 2002, that we managed to put off, thanks largely to the irresistible, superhuman chipperness of Paige Davis. (Used to be, oh, look, "Trading Spaces" is on. No, not just on -- a "Trading Spaces" marathon. Put down the car keys, blow off Home Depot and kiss an entire Sunday goodbye.)

Two days! Two neighbors! A thousand dollars! All guided by the perky antics of gamin Paige. Clutching your hand, giggling with that gawky, high-strung girliness of hers, giving you the all-clear: Open your eyes, and look at your room!

Surprise! TLC, the Silver Spring-based network that converted America into a nation of attention-deficit-decorators, announced earlier this week that Paige Davis, the host of "Trading Spaces," has been let go.

Like a harbinger of yesterday's swift resignation of TLC's general manager and layoffs at parent company Discovery, Paige was canned on Monday. Fired, dumped, shown the door: "TLC is taking 'Trading Spaces' in a new creative direction, transitioning to a 'host-less' format this spring," the network explained in a press statement.

Translation: unwatchable. She and that Swedish designer chick were the only way wives got their husbands to tolerate the channel.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:49 PM

CAN YOU SPELL "IGNORAMUS?" (via Kevin Whited):

School district cancels spelling bee (RONALD R. BLAIS, 1/27/05, The Call)

The Lincoln district has decided to eliminate this year’s spelling bee -- a competition involving pupils in grades 4 through 8, with each school district winner advancing to the state competition and a chance to proceed to the national spelling bee in Washington, D.C.

Through the years, it had become a tradition for Adams to pronounce and define spelling words used in the bee.

"It was just fun," she said last Monday from her office at the television studio.

Assistant Superintendent of Schools Linda Newman said the decision to scuttle the event was reached shortly after the January 2004 bee in a unanimous decision by herself and the district’s elementary school principals.

The administrators decided to eliminate the spelling bee, because they feel it runs afoul of the mandates of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

"No Child Left Behind says all kids must reach high standards," Newman said. "It’s our responsibility to find as many ways as possible to accomplish this."

The administrators agreed, Newman said, that a spelling bee doesn’t meet the criteria of all children reaching high standards -- because there can only be one winner, leaving all other students behind. "

Is it any wonder our children isn't learning when their teachers are this stupid?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:42 PM


God and guns: Bush’s inauguration speech was a declaration of holy war (Boston Phoenix)

As we already know from bitter experience, Bush’s idea of supporting freedom and democracy is increasingly close to fascistic. His ideology is a combination of two strains: the small-town Republicanism he absorbed growing up in Midland, Texas, and the born-again Christianity he embraced when he turned 40. Bush’s entire world-view appears to have been shaped by these two experiences — as well as colored by a petulant sense of entitlement derived from membership in the imperial Bush family — and he has devoted much of his presidency to imposing that view on others. His narrow vision, combined with his overweening hubris, calls to mind the ludicrous words of Nebraska senator Kenneth Wherry, who in 1940 said, " With God’s help, we will lift Shanghai up and up, ever up, until it is just like Kansas City. " Fallujah is not like Midland yet, but Bush intends to keep trying.

Critics who possess the maturity and wisdom that Bush lacks were quick to point out the dangers of Bush’s desire to force democracy upon the world.

I see Brownshirts....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:36 PM


Hamas Wins Local Palestinian Elections in Gaza (Sonja Pace, 28 January 2005, VOA News)

Hamas was expected to do well, since it has broad popular support in Gaza. But Palestinian political pollster Professor Nader Sa'id of Birzeit University says the outcome also reflects a strong protest vote against the mainstream Fatah faction of President Mahmoud Abbas.

"At the same time, it's a protest against the political situation, where nothing on the ground is actually changing," he said. "All of that with the economic situation, where you have about 80 percent poverty rate - so you are expecting that people will vote against the status quo."

Many Palestinians see in Hamas an alternative to the often corruption-riddled political establishment. While Israel and the United States have labeled it a terrorist organization, many Palestinians also rely on Hamas for its welfare programs, schools and clinics.

Until recently, the radical Islamic group refused to take part in the political process. But Professor Sa'id says that has now changed.

"Hamas has accepted to be part of the political system - to play within the rules of the game," he said.

Professor Sa'id says the move is significant, since Hamas can no longer play the role of outsider, and will, instead, have to answer to an electorate. That, he says, could make the group more politically moderate.

Nothing made Yasir Arafat more craven than his fear of being held accountable for governing a Palestinian state and thus his refusal to accept statehood when it when offered.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:32 PM


Passionate Christians Perceive Bias in Academy Award Nominations (Andrea James, 1/26/05, Religion News Service)

Conservative Christian groups are outraged, but not surprised, that the box-office hit "The Passion of the Christ" didn't receive an Academy Award nomination for best picture or best director. [...]

"There's no question that bigotry and prejudice is rank among the liberal elite of Hollywood," said the Rev. Louis Sheldon, founder of the Washington-based Traditional Values Coalition. "Why would they want to recognize the `ancient of days,' Jesus Christ, unless they want to bow their knee to him?

"They would prefer to be those silent ones in the crowd, that don't yell crucify, but turned their eyes away from the reality of his crucifixion."

The 'Passion' Oscar Snub: Revenge of the Blue States?: And the Oscar nominations go to...movies tacitly condoning abortion, euthanasia, and adultery. (Barbara Nicolosi, Church of the Masses)
The Oscar noms are out, affirming once again just how very, very sick America’s storytellers have become. Many people are dismissive of the culture’s storytellers, but that is short-sighted. A country with sick storytellers dreams sick dreams, or doesn’t dream at all. Both are societal suicide. [...]

So, this year, the top Oscar nominations have gone to...

...a movie that makes a hero out of a man who murders his adopted daughter.

...a movie that makes a hero out of an abortionist.

...a movie that makes a hero out of a discredited researcher who was obsessed with sex and encouraged many others to experiment with various perversions.

...a movie that lionizes a billionaire narcissist who slept with scores of women--including at least one 15-year-old--and died an insane syphilitic.

...a movie that suggests it is funny when an engaged man sets off with his drunkard best friend for a week of debauchery before his marriage.

...a movie that glamorizes four alley cats dressed as beautiful people who fornicate and commit adultery with each other, and indulge in various sexual perversions until the movie ends.

...a movie that makes a hero out of a paraplegic in despair who wants to kill himself.

The truth is, secular Hollywood had next to nuthin' this year. Really. Except for Finding Neverland and the kids movie Incredibles, they got nuthin' this year to give an award to. Nuthin' that people will be watching in five years, nevermind in fifty.

And then they wonder why Americans loathe them?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:25 PM


Black Evangelicals: Bush's New Trump Card (Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Jan 26, 2005,
Pacific News Service)

In the right place and under the right circumstance, black evangelicals posed a stealth danger to Democrats. As it turned out, the right place for Bush was Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida. These were must-win swing states, and Bush won them with a considerably higher percent of the black vote than he got in 2000. In Ohio, the gay marriage ban helped bump up the black vote for Bush by seven percentage points, to 16 percent. In Florida and Wisconsin, Republicans aggressively courted and wooed key black religious leaders. They dumped big bucks from Bush's Faith-Based Initiative program into church-run education and youth programs. Black church leaders not only endorsed Bush, but in some cases they actively worked for his re-election, and encouraged members of their congregations to do the same.

The helpful nudge over the top that the black evangelicals gave Bush in Ohio, Florida and Wisconsin has not been lost on Bush's political architect Karl Rove. He has publicly declared that he will pour even more resources and attention into revving up black evangelicals in the 2006 and 2008 congressional and presidential elections. Rove has flatly said that Bush will try to pay off one of his debts to evangelicals by pushing the languishing federal gay-marriage ban. Family groups say they'll dump gay-marriage ban initiatives on ballots in as many states as they can.

Republicans will inflame black's anti-gay bias in states such as Michigan, where blacks, who make up a significant percent of voters, backed a gay marriage ban in big numbers. Even if passage of the federal marriage ban ultimately falls flat on its face should it get out of Congress to the states, the fight over it can still turn the 2006 mid-term and 2008 presidential elections into a noisy and distracting referendum on the family. That will give Republican strategists another chance to pose as God's defenders of the family and shove even more black evangelicals into the Republican vote column.

Meanwhile, Bush officials will continue to ladle out millions through their faith-based programs to a handpicked core of top black church leaders. They've already announced a series of conferences that will be held in various cities starting in February to show black church leaders and community groups how to grab more of the faith initiative money. That will be more than enough to assure the active allegiance -- or at minimum, the silence -- of some black church leaders on those Bush domestic policies that wreak havoc on poor black communities.

Bush and the Republicans bank that their strategy of bypassing black Democrats and civil rights leaders to make deals with black evangelicals will finally break the decades-long stranglehold Democrats have had on the black vote. If they're right, it will spell deep peril for the Democrats in future elections.

A coalition party whose constituent parts have antithetical interests is inherently unstable. Wonder why the Democrats have no message? Whatever one they adopted would drive away half the party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:06 PM


Why insurgents may be the winners (Ehsan Ahrari , 1/29/05, Asia Times)

Today's Iraq has become a place where all the major actors have some advantages, yet those advantages encounter serious limitations and require cooperation from one or more major actors. In the absence of such cooperation, one or more main actors are likely to falter. To be specific, the Shi'ites, the Kurds, the US and the Sunnis enjoy discernible, though limited, advantages. Shi'ites have a numerical majority, yet they must have the US-backed elections in order to become a dominant force. The Kurds have a comparatively lesser advantage, but the US eagerly seeks their support. The Kurds, in turn, are dependent on US support and on the willingness of the Shi'ites not to undermine the Kurdish advantage after the elections. If that were to happen, the Kurds would retaliate by starting a campaign to reject the March 2004 constitution. The Sunnis, seemingly the biggest losers, are on the sidelines, either willing to boycott the elections or afraid to participate because of insurgent threats. Still, they are expected to be given a minority role in the government. After their dominant status of the Saddam era, they don't expect to emerge as a major player, unless the Shi'ites and the Kurds were to become embroiled in a protracted conflict.

The insurgents, on the other hand, are emerging as potentially the most advantaged party, since they have everything to gain if all other parties lose their respective advantages.

What do they have to gain?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:59 AM


Gay couples drop marriage act challenges in federal court (Orlando Sun-Sentinel, January 26, 2005)

Three gay couples dropped their lawsuits Tuesday in Tampa federal court challenging the national Defense of Marriage Act, a move that will soon by followed by other couples who have filed similar state court actions in Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Attorney Ellis Rubin announced Tuesday he will drop all of the lawsuits he has filed challenging the state and federal bans on gay marriages, saying he doesn't want to risk having conservative federal judges set an adverse legal precedent for same-sex couples. Rubin filed the first lawsuit in Broward County with much fanfare in February, then crisscrossed Florida filing similar challenges in state and federal courts.

"I'm going to back off and let the gay rights organizations take over and try to mold public opinion," he said. "That's what it is going to take for the court to recognize same-sex marriages."

Rubin said key in his decision was the U.S. Supreme Court's recent refusal to hear a challenge to the Florida law that bans gays from adopting children.

"That ruling strongly suggests that our case would not be favorably received," Rubin said.

Without circumventing Americans and going to the courts, what chance do they have?

Posted by Peter Burnet at 11:07 AM


Katsav at Auschwitz: Mind won't grasp (David Horowitz, Jerusalem Post, January 28th, 2005)

President Moshe Katsav delivered his address at the ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auchwtiz-Birkenau Thursday in Poland. [...]

Earlier, Katsav delivered a blistering attack on the failure of the Allied forces to bomb Auschwitz and the railroad leading to it in the final months of WWII, at a time when hundreds of thousands of Jewish lives could still have been saved.

Speaking at a ceremony in Krakow's main theater shortly before traveling to Auschwitz-Birkenau, Katsav said, "sixty years later we still find it hard to believe that the world stood silent" as the killing went on. "The allies did not do enough to stop the Holocaust," he said, "To stop the destruction of Jewish people. The gates of countries around the world, the gates to Israel, were kept closed in the face of those who tried to escape."

"The Allies knew about the destruction of the Jews and didn't act to stop it," the president said. "Hundreds of thousands could have been saved." Katsav noted that air sorties passed next to Auschwitz-Birkenau, "but Auschwitz was not bombed bombing the railways would have prevented the destruction of the Jews. The Germans knew that they were going to lose, but they continued, even accelerated, the destruction of the Jews,' Katsav said, and the Allies did not stop them.

For about fifteen years after World War II, there was little public attention given to the Holocaust, even in Israel, where it was widely seen as a dark and even embarrassing counterpoint to the self-confident, forward-looking enthusiasm needed to build the country. But beginning with the Eichmann trial in 1960, the world slowly began to focus its historical gaze and started to try to speak of the unspeakable and explain the inexplicable. Over the last forty years innumerable scholarly and popular analyses have led to a plethora of accusations, political and historical controversies, testimonials, museums and memorials, academic disciplines, curriculum revisions, compensation claims and ever-widening circles of collective guilt for what has become the lodestone of evil incarnate.

We are now at the point where the actual victims and perpetrators will soon all be gone. The Holocaust is slowly passing from the realm of history to the realm of myth. In the popular, non-Jewish mind, the millions of individual stories with all their dramas, tears, terrors, heroism, cowardice, hopes, despairs and moral ambiguities are being subsumed by sharp and simplistic divisions of the world into good and bad collectivities, with the latter steadily outnumbering the former. We say that “Holland” was bad and “Bulgaria” good because most of us really don’t know anything about what actual Bulgarians and Dutch did or why, and so we just check the numbers. So searingly execrable is the story that we now routinely judge pre-Holocaust history on the basis of post-Holocaust knowledge and values, and have convinced ourselves that anyone with half a brain could have seen it all coming.

The notion of collective responsibility for the Holocaust has also changed the rules of international politics in ways that are troubling. The whole abstract concept of human rights that so dominates international discourse is a Holocaust-born disconnect between human slaughter and individual responsibility. UN-led peacekeeping and the sanction-loving ethos of the tranzis are based largely on the notion that atrocities can be prevented without displacing the atrocious governments that perpetrate them, which is why the left is comfortable believing that both Saddam’s crimes and Saddam’s ouster were evil. We stand in awe of the courageous Danes who saved their Jews and disdain the Poles, who did not. That the Danes did almost nothing to resist the Nazis while the Poles killed Germans a-plenty (and were killed a-plenty for it) does not interest us much because our post-Holocaust concept of the hero is no longer the man who resists the oppressive invader. That’s just politics and one government is much like another. The modern hero is the man who cares nothing for creed and country and seeks only to save the poor and innocent bystander.

The Holocaust has become a kind of secular Golgotha. To deny responsibility, or even demur in the face of rhetorical charges like President Katsav’s, is as unseemly and suspect as a Christian asserting he is sin free. We listen to these accusations respectfully and somberly because, even though they are very bad history, we sense we are in the realm of myth, that there are connections to us we can feel if not see and that we may somehow risk our souls and humanity if we disassociate ourselves completely from them. One hopes that the President would not level this charge to the face of an Allied veteran. He undoubtedly wouldn’t, for Holocaust dialogue operates on the general understanding that, while institutions and nations bear a crushing guilt that grows in both scope and intensity, the only individuals who do are the ones who actually did it–the same ones the world recognized in 1945.

May the Lord give special care to the souls of the victims and may He one day reveal the meaning and purpose of it all.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:00 AM


Claim: Football team wins match by scoring against itself. (Snopes.com, 23 June 2000)

Status: True. [...]

Origins: This anecdote is largely true as reported above, save for a few minor discrepancies.

The incident took place during a final group match between Barbados and Grenada for the Shell Caribbean Cup in Goal!February 1994. The Barbados team had to win the match by at least two goals in order to face Trinidad and Tobago in the finals; anything less and Grenada advanced to the next round instead. The rules in effect at the time specified that if the score were tied at the end of regulation play, the match would continue into sudden-death overtime (not a penalty kicks round, as stated above), and the first team to score during the overtime period would be considered a two-goal winner.

As detailed above, Barbados was leading 2-0 well into the second half of play, when Grenada finally managed to score a goal in the 83rd minute to make the score 2-1. Barbados realized with three minutes to play that they were unlikely to score again in the time remaining and deliberately kicked the ball into their own goal to tie the match at 2-2 and force an overtime period. Grenada then attempted to score on their own goal to prevent the match from going into overtime, but Barbados had already started defending Grenada's goal to prevent them from succeeding. The two teams then spent the remaining few minutes with Barbados defending both ends of the field as Grenada tried to put the ball into either goal, but time expired with the score still tied. Four minutes into overtime play, Barbados scored and advanced to the finals.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:15 AM


The dictator, the saint and the minister (Andy Beckett, January 28, 2005, The Guardian)

Just over half a century ago in Spain, a new kind of politician began to appear. As government ministers, they were young, energetic and highly competent. They were confident without being overbearing. And they seemed relatively free of fixed political ideas, except for a general desire to turn their old country into a modern, business-driven one.

During the 50s and 60s they opened up its economy to foreign trade and its poor southern coastline to lucrative tourism. They made themselves potential role models - complete with a suggestive group name used by some of their associates: the"third force" - for future generations of reforming European politicians.

Yet two things about the Spanish modernisers have hindered their reputation since. First, they did their work as part of the dictatorship of General Franco. Second, many of them were members of a new, highly conservative and highly controversial Roman Catholic movement: Opus Dei.

Since 1997, Ruth Kelly has been a similar modernising presence in British politics. As a Labour MP, Treasury minister, and now education secretary at the precocious age of 36, she has been busy, effective and - working closely with both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown - seemingly undogmatic. But being a British social democrat is rather different from being one of Franco's lieutenants. And so the revelation over the past five weeks, via a series of distinctly grudging admissions, that Kelly is also "in contact" (the organisation's words) with Opus Dei, and (in her words) receiving "spiritual support" from them, has been one of the stranger political shocks of recent British history.

You just can't challenge that many liberal pieties--Franco bad; Church bad; conservative bad; Blair left-wing; Third Way left-wing; etc.--without causing heads on the Left to to implode.

Ruth Kelly, Myth-Breaker (George Weigel, January 12, 2005, The Catholic Difference)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:01 AM


Bush Advisers OK Social Security Plan (LAURA MECKLER, 1/28/05, Associated Press)

President Bush's advisers have settled on a proposal for structuring the personal accounts they hope to create in Social Security, while on Capitol Hill Senate Democrats were launching an effort to defeat the plan altogether.

Under a plan recommended to Bush, the private accounts would resemble many company-sponsored retirement plans, with just a handful of investment options.

By default, workers would be enrolled in a "life cycle" account, in which investments become more conservative as investors age, if they do not choose one of the other options, according to two officials speaking on condition of anonymity. [...]

In devising a structure for the private accounts, the Bush administration is modeling its proposal after the Thrift Savings Plan, a tax-deferred retirement investment plan similar to a 401(k). The idea is to minimize risk for people at the outset by offering as few as three to five diversified investment funds.

Bush said in December that his plan would make sure people could not invest "in a frivolous fashion."

Under the Thrift Savings Plan, federal workers have five investment options, including government and corporate bond funds, a stock fund that tracks the S&P 500, an international fund and other stock funds.

Under the emerging Bush plan for Social Security, the default investment would be a "life cycle" account. It would begin with investments that have greater potential for both risk and reward and shift to safer bonds as a worker ages, officials in and outside the administration said.

The government would be responsible for keeping track of how much money is in each worker's account and give the lump sums to a financial services company to invest, a mechanism aimed at keeping administrative fees low, they said.

That would mean only a limited profit potential for Wall Street. More money might be available for industry if a second tier of investments were permitted. Under this model, once a worker's account reached a certain level, he or she could choose from a broader range of investment options. Any number of mutual funds could be approved for investment at this stage.

Think of it as a low-risk 401k.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:51 AM


Poland, America's last friend (Sebastian Christ, Jan. 27, 2005, UPI)

There are basically three reasons why Poland views the United States positively.

First, America is freedom. The United States was the first country in the world with a modern constitution. Very few Americans know that Poland was the second. Inspired by the United States, the Polish Parliament, or "Sejm," in 1791 passed a progressive constitution.

The Poles also like to think in historical terms. America is the only power that (almost) never had any conflicts with Poland. The Polish people gratefully remember President Woodrow Wilson, who in 1918 became the first Western politician to support plans for the recreation of the Polish state -- a state that had disappeared from the map in 1795. Wilson's support proved key to the success of the Polish national movement.

During the Cold War, the Polish people never accepted the Soviet occupation, and of all the Warsaw Pact countries, Poland always displayed the most antipathy towards Moscow. Within a decade of the fall of the Soviet Union, the country joined NATO in 1999 and made it into the European Union in May 2004.

America, however, was seen as the foremost natural ally in resisting the Soviet occupation, and was looked to as "the land of the free."

To this day, President Ronald Reagan remains a popular figure in Poland due to his support of the free Polish labor union, Solidarity, in the early 1980s. The rise of Solidarity and its charismatic leader Lech Walesa marked the fall of Poland's communists.

The word "freedom" in Poland still has a stronger meaning than in the rest of the European Union. [...]

Second, Bush's Christian beliefs in Poland -- where 95 percent of the population is Catholic -- are taken very seriously. Two-thirds of Poles attend church regularly. [...]

Third, Poles long for the United States. America, in Poland, still sounds like the Promised Land. A large number of Poles live in poverty. A doctor's average income is about $400 per month. Public school teachers earn roughly the same. For most families, a car is a luxury item. Millions of Poles have relatives or friends who immigrated to the United States. The government in Warsaw estimates that 60 million American citizens have Polish roots, another reason for strengthened ties between the two countries. Given that the situation in Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and Russia may even be worse, Poland has turned to the West, instead of where it historically belongs, in Central Europe.

Hasn't he just described why it historically belongs with America, not Central Europe?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:15 AM


Voting fever takes hold of a people finally free to choose (Richard Beeston, 1/28/05, Times of London)

FOR decades, voting in Iraq meant taking part in a national exercise of state-enforced adulation, as 99 per cent of the electorate would dutifully turn out to tick the box beside the name Saddam Hussein.

Yesterday the contrast could not have been starker, as the campaign for Sunday’s elections picked up pace and voters were presented with a dizzying selection of dozens of candidates and parties.

Notwithstanding insurgent terror aimed at wrecking the polls, there is finally a palpable sense in Baghdad, and other Iraqi cities, that the country is entering a new era.

After all is said and done, opposition to the war ultimately comes down to opposition to providing the Iraqi people with this freedom.

Iraq Votes 2005 (Radio Free Europe)

Iraqi polls open — in Sydney (The Associated Press and Knight Ridder Newspapers, 1/28/05)

Iraqi expatriates began casting ballots in Sydney, several jostling to be among the first to vote in Iraq's first independent elections in more than 50 years.

Amid tight security at a converted furniture warehouse, young children mingled with elderly Kurdish women in head-to-toe black robes.

"This is a long dream that now comes true," said 56-year-old Karim Jari before casting his vote. "We hope this is a new beginning."

Australia is one of 14 nations where Iraqis living outside their country can vote — and the first country in the world to begin collecting ballots because of its time zone. In Iraq, the vote is Sunday; elsewhere, it runs today through Sunday.

Polls in Iraq open at 7 a.m. Iraq time (8 p.m. Saturday PST).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:00 AM


Digging Into Seymour Hersh: You don't have to scratch too deeply to find an enormous reservoir of left-wing bias. (Max Boot, January 27, 2005, LA Times)

It has become a cliche to call Bob Woodward and Seymour Hersh the greatest investigative reporters of their generation — Woodward the consummate insider, Hersh the ultimate outsider. In truth the differences outweigh the similarities.

Though he achieved fame by bringing down a Republican administration, Woodward is no ideologue. His only bias, as far as I can tell, is in favor of his sources. Within those parameters he produces invaluable, if incomplete, accounts of government deliberations.

Hersh, on the other hand, is the journalistic equivalent of Oliver Stone: a hard-left zealot who subscribes to the old counterculture conceit that a deep, dark conspiracy is running the U.S. government. In the 1960s the boogeyman was the "military- industrial complex." Now it's the "neoconservatives." "They overran the bureaucracy, they overran the Congress, they overran the press, and they overran the military!" Hersh ranted at UC Berkeley on Oct. 8, 2004.

Hersh doesn't make any bones about his bias. "Bush scares the hell out of me," he said. He told a group in Washington, "I'm a better American than 99% of the guys in the White House," who are "nuts" and "ideologues." In another speech he called Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft "demented." Hersh has also compared what happened at Abu Ghraib with Nazi Germany. (Were American MPs gassing inmates?) He has claimed that since 2001 a "secret unit" of the U.S. government "has been disappearing people just like the Brazilians and Argentinians did." And in his lectures he has spread the legend of how a U.S. Army platoon was supposedly ordered to execute 30 Iraqis guarding a granary.

Hersh hasn't printed the execution story, which suggests it may not meet even his relaxed reportorial standards, but what he does run is a confusing farrago of fact and fiction.

In fairness to Mr. Hersh, Bob Woodward is one of the central figures in the conservative revival.

We've Been Taken Over By a Cult: Editors' Note: This is a transcript of remarks by Seymour Hersh at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in New York. (Seymour Hersh, CounterPunch)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 AM


One third of EU citizens unaware of European Constitution (Honor Mahony, 1/28/05, EU Observer)

With several member states beginning the long path to ratification of the European Constitution, a new poll has shown that a high percentage of EU citizens feel they know little about its content and a third are completely unaware of the document.

A eurobarometer poll due to be published next week, and obtained by the EUobserver, says that just 11 percent of EU citizens have heard of the Constitution and feel they know its contents. [...]

The UK, which many feel may reject the Constitution in its planned referendum next year, has among the most extreme results.

At 30%, it has the most people against the Constitution; while, at 20%, the least in favour of the document.

If only Michael Howard could read.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:14 AM


Judge to rule in sick baby case: The parents of Charlotte Wyatt are returning to the high court today to fight for their seriously ill premature baby's right to be
resuscitated. (The Guardian, January 28, 2005)

Darren and Debbie Wyatt say that Charlotte has shown signs of improvement since the order was issued and that she should undergo further treatment. Doctors expected Charlotte to die from a respiratory infection this winter.

The Wyatts have been in conflict with Charlotte's doctors over her treatment since late last year. Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust was forced to seek a court ruling after her parents contested its plans for Charlotte's treatment.

The couple also contested the trust's claim at the court hearing that Charlotte felt nothing but pain.

In a medical system where the presumption is that you should be killed do they take an anti-Hippocratic oath?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM


Libya plans to shed old and begin a new era (Thomas Crampton, January 28, 2005 International Herald Tribune)

Libya on Friday will unveil its most sweeping proposals for economic reform in 35 years as part of a new national strategy aimed at ushering the country into the modern economic era, Libyan officials said Thursday.

The multi-pronged initiative would streamline government, speed up privatization and liberalize the media sector in a bid to begin a transition from what remains essentially an authoritarian regime to a more liberal economy that is competitive in the region, Seif el-Islam el-Qaddafi, son of the country's ruler, Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi, and Abdulhafid Mahmoud Zlitni, the chairman of Libya's National Planning Council, said Thursday on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum.

A number of Western advisers, including Michael Porter of the Harvard Business School and Daniel Yergin, a Pulitzer Prize-winning economist, have agreed to work with Libya in the transition to craft an efficient framework for implementing the changes over the next two years.

"The old times are finished and Libya is ready to move onto the new stage of modernization," Seif el-Islam el-Qaddafi said in an interview. "This will be conducted in a well organized manner that ensures new openness and ownership by the people of Libya, not a small class of oligarchs like Russia or Egypt."

"We are determined," he added. "But of course success can only be measured by the implementation."

So, if on 9-11 someone had told you that just 40 months later Arab leaders would be taunting each other about who was more committed to genuine liberalization, we're betting you wouldn't have believed them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 AM


The Left Loses College Kids (Brian C. Anderson, January 28, 2005, LA Times)

"There's a natural and healthy tendency among students to question the piety of their teachers," notes Alan Kors, a University of Pennsylvania history professor.

Katherine Ernst, a recent NYU grad, confirms the point. Ernst already leaned right when she arrived on campus. But the left-wing propagandizing of her professors made her conservatism rock-solid.

"One professor, right after Sept. 11, gave a terrorist-sympathy speech that went, you know: 'Oil, oil, oil, they're poor, we take advantage of them, it's really complicated, blah, blah, blah,' " Ernst says acidly. "How could anybody exposed to this kind of stuff not become a raging right-winger?"

The leftism that so angers these students includes the "hey ho, Western civ has got to go" theories that inform college courses from coast to coast. A student, conservative or otherwise, who doesn't buy into the West-is-the-worst line can "have an awful time of it," Harvard junior Jordan Hyldenn says.

Some conservative students keep their real views to themselves and parrot the "correct" line, fearing that otherwise they'll get a low grade. One earnest Princeton freshman, for instance, had to write a paper on same-sex marriage, which he opposes, for a constitutional law course taught by a pro-gay-marriage professor. "I radically altered my position to make it more in line with what my professor's beliefs are," he says.

An American Council of Trustees and Alumni survey finds that half of all students — not just conservatives — at the top 50 colleges say profs frequently inject their political views into courses, and almost one-third think they have to agree with those views to get a good grade.

orofessor friends here at Dartmouth say that one interesting phenomenon is studentys steering clear of Humanities courses, where they're more likely to run afoul of Leftish profs, in favor of harder sciences and economics and what not.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:03 AM


Haitians embrace U.N. force: U.N. peacekeepers entered the volatile Bel Air slum in Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, to remove trash and provide food and medical aid, a move the populace greeted with joy. (JOE MOZINGO, 1/28/05, Miami Herald)

The U.N. peacekeepers secured the slum block by block, house by house. Sharpshooters scanned alleys from high rooftops. Tractors filled ditches and cleared away burned-up car chassis that had been used as barricades to keep out authorities.

Until Thursday, this part of the Bel Air neighborhood near the presidential palace in downtown Port-au-Prince was a no-go zone -- a twisting warren of bloodshed dominated by armed gangs loyal to ousted President JeanBertrand Aristide.

But the 700 U.N. peacekeepers who rolled in before dawn were eagerly greeted by residents happy to be freed -- at least for the day -- from the gang members who constantly terrorize them.

''It's good, it's good, it's good,'' said Jocelyn Timouche, 25, selling shoes on the sidewalk. Twenty feet away, a U.N. tractor scooped up mounds of sulfurous mud and trash, piled head-high. ``We couldn't even eat, it smelled so bad.''

More than anything, the warm welcome reflected some residents' growing dissatisfaction with the ''rats,'' as the young thugs are called. [...]

The fact that nobody opened fire on the peacekeepers was a welcome sign that they are gradually becoming accepted in even the most pro-Aristide communities. Supporters of Aristide, ousted 11 months ago, have often branded the U.N. troops an occupying force that should leave so that Aristide can return from exile in South Africa.

Led by the Brazilians, the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti now has 6,003 soldiers and 1,400 civilian police officers, and has recently begun more ambitious operations in pro-Aristide holdouts such as Bel Air.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:02 AM


Outsider looking in
: Howard Dean, Beltway-basher, aims to head the Democratic Party. Go figure. (Mark Z. Barabak, Jan 28 2005, LA Times)

Another hotel ballroom and, again, Howard Dean is at center stage.

The audience, hundreds strong, is rapturous, worshipful, hanging on every word like a life line tossed from the slightly elevated platform. Dean, who is running to become chairman of the national Democratic Party, speaks to the put-upon sentiment of every Californian in the crowd, promising to treat the state as more than a dispensary of cash to spend someplace else.

But that's not all. Democrats have to run to win in all 50 states, Dean continues, venturing into red-voting redoubts like Alabama, and Mississippi and Montana. His voice rises as Dean ticks off the states, and the crowd begins to clap, then cheer, then roar as it hits them. "AND MICHIGAN!"

Dean shouts, his voice suddenly turning to the shrieking, guttural growl that launched a thousand parodies. "AND SOUTH DAKOTA!"

The crowd is going wild and Dean is laughing right along, his eyes crinkled and his smile wide enough to show the crowns all the way in back. Finally, after nearly 30 seconds, the din begins to die and Dean ends his mock rant with a limp "yahoo," delivered deadpan, as if to say, "OK, is this better?"

Dean can laugh these days.

Not as hard as Karl Rove.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:58 AM


Costs Make Employers See Smokers as a Drag (Daniel Costello, January 28, 2005, LA Times)

Employers have recently tried every carrot they can think of — including cash incentives and iPods — to persuade employees to quit smoking. Now some are trying the stick.

Pointing to rising health costs and the oversized proportion of insurance claims attributed to smokers, some employers in California and around the country are refusing to hire applicants who smoke and, sometimes, firing employees who refuse to quit.

"Employers are realizing the majority of health costs are spent on a small minority of workers," says Bill Whitmer, chief executive of the Health Enhancement Research Organization, an employer and healthcare coalition in Birmingham, Ala.

Fat is next.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 AM

Word of the Day (Dictionary.com, January 28, 2005)

bete noire \bet-NWAHR\, noun:

Something or someone particularly detested or avoided; a

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:52 AM


Pops's Pride Is Hard to Hide (Thomas Boswell, January 28, 2005, Washington Post)

The elder John Thompson, the one they just call "Pops" at Georgetown, tries to hide as much as he can these days.

During the Hoyas' home games, the Hall of Fame coach hides in the highest suite seats of MCI Center. He sits alone, listening to play-by-play on the radio as he watches his son, John III, coach his former team. He knows the only "John" on the Hilltop now is his 38-year-old son. So, he tries to make his famous 6-foot-10 frame disappear in the most remote arena seat.

"I sit in the rooftop in the dark, nobody anywhere near me," Thompson said yesterday, breaking silence for one of the few times since his son became coach last April. "During the game, I talk to myself. I talk to John as if he were sitting there next to me. I curse the air. I listen to Rich [Chvotkin] on the radio. I curse him, too. I don't even realize I can just switch the radio off."

As this surprising January has unfolded, Thompson has had to hide not only his huge physical and symbolic presence at Georgetown, but also his swelling pride in what his son is accomplishing with a team that lost 15 of its last 18 games last season and was picked by Big East coaches to finish 11th in the league this season.

"Anybody who says they predicted before the season that Georgetown would do this is lying," Thompson said of the 13-5 Hoyas. "They've already won more games than I thought they'd win all year. John's a far better coach than I was as this point in my career."

In particular, Georgetown has stunned the Big East with a 5-2 conference record, including a competitive loss to defending national champion Connecticut, an overtime loss to then No. 7 Syracuse, an upset of then 16th-ranked Pittsburgh and amazing wins -- both in the final second -- over Notre Dame (55-54) and Villanova (66-64). [...]

For now, no two teams could look more different than Hoyas of the Thompsons II and III.

Pops tried to create chaos with pressure defense, gladly trading turnovers, fouls and collisions just so the game's tempo would shoot through the roof into a kind of madhouse version of basketball that the other team had never seen, but GU loved.

In contrast, the current Hoyas are more aesthetically pleasing on offense. John III loves back-door cuts, half-court precision and a constant rain of three-point shots from five players who all have permission to shoot from beyond the arc. Princeton, where the younger Thompson played and was an assistant coach under legendary Pete Carril, was famous for its long shooting. GU now launches even more. Bowman and Jeff Green, both 6-8 forwards, as well as Jonathan Wallace and junior Ashanti Cook all light it up.

The prospect of Carril style combined with Thompson athletes should scare people.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:42 AM


Now is the time to look at future (Gordon Edes, January 28, 2005, Boston Globe)

For the last few days, the Red Sox have given 11 of their top upper-level prospects an immersion course in what it means to be in the big leagues, playing for this team, in this town.

Never mind stashing these guys in a luxury hotel downtown. Director of player development Ben Cherington, who is running this program with Craig Shipley, the former big-leaguer valued by general manager Theo Epstein for his input in both scouting and player development, has these players staying with host families around the Boston area.

"I'm staying with Dr. Kehlman and his family in Newton," volunteered Jon Lester, the lefthanded pitching prospect so highly regarded, the Texas Rangers asked for him last winter as part of the abortive Alex Rodriguez deal. "Great people, but these people are fanatics. They know everything about the Red Sox. We were out to dinner at Morton's, and when Theo and some of his people went running out of the room, they were wondering who had been traded."

There has been baseball in the morning -- daily workouts at Harvard -- but afternoons have been spent on Yawkey Way. They heard from the GM, who is only a few years older than they are, and manager Terry Francona, who delivered the old-fashioned but still relevant message that hustle will take them a long way. Joe Cochran, the equipment manager, and Jack McCormick, the traveling secretary, talked to them about everything from how much to tip the clubhouse kid to how to conduct yourself on the road.

Bob Tewksbury, the former big-league pitcher and NESN analyst just hired as the team's sports psychology coach, talked about how best to develop mental skills, even in the face of a game that dangles success but guarantees disappointment. Eddie Dominguez, the Boston detective who is an integral part of the team's security detail, and a couple of FBI agents warned them about the places and people to avoid, and the dangers of gambling. They also were shepherded on a visit to Jimmy Fund cancer patients, and got an introduction to what that can mean, too.

Last night, Cherington, who loves to lace on the skates and play hockey in his downtime, had lined up Bruins coach Mike Sullivan as a speaker, figuring Sullivan could offer the perspective of someone who had grown up here, played here in college (Boston University), and had coached in the minors and in the NHL. Who better to talk with the players about the high expectations and sometimes impossible demands they would face here, or how to cope with the yo-yoing from the minors to the majors that is so often part of a young player's experience?

There is a common theme that runs through this Sox regime, and ripples from the clubhouse occupied by Curt Schilling and David Ortiz to the much more modest outposts in places such as Sarasota and Portland, Fort Myers and Lowell. Yes, it takes talent to play for the Red Sox, but there are certain other qualities that matter here maybe more than in other places where the spotlights don't shine with quite as much heat. Things like mental toughness and resilience, discipline at the plate and on the mound and in your cubicle, an awareness of how important their performance is to the 35,000 folks who fill Fenway Park night after night.

It's a long way from playing pepper.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:38 AM


The Market Shall Set You Free (ROBERT WRIGHT, 1/28/05, NY Times)

LAST week President Bush again laid out a faith-based view of the world and again took heat for it. Human history, the president said in his inaugural address, "has a visible direction, set by liberty and the author of liberty." Accordingly, America will pursue "the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world" - and Mr. Bush has "complete confidence" of success. Critics on the left and right warned against grounding foreign policy in such naïve optimism (a world without tyrants?) and such unbounded faith.

But the problem with the speech is actually the opposite. Mr. Bush has too little hope, and too little faith. He underestimates the impetus behind freedom and so doesn't see how powerfully it imparts a "visible direction" to history. This lack of faith helps explain some of his biggest foreign policy failures and suggests that there are more to come.

Oddly, the underlying problem is that this Republican president doesn't appreciate free markets. Mr. Bush doesn't see how capitalism helps drive history toward freedom via an algorithm that for all we know is divinely designed and is in any event awesomely elegant. Namely: Capitalism's pre-eminence as a wealth generator means that every tyrant has to either embrace free markets or fall slowly into economic oblivion; but for markets to work, citizens need access to information technology and the freedom to use it - and that means having political power.

This link between economic and political liberty has been extolled by conservative thinkers for centuries, but the microelectronic age has strengthened it. Even China's deftly capitalist-yet-authoritarian government - which embraces technology while blocking Web sites and censoring chat groups - is doomed to fail in the long run. China is increasingly porous to news and ideas, and its high-tech political ferment goes beyond online debates. Last year a government official treated a blue-collar worker high-handedly in a sidewalk encounter and set off a riot - after news of the incident spread by cell phones and text messaging.

You won't hear much about such progress from neoconservatives, who prefer to stress how desperately the global fight for freedom needs American power behind it (and who last week raved about an inaugural speech that vowed to furnish this power). And, to be sure, neoconservatives can rightly point to lots of oppression and brutality in China and elsewhere - as can liberal human-rights activists. But anyone who talks as if Chinese freedom hasn't grown since China went capitalist is evincing a hazy historical memory and, however obliquely, is abetting war. Right-wing hawks thrive on depicting tyranny as a force of nature, when in fact nature is working toward its demise.

Except that the President has quite specifically supported liberalized trade with China as away of fostering freedom there and is working with Libya, as it liberalizes, rather than reflexively including it on the Axis of Evil. The problem for Mr. Wright's theory is that those we're treating as enemies are no more liberalizing economically than politically, while no one who's doing either is being treated as an enemy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:24 AM


Congressional Study Notes Ways to Collect Billions More in Taxes (EDMUND L. ANDREWS, 1/28/05, NY Times)

The federal government could increase tax revenues by $311 billion over the next 10 years if it clamped down on hundreds of ways that individuals and corporations elude their obligations, according to a Congressional study issued on Thursday.

The report concludes that the nation's system for taxing overseas profits of American corporations is so flawed that the government would save $55 billion if it simply scrapped the system altogether. [...]

In principle, the United States has a tougher corporate tax system than many other countries have because it uses a "worldwide" approach that imposes taxes on profits of American companies regardless of where those profits are earned. European corporations are subjected to a "territorial" tax system that does not tax profits on foreign operations.

But in practice, the Joint Committee on Taxation said, American corporations almost permanently defer their taxes by keeping money outside the United States in low-tax countries like Ireland or India.

"By maintaining deferral indefinitely, a taxpayer can achieve a result that is economically equivalent to 100 percent exemption of income," the report said, referring to a company's foreign income.

The problem of taxing foreign corporate profits has been the subject of intense political battles for many years. During his campaign to unseat President Bush, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts proposed giving American companies a one-time opportunity to bring their accumulated foreign profits back to the United States at a fraction of the normal corporate tax rate, which is 35 percent. In exchange, he proposed abolishing the practice of letting companies defer their United States taxes in the future.

Just as they have no constitutional rights, businesses shouldn't be taxed. Period.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:15 AM


'Say no until you're ready' is sex health message to children (LOUISE GRAY AND HAMISH MACDONELL, 1/28/05, The Scotsman)

ABSTINENCE was yesterday put at the heart of ministers’ multi-million pound sexual health strategy designed to redress Scotland’s appalling record on teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

Andy Kerr, the health minister, told MSPs that abstinence would be the starting point for all sex education lessons in schools but added that contraception services had to be available for everybody, including children, when they started to become sexually active.

Trying to strike a balance between family values campaigners and progressive educationists, the minister stressed that existing sex education guidelines would remain in place.

Mr Kerr said that the new strategy - which he referred to as "abstinence plus" - would provide the framework, not just for sex education in schools but also all sexual health services in the community .

May we borrow back our culture?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:13 AM


Vice President's Remarks at "Let My People Live" Forum (Dick Cheney, 1/27/05, Juliusz Slowacki Theater, Krakow, Poland)

It is my privilege to join you today as the representative of the people of the United States. I thank the government of Poland, and all of those who have organized these commemorations of the liberation of Auschwitz.

On this day in 1945, inside a prison for the innocent, liberators arrived and looked into the faces of thousands near death - while, miles beyond the camp, many thousands more were being led on a death march in the winter cold.

Inside barbed wire, and behind high walls, soldiers found "baths" that were not baths ... and hospitals meant not to heal but to kill ... and the belongings of hundreds of thousands who had vanished.

In the death camps of Europe, men committed some of the greatest wrongs that the human mind can conceive. Yet today these are hallowed places. Auschwitz, said one survivor, is the "largest cemetery in the world, one without gravestones. Only the ashes of countless souls were strewn here."

The camps were also the scene of profound humanity and heroism. From survivors we know some of the stories of brave resistance ... of helpless men, women and children giving comfort to one another in their last terrible moments ... of the righteous, being led to their deaths, affirming to the end their faith in Almighty God.

The Holocaust occupies a single period in history, but it is not a single event. It represents millions of individual acts of murder. Each prisoner who arrived had a name, and a home, and dreams for tomorrow. Each, like you and me, was a child of God who wanted to live ... who had every right to live ... who no man had any right to harm.

Gathered in this place we are reminded that such immense cruelty did not happen in a far-away, uncivilized corner of the world, but rather in the very heart of the civilized world. The death camps were created by men with a high opinion of themselves - some of them well educated, and possessed of refined manners - but without conscience. And where there is no conscience, there is no tolerance toward others ... no defense against evil ... and no limit to the crimes that follow.

The story of the camps reminds us that evil is real, and must be called by its name, and must be confronted. We are reminded that anti-Semitism may begin with words, but rarely stops with words ... and the message of intolerance and hatred must be opposed before it turns into acts of horror.

President Bush has said of the Holocaust, "There will come a time when the eyewitnesses are gone. That is why we are bound by conscience to remember what happened, and to whom it happened."

At Auschwitz we bear witness to the cruelty, and the suffering, and tragedy of a time that is still within living memory. On this anniversary of liberation, we give thanks for the liberators, and for all who labored to free this continent from tyranny.

We pray that God's mercies are forever with the souls of the departed. And we look to the future with hope - that He may grant us the wisdom to recognize evil in all its forms ... and give us the courage to prevent it from ever rising again.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:50 AM


Unforeseen Consequences?: Stem Cell Debate Branches Out (Chuck Missler, Koinonia House)

Scientists studying degenerative diseases are excited about stem cell research because they hope to implant these baby cells into damaged tissues and spur them to grow into new, healthy cells. Stem cells seem promising because a single cell has the potential to develop into any of 210 different types of human tissue. As in the case of an embryo, one cell divides into many and these cells begin to specialize, forming the different organs and tissues in the developing baby. Adults and children also have stem cells, which respond to a special signal protein produced by damaged cells. These stem cells are rushed to the site and reproduce to repair the damage.

Embryonic cells are not the only source for acquiring stem cells. Stem cells have been harvested from adult bone marrow, fatty tissue, and umbilical cord blood. Stem cell research is still in its earliest stages, and at this point it is believed that adult stem cells are only able to change into a limited number of types of human tissues. For example, tests on mice demonstrate that stem cells from the adult brains of mice can be nurtured into heart, liver and muscle tissues. Other experiments show that umbilical cord blood can be made to grow into brain cells. Researchers believe that because embryonic stem cells are more versatile in their ability to grow into virtually any of the 210 varieties of cells, they offer a greater potential for success.

Because the process of extracting stem cells from embryos results in the destruction of the embryo, pro-life advocates have opposed the procedure, as well as the even more controversial use of aborted fetuses as a stem cell source.6

Although there may be some limitations in the versatility of using the stem cells collected from bone marrow, fatty tissue, and umbilical cord blood, the prospects are good and do not present the type of moral and ethical issues that embryonic research does. Research has only just begun to scratch the surface in this area of science, and it is yet to be seen if the arguments for the superiority of embryonic stem cells will hold up. [...]

The politicians and the scientific community may be overly optimistic about the potential benefits of biotech therapies. A similar debate in the German government prompted one researcher to set the record straight. Oliver Bristle told a German newspaper, "I consider it preposterous to make arguments based on the hopes of patients who are suffering from illnesses in order to get their way politically." He also said that some of the promises of cures were "not serious," and that it would take five to ten years of research to verify the viability of such treatments.

In the area of human cloning, scientists responsible for the successful cloning of the sheep, Dolly, told reporters that the idea of cloning human beings with these same techniques is "dangerous and irresponsible," and the resulting babies likely would die early or suffer numerous abnormalities.

Rudolf Jaenisch and Ian Wilmut said in an article in Science magazine, procedures that have been used in cloning animals yield a very low percentage of viable embryos, and many of these die soon after birth. "Any human baby who survives may experience respiratory, circulatory, immune, kidney and brain abnormalities, and evidence is beginning to suggest other developmental and genetic defects," they said.

Even more disturbing results were reported in The New England Journal of Medicine . A study, aimed at treating Parkinson's disease patients with stem cells, not only failed to produce the desired benefits, but also produced disastrous side effects. In about 15 percent of the patients the implanted stem cell began growing too rapidly, causing the patients to writhe and twist, jerk their heads, and fling their arms about uncontrollably. Dr. Paul E. Greene, a neurologist, describing the patients as follows: "They chew constantly, their fingers go up and down, their wrists flex and distend." One of the test subjects was so badly affected that he had to be fed intravenously. Another suffered intermittent attacks of the condition making his speech unintelligible.

Tragically, there was no way to undo the procedure since the stem cells could not be removed. Dr. Greene lamented, "It was tragic, catastrophic. It's a real nightmare. And we can't selectively turn it off." His recommendation in the report called for no more fetal transplants. "We are absolutely and adamantly convinced that this should be considered for research only. And whether it should be research in people is an open question."

Dr. Frankenstein didn't think his project monstrous.

Stem Cell Therapy Improves Heart Failure (Reuters, Jan 25, 2005)

Patients with heart failure experienced a marked improvement after being given an injection of their own stem cells, investigators reported today at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Thoracic Surgery in Tampa, Florida.

Dr. Amit N. Patel, from the University of Pittsburg, and his associates previously found that stem cells injected during bypass surgery improve heart function. The current study is the first in which a minimally invasive technique was used, the researchers note.

Before the procedure, the patients underwent various tests to identify regions in the heart that were not beating properly. Using a tiny tube to visualize the heart muscle, the researchers injected stem cells into the poorly functioning areas of the hearts of 15 patients. Fifteen other patients served as a comparison group, receiving injections that lacked stem cells.

The patients who got the stem cells experienced a much greater improvement in heart function than comparison subjects. Moreover, ultrasound testing showed that the hearts of stem cell-treated patients shrank from an abnormally large size to a more normal size than did those of comparison subjects.

Despite participating in the same rehab program after treatment, the stem cell group showed a greater improvement in their walking ability than did the comparison group.

January 27, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:50 PM

HAVE TO? (via Matt Murphy):

The devastating power to die (Terry Eagleton, January 28, 2005, The Age)

While insurgents have been blowing themselves apart in Israel and Iraq, a silence has prevailed about what suicide bombing actually involves. Like hunger strikers, suicide bombers are not necessarily in love with death. They kill themselves because they can see no other way of attaining justice; and the fact that they have to do so is part of the injustice.

It is possible to act in a way that makes your death inevitable without actually desiring it. Those who leapt from the World Trade Centre to avoid being incinerated were not seeking death, even though there was no way they could have avoided it.

Ordinary, non-political suicides are those whose lives have come to feel worthless to them, and who, accordingly, need a quick way out. Martyrs are more or less the opposite. People like Rosa Luxemburg or Steve Biko give up what they see as precious (their lives) for an even more valuable cause. They die not because they see death as desirable in itself, but in the name of a more abundant life all round.

Suicide bombers also die in the name of a better life for others; it is just that, unlike martyrs, they take others with them in the process. The martyr bets his life on a future of justice and freedom; the suicide bomber bets your life on it.

To imagine that Zarqawi and company give rodent's rump about justice and freedom is merely ignorant, but to compare the desparation of the Falling Man to those who caused his death for no other reason than to act out their fantasy ideology is despicable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:24 PM


Hoon and Rumsfeld agree Iraq exit strategy (Patrick Wintour and Ewen MacAskill, January 28, 2005, The Guardian)

The US and Britain have privately agreed an exit strategy from Iraq based on doubling the number of local police trainees and setting up Iraqi units that would act as a halfway house between the police and the army.

The agreement was reached on Monday between the US secretary of defence, Donald Rumsfeld, and his British counterpart, Geoff Hoon.

It was based on recommendations from retired US general Gary Luck, sent to Iraq by the Pentagon last month to look at the failings of Iraq's security force.

The more aggressive police force is designed gradually to replace the 150,000 coalition troops and will form the centrepiece of plans for Britain and the US to quit Iraq.

It'll be a coup for the new government to be seen ordering us to draw down.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:12 PM


And They're Off!: The 2008 handicapping begins. (Duncan Currie, 01/31/2005, Weekly Standard)

TOO EARLY FOR REPUBLICANS TO fret about 2008? Never! Before last week's inaugural fireworks had even been lit, the handicapping of 2008 Republican hopefuls was well underway. GOP sources slice the potential '08ers into an A-list and a B-list. Here's a quick roundup of who's where, as President Bush kicks off Act Two.

It's Jeb's if he wants it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:29 PM


Animal-Human Hybrids Spark Controversy (Maryann Mott, January 25, 2005, National Geographic News)

Scientists have begun blurring the line between human and animal by producing chimeras—a hybrid creature that's part human, part animal.

Chinese scientists at the Shanghai Second Medical University in 2003 successfully fused human cells with rabbit eggs. The embryos were reportedly the first human-animal chimeras successfully created. They were allowed to develop for several days in a laboratory dish before the scientists destroyed the embryos to harvest their stem cells.

In Minnesota last year researchers at the Mayo Clinic created pigs with human blood flowing through their bodies.

And at Stanford University in California an experiment might be done later this year to create mice with human brains.

Scientists feel that, the more humanlike the animal, the better research model it makes for testing drugs or possibly growing "spare parts," such as livers, to transplant into humans.

As Ms Garnaas points out, scientists are the corruptors, not the corrupted.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:25 PM


Boxer's Match: A tale of two senators (DAVID CORN, 1/28/05, LA Weekly)

On one morning, in one Capitol Hill hearing room, two senators from one state displayed starkly different approaches to handling the powerful of Washington. The occasion was the confirmation hearing of Condoleezza Rice, George W. Bush's pick to replace Colin Powell as secretary of state. Senator Barbara Boxer confronted her; Senator Dianne Feinstein coddled her. The respective performances of California's two U.S. senators - both Democrats - illuminated a divide in Washington. There are those in town who participate in and preside over the clubby atmosphere of a Washington establishment that fosters a we're-all-honorable-men-and-women conceit. And there are those who realize that governments don't make bad policies, people do, and that such officials - especially when they engage in dishonest policymaking - do not deserve respect or hors d'oeuvres.

When Rice came before the Senate foreign-affairs committee, Boxer showed that on this day she cared more for policy and politics - perhaps even for truth - than for the faux politeness that animates many of Washington's official spectacles. Feinstein, however, demonstrated an allegiance to personal bonds, not to holding government leaders accountable for their missteps and misdeeds. In a way, the two reflected alternative modes of opposition available to the Democrats: Kick the GOPers whenever possible and afford them and their agenda not a scintilla of respect, or agree to disagree and confront the Republicans when practical without challenging their motives, intent or character.

At the point where Ms Boxer took to the Senate floor to claim that she'd been unfairly maligned by Ms Rice, even a David Corn should have been able to figure out that the "confrontation" hadn't gone quite so well politically as the Left had hoped. Winners don't whine.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:05 PM


Sharon Sees Chance for 'Historic Breakthrough' (Allyn Fisher-Ilan, Jan 27, 2005, Reuters)

Israeli leader Ariel Sharon said on Thursday conditions were right for an "historic breakthrough" on Middle East peace after measures taken by new Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to bring calm.

He said that if Palestinians worked to "fight terror," then Israel could move forward with a U.S.-backed peace "road map" meant to lead to a Palestinian state.

"I believe the conditions have been created to permit us and the Palestinians to reach an historic breakthrough, a breakthrough that will lead us to security and peace," Sharon told a business forum.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:15 PM


Daniel Pipes Lecture (Chabad at Dartmouth, January 27 2005)

Chabad at Dartmouth would like to invite you to a lecture by DR. Daniel Pipes titled

"The Palestinian-Israeli war: Roots and prognostications."

When: Thursday, January 27
Time: 4:15pm
Where: Dartmouth Hall 105

For more information on DR. Pipes please visit his website at

* So it's been awhile--25 years maybe?--since I went to a campus talk, but suffice it to say they've changed. On the way into the hall the ALNUR Muslim Students Association hands you a flyer saying Mr. Pipes is the "nation's leading Islamophobe," then a Dartmouth College employee hands you a flyer with the school's policy on "Freedom of Expression and Dissent."

* Professor Meir Kohn, a friend, is introducing Mr. Pipes and refers to the appearance itself as "a triumph over the deadening effects of politically correct groupthink." Apparently Mr. Kohn has been trying for years to get Dartmouth to let Mr. Pipes come and give a talk but has been told "he's too controversial." Under the auspices of Chabad he's finally made it here.

* The talk was excellent and the question and answer session quite civilized. Mine would have been: If we accept your formulation that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is a war, that war requires a defeat, and that it is specifically the most expansive vision of Palestinian nationalism that has to be defeated then is not the physical reality of the wall and the geopolitical/military reality of Israel and America dictating what the borders of Palestine are going to be exactly such a defeat?

Deciphering Mahmoud Abbas (Daniel Pipes, January 11, 2005, FrontPageMagazine.com)

[O]ne moment Abbas demands that Palestinian terrorists stop their attacks on Israel and the next he (literally) embraces them, calling them “heroes fighting for freedom.” Also, he talks of both stopping the violence and of the “right of return” for over 4 million Palestinians to Israel, a well-known way of calling indirectly for the elimination of the Jewish state.

What gives?

Actually, there is no contradiction. By insisting on a “right of return,” Abbas signals that he, like Yasir Arafat and most Palestinians, intends to undo the events of 1948; that he rejects the very legitimacy of a Jewish state and will strive for its disappearance. But he differs from Arafat in being able to imagine more than one way of achieving this goal.

No matter what the circumstances, Arafat persisted from 1965 to 2004 to rely on terrorism. He never took seriously his many agreements with Israel, seeing these rather as a means to enhance his ability to murder Israelis. Arafat’s diplomacy culminated in September 2000 with the unleashing of his terror war against Israel; then, no matter how evident its failure, it went on until his death in November 2004.

In contrast, Abbas publicly recognized in September 2002 that terror had come to harm Palestinians more than Israel. Intended to prompt demoralization and flight from Israel, this tactic in fact brought together a hitherto fractured body politic, while nearly destroying the Palestinian Authority and prostrating its population. Abbas correctly concluded that “it was a mistake to use arms during the Intifada and to carry out attacks inside Israel.”

Abbas shows tactical flexibility. Unlike Arafat, who could never let go of the terrorist tool that had brought him wealth, power, and glory, Abbas sees the situation more cogently. If stopping the violence against Israel best serves his goal of eliminating the sovereign Jewish state, that is his program.

-The Future of Judaism (Daniel Pipes, January 25, 2005, New York Sun)
Until the 18th century, there was basically only one kind of Judaism, that which is now called Orthodox. It meant living by the religion's 613 laws, and doing so suffused Jews' lives with their faith. Then, starting with the thinker Baruch Spinoza (1632-77) and moving briskly during the Haskala, or "enlightenment," from the late 18th century, Jews developed a wide variety of alternate interpretations of their religion, most of which diminished the role of faith in their lives and led to a concomitant reduction in Jewish affiliation.

These alternatives and other developments, in particular the Holocaust, caused the ranks of the Orthodox to be reduced to a small minority. Their percentage of the total world Jewish population reached a nadir in the post-World War II era, when it declined to about 5%.

The subsequent 60 years, however, witnessed a resurgence of the Orthodox element. This was, again, due to many factors, especially a tendency among the non-Orthodox to marry non-Jews and have fewer children. Recent figures on America published by the National Jewish Population Survey also point in this direction. The Orthodox proportion of American synagogue members, for example, went from 11% in 1971 to 16% in 1990 to 21% in 2000-01. (In absolute numbers, it bears noting, the American Jewish population went steadily down during these decades.)

Should this trend continue, it is conceivable that the ratio will return to roughly where it was two centuries ago, with the Orthodox again constituting the great majority of Jews. Were that to happen, the non-Orthodox phenomenon could seem in retrospect merely an episode, an interesting, eventful, consequential, and yet doomed search for alternatives, suggesting that living by the law may be essential for maintaining a Jewish identity over the long term.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:08 PM


Jordanian king urges Iraqis to vote (Al Bawaba, 1/26/05)

"As political development is a gateway to the full participation of all segments of the grassroots and civil society institutions in the various aspects of the development process, I assert here that political development should start at the grassroots level, then move up to decision-making centers, and not vice-versa," King Abdullah said in a televised address to the nation. [...]

In his speech, King Abdullah congratulated the Palestinians "for their great achievement in concluding the presidential election and choosing their legitimate leadership." The King described this achievement "a key and essential step for the Palestinians in their pursuit to regain their rights and to establish their independent state on their national soil."

King Abdullah also called upon Iraqis of all groups and spectra to take part in the elections to be held in few days. "The elections are the only realistic way for Iraqis to achieve security and stability, rebuild their country, and ensure that Iraq regains its natural and special status within the region," the King said, according to Petra.

Don't tell the Realists.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:02 PM



The Dem attack on Rice was "very foolish" and "potentially costly" because it could backfire among blacks, said Democratic pollster Ron Lester, an expert on the African-American vote.

"A lot of African-Americans are watching this and they're wondering why [Democrats] are going after her so hard. She has an exemplary record. She's probably better qualified than most secretaries of state that we have had."

Rice, who was confirmed yesterday as the first black female secretary of state, has a very favorable rating among blacks — 55 percent positive and only 15 percent negative, Lester said.

Another high-profile black Democrat was even more blunt, saying the attacks on Rice — featuring ex-Ku Klux Klan "kleagle" Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) — "made me sick to my stomach."

Only 13 Democrats voted against Rice, but party leaders were incapable of reining them in, and so let them become the public face of the Democratic Party.

Themost revealing vote against was that cast by Evan Bayh, who's obviously calculated that in order to ingratiate himself with Party activists he has to side with the reactionary Left. The whole episode though raises questions about whether Harry Reid or Dick Durbin is actually running the caucus.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:48 PM


Jeff Bingaman (D, NM) is one of those Blue senators from Red States who could face a stiff challenge in '06, but, even worse for the Democrats, Hotline reports he's acting as if he'll retire rather than run for re-election.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:39 PM

ROOSTER'S GOTTA DO WHAT A ROOSTER'S GOTTA DO (via mc and Robert Tremblay):

Senator Wants Boxing Gloves on Chickens (AP, 1/27/05)

A state senator has a plan for saving Oklahoma's gamefowl industry now that cockfighters are legally prohibited from pitting birds fitted with razor-like spurs.

State Sen. Frank Shurden, a longtime defender of cockfighting, is suggesting that roosters be given little boxing gloves so they can fight without bloodshed. The proposal is in a bill the Democrat has introduced for the legislative session that begins Feb. 7.

"Who's going to object to chickens fighting like humans do? Everybody wins," Sen. Frank Shurden said.

Oklahoma voters banned cockfighting in 2002. The practice is still legal in Louisiana and New Mexico.

Removing the blood from the sport takes away the main argument animal rights groups have against cockfighting, Shurden said.

"Let the roosters do what they love to do without getting injured," Shurden said.

If only Steve Largent had thought of that he'd be governor today.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:57 AM


The new Bush doctrine: We may be wrong. (George Soros, 1/28/05, Daily Times [pk])

President George W Bush’s second inaugural address set forth an ambitious vision of the role of the United States in advancing the cause of freedom worldwide, fuelling worldwide speculation over the course of American foreign policy during the next four years. The ideas expressed in Bush’s speech thus deserve serious consideration.

“It is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture,” Bush declared, “with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.”

There is a bow to diplomacy in the assurance that fulfilling this mission “is not primarily the task of arms, though we will defend our friends and ourselves by force of arms when necessary.” Similarly, Bush recognises that outsiders cannot force liberty on people. Instead, “Freedom by its nature must be chosen and defended by citizens and sustained by the rule of law and the protection of minorities.”

Finally, there is acceptance of diversity, for “when the soul of a nation finally speaks, the institutions that arise may reflect customs and traditions very different from our own. America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom and make their own way.”

I agree with this goal, and have devoted the last fifteen years of my life and several billion dollars of my fortune to attaining it. Yet I find myself in sharp disagreement with the Bush administration.

No, Virginia, there can't be a Decent Left.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:46 AM


Read My Ears (THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, 1/27/05, NY Times)

Having spent the last 10 days traveling to Britain, France, Germany and Switzerland, I have one small suggestion for President Bush. I suggest that when he comes to Europe to mend fences next month he give only one speech. It should be at his first stop in Brussels and it should consist of basically three words: "Read my ears."

Let me put this as bluntly as I can: There is nothing that the Europeans want to hear from George Bush, there is nothing that they will listen to from George Bush that will change their minds about him or the Iraq war or U.S. foreign policy. Mr. Bush is more widely and deeply disliked in Europe than any U.S. president in history. Some people here must have a good thing to say about him, but I haven't met them yet.

In such an environment, the only thing that Mr. Bush could do to change people's minds about him would be to travel across Europe and not say a single word - but just listen.

They have nothing to teach us except for caution about secularizing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:46 AM


The Right Wing Hates America (Margaret Kimberley, 1/27/05, The Black Commentator)

The right wing hates America. They are the first to wave the flag and loudly proclaim their love of country. They are also the first to stab their country men and women in the back when it suits them.

Now that Bush is safely in power for another four years they are wasting no time in showing us that they are firmly in charge and not taking any prisoners. Their goals are very simple. They want to destroy the government’s ability to do anything except fight wars and make the wealthy even wealthier.

In early 2003 the occupation of Iraq was becoming a certainty. Despite the acquiescence of the media, the entire Republican party, and far too many wimpy Democrats, thousands of Americans joined the rest of the world in demonstrating against the approaching atrocity. The press barely acknowledged the existence of dissent, and the right wing vilification began in earnest.

The protesters were said to hate America but love Saddam, tyranny, and terrorism. They were accused of not supporting the troops, as if sending men and women needlessly to their deaths was proof of love.

Nearly two years later 1,286 American soldiers have been killed. Iraqis have paid a much higher price. At least 14,000 of them are dead as a result of Uncle Sam’s aggression.

We don't hate America, we just figure that a small price to pay to liberate 25 million Iraqis.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:12 AM


Palestinians, Israelis Hold Initial Talks
: Abbas-Sharon summit may soon follow. A U.S. envoy arrives to meet with both sides. (Laura King, January 27, 2005, LA Times)

Bolstering a conciliatory mood that has taken hold since Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas was inaugurated this month, Israelis and Palestinians on Wednesday held their first high-level diplomatic meetings in more than 18 months.

A Palestinian official said afterward that a summit between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon could take place in two weeks, though other officials on both sides said no date had been set.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:04 AM


Obama may be trying not to rock the boat (LYNN SWEET, January 27, 2005, Chicago Sun-Times)

The Illinois senators, Democrats Dick Durbin and Barack Obama, split on confirming Condoleezza Rice for secretary of state.


Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, was one of 13 Democrats to vote no. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who led the challenge to Rice, an architect of the Iraq war, found a dozen colleagues to stand with her against President Bush's nominee.

Freshman Obama, who ran as an anti-Iraq war candidate with tremendous crucial early support from the anti-war Illinois progressive political community, was one of 85 from both sides of the aisle who confirmed Rice.

Earlier this month, on his first day on the Senate floor, Obama declined to join with progressives on the House side in challenging Bush's electoral votes because of mishaps in Ohio balloting. Obama did speak out for fixing the voting system. I wrote then it made sense for Obama not to stick his neck out, especially since the vote was 74-1 to uphold the Ohio tally. Boxer was the only no vote and tackled the Ohio issue despite pressure from other Democrats to take a pass.

My analysis is that Obama may be exhausting a lot of progressive goodwill very early.

I don't know what else he could have done, because I sense he wants to chart a course that keeps him within the majority of the Democratic minority.

Few dynamics of the new Congress were more predictable than that the Left would end up hating Mr. Obama, whose national aspirations force him Right. The mainstream of the Democratic minority in Congress is where careers go to die.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:58 AM


Senator says Homeland Security won't get budget increase (LARA JAKES JORDAN, January 27, 2005, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

An influential Senate Republican is admonishing Homeland Security Department officials not to count on an increase in the agency's $32 billion budget.

"I don't think there's going to be more money," Senate Commerce Chairman Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, said Wednesday "In fact, I know there's not going to be more money. I would urge a review of your situation as to how to get the job done better with the money that's there now."

For all the sturm and drang surrounding the 9-11 Commission Report, Americans will tolerate neither the costs nor the inconvcenience that would be required to provide even a minimal amount of national security.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:46 AM


From Holocaust to hyperpower (Jim Lobe, 1/28/05, Asia Times)

[T]he Nazi Holocaust also lies at the core of the neo-conservative world view that has animated and given coherence to much of the George W Bush administration's post-September 11, 2001, foreign policy that itself is changing the world, albeit not necessarily in ways that either Annan or the international human-rights movement would approve.

"For those of us who are involved in foreign and defense policy today, my generation, the defining moment of our history was certainly the Holocaust," former Defense Policy Board (DPB) chairman Richard Perle, a central figure in the US neo-conservative network, told the British Broadcasting Corp (BBC) as US forces drove toward Iraq two years ago.

To Perle, who like many neo-conservatives is Jewish (although most US Jews are not neo-conservatives), the Holocaust is irrefutable proof of the existence of "evil" - a word that recurs frequently in their discourse. World events are viewed as a perpetual battle between, as one of their heroes Reinhold Niebuhr called it, "the children of light" and the "children of darkness".

In the last century, "totalitarianism", whether of the right or the left, was the evil. But, as noted by the highest-ranking neo-conservative in the Bush administration in a talk late last year, evil never dies and now takes the form of what some call "Islamo-fascism".

"The thing that hasn't changed, unfortunately, is that there still is evil in the world," said Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. "It is a fascist totalitarianism not fundamentally different from the way it was in the last century - no more God-fearing than [the Nazis and communists] were."

Significantly, the White House chose Wolfowitz - rather than a top State Department official - to speak as the US representative to the Holocaust ceremony at the United Nations on Monday. Wolfowitz, a close friend and colleague of Perle since 1969, when they both arrived in Washington, did not mention that all members of the family his father left behind in his native Poland in the 1920s died in the Holocaust.

A similar fate befell the family of the father of the under secretary of defense for policy, Douglas Feith. Dalck Feith, a leading Philadelphia businessman and philanthropist, managed to survive the Holocaust, which, however, took the lives of both his parents, four sisters, and three brothers.

These men, key players in the Bush administration's foreign policy for the past three and a half years, obviously do not see the Holocaust - and the notion of "evil" in international affairs - as a relic of history.

To a remarkable degree the breakdown of the Atlantic Alliance and the Red/Blue divide can be explained almost in their entirety by secularists believing evil to be a historic artifact.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:42 AM



The United States ranks only seventh in the world in its level of private philanthropy as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP), according to a new study from Johns Hopkins University.

Excluding giving to religion...

That "only" is perplexing, especially since religious giving is excluded.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:36 AM


One EU future, 25 views on the path (Paul Meller, January 27, 2005, International Herald Tribune)

After a decade of big political projects, the European Union should devote the next five years to reversing the Continent's relative economic decline in the world, the president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, said Wednesday in a speech outlining his plans to make Europe more "business friendly."

But powerful blocs in the European Parliament, which has increasing influence over EU legislation, warned Barroso against straying too far toward a "neoconservative" agenda in his quest to revive the EU economy, illustrating the political difficulties he faces in passing his programs - and getting the 25 EU countries to sign on to them.

"The top priority today is to restore sustainable dynamic growth and jobs in Europe," Barroso told Parliament.

Geez, given European anti-Semitism it always makes sense to attack a given foreign policy as neoconservative, but do you really want to hand them credit for Capitalism?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:31 AM


Lula's star dims for anti-globalists (Todd Benson, January 27, 2005, The New York Times)

The last time this prosperous city in southern Brazil hosted the World Social Forum, an annual gathering of anti-globalization activists cast as an alternative to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the mood was jubilant.

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a former metalworker and union leader, had just been sworn in as Brazil's first working-class president, fueling hopes on the left that the new government would break from mainstream economics and spend heavily to ameliorate the country's vast social disparities.

For many of the globalization critics that flocked here at the time, da Silva's administration was to be a shining example of how a leftist government could successfully buck the capitalist establishment.

But two years later, as the World Social Forum returns to its original setting in Porto Alegre after a one-year stint in India, the mood is more somber. Instead of steering Brazil off its free-market course, da Silva has embraced the so-called neoliberal economic policies that he so harshly criticized while in the opposition. While that position has won the president fans on Wall Street, it has put him at odds with the far left of his own Workers' Party and with many of the founders of the social forum, which started here Wednesday.

The buck stopped there.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:28 AM


Researchers Who Rushed Into Print a Study of Iraqi Civilian Deaths Now Wonder Why It Was Ignored (LILA GUTERMAN, January 27, 2005, The Chronicle of Higher Education)

When more than 200,000 people died in a tsunami caused by an Asian earthquake in December, the immediate reaction in the United States was an outpouring of grief and philanthropy, prompted by extensive coverage in the news media.

Two months earlier, the reaction in the United States to news of another large-scale human tragedy was much quieter. In late October, a study was published in The Lancet, a prestigious British medical journal, concluding that about 100,000 civilians had been killed in Iraq since it was invaded by a United States-led coalition in March 2003. On the eve of a contentious presidential election -- fought in part over U.S. policy on Iraq -- many American newspapers and television news programs ignored the study or buried reports about it far from the top headlines.

The paper, written by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University, and Baghdad's Al-Mustansiriya University, was based on a door-to-door survey in September of nearly 8,000 people in 33 randomly selected locations in Iraq. It was dangerous work, and the team of researchers was lucky to emerge from the survey unharmed.

The paper that they published carried some caveats. For instance, the researchers admitted that many of the dead might have been combatants. They also acknowledged that the true number of deaths could fall anywhere within a range of 8,000 to 194,000, a function of the researchers' having extrapolated their survey to a country of 25 million.

But the statistics do point to a number in the middle of that range. And the raw numbers upon which the researchers' extrapolation was based are undeniable: Since the invasion, the No. 1 cause of death among households surveyed was violence. The risk of death due to violence had increased 58-fold since before the war. And more than half of the people who had died from violence and its aftermath since the invasion began were women and children.

Neither the Defense Department nor the State Department responded to the paper, nor would they comment when contacted by The Chronicle. American news-media outlets largely published only short articles, noting how much higher the Lancet estimate was than previous estimates. Some pundits called the results politicized and worthless.

Les F. Roberts, a research associate at Hopkins and the lead author of the paper, was shocked by the muted or dismissive reception. He had expected the public response to his paper to be "moral outrage."

This story is even sillier than the original hysterical report. First, just Googling this phrase "lancet bloomberg school iraq" yielded 1,250 pages in English. Second, who precisely would have been outraged by these numbers, even if they were reliable? Studies of the same style claimed that 500,000 children alone had been killed by the sanctions regime we imposed on Iraq, yet the Left insisted that it be maintained, so they obviously weren't going to trumpet such a minimal number resulting from terminating the regime, were they?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:14 AM


Campbell's return fuels rumours of snap election (JAMES KIRKUP AND FRASER NELSON , 1/27/05, The Scotsman)

ALASTAIR Campbell has made a full-time return to politics, resurrecting New Labour's winning general election team in readiness to fight a possible snap poll.

Mr Campbell’s daily attendance at Labour’s new campaign HQ in London, along with increasing input from another architect of New Labour, Peter Mandelson, suggests Mr Blair has reconstructed his "dream team" earlier than most observers were expecting.

The heightened preparations for the election are fuelling the hopes of some Labour MPs that the Mr Blair will go to the country before the 5 May date many have pencilled in for the poll.

Labour insiders say Mr Campbell is now working every day at Labour's new election campaign headquarters in London, honing Labour’s message during the "phoney war" before the full election campaign.

His schedule has inevitably stoked suspicions that the poll will come sooner than May.

Mr. Blair doesn't really need to hurry--it's not like the Tories show any signs of getting to his Right anytime soon and it'll take a few years for UKIP to replace them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:07 AM


Outspoken Geneticist H. Bentley Glass Dies (Adam Bernstein, January 21, 2005, Washington Post)

H. Bentley Glass, 98, who died of pneumonia Jan. 16 at a hospital in Boulder, Colo., was a renowned biologist and geneticist. His controversial, often dire and eloquent scientific predictions made him a notable figure long after he had retired. [...]

In the late 1960s, his jobs as Stony Brook's academic vice president and president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science provided him high visibility. Perhaps none of his previous speeches seemed to alarm the public as much as those he made during this period.

He forecast the likely proliferation of genetic clinics during the next three decades and warned that couples would be forced to take tests to ensure against hereditary defects in their future children. In cases where parents might produce limbless or mentally handicapped children, "avoidance of parenthood ought to be mandatory," he said.

He envisioned a future where restrictive tax penalties existed for those who did not comply with rules against having a limited number of children. He noted forced abortions for those who were "mentally defective" as well as prenatal adoption and frozen embryos that would be implanted within the mother.

"No parents will in that future time have a right to burden society with a malformed or a mentally incompetent child," he concluded. [...]

He was president of the American Institute of Biological Sciences, among other groups, and edited several periodicals, including the Quarterly Review of Biology. He was national president of the Phi Beta Kappa academic honor society in the late 1960s.

His books included "Genes and the Man" (1943) and "Science and Liberal Education" (1960).

He once said his range of interests served one goal: "educating laymen in the questing spirit of science and reminding science of its social responsibility."

Well, he did capture the spirit of science.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:59 AM


Civil Service System on Way Out at DHS: White House Wants All Agencies to Have Option of Setting Own Personnel Policies (Christopher Lee, January 27, 2005, Washington Post)

The Bush administration unveiled a new personnel system for the Department of Homeland Security yesterday that will dramatically change the way workers are paid, promoted, deployed and disciplined -- and soon the White House will ask Congress to grant all federal agencies similar authority to rewrite civil service rules governing their employees.

The new system will replace the half-century-old General Schedule, with its familiar 15 pay grades and raises based on time in a job, and install a system that more directly bases pay on occupation and annual performance evaluations, officials said. The new system has taken two years to develop and will require at least four more to implement, they said.

Under the new plan, employees will be grouped into eight to 12 clusters based on occupation. Salary ranges will be based, in part, on geographic location and annual market surveys by a new compensation committee of what similar employees earn in the private sector and other government entities. Within each occupational cluster, workers will be assigned to one of four salary ranges, or "pay bands," based on their skill level and experience.

A raise or promotion -- moving up in a pay range or rising to the next one -- will depend on receiving a satisfactory performance rating from a supervisor, said officials with homeland security and the Office of Personnel Management.

"We really have created a system that rewards performance, not longevity," OPM Director Kay Coles James said in a briefing for reporters. "It can truly serve as a model for the rest of the federal government." [...]

Leaders of federal employee unions, however, immediately denounced the new DHS system and any plans to expand it government-wide. They said the system would undermine the morale of homeland security employees and make it harder to attract and keep talented workers. They said they would file a lawsuit to block its new restrictions on collective bargaining and employee appeals. They conceded that such a move would do nothing to curtail the new pay system, however, which by 2009 will cover at least 110,000 of the department's 180,000 employees.

"They are encouraging a management of coercion and intimidation," said John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees. He added: "This is not a modern system. This is a step backward."

The Civil Service Reform of the Progressive era, like most such reforms, proved disastrous in practice, creating a permanent professional bureaucracy that aggrandized power to itself relentlessly. The counter-Reformation the President has led, though largely uncomprehended by the Right, is one of his most important legacies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:53 AM


In a switch, Piccola says he favors abortion ban (PETER L. DeCOURSEY, 1/23/05, The Patriot-News

After voting against Gov. Robert P. Casey's 1989 Abortion Control Act and supporting abortion rights for two decades in public office, state Sen. Jeffrey Piccola says he now favors banning most abortions.

In an interview in his law office Friday, Piccola, R-Dauphin, said his new view, that abortions should be banned except to save the life of the woman, was the result of an intellectual and spiritual journey during the last six to eight years.

He denied any political motivations for changing his view on abortion, the issue that matters most to more than one in five Pennsylvania voters, according to state pollsters. Piccola is preparing to challenge Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell for the governorship in 2006.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:50 AM


The Hidden Passages in Bush’s Inaugural Address (Matthew Rothschild, 1/21/05, The Progressive)

Bush’s Inaugural Address contained many explicit references to God, but there were even more hidden allusions to the Bible that may have been lost to many in his audience, as they were to me, before I did some research.

The subtle subtext of his speech carries with it a profoundly disturbing message about the separation of church and state in this country.

Here are a few of the hidden passages.

When Bush thanked the American people for granting him patience in “good measure,” he was echoing Luke 6:38, “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure. . . .”

When Bush talked of the “ideals of justice and conduct that are the same yesterday, today, and forever,” he was echoing Hebrews 13:8, which says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

When Bush talked about the “untamed fire of freedom” in a passage that included the phrase “hope kindles hope,” he was echoing passages from Jeremiah. For instance, Jeremiah 17:27 says: “I will kindle an unquenchable fire in the gates of Jerusalem.” And Jeremiah 50:32 says: “I will kindle a fire in her towns that will consume all who are around her.”

There are many other passages in the Bible that have a raging fire in them. For instance, Isaiah 33:14: “The sinners in Zion are terrified; trembling grips the godless: ‘Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?’ ”...

When he said "the," he was referring to "In the Beginning..."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:40 AM


Today's anti-war clergy should ponder their predecessors (Richard N. Ostling, 1/24/05, Associated Press)

[J]oseph Loconte of the conservative Heritage Foundation sees a parallel between clergy who denounce military action against today's Islamic terrorists or tyrants, and their predecessors who opposed America's entry into World War II. [...]

Loconte's heroes include the ''neo-orthodox'' Karl Barth (1886-1968), a refugee from Nazi Germany who was generally considered Europe's leading Protestant theologian, and ''Christian realist'' Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971), widely seen as America's top Protestant theologian.

Today it's hard to find a Protestant thinker with the stature of either man.

Barth opposed pacifism because the New Testament depicts the state as God's instrument to control evil and promote social peace (Romans 13:1-5, 1 Timothy 2:1-3). Since appeasement had failed, he wrote, Christians shouldn't just fight Hitler as a ''necessary evil'' but ''approve it as a righteous war, which God does not simply allow but which he commands us to wage.''

Niebuhr was especially interesting because he was a one-time pacifist and had to quit his longtime political home, the Socialist Party, after it decided American ''imperialism'' was so bad that no important principle was involved in challenging Hitler.

To Niebuhr, naive liberals saw no right or duty to defend their own civilization which he acknowledged was morally flawed to prevent ''worse alternatives.'' In the Bible, he wrote, ''human evil is recognized as a much more stubborn fact than is realized in some modern versions of the Christian faith'' that obscure what Scripture says about fostering justice.

On the opposite side, moral opposition to war against Hitler was pursued by some of U.S. Protestantism's best and brightest. Today this is seen as folly. It required over-emphasisis on the evils of America and Western capitalism while ignoring Nazi conquest, oppression and deadly threats against Jews.

The doves were reacting against the devastation and apparent pointlessness of World War I. More basically, they had an idealistic, sentimental belief in human perfectibility that ignored the theology of human sin.

What use are theologians without theology?

Posted by David Cohen at 9:39 AM


Faith in the Foreground: Lance Wilder (Christian Hamaker, Crosswalk.com, January 15-17, 2002)

It was about that time that my future wife [Maria] moved out here. I was friends with her at art school. She also got a job on The Simpsons, and we started hanging out together. She was brought up Catholic; I was brought up in a little Baptist church in Massachusetts, and I’d never like really witnessed to anybody. I was just nervous she wouldn’t like me.

She was really opening up and finding out stuff and she and I started listening to tapes from the Christian radio station and reading and our Bible and going to church together. She became a Christian, and we really helped each other out. We got engaged after a couple years. We’ve been married for six years and have three kids.

You have no idea how confusing this sort of thing is to Jews.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:34 AM


Fundamental union: When it comes to defining family values, conservative Christians and Muslims are united against liberal secularists (Brian Whitaker, January 25, 2005, Guardian Unlimited)

The idea of forging an international Christian-Muslim alliance to fight liberal social policies began to develop in 1996 when an event known to "pro-family" activists as The Istanbul Miracle occurred. It happened at a UN conference in Turkey called Habitat Two. Richard Wilkins - now head of the Mormons' World Family Policy Centre - was there and, according to his own account, helped to perform the miracle.

"The Istanbul conference," he wrote, "was convened - in large measure - by a worldwide, well-organised and well-funded coalition of governments, politicians, academicians and non-governmental organisations that were eager to redefine marriage and family life.

"Natural marriage, based on the union of a man and a woman, was described by professors, politicians and pundits as an institution that oppressed and demeaned women. The constant claim was that 'various forms of the family exist', and all 'various forms' were entitled to 'legal support'. The 'form' most often discussed by those in charge of the conference was a relationship between two individuals of the same gender."

Wilkins challenged all this with a four-minute speech on traditional family values which also castigated sex education in schools. He was hissed by some of the delegates as he returned to his seat but afterwards, he recalled, "I was approached by the ambassador from Saudi Arabia who embraced me warmly".

Wilkins gave the Saudi ambassador a list of suggested changes to the draft Habitat agenda, and The Istanbul Miracle was born.

"Thirty-six hours later, the heads of the Arab delegations in Istanbul issued a joint statement, announcing ... that its members would not sign the Habitat agenda unless (and until) certain important changes were made," Wilkins wrote.

As a result, the draft was altered to define "marriage" as a relationship between "husband and wife", and references to abortion were changed to "reproductive health".

International arguments about the family have raged ever since. The UN has said several times that "in different cultural, political and social systems, various forms of family exist". This is a statement of fact as much as anything, but it is anathema to religious conservatives who dislike the idea of unmarried couples living together, and especially those of the same sex.

The UN points out that ideas of what a family is have changed over the last 50 years. Worldwide, there has been a shift from extended families to nuclear families as well as an increase in the number of cohabiting couples and one-person households. Family structures have also been changed by lower fertility rates, higher life expectancy, migration and, especially in Africa, HIV/AIDS. The UN therefore urges its members to take these changes into account when developing social policies.

Qatar's resolution in the General Assembly last month was part of the conservatives' ongoing struggle to turn back the clock, and once again Wilkins seems to have worked a miracle in getting it approved.

America will have more in common with the next Europe than with this one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 AM


A Suitably Pyrotechnic Revisitation of Coltrane's Signature Testimony: Branford Marsalis Quartet's Coltrane's A Love Supreme and Live in Amsterdam (Francis Davis, January 25th, 2005, Village Voice)

Released on both audio and video in one package, Branford Marsalis's live version of A Love Supreme gets it right. Coltrane's four-part suite was his religious testimony; Marsalis is chasing Coltrane, not salvation, but whereas his earlier attempt on Footsteps of Our Fathers left him panting, here he keeps pace with a display of saxophone pyrotechnics comparable to Coltrane's, though very different in character. His tone is lighter and his phrasing bluesier, especially on "Pursuance" (the second movement, and more or less Miles Davis's "Nardis" turned upside down), where his gradual ascent into the scream register shows he knows the difference between building to a climax and giving in to self-induced frenzy. [...] This is the Branford Marsalis we've been waiting for. He does honor to a classic while finally emerging as his own man.

What's the point? If we had recordings of Bach playing his fugues there'd be no need for other versions.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:40 AM


SpongeBob's Family Video: What Would Bob the Tomato Do?: VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer discusses teaching children morals through television and the widening values gap between makers and viewers. (Christianity Today, 01/26/2005)

Do you think that some kids' shows do have an agenda to address sexual identity issues?

Kids' shows themselves very seldom have agendas beyond the crassly commercial. Individual writers, however, sometimes do. Writers may slip something into a script for their own amusement or socio-political gratification that the producers of the show will never notice. We evangelicals will pick up on those subtle intrusions and assume they are systemic.

Looking at the world of kids' television today, I can't think of any shows with an overt sexual identity agenda. I do think that will change over the next 5-10 years, though. Since the early 1970s, promoting diversity has been considered vitally important in children's television, especially in the New York-Washington D.C. school of children's programming exemplified by Sesame Street. Nickelodeon has made it a major focus as well.

But for the last 30 years, diversity has meant gender and race. As a result, liberals and conservatives could agree on their children's programming. Sesame Street, a product of the "Blue States," worked just fine in the "Red States" as well. Over the next 5-10 years I think this will change. Sesame Workshop (the foundation behind Sesame Street) and Nickelodeon will come under increasing pressure from their Blue buddies to positively portray sexual diversity alongside racial and gender diversity. The day a same-sex couple moves onto Sesame Street will mark the day the Red States and the Blue States (or more accurately, the Red Counties and the Blue Counties) will no longer watch the same children's shows. How far away is that day? Maybe two years. Maybe ten years. But it will happen.

In which case it's nice to control the FCC.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:36 AM


Women make pitch to Iraqi voters: In Najaf, women and tribal leaders work the streets, promising progress and getting out the vote. (Scott Peterson, 1/27/05, CS Monitor)

In a vote where one third of the candidates on 111 lists for the new 275-seat parliament are required to be women, these are voices unaccustomed to a political airing in Iraq.

"Actually, our families are afraid," says Radha. "My family is calling me every other hour to see how I'm doing. But we believe that our city and province are safe, and I'm moving from place to place alone. I'm not afraid."

But in much of the south, candidates have been able to cast off the violent threats that are clouding the election in Baghdad and Sunni-dominated areas. They are mixing their new political freedom with tribal tradition, and calling the outcome democracy.

Najaf Gov. Adnan al-Zurfi says every step has been taken to prevent attacks, including deploying 15,000 police and Iraqi forces in the city and around 236 polling stations. In the past week, those units have been conducting night raids to arrest known troublemakers.

"Some people don't want to live in this new country, and participate in democracy, human rights and freedom," says Mr. Zurfi. "Even those people will find out later that they are making a big mistake by threatening people, killing people."

"It's not about Sunni and Shiite, it's about politics and power," adds Zurfi, noting that Najaf officials under Saddam Hussein did not come from Najaf, but from the regime strongholds of Fallujah and Ramadi. "Now they have very limited power. They are fighting back, to take the same opportunity they had before. This is not the [path] of the new Iraq."

Instead, that path leads through the women candidates - who, unlike many running for office, are willing to be photographed and named - and through the palm-forested village of Sulayiyah, a 45-minute drive away. There, tribal chiefs show just as much enthusiasm for the process, albeit in a more traditional way.

Subgroups of the large Bani Hassan tribe marched into the compound of the newly anointed tribal chief on Tuesday, waving red and white tribal flags and chanting poetry of love, devotion, and wise leadership.

"We don't need just any politician, but one who will look after our farms, our people and our faith," one man shouted above the din, spraying spittle in his enthusiasm to show his support.

The mustachioed Sheikh Muthanna al-Hatem al-Hassan, who is running for parliament, promised to look after the tribe from a seat of power in Baghdad.

"What's important to us is Iraq, and what we need is one Iraq only," says Sheikh Muthanna, with the practiced, good-news air of a politician. "This is the first step, and like every first step, this one will be hard. Sure, there will be some trouble, but I'm sure, in the end everything will be better."

While Muthanna has a built-in support base of hundreds of thousands of Bani Hassan tribesmen, the women candidates in Najaf have to sell potential voters on their plans and integrity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:17 AM


Bush Promotes Health Savings Accounts: He Says Plan Would Cut Insurance Costs and Increase Patient Responsibility (Michael A. Fletcher, January 27, 2005, Washington Post)

President Bush laid out a plan yesterday for reducing the nation's spiraling health care costs, proposing tax credits to encourage expansion of health savings accounts and calling for allowing small businesses to pool together for health coverage across state lines.

Speaking before an audience that included Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Bush said market forces hold the key to moderating the cost of health insurance, which is strangling many working families and small businesses, resulting in 45 million Americans going uninsured.

The main element of Bush's plan would be health savings accounts, which allow people to save money tax-free. The accounts are used for medical expenses up to a preset deductible amount, and once that threshold is met, insurance takes over. Any money not used can roll over from one year to the next, and the cost of the policies is usually lower than that of traditional health insurance plans.

"Health savings accounts all aim at empowering people to make decisions for themselves, owning their own health care plan, and at the same time bringing some demand control into the cost of heath care," Bush said. "Our view is that if you're a consumer of health care and you're in the marketplace making health care decisions, it is more likely that there [would] be more cost control in health care than a system in which the consumer of health care has his or her health care bills paid by a third-party provider."

The key to Medicare reform was sneaking through HSA's, which can now become an increasingly important aspect of American health care.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:11 AM


Looking for Vonnegut: An elusive, out-of-print book prompts a 30-year search and a question: Was it worth it? (David L. Ulin, January 24th, 2005, Village Voice)

In 1974 I was a reading-obsessed seventh-grader just discovering adult lit. My favorite book was Breakfast of Champions, newly out in paperback: a surreal explosion of a novel, featuring jokes and silly drawings, and the strangest ending, in which Kurt Vonnegut entered the story and set his characters free. Breakfast of Champions hit like a revelation, as if I'd cracked a code. All of a sudden, I got it: the absurdity, the gently anti-authoritarian perspective, the idea that nothing was as important as free will. No sooner had I finished the book than I set out to acquire all of Vonnegut's writings, from the novels that were, by then, available in uniform paperback editions to his 1970 play Happy Birthday, Wanda June and his 1972 teleplay Between Time and Timbuktu. These latter titles, as it happens, would later qualify as arcana, but 1974 was the perfect time to look for them, since neither had been available long enough to be truly obscure.

Of all the volumes on the Vonnegut backlist, one consistently eluded me: Canary in a Cat House, the author's third book, a collection of stories that had appeared in 1961 as a paperback original and was long out of print. Of the book's 12 pieces, 11 had been reanthologized in Welcome to the Monkey House, so the only point in owning the earlier work was if you were a completist, which, I was discovering, I was. The more I thought about Canary in a Cat House, the more it bothered me that I couldn't find it; the more I couldn't find it, the more I looked. [...]

Then about a year ago, I did a Google search. (In retrospect, it seems odd I hadn't tried before.) There among the bibliographies and fan sites was a book dealer in Australia who claimed to have the paperback for sale. I sat, amazed, as my computer screen slowly filled with the cover: first the title, followed by a burst of copy ("Off the top of his head—the short, wild fantasies of one of America's most imaginative young writers, the author of Player Piano and The Sirens of Titan"), and finally a multicolored face composed of images from the stories, with a rocket for a nose and a caged canary making up the iris of one eye. I laughed at the characterization of Vonnegut as a young writer, since he was over 80, although when Canary in a Cat House came out, he'd been younger than I was now. Mostly, however, I remember a sensation like shock, as if I were in the presence of a legend, something that, despite my pursuit, I had never quite believed. Quickly, I sent an e-mail to the dealer. Two weeks and $75 later, Canary in a Cat House arrived.

But here's the thing: Now that I have Canary in a Cat House, I'm dissatisfied. Once in a while, I take the book out and peruse it, yet this feels more like handling an artifact than any kind of reading I know. Partly that's because my edition is old, cheaply bound, and printed on acidic paper, which means that any time I touch it, I add to its decay. Partly it's because I've already read these stories, which means Canary in a Cat House can never exist for me as a text to discover on its own. Partly it's because ownership itself is anticlimactic, which means that after three decades, Canary in a Cat House has become less important for what it is than what it was: a vehicle for longing. Most of all, it's because of how I came across the collection not by discovering it in some forgotten bookstore, but through the clinical precision of the Internet. There was nothing tactile or serendipitous about it; I just visited a website, and there it was. Thirty years ago, all I had was my own wanting, the sense that if I hung in long enough, I might have a small epiphany. On the Internet, though, epiphanies become prosaic, since nearly anything is within electronic reach. What does it mean that, in the end, I got Canary in a Cat House with so little effort, without having to leave my home? Maybe that in gaining a thing, we may lose it also, in regard to the open-ended possibilities of desire.

How can it take someone thirty years to realize that the next Vonnegut is always disappointing, because, like Robert Ludlum, he just rewrote the same book over and over? [Though he did write one good short story many years ago.]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:10 AM


Europe is at a crossroads, says Commission (Honor Mahony, 26.01.2005, EU Observer)

The European Union is at a crossroads and needs to get back in touch with large sections of the population is the message contained in a new five-year programme for the 25-nation bloc.

Unveiled by Commission president José Manuel Durao Barroso on Wednesday (26 January), the 13-page plan refers to a gap between a "significant section" of the public and decisions taken in Brussels.

"The reasons for this reduced confidence are widespread and include sluggish economic growth, heightened feelings of economic and personal insecurity, fears of a loss of identity and a more general feeling of 'disconnect' between what happens in 'Brussels' and in people's everyday lives".

Of course, were they in touch with the population they'd fold up the EU.

January 26, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:20 PM


REVIEW: of This Right Here Is Buck 65 (Robert Wheaton, PopMatters)

Warner signed Canadian hip-hop artist Buck 65 in 2002, after he had enjoyed several years of relative success on the underground hip-hop circuit -- including a run of favored albums, a consistent touring schedule, and close ties with Oakland's Anticon collective. There was also, presumably, a calculation by Warner that he might mature into a songwriter with the reach and long-term marketability of Leonard Cohen or Tom Waits.

The first part of that calculation was immediately vindicated: Square and Talkin' Honky Blues, his Warner releases to date, have exhibited a fully-developed story-telling talent. Talkin' Honky Blues, in particular, picked up more new listeners than it alienated backpackers with its live instruments and folk- and country-influenced range of sounds.

This Right Here Is Buck 65 -- on the V2 label -- seems calculated to address the second part of that calculation: to break Buck 65 to the American market. It is a compilation of several tracks from Talkin' Honky Blues and Square, a handful of material available only as b-sides and online exclusives, and reworkings of older material in his current style. Although it lacks -- narrowly -- the thematic coherence that made Talkin' Honky Blues a masterpiece, this is quite certainly an essential release by an artist that seems likely, if there is any justice at all, to spend much of his career reshaping popular music. He's just that good.

Buck 65, whose real name is Richard Terfry, hails from rural Nova Scotia. His off-kilter reading of hip-hop tradition has been on display since the early '90s, and was made explicit on his first solo LP, Language Arts, released in 1997. Subsequent releases and collaborations (particularly with fellow Canadian Anticon associate Sixtoo) have always foregrounded an essential restlessness, which at least seems borne out by a handful of off-beat biographical details: a flirtation with professional baseball, an appearance on Sesame Street, and a temporary residence in Paris.

That restlessness shouldn't suggest a diffuse talent, though, or a willingness to flirt with different influences and textures without integrating any of them fully. Terfry's various story-telling influences -- including Waits, Johnny Cash, Woody Guthrie, Jack Kerouac -- have by now been so thoroughly absorbed into a developed and individual style that it is next to impossible to pick them out. "Talking Fishing Blues" is a Guthrie cover, but it's no more than a tip of the hat: it fits seamlessly amid these tales of drunkenness, wit, escape, loss and self-assured élan.

"Wicked and Weird" openly references Cash, but its gleeful, freewheeling, associative ode to the open road recalls Waits. There is something of the same surreal stream-of-consciousness flow, the same cast of oddball characters drawn into half-chosen, half-forced situations. There's also some of David Lynch's talent for subliminally evocative imagery, but even here, at his most surreal, Terfry's eye for detail -- "Cough drops, loose change in the beverage holder"; "5 o'clock shadow, lips like mudflaps / Hands like eagle's talons, eyes like hub caps" -- is precise and accurate in a manner undeniably his own.

There's a perfect confidence to his writing, a confidence that allows a song as personal as "Roses and Bluejays" -- about his relationship with his father since his mother's death -- to be conducted entirely at the level of surface observations. The details themselves, and their juxtaposition, perfectly conjure a sense of drift and directionlessness, and, somehow, a deep-rooted belonging. The image of his father clearing snow with a flamethrower encapsulates a moment of rage, loneliness, of silent futility.

There's the humor, too: "463" opens with a rant about "the youth of today" that is both brilliant parody and an evocation of the scale and magic of childhood: "When I was a kid... The whole world was made of wood and smelled like gasoline / The days were at least twice as long and the grass was green".

Wicked and Weird is a terrific tune, but who was gonna pay $24 for it on Talkin' Honky Blues?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:50 PM


Tortured Logic on Torture: Andrew Sullivan misinterprets Abu Ghraib (Heather Mac Donald, 25 January 2005, City Journal)

In 1987, the United States rejected an amendment to the Geneva conventions that would have conferred prisoner of war status on terrorists. The Washington Post and the New York Times applauded the decision. “We must not, and need not, give recognition and protection to terrorist groups as a price for progress in humanitarian law,” editorialized the Post. Granting terrorists such recognition, the papers explained, would eviscerate a central purpose of the Geneva conventions: to safeguard noncombatants. By making the protections accorded to lawful combatants conditional on obedience to the rules of war—which forbid targeting civilians and hiding in the civilian population—the conventions create an incentive for soldiers to behave lawfully.

Journalist and blogger Andrew Sullivan has a different idea. For Sullivan, who accuses the Bush administration of torture in the January 23 New York Times Book Review, prisoner of war status is an absolute entitlement, not a privilege earned by responsible behavior. Every combatant, no matter how vicious his actions toward noncombatants, has a right to be treated as a lawful soldier, in Sullivan’s view. And thus, the Bush administration’s refusal to grant POW status to suspects taken in the war on terror represents not a judgment based on the law but a failure of moral vision: “The message sent,” writes Sullivan, “was: these prisoners are beneath decent treatment.”

In Sullivan’s account, the administration’s POW ruling led directly to the “torture” of prisoners. It was the “critical enabling decision” that made the “abuse of innocents almost inevitable.” This “torture narrative” ignores some inconvenient facts, however. First, the government ruled unequivocally that the Geneva conventions applied in Iraq, where the overwhelming majority of prisoner abuse occurred. In fact, that abuse had one cause and one cause only: the wholesale and inexcusable breakdown of military order in Iraq that allowed soldiers to violate their rules of engagement. Stomping on detainees, forcing them to masturbate, hitting them—these behaviors were obvious, gross infractions in every war zone. That breakdown of military order had nothing to do with any Geneva decisions pro or con, but resulted from Pentagon planners’ incompetent response to the insurgency. (The Schlesinger report, which supports the administration’s Geneva convention rulings and the resultant interrogation policies, reaches the same conclusion.) Moreover, nearly all the abuse had nothing to do with official interrogation, contrary to Sullivan’s claims. It was perpetrated by fighting soldiers at the point of capture and by military guards intent on punishing prisoners or simply abusing them for “fun.”

Second, if, in Sullivan’s view, the point of Geneva convention decisions is to demonstrate the detaining power’s moral sensitivity, as opposed to establishing a legal framework for the conduct of war, the administration’s ruling clearly did exactly that. President Bush declared that terror detainees were to be treated “humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of Geneva.” Amazingly, Sullivan mocks this order, even though it articulates the moral understanding that he claims the administration lacked. Sullivan consistently fails to distinguish between behavior that violated interrogation policy and the policy itself. This is a crucial distinction. The fact that rules can be broken does not mean that the rules are invalid. It is a sad fact that abuse occurs in American domestic prisons; I presume Sullivan would not on that ground abolish prisons. The proper response to rule violations is to punish the wrongdoers, which is occurring, and to reform management. [...]

But the biggest flaw of Sullivan’s torture indictment is his casual disregard for the Geneva framework. He can’t be bothered to assess whether a combatant has met the conditions for prisoner of war status. Sullivan calls the “distinction between ‘prisoners of war’ and ‘unlawful combatants’ ” “so vague” as to make abuse inevitable. In fact, Article 4 of Geneva Convention III could not be clearer or more straightforward: under Article 4, terrorists could not possibly be covered. Sullivan accuses President Bush of not wanting to “stay . . . within the letter of the law”; in fact, it was the president who was following the literal language of the conventions, and Sullivan who ignores that language.

If the Geneva drafters had meant to include every combatant in the Third Convention, they would not so carefully have circumscribed the conditions for coverage. Sullivan’s anything-goes approach makes the process of reaching international humanitarian accords meaningless by throwing out the resulting handiwork. It was an achievement of high civilization to have agreed with other developed nations to treat each other’s soldiers humanely when we catch them in war.

To allow barbarous fanatics like al-Qaida to destroy as well the legal framework of reciprocity and responsible behavior that those accords established would not be an advance of “freedom” as Sullivan puts it, but its demise.

I've got a question: if the prospect of torture is as awful as such folk claim, why doesn't al Qaeda step forward and sign the Geneva Convention and why haven't any of our enemies ever obeyed it?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:38 PM


Inaugural run-in for Reid aide (Geoff Earle, 1/26/05, The Hill)

An aide to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was arrested on the West Front of the Capitol for disorderly conduct during President Bush’s inaugural address last week.

The aide, Nathan Ackerman, is a television producer on the Senate Democratic Communications Committee — an organization that was folded into Reid’s new communications “war room.”
About 20 minutes into Bush’s speech, Ackerman, 36, and another man held up a sheet that said “No War.”

Hard to bellieve the Democrats leadership could get worse, but it's only January and Mr. Reid appears to have lost control of his caucus to the looney Left.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:48 PM


BUSH LEFT BONO SPEECHLESS (Contact Music, 1/26/05)

Fast-talking rocker BONO was impressed when President GEORGE W BUSH interrupted him mid-flow to get his point across during a debate on the AIDS crisis.

The VERTIGO singer, who works tirelessly to raise awareness of issues affecting the developing world, wouldn't allow President Bush a word in edgeways, forcing him to bang his fist passionately on the table.

Bono says, "He banged the table at me once when I was ranting at him about AIDS drugs. He banged the table to ask me to let him reply. I was very impressed that he could get so passionate. And let's face it, tolerating an Irish rock star is not a necessity of his office."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:40 PM


Money, is it overrated?: Economic research focuses on what makes people happy (Martin Wolk, 12/20/04, MSNBC)

A growing body of research on the “economics of happiness” proposes that material wealth is overrated.

These controversial researchers do not say economic growth is undesirable, and they note that unemployed people are almost always unhappy.

But they say policy-makers should pay more attention to what people say about their satisfaction with life as they consider how far to go in the pursuit of unbridled growth.

“The problem we have found is that as (gross domestic product) has gone up, happiness doesn’t go up with it,” said David Blanchflower, a professor of economics at Dartmouth College.

One study by Blanchflower and an associate, based on interviews of 100,000 people over three decades, concludes that despite sharp improvements in living standards “the USA has, in aggregate, apparently become more miserable over the last quarter of a century.”

A critical factor in personal happiness appears to be marriage — or at least a monogamous sexual relationship. A widowed or divorced person would have to make an extra $100,000 a year to be as happy as a comparable married person, Blanchflower and co-author Andrew Oswald estimated.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:28 PM


Rumsfeld's Top Policy Adviser to Quit (ROBERT BURNS, January 26, 2005, AP)

The top policy adviser to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and a driving force behind the Pentagon's Iraq policy plans to resign from his post this year, a senior defense official said Wednesday.

Douglas Feith would be the highest-ranking Pentagon official to leave the administration. The No. 2 official, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, has said he plans to remain.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:53 PM

TICK...TICK...TICK... (via Jim Yates):

The factory nuns of urban China (Michael A. Lev, December 27, 2004, Chicago Tribune)

Bai Lin is a sad-faced 19-year-old who seems to carry the weight of the world on her shoulders.

She works in a small industrial town for a factory that makes intravenous drip kits for hospitals. Once she lived with her family in a dirt-floored hovel at the end of a mud road in a forgotten hamlet called Two Dragons.

She left home at age 15 because her father decided she must. The family was poor, but there was an option: Every day, it seemed, more people from the villages were leaving for work in the city.

Bai Lin remembers clearly the day her father took her to the bus station. He cried. She held in her tears.

Her stoic nature defines her still. Bai Lin is a factory nun. She lives cloistered in the dreary compound of the medical instruments company, where she works 11 or 12 hours a day, seven days a week, for 11 months straight until the New Year's break. When she returns home for a month, her year's wages in her pocket, it amounts to about $500.

Bai Lin belongs to one family from one village that represents an infinitesimal piece of a very large story: one of the largest industrial migration trends in human history.

Over the past decade or so, legions of Chinese have left their farms for cities as China's communist government relaxed the travel and housing restrictions that once kept a strict divide between urban workers and country peasants.

Without the rise of a flexible migrant labor force, China's economy never would have developed into the formidable international competitor it has become. China's cities today teem with these domestic migrants, some comfortably settled in jobs, others arriving daily, risking everything--though often they have nothing to lose.

Many of the people working in China's newly established factories are from the countryside.

The men living and working round-the-clock at construction sites often are migrants.

The food hawker on a street corner in Nanjing, who rises at 3:30 each morning in his tiny apartment to make the noodles for his stand and doesn't close up and go home until 8:30 at night, is a migrant.

So, too, are three poorly dressed women, each hoisting over a shoulder a rotund, 80-pound sack stuffed with potential recyclables. They march single-file down a street, bent by the strain, cartoonishly tiny under their heavy, bobbing loads, hoping to earn a few pennies for a full afternoon of rummaging.

A shifting demographic

Counting or even defining migrants isn't easy. The Chinese talk about a "floating population," meaning anyone who has left the city in which they are officially registered. At some level, a destitute farmer collecting garbage on the streets can be considered part of the same mobile phenomenon as a lawyer from Beijing living in Shanghai.

Today there are more than 100 million peasants in the cities, but so many have come and gone through the years that the total number of participants likely is far higher. These migrant workers fit different categories. Some are seasonal workers who go home for the harvest. Others have been living in the city for years but are not recognized as official city dwellers because residency laws are murky and changing.

China's plunge into migrant-based employment represents capitalism that is basic and unfettered, which can mean exploitative.

Industrial workers typically put in punishing hours, often for little or no overtime pay, in factories that can rely on antiquated equipment and provide little training. China has one of the world's highest rates of industrial accidents; at least 5,000 workers die each year in the coal-mining industry alone. Stories are common of inadequately trained machine operators who lose limbs in accidents.

Migrants tend to fare the worst. They're unsophisticated, desperate and thus especially vulnerable to unscrupulous bosses who will work them to the bone and then refuse to pay them.

There are national labor laws governing workplace conditions, but oversight and enforcement often are lax or non-existent and there are no minimum-wage rules. There also are no independent unions and no labor activists to defend workers' rights because the Communist Party does not allow challenges to its authority.

Pressure doesn't build up infinitely.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:47 PM


Developing World Economy Grows at Fastest Rate in Quarter Century (Peter Heinlein, 25 January 2005, VOA News)

The United Nations has issued an upbeat assessment of the world economy, noting that growth in developing countries is at its fastest pace in more than two decades. The positive outlook is tempered by concerns about global trade imbalances.

The world's economy has considerable momentum at the beginning of 2005, and short-term prospects remain positive. That is the main conclusion of the annual U.N. economic report.

The 125-page report notes that the cyclical recovery of the world economy is reaching its peak. Worldwide economic growth increased by four percent in 2004, and, says the U.N., is likely to grow almost as fast in the next 12 months.

The top U.N. economist, former Colombian finance minister Jose Antonio Ocampo says every region in the developing world is showing rapid economic growth.

Liberalization in the Middle East and another round of world trade agreements will only fuel that growth.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 PM


Bitter-enders voting against Condi Rice today, as she's confirmed 85-13:


Meanwhile, in an apparent departure from any sense of political reality, Democrats voted along party lines against Alberto Gonzales in the Judiciary Committee and are talking about filibustering him on the floor, which would allow the GOP to invoke the nuclear option in favor of a Hispanic nominee.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:11 AM


A New Iraq: Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds all have a stake in liberty. (FOUAD AJAMI, January 26, 2005, Wall Street Journal)

Behold these elections: they are not a prelude to civil war, as some of our sages continually warn. They are the substitute for a civil war. Indeed, the remarkable thing about the Shiites has been their restraint in the face of the terror that the remnants of the old regime and the jihadists have thrown at them. It is their leaders and their mosques and their weddings and their religious gatherings that have been the steady targets of the terror. It is their faith that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his band of killers continue to dismiss as a heresy at odds with Islam's "purity." Men are not angels. The Shiite restraint has rested on the hope that redemption shall come at the ballot box.

We needn't be afraid of a Shiite electoral victory. The scarecrow that stayed America's hand in the first Gulf War ought to be seen for what it is. There is no "sister republic" of the Iranian theocracy in Iraq's future. The religious scholars in Najaf know that theirs is a country that differs from Iran; it is a checkered country of multiple communities. The Shiite secularists know this as well. Besides, the Iranian state next door offers no panacea today, only terrible economic and cultural sterility. It has been Iraq's luck that Ayatollah Sistani was there when most needed. A jurist of deeply quietist bent who embodies Shiism's historical aversion to political redemptionism, he has reined in the passions of his community. He has held out the hope that history could be changed without large-scale violence, and without millenarianism. Grant the old man his due.

Admonitions have come America's way-- made by the Sunni order of power in neighboring Arab lands--of the dangers of Shiite emancipation. It was in that vein that Jordan's monarch, Abdullah II, warned of a "Shia crescent" that would extend from Iran to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Our leaders tell us that similar fears are put to them by other Arab rulers. The power of the Arabist worldview lingers in the State Department and in the ranks of the CIA, which retain a basic sympathy for the Sunni order. It is odd, to say the least, that we would fall for this trap. The terrors of Sept. 11, 2001, were not Shiite. Saudis and Egyptians brought soot and ruin to America; and it is a Jordanian from the town of Zarqa--with Zarqawi as his nom de guerre--who is sowing death in the streets of Iraq.

Young American soldiers are not dying in Iraq to uphold the sectarian phobias and privileges of the Arab elites. For if this campaign in Mesopotamia has a broader moral claim, it is to rid the Arabs of the atavisms that have poisoned their life. We can't underwrite Sunni dominion anymore than we can support Shiite radicalism. A Shiite bid to dominate Iraq is sure to be broken, turned back by the Sunni Arabs and the Kurds. Nor can we accept at face value the assumption that the Shiites of Iraq are a monolithic force. There are deep wells of anticlericalism among them. If the past is any guide, competing Shiite factions will cast about for alliances across the sectarian lines, among the Sunni Arabs and the Kurds.

That belt of democratic Shi'a states will put enormous pressure on Sunni autocrats to similarly liberalize.

Posted by David Cohen at 9:54 AM


DAILY EXPRESS: Future Perfect (Jeffrey Herf, TNR.com, 1/25/05)

Testifying before Congress last week, Condoleezza Rice gave little indication that she grasps the central challenge of the next four years: restoring American credibility in the war of ideas against totalitarian Islam with a new era of candor, acknowledgment of past errors, and clear signs of having learned from them.
That is the first sentence of this essay, and obviously I stopped reading right there. Skimming down, though, I see that it is an exquisite examplar of its type, complete right down to the obligatory citations to Hegel, Sartre and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, the pointless slap at religion and the non-ironic use of the word "teleological." One is at first tempted to take away points for recognizing the evil of Soviet communism, but, no, this recognition comes only in the course of implicitly likening the Bush administration to the Stalin administration. Extra points are awarded for the sheer lack of insight, especially in context, of this sentence: "If the Soviet regime had been a democracy, Joseph Stalin would have been quickly ousted from office, just as Neville Chamberlain was defeated following the failure of his appeasement policy."

Ignorance this invincible can only be the work of a professional and, indeed, "Jeffrey Herf is professor of modern European history at the University of Maryland."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:53 AM


Kerry proposes health coverage for all children (Rick Klein, January 26, 2005, Boston Globe)

Vowing to use his new ''national voice" in the wake of his presidential campaign, Senator John F. Kerry yesterday unveiled a sweeping plan to bring health coverage to all children, paid for by repealing recent tax cuts for the highest-income Americans.

Kerry's bill would make healthcare for children universal by encouraging states to expand coverage under Medicaid and its companion state-federal program, the State Children's Health Insurance Program. He would also give higher-income parents tax incentives to insure their own children.

''It's just unacceptable in our country that we have so many children -- millions of kids -- who are uninsured, they get no healthcare, some of them get learning disabilities for the lack of diagnosis of something as simple as an earache," Kerry said in an interview with the Globe. ''This has to be priority number one. It's a place to start."

Kerry said the bill fulfills a pledge he made on the campaign trail, where he vowed to make such legislation the first bill he'd file as president. He has signed up 300,000 ''citizen cosponsors," recruited via his campaign e-mail list. Kerry said he is planning to ''gin up energy" for his bill through speeches around the country.

He will have his work cut out for him: The bill is not expected to get a warm reception in the Republican-led Senate, although Kerry promised to reach across the aisle to Republicans members who favor expanded healthcare.

It's too bad that Senator Kerry isn't a serious person and that the New Democrats no longer exist, because legislation that created universal HSA's for every American from birth--with opt outs for the fully insured, employer mandates, and federal funding for the poor--would be good policy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:48 AM


Iraq's female candidates raise voices before vote (Thanassis Cambanis, January 26, 2005, Boston Globe)

[T]he women's discussion at the Najaf Human Rights Center yesterday included a more freewheeling and substantive debate than most events in the anemic campaign season leading up to Sunday's nationwide elections.

With four other Da'wa candidates -- the party name means ''Islamic Way" -- Anwar was pitching a comparatively secular vision of the Iraqi government at a forum organized by US Embassy officials. Da'wa's provincial leaders are focused on reviving the country's economically moribund Shi'ite areas while staving off security threats believed to stem from unstable Sunni areas.

In the other corner was a group of four women candidates from the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or SCIRI, who broke with the party's position of publicly downplaying its Islamist credentials.

''Iraq is a Muslim country. It does not hurt that we will depend on the Koran to write the constitution," said candidate Nasran al-Fatlawi.

All the candidates, however, agreed that Iraq's new constitution had to enshrine women's rights.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:43 AM


President Discusses Issues With Black Leaders (ELISABETH BUMILLER, 1/26/05, NY Times)

President Bush told a meeting of African-American religious and community leaders on Tuesday that he remained committed to a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and that fighting H.I.V. and AIDS in Africa remained a priority, a participant in the meeting said afterward.

Mr. Bush also encouraged the leaders to support his plan to add personal investment accounts to Social Security, which White House officials say could benefit blacks because they have a shorter average life span than whites and end up putting more money into the retirement system than they take out.

African-American men "have had a shorter life span than other sectors of America," Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, told reporters. "And this will enable them to build a nest egg of their own and be able to pass that nest egg on to their survivors."

They won't, but the White House should put the President in black churches and meetings with grassroots black leaders in every city he visits. Just the fact of the courtship would move GOP numbers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:38 AM


Terrorism Ruling Sparks Outcry in Italy (Tracy Wilkinson, January 26, 2005, LA Times)

An Italian judge's ruling that five North Africans accused of sending suicide bombers to Iraq were "guerrillas" and not "terrorists" has ignited outrage here and given rise to a debate over the definition of militancy in times of war.

Politicians across the ideological spectrum excoriated the judge Tuesday, as did some of her colleagues in the judiciary and leading newspaper editorialists. Several of the defendants in the case had been linked by investigators to violent extremists.

"You don't have to be an Oriana Fallaci to be shocked by this decision," the La Stampa newspaper said in a front-page editorial, referring to a writer known lately for her anti-Muslim views. [...]

The judge, Clementina Forleo, dropped international terrorism charges against the defendants, two Moroccans and three Tunisians, after deciding that their alleged actions did not appear to "exceed guerrilla activity."

In issuing the judgment Monday night, Forleo accepted prosecution claims that the men were members of Islamic fundamentalist cells in the northern city of Milan and nearby Cremona, and were raising money for "paramilitary structures" in Iraq.

Such are the wages of tolerance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:36 AM


Brazil's Leftists No Longer See President as Their Champion (Henry Chu, January 26, 2005, LA Times)

Shortly after his inauguration as this nation's first left-leaning president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva garnered rapturous applause from a massive convocation of international social activists here when he promised to take on the capitalist world order and strive to end hunger in poor countries.

What a difference two years makes. This week, the leader of Latin America's largest country is again scheduled to address the World Social Forum, which opens today. But this time, jeering may replace cheering as many of his once-ardent supporters accuse him of betraying the pledges of his campaign.

From environmentalists to human-rights advocates, urban workers to the rural poor, left-wing activists are disappointed or downright furious with the man they believed would finally put their causes high on Brazil's agenda.

Instead, they say, the former labor leader and leftist firebrand has pursued policies identical to those of the center-right administration that preceded him.

Some folks didn't get the memo about History being at an End.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:31 AM


Auschwitz adds to U.S.-EU friction (Judy Dempsey, January 26, 2005, International Herald Tribune)

To the long list of what separates the United States and Europe these days, add the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps, to be marked Thursday in a solemn ceremony that will bring together almost all of Europe's most important leaders, but not President George W. Bush.

For some prominent Poles, the attendance of Vice President Dick Cheney is a bitter disappointment. The Auschwitz ceremony will include President Vladimir Putin of Russia, President Horst Köhler of Germany, President Jacques Chirac of France and President Moshe Katzav of Israel.

Although Auschwitz holds very different associations for each of these leaders - Putin represents the liberator, Katzav the victim and Köhler the perpetrator - the passage of time and the immense changes in Europe since communism crumbled in 1989 have allowed all three to share this anniversary.

Some believe the American president should be part of this occasion, which they see as a symbol of Europe's enlargement and its decision, after World War II, to renounce war and national sovereignties in favor of a still uncertain experiment in unity.

"I would like to see the president of the United States attend the liberation of the Auschwitz commemoration," said the distinguished Polish medieval historian Bronislaw Geremek, a former dissident, foreign minister and now member of the European Parliament.

"Auschwitz represented the end of the totalitarian regime," Geremek said...

No it didn't.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:26 AM


Emphasizing Taste, and Not Just in Beer, at Super Bowl (STUART ELLIOTT, 1/26/05, NY Times)

Anheuser-Busch, the biggest advertiser on the Super Bowl, the biggest day of the year for advertising, is making good on a promise to clean up its act.

A look at some commercials that Anheuser-Busch is considering for Super Bowl XXXIX on Feb. 6 - for beers like Bud Light, Budweiser, Budweiser Select and Michelob Amber Bock - indicates the company was considerably chastened by the reaction from salacious, provocative spots it ran last year.

The content and tone of the commercials under consideration for next month are well within the bounds of mainstream marketing. Missing are the double entendres, bathroom humor and crude sight gags that dominated last year.

"Our goal is to be careful," said Bob Lachky, vice president for brand management and director for global brand creative at Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis.

"We want to make sure the types of situations we depict and the jokes we tell don't cross the line of good taste," Mr. Lachky said. "There's a heightened sense of awareness where that line is."

The Culture War is, if possible, going even better than the War on Terror.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:59 AM


Boston terrorist plot was a hoax, FBI says (BRIAN CAROVILLANO, January 26, 2005, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Two men suspected of smuggling Chinese immigrants across the Mexican border placed a cell phone call warning of a possible terror threat against Boston, Mexican and American law enforcement officials said.

The call set authorities in motion-- alerting the public, increasing security at the airport, on the subway. Gov. Mitt Romney even skipped President Bush's inauguration to return to Boston.

On Tuesday, the FBI said the chilling tip was a false alarm.

"There were, in fact, no terrorist plans or activity under way," the statement said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:58 AM


Oh yes, it can happen here (Robert Kuttner, January 26, 2005, Boston Globe)

[C]lyde Prestowitz of the Economic Strategy Institute, formerly a senior trade negotiator in the Reagan administration, offers the following scenario: In a future crisis involving the tense China-Taiwan relationship, the Chinese ambassador suggests to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that maybe the United States would like to move its warships 500 miles away from Taiwan. Rice demurs. The next day, the Bank of China sells a few --just a very few to get our attention -- US Treasury securities. Money markets reel.

Would the Chinese play such a risky game? They have their own interests, geopolitical as well as economic. They are certainly not an American pawn, less so with every passing year.

Ever notice how folks who propose worst case scenarios never follow them out to their logical conclusion?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 AM


Va. GOP Delegates Rev Up Car-Tax Relief Campaign (Michael D. Shear and Chris L. Jenkins, January 26, 2005, Washington Post)

House Republican leaders pledged Tuesday to push the car-tax relief program to completion, reviving the GOP's most potent political issue and breathing new life into Virginia's tax debate at the beginning of an election year. [...]

Tuesday's GOP announcement also positions the car tax as a preeminent issue in the 2005 campaign for governor between Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) and Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore (R), the leading candidates for their parties' nominations.

Ending the car tax was one of the most popular campaign issues in Virginia history. In 1997, it quickly caught fire in vote-rich Northern Virginia, where many families own several expensive cars, and swept Republican James S. Gilmore III into the governor's mansion.

On Tuesday, both Kilgore and Kaine sought to claim the mantle of car-tax relief.

Carrie Cantrell, a spokeswoman for Kilgore, said "this is a promise to voters that needs to be continued" when the state has enough money to do so. Kilgore was out of town and not available for comment, Cantrell said.

In an interview, Kaine said he supports fully phasing out the car tax but called the House proposal "an election-year thing." He said: "You have to come up with money to fund it. That's what they haven't done this year."

Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said: "This is a good election-year stance for Republicans. It's what their folks like to see, and they remember a GOP landslide in 1997 [based] on three words: 'No car tax.'

Democrats, amazingly, still don't get that when they say "yes, but" we all hear "no."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 AM


Bush Finds a Backer in Moynihan, Who's Not Talking (RICHARD W. STEVENSON, 1/26/05, NY Times)

[M]r. Bush is taking cover under the reputation of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the New York Democrat who died nearly two years ago. Mr. Moynihan served as co-chairman of the commission Mr. Bush established in 2001 to recommend ways of establishing personal accounts, a fact the president and his aides mention almost every time they discuss the issue publicly.

"Much of my thinking has been colored by the work of the late Senator Moynihan and other members of the commission, who took a lot of time to take a look at this problem and who came up with some creative suggestions," Mr. Bush said to reporters last month in the Oval Office.

Treasury Secretary John W. Snow began an op-ed article about Social Security in The Wall Street Journal recently by invoking Mr. Moynihan. Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, frequently refers to Mr. Moynihan's leadership of the commission in defending the president's call for personal accounts.

But in implying that Mr. Moynihan was a supporter of his approach to Social Security, Mr. Bush and his team are open to challenge, based on Mr. Moynihan's record and documented indications that he was not totally happy with the commission's work.

Mr. Moynihan made a career of calling attention to various pathologies and systemic problems and then opposing the solutions. Watching him transition effortlessly from fretting over defining deviancy downward to voting against Bill Clinton's impeachment it was obvious he didn't take his own ideas seriously.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 AM


Why Florida is No. 1 in bioterror readiness: The state has fine-tuned a distribution network for vaccines, notification procedures, and large-scale aid. (Richard Luscombe, 1/26/05, CS Monitor)

[F]lorida - a state all too familiar with emergency after four hurricanes battered it last year - may be emerging as a model for bioterror preparedness. But even its boosters caution that much still needs to be done to address areas of vulnerability.

"I'm pleased this recognizes the work we've done, but it isn't something that allows us to sit back because we are still nowhere near where we want to be," says John Agwunobi, Florida's health secretary.

Both Florida and North Carolina passed the grade in nine of the 10 categories that the Trust for America's Health (TFAH), an independent research group in Washington, used to assess each state's public-health readiness. In 2003, Florida scored seven out of 10. The state has scored highly, Mr. Agwunobi says, largely because of the strong public-health infrastructure it has developed, which maximizes resources.

Among such achievements is the state's coveted "green" status relating to the Strategic National Stockpile of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It means that Florida, the first of only five states to achieve such a grade, is deemed adequately prepared to distribute vaccines and antidotes in the event of a mass disease outbreak.

Last February, health personnel from each of the 67 counties took part in a large-scale exercise that simulated air passengers with bubonic plague arriving at various places in the state. The distribution test was passed.

Officials also point to the state's five-year public-health plan, which calls for additional resources to counter bioterror threats. For example, in the event of a biological, chemical, or radiological attack leading to mass casualties, Florida's hospitals will be able to manage emergency treatment for 500 people per 1 million of population, and they will be able to admit 50 patients per 1 million. Florida has almost 17 million residents.

In addition, each region will be able to isolate 10 patients showing symptoms of diseases like smallpox.

"Many states, if not most, don't have our kind of infrastructure," Agwunobi says.

Jeb Bush would be the odds-on favorite to be our next president even if he weren't one of the nation's best governors.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 AM


Strange, But Bush Really Does Sound a Lot Like Woodrow Wilson (Ron Briley, 1/25/05, History News Network)

In his second inaugural address President Bush emphasized the themes of freedom and liberty. Although he failed to mention Iraq by name, its presence was looming throughout the address. For the Iraqi elections seem to have replaced any considerations regarding weapons of mass destruction in the administration’s case for war. In emphasizing freedom and liberty, Bush selected the themes used by Democratic President Woodrow Wilson from 1912-1920.

Wilson, like Bush, advocated a moralistic foreign policy. Reacting to the jingoism and materialism of his predecessors Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, Wilson insisted that the goal of American foreign policy was to spread the benefits of democracy throughout the world. A master of slogans, Wilson justified American entrance into the First World War by stating that our goal was to “make the world safe for democracy.” When he grew frustrated with the course of the Mexican Revolution, Wilson suggested that American intervention was necessary in order to teach the Mexican people to “elect good men.”

The end result of Wilson’s moralistic foreign policy was that the United States engaged in more military interventions abroad than under the militaristic Theodore Roosevelt, who referred to the Spanish-American War as “that splendid little war.” In addition to Mexico and World War I, making the world “safe for democracy” meant military action in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Cuba, and Russia.

Seemingly advocating the Wilsonian vision of America as the arbitrator of international morality, President Bush asserts that in order to guarantee freedom in the United States we must assure that liberty abounds throughout the world.

Even more important than the similarities are the differences. Wilson could have done much good had he chosen to use his post-War influence to push for decolonialization and the extension of sovereignty. Instead, he was willing to discard all his, and our, democratic ideals in pursuit of a transnational institution (the League of Nations) that, because it represented a threat to our sovereignty, was doomed from the git-go. We're still paying the price for this failure in the Middle East today, but George W. Bush has sensibly discarded the League's successor and focussed on self-determination.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 AM


Coaching Iraq's New Candidates, Discreetly: U.S.-Funded Programs Nurture Voting Process (Karl Vick and Robin Wright, January 26, 2005, Washington Post)

The midwives of democracy toil behind the towering gray blast walls that encase every Western enterprise in the new Iraq. This one, in an anonymous cluster of buildings, houses the country's first school for political candidates.

There is a miniature television studio, where novice office-seekers learn the fine art of the sound bite and the value of "earned media." There are conference rooms, where instructors from countries that have already left war behind conduct seminars on "Six Steps to Planning and Winning a Campaign." (Step 3: Targeting the Voters).

A graphic artist stands by with advice on getting a party's poster noticed on the cluttered streets of Baghdad. A former congressional staffer stands by to emphasize the vital difference between an army of volunteers and an armed militia.

And on the rooftops of nearby buildings, snipers simply stand by, their vigil as discreet as the low-profile democracy-building effort underway below.

Funded by U.S. taxpayers, the Baghdad office of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs stands at the ambitious heart of the American effort to make Iraq a model democracy in the Arab world. In the 13 months it has operated in the country, the institute has tutored political aspirants from all of Iraq's major parties, trained about 10,000 domestic election observers and nurtured thousands of ordinary citizens seeking to build the institutions that form the backbone of free societies.

The work is in many ways entirely routine for the institute -- as it is for the two other Washington-based organizations that are here advising on the architecture of democracy: the International Republican Institute (IRI), which declined requests for an interview, and the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES), which along with the United Nations is providing crucial technical assistance to Iraq's electoral commission. The groups work in scores of countries, from those in Eastern Europe to Yemen and Indonesia, and arrived in Baghdad with solid reputations for encouraging democratic norms. Together, the three have been allotted as much as $90 million for their work in Iraq.

But such is the state of Iraq less than a week before elections for the National Assembly that the Democratic Institute's instructors dare not see their names in print.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:04 AM


Winning Cases, Losing Voters (PAUL STARR, 1/26/05, NY Times)

[W]hile the institutional decay at the party's base - the decline of labor unions and ethnically based party organizations - has played a role, the people who point to "moral values" may not be far off. Democrats have paid a historic price for their role in the great moral revolutions that during the past half-century have transformed relations between whites and blacks, men and women, gays and straights. And liberal Democrats, in particular, have been inviting political oblivion - not by advocating the wrong causes, but by letting their political instincts atrophy and relying on the legal system.

To be sure, Democrats were right to challenge segregation and racism, support the revolution in women's roles in society, to protect rights to abortion and to back the civil rights of gays. But a party can make only so many enemies before it loses the ability to do anything for the people who depend on it. For decades, many liberals thought they could ignore the elementary demand of politics - winning elections - because they could go to court to achieve these goals on constitutional grounds. The great thing about legal victories like Roe v. Wade is that you don't have to compromise with your opponents, or even win over majority opinion. But that is also the trouble. An unreconciled losing side and unconvinced public may eventually change the judges.

And now we have reached that point. The Republicans, with their party in control of both elected branches - and looking to create a conservative majority on the Supreme Court that will stand for a generation - see the opportunity to overthrow policies and constitutional precedents reaching back to the New Deal.

That prospect ought to concentrate the liberal mind. Social Security, progressive taxation, affordable health care, the constitutional basis for environmental and labor regulation, separation of church and state - these issues and more hang in the balance.

Condensed version: using anti-democratic means to pursue elite ends isn't a viable long-term strategy in a democracy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:49 AM


Zarqawi vs Sistani: In one corner is Shi'ite leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who has proved himself to be a political genius in turning the toppling of Saddam Hussein into a seemingly permanent victory for Shi'ites. In the other corner is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, whose sole weapon is the use of terror. Iraqis now have to decide between the two. (Ehsan Ahrari, 1/26/05, Asia Times)

Imagine how much contempt you have to have for Islam to believe there's a decision involved there?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:46 AM


A Reviled Criminal Faces a Third Strike: Charles Rothenberg set his sleeping 6-year-old son on fire in 1983. Now he's back in court. (Lee Romney, January 26, 2005, LA Times)

He earned a place among the nation's most reviled criminals more than two decades ago when he set his sleeping 6-year-old son on fire in a Buena Park motel room, leaving the boy disfigured.

Under sentencing laws of the day, he served less than seven years in prison. After three more years of around-the-clock guard — the strictest parole in California history — Charles Rothenberg was free to live the life of his choosing. [....]

Even before Rothenberg doused his son David's bedspread in kerosene in the Buena Park Travelodge, lit a match and fled, the New York waiter had a criminal record in three states stretching back to 1958. There were convictions for armed robbery, forged checks and burglary, and a pending warrant for vandalizing and stealing from a Manhattan restaurant where he had worked.

After the 1983 blaze, Rothenberg openly expressed remorse for lashing out at the boy he said he was afraid of losing after his ex-wife threatened to cut off future visits. David received third-degree burns over 90% of his body and nearly died. His courageous recovery brought him international acclaim.

If we'd had the decency to execute him for what he did to his son the third strike would have been unnecessary.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:34 AM


‘God-drenched’ pledges of the president split Republicans (Tony Allen-Mills, 1/23/05, Times of London)

Patrick Buchanan, the former right-wing presidential candidate, said Bush had asserted a right “to intervene in the internal affairs of every nation on earth and that is, quite simply, a recipe for endless war. And war is the death of republics.”

Mr. Buchanan, it will be noted, served in three presidencies and during every day of hios service America was at war. The Republic seems to have survived.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:24 AM


Bush Pere Feared Democracy, Bush Fils Embraces It (Judith Apter Klinghoffer, 1/24/05, HNN)

Something surprising happened on Saturday. The father who for four years meticulously avoided interfering with his son’s handling the job he once had, entered the White House briefing room to signal reporters not to take his son’s inaugural rhetoric about enabling the spread of democracy seriously. Being a savvy diplomat, Bush, the father, merely noted that W’s words did not mean "new aggression or newly assertive military forces . . . instant change in every country . . .or any arrogance on part of the United States.” In other words, the words were not “meant to signal a new direction in U.S. foreign policy.” Well, the Iranian Mullahs do consider help and encouragement to democratic forces aggression and consistent support to such forces in Syria, Iran or North Korea would, indeed, represent a shift in American foreign policy. Arguing that it does not dooms the policy, which is based not on liberating armies but on helping people living in tyrannies liberate themselves. He knows that Rami G. Khouri of the Lebanese Daily Star was far from alone in observing that “most Middle Easterners feel the United States' rhetorical commitment to freedom and democracy is sharply contradicted by enduring U.S. support for autocrats and dictators, 15 years after the end of the cold war.”

W. knows his father’s post Gulf War policy is one of the most important reasons Middle Easterners doubt his words. Indeed, that is the reason he said: "Today, America speaks anew to the peoples of the world” [emphasis added] before he went on to promise: “All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: The United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.” Don’t worry, he went on to explain, that the new foreign policy is based merely on idealism. It is based on my assessment of what has to be done to keep America safe and, you know by now, that I will do whatever needs to be done to ensure the safety of U.S. citizens. It was that argument that W. repeated as he tried to repair the damage his father may have caused. "As I stated in my inaugural address, our security at home increasingly depends on the success of liberty abroad," the president said in his weekly radio address Saturday. "So we will continue to promote freedom, hope and democracy in the broader Middle East -- and by doing so, defeat the despair, hopelessness and resentments that feed terror."

“Read Sharansky,” the president suggested to those who wished to get a better insight to his thinking. I did and there, on page 67, in a description of an oval office conversation Sharansky had with Bush Pere, I found the key to the unprecedented semi-public row between father and son:

The president told me he intended to support Gorbachev’s efforts to keep the Soviet Union together and wanted my opinion on how best to help him. When I asked him why America wanted to prevent the breakup of the USSR, he explained that Gorbachev was a man with whom the United States “could do business.” Bush argued that it was better to have the Soviet nuclear arsenal in the hands of a leader America could rely on than under the control of unproven heads of state, even ones who were democratically elected. President Bush also make it clear that he believed dealing with an unelected Soviet leader who could be counted on to help preserve stability around the globe was better than taking a chance on a Pandora’s box of international chaos opening up in the wake of USSR’s collapse.

I respectfully told the president that in my view nothing could or should be done to convince Lithuanians, Latvians, and Ukrainians to reject the independence they had craved for so long and which is finally within their reach. Rather than attempt to thwart the democratic will of these people, I suggested that America focus its efforts on helping all parties manage the difficult transition to democracy. By facilitating this process, I argued, America would earn the lasting appreciation of those peoples and also be in a better position to address its own concerns about what might happen in a post-Soviet order.

But President Bush chose a different course. In August 1991, he traveled to the Ukraine where he delivered his notorious “Chicken Kiev” speech, in which he urged Ukrainians not to support “suicidal nationalism.” . . . . In the end, it made little difference to the Ukrainians what President Bush thought. A few months after his visit, the overwhelming majority of them voted to have a country of their own.

The Ukrainians acted and a reluctant George H. Bush ultimately was forced to go along. His fears turned out to be exaggerated, though I suspect many a diplomat working in Foggy Bottom misses the "good old days" of the Soviet Union. They, along with the media, lead the disingenuous chorus that tried to undermine the seriousness of Bush’s inauguration speech by equating Russia with China.

Actually W., unlike his father, did not try to sell out the Ukrainians for the sake of Putin. On the contrary, he stood steadfastly by the democratic forces in Ukraine as he did in Georgia.

Have the Realists ever been right?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:58 AM

FITNESS? (via Robert Schwartz):

Survivors of Tsunami Live on Close Terms With Sea (ABBY GOODNOUGH, January 23, 2005, NY Times)

They call it "wave that eats people," but the Moken sea gypsies, who have lived in isolation here for decades, emerged from the tsunami almost unscathed.

A community of about 200 Moken was living on South Surin Island, 40 miles from the Thai mainland, when the wave hit on Dec. 26 as it was barreling toward the coast. The Moken's village of thatched huts on stilts was on the beach, but when the water crashed over it, the Moken - including wizened old women and parents with babies on their backs - had already run to the hills.

The Moken know the mysteries of the ocean better than most Thais, having roamed it for centuries as fishermen and divers. They used to live half the year in houseboats on the Andaman Sea, wandering between Thailand and Myanmar, formerly Burma, and while less itinerant now, they remain closely attuned to the water. They are animists who believe that the sea, their island and all objects have spirits, and the Moken use totem poles to communicate with them.

Salama Klathalay, chief of the Moken here, said his elders taught him to expect a people-eating wave whenever the tide receded far and fast. So when he witnessed such a sight on the morning of Dec. 26, he started running and shouting.

"I had never seen such a low tide," said Mr. Salama, a lively white-haired man who said he was at least 60 but unsure of his exact age. "I started telling people that a wave was coming."

January 25, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:54 PM


The Man Who Planted Trees: A Short Story (Jean Giono, 1954, Vogue)

For a human character to reveal truly exceptional qualities, one must have the good fortune to be able to observe its performance over many years. If this performance is devoid of all egoism, if its guiding motive is unparalleled generosity, if it is absolutely certain that there is no thought of recompense and that, in addition, it has left its visible mark upon the earth, then there can be no mistake.

About forty years ago I was taking a long trip on foot over mountain heights quite unknown to tourists in that ancient region where the Alps thrust down into Provence. All this, at the time I embarked upon my long walk through these deserted regions, was barren and colorless land. Nothing grew there but wild lavender.

I was crossing the area at its widest point, and after three days' walking found myself in the midst of unparalleled desolation. I camped near the vestiges of an abandoned village. I had run out of water the day before, and had to find some. These clustered houses, although in ruins, like an old wasps' nest, suggested that there must once have been a spring or well here. There was, indeed, a spring, but it was dry. The five or six houses, roofless, gnawed by wind and rain, the tiny chapel with its crumbling steeple, stood about like the houses and chapels in living villages, but all life had vanished.

It was a fine June day, brilliant with sunlight, but over this unsheltered land, high in the sky, the wind blew with unendurable ferocity. It growled over the carcasses of the houses like a lion disturbed at its meal. I had to move my camp.

After five hours' walking I had still not found water, and there was nothing to give me any hope of finding any. All about me was the same dryness, the same coarse grasses. I thought I glimpsed in the distance a small black silhouette, upright, and took it for the trunk of a solitary tree. In any case I started towards it. It was a shepherd. Thirty sheep were lying about him on the baking earth.

He gave me a drink from his water gourd and, a little later, took me to his cottage in a fold of the plain. He drew his water - excellent water from a very deep natural well above which he had constructed a primitive winch. The man spoke little. This is the way of those who live alone, but one felt that he was sure of himself, and confident in his assurance. That was unexpected in this barren country. He lived, not in a cabin, but in a real house built of stone that bore plain evidence of how his own efforts had reclaimed the ruin he had found there on his arrival. His roof was strong and sound. The wind on its tiles made the sound of the sea upon its shores.

The place was in order, the dishes washed, the floor swept, his rifle oiled; his soup was boiling over the fire. I noticed then that he was cleanly shaved, that all his buttons were firmly sewed on, that his clothing had been mended with the meticulous care that makes the mending invisible. He shared his soup with me and afterwards, when I offered my tobacco pouch, he told me that he did not smoke. His dog, as silent as himself, was friendly without being servile.

It was understood from the first that I should spend the night there; the nearest village was still more than a day and a half away. And besides I was perfectly familiar with the nature of the rare villages in that region. There were four or five of them scattered well apart from each other on these mountain slopes, among white oak thickets, at the extreme end of the wagon roads. They were inhabited by charcoal-burners, and the living was bad. Families, crowded together in a climate that is excessively harsh both in winter and in summer, found no escape from the unceasing conflict of personalities. Irrational ambition reached inordinate proportions in the continual desire for escape. The men took their wagonloads of charcoal to the town, then returned. The soundest characters broke under the perpetual grind. The women nursed their grievances. There was rivalry in everything, over the price of charcoal as over a pew in the church. And over all there was the wind, also ceaseless, to rasp upon the nerves. There were epidemics of suicide and frequent cases of insanity, usually homicidal.

The shepherd went to fetch a small sack and poured out a heap of acorns on the table. He began to separate the good from the bad. I smoked my pipe. I did offer to help him. He told me that it was his job. And in fact, seeing the care he devoted to the task, I did not insist. That was the whole of our conversation. When he had set aside a large enough pile of good acorns he counted them out by tens, meanwhile eliminating the small ones or those which were slightly cracked, for now he examined them more closely. When he had thus selected one hundred perfect acorns he stopped and he went to bed.

There was peace in being with this man. The next day I asked if I might rest here for a day. He found it quite natural - or to be more exact, he gave me the impression that nothing could startle him. The rest was not absolutely necessary, but I was interested and wished to know more about him. He opened the pen and led his flocks to pasture. Before leaving, he plunged his sack of carefully selected and counted acorns into a pail of water.

I noticed that he carried for a stick an iron rod as thick as my thumb and about a yard and a half long. Resting myself by walking, I followed a path parallel to his. His pasture was in a valley. He left the little flock in charge of the dog and climbed towards where I stood. I was afraid that he was about to rebuke me for my indiscretion, but it was not that at all: this was the way he was going, and he invited me to go along if I had nothing better to do. He climbed to the top of the ridge about a hundred yards away.

There he began thrusting his iron rod into the earth, making a hole in which he planted an acorn; then he refilled the hole. He was planting an oak tree. I asked him if the land belonged to him. He answered no. Did he know whose it was? He did not. He supposed people who cared nothing about it. He was not interested in finding out whose it was. He planted his hundred acorns with the greatest care. After the midday meal he resumed his planting. I suppose I must have been fairly insistent in my questioning, for he answered me. For three years he had been planting trees in this wilderness. He had planted 100,000. Of these, 20,000 had sprouted. Of the 20,000 he still expected to lose about half to rodents or to the unpredictable designs of Providence. There remained 10,000 oak trees to grow where nothing had grown before.

That was when I began to wonder about the age of this man. He was obviously over fifty. Fifty-five, he told me. His name was Elzeard Bouffier. He had once had a farm in the lowlands. There he had had his life. He had lost his only son, then his wife. He had withdrawn into this solitude, where his pleasure was to live leisurely with his lambs and his dog. It was his opinion that this land was dying for want of trees. He added that, having no very pressing business of his own, he had resolved to remedy this state of affairs.

Since I was at that time, in spite of my youth, leading a solitary life, I understood how to deal gently with solitary spirits. But my very youth forced me to consider the future in relation to myself and to a certain quest for happiness. I told him that in thirty years his 10,000 oaks would be magnificent. He answered quite simply that if God granted him life, in thirty years he would have planted so many more that these 10,000 would be like a drop of water in the ocean.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:53 PM


AUDIO: Races on the Radio: Pimlico Special: Match Race between Seabiscuit and War Admiral at Pimlico Race Course, Baltimore, MD, November 1, 1938
Seabiscuit Tops Admiral By Three Lengths Before Pimlico Crowd of 40,000 (Grantland Rice, 11/02/1938, Baltimore Sun)

A little horse with the heart of a lion and the flying feet of a gazelle yesterday proved his place as the gamest thoroughbred that ever raced over an American track.

In one of the greatest match races ever run in the ancient history of the turf, the valiant Seabiscuit not only conquered the great War Admiral but, beyond this, he ran the beaten son of Man o' War into the dirt and dust of Pimlico.

Breaks Pimlico Track Record

Head and head around the last far turn, Seabiscuit, ably ridden by George Woolf, beat War Admiral by a full three lengths down the last furlong with a dazzling burst of speed that not only cracked the heart of the Admiral but, in addition, broke the track record, set by Pompoon. Seabiscuit took a fifth of a second from the track record, which he now holds at 1.56 3-5.

The drama and the melodrama of this match race, held before a record crowd keyed to the highest tension I have seen in sport, set an all-time mark.

No Emotional Outburst At Post

You must get the picture from the start to absorb the thrill of this perfect autumn day over a perfect track. As the two thoroughbreds paraded to the post there was no emotional outburst. The big crowd was too full of tension, the type of tension that locks the human throat.

You looked at the odds flashed upon the mutual board -- War Admiral 1 to 4, Seabiscuit 2 to 1. Even those backing War Admiral, the great majority of the crowd, felt their pity for the son of Hard Tack and Swing On, who had come along the hard way and had churned up the dust of almost every track from the Great Lakes to the Gulf, from the Atlantic to Pacific.

After two false walking starts, they were off. But it wasn't the fast-flying War Admiral who took the lead. It was Seabiscuit, taking the whip from Woolf, who got the jump. It was Seabiscuit who had a full length lead as they passed the first furlong. The Admiral's supporters were dazed as the 'Biscuit not only held this lead, but increased it to two lengths before they passed the first quarter.

Admiral Moves Up

The 'Biscuit was moving along as smoothly as a Southern breeze. And then the first roar of the big crowd swept over Maryland. The Admiral was moving up. Stride by stride, Man o' War's favorite offspring was closing up the open gap. You could hear the roar from thousands of throats -- "Here he comes -- here he comes!"

And the Admiral was under full steam. He cut away a length. He cut away another length as they came to the half-mile post -- and now they were running head and head. The Admiral looked Seabiscuit in the eye at the three-quarters -- but Seabiscuit never got the look. He was too busy running, with his shorter, faster stride.

For almost a half mile they ran as one horse, painted against the green, red and orange foliage of a Maryland countryside. They were neck and neck -- head and head -- nose and nose.

Seabiscuit Refuses to Quit

The great Admiral had thrown his challenge. You could see that he expected Seabiscuit to quit and curl up. But Seabiscuit has never been that brand of horse. I had seen him before in two $100,000 races at Santa Anita, boxed out, knocked to his knees, taking the worst of all the racing luck -- almost everything except facing a firing squad or a machine-gun nest -- and yet, through all this barrage of trouble, Seabiscuit was always there, challenging at the wire. I saw him run the fastest half-mile ever run at Santa Anita last March, when he had to do it in his pursuit of Stagehand.

So, when War Admiral moved up on even terms, and 40,000 throats poured out their tribute to the Admiral, I still knew that the 'Biscuit would be alongside at the finish. The 'Biscuit had come up the hard way. That happens to be the only way worth while. The Admiral had only known the softer years -- the softer type of competition. He had never met before a combination of a grizzly bear and a running fool.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:24 PM


The Kingmakers: Turnout, cohesiveness may give ethnic group extraordinary leverage (Edmund Sanders, January 23, 2005, LA Times)

In this Kurdish mountain capital, pictures of candidates appear in newspapers. Election day celebrations are being planned. The biggest worry is whether bad weather on Jan. 30 might clog the roads. (A fleet of snow-blowers has been readied just in case.)

It's all in stark contrast to the rest of the country, where the political hopefuls are afraid to be identified, campaigning is underground and millions of voters are expected to steer clear of the polls in protest or in fear.

"There's a sense of gathering excitement among the Kurds over elections," said Barham Salih, Iraq's deputy prime minister for national security and one of the highest-ranking Kurds in the current government. "Our aspirations are very high. It's an exciting moment in our history. This is the first time we Kurds have been allowed to take part in deciding the future of Iraq."

Political experts predict that Kurds will emerge as major winners on election day thanks to a combination of factors working in their favor, including strong voter turnout because of better security in their region and a unified candidate slate that removed any threat of a split vote. Kurds may not get the most votes, but they are likely to win a sizable bloc that should give them a key role in selecting the new government.

"The Kurds are really the ones who could come out on top," said Hassan Bazaz, a political analyst at Baghdad University.

They should have been recognized as a state and had their own elections in '91, but better late then never.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:09 PM


-ESSAY: Closing the Neocon Circle: George W. Bush has unveiled a new vision for U.S. foreign policy. His inspiration: Israel’s Natan Sharansky (Michael Hirsh, Jan. 25, 2005, Newsweek)

In Bush’s speech, drafted by chief White House speechwriter Michael Gerson with input from an old Sharansky ally dating to the Reagan years, National Security Council official Elliott Abrams, Bush in effect declared an end to a three-decade-old debate in foreign-policy circles. Fittingly, it is a debate that dates back to the fights over détente versus confrontation with the Soviet Union—and, not coincidentally, to Sharansky’s earlier incarnation as a jailed Soviet dissident. In a single, eloquent line, Bush sought to declare a truce to the old ideological struggle between U.S. government “realists”—those who believe protecting vital national interests has little to do with spreading democracy and freedom—and the so-called neoconservatives, who crusaded for these values. “America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one,” he said. [...]

Why is Sharansky’s influence so deep? In part because he didn’t pop out of nowhere. Sharansky has been speaking out in neocon forums for years, stiffening the spines of his former allies from the Reagan era. Chief among them is Perle who, in an interview, identified Sharansky as one of his two “heroes,” together with his old mentor, Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson. Their relationship is decades old. Back in the 1970s, when the Israeli was still a Russian named Anatoly Sharansky, Perle was the notorious attack dog for Jackson, fighting for Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union by pushing through the famous 1974 Jackson-Vanik bill, the opening shot fired against Cold War détente.

That was the first big battle over human rights in American foreign policy. Until then, the Cold War had been about realpolitik and detente, mainly “managing” the Soviet Union. Both men had been irrevocably changed by the experience of taking on what their mutual hero, Ronald Reagan, called the “evil empire.” Now each is in the midst of a new incarnation, fighting against Arab terror, yet they are animated by the same ideas as in the old days. Sharansky’s personal suffering under tyranny—and triumph over it—has made him a zealous campaigner for democracy in the Arab world, to the right even of his fellow Likudnik hawks in Israel. Perle and a small group of fellow neoconservatives have made it their mission to drag along Washington’s remaining “realists.”

In his book, Sharansky makes a powerful case that there is a common thread tying together the anti-Western hostility of old regimes like the Soviet Union and that of new enemies like the Islamist terrorists and their sponsors, including the Iranian mullah state and the Palestinian Authority under the late Arafat. [...]

So Sharansky’s influence represents a closing of the circle for the neocons who began battling for their ideas in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Sharansky himself says it is all a continuum, including the cast of characters, among them Abrams, Perle, Defense Department senior officials Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith and Cheney’s chief of staff, Scooter Libby. “If you check their background, most of them were connected either to Senator Jackson or to the Reagan administration or to both,” says Sharansky. “And that’s why, by the way, many of them are my friends from those years. And in the last 15 years, we kept talking to one another.”

Strange not to acknowledge how much of the progress in Palestine is a result of the President adopting portions of Mr. Sharansky's views three years ago, particularly in the Rose Garden speech demanding democratic reform to replace Arafat.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:37 PM


Education secretary condemns public show with gay characters (BEN FELLER, January 25, 2005, AP)

The nation's new education secretary denounced PBS on Tuesday for spending public money on a cartoon with lesbian characters, saying many parents would not want children exposed to such lifestyles.

The not-yet-aired episode of "Postcards From Buster" shows the title character, an animated bunny named Buster, on a trip to Vermont -- a state known for recognizing same-sex civil unions. The episode features two lesbian couples, although the focus is on farm life and maple sugaring.

A PBS spokesman said late Tuesday that the nonprofit network has decided not to distribute the episode, called "Sugartime!," to its 349 stations. She said the Education Department's objections were not a factor in that decision.

"Ultimately, our decision was based on the fact that we recognize this is a sensitive issue, and we wanted to make sure that parents had an opportunity to introduce this subject to their children in their own time," said Lea Sloan, vice president of media relations at PBS.

Arthur is just about the best show on tv, do they really have to screw it up? And poor Buster--male only child being raised by an obsessive single mother--is going to have enough trouble later in life without dragging him to Vermont....

Culture Wars Pull Buster Into the Fray (JULIE SALAMON, 1/27/05, NY Times)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:22 PM


Nokia CEO voices concern about U.S. mores (AP, 1/24/05)

The head of Nokia - the world's largest mobile phone maker - expressed concern Sunday about disintegrating values in society and an apparent resurgence in conservative attitudes in the United States.

Nokia's chief executive, Jorma Ollila, said in a rare television interview that the world is living in "an era of selfishness" very different from his childhood days in a small town in central Finland, when family values were of prime importance.

"Put in a nicer way, it is an era of individualism. This is a very self-centered period, which also has plenty of good features too because, when understood correctly, it can help you live independently and stand on one's own two feet," Ollila, 54, said in a candid interview broadcast on state-run YLE television.

Speaking with Finnish philosopher Esa Saarinen, a personal friend, Ollila said he thinks people are more concerned about individual rights than taking responsibility for their actions and trying to have a positive influence on society.

"What I'm worried about is that if this disintegration of values continues and develops further, we'll get a conservative counter-reaction precisely like what has actually happened in the USA," he said.

"This ultraconservatism, coupled with the elements of the church ... which, as we well know, has also supported the current (U.S.) administration, is a powerful counter-reaction to a longtime vacuum of values in society," Ollila said.

He's right about the choice anyway.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:16 PM


Study: Many Blacks Cite AIDS Conspiracy: Prevention Efforts Hurt, Activists Say (Darryl Fears, January 25, 2005, Washington Post)

More than 20 years after the AIDS epidemic arrived in the United States, a significant proportion of African Americans embrace the theory that government scientists created the disease to control or wipe out their communities, according to a study released today by Rand Corp. and Oregon State University.

That belief markedly hurts efforts to prevent the spread of the disease among black Americans, the study's authors and activists said. African Americans represent 13 percent of the U.S. population, according to Census Bureau figures, yet they account for 50 percent of new HIV infections in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nearly half of the 500 African Americans surveyed said that HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is man-made. The study, which was supported by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, appears in the Feb. 1 edition of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes.

More than one-quarter said they believed that AIDS was produced in a government laboratory, and 12 percent believed it was created and spread by the CIA.

A slight majority said they believe that a cure for AIDS is being withheld from the poor. Forty-four percent said people who take the new medicines for HIV are government guinea pigs, and 15 percent said AIDS is a form of genocide against black people.

As all conspiracy theories, this one is so incoherent it's hard to see how anyone can buy it. It requires a government so competent it can manufacture and introduce the agent secretly, but so incompetent that 11% of the American population is still black.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:21 PM


Key Blacks Back Dean for DNC Chair (NewsMax, 1/25/05)

Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor whose appeal with minorities was questioned during his presidential race, won support Tuesday from several key black Democratic National Committee members for his bid to be DNC chairman.

Dean, one of seven candidates for the chair position, won the support of Yvonne Atkinson Gates, chair of the DNC's black caucus, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois and Minyon Moore, a longtime DNC member and former aide to President Clinton.

You'd assume this dooms him, because the party hasn't given blacks more than lip service in twenty years, but at least he's got a minyon.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:39 PM


Fifteen Years of the Salto Mortale (Kenneth Tynan, 1978-02-20, The New Yorker)

July 14, 1977: There is a dinner party tonight at the Beverly Hills home of Irving Lazar, doyen of agents and agent of doyens. The host is a diminutive potentate, as bald as a doorknob, who was likened by the late screenwriter Harry Kurnitz to “a very expensive rubber beach toy.” He has represented many of the top-grossing movie directors and best-selling novelists of the past four decades, not always with their prior knowledge, since speed is of the essence in such transactions; and Lazar’s flair for fleet-footed deal-clinching—sometimes on behalf of people who had never met him—has earned him the nickname of Swifty. On this occasion, at his behest and that of his wife, Mary (a sleek and catlike sorceress, deceptively demure, who could pass for her husband’s ward), some fifty friends have gathered to mourn the departure of Fred de Cordova, who has been the producer of NBC’s “Tonight Show” since 1970; he is about to leave for Europe on two weeks’ vacation. A flimsy pretext, you may think, for a wingding; but, according to Beverly Hills protocol, anyone who quits the state of California for more than a long weekend qualifies for a farewell party, unless he is going to Las Vegas or New York, each of which counts as a colonial suburb of Los Angeles. Most of the Lazars’ guests tonight are theatre and/or movie people; e.g., Elizabeth Ashley, Tony Curtis, Gregory Peck, Sammy Cahn, Ray Stark, Richard Brooks. And even Fred de Cordova spent twenty years working for the Shuberts, Warner Brothers, and Universal before he moved into television. The senior media still take social precedence in the upper and elder reaches of these costly hills.

One of the rare exceptions to this rule is the male latecomer who now enters, lean and dapper in an indigo blazer, white slacks, and a pale-blue open-necked shirt. Apart from two months in the late nineteen-fifties (when he replaced Tom Ewell in a Broadway comedy called “The Tunnel of Love”), Johnny Carson has never been seen on the legitimate stage; and, despite a multitude of offers, he has yet to appear in his first film. He does not, in fact, much like appearing anywhere except (a) in the audience at the Wimbledon tennis championships, which he and his wife recently attended, (b) at his home in Bel Air, and (c) before the NBC cameras in Burbank, which act on him like an addictive and galvanic drug. Just how the drug works is not known to science, but its effect is witnessed—ninety minutes per night, four nights per week, thirty-seven weeks per year—by upward of fourteen million viewers; and it provoked the actor Robert Blake, while he was being interviewed by Carson on the “Tonight Show” in 1976, to describe him with honest adulation as “the ace comedian top-dog talk artist of the universe.” I once asked a bright young Manhattan journalist whether he could define in a single word what made television different from theatre or cinema. “For good or ill,” he said, “Carson.”

This pure and archetypal product of the box shuns large parties. Invitations from the Lazars are among the few he accepts. Tonight, he arrives alone (his wife, Joanna, has stopped off in New York for a few days’ shopping), greets his host with the familiar smile, cordially wry, and scans the assembly, his eyes twinkling like icicles. Hard to believe, despite the pewter-colored hair, that he is fifty-one: he holds himself like the midshipman he once was, chin well tucked in, back as straight as a poker. (Carson claims to be five feet ten and a half inches in height. His pedantic insistence on that extra half inch betokens a man who suspects he looks small.) In repose, he resembles a king-sized ventriloquist’s dummy. After winking impassively at de Cordova, he threads his way across the crowded living room and out through the ceiling-high sliding windows to the deserted swimming pool. Heads discreetly turn. Even in this posh peer group, Carson has cynosure status. Arms folded, he surveys Los Angeles by night—”glittering jewel of the Southland, gossamer web of loveliness,” as Abe Burrows ironically called it. A waiter brings him a soft drink. “He looks like Gatsby,” a young actress whispers to me. On the face of it, this is nonsense. Fitzgerald’s hero suffers from star-crossed love, his wealth has criminal origins, and he loves to give flamboyant parties. But the simile is not without elements of truth. Gatsby, like Carson, is a Midwesterner, a self-made millionaire, and a habitual loner, armored against all attempts to invade his emotional privacy. “He had come a long way to this blue lawn,” Fitzgerald wrote of Gatsby—as far as Carson has come to these blue pools, from which steam rises on even the warmest nights.

“He doesn’t drink now.” I turn to find Lazar beside me, also peeking at the man outside. He continues, “But I remember Johnny when he was a blackout drunk.” That was before the “Tonight Show” moved from New York to Los Angeles, in 1972. “A couple of drinks was all it took. He could get very hostile.”

I point out to Lazar that Carson’s family tree has deep Irish roots on the maternal side. Was there something atavistic in his drinking? Or am I glibly casting him as an ethnic (“black Irish”) stereotype? At all events, I now begin to see in him—still immobile by the pool—the lineaments of a magnified leprechaun.

“Like a lot of people in our business,” Lazar goes on, “he’s a mixture of extreme ego and extreme cowardice.” In Lazar’s lexicon, a coward is one who turns down starring roles suggested to him by Lazar.

Since Carson already does what nobody has ever done better, I reply, why should he risk his reputation by plunging into movies or TV specials?

Lazar concedes that I may be right. “But I’ll tell you something else about him,’’ he says, with italicized wonder. “He’s celibate.” He means “chaste.” “In his position, he could have all the girls he wants. It wouldn’t be difficult. But he never cheats.”

It is thirty minutes later. Carson is sitting at a table by the pool, where four or five people have joined him. He chats with impersonal affability, making no effort to dominate, charm, or amuse. I recall something that George Axelrod, the dramatist and screenwriter, once said to me about him: “Socially, he doesn’t exist. The reason is that there are no television cameras in living rooms. If human beings had little-red lights in the middle of their foreheads, Carson would be the greatest conversationalist on earth.”

If only other celebrities understood how much more they'd be if they offered us less of them.

MORE (via Tom Morin):
Personal to Johnny: My nights on Tonight. (William F. Buckley, 1/25/05, National Review)
Remembering Johnny Carson, 1925 - 2005. (Larry Miller, 01/25/2005, Weekly Standard)
- Whoooooooo’s Johnny?: Richard Corliss on the cool, unknowable dude of late-night (TIME, Jan. 25, 2005)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:32 PM


The Fight for Our Future (Christopher Hayes, January 25, 2005, In These Times)

Here's something to consider: It's a concrete possibility we will wake up one morning and there won't be a single American labor union left. For 30 straight years, American organized labor has been hemorrhaging members, power and influence.

It's no coincidence that the deflationary epoch dates not just to Paul Volcker's rate hikes but to the firing of the PATCO workers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:28 PM


Patterns: The Exit Polls for Lyme Disease (JOHN O'NEIL, 1/25/05, NY Times)

A map showing results from the last presidential election is "remarkably similar" to a map of the distribution of cases of Lyme disease, a brief article in the current Lancet medical journal points out.

The 19 "blue states" - those won by Senator John Kerry - account for 95 percent of the cases of Lyme disease reported in 2002, they wrote. The disease, caused by bacteria that are carried by deer ticks, is concentrated in the Northeast and Midwest.

An accompanying letter, from Dr. Robert B. Nadelman and Dr. Gary P. Wormser, epidemiologists at the New York Medical College at Valhalla, also pointed out that many of the cases reported in "red states" were probably something else. [...]

Dr. Nadelman concluded, "We do not believe, however, that tick-borne diseases are likely to be a major factor in the 2008 presidential election."

Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:23 PM


Crafty attacks on evolution (International Herald Tribune, July 25th, 2005)

America's critics of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution become more wily with each passing year. Creationists who believe that God made the world and everything in it pretty much as described in the Bible were frustrated when their efforts to ban the teaching of evolution in public schools or inject the teaching of creationism were judged unconstitutional by the courts. But over the past decade or more a new generation of critics has emerged with a softer, more roundabout approach that they hope can pass constitutional muster.

One line of attack - on display in Cobb County, Georgia, in recent weeks - is to discredit evolution as little more than a theory that is open to question. Another strategy - now playing out in Dover, Pennsylvania - is to make students aware of an alternative theory called "intelligent design," which infers the existence of an intelligent agent without any specific reference to God. These new approaches may seem harmless to a casual observer, but they still constitute an improper effort by religious advocates to impose their own slant on the teaching of evolution.

The Cobb County fight centers on a sticker that the board inserted into a new biology textbook to placate opponents of evolution. The school board, to its credit, had been trying to strengthen the teaching of evolution. When the new course of study raised hackles among parents and citizens, the board sought to quiet the controversy by placing a three-sentence sticker in the textbooks: "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered."

Although the board clearly thought this was a reasonable compromise, and many readers might think it unexceptional, it is actually an insidious effort to undermine the science curriculum. The second sentence makes it sound as though evolution is little more than a hunch, the popular understanding of the word "theory," whereas theories in science are carefully constructed frameworks for understanding a vast array of facts.

A more honest sticker would describe evolution as the dominant theory in the field and an extremely fruitful scientific tool. The sad fact is, the school board, in its zeal to be accommodating, swallowed the language of the anti-evolution crowd. A federal judge in Georgia ruled that the sticker amounted to an unconstitutional endorsement of religion because it was rooted in long-running religious challenges to evolution. In particular, the sticker's assertion that "evolution is a theory, not a fact" adopted the latest tactical language used by anti-evolutionists to dilute Darwinism, thereby putting the school board on the side of religious critics of evolution. That court decision is being appealed. Supporters of sound science education can only hope that the courts, and school districts, find a way to repel this latest assault on the most well-grounded theory in modern biology.

You want crafty? How about: “Warning: It is against the law to question evolution.” That ought to get the kids' attention.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:22 PM


VAT's the way in India: After years of consultation among the different levels of government, India is finally moving to a system of value added taxes from April. If the transition is handled properly and a few loose ends tied up, the country's abysmal tax receipts should rise appreciably. (Kunal Kumar Kundu, 1/25/05, Asia Times)

Since there will be only one administering authority for taxation, it won't be necessary to maintain separate sets of records. This will substantially reduce paperwork and record keeping. If well-administered, the new system will close avenues for traders and businessmen to evade paying taxes. They will also be compelled to keep proper records of their sales and purchases. Under VAT, no exemptions will be given and a tax will be levied at each stage of manufacture of a product. At each stage of value-addition, the tax levied on the inputs can be claimed back from the tax authorities. Under this system, tax evasion will become difficult as there would be a streamlined accounting and audit trail and also because the dealer will not be able to claim tax credit for any tax paid on his inputs unless he collects tax on his sales.

Thus, even if one talks of 50,000 traders who have used loopholes in the system to evade tax payments of approximately Rs1 million annually, the sum expected to be brought back into the system could run into hundreds billions. VAT, therefore, has the potential to bring in huge revenues, reducing the fiscal deficit. The government's borrowing program could thus ease and states can focus on issues like poverty, healthcare and education. Higher tax collection can also lead to lower tax rates in the future.

VAT will replace the existing system of inspection by a system of built-in self-assessment by traders and manufacturers. This is likely to improve tax compliance and revenue collection. The industry will be helped by this new system in that the system of input tax credit will promote production efficiency of investments. Thus investment decisions would not have to be based on tax differentials or tax holidays. Companies can start optimizing purely on logistics of their operations and not bother about tax-minimization. This would put an end to the unhealthy tax competition among states and help integrate the domestic market. Also, reduced transit times and lower inventory levels will boost corporate earnings. Moreover, with a globally accepted tax administrative system, India will be able to integrate better with the World Trade Organization regime.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:35 PM


Games people play (The Economist, Jan 20th 2005)

Dr Kurzban and Dr Houser were interested in the outcomes of what are known as public-goods games. In their particular case they chose a game that involved four people who had never met (and who interacted via a computer) making decisions about their own self-interest that involved assessing the behaviour of others. Each player was given a number of virtual tokens, redeemable for money at the end of the game. A player could keep some or all of these tokens. Any not kept were put into a pool, to be shared among group members. After the initial contributions had been made, the game continued for a random number of turns, with each player, in turn, being able to add to or subtract from his contribution to the pool. When the game ended, the value of the pool was doubled, and the new, doubled value was divided into four equal parts and given to the players, along with the value of any tokens they had held on to. If everybody trusts each other, therefore, they will all be able to double their money. But a sucker who puts all his money into the pool when no one else has contributed at all will end up with only half what he started with.

This is a typical example of the sort of game that economists investigating game theory revel in, and both theory and practice suggests that a player can take one of three approaches in such a game: co-operate with his opponents to maximise group benefits (but at the risk of being suckered), free-ride (ie, try to sucker co-operators) or reciprocate (ie, co-operate with those who show signs of being co-operative, but not with free-riders). Previous investigations of such strategies, though, have focused mainly on two-player games, in which strategy need be developed only in a quite simple context. The situation Dr Kurzban and Dr Houser created was a little more like real life. They wanted to see whether the behavioural types were clear-cut in the face of multiple opponents who might be playing different strategies, whether those types were stable, and whether they had the same average pay-off.

The last point is crucial to the theory of evolutionarily stable strategies. Individual strategies are not expected to be equally represented in a population. Instead, they should appear in proportions that equalise their pay-offs to those who play them. A strategy can be advantageous when rare and disadvantageous when common. The proportions in the population when all strategies are equally advantageous represent the equilibrium.

And that was what happened. The researchers were able to divide their subjects very cleanly into co-operators, free-riders and reciprocators, based on how many tokens they contributed to the pool, and how they reacted to the collective contributions of others. Of 84 participants, 81 fell unambiguously into one of the three categories. Having established who was who, they then created “bespoke” games, to test whether people changed strategy. They did not. Dr Kurban and Dr Houser were thus able to predict the outcomes of these games quite reliably. And the three strategies did, indeed, have the same average pay-offs to the individuals who played them—though only 13% were co-operators, 20% free-riders and 63% reciprocators.

Nature does not select.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:15 PM


The Democratic Ideal: The president's "realist" critics need to get real. (JOSHUA MURAVCHIK, January 25, 2005, Wall Street Journal)

[I]dealists are right about the possibility for freedom and democracy to spread across borders and cultures. In 1775 there were no democracies. Then came the American Revolution and raised the number to one. Some 230 years later there are 117, accounting for 61% of the world's governments.

This historic transformation in the norms of governance has not occurred at a steady pace. Rather, it has accelerated. Just over 30 years ago, the proportion of democracies was about half of what it is today. These years of rapid transition have been dubbed democracy's "third wave" by the political scientist Samuel Huntington. The wave metaphor, however, gives the impression of an inevitable ebb. But each of Mr. Huntington's first two waves left the world considerably more free and democratic than it had been before. And there is no telling how long a democracy wave will last. The first continued for 140-odd years; the second, for just about 15. The world could all go democratic before this "third wave" is spent.

Moreover, there is the factor of example and momentum: As the proportion of democracies rises, it will become harder for the remaining authoritarians to hold out. The skeptics ridicule President Bush for declaring his ultimate goal to be the end of tyranny. But today probably no more than 20% of the world's governments could rightly be called by that name, whereas once the proportion was vastly higher. Why shouldn't that 20% go the way of the others?

The skeptics continue to point to cultural differences to explain why democracy is absent from various non-Western states. But this is the true picture: In Latin America and the Caribbean, 32 out of 35 states have elected governments. In Asia and the Pacific, the ratio is 23 out of 39. In the states of the former Soviet Union and its satellites, 17 out of 27 are democratic. And in sub-Saharan Africa, 19 out of 48, or 40%, of the governments have been elected by their people, despite the familiar litany of disabilities: poverty, illiteracy, AIDS, tribalism and borders drawn artificially by former foreign rulers.

The one region completely left behind, until now, by this democratic revolution is the Middle East and North Africa, where Israel remains the only democracy among 18 states. In the wake of 9/11, President Bush concluded that it was no accident that this region where democracy was uniquely absent was the epicenter of global terrorism, and it was here that he launched his campaign for freedom, of which last week's speech was a broader statement.

Already, he has made a dent. Democracy has begun in Afghanistan (a part of Asia, not the Middle East, properly speaking, but linked to the latter politically as the former base of radical Islam). President Bush held out for democratic reform of the Palestinian Authority, and in the last month there have been municipal and presidential elections. Legislative and more municipal elections will come in the months ahead. Iraq will hold an election next week under tortuous conditions which will nonetheless move that country along the path to democracy.

Elsewhere in the region, despite America's unpopularity, President Bush's advocacy of democracy has emboldened democrats and elicited concessions from rulers. In Egypt, dissident Saad-Eddin Ibrahim has said he aims to run for president against 24-year incumbent Hosni Mubarak, although Mr. Mubarak clapped him in jail for a lesser act of defiance only a few years ago. In Saudi Arabia, men will vote to fill half of the seats of municipal counsels over the next three months, a small break with absolutism. In Lebanon, a multi-ethnic slate will run in legislative elections in the spring on a platform opposed to Syrian occupation. Other elections will be held in Yemen and Oman.

In addition, Egypt's first independent daily newspaper was launched last year. In May, a new network, Democracy Television, owned and run by Arab liberals, will begin broadcasting to the region by satellite from London. Almost every month a new statement demanding democratic reform is issued by Arab intellectuals, recently for example in Palestine, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Some skeptics warn that democracy may not prove to be a cure-all for terrorism. Perhaps, but the record so far shows that democracies rarely produce wars or terrorism, and at a minimum we can predict confidently that we will have less of both as democracy spreads.

What's most conspicuous in this whole discussion is just how little remains to be done in order for the dream to be realized.

Posted by David Cohen at 1:00 PM


AND NOW IT'S NORMAL (The Daily Dish, andrewsullivan.com, 1/25/05)

Military abuse and torture of detainees may be more widespread than the official reports have found. Why? Because many incidents haven't been reported. One case, uncovered by the ACLU, actually involved a death in U.S. custody that wasn't recorded at the time. When it surfaced, the case was closed for lack of evidence. If actual deaths are ignored, can you imagine how many Bybee-authorized torture cases we don't know about? Here's an example of a case where only minor punishments were meted out:
An officer in the 20th Field Artillery Battalion deployed in Taji, for example, was given an unspecified nonjudicial punishment and fined $2,500 after he admitted to threatening to kill an Iraqi, firing a pistol next to the man's head, placing the man's head in a barrel, and watching as members of his unit pummeled the man's chest and face. One of those who administered the beating told investigators that the officer "had given us a talk about how some circumstances bring about extra force." Another said the officer told them after it was over: "This night stays within" the unit. "We all gave a hooah" before parting, the soldier said. The document indicates that four soldiers received suspended nonjudicial punishments and small fines, while a decision on a fifth soldier was pending.

Hey, sometimes "military necessity" requires you to pummel a detainee. That's what the president said, wasn't it? In that memo distributed as part of the war-plan. And he's promoted all the architects of that policy, right? And no Republicans are going to complain, are they? Torture is, after all, an integral part of the expansion of freedom across the globe. Hooah.
Andrew Sullivan is single-handedly driving me to a pro-torture position, in which torture is good in-and-of-itself. Just for the record, though, forbidding torture is not a backdoor method of approving it, the Bybee memo did not authorize torture, our opponents are scum and sometimes the context does make a difference.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:55 PM


Annals of Outrage (KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, January 31, 2005, The Nation)

In 2004 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Inspector Generals (IG) in various departments of the federal government issued reports revealing fraud, mismanagement and corruption. Here is my list of the Bush Administration's Ten Most Outrageous Scandals thus far uncovered by government investigators...

What Ms Vanden Heuvel's list points out is how extraordinarily free of scandal the first Bush term was. Not a single cabinet officer or high ranking White House aide was forced to resign under an ethical cloud and, if memory serves, the only special investigation was for the non-crime of outing Joe Palme and his wife. the only other presidency this devoid of wrongdoing in recent decades was his father's.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:07 PM


2,000 new border agents aren't part of budget, Ridge says (Mimi Hall, 1/24/05, USA TODAY)

President Bush will not ask Congress for enough money to add 2,000 agents to patrol the nation's borders in his 2006 budget, even though he signed a bill last month authorizing the increase.

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said Monday that Bush's new budget, to be released in early February, will propose a "good incremental increase" in the number of agents. But he made it clear the number would not approach 2,000. The new agents were to be the first hires toward doubling the size of the force over five years.

As part of a sweeping intelligence bill passed in December, Congress called for nearly doubling the size of the Border Patrol by adding 10,000 agents over five years. The agency has about 11,000 agents; 90% work along the southern border with Mexico.

But in an interview with USA TODAY, Ridge scoffed at the notion of adding so many agents and said it would be an inefficient use of precious homeland security dollars.

"The notion that you're going to have 10,000 is sort of a fool's gold," Ridge said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:55 AM


Italian Court Acquits Suspects of International Terrorism Charges (Sabina Castelfranco, 25-January-2005, VOA News)

An Italian judge dropped charges of international terrorism against five North Africans arrested in April 2003. The men had been accused of sending recruits and financial support to paramilitary training camps in Iraq.

A judge in Milan handed down soft prison sentences against five North Africans accused of sending men to Iraq to be trained as fighters and suicide bombers. The judge ruled the men were involved in guerrilla activity, which did not constitute terrorism as defined by Italian law.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:44 AM


Ethicists warn doctors of Nazi medical horrors (JIM RITTER, January 25, 2005, Chicago Sun-Times)

Just before Adolf Hitler took power, Germany's medical establishment was the envy of the world.

Germany's researchers dominated Nobel Prizes, its universities reformed medical education and its health service was decades ahead in promoting breast cancer screening and anti-smoking campaigns.

But under the Nazis, those same doctors sterilized "undesirables," ran gas chambers and conducted horrific medical experiments.

Sixty years after the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp, today's doctors still can learn from the Nazis' perversion of medicine. And these lessons are the topic of a nationwide series of lectures sponsored by the American Medical Association and U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

'We're human'

Could it happen here?

"None of us want to admit that, but of course it could," said AMA medical ethicist Dr. Matthew Wynia. "We're human."

On Monday, Wynia and Holocaust Museum historian Patricia Heberer kicked off the Chicago leg of the lecture series with a talk at DePaul University's downtown campus. They also will speak this week to medical students at University of Illinois at Chicago, Northwestern University and University of Chicago.

It didn't take long for the Nazis to corrupt German doctors. In July, 1933, only six months after Hitler took power, the government passed a compulsory sterilization law.

That's a comforting, but almost entirely fallacious, view of Biology as a tool rather than the mother of Nazism. The reality is far more disturbing, Death as Deliverance: Euthanatic Thinking in Germany ca. 1890-1933 (J. Daryl Charles, October 10, 2002, The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity):
While it is commonly assumed that the moral atrocities associated with the Holocaust were the exclusive domain of Adolf Hitler and his loyal henchmen Joseph Goebbels, Hermann Goering, Heinrich Himmler and Albert Speer, this was only the final act, as it were, of a narrative whose beginnings are traceable to the turn of the century. Indeed it would appear, as authors as diverse as Alexander Mitscherlich, Robert Jay Lifton, Michael Burleigh, and Wesley Smith have documented, that the path to medical evil was prepared "long before Nazism was even a cloud on the German horizon." One of the tragic legacies of social Darwinism, rooted in the presupposition of biological determinism, is that it assisted in giving justification--frequently couched in the language of "compassion"--to the elimination of lebensunwertes Leben, life that is unworthy of living, or, in the language of Darwinists, life that is simply unfit.

In addition to the ascendancy of biological determinism, an important step in legitimizing the killing of the weak, the infirm, the terminally ill, and the incompetent was the shift in ethos among medical doctors and psychiatrists several decades prior to WWII. Historian Robert Proctor has argued persuasively that the Nazi experiment was rooted in pre-1933 thinking about the essence of personhood, racial hygienics and survival economics and that physicians were instrumental both in pioneering research and in carrying out this program. In fact, Proctor is adamant that scientists and physicians were pioneers and not pawns in this process. By 1933, however, when political power was consolidated by National Socialists, resistance within the medical community was too late. Proctor notes, for example, that most of the fifteen-odd journals devoted to racial hygienics were established long before the rise of National Socialism.

Few accounts of this period are more thoroughly researched than Michael Burleigh's Death and Deliverance: 'Euthanasia' in Germany ca. 1900-1945. Particularly important is Burleigh's discussion of psychiatric reform and medical utilitarianism during the Weimar period. During the years of WWI, it is estimated that over 140,000 people died in German psychiatric asylums . This would suggest that about 30% of the entire pre-war asylum population died as a result of hunger, disease or neglect. Following the war, evidence indicates that a shift in the moral climate had begun. In the Spring of 1920, the chairman of the German Psychiatric Association, Karl Bonhoeffer, testified before Association members at the GPA annual meeting that "we have witnessed a change in the concept of humanity"; moreover, in emphasizing the right of the healthy to stay alive, which is an inevitable result of periods of necessity, there is also a danger of going too far: a danger that the self-sacrificing subordination of the strong to the needs of the helpless and ill, which lies at the heart of any true concern for the sick, will give ground to the demand of the healthy to live.

According to Burleigh, Bonhoeffer went on in the 1930s to offer courses that trained those who in time would be authorized with implementing sterilization policies introduced by the National Socialists.

Already in the 1890s, the traditional view of medicine that physicians are not to harm but to cure was being questioned in some corners by a "right-to-die" ethos. Voluntary euthanasia was supported by a concept of negative human worth--i.e., the combined notion that suffering negates human worth and the incurably ill and mentally defective place an enormous burden on families and surrounding communities. It is at this time that the expression "life unworthy of being lived" seems to have emerged and was the subject of heated debate by the time WWI had ended.

One notable "early" proponent of involuntary euthanasia was influential biologist and Darwinian social theorist Ernst Haeckel. In 1899 Haeckel published The Riddle of the Universe, which became one of the most widely read science books of the era. One of several influential voices contending for the utility of euthanasia, Haeckel combined the notion of euthanasia as an act of mercy with economic concerns that considerable money might thereby be saved.

Further justification for euthanasia in the pre-WWI era was provided by people such as social theorist Adolf Jost and Nobel-Prize-winning chemist Wilhelm Ostwald. According to Ostwald, "in all circumstances suffering represents a restriction upon, and diminution of, the individual and capacity to perform in society of the person suffering." In his 1895 book Das Recht auf den Tod ("The Right to Death"), Jost set forth the argument--an argument almost forty years in advance of Nazi prescriptions--that the "right" to kill existed in the context of the higher rights possessed by the state, since all individuals belong to the social organism of the state. Furthermore, this was couched in terms of "compassion" and "relief" from one's suffering. Finally, the right to kill compassionately was predicated on biology, in accordance with the spirit of the age: the state must ensure that the social organism remains fit and healthy.

Even more disturbing because not only could it happen here but in large measure here's where they got the idea, Eugenics and the Left (John Ray, Orthodoxy Today). Indeed, though it's been buried under decades of propganda, the chief reason that William Jennings Bryan fought Darwinism was because of its repulsive social effects, not least its contribution to the German militarism of WWI that Vernon Kellogg described in Headquarters Nights.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:53 AM


Detainees tried hanging themselves to scare guards (PAISLEY DODDS, January 25, 2005, Chicago Sun-Times)

Twenty-three terror suspects tried to hang or strangle themselves during a weeklong protest orchestrated in 2003 to disrupt operations and unnerve new guards at the U.S. military camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the U.S. military said Monday.

I don't get it.

Posted by Bruce Cleaver at 9:33 AM


'Rolling Stone' reverses, will accept Bible ad (Cathy Lynn Grossman, January 24, 2005, USA Today)

The bible of rock 'n' roll, Rolling Stone magazine, will run an ad for the Holy Bible next month — the same ad it rejected two weeks ago for its "spiritual message."

The magazine was drummed by critics last week for turning down a low-key ad for a new translation of Scripture, Today's New International Version (TNIV). Christian and conservative media commentators savaged the magazine, which once carried classified advertising for mail-order divinity degrees.

Rolling Stone was more impressive when they originally stuck to their Hedonistic guns (see here), but the contradiction between their words and deeds was too great to be sustained.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:27 AM


Clinton Seeking Shared Ground Over Abortions (PATRICK D. HEALY, 1/25/05, NY Times)

In a speech to about 1,000 abortion rights supporters near the New York State Capitol, Mrs. Clinton firmly restated her support for the Supreme Court's ruling in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973. But then she quickly shifted gears, offering warm words to opponents of legalized abortion and praising the influence of "religious and moral values" on delaying teenage girls from becoming sexually active.

"There is an opportunity for people of good faith to find common ground in this debate - we should be able to agree that we want every child born in this country to be wanted, cherished and loved," Mrs. Clinton said.

Her speech came on the same day as the annual anti-abortion rally in Washington marking the Roe v. Wade anniversary.

Mrs. Clinton's remarks were generally well received, though the audience was silent during most of her overtures to anti-abortion groups. Afterward, leaders of those groups were skeptical, given Mrs. Clinton's outspoken support for abortion rights over the years.

Mrs. Clinton, widely seen as a possible candidate for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination in 2008, appeared to be reaching out beyond traditional core Democrats who support abortion rights.

If nothing else, the Clintons have always been able to read the polls and tack accordingly.

Bush Hails Progress Toward 'Culture of Life' (Michael A. Fletcher, January 25, 2005, Washington Post)

President Bush told thousands of antiabortion marchers yesterday that his administration is making progress toward fostering a "culture of life" by enacting measures that limit abortion and stem cell research while expanding the legal definition of life.

Speaking by telephone as the protesters gathered in the biting cold for their annual antiabortion march from the Ellipse to the Supreme Court, Bush said that although outlawing abortion remains a distant goal, it is one that seems to be moving slowly into view. "The America of our dreams, where every child is welcomed . . . in life and protected in law, may still be some ways away," Bush said. "But even from the far side of the river . . . we can see its glimmerings."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:24 AM


Republicans and the future (Ken Mehlman, 1/24/05, Washington Times)

T.S. Eliot once wrote that politics is too important to be left only to politicians. Last year, 1.4 million Americans from all 50 states resoundingly agreed and volunteered their time on behalf of President Bush's re-election campaign. [...]

Delivering on the president's priorities and expanding our majority will not be easy, but we can do it by calling upon the grass-roots organization that propelled Republicans to victory in November.

The GOP must continue to stand for Grow Our Party. Good policy is good politics, and implementing the policies endorsed by the American people on Election Day gives Mr. Bush and Republicans in Congress an outstanding opportunity to continue to make red states redder and blue states purple.

Our party must take no vote for granted while remembering that there is no vote we can't obtain.

Bush, Black Leaders Try for Fresh Start (NEDRA PICKLER, 1/24/05, ASSOCIATED PRESS)
President Bush is opening the White House this week to black leaders including pastors and legislators, a second-term overture to a community that overwhelmingly opposed his re-election. [...]

"This is an opportunity for the president to talk about our priorities and the agenda," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. "It's also an opportunity for the president to listen to issues of interest to these leaders."

During last year's political campaigns, Republican officials said they were making a more concerted effort to reach out to blacks through religious leaders. Bush campaign aides cited issues such as school vouchers and the president's support of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage that could help him gain more support among blacks.

Bush's efforts to steer more federal dollars to social programs conducted by so-called faith-based groups also has been received favorably by church leaders.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:17 AM


France: Too Tilted Toward Youth?: Gerontologist Françoise Forette on how older workers can stay productive and how France is falling behind in that regard (Gail Edmondson, 1/31/05, Business Week)

Q: How does France stack up in an international context?

A: The problem is the employment rate after 50 and after 60. Only 7% of French men are actively employed after 60, and only 4% of French women. That compares with 27% of U.S. males and 14% of U.S. women.

Take the age group of 55-64. Only 34% are employed in France, compared with 50% in Britain, and 67% in Sweden. It's a question of the will to integrate the aging population. Britain and Sweden have succeeded.

Q: For decades, European countries and companies have wielded early retirement as a handy tool to help industries restructure and ease unemployment by making way for younger workers. Won't a shift toward keeping older workers on the job exacerbate unemployment?

A: In France there was an illusion that if you fire elderly workers, you create jobs for younger people. It's not firing older people that creates jobs. The problem is to stimulate the economy overall to create more jobs.

[Former President François] Mitterrand decreased the age of retirement in 1981, and he didn't create one job. The jobs [governments want to create with such policies] are not the same as those being vacated by older workers.

Shocking--you mean societies dominated by the elderly don't require older folks to work?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:13 AM


White House Looking for Ways to Ease Opposition to Social Security Overhaul (EDMUND L. ANDREWS and RICHARD W. STEVENSON, 1/25/05, NY Times)

The Bush administration, facing opposition from Democrats and unease among Republicans over its plan to overhaul Social Security, is looking at new ideas for cutting future benefits that would hit wealthy retirees harder than those in the middle or bottom ranks of wage-earners, people involved in the discussions say.

But despite signs of reluctance from Capitol Hill, the White House remains confident that it can find a consensus on legislation that President Bush can sign into law, administration officials and advisers to Mr. Bush said.

People who have been briefed on White House discussions said the administration was striving to retain as much flexibility as possible both on legislative tactics and policy details. Deliberations are under way within the White House and between the White House and Republican leaders in Congress over how to proceed, they said, but there is no sense of panic or even surprise within the administration. [...]

The White House has already floated one approach to the issue of future benefits, suggesting that the benefits be based on price increases rather than on the current formula, which is based on economy-wide growth in wages. Since wages tend to rise faster than prices, the effect would be to set benefits at lower levels than promised under current law.

But that approach drew intense criticism from Democrats and some Republicans. Administration officials are now reviewing an idea called "progressive indexation." The idea is in effect a compromise that would allow initial benefits for low-income workers to rise in line with their wages but would peg benefits for affluent workers to the inflation rate.

The effect would be to direct relatively more benefits to lower-income people than to higher-income people.

White House officials say that future benefits have to be reduced in order to close a long-term financial gap that the government estimates at roughly $3.7 trillion over the next 75 years.

Shifting from wage indexing to price indexing would in itself come close to eliminating the projected shortfall.

But such a change would mean Social Security would steadily replace less and less of a person's pre-retirement income.

The new approach would help protect people at the lowest rungs of the income scale. But it would not save nearly as much money. By one estimate, it would close about two-thirds of the projected shortfall.

"They are trying to make the proposal more friendly to low-income workers," said David John, a senior analyst at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research organization. "The major problem is that if you don't do full price-indexing you don't get the full savings and you don't completely solve the problem."

The alternative idea was proposed by Robert Pozen, an investment executive in Boston who was a member of Mr. Bush's advisory commission on Social Security in 2001.

White House and Treasury officials are studying computer analyses of that idea, Mr. Pozen said in an interview last week.

The Democrats' historic opposition to means testing made sense, at least politically, when all social programs were straight entitlement programs, but with that era drawing to a close mightn't they serve their putative constituencies best by agreeing to such reforms?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:07 AM


Senate Democrats Speak of Slowing Confirmation Votes (CARL HULSE, 1/25/05, NY Times)

Trying to show that they remain a force despite their reduced numbers, Senate Democrats on Monday threatened new hurdles for President Bush's cabinet choices and expressed deep misgivings about the planned Social Security changes at the heart of this year's Republican agenda.

Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota said he was mulling whether to try to stall consideration of Michael O. Leavitt, Mr. Bush's choice for health secretary, unless Mr. Dorgan was guaranteed a vote on allowing importation of cheaper prescription drugs.

In addition, a growing number of Democrats are raising issues about the selection of Alberto R. Gonzales as attorney general, a nomination initially headed for quick approval.

The political problems for the nominees arose after Democrats last week blocked a quick vote on the approval of Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state. As many as a dozen Democrats intend to use the Senate floor on Tuesday as a platform to lay out their objections to Ms. Rice, tying her to what they see as the administration's mistakes in Iraq.

Okay, you can muster twelve votes against her, from the whacko fringe of your party as it drifts further and further from the mainstream--but what's the point?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:01 AM


Yahoo, Google Expand Searches: The rival firms, in different approaches, offer services that help users find video programming online. (Chris Gaither, January 25, 2005, LA Times)

Search-engine rivals Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc. will open a new front in their Internet battle today when they plan to unveil dueling efforts to let users hunt through the content of television shows.

Google Video will let people look for text in the closed-captioning of television shows on PBS, C-SPAN, Fox News, ABC and other channels. Google has been recording thousands of hours of programming with its own equipment and hopes to eventually let people watch the content through Google Video.

Yahoo Video Search, which has been available in an experimental form since last month, scours the Web for video clips. And Yahoo plans to announce today that its video search engine will soon include news clips from Bloomberg and the BBC that are indexed by closed-captioning.

Although it's unclear how these efforts — and others pursued by smaller players in the online world — will fare, many say video searches could provide an entirely new way for people to find, and view, television programming.

"Just think of the number of hits these folks from Google get every day," said Brian Lamb, founder and chief executive of C-SPAN, one channel participating in Google Video. "We're not really sure where they're going to go with this, but we're all ears."

Yahoo and Google have taken very different approaches.

At last we'll be able to find the episode of Bring 'Em Back Alive where Frank Buck scornfully tells his Japanese foe: "You're not Bushido, you're just bush."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:49 AM


A Loss of Faith in City of Shiites: Anger at the governing religious party in Basra, considered ineffectual and corrupt by many, could produce an election-day surprise. (Ashraf Khalil, January 25, 2005, LA Times)

It wasn't supposed to be this way in Iraq's largest Shiite Muslim-dominated city.

Less than a week before the first national election since longtime oppressor Saddam Hussein was toppled, the mood of Basrans is generally downbeat, and their simmering frustration with the city's interim rulers could result in a surprise at the polls.

Allegations of widespread corruption, political power plays and an inability to improve the quality of life have damaged the popularity and electoral prospects of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or SCIRI, the powerful Shiite religious party that in effect rules Basra province.

The party is scrambling to recover lost prestige in time for Sunday's vote, when provincial council elections will be held alongside national parliamentary balloting.

"If you don't offer anything for two years, the people are going to lose faith…. Bush and Bremer were better than these [SCIRI] guys," said Sajid Rikaby, assistant dean of the Basra University law school, referring to the U.S. president and L. Paul Bremer III, the former U.S. civilian administrator of Iraq. "The leaders of the party have integrity. But the local people just aren't qualified."

Ideology is all well and good, but someone's gotta make the trains run on time.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:45 AM


Election Is Looking Up for Allawi (Edmund Sanders, January 25, 2005, LA Times)

[I]n the final week of campaigning there is little dispute that momentum is quietly building for Allawi, a onetime CIA-backed Iraqi opposition leader who many predicted would never shake his image as a U.S. puppet.

Recent polls show support is growing for a slate of candidates led by the former neurologist. Nearly a third of Iraqis now believe that Allawi, who was appointed by the United States as prime minister in June, has been "very effective." That's twice the number who thought so last fall, according to a survey conducted in January by the International Republican Institute, a Washington-based group with links to the GOP.

Random interviews with Iraqis across the country suggest that the prime minister is picking up support in some unlikely places, hinting that he may have the ability to bridge Iraq's ethnic and religious divides.

Allawi has taken advantage of his incumbency and name recognition, his image as a strongman and his Shiite ethnicity, presenting his slate as a secular alternative to the religious Shiite parties.

"He's going to do surprisingly well," predicted Abdul Zahra Zaki, editor of the left-leaning Al Mada newspaper, who said he planned to vote for the prime minister. "People want to give him a chance to continue what he started."

Continue? But the MSM keeps telling us it's a hopeless quagmire....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:42 AM


DON’T DO THE MATH (James Surowiecki, 2005-01-17, The New Yorker)

Merck would seem to have one big thing in its favor: the company voluntarily withdrew Vioxx from the market. But while Merck executives may have hoped to persuade people that they were acting responsibly, plaintiffs’ attorneys have taken the withdrawal as an admission of guilt. Questions about Vioxx’s potential risks have been common since its introduction, six years ago, especially after a 2000 trial suggested that the drug increased the risk of heart disease. Merck did not hide these data, and beginning in 2002 the drug’s label included a warning about the possible cardiovascular risks. Some critics, however, have suggested that the company soft-pedalled the dangers. Internal company documents show that Merck employees were debating the safety of the drug for years before the recall.

From a scientific perspective, this is hardly damning. The internal debates about the drug’s safety were just that—debates, with different scientists arguing for and against the drug. The simple fact that Vioxx might have risks wasn’t reason to recall it, since the drug also had an important benefit: it was less likely to cause the internal bleeding that aspirin and ibuprofen cause, and that kills thousands of people a year. And there’s no clear evidence that Merck kept selling Vioxx after it decided that the drug’s dangers outweighed its benefits.

While that kind of weighing of risk and benefit may be medically rational, in the legal arena it’s poison. Nothing infuriates juries like finding out that companies knew about dangers and then “balanced” them away. In fact, any kind of risk-benefit analysis, honest or not, is likely to get you in trouble with juries. In 1999, for instance, jurors in California ordered General Motors to pay $4.8 billion to people who were injured when the gas tank in their 1979 Chevrolet Malibu caught fire. The jurors made it plain that they did so because G.M. engineers had calculated how much it would cost to move the gas tank (which might have made the car safer). Viscusi has shown that people are inclined to award heftier punitive damages against a company that had performed a risk analysis before selling a product than a company that didn’t bother to. Even if the company puts a very high value on each life, the fact that it has weighed costs against benefits is, in itself, reprehensible. “We’re just numbers, I feel, to them” is how a juror in the G.M. case put it. “Statistics. That’s something that is wrong.”

In everyday life, of course, we’re always making trade-offs between safety and things like cost or convenience. There’s not a car on the road that couldn’t be made safer, if you didn’t care about looks, mileage, cost, and so on. It’s just that the trade-offs we make are seldom explicit: we don’t tell ourselves that a sixty-five-mile-an-hour speed limit means a certain number of extra deaths, that buying this car instead of that car will affect our life expectancy—and, as individuals, we often don’t see the costs. In the courtroom, the calculations can be seen in all their cold rationality, and the costs are vividly embodied. Before a jury, then, a firm is better off being ignorant than informed.

Obviously, there’s something wrong with a system that discourages the careful weighing of costs against benefits—we want companies to learn as much as they can about the downsides of their products. But companies like Merck, which spend hundreds of millions on ads targeting consumers, have themselves to blame, too. Instead of getting people to think about drugs in terms of costs and benefits, these ads encourage people to think of medicine in the same way they think of other consumer goods. It would be one thing if Merck had marketed Vioxx only to people who really needed it—people who couldn’t take ibuprofen or aspirin safely. Instead, the company marketed it aggressively to everyone, so that some twenty million Americans had Vioxx prescriptions. That’s why the potential damages against Merck are so vast. If juries have a hard time accepting a risk-benefit trade-off when it comes to drugs, it’s in part because the drug companies have convinced them that no such trade-off has to be made.

Pharma should be treated like tobacco and banned from advertising.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:23 AM


Hugh Hewitt's 95 Theses (Edward B. Driscoll, Jr, 01/25/2005, Tech Central Station)

While it's not the first book on the subject, Radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt has written perhaps the most easily accessible book on the Blogosphere yet -- what it is, what it's accomplished, and where it's going. It's also unique in its discussion of the business aspects of blogging. [...]

"I'm stepping back and looking at a new communications technology available to anyone with a nickel and a modem, and saying that that's got huge consequences."

How huge? Well, Hewitt compares weblogs to Martin Luther's Protestant Reformation of the 16th century.

Isn't that a bit presumptuous? Is the Blogosphere really comparable to the Reformation?

"Absolutely", Hewitt says (and other bloggers agree). "The Church lost control of the text, and when they did that, especially with its translation into German, individual people began making decisions for themselves. Today, Big Media has lost control of the information flow, and the consequences are immediate and all around us. And business, especially, is figuring this out."

On the one hand, this would be a far better thing than the Reformation, since the Church was an institution worth preserving, while the Press is not. However, we'd do well to recognize that the Reformation wasn't meant to liberate individuals, just shift power to certain individuals.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:11 AM

I. O. ME:

A Hamiltonian solution to Social Security's bankruptcy (Jack Kemp, January 24, 2005, Townhall)

According the Social Security trustees, by 2042, Social Security's debt obligation to beneficiaries will exceed its claim on the U.S. Treasury. The solution to Social Security's insolvency is not to repudiate the debt incurred when the government misappropriated workers' payroll tax contributions by using them to pay current retirees' benefits rather than allowing workers to invest the money to pre-fund their own retirement. The solution is not to cut Social Security benefits from what is promised to what is "payable." And the solution is not to raise taxes or to increase the retirement age.

The solution is to refinance the federal government's debt obligation to workers and retirees. As a new report from the Institute for Policy Innovation by Lawrence Hunter points out, the most rational way to do that would be to allow workers to save half of the payroll tax contributions in personal retirement accounts through which they could invest in real assets. To the extent that creates a cash-flow shortage, Congress could have workers lend the federal government whatever funds are needed to pay all current Social Security benefits. In exchange for the loan, the federal government would deposit into the taxpayer's personal-retirement-accounts inflation-protected, interest-bearing long-term federal bonds backed by the full faith and credit of the United States with no restrictions on the right of the account holder to resell the bonds in secondary bond markets.

Refinancing the Social Security liability in this way would not cause a short-term shock to the bond market or create upward pressure on interest rates because the government would simply issue new bonds to refinance an old debt obligation as Hamilton did. Nor would this approach threaten financial markets over the long run since the future financial obligation represented by the Social Security liability is already reflected in the current price of federal bonds, and any new forays outside retirement accounts into financial markets would be relatively small compared to the size of the economy.

Since new federal bonds issued to personal retirement accounts would simply refinance an already existing liability, no net increase in federal indebtedness results. There are no "transition costs" involved. Refinancing the Social Security liability through new-issue federal bonds would not entail new debt; in fact, it would make it possible to pay off debt and leave Social Security financially sound in perpetuity. To paraphrase Hamilton, debt incurred to refinance Social Security would be to us a "national blessing" as we create a truly democratic, capitalistic shareholder society.

Especially as we transition to accounts, folks are going to want U.S. bonds.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:05 AM


Would-be suicide bomber angry at those who sent him (Steven Komarow and Sabah al-Anbaki, 1/24/05, USA TODAY)

His head and hands were wrapped in bandages and his uncovered face looked like bubbled tar.

The young Saudi man told investigators this month that he wants revenge against the Iraqi terrorist network that sent him on the deadly mission that he survived.

Ahmed Abdullah al-Shaya, 18, told Iraqi investigators during an interrogation early this month that he was recruited to drive a car rigged with explosives to Baghdad and blow it up.

He said the objective was "to kill the Americans, policemen, national guards and the American collaborators."

But Shaya said he was injured even before he went on the mission when insurgents detonated a truck bomb he was supposed to leave at a target site.

Shaya's statements were captured on a videotape made by Interior Ministry officials who interrogated him. It is not clear whether the video captures all of the interrogation or part of it. USA TODAY obtained a copy of the tape from an Interior Ministry official.

Shaya's video statement describes the journey of a young man ready to die in his zeal to drive Americans from Arab lands.

You'll still have the Ba'athist and zarqawi guys around, because they oppose Shi'a rule, but nitwits like this should diminish once we're gone.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:04 AM


For Sunni leaders, political involvement to come after election (Edward Wong, January 25, 2005, The New York Times)

Sunni Arab leaders who have been the most vocal in calling for a boycott or postponement of the coming elections say they intend to get involved in legitimate politics after the vote, including taking part in writing a permanent constitution.

The stakes are too high, with the constitution to be drafted by August 2005 and full-term elections held by year's end, for Sunni groups to reject the political process, the leaders say, even if they are sticking to their denunciation of Sunday's voting.

This talk by prominent Sunnis is the most positive sign yet that there is a chance they will still buy into the political process, potentially bolstering the beleaguered American effort to plant democracy in the Middle East.

They must be learning democracy from the Democrats.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:54 AM


Postponed execution tests a region's views on crime: The death penalty is to be used this week in Connecticut - and New England - for the first time since 1960. (Sara B. Miller, 1/25/05, CS Monitor)

A federal judge in Connecticut said Monday he will order a postponement of the execution of serial killer Michael Ross, who had been scheduled to be put to death at 2:01 a.m. Jan. 26.

It would have marked the first use of the death penalty in New England in 45 years - and has revived debate over capital punishment in a region where it runs against the political grain. [...]

In Connecticut, 70 percent favor the death penalty for Ross, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.

It doesn't rub against the political grain, just the elite grain.

Within the Ivy League, a shift to the right on abortion?: Debate grows about an issue once thought all but settled in the elite halls of the academic world. (Mary Beth McCauley, 1/25/05, CS Monitor)

Among the throngs expected to pour into the nation's capital yesterday to mark the 32nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade was an unlikely contingent - two dozen anti-abortion students from the University of Pennsylvania. The robust presence of "Penn for Life," both on campus and off, signals a heightened debate - at Penn and elsewhere - about an issue once thought all but settled in the more elite halls of the academic world.

"At the national level, we've noticed a uniform increase in on-campus pro-life activity," says Michael Sciscenti, president of American Collegians for Life, whose pre-march conference saw attendance grow from 70 students three years ago to 350 students, representing 70 universities, this year. Perhaps most interesting has been the growth at some of the country's most prestigious institutes. Princeton, MIT, Yale, and Stanford are among the campuses that today have active groups that oppose abortion rights.

For many years, Ivy League campuses were seen as unlikely recruiting grounds for the anti-abortion movement. But as the political and social views of college students in the United States have grown more conservative, that has begun to change.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Fish discovered with human face (January 14, 2005)

IF you found this fish staring up at you from a pond, you might do a double take.

Sinister eyes seem to peer out from the head and a broad nose tapers down to the mouth. But, in fact, the nose is just a marking on the carp's skin as are the "eyes" in front of its real eyes.

The features belong to two 19-year-old female carp in a pond in Chongju, Korea.

This seems a perfect opportunity for everyone to play Darwinist and cook up their own "Just-So Story" of how the fish got its face, The apotheosis of Stephen Jay Gould (Paul R. Gross, October 2002, New Criterion)
[Stephen Jay] Gould, his sometime co-author Richard Lewontin, and followers refer regularly to “ultra-Darwinism,” “pan-adaptationism,” and “Darwinian fundamentalism.” Those are slurs. They are meant to suggest that many scientists (the leading evolutionary biologists, in fact) are wedded to an obsolete and harmful system of reductive thought. According to such putatively obsolete thought, natural selection is the main agent of evolutionary change; the target of selection is the individual organism and the physical basis of its heredity, the genome; and, selected changes of biological form and function take place over many generations in the direction of better adaptation to the environment. The products of such thinking, Gould insisted, are often, or even generally, “just-so stories” à la Kipling, amusing fictions.

We'll send a book to whoever has the best entry. Here's mine:

Once upon a time, the Chongju carp looked just like other carp, but then Nature intervened. The Chongju carp swam in waters frequented by Buddhists who performed ritual ablutions daily and fed on the Chongju shark, the carp's main predator. Over time those carp whose features looked most like the submerged face of a human were selected by nature for the advantage this gave them vis-a-vis the Chingju shark. And that, my little ones, is how the fish got his face....

January 24, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 PM


Islamic Pilgrims Bring Cosmopolitan Air to Unlikely City (HASSAN M. FATTAH, 1/20/05, NY Times)

Rare in most of the Muslim world, the willingness to debate and raise seemingly taboo questions is standard here in the birthplace of Islam and the site of the hajj, the annual pilgrimage beginning Wednesday that attracts about 1.5 million Muslims from all corners of the world for five days of meditation, prayer and, often, vigorous debate.

In workshops and meeting rooms, at schools and mosques in the city, the freewheeling discussion of theology, history and politics lives on. And if this intellectual melee was any indicator, the debate is quite civilized - no raised voices, no threats, no personal attacks.

In Mecca, Dr. Bagader said later, that is the way. "This city is a stage where people from all over the world can come and find an audience to listen to them," says Dr. Bagader, a Meccan native. "There is an acceptance of being different here."

It is a city where spirit, not ritual, rules the day. Typically, in conservative Islamic societies like Saudi Arabia, men and women are strictly separated during prayers, and they are here. But with the enormous crowds that gather for meditation around the Kaaba - the small temple in the center of the Grand Mosque that Muslims believe was built by the prophet Abraham and consider the defining symbol of Islam - men and women are jammed in side by side. Saudi Arabia's normally relentless vice officers often throw up their hands, their usual tactics of harassment overwhelmed by numbers.

But what really makes Mecca so open is its diversity, a product largely of the hajj, which for 1,425 years has been attracting believers from all over the world. Many stay on.

Far from the strictness of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia's ascetic capital, and the homogeneity of most other Muslim capitals, Mecca is by far the Muslim world's most diverse city - some 100 ethnicities are represented here, and almost every sect and creed lives in peace, whether Shia, Sunni or Ismaili.

The average Meccan is just as likely to be Asian as Arab, just as likely to be light-skinned as dark-skinned, just as likely to speak English as Arabic, and almost everyone who lives here is bilingual or better. (Openness is not absolute; no non-Muslims are allowed in the city.)

Some elderly Muslims come simply to die in a divine city. But countless others stay to seek refuge, to seek higher learning or simply to make some money.

These days, many are from Africa or the Arab world. But in generations past, many were Chinese, Malay, Turkish, even Albanian. Some came for spirituality and others came to escape subjugation.

"Other cities claim to be melting pots, but this is the original melting pot," says Salah Abdel Jalil, an educator who heads a program for gifted students. "You feel a certain level of peace and openness here that you won't find elsewhere."

It was famously his hajj to Mecca that transformed Malcolm X, Malcolm X's (Al-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz) Letter from Mecca
"Never have I witnessed such sincere hospitality and overwhelming spirit of true brotherhood as is practiced by people of all colors and races here in this ancient Holy Land, the home of Abraham, Muhammad and all the other Prophets of the Holy Scriptures. For the past week, I have been utterly speechless and spellbound by the graciousness I see displayed all around me by people of all colors.

"I have been blessed to visit the Holy City of Mecca, I have made my seven circuits around the Ka'ba, led by a young Mutawaf named Muhammad, I drank water from the well of the Zam Zam. I ran seven times back and forth between the hills of Mt. Al-Safa and Al Marwah. I have prayed in the ancient city of Mina, and I have prayed on Mt. Arafat."

"There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colors, from blue-eyed blondes to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and non-white."

"America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem. Throughout my travels in the Muslim world, I have met, talked to, and even eaten with people who in America would have been considered white - but the white attitude was removed from their minds by the religion of Islam. I have never before seen sincere and true brotherhood practiced by all colors together, irrespective of their color."

"You may be shocked by these words coming from me. But on this pilgrimage, what I have seen, and experienced, has forced me to rearrange much of my thought-patterns previously held, and to toss aside some of my previous conclusions. This was not too difficult for me. Despite my firm convictions, I have always been a man who tries to face facts, and to accept the reality of life as new experience and new knowledge unfolds it. I have always kept an open mind, which is necessary to the flexibility that must go hand in hand with every form of intelligent search for truth."

"During the past eleven days here in the Muslim world, I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass, and slept on the same rug - while praying to the same God - with fellow Muslims, whose eyes were the bluest of blue, whose hair was the blondest of blond, and whose skin was the whitest of white. And in the words and in the deeds of the white Muslims, I felt the same sincerity that I felt among the black African Muslims of Nigeria, Sudan and Ghana."

"We were truly all the same (brothers) - because their belief in one God had removed the white from their minds, the white from their behavior, and the white from their attitude."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 PM


What Do You Mean, 'Moral' Fiction?: John Gardner, Martin Amis, and the ethics of the novel. (Philip Christman, Books & Culture)

Before he was hurled over the front of a motorbike at age 49, John Gardner initiated a remarkably rancorous debate among then-famous authors with On Moral Fiction (1979), a memorably seat-of-the-pants polemic in which he argued that literature and storytelling are—or can be—methods of ethical reasoning, upholding "valid models for imitation."

Everything hangs on that "valid," for these "models," for Gardner, were to be anything but the didactic playthings, pushed around by an author's pet ideologies or childhood grudges, that most readers imagine when they light on such phrases. Rather, the validity of the model is determined by the artist's process: Good writers, said Gardner, proceed through "endless blind experiments" with voice, style, subject, et. al., open-mindedly exploring the moral implications of each experiment (each character, each narrative tone, each moral assumption). It follows, then, that a bad novel will be a failure of process—an innovative style thoughtlessly adopted, or a major character whom the novelist has failed to understand, or a moral conclusion simply propounded by the narrator, without the test of dramatization.

For all the controversy engendered by Martin Amis' notably explicit novel, Yellow Dog—published here just over a year ago and released this month in paperback—it's in Gardner's sense of the term that the book morally offends. In fact, and curiously, Amis' latest production has some basically conservative points to make about the pandemic confusion that is contemporary sexual practice, points which are, by and large, well-taken. To have the satiric and stylistic mind behind Money (1984) and London Fields (1989)—a man whose rhythmically graceful yet skronkingly demotic voice has formatively influenced much recent British fiction—laud marital fidelity, and lambaste "the Borgesian labyrinth" of internet porn, is an interesting development, and to those who can stomach it, Yellow Dog offers some worthwhile perceptions on male sexual rapacity, not to mention the stylistic fireworks that are Amis' trademark. But Amis' failure to fully dramatize the struggle of his main character, Xan Meo, to stave off his ugliest, most possessive sexual-aggressive instincts robs the novel of the seriousness Amis seems intent upon.

This failure is not new to Amis, though rarely has it been so plain. [...]

When John Gardner was in a somewhat more temperate mood, he revisited some of On Moral Fiction's arguments in the subtler, more positive The Art of Fiction, a handbook for aspiring writers. There he argues that the novelist ought to think twice about portraying anything in her fiction that the greatest writers—Chaucer, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, the authors of the Bible—would avoid. It seems a decent makeshift rule for avoiding the trivial (all those scenes Philip Roth sets in the bathroom) or the morbid; after all, there's little in the range of human experience that even the Bible evades. There is something private in human sexuality, something that makes it unportrayable; the very act of observation distorts, as Wendell Berry has argued. In a novel that is occasionally eloquent on the dinginess of a culture of primped, prompted, scripted, and exposed sexuality, the portrayal of actual relationship—the love that we are told develops between Xan and Cora, and between Russia and Xan—seems to elude the author, and his characters' personalities fly right out the window with it.

If it was ever possible to take Martin Amis seriously as a moralist, that possibility passed some time ago, The Gulag Argumento: http://slate.msn.com/?id=2069345Martin Amis swings at Stalin and hits his own best friend instead. (Anne Applebaum, Aug. 13, 2002, Slate)
Hitchens is no ordinary book reviewer. Rather, he is both Martin Amis' best friend and—strange though it sounds—the anti-hero of Koba the Dread. In the course of the book, Amis effectively accuses Hitchens, a youthful Trotskyite (who will still call himself a Trotskyite, if asked), of covering up the truth about communism and links him to the socialist fellow-travelers of the past: H.G. Wells, Beatrice and Sidney Webb, George Bernard Shaw. In the final pages of the book, Amis addresses his friend as "Comrade Hitchens," and solemnly lectures him about the "formula of dead freedom, lies and violence" with which the Bolsheviks ran revolutionary Russia.

As might be expected of one of the most acerbic writers of contemporary English prose, Hitchens responds in kind. After dispensing with the introductory compliments, he goes on to quote George Orwell's remark that terrible things happened during the Spanish Civil War, and "they did not happen any the less because the Daily Telegraph found out about them five years too late." Amis, he writes, can just about be excused for coming across Vorkuta and Kolyma (names of Soviet concentration camps) or Yezhov and Dzierzhinsky (names of Soviet secret police bosses) rather late in life, "but he cannot hope to get away with accusing others of keeping these facts and names from him, or from themselves."

The subsequent insults are a delight to read. Hitchens accuses Amis of "solipsism" and of "mushy secondhand observations," and quotes some satisfyingly silly bits of Amis prose. Among other things, we learn in Koba the Dread that Amis has nicknamed his baby daughter "Butyrka," on the grounds that her nocturnal screams "would not have been out of place in the deepest cellars of the Butyrki Prison in Moscow during the Great Terror." We have moved, writes Hitchens, "from darkness at noon to …lightness at midnight."

Few things are more amusing than the sight of fashionable literati insulting one another in print. Yet one finishes the review feeling that Hitchens isn't trying very hard. Of course Christopher Hitchens, a man who has publicly attacked Mother Teresa, can bat away a book that contains sentences like "I didn't read The Great Terror [Robert Conquest's classic account of the purge years] in 1968 … but I spent an hour with it" without blinking an eye. More to the point—and contrary to the reviews—Koba the Dread is not, in fact, a competent account of Stalin's reign but rather a muddled misrendering of both Soviet and Western intellectual history. For that reason, the deeper points Amis seems to have been trying to make about the Western relationship to Soviet terror are lost on Hitchens and will probably be lost on everyone else as well.

Here I will resist the pedantic temptation to list Amis' many small errors of fact and emphasis (declaration of interest: I've spent the past five years writing a history of the Soviet Gulag). Suffice to say that while Amis has read perhaps a dozen-odd books about Soviet communism and the Russian revolution, he has done no original research; has hardly availed himself of any of the new, archive-based scholarship; and appears never to have met an actual camp survivor. If he has been to Russia, he doesn't tell us.

As a result, his account of the Soviet camps is skewed toward the sensational—the most extreme camps, the most horrific tortures—and fails to convey either the dull, gray, repetitiveness of daily life in the Gulag or the size and variety of the camp system, which had branches in virtually every region of the USSR and participated in virtually every industry. He also masks the true nature of the vast secret police bureaucracy, which was far likelier to arrest, sentence, and forget about people for a decade or two than to gouge their eyes out. For the most part, the "meat-grinder," as Solzhenitsyn called the system of Soviet repression, was not intended to kill or torture people but to reduce them to the status of cattle, who were worth feeding only as long as they could help boost production figures. For the most part, the horror of Soviet camp guards lay not in their sadism but in their total indifference to prisoners' fate.

Misleadingly, Amis also focuses at least a third of this book on the ghoulish personality of Stalin. While it is perfectly true that recent archival research has vindicated Conquest, an Amis family friend, in his long-held belief that Stalin himself was the main author of Soviet terror, Stalin didn't kill and imprison millions of his countrymen by himself. On the contrary—as archival documents show—Stalin issued orders commanding his secret policemen to execute precise numbers of people, and they wrote back, asking if they might possibly be allowed to execute even more. Amis writes that "since 1929 the Soviet Union had been a reflection of Stalin's mind"—but totalitarianism did not function, as the novelist seems to imagine, like a magic beam of light that emanated from a single brain. It was the product of institutions, of bureaucracies, and above all individual choices and decisions of millions of people. This is supposed to be a book about evil, in other words, but it doesn't even attempt to describe the base, nasty, and small-minded forms of evil of which even the most ordinary human beings are easily capable, given a base and nasty form of government.

Reading Amis' tale of horrors, tortures, and the human monster at the heart of it all, one would not know that ordinary people were involved at all. By the same token, it is impossible even to guess at what conceivable appeal the Soviet Union could ever have had to its many Western sympathizers and fellow-travelers. The only logical explanation is extreme stupidity, which is perhaps why even Hitchens comes off seeming idiotic in Amis' account. Yet while plenty of fellow-travelers were quite stupid (the Webbs come to mind here), far more found the slogans and the language of totalitarianism genuinely appealing. The masses, the struggle, the proletariat, the exploiters and exploited, the ownership of the means of production—these were all terms close to the hearts of the Western left, too.

But it wasn't even necessary to sympathize in order to be taken in. Henry Wallace, Roosevelt's vice president, actually visited Kolyma in 1944 and left without realizing that the healthy, well-fed workers he had seen were apparatchiks dressed up in miners' clothes for the day, or that the fine "amateur choir" he heard was composed entirely of prisoners, including many arrested musicians. The lesson here is not that Wallace was stupid, but that even people of average intelligence usually ask the wrong questions, usually find it hard to recognize horror when it doesn't look like a horror movie (or a paragraph from an Amis book)—and are therefore quite easily fooled.

But then, Martin Amis, who we must presume to possess at least average intelligence, is also capable of asking the wrong questions. Indeed, if we're talking about misunderstanding history, Amis' decision to focus his diatribe against the Western left on Hitchens, the self-confessed Trotskyite, was rather strange. While Trotskyites may not have emerged from the debris of the 20th century covered in glory, it is perfectly true that if anybody knew or cared about Stalinist terror, then it was they. Not only did Stalin murder all identifiable Soviet Trotskyites, after all, he also ordered one of his minions to use the sharp end of an ice pick on Trotsky himself.

By picking on his friend, in other words, Amis has also avoided—and allowed Hitchens to avoid—the larger and more important questions. Trotsky's extremist band of Stalin-obsessed followers aside, why did so many Western liberals fail to absorb the full horror of Stalinism while it was happening? Arguments among the comrades on the far left notwithstanding, why does Stalinism still not inspire anywhere near the same kind of horror as Nazism today? Hitchens writes that Amis occasionally makes us wince at things we "already know"—but who really does already know them? And who really cares? Certainly they aren't part of what one would call popular knowledge, or popular culture, or public debate. Certainly the people Martin Amis has been meeting at cocktail parties for the last few decades—with the possible exception of Hitchens—don't talk about them. Amis himself didn't have the slightest interest in the Soviet Union for most of his life, except to oppose the missiles that were aimed at it; that's part of why he's so enthusiastically telling us all about it now.

I long to hear Hitchens answer these points. Instead, he gets away with defending himself, George Orwell, and the small slice of the Western left that did know about, and did fight against, Stalinism. Which is perfectly legitimate but much too easy. What about everybody else?

In the end, one puts down Koba the Dread and wonders why it was written. Yes, indeed, Martin Amis appears to be very angry about something. Perhaps he is very angry about his father's death. Perhaps he is very angry about being a fiftysomething novelist who has run out of things to write about. Yet by inexplicably funneling his displaced anger into a poorly conceived, improbably hysterical diatribe against Stalinism, he has neither revealed anything new, nor retold old stories in an interesting way, nor done any victims any favors. Amis poses, at the start of the book, a legitimate question: Why do we think it is OK to make jokes about Stalinism, to laugh at a political system that killed millions of people? By the end of the book, we no longer want to know the answer.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:46 PM


Internet News Sites Are Back in Vogue (ERIC DASH, 1/24/05, NY Times)

When L. Gordon Crovitz, the president of Dow Jones & Company's electronic publishing division, sat down last spring to assemble a three-year strategic plan, one of the things he foresaw was a potentially costly gap about to open. If the demand for online advertising continued to grow, Dow Jones's Web sites, including The Wall Street Journal Online, would not provide enough page views for all the online ads the company could sell.

"That is a wonderful problem to have," Mr. Crovitz said, "but you don't want to have that problem if you can avoid it."

Last summer, Mr. Crovitz set out to solve part of his problem by acquiring CBS MarketWatch, the financial news Web site found at cbsmarketwatch.com. The only problem: three other media giants apparently reached the same conclusion. The New York Times Company, the Gannett Company and Viacom Inc. all joined in to bid for the site. "I never thought the list of potential bidders was as long as it turned out to be," Mr. Crovitz said.

Dow Jones won the bidding with a deal, expected to be completed today, for $519 million, about six times MarketWatch's 2004 revenue. The four-way frenzy among the companies to own MarketWatch outright may be the strongest sign that news and information sites, long thought to be dot-gone relics of 1999, are making a big comeback in 2005.

Many of the same companies that were badly burned by Internet investments before are aggressively bidding for these sites not just because of the growing online ad business but because, like Dow Jones, they are worried that their current Web sites will not be able to keep up with demand.

"The existing old-line media companies, which have a big stake in where people advertise, have to recognize this medium," said Larry S. Kramer, a founder and chief executive of MarketWatch.

Interesting that for all the talk of how it will change everything the model for revenues on the Internet is still just advertising.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:16 PM


Boxer's anti-Rice bombast backfires (Chris Weinkopf, January 23, 2005, Los Angeles Daily News)

With an air of resignation, Sen. Barbara Boxer began last week's headline-grabbing outburst at Condoleezza Rice's confirmation hearings with an all-too brief nod to reality. "You no doubt will be confirmed," the senator told the secretary of state-designate, thereby conceding that the ensuing performance would serve no practical purpose. Her harangue would be little more than an exercise in self-serving futility, one that would ultimately prove embarrassing - not for Rice, but for Boxer, her party and the state she represents.

Boxer's much-touted "grilling" - which consisted of more than 2,000 words, or nearly four single-spaced pages of written text, and took a full 12 minutes to deliver - didn't include a single question. This wasn't about subjecting a would-be Cabinet secretary to the customary scrutiny. It was about Boxer's attempt to become the public face of the Democratic Party's moonbat wing, an effort that began in earnest a week earlier, when she was the only U.S. senator to vote against certifying President Bush's Electoral College victory.

This was Boxer's moment to shine, or so she thought. That's why her staff hyped the planned attack to the media several days beforehand.

Boxer began her speech by blasting Rice for a remark that the devastating tsunami in South Asia "was a wonderful opportunity for us." No, the senator hectored, "The tsunami was one of the worst tragedies of our lifetime - one of the worst. I was very disappointed in your statement."

Now, no fair-minded person could have possibly concluded that Rice was speaking in favor of tsunamis.

Note that John Kerry was afraid she was stealing a march on the moonbat title, so voted with Ms Boxer.

Sen. Boxer takes victim role after hearing for Rice (Audrey Hudson, 1/23/05, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

"She turned and attacked me," the California Democrat told CNN's "Late Edition" in describing the confrontation during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:07 PM


The Conceptual Scoop (Roy Peter Clark, Sep. 1, 2004, Poynter Institute)

The idea of the "conceptual scoop" has at least two parents: Peter Gosselin, who coined the phrase while covering economics and policy for The Boston Globe; and Paul Starobin of the National Journal, who described the idea and its practitioners in a 1996 essay in the Columbia Journalism Review.

The idea of the "soccer mom" is a conceptual scoop. So is the "NASCAR dad." So is the theory of the socially libertarian "Volvo Republican," coined by Newsweek's Howard Fineman.

"As print journalism changes," argues Gosselin, who now reports on the economy for the L.A. Times, "that's our stock in trade: developing concepts that allow readers to frame the news."

Still confused about the conceptual scoop? Think of those Magic Eye art posters, the ones made up of thousands of little dots, so that you have to concentrate and squint to see the larger three-dimensional pattern. What you get, says Starobin, is a "wow of recognition."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:45 PM


Max Schmeling
, Heavyweight Champion Caught in the Middle of Nazi Politics, Dies at 99 (DAVID MARGOLICK, 2/05/05, NY Times)

Max Schmeling, the persistent and meticulous German boxer whose legendarily brief 1938 heavyweight title bout against Joe Louis was so fraught with political and racial overtones that it was called "the undercard of World War II," died on Wednesday at his home in Hollenstedt, Germany, near Hamburg. He was 99.

His death was made public by the Max Schmeling Foundation in Germany, which was set up by the boxer to aid in charitable causes.

In one of boxing's more memorable nights and surely among the most electrifying 124 seconds in the history of sport, Louis, then heavyweight champion of the world, crushed Schmeling in front of 70,000 fans at Yankee Stadium. For Louis, the first-round knockout was sweet revenge: two years earlier, in what many consider one of the greatest upsets in heavyweight history, Schmeling had knocked out the undefeated and heavily favored Louis in the 12th round.

Between the two fights Louis had beaten James J. Braddock and become world heavyweight champion, a title that Schmeling had held from 1930 to 1932. But Louis hungered for a rematch. "I don't want nobody to call me champ until I beat Schmeling," he said.

And in the supercharged politics of the late 1930's, with Hitler on the march, the Western democracies imperiled and race relations poised to enter a new and more contentious era, what ensued far transcended sport. [...]

Schmeling was actually a largely apolitical man who found himself caught up in the much larger forces of history. He had fought in the United States since 1928 and had been generally well liked. Schmeling had been almost a cult figure to the intellectuals of Weimar Germany, which experienced a great boxing craze. But while many of Schmeling's Jewish friends fled for their lives, Schmeling remained and made the transition to the Nazi era, which he regularly defended in the American news media, with disconcerting ease.

The Fight (American Experience, PBS)

Ringside Radio

In the pre-television era of the Thirties, radio was king. Families gathered around their radios to listen to comedies, dramas, the president's fireside chats, and much-anticipated sporting events.

Over 70 million Americans listened to the second match between boxers Joe Louis and Max Schmeling -- the biggest radio audience to that date for a single program. NBC radio announcer Clem McCarthy delivered a blow-by-blow account, as he had two years prior, for the first Louis-Schmeling fight.

Listen to both fights between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling.

The First Match
June 19, 1936

The Rematch
June 22, 1938

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:39 PM


In which we attempt to describe conservatism in a sentence:

"To be a conservative is to grasp that if you put a laughtrack on The Godfather it would be considered one of the great movie comedies of all time."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:20 PM


Sexual predator ordered back to prison (Torsten Ove, January 24, 2005, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Throughout October, November and December, "Meghan Thomas" spent a lot of time in Internet chatrooms frequented by children, saying she was an 11-year-old girl in Pittsburgh.

She used the screen name "meghan15222" -- the number was her ZIP code. She showed off a picture of herself in a modeling competition and said her birthdate was Dec. 14, 1994.

At least the Dec. 14 part was authentic.

But the person chatting in those rooms was actually born on that date in 1947.

"Meghan Thomas" was really Roger Millspaugh, 57, a convicted child rapist from Lawrenceville just released from prison who had been accessing the Internet dozens of times from the library at Duquesne University.

The FBI suspects he was trolling for potential victims.

Something to keep in mind next time the Patriot Act harpies are whining about how libraries should be sacrosanct.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:10 PM


Lining up to run against Dayton (Rob Hotakainen, January 22, 2005, Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

Sen. Mark Dayton's job is suddenly getting very popular.

On Thursday, Rep. Gil Gutknecht, R-Minn., said that he's considering a run against the Minnesota Democrat in 2006. Gutknecht made the move as his colleague, GOP Rep. Mark Kennedy, continues to ponder his possible candidacy.

With the election more than 21 months away, there's plenty of time for other Republican candidates to surface. Among the names most often discussed: Gov. Tim Pawlenty (who says he's not interested), Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer, former gubernatorial candidate Brian Sullivan and former Rep. Vin Weber.

Even without an announced opponent, there are signs that Dayton is facing a political challenge in 2006.

Of the 18 Democratic Senate incumbents whose terms expire at the end of next year, Dayton is considered the weakest, and his race is the only Democratic contest ranked as a toss-up, according to the Cook Political Report, which handicaps congressional races.

"I think almost anybody can make a race against Dayton," said Jennifer Duffy, who analyzes Senate races for the Cook report. "He's got his share of issues, not the least of which is money."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:59 PM


Double (Play) Trouble (Tim Kurkjian, 1/24/05, ESPN The Magazine)

There was a mix-up around second base last June 27 in Kansas City. Royals second baseman Tony Graffanino and shortstop Angel Berroa were confused on who had the bag on the double play, so, both wound up there. No matter. The runner on first, St. Louis' Scott Rolen, took them both out.

That's why he's our choice for the best in the major leagues at breaking up a double play. "He's the best there is today,'' said Brewers third base coach Rich Donnelly, who has been in the National League for the last 15 years. "One of our guys, Junior Spivey, is really good. He and Rolen, they'll try to take out your back molars. And, they do it cleanly.''

Yankees second baseman Tony Womack, who played a lot of games against Rolen, and last season with him, said, "Scott goes in the hardest among active players. Al Martin went in hard, so did Kevin Young. Butch Huskey had that pop-up slide; he flipped me over once. Albert Belle came in really hard. But today, Scott is the hardest. He does that like he does everything else, he goes after you. He will break up two by any means necessary.''

There weren't a lot of candidates. "It's a shame,'' said one manager. "Today, guys peel off or slide early because the second baseman or the shortstop has the same agent as they do. They're friends. They don't want anyone getting hurt.'' Indeed. The days of Frank Robinson, Don Baylor and Hal McRae coming at you are over.

Hal McRae was just scary.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:53 PM


5 Democratic Activists Charged With Election Day Tire Slashing (TheMilwaukeeChannel.com, January 24, 2005)

The son of first-term U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore is among five Democratic activists charged with vandalizing some Republican vehicles meant to be used on Election Day.

Sowande Omokunde, as well as the son of former acting Mayor Marvin Pratt and three others are each charged with a felony count of criminal damage to property.

The five are accused of cutting the tires on some 20 vans and cars parked in a lot adjacent to a Bush campaign staging office.

Republicans discovered the vandalism before the polls opened Nov. 2.

You knew there had to be an explanation for the President not carrying all 50 states.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:36 PM


Biden Describes Gadhafi's Stated Motives (AP, Jan 19, 2005)

Why did Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi suddenly decide to give up his doomsday weapons? Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., said Wednesday he posed that question to Gadhafi during a meeting in Tripoli last year. Biden described their discussion to Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's nominee to be secretary of state, at her Senate Foreign Relations confirmation hearing.

According to Biden, Gadhafi said he acted as he did because possession of nuclear weapons did the United States no good in Vietnam or Iraq.

Beyond that, Biden reported Gadhafi as saying, if he used nuclear weapons, "you'd blow me away," referring to the United States.

Gadhafi also said Libyan disarmament would enable his country to resume normal U.S. trade and economic ties, the senator said.

"I can have American oil companies in here pumping the oil out of the ground," Biden said he was told. The senator said Gadhafi said he prefers dealing with Americans as opposed to, say, the French.

"You make a deal with the French, they say 90-10 and they take 95. The Americans, you say 50-50, they only take 50," Gadhafi said, according to Biden.

Gadhafi was, Biden said, "the most candid guy I ever spoke with."

Afterwards, both checked to make sure they still had their watches and wallets.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:29 PM


'Bad' women drivers: hormone link (BBC, 1/24/05)

Map reading and parking may prove difficult for some women because they were exposed to too little testosterone in the womb, researchers suggest.

The study, in the journal Intelligence, fuels the age-old male myth that women are deficient in these skills.

Scientists from the University of Giessen, Germany, found a lack of the hormone affects spatial ability.

Low testosterone levels are also linked to shorter wedding ring fingers, they say.

The research looked at the spatial, numerical and verbal skills of 40 student volunteers.

Spatial skill is the ability to assess and orientate shapes and spaces. Map reading and parking are spatial skills which men often say women lack. Women tend to disagree.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:25 PM


Moron-Proofing Social Security (Douglas Kern, 01/24/2005, Tech Central Station)

It's the day after Congress has permitted individual citizens to invest in privately-controlled Social Security accounts, and you've just received a large colorful envelope in the mail, explaining that You May Already be a Winner!

A prospectus of government-approved investment funds? A pamphlet of government investment advice? Wrong. The package is thin, creepily thin. The first sheet looks like a record club promo. "Invest in THREE mutual funds FOR JUST ONE PENNY! Scratch off the gold box to find your SECRET MYSTERY FUND!" Elsewhere, a scantily clad Paris Hilton assures you that real men invest in no-load index funds. Still another handout encourages you to "Cheer on Fidelity Municipal Bond Fund against Fidelity Income Fund in Fund Bowl I -- during the Super Bowl!" Anthropomorphic representations of safe, 8%-a-year investments, battling it out on the gridiron in a contrived set of computer-generated ads!

The fine print allows you to send for a more comprehensive list of government-approved investments -- but the not-so-fine print cajoles readers to invest in low-risk funds using every idiot-friendly tool in the book: small words, pretty girls, goofy gimmicks, babies, and puppy dogs. Everyone loves babies and puppy dogs.

Is it the end of sanity?

No. It's privatized Social Security -- moron-proofed.

The aspect of privatization that conservatives are going to be most upset by--having already been forced to accept that government withholding for retirement is permanent--is just how few choices there are. But that reduces the risk to acceptable levels for a universal program.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:16 PM


Housing's Pillars Hold Firm: Mortgage rates are likely to stay low despite tighter money policy as inflation's weakness is expected to keep long-bond yields sliding (Christopher Farrell, 1/22/05, Business Week)

The odds are that mortgage rates will stay where they are or even trend irregularly lower this year. And this continued low level suggests the housing market's coming slowdown will be modest rather than cataclysmic in 2005.

Why should long-term mortgage rates come down? The expected rate of inflation plays a large role in setting long-term market rates. The more investors anticipate inflation, the higher the interest rate they demand to compensate them for the risk that a debauched currency will ravage the value of their fixed-income investment -- and vice versa.

But inflation isn't about to stir. The Federal Reserve Board is waging an open campaign to stem any resurgence in inflation by raising its benchmark interest rate. And consumers rebel whenever retailers try to raise prices.

Take the recent holiday season. Wal-Mart (which accounts for about 10% of the nation's retail sales) tried to avoid offering shoppers special promotions. And what did buyers do? They went elsewhere to find deals. Wal-Mart (WMT ) got the message and quickly reversed course, whipping out the markdown pen. Delta Airlines' new low-fare strategy is wreaking havoc on its competitors. The Japanese auto makers are taking market share from the Big Three with generous incentives

With so little evidence of inflation, investors have reduced the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury bond from around 4.6% in June to about 4.2%. With inflation heading lower this year -- and the Fed continuing to raise its benchmark interest rate -- there's additional room for further decline in bond yields and mortgage rates. "When the Fed says it wants low inflation and that it's willing to further tighten monetary conditions, the record suggests it should be taken at its word," bond mavens Van R. Hoisington and Lacy H. Hunt of Hoisington Investment Management Company wrote in their fourth-quarter 2004 outlook.

Tightening during a deflation can't help but be deflationary.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 PM


Hutchinson to Resign From DHS (Lara Jakes Jordan, January 24, 2005, The Associated Press)

A top Homeland Security Department official resigned his post Monday after he was passed over twice by the Bush administration to be secretary of the agency.

Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson, in charge of border and transportation security issues, submitted his letter of resignation to the White House early Monday morning, said a DHS official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the resignation had not yet been announced.

Hutchinson is a former Arkansas congressman and former federal drug czar who is believed to be considering a run for Arkansas governor next year. His resignation is expected to be effective March 1.

"It was just a good time to change for me personally and for the department," Hutchinson told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, which first reported his plans. [...]

Hutchinson, 54, has said that he was disappointed that he wasn't selected to be secretary but is excited about other options, including a possible run for Arkansas governor in 2006.

He'll be a formidable candidate for any office he chooses to run for in Arkansas.

Posted by David Cohen at 10:05 AM


Humans 'may have saved world from ice age': HUMANS may have unwittingly saved themselves from a looming ice age by interfering with the Earth's climate, according to a new study. (John von Radowitz, Irish Examiner, 1/24/05)

The findings from a team of American climate experts suggest that were it not for greenhouse gases produced by humans, the world would be well on the way to a frozen Armageddon. . . .

The research showed that without the human contribution to global warming, Baffin Island would today be in a condition of "incipient glaciation".

"Portions of Labrador and Hudson Bay would also have moved very close to such a state had greenhouse gas concentrations followed natural trends," said the scientists.

The experiment had probably underestimated the amount of ice that would exist today in north-east Canada without human interference, they said.

This has been obvious for a while to those paying attention (basically, just Harry and me).

MORE (From the Corner): Countdown to global catastrophe: Climate change: report warns point of no return may be reached in 10 years, leading to droughts, agricultural failure and water shortages (Michael McCarthy, Independent.co.uk, 1/24/05)

The global warming danger threshold for the world is clearly marked for the first time in an international report to be published tomorrow - and the bad news is, the world has nearly reached it already.

The countdown to climate-change catastrophe is spelt out by a task force of senior politicians, business leaders and academics from around the world - and it is remarkably brief. In as little as 10 years, or even less, their report indicates, the point of no return with global warming may have been reached. . . .

The report urges all the G8 countries to agree to generate a quarter of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025, and to double their research spending on low-carbon energy technologies by 2010. It also calls on the G8 to form a climate group with leading developing nations such as India and China, which have big and growing CO2 emissions.

Just so I can make sure I understand this: Within the next ten year, we will have passed the "point of no return" for "global catastrophe." The proposed solution is to, within 20 years, increase the proportion of energy generated from renewable resources, which does not require that we decrease our use of carbon fuels; increase research funding; and form a "group." Somehow, I suspect that I have different definitions of "point of no return" and "catastrophe" than these people.

If catastrophe is inevitable, though, we might as well take off our catalytic converters and enjoy it. There is still the off-chance that we'd be saving Canada from raging glaciers, though we'd get no thanks for our services.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:03 AM


"Maritalism" vindicated as key to red-blue divide (Steve Sailer, January 23, 2005, V-Dare)

The prominent Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, headed by Stanley Greenberg, has issued an important analysis of the 2004 Presidential election. It validates my recent conclusion on VDARE.com: the "Marriage Gap" is the single best way to understand why states vote Republican or Democrat.

As you will recall, I found that Bush's share of the vote by state correlated at the extraordinarily high level of r = 0.91 (in quant speak) with the average years married among white women ages 18 to 44.

And, I went on to argue, GOP success depends far more than you'd expect upon whether citizens can afford a house big enough for a spouse and several children. [...]

[I]n this new report Greenberg breaks out the white unmarried vote. One big reason for this: single voters as a whole include a much higher proportion of blacks (i.e., blacks don't get married much these days). So without specifically focusing just on white voters, it's hard to tell whether the Marriage Gap really does drive how people vote … or whether the Marriage Gap is just a side effect of the Race Gap that we already know is so deep.

Answer: according to Greenberg, even among whites, the Marriage Gap is still a chasm.

Bush carried merely 44% of the single white females but 61% of the married white women—a 17 point difference.

Among white men, Bush won 53% of the singles and 66% of the married—a 13 point difference.

Marriage seems to narrow the gender gap by encouraging wives to vote more like their husbands. Among single whites, the gender gap is 9 percentage points, but among married whites, it's only 5 points.

It's likely that wedlock makes women more Republican for at least two reasons.

* Married women tend to be financially less dependent on government jobs, welfare, and Social Security than are their single sisters.

* Husbands seem more likely to persuade wives to adopt their political worldviews than vice-versa. Maybe this is because men tend to follow national and international affairs more closely than women do, as Kate O'Beirne has documented.

Nonetheless, while marriage has a bigger impact on women’s Republican voting than mens, it strongly affects both sexes. Hence that 13 point gap between single and married white men’s’ GOP propensity.

It's not hard to make up a long list of reasons why marriage inclines people to vote Republican:
bullet Married people are more likely to be homeowners than renters.

* Children make you more culturally conservative.

* Having children to protect encourages you to move away from "diverse" (i.e. dangerous) neighborhoods.

And that's just a start.

What President Bush gets, and the rest of the Stupid Party does not, is that things like the marriage initiative and the Ownership Society aren't just good public policy, they're also ways of making people more conservative.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:02 AM


Google gears up for a free-phone challenge to BT (Elizabeth Judge, 1/24/05, Times of London)

GOOGLE revolutionised the internet. Now it is hoping to do the same with our phones.

The company behind the US-based internet search engine looks set to launch a free telephone service that links users via a broadband internet connection using a headset and home computer. [...]

Julian Hewitt, senior partner at Ovum, a telecoms consultancy, said: “From a telecoms perspective there is a big appeal in the fact that Google is a search operation — and of course the Google brand is a huge draw.”

Mr Hewitt said that a Google telephone service could be made to link with the Google search engine, which already conducts half of all internet inquiries made around the world. A surfer looking for a clothes retailer could simply find the web site and click on the screen to speak to the shop.

Nothing ever gets more expensive anymore.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:01 AM


Election is lost already, top adviser tells Howard (Andrew Pierce and Helen Rumbelow, 1/24/05, Times of London)

The Times has learnt of an extraordinary power tussle at Conservative campaign headquarters after Mr Crosby contradicted advice from Lord Saatchi, the party co-chairman, who believes that the Tories should fight to win, or at least deny Labour a majority.

Mr Crosby has concluded from the party’s private polling, showing Labour with a comfortable six-point lead, that the Tories cannot win the next election, expected on May 5. He believes that Mr Howard should concentrate on a face-saving attempt to increase his strength in Parliament by 25 to 30 seats.

His findings are similar to those in a Populus poll last weekend, which suggested that Labour is heading for another 160-seat landslide and that the Tories may lose seats. The poll, along with the Tories’ private data, have torpedoed persistent claims from Lord Saatchi that the Conservatives are doing far better in the seats they need to win to secure a majority at the next election.

The battle of wills between Lord Saatchi, the advertising expert who helped Margaret Thatcher to win three elections, and Mr Crosby, an architect of John Howard’s four successive election victories in Australia, has created a febrile atmosphere at the party’s headquarters only weeks before the campaign is expected to begin. A senior Tory source told The Times last night: “It is terrible for us out there. The polling suggests at best we can win up to 25 seats. But Saatchi is telling Howard that the election is all to play for and that we should fight to win the 165 seats required to give us a majority.

“The fact is that in the marginals we are actually losing ground. Crosby is saying it is madness to fight to win 165 seats when we can’t win 65.”

The problem being that Tony Blair is more like John Howard than is Michael Howard. The Third Way trio--Blair, Bush, J. Howard--is not just remaking their own parties but literally destroying their rivals. It would not be at all surprising to see the Tories and the Democrats replaced by other main opposition parties over the next few years.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:00 AM


Shiites in Iraq Say Government Will Be Secular (DEXTER FILKINS, 1/24/05, NY times)

With the Shiites on the brink of capturing power here for the first time, their political leaders say they have decided to put a secular face on the new Iraqi government they plan to form, relegating Islam to a supporting role.

The senior leaders of the United Iraqi Alliance, the coalition of mostly Shiite groups that is poised to capture the most votes in the election next Sunday, have agreed that the Iraqi whom they nominate to be the country's next prime minister would be a lay person, not an Islamic cleric. [...]

The decision appears to formalize the growing dominance of secular leaders among the Shiite political leadership, and it also reflects an inclination by the country's powerful religious hierarchy to stay out of the day-to-day governing of the country. Among the Shiite coalition's 228 candidates for the national assembly, fewer than a half dozen are clerics, according to the group's leaders. [...]

The emerging policies appear to be a rejection of an Iranian-style theocracy. Iran has given both moral and material support to the country's two largest Shiite parties, Dawa and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

The conviction that the Iranian model should be avoided in Iraq is apparently shared by the Iranians themselves. One Iraqi Shiite leader, who recently traveled to Tehran, the Iranian capital, said he was warned by the Iranians themselves against putting clerics in the government.

"They said it caused too many problems," the Iraqi said.

Despite the oft-heard worries, Iraq will ultimately have a greater influence on Iran than vice versa.

What a Shi'ite victory could mean (Charles Recknagel, 1/25/05, Asia Times)

Ammar al-Shahbander of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting has spent the past 16 months in Iraq and is now in London. He said a Shi'ite win in the elections will mostly be a "sentimental" victory for the community and would not necessarily lead to Shi'ite political dominance.

"Everybody is speaking of a Shi'ite parliament, of a Shi'ite majority, or a Shi'ite victory [because] this issue has a sentimental value, because it's the first time the Shi'ites have a real chance to participate in the politics of Iraq. It is going to mean that this parliament will have the highest percentage of Shi'ites as individuals. It doesn't mean that the Shi'ite will be there as one block and will form a political majority," al-Shahbander said.

Al-Shahbander predicts that after the Shi'ites win a majority of seats in the assembly, the victory will be followed by new rounds of coalition building that could help redress imbalances from low Sunni participation in the election. The activity could see Shi'ite secular and religious parties that have come together for the poll breaking ranks to forge new intercommunity coalitions of their own.

"The current coalitions and the current blocks, people who are joining together to enter the election - that's only temporary, it's only for the election. As soon as the election is over, we will witness the abolition of these blocks and the establishment of new blocks, and I am sure these new blocks will surprise everyone," al-Shahbander said.

Mahmud Uthman, an independent Kurdish politician and member of the former Iraqi Governing Council, also sees new rounds of coalition building as highly likely after the election. He said the fact that many candidate lists for the election are a mix of Sunni, Shi'ite and Kurdish candidates favors a future politics of shifting alliances that will supersede single community interests.

"There will be different sorts of people in the assembly, and things would come up in a coalition [process]. I think a coalition will win, not Shi'ites alone. The Shi'ites alone, maybe they make up the majority of Iraqi people, but they are on different lists. You see Shi'ites in all the lists. You see Sunnis in all the lists. You see Christians in almost all the lists. That's why the danger of a Shi'ite win, as some people will put it, I don't think it poses that much of a danger, as such. But the danger is that some people will participate in the election, others are against it, and the violence will continue after the election," Uthman said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 AM


Escape from the universe: The universe is destined to end. Before it does, could an advanced civilisation escape via a "wormhole" into a parallel universe? The idea seems like science fiction, but it is consistent with the laws of physics and biology. Here's how to do it (Michio Kaku, February 2005, Prospect)

The universe is out of control, in a runaway acceleration. Eventually all intelligent life will face the final doom--the big freeze. An advanced civilisation must embark on the ultimate journey: fleeing to a parallel universe. [...]

As the universe expands, its energy content is diluted and temperatures eventually plunge to near absolute zero, where even atoms stop moving. One of the iron laws of physics is the second law of thermodynamics, which states that in the end everything runs down, that the total "entropy" (disorder or chaos) in the universe always increases. This means that iron rusts, our bodies age and crumble, empires fall, stars exhaust their nuclear fuel, and the universe itself will run down, as temperatures drop uniformly to near zero.

Charles Darwin was referring to this law when he wrote: "Believing as I do that man in the distant future will be a far more perfect creature than he now is, it is an intolerable thought that he and all other sentient beings are doomed to complete annihilation after such long-continued slow progress."

Darwin's teleology is not, in the end, sufficient for the faithful, so, of course, you have to produce this promise of life eternal.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 AM


Whatsa martyr with you?: The ingenue of Tom Wolfe's new novel, I Am Charlotte Simmons, by rights should have been a martyr to debauched university life. By sparing his protagonist from martyrdom, Wolfe ultimately, rather than holding up the mirror of tragedy to his public, ultimately gives us a smiley-face - and thereby comes close to the literary ideal of US neo-conservatives. (Spengler, 1/24/05, Asia Times)

Wolfe's collective biography of America's astronauts (The Right Stuff, 1983) was the ultimate feel-good-about-America book. It made him a cultural icon among the sort of boosters who also think that Mel Gibson's Braveheart is a grand paean to freedom. He did not mention that German scientists once in Adolf Hitler's service devised and built the rockets on which Wolfe's tobacco-chewing pilots flew to glory. Wolfe believes that guts, goodwill, and a smattering of knowledge will always win the day. That is the red thread connecting The Right Stuff and Charlotte Simmons, namely the author's assurance that within US culture as it is are to be found the solutions to the all problems that the United States confronts. Twenty years ago his account of the US space program was merely incomplete; today his portrait of American youth is incongruous.

As a journalist, Tom Wolfe knew better. The youth culture he describes mass-produces martyrs faster than the Emperor Nero. One out of six university students suffers from depression; two out of five college women suffer from anorexia or bulimia at some point, reported Psychology Today in December. This should be no surprise, given what Wolfe himself has reported.

"Only yesterday," Wolfe wrote five years ago in Hooking Up, "boys and girls spoke of embracing and kissing (necking) as getting to first base. Second base was deep kissing, plus groping and fondling this and that. Third base was oral sex. Home plate was going all the way. That was yesterday. Here in the year 2000 we can forget about necking. Today's girls and boys have never heard of anything that dainty. Today's first base is deep kissing, now known as tonsil hockey, plus groping and fondling this and that. Second base is oral sex. Third base is going all the way. Home plate is learning each other's names." Apart from some binge drinking, these lines summarize two-thirds of the content of Charlotte Simmons.

College campuses would actually seem to prove Mr. Wolfe's point--whatever the sexual mores of some, the student body is collectively more conservative tha it has been in decades. America does, uniquely, contain the balm for its own self-inflicted wounds.


Today's column offers a hint to spengler's identity, opening with the following:

"What's a motto?" asked the future Lion King Simba, to which Timon replied, "Nothing." "Whatsa motto with you?"

which reveals that he has young children.

Within the Ivy League, a shift to the right on abortion?: Debate grows about an issue once thought all but settled in the elite halls of the academic world. (Mary Beth McCauley, 1/25/05, CS Monitor)

Among the throngs expected to pour into the nation's capital yesterday to mark the 32nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade was an unlikely contingent - two dozen anti-abortion students from the University of Pennsylvania. The robust presence of "Penn for Life," both on campus and off, signals a heightened debate - at Penn and elsewhere - about an issue once thought all but settled in the more elite halls of the academic world.

"At the national level, we've noticed a uniform increase in on-campus pro-life activity," says Michael Sciscenti, president of American Collegians for Life, whose pre-march conference saw attendance grow from 70 students three years ago to 350 students, representing 70 universities, this year. Perhaps most interesting has been the growth at some of the country's most prestigious institutes. Princeton, MIT, Yale, and Stanford are among the campuses that today have active groups that oppose abortion rights.

For many years, Ivy League campuses were seen as unlikely recruiting grounds for the anti-abortion movement. But as the political and social views of college students in the United States have grown more conservative, that has begun to change.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 AM


Iran Attempts to Pull Plug on Web Dissidents: About 20 online journalists and bloggers have been jailed. Some say they were tortured and forced to publicly denounce their work. (Megan K. Stack, January 24, 2005, LA Times)

The criminal seems younger than his 25 years. He is the quiet type, shy and lanky, peering solemnly through octagonal glasses. He has no weapons, not in the traditional sense.

His name is Hanif Mazroui, and the tools of his crime are a handful of ideas and skinny fingers flying over the keyboard. He is one of about 20 Iranian Web loggers and journalists who have been arrested and jailed in recent months.

Government prosecutors call Mazroui a violator of national security and an inciter of unrest. If you ask the nation's conservative mullahs, he's an acid eating away at the fabric of the Islamic revolution. He has done time in solitary confinement, and reportedly weathered death threats from judiciary officials.

Asked about his time in prison, Mazroui dropped his chin, studied his shoes and said, "I prefer not to talk about it."

Then, after a moment of awkward silence as he slumped at his father's side, he fished into the pocket of his peacoat, drew out a bundle of black cloth and handed it over. It was a frayed blindfold, cut from thick canvas, with a tiny triangular wedge sliced out for a nose. He'd been forced to wear it in prison, he explained, and he'd smuggled the blindfold out with him as a keepsake.

"I just want to remember where I was," he said. "I'm grateful for my time in prison, because I realized how much we should pay for freedom, and that freedom can't be got easily. I'm a small drop of that."

After toiling for years to silence dissent within the Iranian republic, the mullahs have turned their war against free press to the last reserve of open political debate: the Internet.

Information technology, it was once feared, would make oppression easier--instead it makes it impossible.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 AM


For Bush, GOP Leaders, Some Policy Paths Diverge: Political ambitions and congressional legacies can trump the desires of a second-term president. (Janet Hook, January 24, 2005, LA Times)

When the Republican high command gathered for a private dinner at a resort by the Chesapeake Bay last month, party leaders talked about how to use their newly enhanced political muscle to begin carrying out a sweeping conservative agenda when Congress reconvenes this week.

White House officials had made it plain that President Bush wanted them to set aside other big issues and promote his promised overhaul of Social Security. But some in the room had a different plan.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas objected to postponing another campaign promise — making big changes to the tax code — that seemed to DeLay a clearer political winner.

"He was more nervous about going ahead on Social Security," said one person who attended the dinner. And DeLay said he was "annoyed" that Bush wanted to set up a study commission on taxes, according to another participant, because "he saw it as a delaying mechanism."

The exchange has not deterred Bush from opening the Social Security debate — and setting up a tax commission.

So pass a tax bill.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:56 AM


Clinton's Perverse Legacy: Is Clinton to blame for the Democratic Party's plight? (Jack Beatty, November 23, 2004, Atlantic Monthly)

Clinton was a business cycle president who happened to be in office during a time of innovation-driven prosperity. Clinton's legislative accomplishments are modest—at least to judge by his master criterion: improving the lives of ordinary Americans. Speaking in a heavy rain in front of a library that, he joked, one British critic compared to a double-wide trailer, Clinton singled out two of them, the Family and Medical Leave Act and welfare reform.

They are indeed emblematic legacies. Thanks to Bill Clinton, you can take a leave from your job to deal with a medical emergency in your family—but you won't get paid; the law only requires employers to give you the time off. Welfare reform has yielded some positive results since its enactment in 1996, though most of the jobs filled by welfare recipients pay low wages, offer few benefits, and are likely to disappear in economic downturns, and the effects on children who had to bring themselves up in the absence of their working mothers has yet to be measured. But it misrepresents the historical context for Clinton, as he did in his speech, to bask in the humanitarian glow of a policy choice motivated more by his reelection campaign against Bob Dole than by his compassion for single mothers caught up in welfare dependency. This is a point made eloquently by Peter Edelman, who resigned in protest over Clinton's embrace of a "hard" Republican version of reform, in an Atlantic Monthly cover story entitled, "The Worst Thing Bill Clinton Has Done." With welfare reform, Clinton did not "put people first," as he claimed Thursday; he put Bill Clinton first. Elected in 1992 with barely 43% of the vote, he governed as if the goal to which he was willing to sacrifice all other goals was his political viability. He spent his promise largely on himself. [...]

Clinton may not have left a substantial legislative legacy, but his political legacy is potent. He and Herbert Hoover may be the only presidents whose enduring bequest was to the opposition party. Richard Nixon's self-destruction in Watergate decimated his party in the congressional elections of 1974, the first post-Watergate contest. But that setback was transient, as the GOP resurgence under Reagan would show. Twenty years later Bill Clinton led his party to a more consequential defeat—the loss of the House of Representatives, the center of Democratic power since the New Deal. Clinton failed ordinary Americans, and wounded his party, by not bringing Health Care Reform—his one bid for a major achievement—to a vote, even though the Democrats controlled both branches of Congress. With each election cycle, it becomes clearer and clearer that 1994 was the worst defeat in the history of the world's oldest political party. Unlike the GOP in 1974, the Democrats may never recover from 1994—not today, when congressmen pick the voters through computer-directed gerrymandering, not when Congressional districts are becoming ideological affinity groups, the red districts attracting republicans, the blue districts democrats. So long as right-wing cultural populism is in the ascendant, it is hard to see any red state Congressmen losing their seats to Democrats, especially in the South.

In fairness to Bill Clinton, he never should have won in '92--as with Woodrow Wilson, only a third party challenge kept the Republican incumbent from winning. But, in fairness to Mr. Beatty, Tony Blair has shown that if Mr. Clinton had governed as far to the Right as he ran the Democrats might have held onto control of the government, even if as warmed-over neo-Reaganauts.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 AM


Turning up the volume over TV indecency (Jonathan Storm, 1/16/05, Philadelphia Inquirer)

As the broadcast networks prepare to face the nation's TV critics tomorrow at their winter meeting here, indecency is Topic A.

Easily mobilized and aided by the Internet, a small army has pelted the Federal Communications Commission with protests. [...]

"There isn't a day that's going by now where we're not affected. We're looking at Family Guy right now, product that aired without incident two or three years ago," said Fox Entertainment president Gail Berman, referring to the irreverent cartoon that started on Fox in 1999, then went to cable, and is returning because of its popularity on DVD. "It's just nebulous."

Lara Mahaney is unsympathetic.

"They should be grateful that they've gotten away with as much as they have for as long as they have," said Mahaney, director of corporate and entertainment affairs at the Parents Television Council, the primary organization stirring the commotion.

The battle over TV indecency is never-ending, rising cyclically and then quieting down again.

This time, however, it's different, and none of the nearly 20 people throughout the business interviewed for this article would speculate on when the controversy would die down.

FCC Chairman Michael Powell says the commission will make a priority of enforcing indecency rules. The issue has gained a special appeal to politicians, who know it is an important issue for some voters.

Don't want to be bound by the rules of the public airwaves? Stick to DVDs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:21 AM


Party man: Bush has cocentrated on party leadership like few other presidents (David M. Shribman, January 23, 2005, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

[B]ush sees himself not only as a war president but also as a party leader. His guru, Karl Rove, has no small ambition; he wants to establish the Republicans as the natural party of government. The president knows firsthand the value of governing with a Congress controlled by his own party -- an advantage Carter possessed but never seemed to exploit, and one that Bill Clinton so abused that he lost it two years into his presidency.

Not so Bush. He is the first president since Franklin D. Roosevelt -- the party-builder par excellence -- to increase his majorities in both houses of Congress while winning re-election. And he is the first Republican since Abraham Lincoln -- who helped put the country back together as he built the Republican Party -- to make that achievement. Unlike his predecessor, he doesn't look at the word "legacy" through a first-person-singular prism.

Harold F. Bass, a well-regarded political scientist at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark., has studied presidential party leadership -- there's no specialty too small in academics or medicine -- and he concludes that Bush is emerging as one of history's leading party-builders. The president, he writes in the Berkeley-based online journal The Forum, "stands poised to reach rarefied heights of repute as a presidential party leader, rivaling Franklin Roosevelt."

One of the measures of party-building is party support in Congress, and here Bush scores remarkably well, receiving support from fellow Republicans in his first term at a 92 percent rate in the Senate and at an 84 percent rate in the House, according to figures assembled by Congressional Quarterly, a nonpartisan journal. No president has scored higher.

And he's not even close to done. The GOP stand to pick up as many as four to six Senate seats in '06

-George W. Bush, Presidential Party Leadership Extraordinaire? (Harold F. Bass, Post-Election 2004, The Forum)
-3 GOP Lawmakers May Seek Governors' Seats (DAVID ESPO, 1/23/06, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Republican Rep. C.L. (Butch) Otter of Idaho is all but officially running for governor of his state, and GOP Reps. Jim Nussle of Iowa and Jim Gibbons of Nevada both seem headed in the same direction in theirs. [...]

Gibbons' interest in running for governor was evident two years ago, when he rebuffed party recruiters seeking a challenger for Democratic Sen. Harry Reid in 2004. Additionally, Gibbons' wife is talking about a possible run to replace her husband in the House. If both run and win, she would wind up with twin public roles - first lady of Nevada and member of Congress.

Nussle's district in northeastern Iowa probably would offer Democrats the most tempting target of the three in 2006. He won re-election with 55 percent of the vote last year. Gibbons won a fifth term in November with 67 percent support. Otter topped that in conservative Idaho, gaining close to 70 percent. [...]

Other Republican House members are potential candidates for statewide office.

Rep. Ray LaHood of Illinois has been canvassing support for a possible gubernatorial run, and Rep. Mark Green has expressed interest in Wisconsin. Rep. Katherine Harris of Florida is another possibility. She flirted with a senatorial campaign in 2004 before running for re-election to the House. Rep. Mark Kennedy of Minnesota is a potential candidate for the Senate, as well.

-RNC Chair Unveils 'Durabale Majority' Plan (RON FOURNIER, 1/19/05, AP)
White House ally Ken Mehlman assumed control of the Republican Party on Wednesday, crowing over GOP successes in November with a pledge "to cement these victories into a durable Republican majority."

Mehlman, a longtime GOP operative who managed President Bush's re-election bid, said voters gave the president and his party a sweeping mandate. Addressing the Republican National Committee on the eve of Bush's inaugural, Mehlman took a thinly veiled shot at former Bush rival John Kerry.

"Given the choice between freedom and fear, between paying any price and cutting and running, between victory and vacillation, the American people lived up to the best traditions of our nation and chose to rally behind our banner of freedom," Mehlman said in a text of his remarks released by the RNC before the address.

Bush tapped Mehlman to head the RNC, whose membership was expected to ratify the choice before its two-day meeting ends later Wednesday.

Mehlman, a disciple of White House strategist Karl Rove, said Bush is the first president since 1936 to be re-elected while his party expanded majorities in the House and Senate. Republican governors head 28 states, including the four largest.

"There's a word for this kind of victory," he said. "It's called a mandate."

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:15 AM


In Europe, the consumer is hardly king (Elisabetta Povoledo, January 24, 2005, International Herald Tribune)

[A]cross most of Italy, and in Europe's other major economies, retail commerce is still a highly regulated sector with deep roots in nationalist, protectionist policies passed during the early decades of the 20th century.

The seasonal sales now taking place from Paris to Palermo are restricted in duration by government regulation.

Retail store sales are effectively made legal twice a year, for a period that can vary from three weeks to two months. Apart from the occasional promotional sale, also regulated, shopkeepers cannot reduce prices on items outside that period and call it a sale.

But many are finding increasingly creative ways to promote discounted items throughout the year in ways that do not violate the law and result in fines.

That is in sharp contrast to Britain, and especially to the United States, where consumers crowd into stores to snap up Christmas gifts that are discounted as early as late October.

To some retail analysts and consumer groups, the restrictions in Continental Europe play a role in consumer spending, a key driver of economic growth.

That is evident in countries where the retail market is less regulated, said Lorenzo Codogno, an economist at Bank of America in London, because in these countries, "consumer spending has grown more, on average."

Codogno said that greater deregulation would be beneficial for competition. "An increase in competition in the retail market would no doubt lower inflation," he said.

Richard Hyman, chairman of Verdict Research, a London-based retail research company, said: "A freer, less regulated enterprise culture would promote stronger economic growth and healthier spending in the shops. History shows that competition works in retailing."

Statistics published by Eurostat, the European Union's statistical agency, this month show that retail sales in the euro zone were sluggish in November, virtually unchanged from a month earlier and up only 0.4 percent from November 2003. In Germany, Portugal and Luxembourg, sales fell 2.5 percent in November, and in many other European countries, retailers complained of dismal pre-Christmas sales.

Spending figures tend to jump in January and again at midyear in France, Germany and Italy, when the retail discount period is permitted.

But some shopkeepers warn that an improvement during the sales season is not necessarily positive for spending.

"When sales go well, it means we're in a period of crisis," said Roberto Vergelio, the owner of a chain of shoe stores in Lombardy. The discount season, he said, "has become the only time when the consumer libido can let loose."

Remind us again why anyone thinks it good that our friends the Poles and the Turks entrap themselves in this morass?

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:10 AM


The head who banned homework
(Amelia Hill, The Observer, January 23rd, 2005)

Spiritualists believe the village of Marlborough, in Wiltshire, lies at the heart of the modern-day crop circle phenomenon. Last week, however, a local headmaster achieved something even more mystical: he made homework disappear.

Had Dr Patrick Hazlewood produced proof that little green men really do come to Swindon to make pretty rings in the landscape, he would have provoked less outrage. After what he had considered to be a perfectly amicable parents' evening during which he explained why he was scrapping traditional homework for Year Seven pupils, the world came crashing through his gates, accusing him of wrecking education and wasting taxpayers' money. [...]

'Traditional homework is boring, irrelevant and all too often the source of family conflict,' he says, crossing his legs at the ankles and propelling himself forward by jutting out his knees in opposite directions like a camping stool. 'I have spent the last four years re-engineering our school's curriculum for the 21st century and one thing I have become very much aware of is that homework is a 20th-century concept whose time has long gone.

'Pupils should not be sponging ideas off their teachers: they should be taught to have their own ideas'.

St John's has been at the forefront of radical educational change since becoming one of the first schools to test a futuristic project by the Royal Society for the Arts that holds the point of school is not to acquire subject knowledge but to encourage pupils to 'love learning for its own sake'.

The no-homework plan is Hazlewood's latest step in this project, seeing his Year Seven pupils (11- and 12-year-olds) encouraged to think around long-term projects at home instead of being asked to complete set tasks.

As he talks, Hazlewood creates his own crop circle shapes in the air: a ring drawn with both hands represents his school's ethos; fluttering fingers sweeping up diagonally from his heart to his head represents progress. Only 'homework' seems to have no accompanying gesture: the mere mention of the issue sends his hands flopping down on to his knees. 'In a traditional classroom, you might get the correct answer but you never get the deep and critical thinking that is the hallmark of a proper education,' he says.

One of the more bizarre facets of post-modern democracy is that just about everyone is convinced he/she is qualified for two tasks. The first is to run the country and the second is to craft the ideal educational system. The childless tend to see themselves as particularly adept at the latter. As comic as this may be, it is probably just as well because heaven help the poor child who is caught defenseless in the never-ending ideological wars and experimentation that animates professional educators and the huge bureaucracies that oversee them.

Dr Hazlewood may think he is cutting-edge, but this is all old hat. Since Bertrand Russell’s On Education in 1926, progressive educators by the thousands have promoted the quirky idea that creative and profound thoughts can emanate from empty minds and that children should only be made to learn as long as they are having fun. Of course, the “deep and critical thinking” they seek to promote usually results in left-wing views and a precocious chippiness towards history and traditional culture. A typical product of this madness is the unpleasant youngster who has strong and defiant views on the importance of the UN, but is completely clueless about the histories and politics of the countries that comprise it.

Homework is simply an extension of the number of hours dedicated to education. Too much, too early can certainly grind down some students, but that fact has no bearing on the screamingly obvious fact that success, excellence and the sublime enjoyment of culture are all functions of work and effort, not fun and emotional contentment. It is amazing and alarming that so many in the modern West have come to believe otherwise and see study as a cruel impediment to learning.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:07 AM


Bush tried to bully Canada on missile defence (Globe and Mail, January 23rd, 2005)

U.S. President George W. Bush tried to bully Canadian officials on missile defence during his visit last month by linking Canada's participation to future protection from the U.S., the Washington Post reported Sunday.

The newspaper quoted an unidentified Canadian official who was in the room as saying Mr. Bush waved off their attempts to explain how contentious the issue is for Prime Minister Paul Martin's minority government.

“[Bush] leaned across the table and said: ‘I'm not taking this position, but some future president is going to say, Why are we paying to defend Canada?' ” the official was quoted as saying.

“Most of our side was trying to explain the politics, how it was difficult to do,” he said.

But Mr. Bush “waved his hands and remarked: ‘I don't understand this. Are you saying that if you got up and said this is necessary for the defence of Canada, it wouldn't be accepted?' ”

Back in the good old days, gentle and civilized Canadians feared the conquering dreams of the wild and rapacious Yankee trader. Now we feel bullied when he threatens to leave us alone.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


VIDEO: An Iraqi Elections Broadcast (Al-Arabiya TV (Dubai) - 1/2/2005 - 00:00:52)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


'Never Retire' (WILLIAM SAFIRE, 1/24/05, NY Times)

The Nobel laureate James Watson, who started a revolution in science as co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, put it to me straight a couple of years ago: "Never retire. Your brain needs exercise or it will atrophy."

Why, then, am I bidding Op-Ed readers farewell today after more than 3,000 columns? Nobody pushed me; at 75, I'm in good shape, not afflicted with political ennui; and my recent column about tsunami injustice and the Book of Job drew the biggest mail response in 32 years of pounding out punditry.

Here's why I'm outta here: In an interview 50 years before, the aging adman Bruce Barton told me something like Watson's advice about the need to keep trying something new, which I punched up into "When you're through changing, you're through." He gladly adopted the aphorism, which I've been attributing to him ever since.

Combine those two bits of counsel - never retire, but plan to change your career to keep your synapses snapping - and you can see the path I'm now taking.

William Safire to End Op-Ed Run at N.Y. Times (Howard Kurtz, November 16, 2004, Washington Post)
When William Safire left the Nixon White House to hold forth on the op-ed page of the New York Times, many readers reacted with disbelief, as if an intruder were defiling their liberal temple.

After three decades, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist has become a comfortable fixture at the paper, a must-read even for those who disagree with his conservative views.

Safire, 74, said yesterday he is giving up the column in January. "It's time to leave when you're still hitting the long ball and have something else you want to do," he said. Safire said he told Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. last year that the 2004 campaign would be his "last hurrah" and that Sulzberger "expressed the proper dismay" but urged him not to give up his "On Language" column. Safire will continue that idiosyncratic column for the paper's Sunday magazine. [...]

Safire was "an apostate once," abandoning the first President Bush to vote for Bill Clinton in 1992. But Safire later soured on the 42nd president, and when he called Hillary Rodham Clinton a "congenital liar," her husband said he wanted to punch the columnist in the nose.

"I always thought highly of him until the last year or so," said liberal blogger Joshua Micah Marshall, who has challenged Safire columns contending there were links between 9/11 terrorist Mohamed Atta and Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Marshall said he thought Safire was either being dishonest or guilty of "great sloppiness."

Safire was a New York publicist who helped stage the Moscow "kitchen debate" between Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in 1959 that helped show off a homebuilder client's kitchen. Two years after joining Nixon's staff during the 1968 campaign, he wrote one of the most famous slams against journalists -- calling them "nattering nabobs of negativism" -- in a speech for Vice President Spiro Agnew.

When Safire joined the Times Washington bureau in 1973 -- after turning down a similar offer from The Washington Post -- "there was a certain built-in hostility here," he said. Referring to then-Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Sr., Safire said that "Punch was under terrific criticism for hiring a Nixon flack, particularly during Watergate," which erupted into a full-fledged scandal a week after Safire left Nixon's staff.

The ice melted after a company picnic at which a staffer's child fell into the pool and "my wife pushed me in" to rescue the child. "All of a sudden I was a hero."

Safire said the late columnist Stewart Alsop offered advice on the art of writing, including "Never sell out, except for a really good anecdote." Safire's passion on privacy and civil liberties issues stems from his discovery that Nixon had him wiretapped during his White House tenure.

His endorsement of Bill Clinton bordered on the unforgivable, but his novel, Freedom: A Novel of Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War is so good as to redeem him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM

PYRAMID SCHEME (via Robert Schwartz):

EATING MY SPINACH: Four Days on the Uncle Sam Diet ... (WILLIAM GRIMES, January 23, 2005, NY Times)

WHEN the Agriculture Department unveiled its new dietary guidelines this month, it laid down a challenge to all Americans: Eat better, smarter and healthier, or else. The "or else" included a long list of ailments that plague the developed world, from heart disease and osteoporosis to diabetes.

Along with the stick, however, came some nice, healthy carrots: Follow the guidelines and you will be stocking up on nutrients that help prevent cancer. You should also lose some weight. Odds are you'll live longer and feel better. Just stick to the road map.

I gave it a try, curious to see how hard it would be to change my eating patterns to fit the program, which seemed to be calling not just for nutritional change, but cultural change - a redefinition of what makes a meal.

For four days, I regulated my calories, stepped up my consumption of fruits and vegetables, cut down on fat and even, against every instinct in my body and soul, resumed an exercise regimen that I had tried and swiftly abandoned decades ago. It has been a testing period.

I took little notice of the previous guidelines, issued in 2000. At the time I was the restaurant critic for this newspaper, paid to trample on every rule in the dietary guidebook. I do recall looking quickly at the daily maximums and wondering how a recent meal at a Viennese-style cafe, where I sampled 12 desserts, would fit into the grid..

A year ago I left the restaurant beat, and since then I have eaten a fairly normal American diet, though with a pretentious urban slant. Never margarine, always butter, for example. Fine farmhouse cheeses rather than Kraft Singles. Ground buffalo instead of chuck. So I assumed that the new guidelines would not require any wrenching changes: A small adjustment here and there, but nothing I couldn't live with.

I was wrong. [...]

The guidelines were beginning to feel like wartime rationing. I walked around with a nagging feeling of being just slightly deprived. After two days, it began to haunt me.

I also began to chafe at the relentless assault on pleasure that the guidelines seemed to represent. At every turn, Americans were being urged to consume foods in their least tasty forms. There they were, the dreaded chicken breast with the skin removed, the unadorned steamed fish and the unspeakable processed cheeses.

In the world of the guidelines, food is a kind of medicine that, taken in the right doses, can promote good health. In the real world, of course, people regard food and its flavors as a source of pleasure. And therein lies just one of the problems with the guidelines, which my wife took one look at before saying with a shake of her head, "No one is ever going to eat like this."

As a cultural document, the guidelines are strange. They set themselves the worthy but futile goal of imposing a style of eating for which Americans have no model. It's all very well to announce that everyone should eat five servings of vegetables a day. But where does that fit in the culinary template that Americans instinctively consult when planning a meal? The typical American dinner is an entrée with a starch and a vegetable, preceded in some cases by a salad or soup and followed with dessert.

For Asians, it's quite normal to eat multiple vegetable dishes at the same meal (even at breakfast), and to prepare very small quantities of fish or meat with much larger quantities of rice. But Americans rarely eat multiple vegetable dishes except on Thanksgiving. If they are going to triple their vegetable consumption, they'll have to greatly enlarge the vegetable portions they do eat, throwing the meal off balance, or else walk around nibbling on carrots and cauliflower florets from a plastic bag.

The new guidelines are not just health policy, they're cultural policy, too. To comply fully, Americans will have to rethink their inherited notions of what makes a meal, and what makes a meal satisfying.

That is a very tall order - even taller than the daily mound of uncooked leafy vegetables that everyone is supposed to eat.

Be sure to read the whole thing--it's not just funny but maybe the most culturally conservative piece they'll run in '05.

January 23, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:02 PM


That Day in September: My personal experience of 9/11. How it was that I was there; what it was I witnessed and what it was like to be in New York City during that time. (Artie Van Why)

That Day in September began as an email written the morning of September 12th by Artie to his friends and family, putting down into words, for the first time, what he had gone through that previous day. At the urging of those he sent the email to, Artie continued writing about his experience. With the help, and direction, of actor, and former SAG President, Richard Masur, Artie took what he was writing and put it together as a one man theater piece. That Day in September premiered in Los Angeles in October of 2002 to critical acclaim. In the summer of 2004 That Day in September opened Off-Broadway in New York City. It is Artie's hope that his story will continue to be told, so that we never forget that moment of our history. The online publication of That Day in September is for that purpose.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:45 PM

1 IN '05:

Conservative vs. liberal in Virginia (Washington Times, 1/23/05)

With Jerry Kilgore's announcement last week of his resignation as Virginia attorney general, the stage has been set for a classic conservative vs. liberal showdown in the race to become Virginia's next governor, pitting Mr. Kilgore against Democratic Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine.

Since winning a 20-point landslide election in 2001, Mr. Kilgore has been an activist attorney general in the best sense -- at times overshadowing Democratic Gov. Mark Warner, who won with 52 percent of the vote in 2001, and Mr. Kaine, a Warner loyalist who was elected with 50.5 percent of the vote. This was particularly true during the year following the November 2002 landslide defeats of two referendums pushed by Mr. Warner that would have increased taxes to pay for transportation projects.

Mr. Kilgore has pushed the General Assembly to enact legislation making it easier to prosecute violent street gangs, in particular the Salvadoran gang known as the MS-13, which is active in Northern Virginia. He opposed Mr. Warner's efforts to permit illegal immigrants to pay lower in-state tuition rates. Mr. Kilgore worked with members of the General Assembly to enact legislation (over Mr. Warner's objections) banning driver's licenses for illegals. He has questioned efforts by state colleges and universities to institute racial preferences. The attorney general opposed the efforts by the governor and Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Chichester to pass a $1.38 billion tax-increase package last year. Mr. Kilgore has also been extraordinarily active in prosecuting serial sexual predators.

In the early stages of his campaign for governor, Mr. Kilgore has sought to focus attention on the differences between himself and Mr. Kaine over capital punishment. Mr. Kilgore favors the death penalty, while Mr. Kaine opposes it.

For all the talk of VA being a target of opportunity for Democrats, President Bush ended up beating John Kerry by 9% points and the GOP enjoyed a 4% advantage in party identification at the polls.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 PM


Freedom's Just Another Word: Bush gave a great speech. But what did it mean? (Chris Suellentrop, Jan. 20, 2005, Slate)

Perhaps no politician since Lincoln has been better at linking the language of the Bible with the language of democracy, America's secular religion, than George W. Bush. In President Bush's second inaugural address, freedom, like God, comes calling in the night. It comes "to every mind and every soul," Bush said, and it "will come to those who love it." If freedom has left you, have no fear, for there will be a Second Coming, Bush assured, a day when freedom rules the earth. "We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of freedom," he said. "We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul." In Bush's telling, freedom is "a fire in the minds of men," an allusion to the "revolutionary faiths" that powered the French and Russian revolutions. "It warms those who feel its power, it burns those who fight its progress, and one day this untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of the world." Bush made freedom sound like God's call, a spiritual force that must be heard and answered willingly but that comes to all who have ears. Freedom must be chosen, Bush said, but it is inescapable that some day all will choose it.

In that sense, this was a speech that could have been written by Francis Fukuyama, who theorized in The End of History and the Last Man that worldwide democracy is inevitable because of man's natural striving for dignity and liberty. Fukuyama was derided by many historians for his assertion that history is directional, with a progress and a path that can be discerned, and Fukuyama's thesis took a severe hit when Sept. 11 drove home the realization that in parts of the world Islamic radicalism has become a compelling alternative ideology to American-style democracy. Yet here was Bush proclaiming that God and freedom are on the same side, and that the End of History is in sight. "History has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible direction, set by liberty and the Author of Liberty," he said.

Compelling? Then why are the Islamicists so terrified of elections?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:22 PM


Japan's ageing workforce: built to last (Nick Mackie , 1/23/05, BBC)

By 2007, Japan's population is expected to peak at 127 million, then shrink to under 100 million by the middle of the century. This means 30 million fewer workers at a time when the number of elderly will have almost doubled.

"In the year 2050, if the birth rate remains the same people over 60 will make up over 30% of the population," explains Shigeo Morioka of the International Longevity Centre in Tokyo.

So how will Japan's finances stay on track?

After a decade of economic stagnation and huge deficit spending, the public sector debt is already about 140% of the country's gross domestic product (GDP), the highest rate among industrialised countries.

The International Monetary Fund predicts that as the falling birth rate takes grip from 2010, the cost of running Japan's welfare state will double to more than 5% of GDP, while current account balances will deteriorate by over 2%.

But unfortunately, Japan appears poorly prepared both financially and politically.

Glen Wood, Vice President of Deutsche Securities Japan, asks; "Who's going to fund the pension fund for the next generation and indeed who are going to be the new Japanese worker?

"Who is going to build the economy, who are going to be the leaders? Who are going to be the producers of the GDP going forward?"

One option is further welfare reform. Another is immigration, possibly from the Philippines and Indonesia. But so far, any emerging policy appears restricted to a limited number of nursing staff. [...]

In contrast to Japan - and of course the European Union - the US population is expected to increase by 46% to 420 million by the middle of the century.

Although President Bush must re-devise Social Security to take account of a 130% rise in America's over 65s, the IMF foresees a positive contribution to the US current account balance from the combined forces of fertility and immigration.

Here's a question they never ask even when they realize the rest of the developed world has a demographic crisis: why will even the few young people they do have stay in dying societies when they can just come here?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:16 PM


In Age of Security, Firm Mines Wealth Of Personal Data (Robert O'Harrow Jr., January 20, 2005, Washington Post)

It began in 1997 as a company that sold credit data to the insurance industry. But over the next seven years, as it acquired dozens of other companies, Alpharetta, Ga.-based ChoicePoint Inc. became an all-purpose commercial source of personal information about Americans, with billions of details about their homes, cars, relatives, criminal records and other aspects of their lives.

As its dossier grew, so did the number of ChoicePoint's government and corporate clients, jumping from 1,000 to more than 50,000 today. Company stock once worth about $500 million ballooned to $4.1 billion.

Now the little-known information industry giant is transforming itself into a private intelligence service for national security and law enforcement tasks. It is snapping up a host of companies, some of them in the Washington area, that produce sophisticated computer tools for analyzing and sharing records in ChoicePoint's immense storehouses. In financial papers, the company itself says it provides "actionable intelligence."

"We do act as an intelligence agency, gathering data, applying analytics," said company vice president James A. Zimbardi.

ChoicePoint and other private companies increasingly occupy a special place in homeland security and crime-fighting efforts, in part because they can compile information and use it in ways government officials sometimes cannot because of privacy and information laws. [...]

[A]ctivists for civil liberties and privacy, and some lawmakers, say current laws are inadequate to ensure that businesses and government agencies do not abuse the growing power to examine the activities of criminals and the innocent alike.

These critics said it will soon be hard for individuals looking for work or access to sensitive facilities to ever shake off a criminal past or small transgression, such as a bounced check or minor arrest.

Chris Hoofnagle, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a nonprofit group in the District, said ChoicePoint is helping to create a " 'Scarlet Letter' society."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:08 PM


Now Playing: 'Anybody But Dean, Part 2': While the GOP danced, the Dems once again found themselves looking for a leader who's not from Vermont. (Howard Fineman, 1/23/05, Newsweek)

Within hours of George Bush's Inauguration, everyone was playing his assigned role. Republicans, happily united, were dancing the night away at glittering balls in downtown Washington. Democrats, meanwhile, divided into familiar warring camps: for and against Howard Dean. In Burlington, Vt., Dean and hundreds of fans gathered for an "un-Inauguration"—and in support of the former governor's quest to become the new chairman of the Democratic Party. In Georgetown that same evening, hordes of insiders partied at the stately home of Mark Penn, the Clinton family pollster, where they gripped and grinned with Bill and Hill, cheered each other up—and fretted about Dean's assault on party headquarters. "There was a ton of positive energy at the house," a guest said later, "except for the fear and loathing of Dean."

If you think you have seen this movie before—"Dean Against the Machine"—you have. Ever since the early days of the 2004 presidential campaign, the country doctor from the State of Ben & Jerry has been the agitating principal of a confused, fratricidal and essentially leaderless party. Then, as now, Dean inspired an outside-the-Beltway, Net-based crusade whose shock troops adored his social progressivism and his fearless opposition to war in Iraq. Then, as now, a party establishment—based in Congress, governors' mansions and Georgetown salons—viewed him as a loudmouthed lefty whose visibility would ruin the Democratic brand in Red States. Back then, insiders coalesced around Sen. John Kerry, who was stodgy but, Washington wise guys thought, a safe alternative. They trapped Dean in a crossfire in Iowa; his caucus-night Scream sealed his fate.

But the 477 DNC members who choose the party chair haven't settled on a leader of the 2005 version of the Anybody But Dean movement.

What more do we need to know about the state of the Democratric Party than that they think they need to find another John Kerry to save themselves?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:03 PM


Ivy loses its luster? (Teresa Mendez, 1/24/05, CS Monitor)

What's an Ivy League degree worth these days? Well, if you have plans to run a Fortune 100 company, maybe not as much as it was 20 years ago.

That's one of the catchier findings in "The New Road to the Top" by a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's business school and a colleague in Spain. It appears in the current issue of the Harvard Business Review. (Apparently, the Ivy League does remain the place from which to scrutinize the Fortune 100.)

In 2001, just 10 percent of the top executives at Fortune 100 companies - the 100 largest by revenue - had an Ivy League undergraduate degree. That's a drop of 4 percentage points - or nearly a third - from the number of Ivy-educated execs in 1980. There's been some "erosion in the importance of an elite alma mater," the study concludes.

Twenty years from now religious-affiliated colleges will be more than competitive with the prior elites.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:58 PM


Where candidates hide, one Iraqi hits the stump (Dan Murphy, 1/24/05, CS Monitor)

In a country where some candidates address the electorate only from behind blast-proof walls and others are so stealthy that their names are secret, Sadr City's Fatah al-Sheikh stands out.

In an election season with few campaign rallies and fewer public appearances by candidates, Mr. Sheikh incongruously displays all of the techniques of a Western politician. If a baby were around, he would surely kiss it. Here on Baghdad's meanest streets, he beams for a TV camera and backslaps passersby.

"Why should I be afraid?'' asks Sheikh, a onetime spokesman for a militant cleric who now heads his own list of candidates in Iraq's Jan. 30 election. "The people here know us and respect us. They know we'll fight and die with them."

The residents of Sadr City, an impoverished sprawl of 2 million Shiite Muslims on the northeast edge of Baghdad, have known much about fighting and dying over the years, and their sense of grievance and suspicion of outsiders is something that Sheikh is hoping to tap into. With nearly 10 percent of Iraq's population, the district is a rich electoral prize. [...]

Officially, Sadr is sitting the election out. Though he encourages Shiites to vote in what is likely to be the first chance for the country's Shiite majority to take power since Iraq was founded, he also expressed ambivalence about an election taking place under the auspices of the US and the interim leadership, many of whom he's attacked as American puppets.

"In principle, we are 100 percent for elections,'' says Ahmed al-Qurayshi, a Sadr aide. "But we insist that votes are cast and counted fairly. We feel the US might be trying to engineer a result behind the curtains."

Even so, Sadr appears to be hedging his bets. In addition to the list headed by Sheikh, leaders of the United Iraqi Alliance list, a coalition of Shiite religious movements that has the support of Sistani, say about 10 percent of their candidates are Sadr supporters.

The presence of the Sadr supporters' list underscores the wide range of views among Shiites, and the likely wrangling that will take place once a largely Shiite parliament sits. The Sistani list has everything from secular politicians to, at its fringes, supporters of an Iranian-style theocracy.

Sheikh says he expects to sweep the vote in Sadr City. "Look at them - they're all ready to fight,'' he says, smiling out from a close-cropped beard.

But combing Sadr City's streets suggest he may be disappointed. "We have the greatest respect and admiration for Moqtada and his men,'' says Kassim Ghali, a 23-year old with slicked back hair. "Everyone knows that they were the ones to stand up to the Americans, but I'm voting for 169 - the Sistani list."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:24 PM


Cellphones, roads, and girls in school. Is this south Sudan? (Abraham McLaughlin, 1/24/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Imagine having to build a country from scratch. Richard Herbert doesn't have to try too hard.

The former Sprint PCS engineer from Newport Beach, Calif., now is creating southern Sudan's first cellphone network from the ground up.

Until last month, if you wanted to talk to someone across town in southern Sudan's capital, Rumbek, there were two options: Go see them face to face, or pay $2 a minute to talk via satellite phone. There are no land-line phones here, and only about 10 miles of paved roads. In fact, 22 years of civil war have left this one the least developed places on the planet.

But as fear subsides, southern Sudan is reawakening and rebuilding. A Jan. 9 peace deal ended Africa's longest civil war - a conflict between north and south in which 2 million died. The first signs of normalcy are appearing: Children, even girls, are going to school - many for the first. (Only Afghanistan under the Taliban had fewer girls graduate from eighth grade.) Some are starting to see a life beyond the battlefield. And commerce is coming back.

Mr. Herbert's cellphone team is on the leading edge of a developing post-war investment boom. When he arrived last August, he had only a few acres of land and a broken 30-foot satellite dish to work with. He had to charter planes to bring much of the new equipment.

"Most countries, even Afghanistan, have at least some infrastructure," he says. "But southern Sudan - zero."

Much of the initial funding for rebuilding comes from international donors and aid groups. The biggest funder, the US, may give as much as $500 million.

But southern Sudan's leaders - former rebels who are joining the national government and will control the south - are keen for private-sector help, too.

Sudan Peace Deal Generates Activity (RODRIQUE NGOWI, 1/22/05, Associated Press)
Businessmen, aid workers and diplomats have rushed to this sprawling town, set to become the provisional capital of an autonomous government for southern Sudan, amid a flowering of hope after the signing of a landmark peace accord ending the country's civil war.

Sudan's main rebel leader, John Garang, returned Saturday to the town that has been his headquarters, fresh from signing the deal between his southern-based Sudan Peoples Liberation Army and the central government.

Garang stepped over a white cow that that had been slaughtered on the tarmac - the white cow is considered an offering to peace by his Dinka tribesman - while hundreds of residents gathered at the dusty airstrip to witness his arrival. Some clung precariously to tree branches while others clambered on top of the fuselage of an aircraft that crashed here three years ago.

"It feels great after a peace agreement - honorable and dignified - you can see the people are very happy," Garang said. [...]

Foreign donors have pledged hundreds of millions in aid, but many want to see progress resolving a separate conflict in Sudan's western Darfur region before releasing the funds.

Companies are expected to come in after insurgents form their new government in the next six months.

"The peace is going to bring all kinds of business activity," said Terry Light, from Ithaca, N.Y., one of the first foreign businessmen to set up here 14 years ago. He runs a tented camp next to the airstrip - Rumbek's version of a luxury hotel.

Light, head of Africa Expeditions Ltd., was forced to charter flights to bring in food and supplies to keep up with the rush this week, part of the increased business seen here since the peace accord was signed in Nairobi, Kenya.

"We have certainly never seen anything like this size of influx before," Light said.

Garang to help settle Sudan conflicts (The Age, January 23, 2005)
Sudan's main rebel leader has told his supporters at a rally that with a deal ending two decades of fighting in southern Sudan now in place, those living in the south will have to help negotiate settlements to other conflicts in the country.

John Garang, leader of the Sudan People's Liberation Army, arrived at the rebel group's headquarters in Rumbek for the first time since signing a comprehensive peace deal two weeks ago in neighbouring Kenya. [...]

"The peace that we have brought is not our peace alone. It is peace for Sudan, it is peace for all regions, it is peace for Africa," Garang told hundreds of supporters at a rally.

"We will also have to ensure it is also peace for Darfur and for eastern Sudan," he said, referring to a low intensity conflict in the Red Hills area of eastern Sudan between the government and the Bejya Congress.

Now for Darfur.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:14 PM


No Teacher Left Behind: Unions don't have children's best interests at heart. (TERRY M. MOE, January 22, 2005, The Wall Street Journal)

The teachers unions have more influence over the public schools than any other group in American society. They influence schools from the bottom up, through collective bargaining activities that shape virtually every aspect of school organization. And they influence schools from the top down, through political activities that shape government policy. They are the 800-pound gorillas of public education. Yet the American public is largely unaware of how influential they are--and how much they impede efforts to improve public schools.

The problem is not that the unions are somehow bad or ill-intentioned. They aren't. The problem is that when they simply do what all organizations do--pursue their own interests--they are inevitably led to do things that are not in the best interests of children.

To appreciate why this is so, consider the parallel to business firms. No one claims that these organizations are in business to promote the public interest. They are in business to make money, and this is the fundamental interest that drives their behavior. Thus, economists and policy makers fully expect firms to pollute the water and air when polluting is less costly (and more profitable) than not polluting--and that is why we have laws against pollution. The problem is not that firms are out to destroy the environment. The problem is simply that their interests are not identical to the public interest, and the two inevitably come into conflict.

Teachers unions have to be understood in much the same way. Their behavior is driven by fundamental interests too, except that their interests have to do with the jobs, working conditions, and material well-being of teachers. When unions negotiate with school boards, these are the interests they pursue, not those of the children who are supposed to be getting educated.

Which is why the Democrats, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the teachers' unions, are so bad for education.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:22 PM


New papers redefine Reagan (Eric Leach, January 23, 2005, Los Angeles Daily News)

The library recently made available nearly 25,000 additional pages of Reagan's personal papers, including speeches, radio scripts and articles he wrote in the 1960s and '70s.

These documents include Reagan's handwritten drafts of about 1,000 scripts for "Viewpoint," his nationally syndicated radio commentary program, which aired from 1975 to 1979.

"The radio speeches are crucial in my view," said Robert G. Kaufman, a professor of public policy at Pepperdine University, who is researching a biography on Reagan's goals and his early presidential years.

"It was during those years, from 1975 to 1979, that his thoughts crystalized into a coherent national philosophy that served as a template for his presidency.

"All this dispels the myth that Ronald Reagan was somehow a creature of his advisers," Kaufman said. "The radio addresses prove the contrary. They show that Ronald Reagan was the driving force of his administration and the key policies emanating from it." [...]

The radio show drafts, portions of which were never aired, offer "a good time capsule of what was going on during that period of the 1970s, because Ronald Reagan talked about everything that was going on," said Michael Duggan, supervisory archivist at the library.

"We've released a small collection of (the Reagans) love letters, but this is by far the largest personal collection we have opened."

Before the release of the new collection, said researchers Martin and Annelise Anderson, who edited "Reagan, In His Own Hand: Writings of Ronald Reagan Reveal His Revolutionary Vision for America," most scholars believed Reagan was an "amicable dunce" who relied heavily on his advisers.

But Martin Anderson said the documents being made available at the library are giving scholars a different picture.

"We are just beginning to understand how much Reagan was in charge," he said. "That's why the library is so critically important.

"So far we've found 6,500 drafts of Ronald Reagan's handwritten letters, and they are mostly in the library. When you hold up a handwritten document to a historian, it's like holding up a cross to the devil.

"When Ronald Reagan became president of the United States, he wrote the inaugural address himself, the entire thing. It's amazing the things he mastered, the things he knew about and the philosophy he put together."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:14 PM


Loyal Nixon secretary Rose Mary Woods dead at 87 (Mark Williams, 1/23/2005, Associated Press)

Rose Mary Woods, the devoted secretary to President Nixon who said she inadvertently erased part of a crucial Watergate tape, has died. She was 87.

Woods died Saturday night at a nursing home in Alliance, Roger Ruzek, owner of a funeral home in Sebring, said Sunday. He did not know the cause of death.

The 18½-minute gap in the tape of a June 20, 1972, conversation between Richard Nixon and chief of staff H.R. Haldeman was critical to the question of what Nixon knew about the break-in at Democratic headquarters in the Watergate complex three days earlier and when he knew it. [...]

Woods, the granddaughter of an Irish stowaway....

Ah, the predictable criminality of the illegal immigrant class...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:06 PM


Filter's Farewell (Cynthia L. Webb, January 21, 2005, Washington Post)

If the 1990s marked the Wild West era of the Internet, the first half of the first decade of the new century has been the opposite. Tech firms are now focused not just on launching at all costs, but on building products and offering services that people will actually buy.

Take for example the search engine race, which has heated up since last year, led by Google, Yahoo and Microsoft. These search engine rivals are figuring out how to cash in on the growing craze for services to sift through data and to bring customized content and advertising dollars to their portals. Search engine news was ho-hum in 2002, but now it is a hotbed of activity. That's a welcome change. America Online, trying to boost its tarnished image from financial scandals and lackluster subscriber numbers, is playing the search game too, sprucing up its search services in plans announced yesterday and joining the desktop search bandwagon. I half expect Apple to be the next to dip its toe into the search engine waters.

And in a throwback to the heady days of the 1990s, when Microsoft was embroiled in a brutal browser war with Netscape Communications (which it ultimately won, with Netscape getting folded into America Online's empire), the browser battle is taking center stage again. Microsoft's popular Internet Explorer has a formidable competitor -- the free open-source Web browser Firefox. While Firefox has just barely managed to dent IE's market share so far, it's still an example of the increasing appeal of open-source software and the long-term threat it could pose to proprietary software firms like Microsoft.

As the Internet has grown up, the amount of content that PC users have to command has become a virtual jungle of information. Going forward, some of the most important innovations and business strategies will involve data mining, managing digital content and the ever-tricky balance of copyright protection, while striving to provide a wealth of information to the masses. Lawmakers, for their part, are introducing legislation at the state and federal levels to try and establish digital content rules and these efforts face a lot of hurdles. Tech companies such as IBM and Microsoft and smaller start-ups are involved in this quest to help organize and link information. The evolution of the Information Age has taught us, however, that consumer privacy concerns are one of the biggest challenges facing this development.

Digital entertainment is another noteworthy trend that could transform how we watch TV and listen to music in the future. While Hewlett-Packard, Apple, Dell and other computer electronics companies have been trotting out their plans for all-in-one PCs that can double as a TV, stereo and game machine, we haven't seen this concept take off yet. This is starting to change, as consumers become more interested in multi-tasking gadgets and as digital music and watching movies downloaded from the 'Net have continued to soar in popularity.

Consumers are embracing the idea more than ever of having one machine to serve up music, pictures, e-mail, data and manage everything from home finances, TiVo recordings and even a home security system. Falling prices will help spur this technology further. What used to be Ray Bradbury-like fictionalized hopes about smart homes with a central brain powering everything from lights and alarms to coffee brewing and cooking are starting to become more of a reality. There's a long way to go before a computerized house makes sense (or is cost effective enough to bother). But it will at least be fun to watch the digital products and services that roll out to meet the increased need for people to be wired to information all the time.

Nothing ever gets more expensive anymore.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:01 PM


Al-Zarqawi declares war on democracy (NANCY A. YOUSSEF, 1/23/05, Knight Ridder Newspapers)

"We have declared a bitter war against democracy and all those who seek to enact it," al-Zarqawi said.

Even the al Qaeda remnants are forced to admit just how unpopular their cause is.

The mother of all elections: Iraq's 30th January election will put Shias in power and be marred by Sunni violence. But it will express Iraqi, not US, ambitions. Bush will cease to call the shots— sooner than the world realises (Bartle Bull, February 2005, Prospect uk)

The latest recording to emerge from Osama bin Laden's cave calls for a boycott of this month's election in Iraq. The Sunni Arab, Saudi-born zillionaire tells 25m impoverished Iraqis—mainly Shias or Kurds—that all who vote will mark themselves as "infidels." In the same tape, Bin Laden also nominates Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as his "emir" in Iraq. Zarqawi is a Jordanian, a suspected rapist, and presenter of his own home video series, in which he occasionally beheads his guest stars. His al Qaeda of Iraq group is the most visible threat to Sunni Arab participation in the poll. Thankfully, most Iraqis don't think that people like this deserve a veto over their election.

The election will happen and will happen on time. This is because Iraq's decision-makers want it to be so, and for better or worse, it is President Bush and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani—the supreme religious authority among Iraq's Shia majority—who call the shots. But sooner than the world realises, Bush will cease to call the shots. US soldiers will still be in Iraq in February, but they will be there as the guests of an elected government chosen under UN auspices by a big majority on a large voter turnout. The new government will need US troops and dollars, but an elected government dominated by people who fought Saddam in the marshes for decades, and who battled the US marines to a negotiated draw at Najaf, will be far more independent and credible than the current Allawi administration.

The 30th January election is just the first of five steps designed to complete Iraq's constitution and government-building process by the end of 2005. The 275-member body soon to be elected is charged with proposing a new permanent constitution by 15th August. By 15th October, there must be a national referendum on this permanent constitution. By 15th December, there is to be a new national election that will follow the provisions of the new constitution. And by 31st December this newly elected government is to take over.

Iraqis, then, will go to the polls three times this year—assuming they can agree on a constitution in the autumn. Can the schedule work? For some observers, the Iraqi full-body makeover is a work of fantasy. Others say it is like a television reality show, dealing in real behaviour rendered meaningless by a fake environment. But 90 per cent of Iraqis hope it turns out to be a gritty documentary about decent people struggling to improve themselves.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:57 PM


Johnny Carson Dies at 79: "Tonight Show" TV host served America a smooth nightcap of celebrity banter, droll comedy and heartland charm for 30 years. (Brian Lowry, January 23, 2005, LA Times)

Johnny Carson, who in three decades as host of "The Tonight Show" became one of America's most influential political satirists and the entertainment industry's most powerful figures, died today. He was 79. [...]

The late-night host had become an extraordinarily private figure in recent years given the national stage he commanded for three decades. He seldom appeared in public-and, other than a few cameos on David Letterman's late-night show and a tribute to Bob Hope-completely eschewed television after leaving "The Tonight Show" on May 22, 1992, with a retrospective that drew an audience rivaling the Super Bowl.

"I bid you a very heartfelt good night," were his parting words.

Ed McMahon, the sidekick who always introduced Carson with "Heeeeere's Johnny!" today said the former talk show host was "like a brother to me."

"Our 34 years of working together, plus the 12 years since then, created a friendship which was professional, family-like and one of respect and great admiration," McMahon said in a statement. "When we ended our run on 'The Tonight Show" and my professional life continued, whenever a big career decision needed to be made, I always got the OK from 'the boss.'"

After years of silence, Carson spoke to Esquire magazine for a 2002 profile, reconfirming his belief that he had done the right thing in essentially disappearing from public view.

"I left at the right time," he said. "You've got to know when to get the hell off the stage, and the timing was right for me. The reason I really don't go back or do interviews is because I just let the work speak for itself."

From a cultural standpoint, Carson's nightly monologue developed a reputation as a bellwether in terms of the national mood. When Carson began making Watergate jokes, The New York Times wrote in 1975, "we knew it was permissible to ridicule the president, that Mr. Nixon was done for."

"The influence he had on the country was unique. He was the conscience of America," said Peter Lassally, Carson's producer for more than two decades, who noted that Carson was also extraordinarily even-handed, so much so that no one ever knew his personal political leanings.

Carson also had a major effect on television standards, lacing his monologue with sexual innuendo that once would have been unthinkable on television.

"Next to Milton Berle and Lucille Ball, he's had the single greatest influence on the content of television," said Jeffrey Cole, director of the UCLA Center for Communication Policy. "He really created the monologue and turned it into a cultural barometer of political and social events. Many people got their take on what was acceptable from the monologue."

Carson himself said in a 1986 interview, "I knew from the monologue the very night that Spiro Agnew was suddenly in deep trouble. From a one-line observation I can get a response, a reaction . . . that may be the best indicator of how [someone] is perceived in this country."

If Carson's jokes reverberated in Washington, who appeared on "The Tonight Show" was seen for many years in Hollywood as a career-making platform, especially for stand-up comedians. Jerry Seinfeld called receiving the "OK" sign from Carson after his first appearance "the Holy Grail of comedy."

Being asked to sit down after a performance was a sign of validation and prestige. As comic Garry Shandling said a few years ago, "I didn't get to sit down on the couch the first time. It is sort of a benchmark to sit on the couch. When you go to Johnny's house, you stand the first few times you are there."

Introduced by Groucho Marx on his first show, Oct. 1, 1962, Carson went on to host more than 7,500 hours of television and weathered numerous late-night challenges, including competing shows featuring Joey Bishop, Merv Griffin, Dick Cavett, Alan Thicke, Joan Rivers and Pat Sajak that all came and went during his tenure.

At the end, feeling NBC was maneuvering behind him to line up a replacement, Carson stunned the television world when he announced his plans to retire at an advertising presentation in 1991, setting off a flurry of debate and backstage jockeying to determine whether Letterman or Jay Leno should become his successor. Leno won the job, prompting Letterman to leave NBC for a competing show on CBS.

After leaving the network, Carson studiously avoided the spotlight, representing one of the industry's few stars who have been able to walk away. Friends said Carson remembered seeing one-time idols like Hope and Jack Benny near the end of their careers and wanted to avoid that scenario.

In 1979, at the age of 53, Carson said he couldn't see himself sitting at the desk in his 60s. Seven years later, he was still grappling with when to leave.

"I remember when [CBS President] Jim Aubrey canned Jack Benny, and that won't happen to me," Carson said. "I'll know when the time has come. The people tell you. . . .

"You don't just walk in and do what I do. You have to put it on the griddle, and it's from night to night. It's about momentum. That's why when I quit I won't come back to the same format. It's not like [golfer] Jack Nicklaus coming back to win the Masters."

Lassally called Carson's ability to shun celebrity at 66, when he could have easily continued to perform, and stay away despite entreaties to return "an elegant end to his career."

If only any of those he supposedly influenced had learned from him how little we need to know about them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:50 PM


The search for the lost library of Rome (Robert Harris, 1/23/05, Times of London)

Peering into the dark, stagnant water it is hard to imagine that this was once one of the greatest villas in the Roman world, the size of Blenheim Palace, extending for more than 250 yards along the Bay of Naples. (An impression of what it must have looked like is provided by the Getty Museum in California, which is an exact replica.) Its nemesis, Vesuvius, still looms over it less than four miles away. When the mountain erupted on August 24, AD79 it buried the villa under a mantle of volcanic rock 100ft thick, altering the coastline and pushing the sea back by hundreds of yards.

All knowledge of the great house was lost until 1738, when workmen sinking a well shaft encountered a mosaic floor. It was too deep to excavate; instead, over the next 20 years under the supervision of Karl Weber, a Swiss military engineer, a network of tunnels was hewn through the debris clogging the great peristyle, the atrium and the Olympic-sized swimming pool. Cartloads of treasures were brought to the surface, destined for the art collection of the King of Naples.

Throughout this time, mingled with the sculptures and glassware, workmen retrieved what looked like lumps of coal which they unthinkingly dumped in the sea. It was not until 1752 and the discovery of an intact library lined with 1,800 rolls of papyrus, that the excavators realised that what they had been throwing away were carbonised books. The site has since been known as the Villa of the Papyri.

Once the villa had been stripped, 200 years ago, the tunnels were sealed. But last week a group of the world’s leading classical scholars gathered in Oxford to demand that the site be reopened. They believe that there is a better-than-evens chance — “quite likely”, is how Robert Fowler, professor of Greek at Bristol University, puts it — that the villa may have possessed at least one other library still to be uncovered.

These are scholars, cautious by nature. Their optimism is therefore worth taking seriously. It follows the first detailed analysis of the 1,800 papyri, now largely unrolled and deciphered thanks to a technique known as multi-spectral imaging (MSI). What appear to the naked eye as jet-black cinders are transformed by MSI into readable text. Thirty thousand images are now legible on CD-Rom; suddenly poems and works of philosophy are speaking again, 2,000 years after they were sealed in their cedar-wood cabinets in the summer of AD79.

The author chiefly represented in the collection is Philodemus, an Epicurean philosopher of the 1st century BC who taught Virgil, the greatest Latin poet, and probably also Horace. He may indeed have given lessons to both beneath the porticoes of the Villa of the Papyri, for it is known that Philodemus was employed in the household of a powerful Roman senator, Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, father-in-law of the dictator Julius Caesar. And it is now regarded as almost certain that Piso — who died more than a century before the eruption of Vesuvius — was the original owner of the Villa of the Papyri.

Apart from the texts of Philodemus, hundreds of other lost works of Greek philosophy — including half of Epicurus’s entire opus, missing for 2,300 years — have been rediscovered. Among them is a treatise by Zeno of Sidon, who Cicero saw lecture in Athens in 79BC. According to Richard Janko, professor of classics at Michigan University: “This is the first copy of Zeno’s writings to come to light; they had all been lost in later antiquity.”

Most of the work on the Philodemus texts was carried out by the late Professor Marcello Gigante of the University of Naples: a small (despite his surname) and dynamic figure, he gradually became convinced that the 1,800 rolls so far discovered represented perhaps only one half of the books that the villa contained. Certainly it does seem unlikely that Piso — an educated man who was joint ruler of Rome in 58BC — should have confined himself to this one, narrow collection. Or that his heirs, equally highly educated, would not have added to it over the decades.

In the 1990s, on Gigante’s initiative, an abortive attempt was made to reopen the old 18th-century excavations. The project was eventually abandoned when its funding ran out, but not before the archeologists had established that the villa was larger than had been thought.

It seems that it was built on two or possibly three levels, terraced down to the sea. It also appears that slaves were in the act of carrying crates of books to safety when they were overwhelmed by the eruption. These lower storeys, with their mosaic floors, frescoes and painted ceilings — clearly an integral part of the house — all lend support to Gigante’s theory that the villa had at least one other library.

Gigante died in November 2001 but his campaign for renewed excavation, far from dying with him, gathered strength. Eight of the world’s leading scholars of ancient history, including professors from Harvard, Oxford and London, wrote to The Times in the spring of 2002 demanding action: “We can expect to find good contemporary copies of known masterpieces and to recover works lost to humanity for two millennia. A treasure of greater cultural importance can scarcely be imagined.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:44 PM


Beazley leads, but PM dominant (Michelle Grattan, Andra Jackson, January 24, 2005, The Age)

Kim Beazley has a comfortable lead over his rivals, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, as the candidate the Australian public wants as Opposition leader. But as preferred prime minister he is streets behind John Howard, whose approval reached an all-time high in a weekend AgePoll.

As Mr Rudd deferred until today announcing whether he will contest Friday's caucus ballot, an ACNielsen AgePoll found Mr Beazley preferred by 38 per cent, Mr Rudd by 23 per cent, and Ms Gillard by 17 per cent.

Labor's woes are taking a big toll on its vote. The Coalition leads 57 per cent - up four points since the election - to Labor's 43 per cent on a two-party basis. The Coalition's primary vote is a huge 52 per cent, up five points. Labor has plummeted to 34 per cent.

Mr Howard's approval is at a record 67 per cent, up seven points, boosted probably by his handling of Australia's response to the tsunami crisis.

Interesting to watch the three Third Way pareties of the Anglosphere and their leaders--Tony Blair, George W. Bush, and John Howard--establish such dominance that their main rivals are nearly ceasing to exist.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:21 PM


BLOOD SPORT: How foxhunting became the most divisive issue in England. (JANE KRAMER, 2005-01-17, The New Yorker)

Tony Blair has now been in power for the better part of two consecutive terms, and his parliamentary majority is so large—a hundred and sixty seats—that, until foxes got involved, he and a small circle of ministers were able to run England from the sitting room at 10 Downing Street, with very close to a free hand. (“Sofa government,” people in London say.) Blair invented the idea of New Labour, which is to say that he promised to bring Labour, and with it Britain, into the modern world by introducing them both to the political center—to the kind of new-money-and-liberal-values meritocracy that Bill Clinton was espousing in America. But most of the M.P.s who gave him that large majority were decidedly Old Labour: trade unionist, populist, and socialist—the kind of politicians who grew up on the ideology of the welfare state and the class struggle and, as often as not, were elected from industrial, working-class constituencies.

For a while, the P.M. and his party got along. He took the Bank of England out of the hands of the Government, which controlled it, and gave it the authority to set interest rates. He took the House of Lords, with more than seven hundred seats, and reduced the number of hereditary peers to ninety-two, oversaw the appointment of twenty-two new, independent, “crossbench” peers, and paved the way for the eventual transformation of the Lords into a council of appointed experts—all of which, rather disturbingly, has made it a more interesting house than the democratically elected one. He gave parliaments to Scotland and Wales. He supported a law that assured everybody the “right to roam” through the British countryside.

But he also persuaded the Commons to accept his decision to send British troops to fight in Iraq, on Washington’s murky evidence of weapons of mass destruction; undermined (if you ask his backbenchers) the state education system by legalizing charter schools and weakened the National Health System by licensing self-governing, sink-or-swim “foundation” hospitals; and instituted tuition fees at the country’s colleges and universities. Old Labourites voted with the Government, mainly because without Blair’s moving toward the center on issues like that there wouldn’t have been a Labour government, even if it wasn’t the government they had expected, or, more to the point, their voters had expected. But they needed something to take home to their constituencies, something to let everybody know that they were still waging the class war and even looking after the country’s furry animals—loving and protecting animals being at least as much of a British obsession as hunting them. (It’s hard to imagine another country where photographs of particularly fulsome hogs appear regularly on the front page of every paper, or, for that matter, where a government report on the practice of hunting with dogs, completed in 2000, reflects at length on whether “this experience”—of a bite to the neck—“seriously compromises the welfare of the fox.”)

“I think it’s worth remembering that we in the Government didn’t consider this a matter of high priority,” Alun Michael, the beleaguered minister for Rural Affairs, told me two days before the vote to ban. “But, while people say it’s not an important issue, the fact remains that the chamber empties whenever the debate isn’t about hunting. And this kind of thing affects the individual M.P.s.” The human-rights activist Frances D’Souza, a crossbench peer who was against the ban, put it this way: “This was a fight between 10 Downing and the backbenchers. It was about challenging Tony Blair. Blair’s decision to go to war was made without consultation—all his decisions were. The House of Commons has been a very unhappy body.” And the columnist Jane Shilling—who has written a book about riding to hounds with a Kent farmers’ hunt called the Ashford Valley and is, by her own admission, one of the I’ll-eat-shepherd’s-pie foxhunters—said, “For Blair, this ban was like a bucking horse. It ran away with him.”

Shilling and I were talking over sandwiches at a country pub called the Woolpack Inn—her hunt had assembled in the Woolpack’s parking lot—but our conversation had begun a few days after I arrived in London. We had talked then about the turnout at protest demonstrations, and she had said, “You’ll see at the hunt, there is this huge caesura between town and country. The town now sees the country as ‘leisure’—it’s the country as theme park—and of course the town feels entitled to leisure, to its right to roam.” She thought that the Labour backbenchers were demonizing hunting as a sport that kept the countryside a preserve of other people’s entitlement, something that excluded them, something that put the priorities of a small community of toffs over the community of working British citizens. And never mind that the farmers who rode out from the Woolpack’s lot were also working British citizens, and that they thought of hunting as part of the “right to roam” of their community.

Old Labourites don’t believe in the community of the hunt, and it has to be said that, in the case of grand hunts like the Beaufort, they have a small point, because the ritual of the hunt, however democratic—with the lord giving way to the tradesman or the tenant farmer who gets to the wall or the hedgerow first—is also a ritual of the old order. And, in a way, the fact that they meet as equals to pursue a fox or a deer for a few hours is compelling mainly in that they rarely meet as equals on any other occasion (except, lately, at demonstrations). Of course, it could also be said that the Old Labourites owe these refinements of class consciousness to a hunter’s patronage. Friedrich Engels was an ardent hunter, as rhapsodic about the sport as R. S. Surtees or Siegfried Sassoon. (“I went foxhunting on Saturday, seven hours in the saddle,” he famously wrote to his friend Karl Marx. “Such a thing always excites me hellishly for a few days, it is the most magnificent physical pleasure I know. . . . I was in at the kill.”) And if it weren’t for Engels, riding to hounds, getting rich from the family’s Manchester textile factories, and sending bank drafts to Marx—who was in his carrel at the British Museum, avoiding “the idiocy of rural life” and writing “Das Kapital”—Labour backbenchers might not even be around.

In 1835, the British banned bearbaiting, cockfighting, and dog fighting—the three blood sports of the urban working class. And one of the reasons they did was that the rural gentry then controlling Parliament decided that killing games in small, closed, city places—cellars, courtyards, back alleys—were bad for poor people, exciting their basest instincts and encouraging them to lives of drink, gambling, violence, and all manner of Dickensian dissipation. Hunting, on the other hand, was healthy and uplifting. And it was fashionable. I doubt that very many people in England seriously want to bring back bearbaiting, or to spend their evenings watching two roosters rip each other apart. But Old Labour keeps track of the history of discrimination, and it has bred a furious resentment. For many working-class Britons, the ban on foxhunting is their revenge. Some go all the way back to the royal hunt that trampled Oliver Cromwell’s uncle’s farm. Most of them simply call the ban their “payback for the miners”—by which they mean that Margaret Thatcher, in the early eighties, abandoned the country’s foundering collieries, and did it without shedding a tear of pity for the communities where thousands of coal miners and their families lived. The miners clung to their pit villages, however miserable, out of an attachment to home that had no place in the “get up, go South, find yourself a new job” ethos in Mrs. Thatcher’s vision of reform. They struck for a year. Their demands were outrageous, their desperation clear—and their defeat a given. Most of the mines closed.

In the twenty years since then, Labour backbenchers have introduced nearly a dozen bills to ban foxhunting and stag hunting, and the fate of the miners has figured in the rhetoric of every attempt to get them passed. Even John Jackson, the chairman of Britain’s biggest association of hunters and hunt supporters, the Countryside Alliance, says that “the destruction of the miners’ communities then was like the destruction we in the countryside face now.” (In fact, it was much worse.) Jackson is not a hunter. He is a lawyer, with a couple of Cambridge degrees, who regards the right to hunt as a “fundamental libertarian issue.” “Blair never intended this ban,” he told me. “The Labour managers said to Blair, ‘If the backbenchers don’t get hunting, they’ll block us in our bills’ . . . and those backbenchers are old-fashioned class warriors, foolish and deeply prejudiced. And they have long memories.”

The Tories are a spent force and the backbenchers can't hurt you, give the country hunting.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:13 PM


Justice Scalia: The Charm Offensive: The Supreme Court Justice is vying for the chief's seat on the bench (JAMES CARNEY AND MATTHEW COOPER, Jan. 31, 2005, TIME)

"The idea of appointing the first African-American Chief Justice has undeniable appeal to the President," says a top Republican who informally advises the White House on judicial nominations. "But there'd be a huge fight over Thomas, and the President doesn't need a fight." Though Scalia's conservatism irks many Democrats, he was confirmed easily by the Senate in 1986, and would probably be confirmed again without too much trouble.

Yet Scalia does not have a lock on the job. According to several sources familiar with White House thinking on judicial nominations, the President and his advisers are worried that the tart-tongued Justice may not have the people skills to manage the court, build consensus among its nine members and represent the institution in public. That may explain why the famously dyspeptic Scalia has become a merry mainstay on the A-list Washington social circuit of late. At parties ranging from a charity dinner at the Kuwaiti embassy two weeks ago to an Inaugural lunch at D.C.'s chic Cafe Milano, guests have been surprised to find the once reclusive Scalia mixing with the city's power brokers, making small talk and telling jokes. "Lately, I've been running into Nino everywhere," says a friend and fellow lawyer. "He's showing that he actually can be charming and gregarious. It's a sign that he's really interested in the job."

Given what Democratic interest groups do with jurists' paper trails, it's hard to believe Justice Scalia would be any more easily confirmed than Justice Thomas.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:22 PM


Semantics Shape Social Security Debate: Democrats Assail 'Crisis' While GOP Gives 'Privatization' a 'Personal' Twist (Mike Allen, January 23, 2005, Washington Post)

President Bush is trying to keep the word "private" from going public.

As the two parties brace for the coming debate over restructuring Social Security, polls and focus groups for both sides have shown that voters -- especially older ones, who vote in disproportionately heavy numbers -- distrust any change that has the word "private" attached to it.

The White House has a logical idea: Don't use the word. This is difficult because, after all, they would be "private" accounts, and Bush's plan would "partially privatize" Social Security.

So Bush and his supporters have started using "personal accounts" instead of "private accounts" to refer to his plan to let younger workers invest part of their payroll taxes in stocks and bonds. Republican officials have begun calling journalists to complain about references to "private accounts," even though Bush called them that three times in a speech last fall.

"Semantics are very important," House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.)said last week when a reporter asked about "private" accounts. "They're personal accounts, not private accounts. No one is advocating privatizing Social Security."

"Don't dismiss the use of a word," Thomas added. "The use of a word is critical in making law."

Democrats have their own linguistic problem: They want to banish the term "crisis." Democratic Party leaders are urging members to discuss future Social Security shortfalls as a "challenge" rather than a crisis, and assert that Bush is trying to manufacture a crisis to justify making changes that many Democrats say are unnecessary. The White House has fired back with a transcript showing that President Bill Clinton, during a Georgetown University address in 1998, spoke of "the looming fiscal crisis in Social Security."

Funny thing about the Democrats' strategy on this issue--their entire pitch is to those Americans who won't be around in a few years. They stand to win a battle only to get annihilated in the war.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:15 PM


Damaging evidence of FARC - Venezuela's Chavez link (Aleksander Boyd, 23.01.05, European Sun)

Yesterday morning I listened to what appears to be a VHF communication, although it has been reported as a telephone conversation, between FARC leaders Juan Santrich and Jorge Tivieras. Radio Caracol of Colombia reports that Tivieras is thought to be the international liaison chief of a guerrilla front with seat in Caracas, Venezuela's capital. Tivieras gives account to Santrich about 41 credentials that he has obtained for an equal number of guerrilla members to assist and participate in the officialy sponsored Bolivarian congress held in Caracas on December 6-9 2004. Furthermore Tivieras states that he is in the process of getting 59 more permits to increase FARC's delegation to the event to up to 100. He also reports with respect to transportation (buses) that has been arranged for up to 600 people and the assistance of indigenous groups to further help with their cause.

Readers may think that my reaction to that juicy bit of information was not as bombastic as it should have been. However in my defence I must say that none of that surprises me; it's just more evidence to be added to the ever growing pile of facts that already demonstrate that Hugo Chavez is a dangerous criminal and should be removed from the presidency of our nation as quickly as possible.

Amen, Brother.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:27 PM


Howard plays the ‘race card’ again (James Cusick, 1/23/05, Sunday Herald)

THE asylum and immigration system is “out of control” and increasing immigrant minorities pose a “danger” to community relations, the Conservative leader Michael Howard will claim this week.

In a pre-election taste of the Tory manifesto, Howard will risk accusations that his party is again playing the race card when he unveils new policies tomorrow that will seek a yearly limit on immigrant numbers, a points system for work permits, and a quota for refugees.

The lurch to the right on immigration – a territory the party had previously promised belonged to a less-tolerant generation – will also be defended by Howard on GMTV this morning. In the pre-recorded interview, he said immigration is causing “widespread concern across the country” and there should be “no no-go areas in policy reforms”.

He adds: “Under this government, immigration is unlimited and out of control.” He claims there’s been no debate, consultation nor discussion about immigration “running at an average rate of 160,000 a year” and “forecast over the next 30 years to amount to over five million – five times the size of Birmingham”.

The interview is part of a media offensive which includes a full-page advertisement in The Sunday Telegraph in which the party underlines its commitment to impose an annual limit on immigration with quotas for asylum seekers.

Headed “I believe we must limit immigration”, it is signed by Howard, emphasising his personal policy commitment.

Were the Tories to combine a Third Way/Ownership Society pitch with anti-immigration, anti-EU, pro-death penalty, pro-gun policies they could revive themselves. They're too timid to do so however.

N.B.--Even the Herald's own on-line poll, associated as it is with this article, has results favoring restrictions.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:07 AM


Nothing is more certain in life than that the two road teams will win the NFL playoff games today.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:20 AM


He's a worldbeater, all right (MARK STEYN, January 23, 2005, Chicago Sun-Times)

I picked up the Village Voice for the first time in years this week. Couldn't resist the cover story: ''The Eve Of Destruction: George W. Bush's Four-Year Plan To Wreck The World.''

Oh, dear. It's so easy to raise expectations at the beginning of a new presidential term. But at least he's got a four-year plan. Over on the Democratic bench, worldwise they don't seem to have given things much thought. The differences were especially stark in the last seven days: In the first half of the week, Senate Dems badgered the incoming secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice -- culminating in the decision of West Virginia porkmeister Robert C. Byrd to delay the incoming thereof. Don't ask me why. Byrd, the former Klu Klux Klan Kleagle, is taking a stand over states' rights, or his rights over State, or some such. Whatever the reason, the sight of an old Klansman blocking a little colored girl from Birmingham from getting into her office contributed to the general retro vibe that hangs around the Democratic Party these days. Even "Eve Of Destruction," one notes, is a 40-year-old hippie dirge.

The Democrats' big phrase is "exit strategy." Time and again, their senators demanded that Rice tell 'em what the "exit strategy" for Iraq was. The correct answer is: There isn't one, and there shouldn't be one, and it's a dumb expression. The more polite response came in the president's inaugural address: ''The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands.'' Next week's election in Iraq will go not perfectly but well enough, and in time the number of U.S. troops needed there will be reduced, and in some more time they'll be reduced more dramatically, and one day there'll be none at all, just a small diplomatic presence that functions a bit like the old British ministers did in the Gulf emirates for centuries: They know everyone and everything, and they keep the Iraqi-American relationship running smoothly enough that Baghdad doesn't start looking for other foreign patrons. In other words: no exit.

Loathe as we are to correct a favorite, lest we hear from an "assistant," Mr. Steyn might more accurately say the exit was built into the strategy all along. The reason Democrats think there is no exit strategy must be because they bought their own hype about our having imperial intentions in the region, rather than being on a crusade to liberate the joint.

General Seeking Faster Training of Iraq Soldiers (ERIC SCHMITT, 1/23/05, NY Times)

The retired four-star Army general who was sent to Iraq two weeks ago to assess operations there has concluded that American troops must speed up and strengthen the training of Iraqi security forces, by assigning thousands of additional military advisers to work directly with Iraqi units, said senior defense and military officials here and in Iraq.

The officer, Gen. Gary E. Luck, largely endorses a plan by American commanders in Iraq to shift the military's main mission after the Jan. 30 elections from fighting the insurgency to training Iraq's military and police forces to take over those security and combat duties and become more self-reliant, eventually allowing American forces to withdraw, the officials said.

The aim would be to double or even triple the number of trainers now at work with Iraqi security forces, up to as many as 8,000 or 10,000, though General Luck has not mentioned a specific number. A senior defense official who has been briefed on General Luck's initial conclusions and recommendations said the plan would draw on a mix of officers and senior enlisted troops from Army and Marine units already in Iraq.

Many commanders say that providing more trainers is meant to bolster the Iraqi will to fight, help train officers who would lead, curb desertion and provide Iraqi forces with the confidence that American units would back them up - in some cases fighting alongside them if needed, military and Pentagon officials said. Two American advisers have died fighting with Iraqi units.

But the training would follow a step-by-step approach that would take months if not years, proceeding at different paces in different parts of the country, depending on the troops' performance. American forces would work closely with Iraqis in the most dangerous parts of the country, but would still take the lead combat role there.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:16 AM


Robot soldier armed and ready for Iraq battles (MICHAEL P. REGAN, January 23, 2005, AP)

The Army is preparing to send 18 remote-controlled robotic warriors to fight in Iraq.

They will be the first armed robotic vehicles to see combat. Unlike soldiers, they don't need to be trained, fed or clothed. They can be boxed up and warehoused between wars. But officials say they're not the autonomous killer robots of science fiction. They shoot only when a human operator presses a button after identifying a target on video shot by the robot's cameras. [...]

The $200,000 robot runs on lithium ion batteries for 1 to 4 hours. Operators work the robot using a 30-pound control unit that could be replaced by a ''Gameboy'' type of controller with virtual reality goggles.

People think Americans are trigger-happy now, when we actually have to send troops into harm's way? Just wait....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:13 AM


Palestinian Police Face the Enemy Within (Laura King, January 23, 2005, LA Times)

The 35,000-strong Palestinian security forces are supposed to be the centerpiece of a bold attempt by the new Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, to quell attacks by groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which for more than four years have waged a relentless war on Israel.

Although violence ebbed after Abbas sent his officers into the streets last week, enormous obstacles stand in the way of his plan to harness a security force that has little real sense of its priorities, let alone its loyalties.

Made up of no fewer than 13 branches, the Palestinian security services are riddled with internal rivalries and beset by disorganization. They are short on weapons and equipment, with ranks thinned, bases destroyed and morale sapped by a conflict in which many find themselves unwitting combatants.

Like Abu Salim, who did not want his full name used, many members of the security services feel a kinship with the militants, regardless of whether they are literally family. The Palestinian security forces, created under the Oslo interim peace accords of the early 1990s, were conceived as a means of providing respectable employment to young street fighters who had cut their teeth in the first Palestinian uprising, from 1987 to 1993.

From the earliest months of the current conflict, Israeli troops regarded any armed Palestinian as a threat, even uniformed police officers.

"We were a target, and an easy one," said Capt. Mohammed, an 11-year veteran of the Palestinian preventive intelligence service. Like other low- to mid-ranking officers interviewed, he did not want his name used because he was not authorized to speak to journalists.

The captain said two fellow officers were killed and more than a dozen injured in 2002 when his post in downtown Gaza was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike. Later, he lost three fingers when he and his men were caught in an exchange of fire between Israeli troops and Palestinian militants.

"There is this idea that we are supposed to work with the Israelis," he said, toying with the black glove he wears to cover his mangled right hand. "How can we trust them not to just shoot us on sight? They've done it before. We think they'll do it again."

The Palestinian security forces, however, may be their own worst enemy.

Feuds among rival security chiefs, who often command loyalty based on patronage or clan ties, regularly spill over into shootouts and abductions, particularly in the Gaza Strip.

Some branches of the service so loathe one another that straying into the wrong patch of territory without a full complement of armed escorts would be deadly. Particularly at odds are the preventive security and militant intelligence branches, which have attacked one another with grenades and gunfire.

In many ways, the fragmented security forces are a legacy of Yasser Arafat. The veteran Palestinian leader, who died Nov. 11, was a master at playing one commander against another, keeping each one guessing as to whether he was in favor or on the outs.

The late Palestinian Authority president played a tireless game of embracing and repudiating powerful figures such as the West Bank security chief, Jibril Rajoub, and Gaza strongman Mohammed Dahlan, who are still waiting to find their places in the new order under Abbas.

Because chaos served his purposes, Arafat resisted no reform as adamantly as he did any streamlining of the security forces.

Arafat's refusal to allow the appointment of any commander who did not report directly to him was a major reason for Abbas' angry departure from his post as prime minister.

Today, Abbas and other Palestinian officials say there is no way to stem growing lawlessness, particularly in Gaza, without a strong and well-armed security force.

The main example of how Israeli insistence on maintaining Arafat in power did enormous damage.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:58 AM

TOO LITTLE SPRAWL (via Tom Morin):

Jersey’s Urban Meltdown: The problem isn’t sprawl; it’s collapsing cities. (Steven Malanga , January 2005, City Journal)

Two years ago, former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey announced that one of his administration’s highest priorities would be to control suburban sprawl. To the applause of environmentalists and other no-growth types who said that the Garden State was running out of land, McGreevey laid out an ambitious agenda to limit development.

But like most sprawl activists, McGreevey danced around the real problem—which is that Jersey’s cities had become increasingly uninhabitable and that suburban sprawl had largely resulted from the flight of hundreds of thousands of city residents away from crime and bad public schools. Recent news reports about still rising crime in Camden and gang killings in Newark help remind us how little progress Jersey’s cities have made and how misplaced McGreevey’s priorities were.

Once upon a time, long before “sprawl” entered our vocabulary, Jersey’s population was concentrated in and around its major cities. Places like Newark boasted thriving and diverse neighborhoods, from solid blue-collar districts like the old First Ward to upscale enclaves like the Forest Hills and Weequahic sections.

But decades ago Newark and Camden and Trenton became among the most crime-ridden, inhospitable cities in the country, and residents fled them, moving first to the close-by suburbs like East Orange and Irvington and then, as the disorder spread, going further and further out. Newark, a city that once boasted nearly 450,000 residents, now has just 279,000, and entire neighborhoods that once pulsed with life have long since been cleared of their houses (some of them splendid) by nonresidential urban renewal projects, because no one wanted to live in these places anymore. [...]

Given this situation, you would have thought that, sometime during his tenure, McGreevey would have stood up and said that fixing Jersey’s cities was his number one priority—certainly ahead of suburban sprawl. From the bully pulpit of the governor’s office he could have insisted that Jersey’s cities employ the most modern and scientific techniques of crime fighting, now being copied from New York around the country with great success in cities as different as Baltimore, Miami, and Providence. You might have also thought that McGreevey would have pushed for innovative changes for the schools, including expanding school choice, as former gubernatorial candidate Bret Schundler advocated, as well as former Newark mayoral candidate Cory Booker.

Politically, it’s no mystery why he didn’t. An agenda of fixing the state’s cities would have required that McGreevey take on his political allies, like Newark Mayor Sharpe James and the state’s powerful teachers’ union. Far better to blame Jersey’s problems on developers, middle class families, and McMansions in the suburbs.

McGreevey’s misplaced priorities will continue to plague Jersey, where the failure of cities is a drag on the entire state. That failure not only contributes to sprawl, because Jersey’s cities could comfortably accommodate hundreds of thousands more residents, but is an increasing financial burden on state’s middle and upper class residents.

Rather than trying to make cities better warehouses for the underclass, shouldn't the goal be to move them out to the suburbs and integrate them into the broader, functional society?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:57 AM


Summers Storm (Ruth Marcus, January 22, 2005, Washington Post)

Larry Summers, the Harvard University president and former Treasury secretary, has never been mistaken for a diplomat. So when you combine someone of Summers's compulsively impolitic instincts with a topic as volatile as gender differences, the ensuing explosion doesn't come as a huge surprise. [...]

Is it so heretical, though, so irredeemably oafish, to consider whether gender differences also play some role? As the daughter of two scientists and the mother of two daughters, I think not. After all, scientists are reporting day by day about their breakthroughs in understanding the genetic basis of diseases or personality traits. Brain studies of men and women show that the two genders use different parts of their brain to process language. (Men tend to be left-siders, women both-lobers.)

Summers drew fire for relating the story of how he bought a set of trucks for his daughter, only to find her naming them "Daddy Truck" and "Baby Truck." A clumsy and ill-advised anecdote perhaps, but one that resonated with legions of would-be gender-neutral parents of girls. I, for one, have a basement full of Brio train tracks, as pristine as they were pricey. We use the train table to fold our laundry.

Biology may not be destiny, but as we Brio-buyers and truck-swaddlers have discovered, its effects also can't be discounted.

The curmudgeonly savor the irony that the same week schools were being forced to remove stickers, for which they were ridiculed as rubes, pointing out that biological determinism is just a theory, the academic, political, and media elites were metaphorically pasting such stickers on Mr. Summers.

Intelligence In Men And Women Is A Gray And White Matter (Science Daily, January 20, 2005)

While there are essentially no disparities in general intelligence between the sexes, a UC Irvine study has found significant differences in brain areas where males and females manifest their intelligence.

The study shows women having more white matter and men more gray matter related to intellectual skill, revealing that no single neuroanatomical structure determines general intelligence and that different types of brain designs are capable of producing equivalent intellectual performance. -...=

In general, men have approximately 6.5 times the amount of gray matter related to general intelligence than women, and women have nearly 10 times the amount of white matter related to intelligence than men. Gray matter represents information processing centers in the brain, and white matter represents the networking of – or connections between – these processing centers.

This, according to Rex Jung, a UNM neuropsychologist and co-author of the study, may help to explain why men tend to excel in tasks requiring more local processing (like mathematics), while women tend to excel at integrating and assimilating information from distributed gray-matter regions in the brain, such as required for language facility.

-Sex Ed at Harvard: Why pretend that men and women are the same? (CHARLES MURRAY, 1/23/05, NY Times)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:46 AM


Torture Becomes a Matter of Definition: Bush nominees refuse to say what's prohibited. U.S. dilemma is that it wants to disavow abuse but retain leeway in pressuring suspects. (Sonni Efron, January 23, 2005, LA Times)

In the months since the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, the administration has insisted that America does not and will not use torture. At the same time, the government has tried to preserve maximum leeway in the interrogation of terrorism suspects by not drawing a clear line between where rough treatment ends and torture begins.

"What the administration is saying is we're not going to torture people," said John C. Yoo, a UC Berkeley law professor who, as a deputy assistant attorney general during Bush's first term, worked on torture policies.

"What the administration does not want to say, and I think for good reasons too, is what methods the United States might or might not use short of torture."

Opponents say it is a moral, political and tactical mistake for the United States to blur that line. They charge that the administration, while condemning outright torture, deliberately has sought loopholes in laws and treaties that would allow U.S. intelligence officers to use extreme interrogation methods on terrorism suspects held abroad.

To protest the administration's Iraq and anti-terrorism policies — and what they charged was the evasiveness of Rice and Gonzales under questioning — Democratic senators have delayed both confirmation votes until this week.

As a result, the full Senate likely will debate the definition of torture in a session that could embarrass the administration and provide fodder for its international critics.

Whatever the ethical questions surrounding torture, it is always a matter of difinition and there is no political hay to be made in arguing we're being mean to Islamicists.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:41 AM


U.S. Firms Pick Up Pakistan's Call for Outsource Work: American companies are finding a low-cost pool of educated English speakers that rivals neighboring India. (Evelyn Iritani, January 23, 2005, LA Times)

[J]ohn Armbruster is betting that Pakistan's attributes — including a large, low-cost pool of English speakers — point to a brighter future.

He's aiming to help the country carve out a piece of the lucrative outsourcing business dominated by its neighbor and longtime rival, India.

So far, the bet by Armbruster's company, TRG Pakistan Ltd., is paying off. It recently branched beyond its main office in Lahore and opened a second office in Karachi, the nation's commercial center. By year-end, TRG hopes to expand to 500 employees from 300 now.

"We blow India away as far as quality is concerned," said Armbruster, the company's director of operations. "The problem India has gotten into is that it has grown too fast."

Throughout the developing world, call centers are old news. But Pakistan is just getting into the game after years of economic stagnation fed by political and religious strife, as well as a dispute with India that occasionally has erupted into war.

Economic growth in Pakistan would do more to quell Islamic extremism than we could ever do militarily.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:27 AM


Choosing a chairman (George Will, January 23, 2005, Townhall)

Having had their fill of post-election introspection, the 447 Democratic Party luminaries who on Feb. 12 will elect their new chairman surely now yearn for stronger wine and madder music. Many yearn for Howard Dean, the highly carbonated tribune of ``the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.'' Dean is fun -- a scream, you might say.

But losing is not. So the 447 should wonder whether, after John Kerry's defeat, another liberal Northeasterner is the proper poultice for the party's wounds. Hotline's poll -- 42 percent of the 447 responding -- shows that a refugee from a red state is second behind Dean.

Martin Frost is a political lifer eager to prolong his engagement in party affairs that began in 1968 when, as a Georgetown University law student, he volunteered at the headquarters of Hubert Humphrey's presidential campaign. Frost's 13-term congressional career ended last November when he was one of four Texas Democrats who were victims of the mid-decade redistricting engineered by Rep. Tom DeLay. Democrats like victims as much as they dislike DeLay, so Frost has a double claim on Democrats' pity, which is their sincerest compliment.

Frost says that while losing his Dallas seat he nevertheless demonstrated the skills of a political mechanic, skills needed by any Democratic chairman competing with the Republicans' chairman, Ken Mehlman.

His slogan is: I'll do for the national party what I did for Democrats in Texas!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:21 AM


Holland Daze: The Dutch rethink multiculturalism. (Christopher Caldwell, 12/27/2004, Weekly Standard)

[T]he murder of one Dutch filmmaker 911 days after the assassination of Fortuyn is described by people in Holland as having had the same effect on their country as the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 in the World Trade Center towers. Dutch people have the sense that, for the first time in centuries, the thread that connects them to the world of Geert Mak's father, and that world to the world of Erasmus and Spinoza and Rembrandt and William the Silent, is in danger of being snipped. Part of it is the size and the speed of the recent non-European immigration. The Netherlands, with a population of 16 million, has about 2 million foreign-born. By some estimates, a quarter of them do not speak Dutch.

What's more, the public has been told for two decades now that they ain't seen nothing yet, that this is only the first wave of a long era of immigration, which they'd better learn to love. The immigrants the country now hosts have been difficult to manage. Part of the problem is the interaction of high immigration and what was for years a generous, no-questions-asked welfare state: As many as 60 percent of Moroccans and Turks above the age of 40--obviously first-generation immigrants--are unemployed, in the only major economy in Europe that has consistently had unemployment at or below American rates.

Most of these immigrants are Muslims. Muslim immigrants had begun to scare people long before Pim Fortuyn, the charismatic populist, turned himself into the country's most popular politician in the space of a few weeks in 2002, by arguing that the country was already overloaded with newcomers. (Fortuyn was assassinated by an animal-rights activist in May of that year.) Already in the 1990s, there were reports of American-style shootouts in schools, one involving two Turkish students in the town of Veghel. This past October, newspaper readers were riveted by the running saga of a quiet married couple who had been hounded out of the previously livable Amsterdam neighborhood of Diamantbuurt by gangs of Muslim youths. There were incidents of wild rejoicing across Holland in the wake of the September 11 attacks, notably in the eastern city of Ede. The weekly magazine Contrast took a poll showing that just under half the Muslims in the Netherlands were in "complete sympathy" with the September 11 attacks. At least some wish to turn to terrorism. In the wake of the van Gogh murder, Pakistani, Kurdish, and Moroccan terrorist cells were discovered. The Hague-based "Capital Network," out of which van Gogh's killer Mohammed Bouyeri came, had contact with terrorists who carried out bombings in Casablanca in 2003. Perhaps the most alarming revelation was that an Islamist mole was working as a translator in the AIVD, the national investigative service, and tipping off local radicals to impending operations.

The question naturally arises: If immigrants behave this way now, what will happen when they are far more numerous, as all authorities have long promised they will be? It has been estimated that the country's two largest cities, Amsterdam and Rotterdam, will be "majority minority" very soon (Rotterdam is today at 47 percent), and already 65 percent of primary and secondary students in both cities are of non-Dutch parentage. London's Daily Telegraph, citing immigration experts and government statistics, reported a net outflow of 13,000 people from Holland in the first six months of 2004, the first such deficit in half a century. One must treat this statistic carefully--it could be an artifact of an aging population in which many are retiring to warmer places. But it could also be the beginning of something resembling the American suburban phenomenon of "white flight," occurring at the level of an entire country.

The only surprising thing about the situation is the persistence of the myth of a special Dutch tolerance, Delivered from evil (Simon Kuper, January 21 2005, Financial Times)
Tens of thousands of Danes - politicians, pastors, fishermen, ambulance drivers - helped smuggle 7,300 of the country’s 7,800 Jews into Sweden. Many more helped by not betraying the operation. Only 116 Danish Jews, or 1.5 per cent of the total, died in the Holocaust.

The other extreme in western Europe was the Netherlands. More than 100,000 Dutch Jews - three-quarters of the total - were massacred. This was nearly twice the proportion killed in Belgium, where Jews had far more chance of finding hiding places, and three times as high as in France. Only in Poland were proportionately more Jews murdered. The Dutch had a reputation for wartime heroism, even - until recently - among themselves. But they owe it chiefly to the hiding of Anne Frank. [...]

The Danish historian Therkel Straede writes that the German occupation of Denmark “passed off more mildly than in any other country”. Germany had recognised it as a “sovereign state”. Until 1943 the Danes ran their own domestic affairs, even holding elections. Every day, King Christian X rode his horse through Copenhagen, greeting his subjects as he went, living proof that the Danish establishment continued. Furthermore, the Danes were more homogeneous than the Dutch. You could see it in their paucity of surnames: Hansen, Petersen, Jensen and a few others covered most of the population. The German immigrants who had arrived the previous century, and the few Jews, had integrated to the point of invisibility. Nor did Denmark have great regional divides.

The crucial shared heritage, though, was that almost everyone belonged to the Danish Lutheran church. Not only were there just 7,800 Jews in Denmark, there were hardly any Catholics either, nor many non-Lutheran Protestants. In 1940, although the percentage of churchgoers was perhaps the lowest in Europe, most Danes still used the church for baptisms, weddings and funerals. Pastors remained moral authorities, each year inspecting their local schools.

Danish Lutheranism was a peculiar variant of the German creed. Its founding father, Nikolai Grundtvig, born the son of a country pastor in 1783, took as his key text the Book of Genesis. Grundtvig read the Creation story to mean that human life had value in itself, even before Christianity arrived. His slogan was: “Man first, then a Christian.” This implied that religious differences were secondary, contradicting Luther’s own anti-Semitism, and the usual Protestant obsession with schisms.

Grundtvig drew from the Creation a second conclusion: that the richness of man’s life unfolds on earth, not just in heaven. Man is more than just spirit: he is also dust. Doing the right thing on this earth therefore mattered. Danes (Grundtvig was a patriotic theologian) had to act in this life, but as a group rather than as individuals. They must sacrifice for Danish democracy.

In the autumn of 1940, the pipe-smoking theologian Hal Koch gave a series of lectures on Grundtvig to packed halls around Denmark. Koch’s audiences understood that he was not simply talking about theology. He emphasised “the need for the entire nation to combine politicisation, individual and collective responsibility, knowledge of all facts, and negotiations with the Nazi, as long as that was possible”. Danes must act as a group, Koch said. A year later, he moderated a public debate on the “Jewish question”, itself an astonishing fact, in which he called on Danes to reject any suggestion of discrimination. Other churchmen took a similar line.

Though the Danes collaborated with Hitler on most matters, they always refused to take any measures against Jews. The myth that King Christian X wore a Jewish star to show his solidarity is false, because the star was never imposed in Denmark.

In August 1943, after a wave of Danish strikes and acts of sabotage, the Germans declared martial law. In September, Germany’s Reich plenipotentiary, Werner Best, decided to deport the Danish Jews. His plans were leaked to Danish politicians. It is now believed that Best himself instigated the leak, probably because he thought that deportation would make his rule in Denmark untenable. On the morning of September 29, the day before the Jewish New Year, Denmark’s chief rabbi, Marcus Melchior, alerted his congregation: “You must leave immediately, warn all your friends and relatives and go into hiding.”

On the night of October 1, when German special police units (the Danish police refused to help) knocked on Jewish doors, they found almost nobody home. Only a few hundred Jews opened the front door. The rest had been tipped off. The Jews had no trouble finding hiding places. People pressed their house keys even on Jews they had never met before.

Half of Copenhagen must have known what was going on, yet there were barely any betrayals. Thousands of Jews were installed in hospital beds under gentile names, or disguised as visitors, staff, even funeral mourners. At Copenhagen’s Kommunehospitalet, all 1,000 staff were involved in the rescue. The following Sunday, October 3, Denmark’s pastors read a letter from their pulpits: “Whenever Jews are persecuted... it is the duty of the Christian church to protest against such persecution, because it is in conflict with the sense of justice inherent in the Danish people and inseparable from our Danish Christian culture through the centuries.”

They did not leave their sense of duty at words. By one estimate, 90 per cent of Lutheran ministers joined Denmark’s rescue and resistance efforts. Copenhagen’s cantor was lent DKr25,000 (more than his annual salary) by a Lutheran priest named Rasmussen to finance his family’s escape to Sweden. After the war, Rasmussen refused repayment. Five Danish Lutheran priests were killed in the Resistance, others went to prison and concentration camps, and about 100 had to go underground until the liberation. Their influence was enormous. Since the Lutheran clergy were virtually state functionaries, and King Christian was head of the church, the church was in effect the moral arm of government. Perhaps as important, though, was that Denmark’s social democrats had a very similar belief in equality and acting for the collective.

Later, Denmark ensured that the few Jews who had been caught would not be sent to death camps. Instead they were held in the Theresienstadt ghetto in Czechoslovakia, where they received food parcels, and a visit from a Danish delegation (which passed on the king’s regards in a whisper). On April 13 1945, before the war was over, they were released.

The Danes protected the Jews because they considered them part of the homogeneous Danish collective. Bent Melchior, son of the wartime chief rabbi, told me: “This was the result of a development of over 200 years. We had become part of forming this society.” Or as Uffe Ostergard, director of Denmark’s Holocaust and Genocide Studies Centre, says: “The Jews were rescued not because they were Jews but because they were not seen as Jews.”

Denmark had a haven just across the sea, and the Netherlands didn’t. However, the Dutch as a group - as opposed to a few thousand isolated individuals and cells - never even tried to protect the Jews. In the Netherlands, some companies sacked their Jews without waiting for the Germans to tell them to. AVRO, a leading radio broadcaster, did so on May 21 1940, six days after the capitulation. Anti-Semitism lacks explanatory force here: before 1940, there had been no discernible Dutch impetus for measures against Jews.

The Dutch royal family and cabinet had fled to London that May, leaving government to the top civil servants, the secretaries-general, whose instructions were to keep things functioning without anarchy. The secretaries-general aimed not to upset the occupiers. When the Germans asked them to sack a Jewish concert master, they considered objecting, before passing the order on to the orchestra anyway. “Perhaps a middle way can still be found,” they noted in their minutes. When the Germans said they would ban kosher slaughter of meat, the secretaries-general talked about “coming to an agreement”, hoping to impose a Dutch ban before the occupiers acted. The goal was to maintain a semblance of sovereignty.

Measure followed measure, and the Dutch never said no. Amsterdam’s city council produced a helpful chart for the Germans showing where the Jews lived. Later, these people were rounded up by Dutch policemen, who were coerced by the Germans with terrible sanctions: they could lose their Whitsun leave. The rigour of the Dutch police, and of the Dutch state generally, was matched in western Europe not even by Vichy France.

The Holocaust in the Netherlands was a fairly bloodless affair, free of the slaughter of Jews by local people seen in eastern Europe. In the Netherlands, it was a mechanical sorting operation: ringing doorbells, escorting people to trains, impounding their belongings. The Dutch habit of obedience to authority proved fatal under Nazism, a phenomenon they could not fathom.

Dutch morality - and most people were then churchgoers - did not extend to taking risks for neighbours. In any case, with the country divided between squabbling denominations, no one church could lead the nation. But the Dutch churches did not even try to use their moral sway. The Dutch Reformed Church spent most of the war debating arcane theological questions.

Until the 1960s, in most countries the Holocaust was rarely discussed in public. It seemed incomprehensible, and most surviving Jews were fearful of drawing attention to themselves. Many Dutchmen grasped what had happened only in 1965, when the historian Jacques Presser published his account of the Holocaust, Ondergang (Descent). It sold 140,000 copies in eight months. Over the next 20 years, the war and the Holocaust became the central themes of Dutch history. From 1969 to 1988, Lou de Jong, the Dutch state’s official historian of the war, published his The Kingdom of the Netherlands in the Second World War in 27 volumes. Millions of copies were sold, making it one of the best-selling academic histories in history.

When I was at school in the Dutch town of Leiden in the 1970s and 1980s, however, the orthodox version of the war was still being taught. I learned from teachers, neighbours and Resistance tales like Soldier of Orange (nominated for a foreign-film Oscar in 1979) that the Dutch had been “good”. I gathered that nobody shopped in the stores of those who had been “wrong” in the war, and that De Telegraaf, a newspaper that had been wrong, was still universally loathed (although, mysteriously, it was the country’s bestselling daily). I learned that the average Dutchman had spent the war delivering his illegal newspapers after feeding his hidden Jews.

Even in the 1980s, the Dutch still needed the myth of resistance. Many of the wartime generation were still alive, and it would have been too painful to admit that only about 1 per cent of Dutch people had actively resisted. Furthermore, former resistants and exiles had a disproportionate role in Dutch life: many underground newspapers had transformed after the war into regular dailies that still exist today, while De Jong, many politicians and the royals had returned untainted from exile to form the new establishment.

Nor was there much need to delve deeply: whereas the world was accusing the Germans, and even the French, few foreigners knew much about the Dutch war. Only Anne Frank’s story had penetrated abroad. She became shorthand for a people that had bravely sheltered the Jews, even though the end of her story could be read as symbolising Dutch betrayal.

In Denmark, too, a Resistance myth arose after the war: that all Danes had passively resisted the Germans, opposing Nazism in their hearts. This myth did, to be sure, skate over Denmark’s years of collaboration. But it also played down heroism - that of the active resistants, the saboteurs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:16 AM


As Election Nears, Iraqis Remain Sharply Divided on Its Value (JEFFREY GETTLEMAN, 1/23/05, NY Times)

Hejaz Hazim, a computer engineer who could not find a job in computers and now cleans clothes, slammed his iron into a dress shirt the other day and let off a burst of steam about the coming election.

"This election is bogus," Mr. Hazim said. "There is no drinking water in this city. There is no security. Why should I vote?"

Across town in the Shiite stronghold of Sadr City, a grocer called Abu Allah stood behind his pyramids of fruit and said that no matter what, he was going to the polls.

"Even if there's a bomb in my polling place," he said, "I will go in it."

If Iraq was ever a divided country, it is especially divided now.

With Iraq's crucial election coming up on Jan. 30, people here still have strikingly different views on the vote, with the disparities apparently based not on class or education or sex or age but on the country's stubbornly durable fault lines of ethnic and religious affiliation.

The biggest chasm seems to be between the most powerful groups in Iraq: the Shiites and the Sunnis. Every single Shiite interviewed for this article said he or she planned to vote. Though there are a few Sunni leaders running for office, all the Sunnis interviewed, except one, said they were going to boycott. That could mean a humiliation for American forces and the new Iraqi government, who have relentlessly pounded the Sunni areas in a so far unsuccessful campaign to wipe out the resistance.

Granted, the opinions of 50 to 60 people, all told, hardly constitute a scientific sample. But they are revealing.

More revealing than the scientific polling which indicates no serious division?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:13 AM

THE NATURAL (via Daniel Merriman):

Just the Right Amount of God: George Bush delivers the most philosophical inaugural address ever. (Joseph Bottum, 01/31/2005, Weekly Standard)

"WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE political philosopher?" a group of Republican candidates were asked early in the 2000 race for president. And the frontrunner at the time, a Texas governor named George W. Bush, calmly answered, "Christ, because he changed my life."

Well. You could barely hear the other candidates' answers in the crash and clatter of overturned chairs as reporters scrambled to reach the phones and call in the story. Some commentators decided Bush was nakedly pandering to Evangelical voters in a Machiavellian ploy so bold that he should have said his favorite political philosopher was, um, Machiavelli.

Most of the nation's chatterers, however, decided that this wasn't the devious Bush but the stupid Bush. Couldn't he come up with the name of an actual philosopher? Plato had a scribble called the Republic, Aristotle managed to jot down a few notes on politics, and in the long years since the ancient Greeks there have been a few other philosophical types who've set out a thought or two on the political order. A little more study time--a little less fraternizing with his drinking buddies--and Bush might have heard their names while he was an undergraduate, even at Yale.

And then there was the mockery the candidate faced for his confusion of piety with philosophy. The holy name of Jesus doesn't have much purchase on people for whom "Christian" is mostly shorthand for "life-denying bigots who want to burn all the books they're too ignorant to read." Besides, from Genesis to Revelation, the Bible that Bush claims to follow manifests deep suspicion of the philosophical. The Lord will do "a marvelous work among this people, even a marvelous work and a wonder," as the prophet Isaiah put it, "for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid." If Bush understood the Book of Acts, he'd remember the Apostle Paul didn't have much success preaching the Resurrection to philosophers in Athens.

Bad theology, bad philosophy, and bad politics--this was the high-minded consensus at the time. The identification of Jesus as a life-changing political philosopher was either a stroke of electoral genius, or a mark of jaw-dropping feeblemindedness, or--well, that's always been the problem for Bush's opponents, hasn't it? "I can't believe I'm losing to this idiot," John Kerry whined to his aides during the 2004 campaign, and George W. Bush still remains impenetrable to those who persist in seeing him as some impossible combination of Dr. Evil and Forrest Gump. Anyway, the consensus was that he didn't mean--couldn't mean--anything philosophical by his answer to a reporter's question.

Funny thing. On a cold, bright day in January 2005, with the sun off the snow crinkling his eyes, President Bush gave his second inaugural address. And it seems he did actually mean what he had said before. The speech was as clear an assertion of a particular Christian political philosophy as we're likely to hear in these latter days. [...]

As it happens, the natural-law philosophy the speech asserted has a little bit to bother everyone in it. The president's Evangelical supporters may have been reassured by the public religiosity of the occasion--the prayers, the Navy choir singing "God of Our Fathers," the bowed heads. But the god of the philosophers ain't much of a god to be going home with. A deistical clockmaker, an impersonal prime mover, a demiurge instead of a redeemer: This is hardly the faith Christian Americans imagine the president shares with them. There was not a mention of the Divine in Bush's speech that Thomas Jefferson couldn't have uttered.

Still, all that God-talk--all that natural-law reasoning--was heading somewhere in Bush's speech, and the president's cultured despisers, those who tremble or rage at any trace of divinity in public, are right to be afraid. Just not for the reason they think. It would take an act of perverse will to suppose that the 2005 inaugural address signaled the onset of a Christian theocracy in America. Every rhetorical gesture toward God was either universalized up into a sectless abstraction ("Author of Liberty"? Which faith group can't say that?) or spread down in careful pluralistic specificity ("the truths of Sinai, the Sermon on the Mount, the words of the Koran, and the varied faiths of our people").

No, President Bush's opponents should be afraid of this speech because it signals the emergence of a single coherent philosophy within the conservative movement. Natural-law reasoning about the national moral character gradually disappeared from America in the generations after the Founding Fathers, squeezed out between a triumphant emotive liberalism, on the one side, and a defensive emotive Evangelicalism, on the other. Preserved mostly by the Catholics, natural law made its return to public discourse primarily through the effort to find a nontheological ground for opposition to abortion. And now, three decades after Roe v. Wade, it is simply the way conservatives talk--about everything. With his inaugural address, President Bush has just delivered a foreign-policy discourse that relies entirely on classical concepts of natural law, and, agreeing or not, everybody in America understood what he was talking about.

It becomes increasingly plausible that the President would ask Clarence Thomas to move up to Chief Justice.

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

I believe there's a clash of ideologies and I think—I just know—that America must be firm in our resolve and confident in our belief that freedom is the mightiest gift to everybody in the world and that free societies will be peaceful societies.

In the short run we will use every asset to prevent an enemy from attacking us again. Which I believe they want to do. I believe they want to do it because I know they want to sow discord, distrust, and fear at home so that we begin to withdraw from parts of the world where they would like to have enormous influence to spread their Taliban-like vision—the corruption of religion—to suit their purposes. And so that's where we use every asset. I mean we just have—I will not yield to them—to their blackmail, to their murder, to their death, to the fear that they try to cause through death.

The long-run solution to terror is freedom. That's what we believe in America. We believe that everybody yearns to be free. We believe everybody can be free. Now I'm getting people to research all the statements of doubt about whether or not Japan could be free after World War II. And I suspect we'll find there was quite a bit of cynicism, and people were just flat dubious that people in the Far East—who had a religion that was foreign to most Americans—could conceivably self-govern in a democratic style. Thank goodness the optimists ruled the day, because I now work with [Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro] Koizumi to deal with problems in world peace 50 years later, such as Korea. And so that's what I'm spending a lot time thinking about.

At home, the job of a president is to help cultures change. The culture needs to be changed. I call it, so people can understand what I'm talking about, changing the culture from one that says, "If it feels good, do it, and if you've got a problem, blame somebody else," to a culture in which each of us understands we're responsible for the decisions we make in life. I call it the responsibility era. … I said that when I was governor of Texas. As a matter of fact, I've been saying that ever since I got into politics. This is one of the reasons I got into politics in the first place. Governments cannot change culture alone. I want you to know I understand that. But I can be a voice of cultural change.

Part of the responsibility era is the responsibility that comes with promoting—taking care of your bodies to the point where we can promote a culture of life. Father Richard [Neuhaus] helped me craft what is still the integral part of my position on abortion, which is: Every child welcomed to life and protected by law. That is the goal of this administration.

Part of government's role is to foster responsibility and hope by standing with those who have heard a call to love a neighbor, which is the second point of the faith-based initiative that I think is one of the most important domestic initiatives that I have pushed, if not the most. It recognizes the rightful relationship between hearts and souls and government. Again, my job is to try to distill things down so that average people can understand it. Here's the way I put it, "Government can hand out money, but it cannot put love in people's hearts or a sense of purpose in people's lives."

Or I like to tell people, "If you're a drunk, sometimes a psychologist can talk you out of it, but generally it requires a higher power. If you change your heart, you change your behavior." And government must recognize that those heart changers are an important part of changing society one soul at a time.

So the faith-based initiative recognizes that there is an army of compassion that needs to be nurtured, rallied, called forth, and funded, without causing the army to have to lose the reason it's an army in the first place.

I mean, one of the real challenges we've had, of course, is to say to the faith community, "Come in, the social service money is available for you and oh, by the way, you can keep the cross on the wall or the Star of David in your temple without fear of government retribution." I think we're getting there. I mean, this is a cultural change in government too, by the way. It's been a mighty struggle to convince people of the wisdom of the policy.

In Texas again, my line was, "Look, don't focus on the process, focus on the results." That's how we were able to get the prison ministry into that Sugarland Prison. "See if these people go back into jail or not, that's all I ask. And if they don't, if it works, let's keep it intact."

Finally, government has got a responsibility to support and nurture institutions … foster institutions that provide hope and stability. That's why I took the position I took on the sanctity of marriage. I believe it's a very important issue for America. I think it—marriage—has worked. It's the commitment between a man and a woman. That shared responsibility is the cornerstone—has been the cornerstone—will be the cornerstone for civilization and I think any erosion of that definition by itself will weaken civilization as we have known it, and as we hope to know it.

And I call for a constitutional amendment for two reasons: One, I understand how the process works and why there is some protection against the decisions by a few court judges in one state protecting the definition of marriage in other states. The legal scholars tell me it is not on a very firm foundation because of the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution. And therefore there needs to be an alternative available.

Secondly, I want the American people participating in the process. I don't want this decided by judges. It's too big an issue. And the constitutional process is a sure enough way to get people involved through the amendment process, how we amend the Constitution.

The role of government is to help foster cultural change as well as to protect institutions in our society that are an important part of the culture. And I believe this is an issue in the campaign—how you view the role of government and how individuals view their own role in society. And I look forward to the debate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:05 AM


Can Europe deliver following Bush's olive branch? (Roger Cohen, January 22, 2005, The New York Times)

The start of President George W. Bush's second term has been marked by a series of conciliatory gestures toward Europe: a promised visit to the headquarters of the European Union, the selection of a top State Department team deeply versed in European affairs, restraint on trade, cooperation on the Ukrainian crisis, and bold commitments to the active Middle Eastern diplomacy Europeans want.

All of this amounts to a bold presidential gamble that the Atlantic community is alive and well, despite the divisive trauma of Iraq. But Bush will want results. As his secretary of state-designate, Condoleezza Rice, said this past week: "When judging a course of action, I will never forget that the true measure of its worth is whether it is effective."

By this yardstick, can European-American cooperation still deliver? Can it usher in the freer world to which the president is committed? Reassuring allies that "we rely on your counsel," Bush declared Thursday that "the concerted effort of free nations to promote democracy is the prelude to our enemies' defeat."

Pressing tests of such concerted action abound: the Iraq war, a Middle East changed by Yasser Arafat's death, the slow-building potential missile crisis in Iran and Ukraine's democratic transition.

"The president has demonstrated his willingness to re-engage with the Europeans - all of them, not one at a time, and that includes the French," said Simon Serfaty of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "This is critical. But achieving tangible results will not be easy because basic positions have not changed."

Translation: the Europeans still don't care about liberalizing the Middle East if it's at all inconvenient.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:39 AM


Who Will Be the Next Alpha Democrat?: Seven candidates for party chairman try to pull ahead of the pack in a Sacramento forum. (Mark Z. Barabak, January 23, 2005, LA Times)

The race for Democratic Party chairman came west Saturday with seven contestants, including two former congressmen and former presidential front-runner Howard Dean, auditioning for the chance to lead the country's minority party over the next four years. [...]

Handicapping the race is nearly impossible, given the small electorate and the one-on-one nature of the campaign, conducted mostly over the telephone and in private meetings. But most observers agree that Dean is the front-runner by dint of his considerable name recognition and his wide grass-roots support, with others vying to emerge as the most viable alternative.

On Saturday, at least, they were treated as equals. The seven hopefuls sat elbow-to-elbow onstage in a crowded Sacramento hotel ballroom, working to distinguish themselves in a variety of ways.

Former Rep. Tim Roemer of Indiana spoke of his service on the Sept. 11 commission and attacked President Bush on his strongest political suit, the fight against terrorism.

"Have they succeeded in catching Osama bin Laden? No. Have they made the axis of evil weaker? No. Have they made us a safer world by attacking the people in Iraq? No," Roemer said, as the audience joined in, shouting out in the negative. "We Democrats can and must do better."

David Leland, the former chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, noted that he was the only one onstage to have served as head of a state party.

Activist Donnie Fowler said he was the only candidate who had been "on the ground" for candidates in 14 states over the last 20 years.

Wellington Webb joked about his status as the only African American in the field, quipping that as former mayor of Colorado's biggest city, "I proved in Denver … that someone with a mustache can win."

Simon Rosenberg, an activist from the centrist New Democrat wing of the party, offered perhaps the day's most provocative pitch, vowing as chairman to "end the monopoly of Iowa and New Hampshire," the two states that lead off the presidential nominating process. The proposal drew a roar from the crowd of California activists, who have simmered for years over the state's minimal role in the primaries.

Appealing to the same sentiment, Dean drew another big cheer by saying, "We have to stop using this state as an ATM machine and leave a little money here."

Reprising one of the arguments of his presidential campaign, Dean insisted Democrats need not change their positions or abandon the party's progressive principles.

"We are the centrists," he said. "We do not need to be mini-Republicans."

Nostalgia for Saddam and a promise to make the Party more like CA don't seem the ticket back to power, no matter how much you whistle while you work.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:12 AM


Gnosticism and the Struggle for the World's Soul (FATHER ALFONSO AGUILAR, April 6-12, 2003, National Catholic Register)

At the beginning of the third millennium three worldviews compete to conquer the minds and hearts of peoples and cultures, the world's soul: materialistic relativism, Gnosticism and Christianity. The New Evangelization demands a clear-cut separation between Gnosticism and Christianity if we want to bring every thirsty person to the Water of Life.

What do Harry Potter, the Star Wars series, The Matrix, Masonry, New Age and the Raelian cult, which claims to have cloned the first baby, have in common?

Their ideological soil. Identical esoteric ideas suffuse the novels, the movies, the lodges, the "alternative spirituality" and the cloning "atheistic religion," and this ideological soil has a name — Gnosticism.

"Gnosticism" is an eerie word whose meaning eludes our minds. I often meet Catholics who have heard the term but have only a foggy idea of what it means. Perhaps Gnosticism itself is foggy.

Yet, whether we understand it or not, Gnosticism may be, at the beginning of the third millennium, the most dangerous enemy to our Christian faith. Notice, I'm not saying Star Wars or Harry Potter is the danger. They provide us with good lessons and fine entertainment. They are just two signs of the power of the real enemy: Gnosticism.

Why? What is Gnosticism?

In one dense but masterful summary, we find the essential aspects of Gnosticism. In his book Crossing the Threshold of Hope, Pope John Paul II writes:

"A separate issue is the return of ancient Gnostic ideas under the guise of the so-called New Age. We cannot delude ourselves that this will lead toward a renewal of religion. It is only a new way of practicing Gnosticism — that attitude of the spirit that, in the name of a profound knowledge of God, results in distorting his word and replacing it with purely human words. Gnosticism never completely abandoned the realm of Christianity. Instead, it has always existed side by side with Christianity, sometimes taking the shape of philosophical movement, but more often assuming the characteristics of a religion or para-religion in distinct, if not declared, conflict with all that is essentially Christian."

Let's examine what the Holy Father is saying about Gnosticism.

'Secret Knowledge'?

First, its nature. Strictly speaking, Gnosticism was an esoteric religious movement of the first centuries A.D., a movement that rivaled Christianity. In a broader sense, it is an esoteric knowledge of higher religious and philosophic truths to be acquired by an elite group. John Paul alludes to the first meaning with the phrase "ancient Gnostic ideas" and to the second as an "attitude of the spirit" that "has always existed side by side with Christianity."

A Gnostic is one who has gnosis (a Greek word for "knowledge") — a visionary or mystical "secret knowledge" capable of joining the human being to the divine mystery. Gnostics, the Pope remarked, distort God's word "in the name of a profound knowledge of God." What is this "knowledge" they claim to have?

The Gnostic worldview is dualistic. Reality consists of two irreducible elements: one good, the spiritual world (the realm of light); and the other evil, matter (the realm of darkness). Two supreme powers or gods oppose each other — the unknowable and ineffable god, from whom a series of lesser divinities emanated, and the evil god, or demiurge, who produced the universe from foul matter and possesses it with his evil demons.

Man is composed of body, soul and spirit. The spirit is man's true self, a "divine spark," a portion of the godhead. In a tragic fall, man's true self, or spirit, was thrown into this dark world and imprisoned in each individual's body and soul. The demiurge and the demons keep man's spirit as a slave of the material world, ignorant of his "divine" condition. Hence the need for a spiritual savior, a messiah or "Christ," to offer redeeming gnosis. This savior is a guide, a master who teaches a few "spiritual" people — the Gnostics — about their true spiritual selves and helps them to wake up from the dream world they live in. The Gnostics would be released from the material world, the non-Gnostics doomed to reincarnation.

What is an example of how these beliefs are embodied in popular stories? Consider the Star Wars movies. There is much good in them. The stories are admirable in many ways. But they are chock-full of Gnosticism.

Star Wars is the clash between the two supreme powers of the universe — "the force" and the "dark side of the force," which is exploited by the "emperor" (the demiurge) and his demons (Darth Vader, the siths). The Gnostic heroes are the Jedi, who possess the "secret knowledge" of their own spiritual powers; unlike the non-Gnostic, they are able to use "the force" well. Each Jedi has a master, who trains him to acquire this redeeming gnosis. Ben Kenobi, for instance, was for a time the master of Anakin and Luke Skywalker. The greatest spiritual guide in the saga is Yoda, a respected senior member of the Jedi council and a general in the clone wars.

As Christ's followers, we must sort out the good seed from the weeds (cf. Matthew 13:24-30). I propose a distinction between the Gnostic values and its philosophy.

Gnostics promote, without a doubt, positive values. They draw a clear-cut separation between good and evil, stress man's spiritual dimension, instill high and noble ideals, foster courage and concern for others, respect nature, reject materialism and often reject hedonism, too.

Such values shine like pearls in an age of moral relativism that thirsts for gain, the ephemeral, the hedonistic. Aren't these some of the virtues and ideas we love in Star Wars and Harry Potter?

The other side of the coin, however, is not so positive. The good values are rooted in a Gnostic philosophical understanding of man, God and the world that is, as the Pope put it, "in distinct, if not declared, conflict with all that is essentially Christian." Why?

Note the opposite views. The Christian Creator is love — a Trinity of persons who wants to establish with us a personal relationship of love — quite different from that unknowable God, usually conceived, like the Star Wars "force," as an impersonal energy to be manipulated.

The God of Revelation made everything good — the angels, the world, our body and soul. Evil is not a force of the same rank as God; rather, it springs from angels' and men's personal free choice. Salvation is offered by God in Christ, man's only redeemer.

Salvation is a grace — a free gift from God that Man can neither deserve nor earn. It is not gnosis, "secret knowledge" we can acquire by ourselves with the help of mere human guides or Christlike figures. In short, the Christian religion is a "dialogue" of love between God and man, not a self-centered "monologue" in which man divinizes himself. That's why John Paul says Gnosticism cannot lead "toward a renewal of religion."

It distorts God's word, "replacing it with purely human words."

The values taught have to be used to lead people to the true philosophy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:38 AM


Can Anyone Unseat F.D.R.? (JOHN TIERNEY, 1/23/05, NY Times)

To some Republicans, the start of this presidential term is their moment, their chance to become the permanent majority party with a new vision that goes by various names: the ownership society, the Conservative New Deal, the New New Deal.

But can they really significantly trim seven decades of ever-growing programs? Can the New Deal government be rolled back?

Even some devout conservatives doubt that this can happen, and not only because of Democratic opposition. The skeptics believe that most Americans are unwilling to change the only kind of government that most of them have ever known.

After all, Americans love to talk about self-reliance, but they also love to vote for politicians who have been providing them with pensions, disability checks, health benefits, farm subsidies and other payments that have kept the government expanding through Republican as well as Democratic administrations, and especially during Mr. Bush's first term. [...]

The Republicans can point to some steps toward self-reliance, like the rise of 401(k) and other personal retirement accounts in place of corporate pensions, and the expansion of personal health-savings accounts in the latest Medicare bill. But that Medicare bill championed by Mr. Bush also contained a prescription drug benefit that was the costliest new entitlement in decades.

As they now take on Social Security, Republicans are counting on a more independent group of Americans, who are comfortable with placing their savings in the financial markets. And if Americans can be weaned from the Democrats' most cherished social program, the Republicans figure, the federal government will never be the same.

It's really a test for Republicans, of whether they believe the ideas they've been mouthing for years. Either the market works and the same amounts of money taken from people will realize higher returns, thereby providing the security they want but more efficiently, or they don't and the Party will be blamed for a catastrophe of epic proportions. It seems a risk well worth taking, but politicval parties in their entirety tend to be fairly risk averse.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:37 AM


The Man Who Told the Truth: Robert Heilbroner fessed up to the failure of socialism (David Boaz, January 21, 2005, Reason)
Robert Heilbroner, the bestselling writer of economics, died early this month at the age of 85. He and John Kenneth Galbraith may well have sold more economics books than all other economists combined. Alas, their talents lay more in the writing than the economics. Heilbroner was an outspoken socialist; if only a libertarian could write an introductory book on economics that could—like Heilbroner's The Worldly Philosophers—sell 4 million copies.

Reading some of Heilbroner's essays over the years, I admired his honesty about the meaning of socialism. Consider this excerpt from a 1978 essay in Dissent:

Socialism...must depend for its economic direction on some form of planning, and for its culture on some form of commitment to the idea of a morally conscious collectivity....

If tradition cannot, and the market system should not, underpin the socialist order, we are left with some form of command as the necessary means for securing its continuance and adaptation. Indeed, that is what planning means...

The factories and stores and farms and shops of a socialist socioeconomic formation must be coordinated...and this coordination must entail obedience to a central plan...

The rights of individuals to their Millian liberties [are] directly opposed to the basic social commitment to a deliberately embraced collective moral goal... Under socialism, every dissenting voice raises a threat similar to that raised under a democracy by those who preach antidemocracy.

Few socialists outside the Communist Party are willing to acknowledge that real socialism means trading our "Millian liberties" for the purported good of economic planning and "a morally conscious collectivity."

He was not entirely impervious to new evidence, however. In 1989, he famously wrote in The New Yorker:

"Less than 75 years after it officially began, the contest between capitalism and socialism is over: capitalism has won... Capitalism organizes the material affairs of humankind more satisfactorily than socialism."

In The New Yorker again the next year, he reminisced about hearing of Ludwig von Mises at Harvard in the 1930s. But of course his professors and fellow students scoffed at Mises's claim that socialism could not work. It seemed at the time, he wrote, that it was capitalism that was failing. Then, a mere 50 years later, he acknowledged: "It turns out, of course, that Mises was right" about the impossibility of socialism. I particularly like the "of course." Fifty years it took him to grasp the truth of what Mises wrote in 1920, and he blithely tossed off his newfound wisdom as "of course."
But it is an "of course" moment, nonetheless.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:18 AM


True Confessions: A Democrat Likes George
(Lanny J. Davis, January 20, 2005, LA Times)

I have known President Bush for 40 years — ever since we attended Yale College together in the 1960s. I'm a Democrat (and I was a Democrat then), but I liked him and I still like him, as a sincere and kind man and a good friend.

Because I've known him for so long, it was clear to me when he first began running for president that he could beat Al Gore, and I warned Gore of that early on. I knew it then (and again in 2004) because I knew, from my earliest memories of George W. Bush, that not only did people routinely underestimate him — but that he encouraged them to do so. Ask Ann Richards, who was 20 points ahead in the closing weeks of Bush's first campaign for governor of Texas but lost to him after his last-minute surge.

The master of low expectations — that is my clearest, and fondest, memory of George Bush at Yale. We would hang out together in the wood-paneled common room at Davenport College, where we both lived. I'd be worried about studying for my history exam or outlining my outlines; he would be relaxing on the couches, observing people walking by, maybe chatting up a girl or talking sports with another guy. As far as I could tell, he never studied or worried much about his grades. He looked exactly the same then as today, without the gray hair. Same sardonic grin, always comfortable with himself, no sense of pressure, coasting intellectually. Yet when the term was over, he would get by — sometimes Bs, sometimes Cs. I could never figure how he did it without, apparently, ever opening a book.

But despite what you may have heard or read, George was not just frat-house party boy. One of my most vivid memories is this: A few of us were in the common room one night. It was 1965, I believe — my junior year, his sophomore. We were making our usual sarcastic commentaries on those who walked by us. A little nasty perhaps, but always with a touch of humor. On this occasion, however, someone we all believed to be gay walked by, although the word we used in those days was "queer." Someone, I'm sorry to say, snidely used that word as he walked by.

George heard it and, most uncharacteristically, snapped: "Shut up." Then he said, in words I can remember almost verbatim: "Why don't you try walking in his shoes for a while and see how it feels before you make a comment like that?"

Remember, this was the 1960s — pre-Stonewall, before gay rights became a cause many of us (especially male college students) had thought much about. I remember thinking, "This guy is much deeper than I realized."

One of the most unpleasant parts of the Impeachment was watching otherwise decent people, like Lanny Davis, pimp for Bill Clinton.

January 22, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:59 PM


Baby Charlotte's survival sparks new legal battle
(Sarah-Kate Templeton, 1/23/05, Sunday Times of London)

A PREMATURE baby that the High Court ruled should be left to die by hospital doctors has survived against the odds. So remarkable is the little girl’s progress that lawyers for her parents will this week go to court and ask for the ruling to be lifted.

Charlotte Wyatt, who weighed just 1lb when she was born prematurely, was given only months to live after a hospital won the legal right last autumn not to resuscitate her if she stopped breathing.

Doctors secured the ruling, against the wishes of Charlotte’s parents, on the grounds that she was brain-damaged and it was in the baby’s own interests not to be resuscitated since it would prolong her suffering and would be “purposeless”.

Doctors expected that Charlotte, now 15 months old, would succumb to an infection that would prove fatal without emergency intervention. However, she has survived 3½ winter months since the ruling; there is also evidence that her breathing is becoming stronger and she is less dependent on an oxygen supply — an improvement confirmed by hospital sources. The family claims she has some sight and can hear clapping.

Purposeless? Do they know they sound like the Nazis and not care?

Our own Holocaust (Sunday Telegraph, 23/01/2005)

Hitler's holocaust began in the 1930s with a policy which was not merely popular in other countries, but frequently practised by them: the forced sterilisation of those deemed "unfit to reproduce" because they were thought to carry a genetic predisposition to mental or physical handicap. Socialist intellectuals in Britain such as George Bernard Shaw were enthusiastic proponents of that policy. The US Supreme Court ruled that forced sterilisation was compatible with the Constitution in 1927, when Oliver Wendell Holmes confidently stated that it was "better for all the world if society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind". Over the next decade, the United States forcibly sterilised more than 20,000 women - a number dwarfed by the Swedes, who only stopped forcibly sterilising women for carrying "defective genes" in the 1970s.

Forced sterilisation is not murder, of course. But the Nazis' slide from the forced sterilisation of the mentally handicapped to their mass murder suggests how slippery the slope from the one to the other can be. As the BBC's outstanding series on Auschwitz demonstrates, the Nazis decided that it was not worth feeding and nursing "gibbering idiots", and that they could not "burden future generations with their care". They claimed that the most "humane" alternative was to exterminate the people they called "useless eaters". They experimented with gas as a discreet method of killing the mentally handicapped before they transferred that innovation to killing Jews. By the summer of 1941, 70,000 disabled people had been killed by being invited into showers - which turned out to dispense not water but carbon monoxide. Three doctors would look at the medical records of a "patient". They would mark the records with a red cross if they thought the individual was a suitable candidate for "evacuation". A majority vote decided his or her fate. The advantages of gassing were that it was hidden from view: shooting people en masse had the effect of turning even SS men into
depressed drunks.

There are disturbing parallels with our present laws on abortion. To abort
an unborn child beyond 24 weeks' gestation is recognised in British law as
infanticide - but only if the child is thought to be "normal". If doctors
diagnose physical or mental handicap, including, it seems, a cleft palate,
it is lawful to kill the unborn child at any time up to its birth. This is a
programme for eliminating the handicapped. Its justification is that it is
better "not to burden" either the present or future generations with their
care. It differs in practice from the mass murder in Nazi Germany - but it
is not easy to articulate how it differs at the level of moral principle.
The state is killing unborn children because we do not want to live with
them, or to bear the costs of looking after them. It is a justification the
Nazis would have appreciated.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:49 PM


Bush’s Words Are Full of Hope; Will His Actions Follow Suit? (Khaled Almaeena, 1/23/05, Arab News)

Now that George W. Bush is fairly well placed in the White House for another four years, it is important for us in the Arab world to read through his inauguration speech and try to figure out how to deal with him. [...]

He spoke of self-government, of the dignity of man, of the blessings of God and that no one deserved to be a slave. He allayed fears of many that America was trying to impose its style of government on the unwilling.

Rather he said America’s goal was to help others find their own voices, attain their own freedom and chart their own paths.

He had a few words for tyrants.

He did not mince words.

They were punctuated with carrots and sticks.

And for reformers he had words of encouragement.

He did mention the Qur’an when he said the “edifice of American character is built in families, supported by communities with standards and sustained in our national life.”

His focus was on freedom. [...]

The Arabs will welcome his speech.

No right-minded Arab man, woman or child would like to live under tyranny.

No Arab would like to be deprived of free speech, free media and the right of movement; we all aspire for it.

We want to be like our peers and counterparts in Europe and Asia.

We also have a dream — like the American Dream — of upward mobility, of bettering ourselves, of providing a better future for our children

For all this we need peace.

We need an environment that helps us produce a frame of mind that focuses on the positive rather than the negative.

We want to turn on our televisions in the morning to hear about higher stock prices, new contracts and the appointments of brilliant CEOs.

Instead we are plagued by scenes of suicide bombers, death and hordes of Israeli soldiers pointing assault rifles at Palestinian teenagers.

President Bush said: “No one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave.”

And we want to hold him to his words.

Mr. Bush should be held to the standards he set, just as Arabs should be expected to fight to realize this dream.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:42 PM


I'm no neo-Thatcherite, Blair tells Labour activists (Gaby Hinsliff, January 23, 2005, The Observer)

Tony Blair insisted he was no 'warmed-up neo-Thatcherite' yesterday as he sought to reassert his traditional Labour credentials in the run-up to the election.

In a speech in London, the Prime Minister moved to galvanise disaffected party activists who believe he has lost touch with their values by warning that Labour must now 'fight to keep' the social changes it had made over the past eight years. [...]

This reflects private alarm at the prospect of a low turnout undermining Labour's chances, particularly in marginal seats, with disaffected supporters who think Blair has moved too far to the right sitting on their hands assuming the government will manage without them.

However, Blair added the party could only win by being 'strong on defence and law and order' and allowing 'no political correctness, no outdated thinking' to stand between it and the public. [...]

The 'neo-Thatcherite' label is one repeatedly used against Blair by the left, who believe he has gone too far in introducing market forms and want a change of leader.

Just plain Thatcherite.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:35 PM


For Kerry, a Strategic Return to the Limelight (SHERYL GAY STOLBERG, 1/23/05, NY Times)

Like an actress arriving fashionably late for the Academy Awards, Mr. Kerry's return to the Senate - two weeks after the new Congress got underway - seemed intended to make a splash, as well as meet the delicate problem of how to re-enter the same political theater as the president he fought so hard to unseat.

The last losing presidential contender to return to a prominent job in Washington was George McGovern, the Democratic senator who lost to Richard Nixon in 1972. Defeated presidents and vice presidents - Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush and Al Gore among them - quietly retreated to private life. Bob Dole, the Republican former senator who lost to President Clinton in 1996, became a pitchman for Viagra and Pepsi. Michael Dukakis, who lost to the first George Bush in 1988, went back to being governor of Massachusetts and wound up a pariah in his own party.

That is a fate Mr. Kerry wants to avoid. So he is reintroducing himself to Americans in a way calculated to keep his political fortunes alive.

He criticized the war while on Iraqi soil, visited Syria and France, complained that votes were stolen, and then voted against Condo Rice with only Barbara Boxer by his side--that's a reintroduction?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:22 PM


U.S. Immigration Could Spell Big Business (Reshma Kapadia, 1/22/05, Reuters)

The largest immigration boom in U.S. history is expected to lift earnings at companies from discount retailers to telecommunications providers, putting dollar signs in the eyes of investors looking to cash in on the wave of newcomers, mostly from Latin America and Asia.

Demographics is "one of the top five tools any macro analyst and investment manager should be following," said Robert Justich, senior managing director at Bear Stearns Asset Management. "And there has been no bigger demographic change than today's migration."

"If you are forecasting into the next two decades, you are looking at an economy with tremendous opportunities in the realm of immigrant-related activity," said Marcelo Suarez-Orozco, co-director of immigration studies at New York University. "Never have so many highly educated and highly skilled (people) come into the immigration flow." [...]

The recent wave is more diverse in terms of countries of origin -- from Mexico to India -- and educational levels, said Suarez-Orozco.

The largest group comes from Latin America and tend to be younger and just starting families, he said.

That is certain to drive additional business for those who sell clothing, own apartment complexes and build homes.

Making us bubble-proof.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:18 PM


Jumbo, a brilliant white elephant (Jeremy Clarkson, 1/23/05, Sunday Times of London))

The gigantic wings for this plane are built by British Aerospace in north Wales. But each one is far too large to be taken to Toulouse by road and far too heavy to be taken there by air. So they are loaded on to barges in the port of Mostyn and floated down the Irish Sea, across the Channel and then through France’s canal network.

Plainly this is idiotic. It would be much easier and cheaper to build them in France but politically this would be no good at all because the Airbus is intended to show how European co-operation can work. We do the wings and the engines, the French put everything together, the Germans finish everything off and the Spanish . . . actually, I don’t know what the Spanish do, apart from gatecrash the launch party and lisp.

You would imagine then that Tony’s government would be doing everything in its power to make sure that Britain’s contribution was smooth and effortless. But no. Those wings can be loaded on to the barges only at high tide because the monumentally daft Environment Agency won’t let anyone dredge the harbour at Mostyn.

Why ever not? Well, there’s the European Union Habitats Directive, you see, that was drawn up to protect worms and slugs from the perils of profit.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:00 PM


Dead Reckoning (NR Editors, January 26, 1998, National Review)

The abortion regime was born in lies. In Britain (and in California, pre-Roe), the abortion lobby deceptively promoted legal revisions to allow "therapeutic" abortions and then defined every abortion as "therapeutic." The abortion lobby lied about Jane Roe, claiming her pregnancy resulted from a gang rape. It lied about the number of back-alley abortions. Justice Blackmun relied on fictitious history to argue, in Roe, that abortion had never been a common law crime.

The abortion regime is also sustained by lies. Its supporters constantly lie about the radicalism of Roe: even now, most Americans who "agree with Roe v. Wade" in polls think that it left third-term abortions illegal and restricted second-term abortions. They have lied about the frequency and "medical necessity" of partial-birth abortion. Then there are the euphemisms: "terminating a pregnancy," abortion "providers," "products of conception." "The fetus is only a potential human being" — as if it might as easily become an elk. "It should be between a woman and her doctor" — the latter an abortionist who has never met the woman before and who has a financial interest in her decision. This movement cannot speak the truth.

Roe's supporters said at the time that the widespread availability of abortion would lead to fewer unwanted pregnancies, hence less child abuse; it has not. They said that fewer women would die from back-alley abortions; the post-1940s decline in the number of women who died from abortions, the result of antibiotics, actually slowed after Roe — probably because the total number of abortions rose. They said it would reduce illegitimacy and child poverty, predictions that now seem like grim jokes.

Pro-lifers were, alas, more prescient. They claimed the West had started down the slippery slope of a progressive devaluation of human life. After the unborn would come the elderly and the infirm — more burdens to others; more obstacles to others' goals; probably better off dead, like "unwanted children." And so now we are debating whether to allow euthanasia, whether to create embryos for experimental purposes, whether to permit the killing of infants about to leave the womb.

And what greater claim on our protection, after all, does that infant have a moment after birth? He still lacks the attributes of "personhood" — rationality, autonomy, rich interactions — that pro-abortion philosophers consider the preconditions of a right to life. The argument boils down to this assertion: If we want to eliminate you and you cannot stop us, we are justified in doing it. Might makes right. Among intellectuals, infanticide is in the first phase of a movement from the unthinkable to the arguable to the debatable to the acceptable.

Everything abortion touches, it corrupts. It has corrupted family life. In the war between the sexes, abortion tilts the playing field toward predatory males, giving them another excuse for abandoning their offspring: She chose to carry the child; let her pay for her choice. Our law now says, in effect, that fatherhood has no meaning, and we are shocked that some men have learned that lesson too well. It has corrupted the Supreme Court, which has protected the abortion license even while tacitly admitting its lack of constitutional grounding. If the courts can invent such a right, unmoored in the text, tradition, or logic of the Constitution, then they can do almost anything; and so they have done. The law on everything from free speech to biotechnology has been distorted to accommodate abortionism. And abortion has deeply corrupted the practice of medicine, transforming healers into killers.

Most of all, perhaps, it has corrupted liberalism. For all its flaws, liberalism could until the early seventies claim a proud history of standing up for the powerless and downtrodden, of expanding the definition of the community for whom we pledge protection, of resisting the idea that might makes right. The Democratic Party has casually abandoned that legacy. Liberals' commitment to civil rights, it turns out, ends when the constituency in question can offer neither votes nor revenues.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:53 PM


The scariest prospect of all: Iran with the bomb (Edward Luttwak, 23/01/2005, Sunday Telegraph)

President Bush, during his inauguration speech last week, promised that he would "spread freedom to the darkest corners of the world". There were some among his world-wide audience to whom that sounded like a threat: we will
invade your country unless you change your government to one which we think
supports freedom.

The Iranians probably head the list of those feeling threatened. Relations between the United States and Iran, never exactly warm, have been freezing since 2002 when the Iranians were caught concealing from the International Atomic Energy Authority large parts of their programme to build a nuclear bomb. Vice President Richard Cheney followed up the President's address by insisting that Iran was "at the top of the world's trouble spots". He added that "everybody would be best suited if we could deal with [the problem of Iran] diplomatically". But he left the strong impression that if diplomacy failed, military action would follow.

There are certainly good reasons for believing that the Bush administration is considering the possibility of air strikes. Iran is ruled by fiercely reactionary clerics under the "supreme guide" Ayatollah Khameini. Between them, they have reduced the elected civilian government of President Khatami to almost total impotence. Khameini is pushing Iran down a more radically fundamentalist path than even Ayatollah Khomeini, the architect of the Islamic revolution in Iran, ever contemplated. Ayatollah Khomeini tolerated civilian government. He was not so restrictive in deciding who could stand for election in Iran's parliament. He never persecuted the hundreds of thousands of Iran's Muslims who practise a different variety of Shi'ism to that aproved by the ruling orthodoxy. Khameini, however, has declared all those people heretics, and started bullying them mercilessly. Abroad, the clique around Khameini funds suicide bombers in Israel and Iraq.

None of this would matter, however, if Ayatollah Khameini wasn't also determined to acquire a nuclear arsenal. Some members of the government have even boasted how they would use them: to destroy Israel. "Islam could survive the retaliation," they insist, "but Israel would be gone forever." The thought of ayatollahs with nuclear bombs should terrify everyone - especially in Europe, because the Iranians could soon put those bombs on the top of rockets that could reach European capitals.

Iran is worth doing provided that the lesson of Iraq has been learned: the Shi'a are already democrats; have immediate elections and leave.

Straw snubs US hawks on Iran (David Cracknell and Tony Allen-Mills, 1/23/05, Sunday Times of London)

JACK STRAW has drawn up a dossier putting the case against a military attack on Iran amid fears that President George W Bush’s administration may seek Britain’s backing for a new conflict.

Straw and his officials fear that hawks in Washington will talk the American president into a strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, just as they persuaded him to go to war in Iraq.

The foreign secretary has produced a 200-page dossier that rules out military action and makes the case for a “negotiated solution” to curbing the ayatollahs’ nuclear ambitions amid increasingly bellicose noises from Washington.

He will press home the point at a meeting with Condoleezza Rice, the incoming secretary of state, at a meeting in Washington tomorrow.

The document says a peaceful solution led by Britain, France and Germany is “in the best interests of Iran and the international community”. It refers to “safeguarding Iran’s right to the peaceful use of nuclear technology”.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:04 PM


Pitching a U.S.-South Korean divorce
(RICHARD HALLORAN, 1/23/05, The Japan Times)

In a provocative new book, the authors propose that the United States and South Korea agree to an "amicable divorce" in which all American military forces would be withdrawn from the Korean Peninsula and the security treaty that has made South Korea and America allies for 50 years would be dissolved.

Ted Galen Carpenter and Doug Bandow, senior researchers at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C., further assert in "The Korean Conundrum" that the troops pulled out of South Korea should be demobilized rather than retained in the service and posted elsewhere.

The book reflects two movements:

A spreading reaction in the U.S. to rising anti-Americanism in South Korea.

An expanding American belief that South Korea can defend itself against North Korea.

The Carpenter-Bandow book has begun to attract attention among those who influence U.S. policy toward Asia, notably a favorable review in "Foreign Affairs," the grandfather of American journals dedicated to foreign policy.

The troops are only a restraint on us at this point.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:55 PM


Bank admits it owned slaves (Mail & Guardian, January 22nd, 2005)

America's second biggest bank, JP Morgan Chase, has made a rare apology for its subsidiaries' involvement in the slave trade 200 years ago, admitting that it accepted slaves as loan collateral and ended up owning several hundred.

The Wall Street heavyweight said parts of the business accepted thousands of slaves as collateral on loans made to plantation owners in the South in the early 19th century.

It sent a letter to employees expressing contrition for its involvement in a "brutal and unjust institution". It made the disclosure to comply with a rule requiring companies to detail past dealings with the trade when they are doing business with the city of Chicago.[...]

In the letter, signed by the chief executive, William Harrison, the bank said: "We apologise to the African-American community, particularly those who are descendants of slaves, and to the rest of the American public for the role that Citizens' Bank and Canal Bank played. The slavery era was a tragic time in US history and in our company's history."

Can’t you just feel the healing begin?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:32 PM


King snubs Moroccan plea for apology (Isambard Wilkinson, 20/01/2005, Daily Telegraph)

Descendants of the Moors expelled from Spain 500 years ago failed to receive an apology from King Juan Carlos as he toured Morocco yesterday.

Residents of Tetouan, many of whose ancestors were driven from the Iberian peninsula by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, said an opportunity had been lost to heal an historic wound, which has become all the more sensitive in recent years.

Have the Moors apologized for invading yet?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:54 PM

NO NEW GOD (via Tom Morin)

Idealism and Its Discontents: Thinking on the neoconservative slur. (Victor Davis Hanson, 1/21/05, National Review)

Neo- is a prefix that derives from the Greek adjective veos — "new" or "fresh" — and in theory it is used inexactly for those conservatives who once were not — or for those who have reinterpreted conservatism in terms of a more idealistic foreign policy that eschewed both Cold War realpolitik and the hallowed traditions of American republican isolationism.

But the accepted definition has given way in practice to refer to the more particular proponents of the use of military action to remove threatening governments, and to replace them with democratic systems — hence the occasional sobriquets of "neo-Wilsonian." But for a number of detractors, "neoconservative" is also little more than generic disparagement, and (off-the-record) it is synonymous with American Jews who seek to alter American foreign policy to the wishes of the right-wing Likud party of Israel.

Yet note the misinformation about its meaning and usage. The five most prominent makers of American foreign policy at the moment — George Bush, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and Donald Rumsfeld — are (1) not Jewish, (2) hard-headed and not easily bamboozled by any supposed cabal, and (3) were mostly in the past identified with the "realist" school and especially skeptical of using the military frequently for anything resembling Clintonian peace-keeping.

There's one too many names on that list and it makes all the difference--George W. Bush can't really be associated with either the Realists or the neocons. He's a theocon--the source of his idealism is Biblical, not rational--and the other four serve him.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 3:46 PM


Self-doubt leaves French feeling down in the mouth (Susan Bell, The Scotsman, January 22nd, 2005)

It is official: the French are a nation of depressed pessimists, wracked with self-doubt and unable to see a positive future.

This gloomy portrait of the current state of Gallic morale - or rather the lack of it - was made public yesterday in a damning report by France’s prefects, the country’s top administrators.

"The French no longer believe in anything," the report said. "That is the reason that the situation is relatively calm, for they believe that it is not even worthwhile expressing their opinions or trying to be heard any more."

They are right, of course, but luckily President Bush may try to energize them by reaching out for four more years.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:28 PM


Gangs bring terror and death to jails (Tony Thompson, January 23, 2005, The Observer)

Thousands of inmates are being beaten, bullied and intimidated by prison gangs which are becoming increasing powerful and violent as the prison population soars, The Observer has found.

The gangs are involved in everything from drug trafficking and illegal gambling to assault and murder. Some have become so powerful that members make hundreds of pounds a week from the jail drug trade. This money is put aside for when the prisoners are released or used to provide better treatment inside. Those who fail to pay their debts risk violence against themselves or their families.

Last week a report into Liverpool's Walton jail, Britain's largest prison, found that on one wing nine of the ten prisoners felt threatened by the gangs. The Chief Inspector of Prisons, Anne Owers, warned that staff had been 'overwhelmed by the imported drug and gang culture'.

'It was clear that the gang culture of the streets outside had infiltrated the prison, resulting in both easy access to drugs and in bullying and intimidation,' said the report.

So much for the fatuous notion that getting rid of the death penalty makes your criminal justice system more humanitarian.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:27 AM


Virtually no security incidents in Gaza in last three days (THE JERUSALEM POST, Jan. 22, 2005)

The number of security-related incidents in the Gaza Strip has dropped to "virtually zero" in the past three days, a senior IDF officer told Army Radio on Saturday.

However, the officer stressed that the current quiet phase should be tested only after the conclusion of Eid ul-Adha festival.

On Saturday afternoon, two other Palestinian groups, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, also announced their readiness to enter into a cease-fire with Israel.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:24 AM


Motorcycle boomer deaths raise concerns (DAVID SHARP, 1/21/05, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Safety experts suspect older motorcycle riders with a lot of disposable income are buying more machines than their aging, out-of-practice bodies can handle.

Across the country, the annual number of motorcycle fatalities among 40-plus riders tripled over the past decade to 1,674 in 2003, while deaths among riders under 30 dropped slightly to 1,161, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

According to NHTSA, the average age of motorcyclists killed in accidents rose from 32 in 1994 to 38 in 2003.

"It's really kind of astonishing. The ages of these fatalities are so high. You would think it would be all of the young kids on those fast bikes, but it's not," said Carl Hallman, highway safety coordinator with the Maine Department of Public Safety.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:02 AM


U.S. births, immigration boost Social Security system (Bloomberg News, January 19, 2005)

Tara Trent of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, has three girls, with another child on the way in June. The 31- year-old homemaker and her husband, Ken, talk of having a fifth baby. Big families aren't unusual in the neighborhood, she says.

``Ken says we're not going to have any workforce later,'' Tara says with a laugh. ``So we've got to pump these kids out to take care of us.''

The Trents are part of a demographic phenomenon in the U.S. unmatched in any of its major trading partners: Americans are having more babies. The trend, combined with an annual inflow of immigrants that is more than the rest of the developed world combined, may undercut a key argument behind President George W. Bush's plan to allow private Social Security accounts: that the current system faces an emergency because of a sharp decline in the size of the future U.S. workforce.

Even Newt Gingrich, the Republican former speaker of the House of Representatives and a supporter of private accounts, says, ``The combination of higher birth rates and more immigration makes the United States the healthiest of developed nations. This is not a crisis.''

One of the reasons we need to stop treating the Europeans like allies is because our futures are so different--we have one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:01 AM


It's all go for Iraq's vote (Associated Press, January 22, 2005)

Millions of ballots have been printed, thousands of voting booths assembled and 300,000 Iraqi and American troops put at the ready. Everything is in place for Iraq's national elections. All that's needed now are voters.

Participation is the crucial question in next Sunday's parliamentary election, which the insurgents, mostly Sunni Arabs, have vowed to disrupt. Substantial Sunni turnout in the face of intimidation and murder could spell the beginning of the end of the rebellion and hasten the day when America can bring home its 150,000 troops.

But if the vast majority of Sunnis shun the polls - either out of fear or lack of confidence in the process - it would undercut the new government's legitimacy, widen the fault line between Sunnis and the majority Shiites and possibly doom the American military to years of struggle against a determined foe.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:01 AM


Palestinian Militants 'Ready for Cease-Fire' With Israel (VOA News, 22-January-2005)

Members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a key Palestinian militant group, say they are ready for a cease-fire with Israel.

The militants, who spoke with reporters in Gaza City Saturday, said they represent a local branch of the al-Aqsa group, not the entire faction, which operates dozens of armed squads of fighters. However, the announcement is seen as another signal that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is making progress in persuading armed groups to halt their attacks.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:58 AM


Retaliation investigated as possible motive for Boston tip (Chicago Sun-Times, January 22, 2005)

Gov. Mitt Romney said he has become "less concerned, not more concerned" about a potential terrorist threat against the city of Boston. The FBI, meanwhile, is exploring possible theories for the reports-- including a possible revenge motive.

FBI agents have been looking into an uncorroborated tip that 16 people might be planning an attack on the city. Those allegedly involved in the plot include 13 Chinese nationals, two Iraqis and a man identified on the FBI's Web site as Jose Ernesto Beltran Quinones, whose nationality was not given.

But the tipster who told federal officials about the alleged conspiracy may have fabricated the story out of revenge, a federal law enforcement official said Friday. The law enforcement official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the tipster may have been angry because a group of illegal immigrants had failed to pay for smuggling them into the country.

It was just Tom Tancredo, trying to whip up hysteria.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:27 AM


AUDIO: Inauguration Inroads to U.S. Communities of Color (NPR News with Tony Cox, January 19, 2005)

On Thursday, the capital plays host to the 55th presidential inauguration -- and this year, there will be a large African-American presence at the festivities. NPR's Tony Cox speaks with Melvin Forbes, director of development for the Veterans' Presidential Inaugural Ball, about partying with the president. Cox also talks with the Rev. Joseph Watkins, pastor of Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church and former White House aide to former President George H.W. Bush, about Republican inroads into America's communities of color.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:26 AM


Why the Crass Remarks About Rice? (Colbert I. King, January 22, 2005, Washington Post)

Boxer said to Rice: "I personally believe -- this is my personal view -- that your loyalty to the mission you were given, to sell the war, overwhelmed your respect for the truth." Loyalty to the mission you were given, to sell the war. Ponder the weight of that statement. It comes close, at least in spirit, to the picture of Rice sketched by political cartoonist Pat Oliphant a few weeks ago. In case you missed it, Oliphant drew a big-lipped, bucktooth Rice perched like a parrot on President Bush's arm. Bush was speaking to Rice in baby talk, with Rice replying: "Awwrk!! OK Chief. Anything you say, Chief. You Bet, Chief. You're my HERO, Chief."

It's hard to imagine a more demeaning and offensive caricature of a prospective secretary of state, let alone the most senior official on the national security staff. It's equally difficult to understand what prompted Boxer to imply that Rice is little more than a diligent echo of Bush's thoughts. There's nothing in Rice's background or in her performance to suggest that she is a mindless follower of presidential orders. In fact, Rice comes across as just the opposite.

As I was leaving a Post dining room after participating in my first off-the-record session with Rice and other Post editors and reporters a couple of years ago, it struck me that Rice could be where Bush gets it from. Subsequent meetings only have reinforced that supposition. Rice's notions of preemption, unilateralism and America's responsibilities as the dominant power in the world are not hand-me-downs from Bush. They strike me as very much her own.

Wonder why Rice stayed close to Bush's policies in her hearings? Consider the possibility that the administration's policies happen to be hers too. Consider too the likelihood that years of study and work in foreign affairs, both as an academic and as a senior foreign policy wonk, are what inform her views -- not George W. Bush.

My disagreement with the Bush administration on Iraq has been spelled out in past columns. I'm also a member of an editorial board that has been critical of administration policies -- and by extension, Rice -- on several foreign policy fronts. For example, when it comes to opposing oppressive regimes, this administration, despite its soaring rhetoric, has come up way short. But characterize Condoleezza Rica as a presidential stooge? Count me out.

She's a black woman--she can't have any ideas of her own or influence on policy, can she?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:24 AM


Bush Undermining the Bedrock of Roe vs, Wade (Gloria Feldt, 1/22/05, TomPaine.com)

[O]ver the past three decades, anti-choice extremists have succeeded in chipping away at the foundations of Roe , imposing restrictions that limit women's access to necessary reproductive health care. Rights without access are meaningless—which is precisely their point.

And now, in the U.S. Supreme Court, one vote is all that stands between our cherished reproductive rights and the end of Roe v. Wade as we know it.

A central tenet of Roe holds that a woman's life comes first; no restrictions to abortion may be imposed that endanger women's lives or health. But this crucial safeguard is currently supported by the slenderest of margins: one vote. It's all but inevitable that the composition of the court will change sometime in the coming four years; replacing even one justice may tip the balance. The future of Roe —and of our reproductive rights—lies on a razor's edge.

As Supreme Court appointments are for life, what happens in the next four years may determine the how we live our lives for the next 40 years.

If Roe crumbles, it's not only our right to legal abortion that's at stake. Along with Supreme Court decisions establishing the right to birth control, Roe helped define the contours of the constitutional right to privacy, protecting us from unwarranted governmental interference in our private affairs. A world without Roe may signal the beginning of an era of intolerable intrusion into all our other reproductive choices—such as the decision to use birth control—and into our personal lives.

Would any of us want to live in a world where something as personal as our right to decide whether or not to have a child is subject to governmental review?

Strange as it seems, most people don't think the right to take the life of another is purely personal.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:16 AM


Bush Pulls 'Neocons' Out of the Shadows (Doyle McManus, January 22, 2005, LA Times)

In the unending struggle over American foreign policy that consumes much of official Washington, one side claimed a victory this week: the neoconservatives, that determined band of hawkish idealists who promoted the U.S. invasion of Iraq and now seek to bring democracy to the rest of the Middle East.

For more than a year, since the occupation of Iraq turned into the Bush administration's biggest headache, many of the "neocons" have lowered their profiles and muted their rhetoric. During President Bush's reelection campaign, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, one of the leading voices for invading Iraq, virtually disappeared from public view.

But on Thursday, Bush proclaimed in his inaugural address that the central purpose of his second term would be the promotion of democracy "in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world" — a key neoconservative goal. Suddenly, the neocons were ascendant again.

"This is real neoconservatism," said Robert Kagan, a foreign policy scholar who has been a leading exponent of neocon thinking — and who sometimes has criticized the administration for not being neocon enough. "It would be hard to express it more clearly. If people were expecting Bush to rein in his ambitions and enthusiasms after the first term, they are discovering that they were wrong."

On the other side of the Republican foreign policy divide, a leading "realist" — an exponent of the view that promoting democracy is nice, but not the central goal of U.S. foreign policy — agreed.

"If Bush means it literally, then it means we have an extremist in the White House," said Dimitri Simes, president of the Nixon Center, a conservative think tank that reveres the less idealistic policies of Richard Nixon. "I hope and pray that he didn't mean it … [and] that it was merely an inspirational speech, not practical guidance for the conduct of foreign policy."

Except that it is the theos and not the neos who believe that:
America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one. From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth. Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our Nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation's security, and the calling of our time.

So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.

And have since the Founding.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:09 AM


No Country Left Behind: President Bush's speech was impressive, and also frightening to those who suspect that he really meant it. (LA Times, January 21, 2005)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:07 AM


TARGETED IN MINNESOTA (Robert Novak, January 22, 2005, Townhall)

First term Sen. Mark Dayton of Minnesota, who depleted his fortune as Dayton-Hudson department store heir by spending $25 million in four statewide political campaigns, is being targeted by Republicans as the most vulnerable Senate Democrat in 2006.

Dayton spent $12 million of his own money to provide nearly all funding for his election in 2000, and his net worth is now officially disclosed as $5 million to $15 million. Facing the need to raise money for the first time, he recently fired his top fund-raisers after he finished the third quarter of 2004 with just $271,000 cash on hand.

In addition to money problems, Dayton slumped in the polls after he alone among U.S. senators closed his Washington offices because of an alleged terrorist threat.

In two years the GOP won't even need the nuclear option.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:03 AM


Pataki for UN? (Robert Novak, January 22, 2005, Townhall)

Sources close to New York Gov. George Pataki say he has been asked whether he would consider filling the vacancy of U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:01 AM


Looters said to be target of the British (Richard Bernstein, January 22, 2005, The New York Times)

The alleged abuse of Iraqi civilians by British soldiers at a base near Basra, which has riveted British public opinion and provoked widespread condemnation, arose from an effort to stop persistent looting of humanitarian supplies, the commanding officer of the accused soldiers said at a British court-martial hearing Friday.

Testifying in the trial of three men accused of beating and sexually abusing detained Iraqi civilians, the officer, Major Dan Taylor, described a desperate situation in which every other effort to stop looters from stealing humanitarian supplies at Camp Bread Basket near the southern city of Basra had failed, and local residents were telling the British troops simply to shoot the offenders.

Taylor testified that he had ordered his men to "round up as many men as we could, work them for an hour or so, and then release them."

When asked by a prosecutor why he had given the order, Taylor replied: "In an effort to stop looting that was rife within the Bread Basket camp."

He said, "There did not appear to be any other way we could prevent that looting, short of doing what the locals wanted us to do, which was shoot people."

Should have either shot them or handed them to the local citizenry.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 AM


A fire is lit that could burn us, too (James P. Pinkerton, January 21, 2005, Newsday)

Many say that George W. Bush is the political heir to Ronald Reagan. But as his inaugural speech yesterday showed, Bush owes more to a distant presidential predecessor, John F. Kennedy.

Reagan, in his 1985 re-inaugural, rambled through a historical anecdote about "a Boston lawyer named Adams and a Virginia planter named Jefferson" before he plunged into his main focus: economics. The Gipper rightly took credit for "25 straight months of economic growth" and pledged more pro-growth tax-cutting: "We must simplify our tax system, make it more fair, and bring the rates down for all who work and earn." It was not until the 30th paragraph of a 42-paragraph speech that Reagan turned his attention to foreign policy.

By contrast, Bush never mentioned taxes, nor did he touch upon many items in his domestic agenda. His immediate focus was foreign policy, and he got right to the point - and to the punch. Referring to the years between the fall of communism and 9/11 as "years of repose, years of sabbatical," he was taking a poke at the two presidents of the '90s, in effect accusing Bill Clinton and his own father, George H.W. Bush, of being on vacation as dire threats loomed.

But of course, Bush sees himself as more than just a mere counter-terrorist. We are led to "one conclusion," he declared: "The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world."

The Gipper, on the other hand, had ventured only a few such rhetorical flourishes. So the truest oratorical antecedent for the 43rd president is, in fact, the 35th president.

Actually, the national security portion of President Reagan's Second Inaugural seems to have been the template for President Bush's:
I have spoken of our domestic goals and the limitations which we should put on our National Government. Now let me turn to a task which is the primary responsibility of National Government--the safety and security of our people.

Today, we utter no prayer more fervently than the ancient prayer for peace on Earth. Yet history has shown that peace will not come, nor will our freedom be preserved, by good will alone. There are those in the world who scorn our vision of human dignity and freedom. One nation, the Soviet Union, has conducted the greatest military buildup in the history of man, building arsenals of awesome offensive weapons.

We have made progress in restoring our defense capability. But much remains to be done. There must be no wavering by us, nor any doubts by others, that America will meet her responsibilities to remain free, secure, and at peace.

There is only one way safely and legitimately to reduce the cost of national security, and that is to reduce the need for it. And this we are trying to do in negotiations with the Soviet Union. We are not just discussing limits on a further increase of nuclear weapons. We seek, instead, to reduce their number. We seek the total elimination one day of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth.

Now, for decades, we and the Soviets have lived under the threat of mutual assured destruction; if either resorted to the use of nuclear weapons, the other could retaliate and destroy the one who had started it. Is there either logic or morality in believing that if one side threatens to kill tens of millions of our people, our only recourse is to threaten killing tens of millions of theirs?

I have approved a research program to find, if we can, a security shield that would destroy nuclear missiles before they reach their target. It wouldn't kill people, it would destroy weapons. It wouldn't militarize space, it would help demilitarize the arsenals of Earth. It would render nuclear weapons obsolete. We will meet with the Soviets, hoping that we can agree on a way to rid the world of the threat of nuclear destruction.

We strive for peace and security, heartened by the changes all around us. Since the turn of the century, the number of democracies in the world has grown fourfold. Human freedom is on the march, and nowhere more so than our own hemisphere. Freedom is one of the deepest and noblest aspirations of the human spirit. People, worldwide, hunger for the right of self-determination, for those inalienable rights that make for human dignity and progress.

America must remain freedom's staunchest friend, for freedom is our best ally.

And it is the world's only hope, to conquer poverty and preserve peace. Every blow we inflict against poverty will be a blow against its dark allies of oppression and war. Every victory for human freedom will be a victory for world peace.

So we go forward today, a nation still mighty in its youth and powerful in its purpose. With our alliances strengthened, with our economy leading the world to a new age of economic expansion, we look forward to a world rich in possibilities. And all this because we have worked and acted together, not as members of political parties, but as Americans.

My friends, we live in a world that is lit by lightning. So much is changing and will change, but so much endures, and transcends time.

History is a ribbon, always unfurling; history is a journey. And as we continue our journey, we think of those who traveled before us. We stand together again at the steps of this symbol of our democracy--or we would have been standing at the steps if it hadn't gotten so cold. Now we are standing inside this symbol of our democracy. Now we hear again the echoes of our past: a general falls to his knees in the hard snow of Valley Forge; a lonely President paces the darkened halls, and ponders his struggle to preserve the Union; the men of the Alamo call out encouragement to each other; a settler pushes west and sings a song, and the song echoes out forever and fills the unknowing air.

It is the American sound. It is hopeful, big-hearted, idealistic, daring, decent, and fair. That's our heritage; that is our song. We sing it still. For all our problems, our differences, we are together as of old, as we raise our voices to the God who is the Author of this most tender music. And may He continue to hold us close as we fill the world with our sound--sound in unity, affection, and love--one people under God, dedicated to the dream of freedom that He has placed in the human heart, called upon now to pass that dream on to a waiting and hopeful world.

God bless you and may God bless America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 AM


Donkeys in Denial: Almost three months after the Presidential election, Democrats still have no clue how to take on George Bush (MITCH FRANK, 1/20/05, TIME)

What bold leadership moves have national Democrats made so far? When Congress convened earlier this month to certify presidential electors and confirm Bush's reelection, House Democrats and California Senator Barbara Boxer challenged Ohio's electoral ballots, forcing a few hours' debate on election reform. They had the noblest intentions, attempting to call attention to election day breakdowns in Ohio and the sad state of election reform since 2000. But as one Republican aide told ABC News, "This is a golden opportunity to remind people that President Bush won and John Kerry lost." Most Americans outside the beltway got the impression that the Democrats couldn't accept the election results. It sounded like whining.

As noble as the Dems' intentions were, they knew it was a losing battle. If the party is serious about election reform, it first needs to win some elections. It can't get its agenda enacted without taking back the White House and Congress. But party members seem more enthusiastic about noble losing causes then about winning. Several party members say the key to success during the 2nd Bush term is to fight the President tooth and nail on his agenda with every obstructionist technique they have at their disposal, particularly Senate filibusters. That's worked wonders in the past two Congressional elections. Most Americans would rather support politicians who have ideas—even ideas the voters don't completely agree with.

What should the Democrats be doing now? Proposing ambitious alternatives to the President's agenda, plans that demonstrate the party's principles and vision for the country. Bush has spent weeks sowing the seeds for his Social Security reform plan by telling Americans that the popular entitlement program is on the brink of insolvency and that private investment accounts are the only solution. Democrats have responded by accusing the President of distorting the facts. They may have a point—Economists disagree on whether or not the system is in any real danger. But most voters like Social Security and at the same time feel insecure about its future. The Dems can't just reject Bush's agenda—they need to present their own proposal for guaranteeing its long-term survival. If they don't, Bush will frame the debate for the next year.

How should they devise this agenda? Party members will have to decide what common principles they share, what matters most to them and look for ways to effectively sell those ideas to voters.

Sure, except for one thing: they don't share any common principles. It's just a coalition of interest groups that is each in it only for themselves and for what a Democratic Party in charge of government could hand them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 AM


US and UK look for early way out of Iraq (Ewen MacAskill, Richard Norton-Taylor and Rory McCarthy, January 22, 2005, The Guardian)

Private memos are circulating in Washington, Baghdad and London setting out detailed scenarios for withdrawal of US and British forces from Iraq as early as possible, a Foreign Office source said yesterday.

The policy papers have added urgency because a new Iraq government, to be elected next week if the election goes ahead on January 30 as planned, could set a target date for withdrawal.

John Negroponte, US ambassador to Baghdad, confirmed that a United Nations resolution declared that US and other forces would have to leave if requested by the Iraqi government. "If that's the wish of the government of Iraq, we will comply with those wishes. But no, we haven't been approached on this issue - although obviously we stand prepared to engage the future government on any issue concerning our presence here."

The Foreign Office source said: "Of course, we think about leaving Iraq. There is no point in staying there. There are continually plans in Whitehall, Washington and Baghdad to withdraw when we can.

"But there is no document saying we will leave in July 2005 or any other date. That would be a mug's game. There are documents all over the place with different scenarios." Until recently, the British government was working to a rough target date of June next year but that appears to have been abandoned as over-optimistic.

Did the press buy it's own hype, that we're stuck there forever?

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:53 AM


Two cheers for hypocrisy (Spengler, Asia Times, January 19th, 2005)

"Hypocrites!" jeer the blue-state metrosexuals at church-going folk who re-elected US President George W Bush in November. Writing in the Boston Globe of October 31, for example, William V D'Antonio complained, "President Bush and Vice President [Dick] Cheney make reference to 'Massachusetts liberals' as if they were referring to people with some kind of disease." In fact, avers D'Antonio, the citizens of Senator John Kerry's home state lead purer lives than Red Staters:

"The state with the lowest divorce rate in the nation is Massachusetts. At latest count it had a divorce rate of 2.4 per 1,000 population, while the rate for Texas was 4.1 ... Born-again Christians have among the highest divorce rates. The Associated Press, using data supplied by the US Census Bureau, found that the highest divorce rates are to be found in the Bible Belt".

That is true in part because the population of the Bible Belt is younger and more likely to marry; if no one but lesbians lived in Massachusetts, the divorce rate would be zero. Nonetheless it is true that Massachusetts liberals display less hypocrisy than Bible Belt Christians, who preach better than they practice. Liberals admit no constraints to pleasure-seeking. They are not hypocritical, but merely disgusting.

On the other hand, the neo-conservatives offer a spirited defense of hypocrisy. Professor Gertrude Himmelfarb, the wife of movement founder Irving Kristol, is a specialist in the Victorian era, a byword for hypocrisy. Up to 5% of young women in the Victorian era worked as prostitutes. In a July 1995 interview with Religion and Liberty, Himmelfarb observed, "I believe firmly in the old adage, 'hypocrisy is the homage that virtue pays to vice'. Violations of the moral code were regarded as such; they were cause for shame and guilt. The Victorians did not do what we do today - that is, 'define deviancy down' - normalize immorality so that it no longer seems immoral. Immorality was seen as such, as immoral and wrong, and was condemned as such."

Before taking exception, I should emphasize that Professor Himmelfarb has a point; apart from the saintly, only the unashamedly wicked are guiltless of hypocrisy. The rest of us pay homage to standards that we do not uphold in practice. For the sake of filial piety we honor parents who well might be unpleasant people, and uphold civic virtues that our leaders honored more in the breach than the observance. The fact that we acknowledge virtue even when we pursue vice makes civil society possible.

For the sake of domestic harmony we tell lies daily. We do not tell our wife that she looks fat, or our child that he is a dullard, or our aged mother that she is a nasty old harridan. The first recorded lie of this genre was told by God in Genesis 18:12-14. The matriarch Sarah laughed at the angels' prophecy that the elderly Abraham would father a son; God interrupted, and told Abraham that Sarah thought that she (rather than he) was too old. Thus hypocrisy has divine sanction.

It is true that sexual repression makes one miserable, but so does sexual license, the more so if one is female. Sex is not the problem, contrary to Sigmund Freud. The problem is life. When Faust tells Mephistopheles that he wants to experience life with all its joys and sorrows, the devil answers pityingly, "Believe me - I've been chewing on this hard cookie for thousands of years, and from cradle to grave, no one has ever been able to digest this sourdough." Life by definition is a failure. First you will grow old (if you are lucky) and then die. Family, religion, culture and nation offer consolations in the face of death, within limits. [...]

The healthy instinct of the public, which prefers the fantasy ideal of happiness to modernist truth telling, illustrates why hypocrisy only deserves two cheers. We cannot tolerate the continuous disappointments of family and civic life, without the hope of something better. Bible Belt Christians are not merely hypocrites but also sinners. They do not only go against the rules, but also against their conscience. Religion does not presume human perfection, but a longing for perfection. That longing is what makes it possible to chew Mephisto's sourdough. It is not surprising that throughout the industrial world, all but the religious have given up on family life.

Many responsible and decent secularists will object to this conclusion and point to their own unwavering commitments to family. What escapes them is that they have nothing to say to those disintegrating around them and will ultimately condone or defend any destructive behaviours provided they are popular and widespread enough.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:42 AM


On Tyranny: George W. Bush's Second Inaugural was a powerful and subtle speech. It will also prove to be historic. (William Kristol, 01/31/2005, Weekly Standard)

A social science that cannot speak of tyranny with the same confidence with which medicine speaks, for example, of cancer, cannot understand social phenomena as what they are.
--Leo Strauss, On Tyranny

Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered. Yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict the more glorious the triumph.
--Thomas Paine, The Crisis

INFORMED BY STRAUSS and inspired by Paine, appealing to Lincoln and alluding to Truman, beginning with the Constitution and ending with the Declaration, with Biblical phrases echoing throughout--George W. Bush's Second Inaugural was a powerful and subtle speech.

It will also prove to be a historic speech. Less than three and a half years after 9/11, Bush's Second Inaugural moves American foreign policy beyond the war on terror to the larger struggle against tyranny. It grounds Bush's foreign policy--American foreign policy--in American history and American principles. If actions follow words and success greets his efforts, then President Bush will have ushered in a new era in American foreign policy.

That era will of course build on the efforts and achievements of his predecessors--especially Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan. The invocation of Truman is clear. Here is Truman, in his address to a joint session of Congress on March 12, 1947, announcing what came to be known as the Truman Doctrine: "I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures." And here is Bush: "So it is
the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world."

Truman's basically defensive formulation of the doctrine of containment was appropriate at the beginning of the Cold War.

The opening is just there to get Pat Buchanan's goat, but that last sentence is thoughtless. The Soviets were quite vulnerable and the regime could easily have been toppled, sparing us the Cold War.

The Fire Raids on Japan

Curtis LeMay had experienced the bombing of cities in Germany as the leader of the 8th Air Force. Now in the Pacific theatre, he was convinced of one thing – that any city making any form of contribution to Japan’s war effort should be destroyed.

As the Allies had advanced through the Pacific Islands using MacArthur’s ‘island hopping’ tactic, they captured Saipan, Tinian and Guam. These islands became bases for the B-29’s of 21st Bomber Command. The bases for the B-29’s had to be huge. At Saipan the airstrips were 200 feet wide and 8,500 feet long and they were served by 6 miles of taxiways and parking bays. The runways at Tinian were 8,000 feet long and 90 miles of roads were built just to serve the bomber base there. The runways on Saipan and Tinian were ready by October 1944, just 2 months after the fighting on the islands had finished.

The first bombing raid against Tokyo occurred on November 24th. The city was 1,500 miles from the Marianas.

Pick one: Cities located close to Moscow

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:22 AM


Welcome to the 'Yeah but, no but' generation (David Derbyshire, The Telegraph, January 21st, 2005)

The "don't-blame-me" mentality personified by Vicky Pollard - the Little Britain character who refuses to accept responsibility for anything - is becoming more prevalent, according to a new study.

Researchers say that young people increasingly believe that their fate is out of their hands and that parents, schools, government or bad luck are to blame for their misfortunes.

Matt Lucas's depiction of the feckless Vicky, with her "yeah but, no but" catchphrase, appears to encapsulate the trend perfectly.

The growth of the victim mentality has been accompanied by a rise in cynicism, self-centred behaviour and alienation, according to psychologists who analysed thousands of personality tests dating back to 1960.

They believe that the shift in attitudes has had major consequences for society and may be leading to depression, higher crime rates and lower academic standards.

Dr Jean Twenge, a psychologist at San Diego State University who led the study, said: "From 1960 to 2002, college students increasingly believed that their lives were controlled by outside forces rather than their own efforts." The same "substantial" increase can also be seen in children aged nine to 14, she said.

That psychologists of all people are now raising alarms about this is one of life’s supreme ironies and completely illogical, but never mind. However important things like family, private property and the rule of law are, surely the sine qua non of a free and democratic society is a population that believes in personal responsibility and accountability for success or failure. According to a 2003 Pew Study (scroll down to p. 118), only the U.S. and Canada have substantial majorities holding such views. But gloomy conservatives can take heart that, contrary to the thrust of this study, the percentage of Americans who so believe has risen sharply in the last fifteen years. Who could possibly be responsible for that?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:37 AM


Courting Disaster: Bush judicial nominees could shake the foundations of environmental law (Glenn Scherer, 20 Jan 2005, Grist)

William G. Myers III is George W. Bush's choice for a lifetime position on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. That court's jurisdiction covers three-quarters of all federal lands, in nine Western states where contentious battles rage over energy, mining, timber, and grazing.

Unlike most judicial nominees, Myers has never been a judge. Instead, his qualifications include decades as a paid lobbyist and lawyer to the coal and cattle industries. In his recent position as the Bush Interior Department's chief attorney, Myers tried to give away valuable federal lands to a mining company and imperiled Native American sacred sites. "His nomination is the epitome of the anti-environmental tilt of so many of President Bush's nominees," says Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).

Democrats aggressively blocked Myers' appointment with a filibuster in 2004. So when his nomination lapsed at the end of this past congressional session, many legal experts assumed it was dead, along with the nominations of nine other judicial candidates that were blocked by Senate Democrats for their extremist ideology, industry ties, and/or ethical problems. But on Dec. 23, while Americans were distracted by the holidays, the president gave his corporate backers (especially those in the energy and mining industries) a Christmas present: He announced his intent to renominate seven of the filibustered candidates, including Myers. (The other three were given the option of being renominated, but withdrew themselves from consideration.)

"Renomination on this scope and scale of so many judges who the Senate has refused to confirm has never happened before," says Glenn Sugameli, senior legislative counsel for Earthjustice, a nonprofit public-interest law firm. Noting that Congress has already confirmed 204 of Bush's appointees, Sugameli asserts, "President Bush is trying to convert the Senate into a rubber stamp that will confirm 100 percent of his judicial nominees. That is what is really at stake here."

Rubber stamp? He just wants them to get up or down votes. Hardly a radical notion.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:04 AM


REVIEW: of Abortion: The Clash of Absolutes by Lawrence Tribe (Brothers Judd, January 22, 2002)

[I] share with Justice Scalia the belief that the Constitution's written text has primacy and must be deemed the ultimate point of departure.
-Laurence H. Tribe

On January 22, 1973, the United States Supreme Court announced the, previously undiscovered, right to an abortion in its Roe v. Wade decision, touching off what has now been nearly three decades of extraordinary social division and bitter political rancor, of a kind that has accompanied only two other issues in our history : slavery and segregation. The Court justified its decision by reference to extratextual "privacy" rights, which the majority was able to read into the Constitution. In so doing, the Justices invalidated the law of forty nine states (only New York's remained) and renounced several thousand years of Judeo-Christian morality, so it's not to be wondered at that the American people have had such a difficult time digesting this ruling.

The ostensible purpose of Laurence H. Tribe's book is to help the opposing sides on the abortion issue to find common ground, so that they (we) can "get beyond our once intractable dispute." One must greet the good professor's claimed intent with a fair amount of skepticism, since no legal scholar of similar stature has pushed the theory of privacy rights any further than has he over the past couple of decades. To the best of my knowledge, and from what I could find on the Internet, he opposes any limits on abortion, having written that even partial birth abortion is constitutionally protected. On a whole range of issues, from sexual behavior to pornography to gay marriage to drug use, he has staked out territory on the most permissive end of the spectrum and claimed that these activities too are protected by the Constitution.

Nor is he merely a partisan on purely legal issues, having eagerly participated in such gruesome spectacles as the utter distorting of Judge Robert Bork's record when Mr. Bork was up for a Supreme Court seat, and having testified during the Clinton impeachment that no "high crimes or misdemeanors" were even alleged. And in a moment of obvious moral confusion but crystal clear political calculation, Mr. Tribe, who had been an early opponent of cloning, reversed his position when he realized that the arguments he was making would eventually undermine his position in favor of abortion. Indeed, Mr. Tribe has been so consistently and radically to the Left politically that, although he is an archetypal Justice-in-waiting, no Democrat would ever appoint him to the Court now because it would be so easy for the Right to "Bork" him, tossing his own paper trail back in his face.

Still, he is an "expert" so there's a chance he'll be worth listening to. But (and here's a trick you learn quickly in Law School : analogizing) if Bull Connor in the mid-60s had declared that since he had so much experience in race relations that he wanted to share some of his learning, and if he declared that his intent was to bring the opposing sides on the race issue closer together, he'd have found a dubious audience. Professor Tribe merits equal dubiety.

Sadly enough, even if we start by giving him the benefit of the doubt, he soon squanders it. Since he's not a theologian or an ethicist but a professional advocate for particular points of view, we hardly expect him to offer a serious discussion of the morality of abortion, and here he does not disappoint. But he is one of the foremost authorities on the U. S. Constitution--a title that inevitably accrues to anyone who teaches Constitutional Law at Harvard, regardless of the quality of their philosophy--so we are entitled to expect a factual and honest discussion of the law that undergirds (or fails to) Roe v. Wade. Here he leaves much to be desired.

Now, there is an entirely coherent and honorable argument that can be made for judicial activism. One can argue that a document (the Constitution) written over two hundred years ago can not be expected to remain relevant and comprehensive in a rapidly changing world, and that, therefore, we must depend on the judiciary to continually "reinterpret" it, to draw new meanings and significances from between its lines, to apply novel theories to matters about which the people or intellectual elites may have changed their minds over several centuries. We can readily see how this would appeal to lawyers and judges, since it essentially gives them the power to determine what the Constitution means at any given moment. And it is obvious why this vision would be embraced by the political wing that has been prevailing in Court, since it enshrines their recent victories and lends them legitimacy and the weight of Law. Unfortunately, there's a slight problem with this kind of a legal regime : no matter how you slice it, it just is not democratic.

The notion that it is up to judges to go beyond the actual text of the Constitution whenever they feel that the existing document is inadequate obviously presupposes that, despite the Amendment process, it is appropriate for nine, or even a bare majority of five, justices to supersede the stated will of the majority and impose their own will upon the nation. Whenever the Court has followed this path it has caused tremendous social unrest and political crisis, as when Right-wing justices kept striking down New Deal legislation, leading to FDR's Court packing plan, or when the Warren and Burger Courts drastically expanded criminal "rights" (Miranda, Gideon v. Wainwright, overturning the Death Penalty) and voting rights ("one man, one vote") and intruded in the social sphere via "privacy rights", a la Roe v. Wade. In the 1930s it was the Left that decried this tendency, now it is the Right's turn, and as the pendulum swings back, we may soon hear Mr. Tribe singing from a different hymnal, for instance if George W. Bush were to get a few appointment opportunities over the next few years. Just let Justice Stevens and O'Connor retire and two conservatives replace them and we'll soon here about how strictly limited the Court is and how little power it should have to change existing law. It is awfully hard to take Mr. Tribe seriously when we realize that his legal philosophy is perched on such expediency and is so subject to reversal should conditions alter slightly.

Mr. Tribe even concedes the charge against Roe, before trying manfully to rescue it :

The antidemocratic nature of Roe provides no decisive evidence of its illegitimacy--provided we agree, as nearly everyone does, that the Constitution itself has sufficiently democratic roots to count as an enduring basis for a government of, by, and for the people.

By this absurd logic, as long as the roots of my apple tree are healthy, I should be unbothered by the fact that my neighbor keeps sawing off all its branches. Of course it's still an apple tree, but why should I bother to cultivate it if it's never going to bear fruit? And to appreciate just how antidemocratic the ruling was, it's important to follow closely as he builds up the Rube Goldberg contraption that was used to manufacture it.

Mr. Tribe is undoubtedly correct when he says that even most conservative legal scholars have accepted many of the usurpations that follow, but that does not mean that the rest of us should. We start with Marbury v. Madison (1803), the case in which Chief Justice John Marshall first declared that it was the prerogative of the judiciary to review the constitutionality of laws enacted by Congress and signed by the President. In essence, this doctrine gives the least democratic of the three branches of government, the only unelected branch, an absolute veto power over legislation, which is alarming enough on its own. But inevitably, it also gives the judiciary an opportunity to legislate on its own, as they are able, under the auspices of this "judicial review" to simply declare that certain rights that they favor at that moment are implicit in the Constitution, even if not explicitly spelled out. And it is this tendency that has been greeted with the greatest anger by whichever side opposes the Court's action, precisely because it takes a political matter out of the political sphere, where persuasion, compromise, majorities, and often even super-majorities (2/3rds votes) are required before laws can be passed, repealed, or changed.

Obviously, certain issues surrounding the application of Federal laws must be settled by the Court, but there's no readily apparent reason why we should leave the core issue of their constitutionality up to just five unelected citizens (or even four if there are vacancies or recusals). The argument that is most often made in support of this arrangement is that the Justices can serve as a kind of firebreak, stopping the other two, more political, branches from trampling the rights of unpopular minorities. Yet, the Court has an abysmal record in the instances where it's been afforded these opportunities, as witness decisions like Dred Scott and Korematsu. It seems fair to wonder if Roe might not one day be numbered among these cases in which the Court yielded to the majority at the expense of both minority rights and its own reputation. At any rate, the Court seems to have been sufficiently shocked itself, at this newfound power, that it did not hold another law unconstitutional for fifty four years, a period of blessed restraint the likes of which it seems certain we shall never see again.

The next step on the slippery slope (we lawyers love that slippery slope) came when, despite the failure of two separate efforts to pass an amendment that would apply the Bill of Rights to the states, rather than merely to the Federal government, the Court in the 1940s, following the long years of uninterrupted rule by FDR and the numerous appointments he was able to make, simply took it upon themselves to so apply it. This was basically achieved by pretending that the 14th Amendment's due process clause "incorporated" the Bill of Rights and made it applicable to the states. Taken in conjunction with the Court's prior willingness to create "substantive due process" rights out of the 5th Amendment (begun in the Dred Scott case) and the 14th we soon had a system whereby the judiciary branch had made itself into a superlegislature, meddling in state and federal law any time it desired to recognize a new "liberty" to protect. Here's Mr. Tribe :

A modern reader of the words of the Fourteenth Amendment might well conclude that they provide only procedural protection for 'life,' 'liberty,' and 'property.' Put another way, the amendment appears to authorize deprivations of life, liberty, and property as long as those deprivations are accompanied by 'due process' of law.

Of course a reader would conclude that, since that is what the amendment actually says. But Mr. Tribe goes on to assure us that judges have read substantive liberty rights into it almost from the time of its passage, so we need not worry that it is "only" procedural. One is reminded of the line : "Who ya gonna believe; me or your lyin' eyes."

The final necessary ingredient for producing Roe was the creation of a "right of privacy." Nonlawyers are generally surprised when they hear that abortion is considered a privacy right, both because it does not seem to have much to do with privacy as we classically understand it, and because they rightly fail to recall any language in the Constitution referring to privacy. As to the first issue, whether abortion is really private, much of one's opinion on this will depend on whether one believes a fetus to be a nonperson, and therefore devoid of any rights, and whether one believes the decision to abort to be one that should remain solely in the hands of the woman, with neither the father nor society having any stake or say in the matter. If you believe in the completely atomized human being, that the individual is whole unto themselves and utterly devoid of any ties to the society around them, then you may well see abortion as a private affair. It is at least ironic that abortion rights are most fiercely defended by those organizations which are most opposed to this extreme individualism in every other part of government. On a range of issues from welfare to housing to health care, they portray the citizenry as virtual wards of the state; it is only in the realm of abortion that the citizen is to be left entirely to her own devices.

As to the second issue, it is inarguable that our Constitution, as written, has not a single word to say about privacy, as such. While the 3rd and 4th Amendments of the Bill of Rights do seem to suggest a heightened level of sensitivity on the part of the Framers to the special nature of the home :

Amendment III

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

It is important to note that the language of neither is absolute (as is say the right of speech or of worship), and in fact specifically provides that the government can overcome the seeming prohibition. Other Amendments, though they do protect freedom of conscience and expression, can hardly be thought to be protective of privacy, particularly since they generally seek to protect public activities (speech, worship, no self incrimination at trial, etc.). Nonetheless, starting with an influential 1890 article,The Right of Privacy, by Louis D. Brandeis and Samuel D. Warren for the Harvard Law Review, intellectual elites began to create privacy rights out of whole cloth. Brandeis and Warren were actually most concerned with protecting people from intrusions by the press, from photographers and from having private writings published and the like :

The principle which protects personal writings and any other production of the intellect or of the emotions is the right to privacy, and the law has no new principle to formulate when it extends this protection to personal appearance, sayings, acts, and to personal relations, domestic or otherwise.

By the time of Griswold v. Connecticut(1965), a contraceptive ban case, Justice Douglas was babbling about "emanations" and "penumbras" from a variety of Amendments creating "zones of privacy" which protected within their walls the sanctity of marriage, a sanctity which would somehow be violated if couples did not have access to contraceptives. And in Roe, although the Court itself stated that :

The Constitution does not explicitly mention any right of privacy.

It went on to say that :
[T]he Court has recognized that a right of personal privacy, or a guarantee of certain areas or zones of privacy, does exist under the Constitution.

and then announced that :
[T]his right of privacy...is broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.

Justice Byron White, whose dissent was joined by Justice (now Chief Justice) Rehnquist, put it quite nicely when he said that :
I find nothing in the language or history of the Constitution to support the Court's judgment. The Court simply fashions and announces a new constitutional right for pregnant mothers and, with scarcely any reason or authority for its action, invests that right with sufficient substance to override most existing state abortion statutes. The upshot is that the people and the legislatures of the 50 States are constitutionally dissentitled to weigh the relative importance of the continued existence and development of the fetus, on the one hand, against a spectrum of possible impacts on the mother, on the other hand. As an exercise of raw judicial power, the Court perhaps has authority to do what it does today; but, in my view, its judgment is an improvident and extravagant exercise of the power of judicial review that the Constitution extends to this Court.

For there is the crux of the matter; the Court may have the legal authority to act in such a manner, but it necessarily loses moral; authority when it does so.

Set aside, for a moment, the question of whether you want abortion to be a right or not, and consider only how the Court got to the point where it made its ruling. It had, first, to assume the right, nowhere spelled out in the Constitution, to review the constitutionality of laws. It had, next, to extend its reach to state laws, which had several times been explicitly placed beyond its grasp. It had, then, to rely upon a "right to privacy" which exists nowhere in the language of the Constitution. The issue that confronts even those who support abortion is : are we a nation of laws, a constitutional republic, or are we mere creatures of the judiciary, prey to their every whim? For if we are to allow the Court to seize new powers and create entirely new "rights" when we like the results, we must also be prepared to acquiesce when they start arriving at results we abhor. To accept that the Court can make unprincipled decisions is to abandon the notion that they can be bound by principle.

It is especially important to note here that it might have been possible to secure abortion rights without utilizing these subterfuges and imperious court rulings. People who wish to have a right of privacy protected by the Constitution need only propose and pass an amendment that would do so. This is the system that the Founders, in their wisdom, put in place for making changes to our system of governance and to what rights we choose to afford special protection from government. It also has the very great advantage of actually being democratic. In particular, such a radical alteration of the scheme of protected rights would seem to be best accomplished via the democratic and constitutional processes, rather than by judicial fiat. Presumably, proponents of privacy rights chose not to follow this course because such an amendment would be unlikely to pass. They instead chose the judicial route precisely because it is antidemocratic and allowed them to overcome the will of the people. This success has been followed by entirely predictable hostility on the part of many Americans, as should be any effort to make an end run on democracy.

Meanwhile, although conservatives could spin out even more compelling arguments for a right to life, which is after all specifically mentioned in the text of the Constitution, many ask for far less than this. We really would just like the Court to butt out and allow the States to regulate abortion as their citizens see fit. This, the direction in which the country was headed before Roe was decided, would allow the more permissive states on the two coasts to permit fairly easy access to abortions while allowing more traditional states and populations to restrict or even ban them. It would return the issue to the rough and tumble of democratic debate and restore the primacy of the Constitution, rather than of judges. It's hard to see how one can both believe in our system of government and oppose the idea of returning abortion to the political sphere.

As for the rest of Mr. Tribe's book, bad enough that his discussion of the constitutionality of Roe v. Wade is so dishonest, Mr. Tribe also includes a history of abortion in America that has been thoroughly discredited, much like Michael Bellesiles's fabricated history of gun ownership. It reaches a spectacular height of delusion when he asserts that the absence of anti-abortion laws early in our history indicates a general societal acceptance of the practice. We might similarly argue that terrorism was accepted in the 19th Century because there were no anti-terrorism laws. He proceeds from there to a discussion of abortion in other societies that is a complete non sequitir. Should we also legalize infanticide because the Chinese use it? Maybe we're just lagging behind other cultures in not practicing female circumcision? This kind of reasoning hardly deserves the name.

When we get to Mr. Tribe's attempt to reconcile the opposing sides of the abortion debate, the partisan nature of his analysis is perhaps adequately demonstrated with just a few quotes :

[T]he feeling that abortion should be blocked by government may grow, at least in part, out of a reflexive willingness to enforce traditional sex roles upon women and to impose upon them an unequal and harsh sexual morality.

Note the contempt for tradition and morality? the assumption that opposition to abortion is "reflexive" and a mere "feeling", while support would of course be reasoned? and the incoherent thought that prohibiting abortion is unequal? Of course, Mr. Tribe fails to consider that allowing abortion is unequal too, since men can't have them and it takes the decision out of men's hands. The argument that abortion has to be made legal if women are to be treated equally with men makes about as little sense as arguing that rape should be made legal in order for men to be treated equally with women.

At another point he refers to antiabortionists as believing, "that men and women are different by nature and that they have intrinsically different roles to play in society." Did I miss something? Are men and women now the same? Perhaps we've located the real problem in this whole debate. Maybe Mr. Tribe just isn't aware that it is only the female of the species that bears children. His real disagreement is not with abortion opponents but with Nature.

And so, having misled us on the law, the history, and the biology of abortion, Mr. Tribe arrives at his final advice to us :

For both sides...a greater measure of humility seems in order. If we genuinely believe in the democratic principle of one person, one vote, then each of us will have to treat the votes, and hear the voices, of our opponents as being no less worthy or meaningful than our own.

On both sides of the abortion debate, this will require an unaccustomed and in some ways unnatural forbearance. Right-to-life advocates are inclined to respond to pleas for tolerance by insisting that the exclusion of the fetus from the processes of voting and debate distorts the discussion profoundly from the outset, for reasons that bear no proper relation to a moral or just outcome.

That the fetus is voiceless and voteless, they may say, follows from a biological condition but is irrelevant to how society is morally bound to behave.

And pro-choice advocates are inclined to react to pleas for mutual respect by insisting, no less vehemently, that it begs the question to attribute legitimacy to the views of those who tell women how to lead their lives and what to do with their bodies. To submit a woman's fate to a popular referendum, they may insist, already assumes that the matter is properly one to be resolved by voting.

In the end, the answer to both sides is the same: In a democracy, voting and persuasion are all we have. Not even the Constitution is beyond amendment. And since we must therefore persuade one another even about which 'rights' the Constitution ought to place beyond the reach of any temporary voting majority, nothing, neither life nor liberty, can be regarded as immune from politics writ large. Either some of the views expressed in the political arena are to be privileged and untouchable from the start or all views are to count equally, those of the supposedly less sophisticated no less than those of the self-professedly more tolerant elite.

The reader will feel justified in believing that they've accidentally wandered into a different book at this point. For in what has come before, Mr. Tribe has demonstrated that Roe v. Wade is not the product of "one man, one vote", and in defending it anyway has effectively shown himself not to believe in democratic principles. And, whatever his point about the voiceless fetus, the complaint of pro-lifers is that their own voices are not heard, because the Court has placed abortion beyond the reach of anything except a Constitutional Amendment or an activist Right-wing majority. So the point that he has italicized (presumably indicating its importance), about voting and persuasion, is quite wrong, as he must well know. It is possible for the Court to create a